Failure and Success in Yoga
Suppose I give up my business, my ordinary occupation, and begin to practice yoga, real yoga, as explained herein by Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Suppose I practice, and somehow or other I fail; I cannot properly complete the process. What, then, is the result? This is Arjuna’s very next question.
kāṁ gatiṁ kṛṣṇa gacchati
“Arjuna said: O Kṛṣṇa, what is the destination of the unsuccessful transcendentalist, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization with faith but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness and thus does not attain perfection in mysticism?” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.37)
The path of self-realization, of mysticism, is described in the Bhagavad-gītā. The basic principle of self-realization is knowing that “I am not this material body but am different from it, and my happiness is in eternal life, bliss, and knowledge.” Before arriving at the point of self-realization, one must take it for granted that he is not this body. That lesson is taught in the very beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā: the living entity is not this material body but something different, and his happiness is in eternal life.
Clearly, this life is not eternal. The perfection of yoga means attaining a blissful, eternal life full of knowledge. All yoga systems should be executed with that goal in mind. It is not that one attends yoga classes to reduce fat or to keep the body fit for sense gratification. This is not the goal of yoga, but people are taught this way because they want to be cheated. Actually, if you undergo any exercise program, your body will be kept fit. There are many systems of bodily exercise – weight lifting and other sports – and they help keep the body fit, reduce fat, and help the digestive system. Therefore there is no need to practice yoga for these purposes. The real purpose for practicing yoga is to realize that I am not this body. I want eternal happiness, complete knowledge, and eternal life – that is the ultimate end of the true yoga system.
The goal of yoga is transcendental, beyond both body and mind. Self-realization is sought by three methods: (1) the path of knowledge (jñāna); (2) the path of the eightfold system; or (3) the path of bhakti-yoga. In each of these processes, one has to realize the constitutional position of the living entity, his relationship with God, and the activities whereby he can reestablish the lost link and achieve the highest perfectional stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Following any of the above-mentioned three methods, one is sure to reach the supreme goal sooner or later. This was asserted by the Lord in the second chapter: even a little endeavor on the transcendental path offers a great hope for deliverance.
Of these three methods, the path of bhakti-yoga is especially suitable for this age, because it is the most direct method of God realization. To be doubly assured, Arjuna is asking Lord Kṛṣṇa to confirm His former statement. One may sincerely accept the path of self-realization, but the process of cultivation of knowledge (jñāna) and the practice of the eightfold yoga system are generally very difficult for this age. Therefore, despite constant endeavor, one may fail for many reasons. First of all, one may not be actually following the process, the rules and regulations. To pursue the transcendental path is more or less to declare war on the illusory energy. When we accept any process of self-realization, we are actually declaring war against māyā, illusion, and māyā is certain to place many difficulties before us. Therefore, there is a chance of failure, but one has to become very steady. Whenever a person tries to escape the clutches of the illusory energy, she tries to defeat the practitioner by various allurements. A conditioned soul is already allured by the modes of material energy, and there is every chance of being allured again, even while performing transcendental disciplines. This is called yogāc calita-mānasaḥ: deviation from the transcendental path. Arjuna is inquisitive to know the results of deviation from the path of self-realization.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.37), quoted above, yogāt means “from the practice of yoga,” calita means “diversion,” and mānasaḥ means “mind.” So there is every chance for the mind to be diverted from yoga practice. We all have some experience of trying to concentrate by reading a book, and our mind is so disturbed that it does not allow us to concentrate on the book.
Actually, Arjuna is asking a very important question, for one is subject to failure in all types of yoga – be it the eightfold yoga system, the jñāna-yoga system of speculative philosophy, or the bhakti-yoga system of devotional service. Failure is possible on any of these paths, and the results of failure are clearly explained by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself in the following dialogue with Arjuna (Bhagavad-gītā 6.38–44). Arjuna, continuing his inquiry, asks,
chinnābhram iva naśyati
vimūḍho brahmaṇaḥ pathi
“O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa, does not such a man, who is bewildered from the path of transcendence, fall away from both spiritual and material success and perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?”
chettum arhasy aśeṣataḥ
chettā na hy upapadyate
“This is my doubt, O Kṛṣṇa, and I ask You to dispel it completely. But for Yourself, no one is to be found who can destroy this doubt.”
pārtha naiveha nāmutra
vināśas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛt kaścid
durgatiṁ tāta gacchati
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Son of Pṛthā, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.”
