Moderation in Yoga
In this sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, the system of sāṅkhya-yoga, which is the meditational aṣṭāṅga-yoga system, is emphasized. Jñāna-yoga emphasizes the philosophical process of analysis by which we determine what is Brahman and what is not Brahman. This process is known as the neti neti process, or “not this, not that.” In the beginning of the Vedānta-sūtra it is stated, janmādy asya yataḥ: “The Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth, is He from whom everything emanates.” This is a hint, and from this we must try to understand the nature of the Supreme Brahman, from whom everything is emanating. The nature of that Absolute Truth is explained in detail in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
In the first verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated,
janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ svarāṭ
tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ
tejo-vāri-mṛdāṁ yathā vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ’mṛṣā
dhāmnā svena sadā nirasta-kuhakaṁ satyaṁ paraṁ dhīmahi
“O my Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate upon Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmājī, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode. which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth.”
Thus from the very beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the Absolute Truth is proclaimed to be cognizant. He is not dead or void. And what is the nature of His cognizance? Anvayād itarataś cārtheṣu: “He is directly and indirectly cognizant of all manifestations.” To a limited degree, each and every living entity is cognizant, but we are not completely cognizant. I may claim, “This is my head,” but if someone asks me, “Do you know how many hairs are on your head?” I will not be able to reply. Of course, this kind of knowledge is not transcendental, but in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that the Supreme Absolute Truth knows everything, directly and indirectly. I may know that I am eating, but I do not know the intricacies of the eating process – how my body is exactly assimilating food, how the blood is passing through my veins, etc. I am cognizant that my body is functioning, but I do not know how these processes are working perfectly and all at once. This is because my knowledge is limited.
By definition, God is He who knows everything. He knows what is going on in every corner of His creation; therefore, from the very beginning, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explains that the Supreme Truth from whom everything is emanating is supremely cognizant (abhijñaḥ). One may ask, “If the Absolute Truth is so powerful, wise, and cognizant, He must have attained this knowledge from some similar being.” This is not the case. If He attains His knowledge from someone else, He is not God. Svarāṭ. He is independent, and His knowledge is automatically there.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the supreme combination of both the jñāna- and bhakti-yoga systems, because it analyzes in detail the nature of that Supreme Being from whom everything is emanating. By the jñāna-yoga system, one attempts to understand the nature of the Absolute Truth in a philosophical way. In the bhakti-yoga system, the target is the same. The methodology, however, is somewhat different. Whereas the jñānī attempts to concentrate his mind philosophically on the Supreme, the bhakta simply engages himself in the service of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord reveals Himself. The jñāna method is called the ascending process, and the bhakti method is called the descending process. If we are in the darkness of night, we may attempt to attain the sunlight by ascending in a powerful rocket. According to the descending process, however, we simply await the sunrise, and then we understand immediately.
Through the ascending process, we attempt to reach the Supreme through our own endeavor, through the process of induction. By induction, we may attempt to find out whether man is mortal by studying thousands of men, trying to see whether they are mortal or immortal. This, of course, will take a great deal of time. If, however, I accept from superior authority the fact that all men are mortal, my knowledge is complete and immediate. Thus it is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.29), “My dear Lord, a person who has received a little favor from You can understand You very quickly. But those who are trying to understand You by the ascending process may go on speculating for millions of years and still never understand You.”
By mental speculation, one is more likely to simply reach a point of frustration and confusion and conclude, “Oh, God is zero.” But if God is zero, how are so many figures emanating from Him? As the Vedānta says (janmādy asya yataḥ), “Everything is generating from the Supreme.” Therefore the Supreme cannot be zero. We have to study how so many forms, so many infinite living entities, are being generated from the Supreme. This is also explained in the Vedānta-sūtra, which is the study of ultimate knowledge. The word veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “ultimate.” Ultimate knowledge is knowledge of the Supreme Lord.
