Knowledge Beyond Saṁsāra
Kṛṣṇa specifically states that this process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is su-sukham, very pleasant and easy to practice. Indeed, the devotional process is very pleasant; we melodiously sing with instruments, and someone will listen and also join (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam). Of course, the music should be in relation with the Supreme Lord – in glorification of Him. Hearing the Bhagavad-gītā is also part of devotional service, and in addition to hearing it one should be eager to apply it in his life. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a science and should not be accepted blindly. There are nine processes of devotional service recommended: hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, praying, serving, engaging as a servitor of the Lord, establishing friendly relations with the Lord, and offering everything to the Lord. These are all easy to practice and should be joyfully performed.
Of course, if one thinks that the Bhagavad-gītā and the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra are part of the Hindu system and doesn’t want to accept them because of this, he can nonetheless attend the Christian church and sing there. There is no difference between this process and that process; the point is whatever process one follows, he must become God conscious. God is neither Muslim nor Hindu nor Christian – He is God. Nor are we to be considered Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. These are bodily designations. We are all pure spirit, part and parcel of the Supreme. God is pavitram, pure, and we are also pure. Somehow or other, however, we have fallen into this material ocean, and as the waves toss, we suffer. Actually we have nothing to do with the tossing waves of material miseries. We must simply pray, “Kṛṣṇa, please pick me up.” As soon as we forget Kṛṣṇa, the ocean of illusion is there, and it at once captures us. The chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is most important in order to escape from this ocean. Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is a sound (śabda) that is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa. The sound Kṛṣṇa and the original Kṛṣṇa are the same. When we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and dance, Kṛṣṇa is also dancing with us. Of course, we may say, “Well, I do not see Him.” But why do we put so much stress on seeing? Why not hearing? Seeing, tasting, smelling, touching, and hearing are all instruments for experience and knowledge. Why do we put such exclusive stress on seeing? A devotee does not wish to see Kṛṣṇa; he is satisfied simply hearing of Kṛṣṇa. Seeing may eventually be there, but hearing should not be considered any less important. There are things we hear but do not see – the wind may be whistling past our ears, and we can hear it, but there is no possibility of seeing the wind. Since hearing is no less valid or less important an experience than seeing, we can hear Kṛṣṇa and realize His presence through sound. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “I am not there in My abode or in the heart of the meditating yogi; I am where My pure devotees are singing My name.” We can actually feel the presence of Kṛṣṇa as we make progress.
It is not that we should simply take things from Kṛṣṇa and offer Him nothing. Everyone is taking something from God, so why not give something? We are taking from Kṛṣṇa so much light, air, food, water, and so on. Unless these resources are supplied by Kṛṣṇa, no one can live. Is it love to simply keep taking and taking and taking without ever offering anything in return? Love means taking and giving also. If we just take from someone and give him nothing in return, that is not love – it is exploitation. It is not that we should just continue eating without ever offering anything to Kṛṣṇa. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says:
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad arpaṇam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it. O son of Kuntī, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Bhagavad-gītā 9.26–27)
In addition to giving and receiving, in the execution of devotional service one has to submit to Kṛṣṇa whatever distress or confidential problem he has. He should say, “Kṛṣṇa, I am suffering in this way. I have fallen into this tossing ocean of material illusion. Kindly pick me up. I understand now that I am simply put here, as if thrown into the Atlantic Ocean. I may not in any way identify with the Atlantic Ocean, but I am subject to the tossing of the ocean. Actually, I am a spiritual spark, a fragmental part of You.” To our misfortune, we try to identify with this ocean and stop its tossing. We must not try to stop the tossing. It is not possible. In any case, the tossing will go on, for that is the law of nature. Only the foolish try to adjust to this world; the real problem is how to get out of it. Those who do attempt to adjust and who never turn to Kṛṣṇa are continually subject to transmigration in the ocean of birth and death.
aprāpya māṁ nivartante
“Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of foes. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world.” (Bhagavad-gītā 9.3)
By definition, religion is that which connects us with God. If it is not capable of connecting us with God, it is not religion. Religion means searching for God, understanding God, and establishing a relationship with God. This is religion. Those who are engaged in devotional service are acting for Kṛṣṇa, or God, and since in this way there is connection with God, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a religion.
It is not possible to manufacture a religion. A true religion must come from an authorized source, and that source is either God or His representative. Religion has been called the law of God. It is not possible for a person to manufacture a state law. The law is there, and it is given by the state. One may create some bylaws for his own society, but these laws must be sanctioned by the law of the state. Similarly, if we wish to make some principle of religion, it must be sanctioned by the Vedic authority.
The Bhagavad-gītā is also religion. Great authorities like Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, Lord Caitanya, Śaṅkarācārya, and so many others have accepted the Bhagavad-gītā as the supreme principle of religion and Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is no doubt about it. In the West also the Bhagavad-gītā is accepted as a great book of philosophy, and many great scholars and philosophers in the West have read and commented on it. Despite acceptance by the scholars and ācāryas, there are persons who do not accept the Bhagavad-gītā and who have no faith. They do not accept it at all as authority, for they think that it is some sentimental exaggeration by a man known as Kṛṣṇa. Thus Kṛṣṇa states in the above quoted verse that those who reject the Bhagavad-gītā as authority cannot have any connection with Him, and because they have no relation to Him they remain in the cycle of birth and death. Aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani. Being subjected to saṁsāra, the cycle of birth and death, does not guarantee that one will necessarily get a similar facility for understanding the Bhagavad-gītā in the next life. One may not necessarily be born again as a human being, or in America, or in India, or even on this planet. There is no certainty; it all depends on our work. On the path of birth and death we take our birth, remain for some time, enjoy or suffer, then again give up this body and enter into the womb of a mother, either human or animal, then prepare another body to come out and begin our work again. This is called mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani. If one wants to avoid this path, he must take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
When Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja was asked, “What is the most wonderful thing in the world?” he replied, “The most wonderful thing is that every day, every moment, people are dying, and yet everyone thinks death will not come for him.” Every minute and every second we experience that living entities are going to the temple of death. Men, insects, animals, birds – everyone is going. This world, therefore, is called mṛtyuloka, the planet of death. Every day there are obituaries, and if we bother to go to the cemetery or crematorium grounds we can validate them. Yet everyone is thinking, “Somehow or other I’ll live.” Everyone is subject to the law of death, yet no one takes it seriously. This is illusion. Thinking we will live forever, we go on doing whatever we like, feeling that we will never be held responsible. This is a very risky life, and it is the densest part of illusion. We should become very serious and understand that death is waiting. We have heard the expression “as sure as death.” This means that in this world death is the most certain thing; no one can avoid it. When death comes, no longer will our puffed-up philosophy or advanced degrees help us. At that time our stout and strong body and our intelligence – which don’t care for anything – are vanquished. At that time the fragmental portion (jīvātmā) comes under the dictation of material nature, and prakṛti (nature) gives us the type of body for which we are fit. If we want to take this risk, we can avoid Kṛṣṇa; if we don’t want to take it, Kṛṣṇa will come to help us.