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.”
kule bhavati dhīmatām
etad dhi durlabhataraṁ
loke janma yad īdṛśam
“Or [if unsuccessful after long practice of yoga] he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Certainly, such a birth is rare in this world.”
yatate ca tato bhūyaḥ
“On taking such a birth, he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.”
hriyate hy avaśo ’pi saḥ
jijñāsur api yogasya
“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.”
Purification of consciousness is the purpose of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Presently we are preparing this divine consciousness, for our consciousness goes with us at the time of death. Consciousness is carried from the body just as the aroma of a flower is carried by the air. When we die, this material body composed of five elements – earth, water, air, fire, and ether – decomposes, and the gross materials return to the elements. Or, as the Christian Bible says, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” In some societies the body is burned, in others it is buried, and in others it is thrown to animals. In India, the Hindus burn the body, and thus the body is transformed into ashes. Ash is simply another form of earth. Christians bury the body, and after some time in the grave, the body eventually turns to dust, which again, like ash, is another form of earth. There are other societies – like the Parsee community in India – that neither burn nor bury the body but throw it to the vultures, and the vultures immediately come to eat the body, and then the body is eventually transformed into stool. So in any case, this beautiful body, which we are soaping and caring for so nicely, will eventually turn into either stool, ashes, or dust.
At death, the finer elements (mind, intelligence, and ego), which, combined, are called consciousness, carry the small particle of spirit soul to another body to suffer or enjoy, according to one’s work. Our consciousness is molded by our work. If we associate with stool, our consciousness, which is like the air, will carry the aroma of stool, and thus at the time of death will transport us to an undesirable body. Or, if the consciousness passes over roses, it carries the aroma of roses, and thus we are transported to a body wherein we can enjoy the results of our previous work. If we train ourselves to work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our consciousness will carry us to Kṛṣṇa. Different types of body are developed according to consciousness; therefore, if we train our consciousness according to the yogic principles, we will attain a body wherein we can practice yoga. We will get good parents and a chance to practice the yoga system, and automatically we will be able to revive the Kṛṣṇa consciousness practiced in our previous body. Therefore it is stated in this last verse, “By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them.” Therefore, our present duty is to cultivate divine consciousness. If we want divine life, spiritual elevation, and eternal, blissful life, full of knowledge – in other words, if we want to go back home, back to Godhead – we have to train ourselves in divine consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
This can be easily done through association (saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ). Through divine association, our consciousness is made divine, and through demoniac association, our consciousness is made demoniac. Therefore, our consciousness must be trained to be divine through the proper association of those in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the duty of one in this human form, a form that gives us a chance to make our next life completely divine. To attain this end, we should try to contact those who are developing divine consciousness.
tato yāti parāṁ gatim
“And when the yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, achieving perfection after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.45) As indicated in this verse, making progress is a question of practice. When a child is born, he neither knows how to smoke nor how to drink, but through association he becomes a drunkard or a smoker. Association is the most important factor. Saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ. For instance, there are many business associations, and by becoming a member of certain associations, one’s business flourishes. In any endeavor, association is very important. For the development of divine consciousness, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in which the methods of attaining divine consciousness are taught. In this society we invite everyone to come and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. This process is not difficult, and even children can participate. No previous qualifications are necessary; one doesn’t need a master’s degree or doctorate. Our invitation to everyone is to join this association and become Kṛṣṇa conscious.
