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If you are interested in becoming a member of ISKCON, write to ISKCON New York for further information.
Amateur and professional photographers who would like to offer photographs of Krsna conscious activities for inclusion in Back to Godhead are invited to send them to ISKCON Press, 32 Tiffany Pl., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11231. Hare Krsna.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a bona fide religious society strictly following the principles described in the Vedic scriptures and practiced in India for thousands of years. Our basic beliefs are as follows:
1) The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world, the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. However, the oldest known revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words.
2) God, or Krsna, is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful and all-attractive, the seed-giving father of man and all living entities. He is the sustaining energy of all life, nature and the cosmic situation.
3) Man is actually not his body, but is eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God, and therefore eternal.
4) That all men are brothers can be practiced only when we realize God as our common father.
5) All our actions should be performed as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord: "...all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me." (Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
6) The food that sustains us should always be offered to the Lord before eating. In this way He becomes the offering, and such eating purifies us.
7) We can, by sincere cultivation of bona fide spiritual science, attain to the state of pure, unending blissful consciousness, free from anxiety, in this very lifetime.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
8) The recommended means to attain the mature stage of love of God in the present age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy name of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Our basic mission is to propagate the sankirtana movement (chanting of the holy names of God) all around the world, as was recommended by the incarnation of the Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. People in this age are very much reluctant to understand God consciousness because of their unfortunate condition of life. They are working hard day and night simply for sense gratification. But this transcendental vibration of sankirtana will knock at the door of their hearts for spiritual awakening. Therefore, they should be given the chance for this opportunity.
It is not recommended that a Krsna conscious devotee go into seclusion to chant by himself and thereby gain salvation for himself alone. Our duty and religious obligation is to go out into the streets where the people in general can hear the chanting and see the dancing. We have already seen practically how by this process many, many boys and girls of America and Europe have been saved from the immoral practices of this age and have now dedicated their lives to the service of Krsna.
It is hoped that the government authorities will cooperate with our sankirtana parties in enabling us to perform sankirtana on the streets. To do this it is necessary that we be able to chant the names of Krsna, dance, play the mrdanga drum, request donations for our society's journal, and on occasion, sit down with the mrdanga drum. As devotees of Lord Krsna, it is our duty to teach the people how to love God and worship Him in their daily life. This is the aim and destination of human life.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
(Sri Sankaracarya—or Sankara—is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Siva, as the Padma Purana testifies. Appearing in India in the 6th century A.D., he single-handedly drove the Buddhist philosophy out of India and reestablished Vedic culture, all in his short lifetime of 32 years. Although he took up the impersonalist guise to better battle the Buddhists—impersonalism is much akin to Buddhism—the commentary rendered below, as well as other writings, reveal him to be a devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sankara's most famous treatise is Viveka-cudamani, and his other works include Sariraka-bhasya and Prayers for Krsna.)
Salutations to thee, O Vyasa,
Srimad Sankaracarya was an impersonalist from the materialist point of view. But he never denied the spiritual form known as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha or the eternal all-blissful form of knowledge which existed before the material creation. When he spoke of Supreme Brahman as impersonal, he did not mean that the Lord's sac-cid-ananda form was to be confused with a material conception of personality. In the very beginning of his commentary on the Gita, he maintains that Narayana, the Supreme Lord, is transcendental to the material creation. The Lord existed before the creation as the transcendental personality, and He has nothing to do with material personality. Lord Krsna is the same Supreme Personality, and He has no connection with a material body. He descends in His spiritual eternal form, but foolish people mistake His body to be like unto ours. Sankara's preaching of impersonalism is especially meant for teaching foolish persons who consider Krsna to be an ordinary man composed of matter.
No one would care to read the Gita if it had been spoken by a material man, and certainly Vyasadeva wouldn't have bothered even to incorporate it into the history of the Mahabharata. According to the above verses, Mahabharata is the history of the ancient world, and Vyasadeva is the writer of this great epic. Bhagavad-gita is identical with Krsna; and because Krsna is the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no difference between Krsna and His words. Therefore the Bhagavad-gita is as worshipable as Lord Krsna Himself, both being absolute. One who hears Bhagavad-gita "as is" actually hears the words directly from the lotus lips of the Lord. But unfortunate persons say that the Gita is too antiquated for the modern man who wants to find out God by speculation or meditation.
I salute Thee, O Krsna,
Srimad Sankaracarya explicitly says, "You fools, just worship Govinda and that Bhagavad-gita spoken by Narayana Himself," yet foolish people still conduct their research work to find out Narayana; consequently they are wretched and they waste their time for nothing. Narayana is never wretched nor daridra; rather, He is worshiped by the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, as well as all living entities. Sankara declared himself to be "Brahman," but he admits Narayana or Krsna to be the Supreme Personality who is beyond the material creation. He offers his respects to Krsna as the Supreme Brahman or Param Brahman because He (Krsna) is worshipable by everyone. Only the fools and enemies of Krsna who cannot understand what Bhagavad-gita is (though they make commentaries on it) say, "It is not the personal Krsna to whom we have to surrender ourselves utterly, but to the unborn, beginningless Eternal who speaks through Krsna. " Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Whereas Sankara, the greatest of the impersonalists, offers his due respects to Krsna and His book Bhagavad-gita, the foolish say that "it is not to the personal Krsna." Such unenlightened people do not know that Krsna is absolute and that there is no difference between His inside and outside. The difference of inside and outside is experienced in the dual material world. In the absolute world there is no such difference because in the absolute everything is spiritual (sac-cid-ananda), and Narayana or Krsna belongs to the absolute world. In the absolute world there is only the factual personality, and there is no distinction between body and soul.
Unless one understands spiritual variegatedness, one cannot understand the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that Krsna's name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia are all ananda-cinmaya-rasa—in short, everything of His transcendental association is of the same composition of spiritual bliss, knowledge and eternity. There is no end to His name, form, etc., unlike the material world where all things have their end. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, only fools deride Him, whereas it is Sankara, the greatest impersonalist, who worships Him, His cows and His pastimes as the son of Vasudeva and pleasure of Devaki.
Thou son of Vasudeva,
Sankara describes Him as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. Does he mean thereby that he is worshiping an ordinary material man? He worships Krsna because he knows that Krsna's birth and activities are all supernatural. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4th Chapter), Krsna's birth and activities are mysterious and transcendental and therefore only the devotees of Krsna can know them perfectly. Sankara was not such a fool that he would accept Krsna as an ordinary man and at the same time offer Him all devotional obeisances, knowing Him as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. According to Bhagavad-gita, only by knowing the transcendental birth and activities of Krsna can one attain liberation by acquiring a spiritual form like Krsna. There are five different kinds of liberations. One who merges into the spiritual auras of Krsna, known as impersonal Brahman effulgence, does not fully develop his spiritual body. But one who fully develops his spiritual existence becomes an associate of Narayana or Krsna in different spiritual abodes. One who enters into the abode of Narayana develops a spiritual form exactly like Narayana (four-handed), and one who enters into the highest spiritual abode of Krsna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, develops a spiritual form of two hands like Krsna. Sankara, as an incarnation of Lord Siva, knows all these spiritual existences, but he did not disclose them to his then Buddhist followers because it was impossible for them to know about the spiritual world. Lord Buddha preached that void is the ultimate goal, so how could his followers understand spiritual variegatedness? Therefore Sankara said brahma satya jagat mithya, or material variegatedness is false but spiritual variegatedness is fact. In the Padma Purana Lord Siva has admitted that he had to preach the philosophy of maya or illusion in the Kali-yuga as another edition of the "void" philosophy of Buddha. He had to do this by the order of the Lord for specific reasons. He, however, disclosed his real mind by recommending that people worship Krsna, for no one can be saved simply by mental speculations composed of word jugglery and grammatical maneuvers. Sankara instructs further: bhaja Govindam, bhaja Govindam, bhaja Govindam mudhamate, prapte sannihite marane nahi nahi, raksati dukrn karane. "You intellectual fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death."
Of that terrifying river
May the spotless lotus of the Mahabharata
Salutations to Lord Krsna
Foolish followers of foolish speculators cannot understand the meaning of offering salutations to Lord Krsna, the embodiment of bliss. Sankara himself offered his salutations to Lord Krsna so that some of his intelligent followers might understand the real fact by the example set by their great master Sankara, the incarnation of Lord Siva. But there are many obstinate followers of Sankara who refuse to offer their salutations to Lord Krsna, and instead mislead innocent persons by injecting materialism into the Bhagavad-gita and confusing innocent readers by their commentaries., and consequently the readers never have the opportunity to become blessed by offering salutations to Lord Krsna, the cause of all causes. The greatest disservice to humanity is to keep mankind in darkness about the science of Krsna or Krsna consciousness by distorting the sense of the Gita.
Salutations to that supreme shining one
By recitation of the ninth verse of his meditation quoted from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sankara has indicated that Lord Krsna is worshipable by one and all, including himself. He gives hints to materialists, impersonalists, mental speculators, "void" philosophers and all other candidates subjected to the punishment of material miseries—just offer salutations to Lord Krsna, who is worshiped by Brahma, Siva, Varuna, Indra and all other demigods. He has not mentioned, however, the name of Visnu because Visnu is identical with Krsna. The Vedas and the Upanisads are meant for understanding the process by which one can surrender unto Krsna. The yogis try to see Him (Krsna) within themselves by meditation. In other words, it is for all the demigods and demons who do not know where the ultimate end is that Sankara teaches, and he especially instructs the demons and the fools to offer salutations to Krsna and His words, the Bhagavad-gita, by following in his footsteps. Only by such acts will the demons be benefited, not by misleading their innocent followers by so-called mental speculations or showbottle meditations. Sankara directly offers salutations to Krsna as if to show the fools, who are searching after light, that here is light like the sun. But the fallen demons are like owls that will not open their eyes on account of their fear of the sunlight itself. These owls will never open their eyes to see the sublime light of Krsna and His words the Bhagavad-gita. They will, however, comment on the Gita with their closed owl-eyes to mislead their unfortunate readers and followers. Sankara, however, discloses the light to his less intelligent followers and shows that Bhagavad-gita and Krsna are the only source of light. This is all to teach the sincere seekers of truth to offer salutation to Lord Krsna and thus surrender unto Him without misgivings. That is the highest perfection of life, and that is the highest teaching of Sankara, the great learned scholar whose teachings drove the void-philosophy of Buddha out of India, the land of knowledge.
