Learning How to See God
anātmanas tu śatrutve
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.6)
The purpose of the yoga system is to make the mind into a friend instead of an enemy. In material contact, the mind is in a kind of drunken condition. As stated in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 20.117),
ataeva māyā tāre deya saṁsāra-duḥkha
“Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the Lord’s external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy (māyā) gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.” The living entity is constitutionally spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. As soon as the mind is contaminated, the living entity, because he has a little independence, rebels. In this state, the mind dictates, “Why should I serve Kṛṣṇa? I am God.” Thus one labors under a false impression, and his life is spoiled. We try to conquer many things – even empires – but if we fail to conquer the mind, we are failures even if we manage to conquer an empire. Even though emperors, we will have within us our greatest enemy – our own mind.
“For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquillity. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.7)
Actually, every living entity is intended to abide by the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone’s heart as Paramātmā. When the mind is misled by the external illusory energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one’s mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one is to be considered as having already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When the mind is fixed on the superior nature, he has no alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. When the mind is controlled, one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramātmā, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence – distress and happiness, cold and heat, etc. This state is called samādhi, or absorption in the Supreme.
yukta ity ucyate yogī
“A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything – whether it be pebbles, stones, or gold – as the same.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.8)
Book knowledge without realization of the Supreme Truth is useless. This is stated as follows:
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.234)
There are men in the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, and to reclaim all these conditioned souls, there are eighteen Purāṇas. Six Purāṇas are meant for those in the mode of goodness, six for those in the mode of passion, and six for those in the mode of ignorance. The Padma Purāṇa is written for those in the mode of goodness. Because there are many different types of men, there are many different Vedic rituals. In the Vedic literatures there are descriptions of rituals and ceremonies in which a goat may be sacrificed in the presence of the goddess Kālī. This is described in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa, but this Purāṇa is meant for the instruction of those in the mode of ignorance.
It is very difficult for one to give up his attachments all at once. If one is addicted to meat-eating and is suddenly told that he must not eat meat, he cannot do so. If one is attached to drinking liquor and is suddenly told that liquor is no good, he cannot accept this advice. Therefore, in the Purāṇas we find certain instructions that say in essence, “All right, if you want to eat meat, just worship the goddess Kālī and sacrifice a goat for her. Only then can you eat meat. You cannot eat meat just by purchasing it from the butcher shop. No, there must be sacrifice or restriction.” In order to sacrifice a goat to the goddess Kālī, one must make arrangements for a certain date and utilize certain paraphernalia. That type of pūjā, or worship, is allowed on the night of the dark moon, which means once a month. There are also certain mantras to be chanted when the goat is sacrificed. The goat is told, “Your life is being sacrificed before the goddess Kālī; you will therefore be immediately promoted to the human form.” Generally, in order to attain the human form, a living entity has to pass through many species of life on the evolutionary scale, but if a goat is sacrificed to the goddess Kālī, he is immediately promoted to the human form. The mantra also says, “You have the right to kill this man who is sacrificing you.” The word māṁsa indicates that in his next birth, the goat will eat the flesh of the man who is presently sacrificing him. This in itself should bring the goat-eater to his senses. He should consider, “Why am I eating this flesh? Why am I doing this? I’ll have to repay with my own flesh in another life.” The whole idea is to discourage one from eating meat.
Thus, because there are different types of men, there are eighteen Purāṇas to guide them. The Vedic literatures are meant to redeem all men, not just a few. It is not that those who are meat-eaters or drunkards are rejected. A doctor accepts all patients, and he prescribes different medicines according to the disease. It is not that he gives the same medicine for all diseases or that he treats just one disease. No, he offers a specific type of medicine to whomever comes, and the patient receives gradual treatment. However, the sattvic Purāṇas like the Padma Purāṇa are meant for those in the mode of goodness, for those who are immediately capable of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) it is stated, īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ: “The supreme controller is Kṛṣṇa, who has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body.” This is the Vedic pronouncement, and we thus accept Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord. Those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance attempt to imagine the form of God, and when they are confused, they say, “Oh, there is no personal God. God is impersonal, or void.” This is just the result of frustration. Actually, God has His form. And why not? According to the Vedānta-sūtra, janmādy asya yataḥ: “The Supreme Absolute Truth is He from whom everything emanates.” It is easy to see that we have different types of bodies, different types of forms. We must consider where these forms are coming from. Where have these forms originated? We have to use a little common sense. If God is not a person, how can His sons be persons? If your father is just a void, if he is not a person, how can you be a person? If your father has no form, how can you have form? This is not very difficult; it is just a common sense question. Unfortunately, because people are frustrated, they try to imagine some form, or they conclude that because this material form is temporary and troublesome, God must be formless. Indeed, because all forms in this material world must perish, God, of necessity, must be formless.
The Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) specifically states that this conception is a mistake. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ. God has form, but His form is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. Sat means “eternal,” cit means “knowledge,” and ānanda means “pleasure.” God has form, but His form is eternal and is full of knowledge and pleasure. We cannot compare His form to our form. Our form is neither eternal, full of pleasure, nor full of knowledge; therefore God’s form is different.
As soon as we speak of form, we think that form must be like ours, and we therefore conclude that the eternal, all-knowing, and all-blissful God must be without form. This is not knowledge but the result of imperfect speculation. According to the Padma Purāṇa, ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ: “One cannot understand the form, name, quality, or paraphernalia of God with one’s material senses.” Since our senses are imperfect, we cannot speculate on Him who is supremely perfect. That is not possible.
Then how is it possible to understand Him? Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau. By training and purifying our senses, we may come to understand and see God. Presently we are attempting to understand God with impure, imperfect senses. It is like someone with cataracts trying to see. Just because one has cataracts, he should not conclude that there is nothing to be seen. Similarly, we cannot presently conceive of God’s form, but once our cataracts are removed, we can see. According to the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38), premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti: “The devotees whose eyes are anointed with the ointment of love of God can see God within their hearts twenty-four hours a day.” Purification of the senses is what is required; then we can understand the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of God. Then we’ll be able to see God everywhere and in everything.
These matters are discussed thoroughly in the Vedic literatures. For instance, it is said that although God has no hands or legs, He can accept whatever we offer (apāṇi-pādo javano gṛhītā). It is also stated that although God has neither eyes nor ears, He can see and hear everything. These are apparent contradictions, but they are meant to teach us an important lesson. When we speak of seeing, we think of material vision. Due to our material conception, we think that the eyes of God must be like ours. Therefore, in order to remove these material conceptions, the Vedic literatures say that God has no hands, legs, eyes, ears, etc. God has eyes, but His vision is infinite. He can see in darkness, and He can see everywhere at once; therefore He has different eyes. Similarly, God has ears and can hear. He may be in His kingdom, millions and millions of miles away, but He can hear us whispering, because He is sitting within. We cannot avoid God’s seeing, hearing, or touching.
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Bhagavad-gītā 9.26) If God does not have senses, how can He accept and eat the offerings that are presented to Him? According to ritual, we are offering Kṛṣṇa food daily, and we can see that the taste of this food is immediately changed. This is a practical example. God eats, but because He is full, He does not eat like us. If I offer you a plate of food, you will eat it, and it will be finished. God is not hungry, but He eats, and at the same time, He leaves the food as it is, and thus it is transformed into prasāda, His mercy. Pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate. God is full, yet He accepts all the food that we offer. Still, the food remains as it is. He can eat with His eyes. As stated in Brahma-saṁhitā, aṅgāni yasya sakalendriya-vṛttimanti: “Every sense of the Lord’s body has all the potencies of the other senses.” Although we can see with our eyes, we cannot eat with our eyes. The senses of God, however, being infinite, are different. Simply by looking at the food that is offered to Him, He eats it.
This may not be understood at the present moment; therefore the Padma Purāṇa states that when one becomes spiritually saturated by rendering transcendental service to the Lord, the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord are revealed. We cannot understand God by our own endeavor, but out of mercy God reveals Himself to us. If it is night, and you want to see the sun, you will have to wait for the sun to appear in the morning. You cannot go outside with a big torch and say, “Come on, I will show you the sunlight.” In the morning, when the sun rises of its own will, we can see it. Because our senses are imperfect, we cannot see God by our own endeavor. We have to purify our senses and wait for the time when God will be pleased to reveal Himself to us. That is the process. We cannot challenge God. We cannot say, “O my dear God, my dear Kṛṣṇa. Please come. I want to see You.” No, God is not our order supplier. He is not our servant. When He is pleased, we will see Him; therefore this Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a process by which we can please God so that He will reveal Himself to us.
Because people cannot see God, they readily accept anyone who says, “I am God.” Because people have no conception of God, they are eager to accept any rascal who comes along and proclaims himself to be God. People are fond of saying, “I am searching after the truth,” but in order to search for the truth, we must know what the truth is. Otherwise, how can we search it out? If we want to purchase gold, we must at least theoretically know what gold is, otherwise we will be cheated. Consequently, having no conception of the truth or of God, people are being cheated by so many rascals who say, “I am God.” In a society of rascals, one rascal accepts another rascal as God, and this is all the result of rascaldom. But all this has nothing to do with God. One has to qualify himself to see and understand God, and that process of qualification is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ: by engaging ourselves in God’s service, we become qualified to see God. Otherwise it is not possible. We may be great scientists or scholars, but our mundane scholarship will not help us see God.