The Supreme Lord, God, is pure, and His kingdom is also pure. If one wants to enter His kingdom, he must also be pure. This is very natural; if we want to enter a particular society, we must meet certain qualifications. If we want to return home, back to Godhead, there is a qualification we must meet – we must not be materially contaminated. And what is this contamination? Unrestricted sense gratification. If we can free ourselves from the material contamination of sense gratification, we can become eligible to enter the kingdom of God. That process of freeing ourselves, of washing ourselves of this contamination, is called the yoga system. As stated before, yoga does not mean sitting down for fifteen minutes, meditating, and then continuing with sense gratification. To be cured of a certain disease, we must follow the prescriptions of a physician. In this sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the process of yoga is recommended, and we have to follow the prescribed methods in order to be freed from material contamination. If we succeed in doing so, we can link up, or connect, with the Supreme.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a method for connecting directly with the Supreme. This is the special gift of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Not only is this method direct and immediate, but it is also practical. Although many people entering this Society have no qualifications, they have become highly advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness simply by coming in contact with the Society. In this age, life is very short, and a yoga process that takes a long time will not help the general populace. In Kali-yuga, people are all so unfortunate, and association is very bad. Therefore, this process of directly contacting the Supreme is recommended – hari-nāma. Kṛṣṇa is present in the form of His transcendental name, and we can contact Him immediately by hearing His name. Simply by hearing the name Kṛṣṇa we immediately become freed from material contamination.
As stated in the seventh chapter of Bhagavad-gītā (7.28),
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the dualities of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination.” It is herein stressed that one must be completely fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devoid of duality, and must execute only pious activities. Because the mind is flickering, dualities will always come. One is always wondering, “Shall I become Kṛṣṇa conscious, or should I engage in another consciousness?” These problems are always there, but if one is advanced by virtue of pious activities executed in a previous life, his consciousness will be steadily fixed, and he will resolve, “I will be Kṛṣṇa conscious.”
Whether we acted piously in this life or a previous life really doesn’t matter. This chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is so potent that through it we will immediately be purified. We should have the determination, however, not to become implicated in further impious activities. Therefore, for those who want to be initiated in this Society for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there are four principles: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling. We don’t say, “No sex.” But we do say, “No illicit sex.” If you want sex, get married and have Kṛṣṇa conscious children. “No intoxication” means not even taking tea or coffee – to say nothing of other intoxicants. And there is no gambling and no meat-eating (including fish and eggs). Simply by following these four basic rules and regulations, one becomes immediately uncontaminated. No further endeavor is necessary. As soon as one joins this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and follows these rules and regulations, material contamination is immediately removed, but one must be careful not to be contaminated again. Therefore these rules and regulations should be followed carefully.
Material contamination begins with these four bad habits, and if we manage to check them, there is no question of contamination. Therefore, as soon as we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we become free. However, we should not think that because Kṛṣṇa consciousness makes us free, we can again indulge in these four bad habits and get free by chanting. That is cheating, and that will not be allowed. Once we are freed, we should not allow ourselves to become contaminated again. One should not think, “I shall drink or have illicit sex and then chant and make myself free.” According to some religious processes, it is said that one can commit all kinds of sin and then go to church, confess to a priest, and be freed of all sin. Therefore people are sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing over and over again. But this is not the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If you are freed, that’s all right, but don’t do it again. After all, what is the purpose of confession? If you confess, “I have committed these sinful activities,” why should you commit them again? If a thief confesses that he has been pickpocketing, he is freed of his sin by virtue of his confession, but does this mean that he should go out again and pick pockets? This requires a little intelligence. One should not think that because by confessing one becomes freed, he should continue to commit sinful activities, confess again, and again become freed. That is not the purpose of confession.
We should therefore understand that if we indulge in unrestricted sinful activities, we become contaminated. We should be careful to have sex only according to the rules and regulations, to eat only food that has been prescribed and properly offered, to defend as Kṛṣṇa advised Arjuna – for the right cause. In this way we can avoid contamination and purify our life. If we can continue to live a pure life until the time of death, we will surely be transferred to the kingdom of God. When one is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he does not return to this material world when he gives up his body. This is stated in the fourth chapter.
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.9)
The unsuccessful yogi returns to a good family or to a righteous, rich, or aristocratic family, but if one is situated in perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he does not return again. He attains Goloka Vṛndāvana in the eternal spiritual sky. We should be determined not to come back to this material world again, because even if we attain a good birth in a rich or aristocratic family, we can degrade ourselves again by improperly utilizing our good chance. Why take this risk? It is better to complete the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in this life. It is very simple and not at all difficult. We only have to keep thinking of Kṛṣṇa; then we will be assured that our next birth will be in the spiritual sky, in Goloka Vṛndāvana, in the kingdom of God.
jñānibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna
“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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.46) There are different gradations of life within this material world, but if one lives according to the yogic principle, especially the principles of bhakti-yoga, one is living the most perfect life possible. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is telling Arjuna, “My dear friend Arjuna, in all circumstances be a yogi and remain a yogi.”