Om Tat Sat.
by Kirtanananda Swami
In the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna is explaining how to practice yoga by meditation. Although the Lord is recommending the eightfold yoga system here, we will also see that in the end it is rejected in favor of karma-yoga because it is impractical to perform in this age. In the age of Kali, the present yuga, it is said that there is no other practical way than the practice of Krsna consciousness. So in the very first verse, the Lord points out that a true mystic is one who is unattached to the fruits of action, not one who performs this feat, or doesn't perform that ritual, or is in this stage of life or that order of society. No, it is the qualification that one needs, and that qualification is to have no other desire than to carry out the orders of the Lord. That is the way that Arjuna finally understood Krsna, and that is what Lord Caitanya, the highest perfectional paradigm of love of God, or devotional service, proclaims: "O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. What I want only is the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth."
In the second verse Krsna emphasizes that what links all different yoga systems and makes them one is the fact that all end in the Supreme and that all go by the way of controlling the senses. Unless one attains to Krsna, there is no perfection, and unless one controls the senses, it is not possible to attain Krsna. Now in dealing specifically with the eightfold astanga-yoga system, Krsna is pointing out that it is a gradual process for controlling the senses. As pointed out in the fifth, sixth, and seventh verses, the central point of control is the mind. Krsna says: "For he who has conquered his mind, it is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy." The central concept here is control. The mind is something like a blank check; the check itself is of no value—it is only paper—but the account it is written on is worth millions. If it is written on a good account, it is of inestimable value. If not, it is worthless. Similarly, when the mind is engaged in matters of sense gratification, it becomes the greatest cause of bondage, but if the mind is engaged for Krsna, then it is the cause for liberation.
Actually the mind is part of the sensory system, and it is sometimes called the sixth sense. As such, it is the controlling sense. If the controlling force is uncontrolled, where can control come from? Therefore, the whole purpose of the astanga-yoga system is to control the mind by sitting in certain positions, by breath control, etc. Everything is meant to bring the mind under control, for without that there is no possibility of controlling the senses. But for a person in Krsna consciousness, because he is always thinking of Krsna, and always chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare and because his mind is thinking, "How can I serve Krsna?" and because he is actually engaged in activities in which the mind can be fully engaged, there is no question of the mind's being drawn away to sensory gratification. Therefore the mind and the senses are automatically controlled by Krsna consciousness.
As soon as the mind is controlled, one can perceive Paramatma within, which is the actual goal of meditation, to perceive Krsna within, to come under the dictation of Krsna within. If I am not controlled by Krsna from within, I will certainly be controlled by illusory energy from without. No one can escape the control of Krsna, but we may choose the form of control—either His internal superior energy or His external inferior energy. But everyone must serve Krsna. That is a fact.
Absorption In The Supreme
As soon as the mind is fixed on Krsna, one becomes perfectly situated under His personal control and follows His dictations. The effect of controlling the mind by meditation is that it brings one under the control of Paramatma, or Supersoul, but because this position is at once reached by one in Krsna consciousness, a devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of the material world, namely distress and happiness, heat and cold, etc. This state is practical samadhi or absorption in the Supreme.
Still, if one is determined to follow the more difficult astanga-yoga system, starting with the ninth verse and continuing through the eighteenth, the means by which this yoga is practiced are given. First one must consider the well-wisher, friend and enemy, the envious, pious and the sinner all on the same level, with indifference and impartiality. Then he must concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self. He must go to a secluded place and be free from all desires and feelings of possessiveness. These are some of the preliminary prescriptions for controlling the mind. Unless the mind is controlled, there is no possibility of meditation. Unless one can do away with possessiveness, for instance, there will be desire, and the mind cannot attain equilibrium, without which it is impossible to see the Supersoul within. Krsna may be realized in different ways—as impersonal Brahman, as localized Paramatrna, or as Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A person who is fully in Krsna consciousness is always engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, and as such he knows the Lord as the Supreme Person who possesses all opulences, including the Paramatma and impersonal features, or His localized expansion and bodily effulgence respectively. So his knowledge is called perfect because it is complete. But the meditator who knows Krsna as Paramatma, and the impersonalist who knows Krsna as the Supreme Brahman or brahmajyoti are also indirectly Krsna conscious. But to be directly Krsna conscious is more perfect, just as one who possesses a million dollars is wealthier than the man who possesses one dollar. A dollar is a dollar, that is so; so qualitatively the man with one dollar is as good as the man with a million dollars, but quantitatively they are not the same. Only a fool would say they are. Similarly, we may have knowledge of the infinite particles of Krsna's energy, but until we have perfect knowledge of the Supreme Source of all, Krsna, our knowledge is not perfect. So the personalist has full knowledge of Krsna and all His multi-energies, but the impersonalist or the meditating yogi know Krsna in part only. Nevertheless, in the Sixth Chapter here one is encouraged to pursue this path in order to come to the ultimate goal, Krsna. But it is specifically stated that the mind must be focused on the Supreme, Krsna. Unless one thinks of Krsna, meditation is not possible.
Perfect concentration of the mind on the Supreme is called samadhi or trance, but this condition is never possible when there is possessiveness. Srila Rupa Gosvami puts it this way: "When one is not attached to anytlling, but at the same time accepts everytning in relation to Krsna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is not as complete in his renunciation." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu) A person who simply rejects certain things may be making some progress in the sense that he is preventing further entanglement in material existence, but his renunciation is incomplete. But a Krsna conscious person from the very beginning engages everything in the service of Krsna. Therefore he has completed his course in perfect knowledge. A Krsna conscious person well knows that everything belongs to Krsna, and thus he is always free from feelings of personal possessiveness. As such, he has no hankering for anything on his own personal account; therefore a person in Krsna consciousness is the perfect yogi.
Qualifications For Yoga
The eleventh and twelfth verses lay further qualifications on the aspiring yogi. There it is stated that he must not only go to a secluded place, but also to a sacred place; and after following so many restrictions, completely abstaining from sex, he must sit very firmly, just in order to purify the heart. Without purification of the heart, spiritual advancement is not possible. But in this age of Kali, where can one find a secluded, sacred place? Our cities may be full of so many so-called yoga societies, and they may be very successful in reducing people who are overweight or in providing some kind of recreation, or even in making one healthy, but as far as self-realization is concerned, they are useless. It is specifically said here that one must sit in a secluded sacred place, and there he must completely control the mind. Therefore in the Brhan-Naradiya Purana it is said that in the Kali-yuga (the present age) when people in general are short-lived, slow in spiritual realization and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. And Lord Caitanya was even more emphatic when He said, repeatedly: harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. "In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy [Kali] the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way! There is no other way! There is no other way!"
The thirteenth and fourteenth verses prescribe further instructions for the yogi. He must sit in a certain way to restrain all movement, his eyes must be fixed on the tip of the nose. "Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life." Therefore it is perfectly clear that without seeing Krsna, one is not successful in meditation. Unless one makes Krsna the ultimate goal of life, one is not following the yoga system. Nor is it possible to follow this yoga system with an agitated or roving mind; nor is it possible while engaging in sex life. One has to practice controlling the mind and avoiding all kinds of sense gratification, of which sex is the chief. In the Yajnavalkya rules of celibacy, it is said: "The vow of brahmacari is meant to help one completely abstain from sex indulgence in work, words, and mind—at all times, under all circumstances, and in all places." No one can perform correct yoga practice while participating in sex life, not even in married life. Therefore in the varnasrama institution when a boy is five years old he goes to live with the spiritual master, and there he is taught the material and the spiritual sciences, and he is taught to be a brahmacari, to be strictly controlled. Without such practice one cannot make advancement in any yoga, whether it be dhyana-yoga, jnana-yoga, karma-yoga, or bhakti-yoga. However, as prescribed by the authorities, in the school of bhakti-yoga one can become a householder, or live in married life according to regulation, and that will also allow one to advance. But in jnana-yoga or dhyana-yoga not even that is possible—householder life is never allowed. Complete abstinence without compromise is required. This is because a person who is actually practicing bhakti, while engaged in regulated sex life, dedicates his sex life to Krsna. His household life means that he is raising a family for Krsna, and thus it is superior to the mundane duality of celibate and married. A devotee of the Lord automatically refrains from sense gratificatory life because of superior taste. This means that he is actually drinking at Krsna's reservoir of pleasure.
In the sixteenth verse there is the further prescription that one cannot eat too much or eat too little, or sleep too much or not enough. Without controlling the diet and sleep, meditation will not produce the desired result. Eating more than required means eating more than is needed to keep body and soul together, and sleeping more than six hours in twenty-four means sleeping too much. Nor is there need to eat animal flesh, because there is an ample supply of palatable vegetables, grains, fruit and milk. And such simple foods are considered to be in the mode of goodness, according to Krsna. But a person in Krsna consciousness is automatically controlled in all these things because he does not eat anything which is not first offered to Krsna. And what can be offered to Krsna is stated in the Gita itself, in the Ninth Chapter, where Krsna says that He accepts the gift of one who offers a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a little water, with love and affection. Actually, the real qualification is love and affection, but one who has love and affection naturally only offers the things that Krsna likes. Because the devotee's food is first offered to Krsna, he is without sinful reactions, as explained in the Third Chapter.
A person always engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord considers sleep to be his greatest enemy, for it is a waste of time. In this regard his standard is Srila Rupa Gosvami, who could not sleep more than two hours a day, and often not even that, or he desires to follow the example of Haridas Thakur, who would not even accept food or sleep until he had completed his daily routine of chanting more than three hundred thousand holy names of the Lord. So where one has superior taste there is no question of sense gratification. When one is regulated in all his work, sleep, speech, and all other bodily activities, there is no material contamination or misery. The perfectly regulated life is exemplified by King Ambarisa, who first of all engaged his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krsna; then, one after another, he engaged his words in describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord, his hands in mopping the temple of the Lord, his ears in hearing of the activities of the Lord, his eyes in seeing the transcendental forms of the Lord, his body in touching the body of the devotee, his sense of smell in smelling the scents of the lotus flowers offered to the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasi leaf offered at the lotus feet of the Lord, his legs in going to places of pilgrimage where the temple of the Lord is situated, his head in offering obeisances unto the Lord, and his desires in executing the mission of the Lord. All these transcendental activities are quite befitting a pure devotee, and where they are present, there is no question of sense gratification.