This Bhagavad-gītā is the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and in order to understand Kṛṣṇa, we must be fortunate enough to associate with a person who is in pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We cannot understand the Bhagavad-gītā simply by acquiring an M.A., Ph.D., or whatever. The Bhagavad-gītā is a transcendental science, and it requires different senses in order to be understood. Our senses must be purified by the rendering of service, not by the acquiring of academic degrees. There are many Ph.D.’s, many scholars, who cannot understand Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Kṛṣṇa appears in the material world. Although He is unborn (ajo ’pi sann avyayātmā), He comes to reveal Himself to us.
Thus Kṛṣṇa is realized by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, or by the grace of a Kṛṣṇa conscious person who has realized Kṛṣṇa by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. We cannot understand Him through academic knowledge. We can only understand Kṛṣṇa by acquiring the grace of Kṛṣṇa. Once we acquire His grace, we can see Him, talk with Him – do whatever we desire. It is not that Kṛṣṇa is a void. He is a person, the Supreme Person, and we can have a relationship with Him. That is the Vedic injunction. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām: “We are all eternal persons, and God is the supreme eternal person.” We are all eternal, and God is the supreme eternal. Presently, because we are encaged within these bodies, we are experiencing birth and death, but actually we are beyond birth and death. We are eternal spirit souls, but according to our work and desires, we are transmigrating from one body to another. It is explained in the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (2.20),
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”
Just as God is eternal, we are also eternal, and when we establish our eternal relationship with the supreme, complete eternal, we realize our eternality. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām. God is the supreme living entity among all living entities, the supreme eternal among all eternals. By Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by purification of the senses, this knowledge will be realized, and we will come to see God.
A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, because he is satisfied with pure devotional service. By realized knowledge, one becomes perfect. By transcendental knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, but by mere academic knowledge one can be easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions. It is the realized soul who is actually self-controlled, because he is surrendered to Kṛṣṇa. He is transcendental because he has nothing to do with mundane scholarship. For him, mundane scholarship and mental speculation, which may be as good as gold to others, are of no greater value than pebbles or stones.
Even if one is illiterate, he can realize God simply by engaging himself in submissive, transcendental loving service. God is not subjected to any material condition. He is supreme spirit, and the process of realizing Him is also beyond material considerations. Therefore, one may be a very learned scholar and still not be able to understand God. One should not think that because he is very poor he cannot realize God; nor should one think that he can realize God just because he is very rich. God may be understood by an uneducated person and misunderstood by one with great education. The understanding of God, like God Himself, is unconditional (apratihata).
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.6) it is stated,
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
“The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” Cultivation of love of God: that is the definition of first-class religion. Just as there are three guṇas, or three qualities, in the material world, there are various religions, each situated in one of the three modes. We are not, however, concerned with analyzing these religious conceptions. For us, the purpose of religion is to understand God and to learn how to love God. That is the real purpose of any first-class religious system. If a religion does not teach love of God, it is useless. One may follow his religious principles very carefully, but if one does not possess love of God, his religion is null and void. According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.6) real religion must be ahaitukī and apratihatā: without selfish motivation and without impediment. By practicing such a religion, we will become happy in all respects.
Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje. Another name for God is adhokṣaja, which means “one who cannot be seen by materialistic attempts.” That is to say that God conquers all our attempts to see Him materially. The word akṣaja refers to experimental knowledge, and adhaḥ means “unreachable.” So God cannot be reached through experimental knowledge. We have to learn to contact Him in a different way: through submissive hearing and the rendering of transcendental loving service.
True religion teaches causeless love of God. It does not say, “I love God because He supplies me nice objects for my sense gratification.” That is not love. God is great, God is our eternal father, and it is our duty to love Him. There is no question of barter or exchange. We should not think, “Oh, God gives me my daily bread; therefore I love God.” God gives daily bread even to the cats and dogs. Since He is the father of everyone, He is supplying everyone food. So loving God for daily bread is not love. Love is without reason. Even if God does not supply us our daily bread, we should love Him. That is true love. As Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, āśliṣya vā pāda-ratāṁ pinaṣṭu mām adarśanān marma-hatāṁ karotu vā: “I know no one but Kṛṣṇa as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.” That is the sentiment of one who is established in pure love of God. When we attain that stage of love of God, we will find that everything is full of pleasure; God is full of pleasure, and we also are full of pleasure.
sādhuṣv api ca pāpeṣu
“A person is considered still further advanced when he regards honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral, mediators, the envious, friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners, all with an equal mind.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.9) This is a sign of real spiritual advancement. In this material world we are considering people friends and enemies on the bodily platform – that is, on the basis of sense gratification. If one gratifies our senses, he is our friend, and if he doesn’t, he is our enemy. However, once we have realized God, or the Absolute Truth, there are no such material considerations.