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
“And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me – He is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.47) Here it is clearly stated that there are many types of yogis – aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, haṭha-yogīs, jñāna-yogīs, karma-yogīs, and bhakti-yogīs – and that of all the yogis, “he who always abides in Me” is said to be the greatest of all. “In Me” means in Kṛṣṇa; that is, the greatest yogi is always in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such a yogi “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.” This is the prime instruction of this sixth chapter on sāṅkhya-yoga: if one wants to attain the highest platform of yoga, one must remain in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In Sanskrit, the word bhajate, with its root bhaj (bhaj-dhātu) means “to render service.” But who renders service to Kṛṣṇa unless he is a devotee of Kṛṣṇa? In this Society of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotees are rendering service without payment, out of love for Kṛṣṇa. They can render service elsewhere and get paid hundreds of dollars a month, but this service rendered here is loving service (bhaj), based on love of Godhead. Devotees render service in many ways – gardening, typing, cooking, cleaning, etc. All activities are connected with Kṛṣṇa, and therefore Kṛṣṇa consciousness is prevailing twenty-four hours a day. That is the highest type of yoga. That is “worshiping Me in transcendental loving service.” As stated before, the perfection of yoga is keeping one’s consciousness in contact with Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord. We are not simply boasting that even a child can be the highest yogi simply by participating in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; no, this is the verdict of authorized scripture – Bhagavad-gītā. These words are not our creation but are specifically stated by Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
Actually, worship and service are somewhat different. Worship implies some motive. I worship a friend or an important man because if I can please that person, I may derive some profit. Those who worship the demigods worship for some ulterior purpose, and that is condemned in the seventh chapter of Bhagavad-gītā (7.20):
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” Those who are bewildered by lust worship the demigods with a motive; therefore, when we speak of worship, some motive is implied. Service, however, is different, for in service there is no motive. Service is rendered out of love, just as a mother renders service to her child out of love only. Everyone can neglect that child, but the mother cannot, because love is present. Bhaj-dhātu is similar in that there is no question of motive, but service is rendered out of pure love. That is the perfection of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
This is also the recommendation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.6):
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.” Yato bhaktir adhokṣaje. The word bhakti comes from the same root as bhaj. The test of a first-class religion is whether or not we are developing our love for God. If we practice religion with some ulterior motive, hoping to fulfill our material necessities, our religion is not first class but third class. It must be understood that first-class religion is that by which we can develop our love of Godhead. Ahaituky apratihatā. This perfect religion should be executed without ulterior motive or impediment. That is the yoga system recommended in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and in this sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. That is the system of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not rendered with some motive in mind. The devotees are not serving Kṛṣṇa in order that He supply them this or that. For a devotee there is no scarcity. One should not think that by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, one becomes poor. No. If Kṛṣṇa is there, everything is there, because Kṛṣṇa is everything. But this does not mean that we should try to conduct business with Kṛṣṇa, demanding, “Kṛṣṇa give me this. Give me that.” Kṛṣṇa knows better than we do, and He knows our motives. A child does not make demands of his parents, saying, “Dear father, give me this. Give me that.” Since the father knows his child’s necessities, there is no need for the child to ask. Similarly, it is not a very good idea to ask God to give us this or that. Why should we ask? If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He knows our wants, our necessities, and can supply them. This is confirmed in the Vedas. Eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān: “The single one almighty God is supplying all necessities to millions and trillions of living entities.” Therefore, we should not demand anything of God, because our demands are already met. The supplies are already there. We should simply try to love God. Even cats and dogs are receiving their necessities without going to church and petitioning God. If a cat or dog receives its necessities without making demands, why should the devotee not receive what he needs? Therefore we should not demand anything from God but should simply try to love Him. Then everything will be fulfilled, and we will have attained the highest platform of yoga.