Such a truly Krsna conscious person, always absorbed in Transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is likened in the nineteenth verse to a lamp in a windless place. He does not waver. Indeed, one who is always engaged in the loving service of the Lord becomes steady, and his whole life is passed in samadhi. As explained in the 20-23 verses, in that stage he can see the Self by the pure mind, and thus relish and enjoy the Self. "In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain." By practice of yoga one can become gradually detached from material existence, and in that detached state, one can be situated in trance or samadhi which means that one has realized the Supersoul or Krsna within through transcendental mind and intelligence without any of the misgivings of identifying the self with the Superself. This yoga system is more or less based on the principles of the Patanjali yoga system. Some try to identify the individual soul with the Supersoul. The monist calls this liberation, but he does not understand the real purpose of the Patanjali system of yoga. Patanjali accepts the concept of transcendental pleasure, but the monists do not accept this transcendental pleasure, out of fear of jeopardizing their theory of oneness. The duality of knowledge and knower are not accepted by the nondualists, but in this verse transcendental pleasure—realized through transcendental senses—is a clearly stated fact. This is corroborated by Patanjali Muni, the famous exponent of the yoga system. In his Yoga-sutras, Patanjali states that this oneness of the Supreme that the monists talk about is an internal potency of the Lord by which the living entity becomes aware of his constitutional position. Lord Caitanya further explains that real liberation means to clear the mirror of the mind of its impurities. The theory of nirvana, when seen as a preliminary condition, corresponds with this principle. Nirvana means to clear away the material dust, but after nirvana or material cessation, there is a full manifestation of spiritual activities or devotional service to the Lord known as Krsna consciousness. In the words of the Bhagavatam, this is the "real life of the living entity." Maya, or illusion, is the condition of spiritual life contaminated by material affection. Liberation from this material infection does not mean destruction of the original eternal position of the living entity, but its full manifestation. So transcendental pleasure does not mean void, but real life. This is confirmed in the Vedanta-sutras and will be more vividly described in the Bhagavad-gita beginning with the Seventh Chapter.
The Result Of Steadiness
In verses 24-27, the concept of determination and steadiness is stressed. There is an old adage that "one finds God quickest whose yearning is strongest," and similarly Krsna here is urging that kind of determination. Unless one is determined, there is no possibility of advancement. Similarly, the words "full conviction" are used, and again: "From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self." So one must "certainly withdraw it." And the result of such steadiness or perseverance is stated in the 29th and 30th verses: "A true yogi observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere. For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me." As stated, the end of the yoga system is Krsna. Unless and until one sees Krsna everywhere, until one understands that Krsna is the Supreme Person and that everywhere He is expanded by His energy, there is no perfection. But that is not easy to accomplish, and it is only possible by the grace of the Lord and the self-realized devotee.
In the 33rd verse, Arjuna complains to Krsna that this system seems to him impractical and impossible to perform. Arjuna was a great soul, a great devotee and intimate friend of Lord Krsna, and even 5,000 years ago, when the state of Kali-yuga was not advanced, Arjuna said that he did not think that this system was practical. Arjuna had so many great qualifications, including royal birth and sufficient leisure. He was a great warrior and had a long duration of life. He was also extremely intelligent. Still he thought that it was not possible for himself to follow this system of yoga. And, as it is confirmed in all sastras or scriptures, this system is not possible for any ordinary man in this present age. Those who are imitating this system in so-called schools and yoga societies, although complacent, are certainly worthless as far as spiritual advancement is concerned. They are completely missing the desired goal—Krsna. This can be proved by the test which applies equally to all philosophies and all religions—simply, how is one developing love of God. Actually that love is within all of us, but it is covered by material contamination. It is the job of any philosophy or religion to revive it.
Always Thinking Of Krsna
Love of God practically expressed is service. Any philosophy or religion which does not lead one to this end is simply bluffing, and any system that leads one to this end is first class. Yoga means to link up, and religion comes from two Latin words, re-legio, which means to bind back. Krsna in the 31st verse says that the end is achieved by one who "remains always in Me in all circumstances." That is the goal of all yoga or true religion, and that means that the consciousness is completely submerged in Krsna. That is love. How do I know when I am in love with some girl? Simple. I cannot get her out of my mind. Similarly, when we are in love with Krsna, we think of Him always. We cannot be without Him for a minute.
The gopis complained that the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, was not very intelligent, for the eyes which he designed sometimes blinked, and for that instant Krsna was lost to their view. That is real love. Krsna says that for such a person "I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me."
In the 37th and 38th verses, Arjuna wants to know about the condition of one who starts on the transcendental path and is deviated for one reason or another before reaching the goal. Does he not become bereft of material enjoyment and spiritual advancement both? Does not he lose his chance for material happiness and at the same time fail to reach the goal of spiritual success? Arjuna is still not awake to the full import of Krsna's teaching that one who thinks of Krsna is immediately on the transcendental platform. Thus Krsna reassures Arjuna that evil never comes to the man seeking transcendental advancement. Even if he is unsuccessful in one life, in the next he will certainly pick it up at the same point. Material education or learning must be left with the gross body. And it must be totally completed in one lifetime. Unless I complete my doctorate in this life, then in my next I have to start all over again—all those years of study are wasted. But spiritual knowledge is not like that because it is eternal, and therefore I can take it with me in my eternal condition as spirit soul, and when I take another body, that spiritual knowledge is again displayed from the same point. If I have become 25% Krsna conscious in this life, in my next I will begin at 26%. So nothing can ever be lost on the eternal plane. Krsna stated in the 40th verse of the Second Chapter that "even a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." It will be further explained in the 30th verse of the Ninth Chapter that a person who has determined to become Krsna conscious is under the protection of Krsna's internal energy already, even before the perfectional stage is reached. Therefore even though it takes many births to complete the process, one who has once taken to this process of Krsna consciousness is guaranteed completion or perfection and the attainment of the Supreme Goal. Krsna says: "A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi. And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." In case there is any doubt left in Arjuna's mind, Krsna states in the concluding verse of the chapter that the perfection of yoga is devotional service, transcendental loving service. Yoga means to link up, and Krsna says that he is most intimately united with Me who worships in transcendental loving service. The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices is bhakti-yoga, or love of Krsna. Unless and until one comes to that point, he is not in complete knowledge, and his path is unfinished. Therefore Hare Krsna is the yoga for this age because, like the benediction moon, it is spreading transcendental love of Krsna, the end of all yoga systems.
The taking of prasadam, spiritual foodstuffs, by the devotee and the distribution of such foodstuffs to the public is an extremely important part of Krsna consciousness. The directions for eating come from the scripture Bhagavad-gita, as translated in disciplic succession by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says in the Ninth Chapter of the Gita: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I accept it." (Bg. 9.26) Accepting this offer by the Supreme Lord, the devotee of Krsna follows a pure diet; he eats only food that is first offered to Krsna, who is present in His incarnation as the Deity on the altar. According to this verse in Bhagavad-gita, God actually eats foodstuffs which are offered to Him by His devotee. Since Krsna has an eternal, blissful body with inconceivable potencies, He is able to eat the offered food simply by hearing the prayers offered by the devotee. (The prayers are offered to the spiritual master, who in turn offers the food to Krsna personally.) Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is absolute, therefore anything directly associated with Him, such as His name, His fame, His devotee, and also foodstuffs offered to and accepted by Him, becomes nondifferent from Krsna Himself. Anyone who takes remnants of prasadam offered to the 1,ord engages in yoga or the process of linking up with God. The proof of these assertions is that anyone who regularly takes prasadam will find himself gaining in spiritual strength.
As to what kinds of food are accepted by the Supreme Lord, that information is also available in the Gita. It is stated in the Gita commentary of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, "If one wishes to engage in devotional service to the Supreme, in order to be purified and reach the goal of life—loving service to God—then one should find out what the Lord desires of him. One who loves Krsna will give Him whatever He wants. But he should avoid offering anything which is undesirable or unasked for. Thus meat, fish and eggs should not be offered to Krsna. If He desired such things as an offering, the Lord would have said so; but instead He clearly requests that a leaf, fruit, flowers and water be given to Him.
And He says of this offering, 'I will accept it.' Therefore we should understand that He will not accept meat, fish and eggs. Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk and water are the proper foods for human beings, as is here prescribed by Lord Krsna Himself. Whatever else we may eat cannot be offered to Him, since He will not accept it." One may question, "Why is there a need to feed the Supreme Lord at all? Is He so much in need of food that He has to take offerings from His devotees?" God has no need. He is independent and self-satisfied. It is only out of love for His devotee that He is pleased to accept any offering made to Him. The example is given of a father who accepts a piece of food from his little son. The father is actually the provider of the son's food, and he has no need to accept the food from his son, but if out of affection his son offers him something to taste, then the father is very, very pleased. That is the way Krsna is pleased by His devotees. Prasadam is simply the loving exchange between the Lord and His devotee. Anyone who takes advantage of this easy method of yoga can benefit more in a minute than he could by years and years of exercises or impersonal meditation.
The sum and substance of the Krsna consciousness philosophy is to distribute prasadam, to perform sankirtana—glorification of God by dancing and singing the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and to hear the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. The students of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are dedicated to serving all living entities through the worldwide dissemination of this joyful transcendental message.
by Hayagriva dasa Adhikari (ISKCON—New Vrndavana)
The person who is in full Krsna consciousness knows nothing but Krsna. Whatever he perceives sensuously, mentally, intellectually, emotionally, or psychically is the Absolute Himself, for his consciousness is steeped in knowledge of the Absolute. One so situated in consciousness of the Divine is neither in want nor afraid of anything. He neither desires heavenly planets nor flees hellish ones. He is with Krsna, and so he thinks that every place is as good as the forests of Vrndavana where Krsna eternally sports. In fact, wherever he remains is Vrndavana, just as wherever there are atoms there is the Paramatma, the Supersoul. The Supersoul lives in the hearts of all beings, and yet He is not subjected to their pleasures and pains. In the same way, a person in Krsna consciousness is always transcendental to the modes of material nature. But in this age of Kali, this Iron Age, an age of spiritual drought, of thunder without rain, persons who are in full Krsna consciousness are very rare. Today, there are three billion people on this one planet, and yet out of all these millions and millions it is very difficult to find one person who is actually Krsna conscious or even peaceful. It is very seldom that we find one who is peaceful, for without being established in Krsna consciousness it is not possible to be peaceful.