So how is it possible to understand the form of Kṛṣṇa? If it is stated that God does not have eyes, limbs, and senses like ours, how are we to understand His transcendental senses, His transcendental form? This is not possible by mental speculation. We simply have to serve Him, and then He will reveal Himself to us. As Kṛṣṇa Himself states in the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (10.11),
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
“To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” Kṛṣṇa is within us, and when we are sincerely searching for Him by the devotional process, He will reveal Himself.
Again, as stated in the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55),
yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
“One can understand Me as I am, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” Thus God has to be understood by this process of bhakti-yoga, which is the process of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ – hearing and chanting about Viṣṇu. This is the beginning of the bhakti-yoga process. If we but hear sincerely and submissively, we will understand. Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyam. There are nine different processes in the bhakti-yoga system. By vandanam, we offer prayers, and that is also bhakti. Śravaṇam is hearing about Kṛṣṇa from the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and other śāstras. Kīrtanam is chanting about His glories, chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. This is the beginning of the bhakti-yoga process. Śravaṇam kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ. Everything is Viṣṇu, and meditation is on Viṣṇu. It is not possible to have bhakti without Viṣṇu. Kṛṣṇa is the original form of Viṣṇu (kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam: “Kṛṣṇa is the original form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead”). If we but follow this bhakti-yoga process, we should be able to understand the Supreme, and all doubts should be removed.
The aṣṭāṅga-yoga process is outlined very specifically in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (6.13–14):
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
“One should hold one’s body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at 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.” Yoga does not mean going to some class, paying some money, engaging in gymnastics, and then returning home to drink, smoke, and engage in sex. Such yoga is practiced by societies of the cheaters and the cheated. The authoritative yoga system is here outlined by the supreme authority, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Is there a better yogi than Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead? First of all, one has to go alone to a holy place and sit in a straight line, holding one’s body, neck, and head erect, and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Why is this? This is a method to help concentrate one’s mind. That’s all. The real purpose of yoga, however, is to keep oneself always aware that Lord Kṛṣṇa is within.
One of the dangers of sitting in meditation and staring at the tip of one’s nose is that one will fall asleep. I have seen many so-called meditators sitting like this and snoring. As soon as one closes his eyes, it is natural to feel sleepy; therefore it is recommended that the eyes are half closed. Thus it is said that one should look at the tip of his nose. With one’s sight thus concentrated, the mind should be subdued and unagitated. In India, the yogi often goes to a jungle to practice such meditation in solitude. But in a jungle, the yogi may think, “Maybe some tiger or snake is coming. What is that noise?” In this way, his mind may be agitated; therefore it is especially stated that the yogi must be “devoid of fear.” A deerskin is especially recommended as a yoga asana, because it contains a chemical property that repels snakes; thus the yogi will not be disturbed by serpents. Whatever the case – serpents, tigers, or lions – one can be truly fearless only when he is established in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Due to perverted memory, the conditioned soul is naturally fearful. Fear is due to forgetting one’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa. According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.37): bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ. Kṛṣṇa consciousness provides the only true basis for fearlessness; therefore perfect practice of yoga is not possible for one who is not Kṛṣṇa conscious.
The yogi must also be “completely free from sex life.” If one indulges in sex, he cannot concentrate; therefore brahmacarya, complete celibacy, is recommended to make the mind steady. By practicing celibacy, one cultivates determination. One modern example of such determination is that of Mahatma Gandhi, who was determined to resist the powerful British empire by means of nonviolence. At this time, India was dependent on the British, and the people had no weapons. The Britishers, being more powerful, easily cut down whatever violent revolutions the people attempted. Therefore Gandhi resorted to nonviolence, noncooperation. “I shall not fight with the Britishers,” he declared, “and even if they react with violence, I shall remain nonviolent. In this way the world will sympathize with us.” Such a policy required a great amount of determination, and Gandhi’s determination was very strong because he was a brahmacārī. Although he had children and a wife, he renounced sex at the age of thirty-six. It was this sexual renunciation that enabled him to be so determined that he was able to lead his country and drive the British from India.