We can actually see how the various parts of the body serve the body. If I have an itch, the fingers immediately scratch. If I want to see something, the eyes immediately look. If I want to go somewhere, the legs immediately take me. As I receive service from the different parts of my body, God receives service from all parts of His creation. God is not meant to serve. If the limbs of the body serve the entire body, the parts of the body automatically receive energy. Similarly, if we serve Kṛṣṇa, we automatically receive all necessities, all energy.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam confirms that we are all parts and parcels of the Supreme. If a part of the body cannot regularly render service, it gives pain to the body, and if a person does not render service to the Supreme Lord, he is simply giving pain and trouble to the Supreme Lord. Therefore such a person has to suffer, just as a criminal has to suffer when he does not abide by the laws of the state. Such a criminal may think, “I’m a very good man,” but because he is violating the laws of the state, he is giving the government trouble, and consequently the government puts him in prison. When living entities give the Supreme Lord trouble, the Lord comes, collects them together, and puts them in this material world. In essence, He says, “You live here. You are all disturbing the creation; therefore you are criminals and have to live in this material world.” Sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ: “One falls down from his constitutional position.” If a finger is diseased, it has to be amputated lest it pollute the entire body. Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we are cut off from our original position. We have fallen. In order to regain our original position, we must resume rendering service unto the Supreme Lord. That is the perfect cure. Otherwise we will continue to suffer pain, and God will suffer pain because of us. If I am a father, and my son is not good, I suffer, and my son suffers also. Similarly, we are all sons of God, and when we cause God pain, we are also pained. The best course is to revive our original Kṛṣṇa consciousness and engage in the Lord’s service. That is our natural life, and that is possible in the spiritual sky, Goloka Vṛndāvana.
The word avajānanti actually means “to neglect.” This means thinking, “What is God? I am God. Why should I serve God?” This is just like a criminal thinking, “What is this government? I can manage my own affairs. I don’t care for the government.” This is called avajānanti. We may speak in this way, but the police department is there to punish us. Similarly, material nature is here to punish us with the threefold miseries. These miseries are meant for those rascals who avajānanti, who don’t care for God or who take the meaning of God cheaply, saying, “I am God. You are God.”
Thus the general progress of yoga is gradual. First one practices karma-yoga, which refers to ordinary, fruitive activity. Ordinary activities include sinful activities, but karma-yoga excludes such activities. Karma-yoga refers only to good, pious activities, or those actions which are prescribed. After performing karma-yoga, one comes to the platform of jñāna-yoga, knowledge. From the platform of knowledge, one attains to this aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the eightfold yoga system – dhyāna, dhāraṇā, prāṇāyāma, āsana, etc. – and from aṣṭāṅga-yoga, as one concentrates on Viṣṇu, one comes to the point of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the perfectional stage, and if one practices Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one attains this stage from the very beginning. That is the direct route.
If one practices jñāna-yoga and thinks that he has attained the ultimate, he is mistaken. He has to make further progress. If we are on a staircase and have to reach the top floor, which is the hundredth floor, we are mistaken if we think we have arrived when we are on the thirtieth floor. As stated before, the whole yoga system may be likened to a staircase, connecting or linking us to God. In order to attain the ultimate, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we must go to the highest platform, and that is bhakti-yoga.
But why walk up all these steps if we have a chance to take an elevator? By means of an elevator, we can reach the top in a matter of seconds. Bhakti-yoga is this elevator, the direct process by which we can reach the top in a matter of seconds. We can go step by step, following all the other yoga systems, or we can go directly. Since in this age of Kali-yuga people have short lifespans and are always disturbed and anxious, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, by His causeless mercy, has given us the elevator by which we can come immediately to the platform of bhakti-yoga. That direct means is the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, and that is the special gift of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Therefore Rūpa Gosvāmī offers respects to Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te: “Oh, You are the most munificent incarnation because You are directly giving love of Kṛṣṇa. To attain pure love of Kṛṣṇa, one has to pass through so many stages of yoga, but You are giving this love directly. Therefore You are the most munificent.”