In this material world, all conditioned souls are under illusion. A doctor treats all patients, and although a patient may be delirious and insult the doctor, the doctor does not refuse to treat him. He still administers the medicine that is required. As Lord Jesus Christ said, we should hate the sin, not the sinner. That is a very nice statement, because the sinner is under illusion. He is mad. If we hate him, how can we deliver him? Therefore, those who are advanced devotees, who are really servants of God, do not hate anyone. When Lord Jesus Christ was being crucified, he said, “My God, forgive them. They know not what they do.” This is the proper attitude of an advanced devotee. He understands that the conditioned souls cannot be hated, because they have become mad due to their materialistic way of thinking. In this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, there is no question of hating anyone. Everyone is welcome to come and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, take kṛṣṇa-prasāda, listen to the philosophy of the the Bhagavad-gītā, and try to rectify material, conditioned life. This is the essential program of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu said,
āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa
ātmānaṁ rahasi sthitaḥ
“A transcendentalist should always engage his body, mind, and self in relationship with the Supreme; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.10)
In this chapter, in which the Lord is teaching the principles of the yoga system, He here points out that a transcendentalist should always try to concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self. “The Supreme Self” refers to Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord. As explained before (nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām), God is the supreme eternal, the supreme living entity, the Supreme Self. The purpose of the entire yoga system is to concentrate the mind on this Supreme Self. We are not the Supreme Self. That should be understood. The Supreme Self is God. This is dvaita-vāda – duality. Duality means that God is different from me. He is supreme, and I am subordinate. He is great, and I am small. He is infinite, and I am infinitesimal. This is the relationship between ourselves and God as we should understand it. Because we are infinitesimal, we should concentrate our mind on the infinite Supreme Self. In order to do this, we should live alone, and “living alone” means that we should not live with those who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious. Ideally, this means that one should live in a secluded place, like a forest or a jungle, but in this age such a secluded place is very difficult to find. Therefore “secluded place” refers to that place where God consciousness is taught.
The transcendentalist should also carefully control his mind, and this means fixing the mind on the Supreme Self, or Kṛṣṇa. As explained before, Kṛṣṇa is just like the sun, and if the mind is fixed on Him, there is no question of darkness. If Kṛṣṇa is always on our minds, māyā, or illusion, can never enter. This is the process of concentration.
The transcendentalist should also be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness. People are materially diseased because they desire things and want to possess them. We desire that which we do not have and we lament for that which we have lost. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā. One who is actually God conscious does not desire material possessions. He has only one desire – to serve Kṛṣṇa. It is not possible to give up desire, but it is possible to purify our desires. It is the nature of the living entity to have some desire, but in the conditioned state, one’s desire is contaminated. Conditioned, one thinks, “I desire to satisfy my senses by material possession.” Purified desire is desire for Kṛṣṇa, and if we desire Kṛṣṇa, desires for material possessions will automatically vanish.
sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ
“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kuśa grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses, and activities and fixing the mind on one point.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.11–12) In these verses it is emphasized how and where one should sit. In the United States and other Western countries, there are many so-called yoga societies, but they do not practice yoga according to these prescriptions. “A sacred place” refers to a place of pilgrimage. In India, the yogis, the transcendentalists, or devotees, all leave home and reside in sacred places such as Prayāga, Mathurā, Vṛndāvana, Hṛṣīkeśa, and Hardwar and in solitude practice yoga where the sacred rivers like the Yamunā and the Ganges flow. So how is this possible in this age? How many people are prepared to find such a sacred place? In order to earn one’s livelihood, one has to live in a congested city. There is no question of finding a sacred place, but for the practice of yoga, that is the first prerequisite.
Therefore in this bhakti-yoga system, the temple is considered the sacred place. The temple is nirguṇa – transcendental. According to the Vedas, a city is in the mode of passion and a forest is in the mode of goodness. The temple, however, is transcendental. If you live in a city or town, you live in a place where passion is predominant, and if you want to escape this, you may go to a forest, a place of goodness. God’s temple, however, is above passion and goodness; therefore the temple of Kṛṣṇa is the only secluded place for this age. In this age, it is not possible to retreat to a forest; nor is it useful to make a show of practicing yoga in so-called yoga societies and at the same time engage in nonsense.
Therefore, in the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa it is said that in Kali-yuga, when people are generally short-lived, slow in spiritual realization, and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is chanting the holy names of the Lord.
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”
This is the solution, the grand gift of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In this age, other yoga practices are not feasible, but this practice is so simple and universal that even a child can take to it.