Thus, refraining from sex enables one to be very determined and powerful. It is not necessary to do anything else. This is a secret people are not aware of. If you want to do something with determination, you have to refrain from sex. Regardless of the process – be it haṭha-yoga, bhakti-yoga, jñāna-yoga, or whatever – sex indulgence is not allowed. Sex is allowed only for householders who want to beget good children and raise them in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Sex is not meant for sense enjoyment, although enjoyment is there by nature. Unless there is some enjoyment, why should one assume the responsibility of begetting children? That is the secret of nature’s gift, but we should not take advantage of it. These are the secrets of life. By taking advantage and indulging in sex life, we are simply wasting our time. If one tells you that you can indulge in sex as much as you like and at the same time become a yogi, he is cheating you. If some so-called guru tells you to give him money in exchange for some mantra and that you can go on and engage in all kinds of nonsense, he is just cheating you. Because we want something sublime and yet want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated. This means that we actually want to be cheated. If we want something valuable, we must pay for it. We cannot expect to walk into a jewelry store and demand the most valuable jewel for a mere ten cents. No, we must pay a great deal. Similarly, if we want perfection in yoga, we have to pay by abstaining from sex. Perfection in yoga is not something childish, and the Bhagavad-gītā instructs us that if we try to make yoga into something childish, we will be cheated. There are many cheaters awaiting us, waiting to take our money, giving us nothing, and then leaving. But according to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s authoritative statement in the Bhagavad-gītā, one must be “completely free from sex life.” Being free from sex, one should “meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” This is real meditation.
Kṛṣṇa does not recommend meditation on the void. He specifically states, “meditate upon Me.” The viṣṇu-mūrti is situated in one’s heart, and meditation upon Him is the object of yoga. This is the sāṅkhya-yoga system, as first practiced by Lord Kapiladeva, an incarnation of God. By sitting straight, staring steadily at the tip of one’s nose, subduing one’s mind, and abstaining from sex, one may be able to concentrate the mind on the viṣṇu-mūrti situated within the heart. When we refer to the Viṣṇu form, or viṣṇu-mūrti, we refer to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
In this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we are meditating directly on Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This is a process of practical meditation. The members of this movement are concentrating their minds on Kṛṣṇa, regardless of their particular occupation. One may be working in the garden and digging in the earth, but he is thinking, “I am cultivating beautiful roses to offer to Kṛṣṇa.” One may be cooking in the kitchen, but he is always thinking, “I am preparing palatable food to be offered to Kṛṣṇa.” Similarly, chanting and dancing in the temple are forms of meditating on Kṛṣṇa. Thus the boys and girls in this Society for Kṛṣṇa consciousness are perfect yogis because they are meditating on Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day. We are teaching the perfect yoga system, not according to our personal whims but according to the authority of the Bhagavad-gītā. Nothing is concocted or manufactured. The verses of the Bhagavad-gītā are there for all to see. The activities of the bhakti-yogīs in this movement are so molded that the practitioners cannot help but think of Kṛṣṇa at all times. “Meditate upon Me within the heart, and make Me the ultimate goal of life,” Śrī Kṛṣṇa says. This is the perfect yoga system, and one who practices it prepares himself to be transferred to Kṛṣṇaloka.