Love Given Freely
Seeing the pitiable condition of men in the present day, the compassionate Lord Caitanya, who embodies the Absolute Truth and His internal pleasure potency, freely distributes the means whereby man can be established in Krsna consciousness. He is giving a free and easy access to this consciousness: love of Godhead. But because it is being given freely and because it is so easy, people are reluctant to take it. His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati used to say that if you take langera mangoes, which are the best quality mangoes in India, very costly and very sweet, and go from door to door to distribute them freely, people will ask, "Why has this man brought these mangoes? Why is he giving them away? There must be some motive behind it." In this way they will be suspicious and reluctant to accept them. In the same way Lord Caitanya is distributing Krsna prema, pure love for Krsna, which is priceless and very sweet. Yet most people's reactions tend to be skeptical. They say, "Oh he's simply chanting Hare Krsna. What's there to that? This must be for the foolish who cannot cogitate or speculate or meditate or hyperventilate. Surely this is meant for the feeble-minded." But in Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth. " (Bg. 7.3) Therefore the seed of Krsna consciousness is a very precious seed, very rare and very valuable. Out of over eight million species of life, only one species here and there has the spiritual fortune to realize the position of the Absolute. Krsna says, "I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency—maya. And so the deluded world knows Me not who am unborn and infallible." (Bg. 7.25)
Release From Samsara
With a little vision we can quickly see that the mass of living entities are wandering aimlessly in these millions of species of life. Lord Krsna proclaims, "All living entities are born into delusion overcome by the dualities of desire and hate." (Bg. 7.27) Desire and hate delude the soul into thinking that he is this body and that he can gratify the sensual desires of this body. However, the human life is unique in that it offers an opportunity to the conditioned soul to hurdle himself out of the wheel of samsara, the wheel of birth and death. The spiritual master helps the conditioned soul just as a track coach helps a runner jump hurdles. He gives so many instructions, so many rules and regulations just to train the conditioned soul to become godly. The instructions may appear superstitious or superfluous to the conditioned soul due to his limited range of vision, yet when he is hurdled out of his conditioning he can see how they helped him. The human being is intended to be trained to be godly. Actually he is part and parcel of God, but due to material contamination he has forgotten. In India, for thousands of years, various methods have been utilized by which the soul's memory can be awakened to the soul's divinity. Lord Caitanya enjoins that the fortunate person with some spiritual assets due to past deeds will seek the association of a pure devotee who knows the methods of awakening and will instruct the conditioned soul in Krsna consciousness. The seed of Krsna consciousness is received by the mercy of the guru or the spiritual master and by the mercy of Krsna. This mercy is combined: by the grace of Krsna, the soul gets guru, and by the grace of guru, the soul gets Krsna.
"When will the day come when I will be established at last in Krsna consciousness?" This is an urge felt deep in the soul of all entities. Krsna and guru survey all beings, and when they will the God consciousness of the individual jiva will develop and fructify. All creatures have spiritual eyes within themselves, but these eyes are closed. By the will and mercy of the spiritual master and Krsna they can be opened in a twinkling. They are opened by sabda, the transcendental sound incarnation of the Supreme Lord, which pierces the material coverings of all living entities, vibrates into their souls and opens their sleeping spiritual eyes. It is called mantra, which means "mind releasing," for it releases the mind from its material shackles. Krsna says, "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." (Bg. 15.15) Krsna is the Supersoul within all, and as soon as He sees that one is sincerely seeking the answers to important spiritual questions, then he sends a bona fide guru to deliver the mantra and teach the jiva the process of surrender.
Watering The Seed
The seed of Krsna consciousness is within the heart of all living entities, and it is delivered by Krsna and the spiritual master. What is the duty of one who has the seeds of a very beautiful flower? His duty is not to lock them up in a vault or in a bank, but to sow them in the ground. The seed of Krsna consciousness is not sown in the earth, but in the heart, within the self. And once the seed is sown it must be nourished by a little water. That watering process is known as sravanam kirtanam, namely hearing the transcendental words of guru and Krsna and chanting the mantra. If the seed is watered in this way, then it will surely grow. One should never stop watering this plant but should nourish it continually, for if one stops watering any plant it will cease to bear fruit and will die. Even if one is highly elevated in Krsna consciousness he cannot stop this process. Therefore it is recommended that one chant the holy names and read the words of Krsna both morning and evening so that the soul's precious plant will not dry up. Maya, forgetfulness, delusion, are so strong that as soon as they see the opportunity, they will say, "Ah, let's send a drought. Now he will surely dry up." Therefore the watering should always be there so that the plant will always grow.
Ordinarily there is a limit to the growth of all plants. A plant or vine will reach a certain height or breadth or length and then stop. But the plant of Krsna consciousness grows in such a way that it does not rest on any part of this universe. The creepers and branches of this holy plant never lie dormant, never take shelter, never stop within this material world, for this plant is not satisfied with any facility afforded by any planet in any part of this material universe. If it is constantly watered, its branches will extend beyond sensuality, fruitive action and mental speculation and will pierce the covering of the material universe and burst into the effulgent light of the spiritual sky. In that realm it will pass beyond the self-luminous spheres of opulence, beyond the glorious planets of the salvationists, beyond the galactic potentates, blue, regal Narayanas, on up, up, up to the ultimate huge whorl of lotus that is the planet of Vrndavana. Then the plant will enter that lotus planet and seek shelter under the lotus feet of Krsna, and it is there that it will stop to drink the nectar flowing from that Supreme Person, and having drunk that nectar it will issue forth redolent flowers of love, multifarious flowers, eternal flowers, and they will shower the three worlds with their fragrance and petals, and their stamens will pollinate the worlds of men, and their seeds will spread to all corners, and in countless planets new flowers will spring up, and they too, nourished by the waters of the holy name, will foliate that universal path to the nectarean feet of Krsna.
So this growth is enabled by the sabda, the sound incarnation which is the life force of the soul. It is the chanting of the holy names of Krsna that enables the plant of the soul to penetrate the tenfold coverings of this universe and enter into Viraja, the causal ocean. Attainment of this causal ocean is called sama, which is the Buddhist's philosophical perfection. This is the realm of nirvana, the extinction of all material existence. Beyond this causal ocean is the Brahmaloka, the paravyoma, which is the spiritual sky, and the plant of Krsna consciousness, penetrating there, passes all Vaikuntha planets en route to the lotus feet of Krsna. His feet are the soul's shelter. We have all seen ordinary plants grow and grow and grow, and then, when they reach some shelter, suddenly branch out, expand and bear fruit. In this way, once the plant of Krsna consciousness captures Krsna's lotus feet, it takes shelter, saying, "Now I have finished my journey. Let me flourish here. Let me expand here and issue joyous leaves and flowers." It is there that the soul is satisfied, for it is there that he enjoys Krsna's association. It is only when he attains the feet of Krsna that he will rest.
How It Grows
If one pursues the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and reads or hears the transcendental words of Krsna, the plant of his soul will surely grow and reach Krsna's lotus feet and relish them. It is not that Krsna is far, far away and we cannot enjoy Him until passing beyond the ten coverings of the material universe, the causal ocean, the brahmajyoti and all the Vaikuntha planets. No. Actually we can relish Krsna on the journey itself. Otherwise, how did the Gosvamis manage to enjoy their devotional life? They were living beneath different trees every night and eating just a few dry scraps of bread, and sometimes they weren't even eating that. And yet they were all joyfully engaged twenty-four hours in Krsna consciousness, sometimes dancing and chanting and sometimes reading and writing. Eating, sleeping, defending and mating were of no concern to them. So this is spiritual life. When one is actually elevated in spiritual life, he sees all material things as insignificant. It is said that a man in Krsna consciousness sees all the possessions of men as mere garbage in the street, all women as his mother, and all living entities as his very self. It is also said that he sees all the manifold material universes to be of no more significance than rainwater contained in the hoofprint of a cow. This is because one in Krsna consciousness is beyond the material conception of the body. He has realized aham brahmasmi. "I am not this body, I am spirit soul." Krsna says, "Those with the vision of eternity can see that the soul is transcendental, eternal and beyond the modes of nature. In spite of his contact with the material body, O Arjuna, he is neither doing anything nor is he entangled. The sky, on account of its subtle nature, does not mix with anything, although all-pervading. So the soul situated in Brahman vision does not mix with the body though situated in that body. As the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness." (Bg. 13.31-33)
Pleasure Of The Soul
If the soul in Krsna consciousness has no material activity, then what does he do? He is simply engaged in watering the plant that is in his heart. Krsna says, "Those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible. They are always engaged in chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination. Offering homage unto Me, they worship Me with devotion." (Bg. 9.13-14) Once one has the lotus feet of Krsna indelibly imprinted in his soul, once the eye of the soul has seen His feet and the ears of the soul have heard His voice and the nostrils of the soul have smelled His fragrance and the tongue of the soul has tasted the nectar of His names and the hands of the soul have touched His transcendental body, then all material engagements cease and Krsna becomes his all in all. It is at this point that the soul understands that Krsna is the supreme pleasure principle and that the pleasures of the soul can be obtained through Him only. Under illusion we think that we are enjoying material nature, but what kind of enjoyment is there? It is temporary; it is fraught with danger; it is incomplete. When one becomes elevated in Krsna consciousness, then he forgets all these material engagements.