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, as 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.” In the other yoga systems, there must be a mixture of bhakti, but bhakti-yoga is unadulterated devotion. It is service without a motive. Generally people pray with some motive in mind, but we should pray only for further engagement in devotional service. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu has taught us that when we pray we should not pray for anything material. In the beginning, we cited Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s perfect prayer:
kavitāṁ vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
mama janmani janmanīśvare
bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
“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 this verse, Caitanya Mahāprabhu addresses the Supreme Lord as Jagadīśa. Jagat means “universe,” and īśa means “controller.” The Supreme Lord is the controller of the universe, and this can be understood by anyone; therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu addresses the Supreme Lord as Jagadīśa instead of Kṛṣṇa or Rāma. In the material world we find many controllers, so it is logical that there is a controller of the entire universe. Caitanya Mahāprabhu does not pray for wealth, followers, or beautiful women, because these are material requests. Usually, people want to be very great leaders within this material world. Someone tries to become a very rich man like Ford or Rockefeller, or someone else tries to become president or some great leader that many thousands of people will follow. These are all material demands: “Give me money. Give me followers. Give me a nice wife.” Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu refuses to make such materialistic requests. He frankly says, “I don’t want any of these things.” He even says, mama janmani janmanīśvare. That is, He’s not even asking for liberation. Just as the materialists have their demands, the yogis demand liberation. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu does not want anything of this nature. Then why is He a devotee? Why is He worshiping Kṛṣṇa? “I simply want to engage in Your service birth after birth.” He does not even pray for an end to birth, old age, disease, and death. There are no demands whatsoever, for this is the highest platform, the stage of bhakti-yoga.
Chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is also asking the Lord, “Please engage me in Your service.” This is the mantra taught by Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself. Hare refers to the energy of the Lord, and Kṛṣṇa and Rāma are names for the Lord Himself. When we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, we are asking Kṛṣṇa to please engage us in His service. This is because our entire material disease is due to our having forgotten to serve God. In illusion, we are thinking, “I am God. What is the other God I have to serve? I myself am God.” Ultimately, that is the only disease, the last snare of illusion. First of all, a person tries to be prime minister, president, Rockefeller, Ford, this and that, and when one fails or attains such a post and is still unhappy, he wants to become God. That is like becoming an even higher president. When I understand that the presidency does not afford me eternal bliss and knowledge, I demand the highest presidency. I demand to become God. In any case, the demand is there, and this demand is our disease. In illusion, we are demanding to be the highest, but the process of bhakti-yoga is just the opposite. We want to become servants, servants of the servants of the Lord. There is no question of demanding to become the Lord; we just want to serve. That’s all.
Our original nature is rooted in service, and wanting to serve is the crucial test for the devotee. We may not realize it, but in this material world we are also serving. If we want to become president, we have to make so many promises to the voters. In other words, the president has to say, “I’ll give the people my service.” Unless he promises to serve his country, there is no question of his becoming president. So even if one is the most exalted leader, his position is to render service. This is very difficult for people to understand. Despite becoming the highest executive in the land, one has to give service to the people. If that service is not given, one is likely to be usurped, fired, or killed. In the material world, service is very dangerous. If there is a little discrepancy in one’s service, one is immediately fired. When the people did not like the service that President Nixon was rendering, they forced him to resign. Some people disagreed with President Kennedy, and he was killed. Similarly, in India, Gandhi was also killed because some people did not like the way he was rendering service. This is always the position in the material world; therefore one should be intelligent enough to decide to cease rendering service for material motives. We must render service to the Supreme Lord, and that rendering of service is our perfection.
We have formed this International Society for Krishna Consciousness in order to teach people what they have forgotten. In this material world, we have forgotten the service of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa; therefore we have become servants of māyā, the senses. Therefore, in this Society we are saying, “You are serving your senses. Now just turn your service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and you will be happy. You have to render service – either to māyā [illusion], the senses, or to Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”
In this world, everyone is serving the senses, but people are not satisfied. No one can be satisfied, because the senses are always demanding more gratification, and this means that we are constantly having to serve the senses. In any case, our position as servant remains the same. It is a question of whether we want to be happy in our service. It is the verdict of Bhagavad-gītā and the other Vedic scriptures that we will never be happy trying to serve our senses, for they are only sources of misery. Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu prays to be situated in Kṛṣṇa’s service. He also prays,
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-
“O son of Mahārāja Nanda [Kṛṣṇa], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 5) This is another way of asking Kṛṣṇa to engage us in His service.