yogī niyata-mānasa h
“Thus practicing constant control of the body, mind, and activities, the mystic transcendentalist, his mind regulated, attains to the kingdom of God [or the abode of Kṛṣṇa] by cessation of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.15)
It is stated in Sanskrit in this verse, śāntiṁ nirvāṇa-paramām; that is, one attains peace through nirvāṇa-paramām, or the cessation of material activities. Nirvāṇa does not refer to the void, but to putting an end to materialistic activities. Unless one puts an end to them, there is no question of peace. When Hiraṇyakaśipu asked his five-year-old son Prahlāda Mahārāja, “My dear boy, what is the best thing you have thus far learned?” Prahlāda immediately replied, tat sādhu manye ’sura-varya dehināṁ sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt: “My dear father, O greatest of the demons, materialistic people are always full of anxiety because they have accepted as real that which is nonpermanent.” The word asad-grahāt is important because it indicates that materialists are always hankering to capture or possess something that is nonpermanent. History affords us many examples. Mr. Kennedy was a very rich man who wanted to become president, and he spent a great deal of money to attain that elevated position. Yet although he had a nice wife, children, and the presidency, everything was finished within a second. In the material world, people are always trying to capture something that is nonpermanent. Unfortunately, people do not come to their senses and realize, “I am permanent. I am spirit soul. Why am I hankering after something that is nonpermanent?”
We are always busy acquiring comforts for this body without considering that today, tomorrow, or in a hundred years this body will be finished. As far as the real “I” is concerned, “I am spirit soul. I have no birth. I have no death. What, then, is my proper function?” When we act on the material platform, we are engaged in bodily functions; therefore Prahlāda Mahārāja says that people are anxious because all their activities are targeted to capturing and possessing something nonpermanent. All living entities – men, beasts, birds, or whatever – are always full of anxiety, and this is the material disease. If we are always full of anxiety, how can we attain peace? People may live in a very nice house, but out front they place signs saying, “Beware of Dog,” or “No Trespassers.” This means that although they are living comfortably, they are anxious that someone will come and molest them. Sitting in an office and earning a very good salary, a man is always thinking, “Oh, I hope I don’t lose this position.” The American nation is very rich, but because of this, it has to maintain a great defense force. So who is free from anxiety? The conclusion is that if we want peace without anxiety, we have to come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. There is no alternative.
In order to attain peace, we must meditate on Kṛṣṇa, and by meditating on Kṛṣṇa, we can control the body. The first part of the body to control is the tongue, and the next part is the genital. When these are controlled, everything is controlled. The tongue is controlled by chanting and eating kṛṣṇa-prasāda. As soon as the tongue is controlled, the stomach is controlled, and next the genitals are controlled. Actually, controlling the body and mind is a very simple process. When the mind is fixed on Kṛṣṇa and has no other engagement, it is automatically controlled. Activities should always be centered on working for Kṛṣṇa – gardening, typing, cooking, cleaning, whatever. By engaging the body, mind, and activities in the service of Kṛṣṇa, one attains the supreme nirvāṇa, which abides in Kṛṣṇa. Everything is in Kṛṣṇa; therefore we cannot find peace outside Kṛṣṇa conscious activities.
The ultimate goal of yoga is thus clearly explained. Yoga is not meant for attaining any kind of material facility; it is to enable the cessation of all material existence. As long as we require some material facilities, we will get them. But these facilities will not solve the problems of life. I have traveled throughout the world, and it is my opinion that American boys and girls have the best material facilities, but does this mean that they have attained peace? Can anyone say, “Yes, I am completely peaceful”? If this is so, why are American youngsters so frustrated and confused?
As long as we practice yoga in order to attain some material facility, there will be no question of peace. Yoga should only be practiced in order to understand Kṛṣṇa. Yoga is meant for the reestablishment of our lost relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Generally, one joins a yoga society in order to improve his health, to reduce fat. People in rich nations eat more, become fat, and then pay exorbitant prices to so-called yoga instructors in order to reduce. People try to reduce by all these artificial gymnastics; they do not understand that if they just eat vegetables or fruits and grains, they will never get fat. People get fat because they eat voraciously, because they eat meat. People who eat voraciously suffer from diabetes, overweight, heart attacks, etc., and those who eat insufficiently suffer from tuberculosis. Therefore moderation is required, and moderation in eating means that we eat only what is needed to keep body and soul together. If we eat more than we need or less, we will become diseased. All this is explained in the following verses:
na caikāntam anaśnataḥ
jāgrato naiva cārjuna
“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.16)
yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā
“He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.17) It is not that we are to starve ourselves. The body must be kept fit for any practice; therefore eating is required, and according to our program, we eat only kṛṣṇa-prasāda. If you can comfortably eat ten pounds of food a day, then eat it, but if you try to eat ten pounds out of greed or avarice, you will suffer.