Anyone can come to this stage by the chanting of the holy names of Krsna. The word "Krsna" means all-attractive, and when this word vibrates off the tongue, the sleeping soul is jolted wide awake. The word "Hare" refers to the energy of the all-attractive Krsna. It is by Mother Hare, Srimati Radharani, the energy of Krsna, that we attain Krsna Himself. This is the force that propels the sleeping soul out of the entanglement of material nature. The word "Rama" means enjoyer. When this word vibrates off the tongue, one actually participates in enjoyment which is beyond human conception and is eternal. Together, in the combination called the mahamantra, chanted by the great saint Srila Haridas Thakur, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare," they elevate the soul to the highest ecstasy of love for Krsna. Lord Caitanya, in His Siksastaka, spoke of the powers of Hari-kirtana or chanting the names of Krsna, the mahamantra, in this way:
The sound of Krsna's names is ever triumphant,
This reciprocal love with Krsna, as expressed by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is the highest expression of spiritual consciousness. The life of Caitanya was devoted to Hari-kirtana, the celebration of Krsna by chanting His names, and He recommended this method for all men as the most efficient way for the watering of the soul in this dry age. Then let us sound the thunder of kirtana drums and send torrents of His names showering on the heads of all. The thunder rattles our windowpanes now! Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
by Satsvarupa dasa Adhikari
The followers of the supreme will as taught by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita are generally called Hindus. This word Hindu, which has only come from recent times, is a name given by Mohammedans to those followers of the varnasrama-dharma who used to gather at the Indus River in India. "Indus" became "Hindus" by mispronunciation, so "Hindu" is an empty designation. The religion of the four social orders and four spiritual orders created by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna, as revealed in Bhagavad-gita (Bg. 4.13), is properly named varnasrama-dharma. Basically, the four orders of social life called varna are scientifically arranged for the material progress of society, and the four spiritual orders called asrama are designed for natural progress in self-realization. Both the varna and asrama systems are interrelated; each is dependent on the other. The purpose of this plan, created by the Lord Himself, is to accelerate the transcendental qualities of the individual so that he may gradually realize his spiritual identification and act in order to get free from the material bondage of conditional life. It is a system by which the civilized human being can successfully perform the human mission, which is to be distinguished from the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.
Spiritual, Peaceful Life
The varna system of four castes—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra—is perfectly organized in material terms in order to allow people to live peacefully and pursue spiritual life while engaged in their regular occupation. In every society there is always a class interested in business and agriculture. According to the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the vaisyas' duties are "farming, cattle raising, and business." The sudra class does the labor or serves the other classes. The ksatriyas are the administrators and protectors or policemen. "Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the qualities of work for the ksatriyas." (Bg. 18.43) The brahmanas constitute the intelligent class and offer spiritual knowledge and guidance to the people. Whether or not one accepts the names brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra, there is naturally in every society an intelligent class interested in spiritual understanding and philosophy, a class interested in administration and ruling over others, a class interested in economic development, business and moneymaking, and another class of men who are not intelligent or martial spirited and have no capacity for economic development but who can simply serve others for their own bread. This system has been extant from time immemorial, and it will continue through time immemorial. There is no power which can stop it.
Due to India's dependency on foreigners and those who are non-varnasrama, that country is now witnessing the degradation of the caste and order system in the form of the heredity caste system. Because the varnasrama system is created by God, it will always exist, either in degraded form or in original; it cannot be extinguished. It is like the sun, a creation of God. Either covered by clouds or in a clear sky, the sun will exist. When the varnasrama system becomes degraded, it appears as the hereditary caste system. The four natural orders are still there, but there is no actual regulation for cooperation between the communities. According to the original system in the Bhagavad-gita, caste is determined not by birth but by qualities. The Vedic literature is perfectly clear on this point. Lord Krsna Himself used the phrase brahma-bandhu, meaning "relative of a brahmana," to describe a person who happens to take birth in the family of a brahmana but is not qualified as a brahmana. This was the case with Asvatthama, as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.36). He was a brahmana's son, but he killed the five sleeping sons of Draupadi, and therefore Krsna said that he should be called a brahma-bandhu. As the judgeship is a post for the qualified man, so also the post of a brahmana is attainable by qualification only. By birth alone one cannot become a high court judge, but a qualified person, regardless of birth, is eligible for the post. Similarly, any man who attains the qualities of a brahmana but is born in a lower caste family must be recognized as a factual brahmana. There is an example in the Chandogya Upanisad of a student boy who approached a guru for instruction. The guru asked the boy his family name. On enquiry from his mother, the boy was told. "I do not know. I was a servant girl in my youth and worked in many places. I do not know who was your father." The boy related this exactly to the sage, and the sage declared: "None but a brahmana could speak as truthfully as this," and the boy was thereby accepted as a brahmana because of his acting like a brahmana. Similarly, in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which is the standard literature for regulative behavior in devotional service, it is stated: "As bell metal can be transformed into gold by the proper chemical process, similarly by the bona fide process of initiation any human being can be transformed into a twice-born brahmana."
Need For Brahmanas
It is the Vedic ideal that everyone is trained according to his particular qualities and inclinations. It is necessary in every society that there especially be guides, qualified men whose work is not to put bricks together or anything else, but to simply guide with real intelligence, while the others do work according to their desires. Where there is such guidance, working becomes happy. Krsna is the author of the orders, and thus the existence of a guiding class is eternal and natural—but training is needed. In the democratic society, education makes no provision to train brahmanas for the role of guides. Although the need for such brahmanas is clear, there is no educational institution to train proper brahmanas.
The present Society for Krishna Consciousness is unique in supplying training for boys who are spiritually inclined. Under a bona fide spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, they are being trained in a higher science. Those intellectual persons who have the brahminical qualifications are being restrained as students—they don't eat meat or take part in intoxication, gambling or illicit sex life. In this way they are becoming an intellectual, purified class. It is said that a true brahmana can sanctify all society. In the conception of the four orders as parts situated on the universal form of the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas are said to be the head, the ksatriyas the arms, the vaisyas the waist and the sudras the legs. Just as in our own body, for proper maintenance we require all parts; we cannot say that we do not need the head. We need everything. If there is a body without a head, it is a dead body. Similarly, if there is not a brahmana or intellectual, spiritual part in the society, it is a dead society. If someone is working to understand the Supreme Lord, he is a brahmana. Why should he be called for military action? The arm of the body is needed also. Some military arrangement should be there—but not the brahmana. W here there is no arrangement for protection of brahmanas, that society is headless and brainless—dead. And there is no peace in such a society.
Due to the lack of training of people in the present age and to their practice of the vices of illicit sex, meat eating and intoxication, Lord Caitanya declared that kalau sudra-sambhava—in the age of Kali everyone is a sudra. The Vedic ceremony called Garbhadhana—in which the man and wife make vows before having sex and declare that they are coming together to have sex in order to produce a Krsna conscious child—is no longer observed. And so widespread are illicit connections that no one can know for certain whether he is born of a brahmana or someone else. With the extinguishing of the original varnas and asramas, the entire world has become deplorable, being governed by unwanted men who have no training in religion, politics or social order. In the institution of varnasrama there are regular training principles for the different classes of men. Just as now we need engineers and doctors and there are places for properly training them in scientific institutions, so the social orders, the intelligent class, the ruling class, etc., can be properly trained up. This was actually the case in early Vedic times. The duties are described, and the training must be there. With no training, one cannot claim that simply because he is born in a brahmana or ksatriya family, even though he may act as a sudra, he is therefore a brahmana or ksatriya. Such claims have degraded the system and thrown it into chaos, with no peace or prosperity. The result is that there are sudras everywhere; where there should be a ksatriya in the presidential palace and leading the army on the battlefield, there are men who are untrained and unintelligent who are less than sudras. When there is no provision for training the natural orders, we find that the leadership is ineffective and corrupt. In the Vedic system, because there was proper education, the society was peaceful and so structured that all people were able to develop Krsna consciousness. That is real human society, where the entire society is making progress toward spiritual realization. Krsna advises in Bhagavad-gita that one stay in his own work:
It is better to be engaged in one's own occupation, even if imperfectly performed, than to accept another's occupation, even if perfectly done. Prescribed duties, according to one's nature, are never affected by sinful reactions. (Bg. 18.47)
Working according to his nature, for the purpose of serving the Lord, one can attain perfection by that work, no matter how abominable or pleasant it may appear. One should prosecute his work, even if there is some difficulty in it. Of course, even if a man steadfastly performs his work, but does not serve God by his labor, he is doomed by that very steadfast but godless work. The absolute meaning to all work is that one offers the fruits of his work to Krsna. This art of working in devotional service can be learned, and that is why the brahmanas are there.
A great devotee of Lord Krsna, the boy Prahlada Maharaja, told his school fellows: "What is required is that we change our consciousness from what we are now thinking—that I am the supreme enjoyer, lord of all I survey—and instead become the loving servants of the actual enjoyer, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna." This transcendental loving service, a change of consciousness, can be perfectly completed under proper guidance while working at one's occupational duty. According to Lord Caitanya, everyone must surrender to Krsna. As the varna orders are natural because they are created by God, so they have meaning only when they are utilized for devotional service unto God.
The spiritual impetus in training is asrama. The asrama system is arranged in four stages of life in order for one to reach spiritual perfection. The first stage is brahmacarya. Brahmacarya means student life or education with the spiritual master. According to the asrama system, at five years of age a boy goes to live at the guru-kula, or the place of the guru. There, in order to understand spiritual life, all students serve as menial servants of the guru. This way is advised by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34): "Just try to know the truth by approaching a self-realized spiritual master with all submission and with inquiries and render service unto him. Such a learned spiritual master initiates knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." By performing this service unto a pure devotee, the brahmacari is making direct service contact with God. Because such pure devotees or spiritual masters have as their only business to spread Krsna consciousness and devotional service, to come in contact with them is like an iron rod's coming in contact with fire—the rod eventually acts like fire itself. Lord Caitanya taught that we should become a servant of the servant of the servant 100 times removed—the more faith in the chain of disciplic succession, the better is the service unto Krsna Himself. The brahmacari is trained to be celibate and temperate and to follow the scriptural injunctions for purification of consciousness. Many great personalities from the Vedic literatures, such as Sankara, Narada, the Kumaras, Bhisma, and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, remained unmarried brahmacaris throughout life and devoted their full time to the cause of Krsna. Moreover, one must enter brahmacari training, even if he is to be later married, so that he can learn the principles of restraint. Spiritual life has as its goal the cessation of the round of birth and death in this material world and transferral to the eternal, blissful spiritual world. According to Bhagavad-gita, we are wandering through thousands of species of life, always forgetting Krsna, thinking that we are God, the enjoyer, the center, the Lord. So there is no way out of this material condition except hearing from a spiritual master what our actual position is: that we are eternal parts and parcels of God. Then we must act accordingly. This practice of brahmacarya inculcates in one the desire for Krsna because it restrains the sensual propensities which are the cause of our bondage to the material world.