Loving devotional service can only be rendered to the personal form of Kṛṣṇa, Śyāmasundara. The impersonalists emphasize the virāṭ-rūpa, the universal form exhibited in the eleventh chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, but it is stated therein (11.21) that the demigods are very much afraid of this form, and Arjuna says,
bhayena ca pravyathitaṁ mano me
tad eva me darśaya deva rūpaṁ
prasīda deveśa jagan-nivāsa
“After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead [Kṛṣṇa, or Śyāmasundara], O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.” (Bhagavad-gītā 11.45) There is no question of loving the virāṭ-rūpa. If Kṛṣṇa comes before you in the virāṭ-rūpa form, you will be so filled with fear that you will forget your love. So don’t be eager like the impersonalists to see the virāṭ-rūpa form; just render loving service to Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa.
We have more or less seen Kṛṣṇa as the viśva-rūpa during wartime in Calcutta in 1942. There was a siren, and we ran into a shelter, and the bombing began. In this way, we were seeing that viśva-rūpa, and I was thinking, “Of course, this is also just another form of Kṛṣṇa. But this is not a very lovable form.” A devotee wants to love Kṛṣṇa in His original form, and this viśva-rūpa is not His original form. Being omnipotent, Kṛṣṇa can appear in any form, but His lovable form is that of Kṛṣṇa, Śyāmasundara. Although a man may be a police officer, when he is at home he is a beloved father to his son. But if he comes home firing his revolver, the son will be so frightened that he will forget that he is his beloved father. Naturally, the child loves his father when he’s at home like a father, and similarly we love Kṛṣṇa as He is in His eternal abode, in the form of Śyāmasundara.
The viśva-rūpa was shown to Arjuna to warn those rascals who claim, “I am God.” Arjuna asked to see the viśva-rūpa so that in the future we may have some criterion by which to test rascals who claim to be God. In other words, if someone says, “I am God,” we can simply reply, “If you are God, please show me your viśva-rūpa.” And we can rest assured that such rascals cannot display this form.
Of course, Arjuna was offering all respects to the viśva-rūpa form. That is a natural quality of a devotee. A devotee even respects Durgā, Māyā, because Māyā is Kṛṣṇa’s energy. If we respect Kṛṣṇa, we respect everyone, even an ant. Therefore Brahmā prays,
chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni bibharti durgā
icchānurūpam api yasya ca ceṣṭate sā
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“The external potency, Māyā, who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit [spiritual] potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving, and destroying agency of this mundane world. I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself.” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.44) Thus when we pray to Kṛṣṇa, we pray to Durgā immediately, because Durgā is His energy. And when we pray to Durgā, we are actually praying to Kṛṣṇa, because she is working under the direction of Kṛṣṇa. When the devotee sees the activities of Māyā, he sees Kṛṣṇa immediately, thinking, “Oh, Māyā is acting so nicely under the direction of Kṛṣṇa.” When one offers respect to a policeman, he is actually offering respect to the government. Durgā, the material energy, is so powerful that she can create, annihilate, and maintain, but in all cases she is acting under Kṛṣṇa’s directions.
Through bhakti, pure devotion to Kṛṣṇa, we can leave the association of Māyā and be promoted to the eternal association of Kṛṣṇa. Some of the gopas, Kṛṣṇa’s friends, are eternal associates, and others are promoted to that eternal position. If only the eternal associates of Kṛṣṇa can play with Him and others cannot, then what is the meaning of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious? We can also become eternal associates of Kṛṣṇa through pious deeds executed in many, many lives. Actually, in the Vṛndāvana manifest in this material world, the associates of Kṛṣṇa are mainly conditioned living entities who have been promoted to the perfect stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus promoted, they are first of all allowed to see Kṛṣṇa on the planet where Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are being enacted. After this, they are promoted to the transcendental Goloka Vṛndāvana in the spiritual sky. Therefore it is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.12.11), kṛta-puṇya-puñjāḥ.