So in the practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all these activities are present, but they are spiritualized. The cessation of material existence does not mean entering into “the void,” which is only a myth. There is no void anywhere within the creation of the Lord. I am not void but spirit soul. If I were void, how would my bodily development take place? Where is this “void”? If we sow a seed in the ground, it grows into a plant or large tree. The father injects a seed into the womb of the mother, the body grows like a tree. Where is there void? In the fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (14.4), Śrī Kṛṣṇa states,
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” The seed is originally given by Kṛṣṇa, placed in the womb of material nature, and thus many living entities are generated. How can one argue against this process? If the seed of existence is void, how has this body developed?
Nirvāṇa actually means not accepting another material body. It’s not that we attempt to make this body void. Nirvāṇa means making the miserable, material, conditional body void – that is, converting the material body into a spiritual body. This means entering into the kingdom of God, which is described in the fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (15.6):
sa śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.”
So there is no void anywhere within the Lord’s creation. All the planets in the spiritual sky are self-illumined, like the sun. The kingdom of God is everywhere, but the spiritual sky and the planets thereof are all paraṁ dhāma, or superior abodes. As stated, sunlight, moonlight, or electricity are not required in the paraṁ dhāma. We cannot find such an abode within this universe. We may travel as far as possible within our spaceships, but we will not find any place where there is no sunlight. The sunlight is so extensive that it pervades the universe. Therefore, that abode in which there is no sunlight, moonlight, or electricity is beyond this material sky. Beyond this material nature is a spiritual nature. Actually, we know nothing of this material nature; we do not even know how it was originally formed. So how can we know anything about the spiritual nature beyond? We have to learn from Kṛṣṇa, who lives there; otherwise we remain in ignorance.
In this Bhagavad-gītā, information of the spiritual sky is given. How can we know anything about that which we cannot reach? Our senses are so imperfect, how can we attain knowledge? We just have to hear and accept. How will we ever know who our father is unless we accept the word of our mother? Our mother says, “Here is your father,” and we have to accept this. We cannot determine our father by making inquiries here and there or by attempting to experiment. This knowledge is beyond our means. Similarly, if we want to learn about the spiritual sky, God’s kingdom, we have to hear from the authority, mother Vedas. The Vedas are called veda-mātā, or mother Vedas, because the knowledge imparted therein is like that knowledge received from the mother. We have to believe in order to acquire knowledge. There is no possibility of acquiring this transcendental knowledge by experimenting with our imperfect senses.
A consummate yogi, who is perfect in understanding Lord Kṛṣṇa, as is clearly stated herein (śāntiṁ nirvāṇa-paramāṁ mat-saṁsthām adhigacchati) by the Lord Himself, can attain real peace and ultimately reach the supreme abode of the Lord. This abode is known as Kṛṣṇaloka, or Goloka Vṛndāvana. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is clearly stated (goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūtaḥ) that the Lord, although residing always in His abode called Goloka, is the all-pervading Brahman and the localized Paramātmā as well, by dint of His superior spiritual energies. No one can reach the spiritual sky or enter into the eternal abode of the Lord (Vaikuṇṭha, Goloka Vṛndāvana) without properly understanding Kṛṣṇa and His plenary expansion Viṣṇu. And according to Brahma-saṁhitā, it is necessary to learn from our authorized mother, veda-mātā. Brahma-saṁhitā states that the Supreme Lord is living not only in His abode, Goloka Vṛndāvana, but everywhere: goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūtaḥ. He is like the sun, which is millions of miles away and yet is still present within this room.