Sex life, being the apex of pleasure in the material world, is therefore the number one reason for our staying in bondage. Nowadays so many so-called yogis and rsis have come with their teachings, but they are actually enjoyers of the world in the name of yoga, as their teaching does not demand that one practice brahmacarya. Sex indulgence is not recommended in any standard process of yoga meditation or devotional service. Spiritual life means that I am trying to show God my love for Him, not that I am trying to increase my sex enjoyment.
Among other things, the brahmacari is required to restrict his sleep. He is expected to rise one and a half hours before sunrise in order to take advantage of the early hours which are said to be the most auspicious for spiritual development. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, the habits of a brahmacari are described: "The brahmacari must rise early in the morning, and after placing himself, he should chant the holy name" (Bhaktivedanta Purports, Bhag. 3.21.45). It is further described that the brahmacari's body and face should give off a luster:
His body shone most brilliantly; though engaged in austere penance, he was not emaciated because the Lord had cast His affectionate glance at him and he had quaffed with his ears the nectar flowing from the moonlike words of the Lord.
It is the sign of one observing celibacy or brahmacarya that his face has this luster. If he lives otherwise, the lust will come out from the face and the body; if one is a drunkard or sex monger, it will come out. Brahmacari training is the basis for all other orders as basic training in spiritual life. Whether he goes on to become married and eventually retire from married life, or whether he goes directly to the renounced order or sannyasa, the practice of brahmacarya will save him from the pit of entanglement. It fixes him positively in the Absolute Truth.
When the spiritual master understands the qualities of a student, then he decides how he should work, whether as brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra. Thus the student goes into any occupation or spiritual order implanted with the seed of devotional service and the ability to control his senses over the four animal propensities.
The second asrama order is called grhastha, the married family man. Grhastha does not mean married life for indulgence in sex and family affairs. Grhastha is a bona fide spiritual order. There is another word in Sanskrit, grhamedhi, which is a description of married life without spiritual goals. Such marriage, in which one uses contraceptive methods in order to enjoy sex life, raises children that come like cats and dogs, and devotees one's occupational income and energy for elevating the material standard of his family, is a waste of human life. Sex is there, like eating, and there is no bar to Krsna consciousness for a married man. If one feels some disturbance in living single, he can get married. Many of the great authorities in the science of God, like Lord Brahma, Prahlada Maharaja, Bhaktivinode Thakur and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, were family men. Marriage in the spiritual order is for the purpose of living peacefully and having children in Krsna consciousness. Like the varna, the asrama orders are natural and based on principles of human life in terms of the whole span of life; the goal of asrama is not sense gratification, but liberation from the material condition and attainment of the highest goal. The first part of life, brahmacarya, is utilized for development of character and spiritual qualities. Then around age twenty-five, if he has the desire to be married, he may, as the next natural part of life, accept a wife and beget children. But one should not beget children like cats and dogs. A child should be begotten who can perform duties for God, otherwise there is no need to marry and no need of children. The parents should see to it that the child born of them must not enter the womb of a mother again. The child should be trained for being liberated in that life.
Asrama teaches that human life is especially meant for being completely devoted to the Lord. Among the duties and responsibilities of the householder is that he takes care of the other spiritual orders. By occupation, the vaisyas produce food for everyone; by spiritual order, the householders feed the others, as far as possible. Also, according to the example of the great devotee Rupa Gosvami, a householder should give at least fifty per cent of his income for propagation of Krsna consciousness, twenty-five per cent for his household upkeep, and twenty-five per cent set aside for emergencies. The grhastha lives as a householder, prosecuting Krsna consciousness with every endeavor.
Let us say that a man lives one hundred years. The first twenty-five years he is student. The years from twenty-five to fifty are good for producing children and so may be spent in householder life. Then after fifty years of age the man is expected to retire and leave his household affairs in the hands of his oldest son. This stage is called vanaprastha. He retires and with his wife travels to holy places. Then gradually he leaves his wife in the care of the older children. It is not that the wife is left deserted on the road. According to Vedic civilization the woman is never independent. She is in the hands of her father until she is handed over in marriage, and then she becomes the charge of her husband. When the sons are grown up and it is time for the husband to take sannyasa, he leaves his wife in the charge of his elder sons.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam narrates the history of Kardama Muni, a great yogi householder who lived at the dawn of creation and who strictly followed the scriptural injunction by leaving his home to take the renounced life of a wandering sannyasi. His case was most exceptional because after long austerities and practice of yoga, Kardama Muni and his wife Devahuti had been blessed to have born unto them the incarnation of God known as Kapila Deva, who taught the famous Sankhya philosophy to the world. Kardama Muni's exalted position was that God Himself was in his home, as his son. And still, Kardama Muni left his home in strict observance of the injunction that one must spend his last days away from home and without family connection in pursuit of spiritual life. Kapila Deva encouraged His father not to deviate from the scriptures, and He assured him that as Supreme Lord He would always be with his father, residing in his heart. Thus Kardama Muni left his wife in the charge of his son Kapila and became a wandering sannyasi totally dependent on Krsna for his food and lodging.
The Renounced Order
Due to the contamination of the present Kali age, Lord Caitanya advised that no one should take sannyasa but that everyone should chant the holy names, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Justifying the wisdom of Lord Caitanya's prohibition of sannyasa is a phenomenon in India involving the cheaters and the cheated. It is known that a certain class of women feel that it is auspicious to have sex with a sadhu (holy man) and have a child by him. Women gather at holy places where sannyasis are known to go for the purpose of seducing them. This practice has become known, and a class of low-bred sensualists have taken to dressing themselves in the saffron robes of sannyasis and going to those places for the purpose of being seduced by women. Thus the cheaters meet the cheated. Of course, if anyone can actually follow the rules of sannyasa then he must take the renounced order.
Sannyasa is required so that the materially engrossed householder can get out of his mundane occupations before the time of death. The bona fide sannyasi who has received information from authorized scriptural sources and from a spiritual master in disciplic succession must not be merely self-satisfied in that knowledge because he is needed by society at large to go and preach to the people and inject them with the immediacy of eternal spiritual values. If the sannyasi does not teach the common men of their spiritual nature, then they will have wasted the human form of life. It is possible, by direct surrender to God, to be factually sannyasa or renounced, even while living at home with wife and children. But the existence of the sannyasi in the renounced order, either as a missionary with a large following, or as a wandering hermit, will culminate in the highest form of human being, the paramahamsa, or intimate pure devotee of Krsna, who is without envy and always fixed in ecstatic absorption of love of God.
The four orders and castes of varnasrama-dharma are meant to perfect human society. The four orders become distinct where there is enlightenment. Such spiritual life is actually the most democratic because God accepts as wonderful whoever surrenders to Him. By the material standard the rich are great. But in spiritual life the most advanced person serves all others and brings them to Krsna consciousness. In Krsna consciousness the most advanced person gives up everything, whereas in material life the most advanced is greedy, vicious and dangerous to mankind at large. The real democracy we need is democracy of spiritual consciousness—the understanding that all belongs to God and every living being is Krsna's beloved creature. Any man who takes up devotional service is to be respected regardless of his position; and at the same time, whatever qualities he displays in terms of work he can use for Krsna.
by Bhagavan dasa Adhikari (ISKCON-Detroit)
This Krsna consciousness movement is meant to bring about the purification of human consciousness. The human form of life is a rare opportunity which we have now attained out of so many varieties of life. Therefore the opportunity afforded by this human form must be cultured and protected like a rare gem. If it is not, we will lose it by force of the laws of nature and again be subject to birth and death, perhaps in some other species of life. This is confirmed by Lord Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. (Bg. 2.22)
The culturing process is like this. All of us, when we are born, are born with impure consciousness. That is to say, we have no understanding of who we are. The modern civilization of today adds a great boost to this ignorance by offering people material knowledge (avidya) and leaving them devoid of the spiritual education needed for the highest advancement of human consciousness. The outcome is that most people go through their lives entirely ignorant of who they are. They are content to think in terms of temporary bodily designations—"I am a parent," "I am a child," "I am a teacher," "I am a well-off or not so well-off businessman," "I am a hippie," etc. These are temporary identities because the pure living entity, the eternal spirit soul residing within the bodily shell, is devoid of such labels. In other words these are all relative truths depending on conditions of time and space which, if varied, would produce for us new designations. For instance, because one happens to be born into a Jewish or Christian family he is called a Jew or a Christian, but if this person were separated from his parents and adopted by others he might be called something else. This is material relativity, and thinking in these terms binds the living entity to the relative cycle of birth and death.
In Krsna consciousness we are being taught by our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, not to think along these relative, temporary lines but to seek out the Absolute Truth, that truth which does not depend upon any material consideration. This is called self-realization—to realize that which is our real nature. Those people who engage their consciousness in this way have begun to cultivate the resources of human consciousness.
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear. (Bg. 2.40)
All of us have had countless births in the past, and if we are not careful we will have countless births in the future. Therefore, the goal is to break free from the miseries of birth and death, which are concomitant factors of material life, by regaining our eternal spiritual status as servants of the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. That is the perfection of human life. Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya has instructed that this attitude of rendering loving service to the Lord is the real eternal activity of the living entity. Through this process of devotional service one transcends the material platform of relative truth and becomes situated in absolute knowledge. Just as academic knowledge qualifies a person to attain a position in society, so when one understands the Absolute Truth, he becomes qualified to enter Krsna's society, the spiritual kingdom which lies beyond the realm of the material universes.
True knowledge means to realize who we are in relation to Krsna. We must know our eternal identity; academic qualifications will not be helpful.