Bhakti-yoga means connecting ourselves with Kṛṣṇa, God, and becoming His eternal associates. Bhakti-yoga cannot be applied to any other objective; therefore in Buddhism, for instance, there is no bhakti-yoga, because they do not recognize the Supreme Lord existing as the supreme objective. Christians, however, practice bhakti-yoga when they worship Jesus Christ, because they are accepting him as the son of God and are therefore accepting God. Unless one accepts God, there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Christianity, therefore, is also a form of Vaiṣṇavism, because God is recognized. Nonetheless, there are different stages of God realization. Mainly, Christianity says, “God is great,” and that is a very good assertion, but the actual greatness of God can be understood from Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Accepting the greatness of God is the beginning of bhakti. Bhakti-yoga also exists among the Muhammadans, because God is the target in the Muslim religion. However, where there is no recognition of a personal God – in other words, where there is only impersonalism – there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga must include three items: the servitor, the served, and service. One must be present to accept service, and one must be present to render service. The via media is the process of service itself, bhakti-yoga. Now, if there is no one to accept that service, how is bhakti-yoga possible? Therefore, if a philosophy or religion does not accept God as the Supreme Person, there is no possibility of bhakti-yoga being applied.
In the bhakti-yoga process, the role of the spiritual master is most important and essential. Although the spiritual master will always come back until his devotees have achieved God realization, one should not try to take advantage of this. We should not trouble our spiritual master but should complete the bhakti-yoga process in this life. The disciple should be serious in his service to the spiritual master, and if the devotee is intelligent, he should think, “Why should I act in such a way that my spiritual master has to take the trouble to reclaim me again? Let me realize Kṛṣṇa in this life.” That is the proper way of thinking. We should not think, “Oh, I am sure that my spiritual master will come and save me. Therefore I will do as I please.” If we have any affection for our spiritual master, we should complete the process in this life, so that he does not have to return to reclaim us.
In this regard, there is the example of Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura, who, in his previous life, was elevated almost to prema-bhakti, the highest platform of devotional service. However, since there is always a chance for a falldown, somehow or other he fell down. In his next life, he was born in a very rich brāhmaṇa family, in accordance with the principle enunciated in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā (6.41): śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe. Unfortunately, as is often the case with rich boys, he became a prostitute hunter. Yet it is said that his spiritual master instructed him through his prostitute, saying, “Oh, you are so attached to this mere flesh and bones. If you were this much attached to Kṛṣṇa, how much good you might achieve!” Immediately Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura resumed his devotional service.
Although the spiritual master assumes responsibility for his disciple, we should not take advantage of this. Rather, we should try to please the spiritual master (yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ). We should not put our spiritual master in such a position that he has to reclaim us from a house of prostitution. But even if he has to do so, he will do it, because he assumes this responsibility when he accepts his disciple.
The bhakti-yoga process should be completed in this life, because in this life we have all the instruments necessary to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious. We have mṛdaṅgas and cymbals and tongues with which to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. Even if we don’t have mṛdaṅgas and cymbals, we have a tongue. No one has to purchase a tongue. We also have ears with which to hear the sound that the tongue vibrates. Therefore we have all the instruments we need with us – a tongue and ears. We have only to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and use our ears to hear this vibration, and all perfection will be there. We don’t have to become highly educated scientists or philosophers. We have only to chant and hear.
Thus we have everything complete. Pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idam: everything created by God is complete. This aggregate earth, for instance, is complete. There is sufficient water in the oceans, and the sun acts to evaporate this water, turn it into clouds, and drop rain on the land to produce plants. And from the mountains, pure rivers are flowing to supply water throughout the year. If we want to evaporate a few hundred gallons of water, we have to make many arrangements, but the creation is so complete that millions of tons of water are being drawn from the ocean, turned into clouds, and then sprayed all over the land and reserved on the peaks of mountains so that water will be present for the production of grains and vegetables. Thus the creation is complete because it comes from the complete, and similarly our bodies are also complete for spiritual realization. The complete machine is already with us. We have only to utilize it to vibrate the transcendental sound (śabda) of Hare Kṛṣṇa, and we will attain complete liberation from all material pangs.