In conclusion, the person who works in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the perfect yogi, because his mind is always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa’s activities. Sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayoḥ. In the Vedas we also learn, tam eva viditvāti mṛtyum eti: “One can overcome the path of birth and death only by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.” Thus perfection of yoga is the attainment of freedom from material existence and not some magical jugglery or gymnastic feat to befool innocent people.
In this system of yoga, moderation is required; therefore it is stated that we should not eat too much or too little, sleep too much or too little, or work too much or too little. All these activities are there because we have to execute the yoga system with this material body. In other words, we have to make the best use of a bad bargain. The material body is a bad bargain in the sense that it is the source of all miseries. The spirit soul does not experience misery, and the normal condition of the living entity is his healthy, spiritual life. Misery and disease occur due to material contamination, disease, infection. So in a sense, material existence is a diseased condition of the soul. And what is that disease? The answer is not a great mystery. The disease is this body. This body is actually not meant for me. It may be “my” body, but it is a symptom of my diseased condition. In any case, I should identify with this body no more than I should identify with my clothes. In this world, we are all differently dressed. We are dressed as red men, brown men, white men, black men, yellow men, etc., or as Indians, Americans, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc. All these designations are not symptomatic of our actual position but of our diseased condition. The yoga system is meant to cure this disease by connecting us again with the Supreme.
We are meant to be connected with the Supreme just as our hand is meant to be connected to our body. We are part and parcel of the Supreme, just as the hand is part and parcel of the body. When the hand is severed from the body, it is valueless, but when it is joined to the body, it is invaluable. Similarly, in this material condition, we are disconnected from God. Actually, the word disconnected is not precise, because the connection is always there. God is always supplying all our necessities. Since nothing can exist without Kṛṣṇa, we cannot be disconnected from Him. Rather, it is better to say that we have forgotten that we are connected to Kṛṣṇa. Because of this forgetfulness, we have entered the criminal department of the universe. The government still takes care of its criminals, but they are legally disconnected from the civilian state. Our disconnection is a result of our engaging in so many nonsensical activities instead of utilizing our senses in the performance of our Kṛṣṇa conscious duties.
Instead of thinking, “I am the eternal servant of God, or Kṛṣṇa,” we are thinking, “I am the servant of my society, my country, my husband, my wife, my dog, or whatever.” This is called forgetfulness. How has this come about? All these misconceptions have arisen due to this body. Because I was born in America, I am thinking that I am an American. Each society teaches its citizens to think in this way. Because I am thinking that I am an American, the American government can tell me, “Come and fight. Give your life for your country.” This is all due to the bodily conception; therefore an intelligent person should know that he is suffering miseries due to his body and that he should not act in such a way that he will continue to be imprisoned within a material body birth after birth. According to the Padma Purāṇa, there are 8,400,000 species of life, and all are but different forms of contamination – whether one has an American body, an Indian body, a dog’s body, a hog’s body, or whatever. Therefore the first instruction in yoga is, “I am not this body.”
Attaining liberation from the contamination of the material body is the first teaching of the Bhagavad-gītā. In the second chapter, after Arjuna told Śrī Kṛṣṇa, “I shall not fight,” the Lord said, “While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.” (Bhagavad-gītā 2.11) In other words, Arjuna was thinking on the bodily platform. He wanted to leave the battlefield because he did not want to fight with his relatives. All his conceptions were within the bodily atmosphere; therefore after Arjuna accepted Śrī Kṛṣṇa as his spiritual master, the Lord immediately chastised him, just as a master chastises his disciple in order to teach him. Essentially, Śrī Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna, “You are talking very wisely, as if you know so many things, but actually you are speaking nonsense, because you are speaking from the bodily position.” Similarly, people throughout the world are posing themselves as highly advanced in education, science, philosophy, politics, etc., but their position is on the bodily platform.