And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are My parts and parcels—and they are in Me and are Mine. (Bg. 4.35)
Therefore the cultivation of human life is to engage in all activities with the consciousness that "I am Krsna's eternal servant." Just as the parts of the body serve the stomach and thus become nourished and healthy, so, since we are parts and parcels of the transcendental body of Krsna, our eternal function is to render pleasing devotional service to Him and also to those who are His unalloyed, surrendered devotees. Krsna is so sublime that He actually gets more pleasure when He sees His pure devotees, the bona fide spiritual masters, being served, than when someone tries to approach Him directly. In the Adi Purana this is stated by Lord Krsna to Arjuna: "My dear Partha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee." Therefore, our eternal position is one of servitorship. In the material world everyone serves only in order to get some temporary fruits which are all taken away at the time of death, but for those who accept their spiritual identity as servants of the Lord and His pure devotees, Lord Krsna says:
That is the way of the spiritual and godly life, after attaining which a man is not bewildered. Being so situated, even at the hour of death, one can enter into the kingdom of God. (Bg. 2.72)
To end the problems of material life does not mean to try to make this world an eternal paradise, but to reinstate ourselves in devotional service to the Lord, instead of devotional service to this material nature. This can be accomplished by anyone through the simple method of chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The chanting is a prayer to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna to engage us in His transcendental loving service. We say loving service because Krsna is the perfect master who reciprocates with His servants by taking away all inauspicious things from the mind.
This movement is not in conflict with any religious belief. Our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, is simply teaching us how to immerse ourselves in God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, twenty-four hours a day, not just to serve God once a week or to think, "Oh yes, God exists." Srila Prabhupada is teaching us to meditate on Krsna's name, form, pastimes and devotees, even in the sleeping state. That is the process of bhakti-yoga or Krsna consciousness, the sublime method for cultivating real human consciousness.
Everyone desires to enjoy a complete life of happiness, but most people are misled in this quest by thinking that the body is the target for satisfaction. Actually, however, the body by itself has no qualification to satisfy our desires, but is instead a collapsible trap that ultimately ends in death. The original desire for a joyful life does not come from the body but from the spirit soul, the eternal living entity within the body. Having contacted this material body, we have made a false association which is manifested in the belief that we are the lump of flesh that we see in the mirror. The materialist feels that he can get satisfaction by gratifying the different urges which come from his senses. The intelligent man, however, soon realizes that bodily sense desires are often misleading. The young child will say, "Oh, that flickering substance looks very nice. I think I shall enjoy it." But upon placing his hand in the fire he quickly learns that his senses are not to be trusted. In our conditioned state of existence, we think that our only satisfaction lies on the material platform, and we are constantly fooled in this way. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada states in Sri Isopanisad: "Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of avidya (ignorant material activities) do not mind this cruel process, but being enamored of the beauty of the illusory energy, they do the same things over repeatedly, not learning any lesson from the law of nature."
The conditioned living entity constantly places himself in the fire of material sense gratification. This means that everyone who is thinking, "I am this body," is burning with the fire of passion and lust to control, own and manipulate this dull material world. Such illusioned souls try frantically to find some love in this temporary form, and the ultimate end is destruction. The Supreme Personality of Godhead states that they certainly lead a life of sin, "for a person delighting only in the senses lives in vain." (Bg. 3.16) In his purports to Srimad-Bhagavatam Srila Prabhupada explains this further:
Excessive eating, excessive sense gratification, artificial standards of living, and depending too much on others' mercy kill the very vitality of human energy, and thus man's duration of life is shortened. (Bhag. 1.1.10, purport)
Everyone, no matter what his position in life—whether he be a successful businessman, president, dictator, or a low-grade drunk on the street—suffers in material life. Everyone is forced by the laws of nature to accept death, everyone is forced to accept disease, and everyone is forced to accept old age and birth. This is the real problem of existence. It is not enough to simply think, "How much can I make today at my job? How much sex life can I enjoy? How much food do I need?"
How is it that everyone desires an eternal life of happiness but that the body does not at all permit this? It is because bodily existence is not our real existence. The problem is that the conditioned living entity tries to make the body something which it is not. This body is not the reservoir of all pleasure. When one desires water he must go to a source where there is sufficient water stored up, but in the illusioned state of existence, when one desires pleasure he runs to bodily sense gratification and thus dies of spiritual thirst. An intelligent person who wants the real nectar of existence does not turn to bodily sense pleasure because the body is the reservoir of our misery. The body is simply made of dull, unconscious elements, which are no different from the elements that make up the wood on the floor or the elements that are in dirt. Certainly no one would jump on the floor and embrace it and say, "Oh, I love you." But we try to embrace this body, saying, "Oh, I love you," when that is not what we really desire to contact. Even science tells us that the body, if taken apart and divided into its main constituents, would be worth only $1.75 on the market. We cannot carry on a conversation with that little bottle of elements. In other words, we are not actually attracted to the material shell of the body but to the life force within the body which makes the entire machinery active. If this is not so, then why is no one attracted to a corpse?
The cause of all disturbance and havoc in the world is this false identification with the body. This misidentification can be immediate, in which case the conditioned soul thinks, "I am this form of flesh and bones," or it can be extended, in which case one thinks, "I am this country," "I am this race," "I am this husband-wife relationship," "I am this business firm," etc. All this is false identification. Actually we are none of these things. To say that we are Americans or Indians is false. We are pure spirit souls, parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, and our true identity, our true existence, is that we are His eternal servitors. One's identity in material life is designated by the service that one renders, but everyone's real service is simply to surrender everything to the Supreme Lord, and when we exist in that state of consciousness, Krsna consciousness, we become fully satisfied.
O best of the Kuru dynasty, without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life. What then of the next? (Bg. 4.31)
It makes no difference what one's material designations are—the point is that with one's working energy one should please the Supreme Lord. When man's interest is in temporary bodily designations, how can he expect to have a united cooperative planet? We are busy trying to think of ways to maintain and increase the false prestige of bodily labels while with equal skill we are forgetting where everyone's personality came from to begin with.
It is important for those who have taken the human form of life to realize that all living entities have the absolute identity of being eternal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To serve the Lord means to serve the Lord's unalloyed devotees. That is the real method of spiritual life. In our wretched conditioned state, how can we know for sure what Krsna desires from us unless we go to one who knows perfectly well what will please the Lord? So we should scrutinizingly search out one who has no other business than to please the Personality of Godhead. Krsna Himself states this in Bhagavad-gita:
Just try to learn the truth by approaching the spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth. (Bg. 4.34)
When one finds such a pure devotee, all material opulences, fame, possessions, etc., become insignificant compared to a moment's association with him. The pure devotee of the Lord has the power to lift one to the platform of transcendental loving service to the Lord and thereby alleviate the fears, anxieties and burdens of illusory material existence. Just as the sun draws moisture from a contaminated place and purifies it, so the pure devotee purifies our material consciousness by showing us how to serve Krsna and thereby perfect our lives. The power of this association is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam by the sages of Naimisaranya:
O Suta Gosvami, the great sages who have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord can at once sanctify others who may come in contact with them, while the water of the Ganges can do so only after prolonged use. (Bhag. 1.1.15)
If we desire to attain this purified consciousness, we must understand our spiritual nature. This is not possible if we associate with people who are simply interested in sense gratification. If we always associate with people who are thinking, "I am this body, and my main business of life is sense gratification," then we will also come to think in the same way: "I am this body, and my main occupation is sense gratification. I have nothing to do in this life but enjoy myself." Association is so strong in affecting one's consciousness that even if one does not engage in the exact activities that someone else does, just by associating with him one acquires his mode of consciousness. For example, one may know people who try to elevate their consciousness through chemicals. He himself may not use them, but if he has close association with people who do, then it is certain that his consciousness will be affected and that he will begin to think and act like them. The idea, then, is to always remain in a purified state of consciousness through close spiritual association. That very association has been made easily accessible in this age through the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These holy names of the Lord have been praised by Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu as follows:
O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction upon the living beings, and therefore You have hundreds and millions of names like Krsna, Govinda, etc. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies, and there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these holy names. O my Lord, You have so kindly made approach to You easy by Your holy name, but unfortunate as I am, I have no attraction for them. (Siksastakam, 1)
Krsna has so mercifully given us His holy name to take shelter of, and when a conditioned soul hears the chanting from the lips of the Lord's pure devotee he can be inspired to render devotional service to the Lord and thereby free himself from all material misery.
For All Humanity
This vibration is not just meant for boys with shaved heads and girls who wear saris. It is meant for all humanity. Everyone is looking for an object which will make him eternally happy, eternally satisfied. But that object can nowhere be found in the temporary material world. To satisfy ourselves, therefore, we must go beyond the limiting range of material phenomena and try to connect with the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna, who is the eternal reservoir of bliss and knowledge. That connection is made by chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna. One must become convinced that there is no happiness anywhere in the material world. A person may say that he is happy, but what has he actually accomplished? We must say, "My dear sir, now you say that you have been very successful in life. You've raised a nice family, you've had a nice job, you've had nice sex life, you've had nice food on your plate and a nice roof over your head, and you've also done some charity work. Now just tell us who you are and where you are going at the time of your death." A person in material consciousness cannot answer this question. Because he has not cultured spiritual knowledge, such a person is forced by the laws of nature to fall back into the samsaric existence of birth and death.
The Krsna consciousness movement is meant for culturing spiritual knowledge in order to become qualified for release from the bondage of the material world—to go back to Godhead, back home, back to the spiritual realm. Sri Isopanisad states:
One should know perfectly well about the Personality of Godhead and His transcendental name, as well as the temporary material creation with its temporary demigods, men and animals. When one knows these he surpasses death, and the ephemeral cosmic creation with it, and in the eternal kingdom of God he enjoys his eternal life of bliss and knowledge. (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 14)
One may be content to think, "What am I going to eat now? Where am I going to sleep? How will I defend myself in case of difficulty?" But what a waste of consciousness that is Our materialistic society has simply increased the quality of our eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Thus it has increased the fire of our material consciousness, which always burns with the desire to enjoy illusion. Nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke. "In this human form of life, the body is not meant for sense gratification like the animals." All animals also eat, sleep, mate and defend, and to use our human intellect simply to increase the quality of these functions is no credit to human consciousness. Human life is meant for controlling sense gratification in order to move on to spiritual realization.
When there are ample earthly flats to lie on, then what is the necessity of cots and beds? When one can use his own arms, what is the necessity of a pillow? When one can use the palms of his hands, then what is the necessity of varieties of utensils? When there is ample covering, or the skins of trees, then what is the necessity of clothing? (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.3.4)
So the more we increase the degree of our sense gratification, the less we advance in spiritual progress. This does not mean that in snowy winter weather one should wear leaves. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, a great Vaisnava acarya, once said, "Man's glory is in common sense." So the idea is to keep material sense gratification to the minimum and be satisfied with only the bare necessities for bodily maintenance.
Life's desires must not be directed towards sense gratification. One should desire only for a healthy life or for self-preservation because the life of a human being is meant for inquiry into the Absolute Truth, and nothing more should be desired from one's occupational service. (Bhag. 1.2.10)
If one's mind is surcharged with material considerations regarding eating, sleeping, mating and defending—the animal propensities—then certainly one does not need the human form of life, which is meant for higher level activities. Therefore Krsna says, "sada tad-bhava-bhavitah: A person gets his next life according to whatever he is absorbed in thinking." This lifetime is meant for qualifying ourselves for our next body. If we simply live like animals in suits and ties, then Krsna, seated as the Supersoul in everyone's heart, will understand our real desires, and in our next birth we may be born into a lower species of life and there continue our search for happiness in the material world. The worm in the stool is very content. He enjoys himself nicely eating stools. The dogs are happy hoarding their bones. But we are not worms or dogs. We have the human form of life, and we are meant to elevate our consciousness from the bodily concept of life to the ultimate stage of understanding fully the questions of spiritual life: "Who am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? Where am I going at the time of death?"
What Is This Life
We must ask the materialist, "Do you think that life is simply this spark of one hundred years? If it so happens that I get called in the army and killed, or run over by a car, is everything finished? Is that all there is to life—a little bit of sense pleasure, a few showers, a few meals and some nice clothes? Do you think that that's all there is to life?" No. Life is meant for a complete understanding of our eternal nature and our eternal relationship with God. That is the completeness of human life. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada states:
The living beings are parts and parcels of the Complete Whole (Krsna), and as long as the parts and parcels are detached from the Complete Whole, the illusory representation of completeness is not enough to bring the desired result. The completeness of human life can only be realized when the human form of life is engaged in the service of the Complete Whole.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is teaching people the spiritual knowledge of man's eternal relation with the Supreme Lord, and we can see by the results of his Krsna consciousness movement that a divine population is in the making. Otherwise how could his disciples so quickly stop their meat-eating, illicit sex life, gambling and intoxication, and be so content simply chanting the holy name of Krsna and serving His pure devotee?
To care for one's child by putting nice clothes on his body and giving him nice foodstuffs and a place to sleep is not enough. If that is all that we give our children, they will never know the real aim of life, and they will always be frustrated and misled. We can see this happening in high schools and on college campuses throughout the world. Why are young people rebelling so strongly and turning to violence, intoxicants and uncontrolled sex life? It is due to the frustration caused by material consciousness. Therefore we are taking care in our Krsna conscious society to culture love of God. That should be the only occupation of the parent, teacher, politician or anyone else who is in a position to lead or instruct. The responsible members of society must learn how to see everything in its relation with the Supreme Lord through the medium of devotional service, the eternal function of all spirit souls.
Krsna consciousness is a purifying movement meant to bring forth what is already present within us but is covered over by lust.
As the fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly the living entity is covered by different degrees of lust. (Bg. 3.38)
Just as a mango becomes sweet upon maturing, so by changing from the immature concept of "I am this body" to the clear consciousness of "I am part and parcel of Krsna," we reconnect ourselves with Krsna and display the all-blissful nature of the spirit soul. The conditioned soul attempts pleasure through bodily connection, but the devotee connects with Krsna through devotion and thus experiences divine pleasure.
One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God. (Bg. 18.55)
Everyone desires to have their bit of paradise on this temporary planet where everything is destined to be destroyed, but it is only when one recognizes a superior eternal nature or existence that he can experience the state of atmarama—self-satisfaction. Of those who have attained this atmarama state by breaking free of material lust, the highest are those who take to the devotional service of the Lord. Such was the case for Sukadeva Gosvami, who from the time of his birth was fixed in impersonal Brahman realization (the realization of knowing oneself to be spiritual energy) and was transcendental to all mundane sex desire and lust. He recounted to Maharaja Pariksit:
O saintly King, I was certainly situated perfectly in transcendence, yet I was still attracted by the delineation of the pastimes of the Lord, who is described by enlightened verses. (Bhag. 1.2.19)
Krsna confirms the potency of this knowledge:
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna. (Bg. 4.9)
His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada states:
There is no difference between the kingdom of God and the devotional service of the Lord. Since both of them are on the absolute plane, to be engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord is to have attained the spiritual kingdom. (Bg. 2.72, purport)
Therefore the result of this sankirtana movement of chanting Hare Krsna is that people are actually exhibiting symptoms of transcending the shackles of material sense experience and are beginning to manifest love of God. They have smiling faces, they dance and sing in the streets, and sometimes they cry, moved by the beauty of the Lord and His pure devotees. These are bona fide symptoms of spiritual ecstasy, and they are within everyone; it is simply a matter of freeing the spirit soul from the encagement of false ego (bodily sense enjoyment). It is like lifting the shade and allowing the sun to enter.
One cannot have a loving relationship with anything impersonal. It is not possible be happy in this way, any more than it possible to find satisfaction by conversing with the air or the floor, because there is no reciprocation. To love, one must have a personal relationship. To know Krsna, the Absolute Truth, one must reestablish one's personal relationship with Him. One must be devoid of all self-motivation and sense gratification. That is called devotional service, Krsna consciousness, the purification of human consciousness.
Everything in Krsna consciousness is spiritually pure. Our Krsna conscious marriages are an example. It is not that we get married on the basis of romance, dating, or living with someone for a while. It is a symptom of this degraded age that simply because they have lived together, eaten under the same roof and had sex life together, a boy and girl will consider themselves married. This is the consciousness that attracts people today. Even in so-called "legal" marriages, where is the firm conviction that husband and wife together should seek out the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with the intention to render transcendental loving service to Him and His pure devotees? What other way is there to create a spiritual society where people are not like cats and dogs? A Krsna conscious marriage is meant to teach people how to love Krsna, how to perfect one's life by serving Him instead of just taking from Him.
Everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one must not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong. (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 1)
When one recognizes Krsna's supremacy, he automatically pleases everyone because Krsna is the root of everyone's existence.
It is just a matter of whether or not one wants to agree. But to whom else can we surrender? Certainly it is not enough to place faith in our families. To depend on family life for pleasure is illusory because family members will all succumb to death at some time, and then all that will remain will be sentimental memories. Krsna conscious family life is not simply to surrender to that limited consciousness—"Oh, what would I do without you?"—but to surrender to Krsna—"Krsna, what would I do without You?" That is purified consciousness. It is not, "My dear baby, how nicely I will enjoy you and pamper you," but instead, "How I will try to teach you nicely to serve Krsna and His pure devotees." That is the platform on which there is no material attachment. Pure love is manifested when one soul enlightens another regarding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the reservoir of all pleasure. When Sukadeva Gosvami was approached by the sages of Naimisaranya for advice for the fallen people of this age, he replied:
O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are relevant to the public welfare because they are in relation with Krsna. Only this type of question can please the self completely. (Bhag. 1.2.5)
To say that we are unattached does not mean that we display no love, but that we are free from the entanglement of bodily relationships and are attached instead to relating with all living entities as spirit souls. Knowledge that all men are eternal parts and parcels of the Lord is the only plane on which full satisfaction can be found because the eternal function, the eternal engagement, of the spirit soul is the mood of transcendental loving service to Krsna.
If we do not give people the knowledge that the devotional service of the Lord and His pure devotees is the highest perfectional stage of life, we keep them in bondage to this material existence of eternal birth and death. Because death is against everyone's personal self-interest, and because material activities simply bring one closer to death, the entire population of the world is frustrated and anxious, having missed the center of enjoyment. Therefore the Krsna consciousness movement is the prime benediction for all humanity because it teaches people how to live together peacefully and develop love of God. Only by developing love of God can we become free from the clutches of birth and death, and therefore nothing else is perfection but pure love of Krsna and His unalloyed devotees.
The devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement are simply trying to spread this sublime message all over the earth. Observe how people everywhere—in America, Japan, Australia, Canada and Europe—are taking to this life style and taking off the shackles of material existence. Not only adults but children also are participating in this movement. Our Krsna conscious children live in our farm commune, New Vrndavana, in the mountains of West Virginia, where they learn this knowledge of Krsna consciousness, and by the time they are twelve they are out preaching to people in a purified state of understanding. They are not attracted to the material world because they see it for what it is. Because they are given a full opportunity to taste the nectarean pleasure of spiritual life in Krsna consciousness, they are free from bondage to material sense gratification. What is there in the material world that can offer eternal pleasure? Nothing! Real pleasure comes from Krsna. That is transcendental knowledge, and that is our birthright as parts and parcels of Krsna.
We must simply accept what is already ours—spiritual bliss in the service of Krsna. By taking to this Krsna conscious way of life one can satisfy all one's desires. When one becomes Krsna conscious he loses all fears and anxieties and becomes fixed in eternal happiness.
One may aspire to live for hundreds of years if he continuously goes on doing work in that way because that sort of work will not bind him to the law of karma. There is no alternative to this way for man. (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 2)
We ask you to try and understand this sankirtana movement. It is not necessary that you live in the temple and shave your head, but come and learn. Give up the false spiritual teachers who are saying that you are God, that there is no God, that God is a chemical, or that God is this universal manifestation. Watch this movement—it is so sublime. Why shouldn't everyone dance in the street? Why not get up and raise your arms? Why not dance in ecstasy? To lose all inhibitions does not mean to prance around naked. It means to act in the knowledge that we are the eternal servants of Krsna. That is the message of this sankirtana movement, and that is the message that is overflooding the world with love of God. And, if you want, it can overflood you.