A vulture may rise very high in the sky – seven or eight miles – and it is wonderful to see him fly in this way. He also has powerful eyes, for he can spot a carcass from a great distance. Yet what is the object of all these great qualifications? A dead body, a rotting carcass. His perfection is just to discover a dead piece of meat and eat it. That’s all. Similarly, we may have a very high education, but what is our objective? Sense enjoyment, the enjoyment of this material body. We may rise very high with our spaceships, but what is the purpose? Sense gratification, that’s all. This means that all the striving and all this high education are merely on the animal platform.
Therefore we should first of all know that our miserable material condition is due to this body. At the same time, we should know that this body is not permanent. Although I identify with my body, family, society, country, and so many other things, how long will these objects exist? They are not permanent. Asat is a word meaning that they will cease to exist. Asann api kleśada āsa dehaḥ: “The body is simply troublesome and impermanent.”
Many people come to us saying, “Swamijī, my position is so troublesome,” but as soon as we suggest the medicine, they will not accept it. This means that people want to manufacture their own medicine. Why do we go to a physician if we want to treat ourselves? People want to accept only what they think is palatable.
Although we are suggesting that this body is useless and is a form of contamination, we are not recommending that it be abused. We may use a car to carry us to work, but this does not mean that we should not take care of the car. We should take care of the car for it to carry us to and fro, but we should not become so attached to it that we are polishing it every day. We must utilize this material body in order to execute Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and to this end we should keep it fit and healthy, but we should not become too attached to it. That is called yukta-vairāgya. The body should not be neglected. We should bathe regularly, eat regularly, sleep regularly in order to keep mind and body healthy. Some people say that the body should be renounced and that we should take some drugs and abandon ourselves to intoxication, but this is not a yoga process. Kṛṣṇa has given us nice food – fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk – and we can prepare hundreds and thousands of nice preparations and offer them to the Lord. Our process is to eat kṛṣṇa-prasāda and to satisfy the tongue in that way. But we should not be greedy and eat dozens of samosās, sweetballs, and rasagullās. No. We should eat and sleep just enough to keep the body fit, and no more. It is stated,
yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā
“He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.17)
Although we should minimize our eating and sleeping, we should not attempt this too rapidly, at the risk of becoming sick. Because people are accustomed to eating voraciously, there are prescriptions for fasting. We can reduce our sleeping and eating, but we should remain in good health for spiritual purposes. We should not attempt to reduce eating and sleeping too rapidly or artificially; when we advance we will naturally not feel pain due to the reduction of these natural bodily processes. In this respect, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī offers a good example. Although a very rich man’s son, Raghunātha dāsa left his home to join Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Because he was the only son, Raghunātha dāsa was very beloved by his father. Understanding that his son had gone to Jagannātha Purī to join Lord Caitanya, the father sent four servants with money to attend him. At first, Raghunātha accepted the money, thinking, “Oh, since my father has sent all this money, I will accept it and invite all the sannyāsīs to feast.”
After some time, however, the feasts came to an end. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu then inquired from His secretary, Svarūpa Dāmodara, “Nowadays I don’t receive any invitations from Raghunātha. What has happened?”
“That is because Raghunātha has stopped accepting his father’s money.”
“Oh, that’s very nice,” Caitanya Mahāprabhu said.
“Raghunātha was thinking, ‘Although I have renounced everything, I am still enjoying my father’s money. This is hypocritical.’ Therefore he has told the servants to go home and has refused the money.”
“So how is he living?” Caitanya Mahāprabhu inquired.
“Oh, he’s standing on the steps of the Jagannātha temple, and when the priests pass him on their way home, they offer him some prasāda. In this way, he is satisfied.”
“This is very nice,” Caitanya Mahāprabhu commented.
Regularly going to the Jagannātha temple, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu would see Raghunātha standing on the steps. After a few days, however, He no longer saw him there. Therefore the Lord commented to His secretary, “I no longer see Raghunātha standing on the temple steps.”
“He has given that up,” Svarūpa Dāmodara explained. “He was thinking, ‘Oh, I am standing here just like a prostitute, waiting for someone to come and give me food. No. I don’t like this at all.’ ”
“That is very nice,” Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “but how is he eating?”
“Every day he is collecting some rejected rice from the kitchen and is eating that.”
To encourage Raghunātha, Caitanya Mahāprabhu one day visited him. “Raghunātha,” the Lord said, “I hear that you are eating very palatable food. Why are you not inviting Me?”
Raghunātha did not reply, but the Lord quickly found the place where he kept the rice, and the Lord immediately took some and began to eat it.
“Dear Lord,” Raghunātha implored, “please do not eat this. It is not fit for You.”
“Oh, no? Why do you say it’s not fit for Me? It’s Lord Jagannātha’s prasāda!”
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu enacted this pastime just to discourage Raghunātha from thinking, “I am eating this miserable, rejected rice.” Through the Lord’s encouragement, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī reduced his daily quantity of food until he was finally eating only one pat of butter every other day. And every day he was also bowing down hundreds of times and constantly chanting the holy names. Saṅkhyā-pūrvaka-nāma-gāna-natibhiḥ kālāvasānī-kṛtau.
Although this is an excellent example of minimizing all material necessities, we should not try to imitate it. It is not possible for an ordinary man to imitate Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, who was one of the Six Gosvāmīs, a highly elevated associate of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself. Each one of the Six Gosvāmīs displayed a unique example of how one can advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but it is not our duty to imitate them. We should just try to follow, as far as possible, in their footsteps. If we immediately try to become like Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī by imitating him, we are sure to fail, and whatever progress we have made will be defeated. Therefore the Lord says (Bhagavad-gītā 6.16) that there is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi if one eats too much or too little.
The same moderation applies to sleep. Presently I may be sleeping ten hours a day, but if I can keep myself fit by sleeping five hours, why sleep ten? As far as the body is concerned, there are four demands – eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The problem with modern civilization is that it is trying to increase these demands, but they should be decreased instead. Eat what we need, and sleep when we need, and our health will be excellent. There is no question of artificial imitation.
And what is the result obtained by one who is temperate in his habits?
yukta ity ucyate tadā
“When the yogi, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in transcendence – devoid of all material desires – he is said to be well established in yoga.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.18)
The perfection of yoga means keeping the mind in a state of equilibrium. Materially speaking, this is impossible. After reading a mundane novel once, you will not want to read it again, but you can read the Bhagavad-gītā four times a day and still not tire of it. You may chant someone’s name a half an hour, or sing a mundane song three or four times, but before long this becomes tiresome. Hare Kṛṣṇa, however, can be chanted day and night, and one will never tire of it. Therefore it is only through transcendental vibration that the mind can be kept in a state of equilibrium. When one’s mental activities are thus stabilized, one is said to have attained yoga.
The perfectional stage of yoga was exhibited by King Ambarīṣa, who utilized all his senses in the service of the Lord. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (9.4.18–20),
karau harer mandira-mārjanādiṣu
ghrāṇaṁ ca tat-pāda-saroja-saurabhe
śrīmat-tulasyā rasanaṁ tad-arpite
kāmaṁ ca dāsye na tu kāma-kāmyayā
“King Ambarīṣa first of all engaged his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa; 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 bodies of the devotees, his sense of smell in smelling the scents of the lotus flowers offered to the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasī leaves offered at the temple of the Lord, 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.”
This, then, is the perfection of yoga devoid of all material desire. If all our desires are for Kṛṣṇa, there is no scope for material desire. All material desire is automatically finished. We don’t have to try to concentrate artificially. All perfection is there in Kṛṣṇa consciousness because it is on the spiritual platform. Being on the spiritual platform, this supreme yoga is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge. Therefore there are no misgivings or material impediments.