Knowledge as Faith in Guru and Surrender to Kṛṣṇa
In the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā Śrī Kṛṣṇa concludes that of all sacrifices, the best is the acquisition of knowledge.
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha
“O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice performed in knowledge is better than the mere sacrifice of material possessions. After all, O son of Pṛthā, all sacrifices of work culminate in transcendental knowledge.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.33)
Knowledge is the best sacrifice because this conditioned life is due to ignorance. The purpose of sacrifice, penance, yoga, and philosophical discussion is to acquire knowledge. There are three stages of transcendental knowledge, by which one realizes the impersonal aspect of God (Brahman), the localized aspect of God within the heart and within every atom (Paramātmā, or Supersoul), and the realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Bhagavān). But the very first step in acquiring knowledge is coming to understand that “I am not this body but spirit soul, and my aim of life is to get out of this material entanglement.” The point is that whatever sacrifice we make is intended to enable us to come to the point of real knowledge. The highest perfection of knowledge is given in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.19) as surrender to Kṛṣṇa (bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate). The jñānavān, not the fool, surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, and that is the highest stage of knowledge. Similarly, at the end of the Bhagavad-gītā Śrī Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender to Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.66)
This is the most confidential part of knowledge. From all points of view, if we make an analytical study of the Vedic literatures, we will find that the ultimate summit of knowledge is to surrender to Kṛṣṇa. And what type of surrender is recommended? Surrender in full knowledge – when we come to the perfectional point we must understand that Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, is everything. This is also confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā:
anādir ādir govindaḥ
“Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.1)
The words sarva-kāraṇa indicate that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes. If we search to see who the father of our father is, and who his father is, and so on back, if it were somehow possible to trace our ancestry back through time, we would arrive at the supreme father, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Of course, everyone wants to see God immediately, but we can see God when we are qualified and in perfect knowledge. We can see God eye to eye, just as we are seeing one another, but qualification is required, and that qualification is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness begins with śravaṇam, hearing about Kṛṣṇa through the Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures, and kīrtanam, repeating what we’ve heard and glorifying Kṛṣṇa by chanting His names. By chanting and hearing of Kṛṣṇa we can actually associate with Him, for He is absolute and nondifferent from His names, qualities, forms, and pastimes. As we associate with Kṛṣṇa, He helps us to understand Him and dispels the darkness of ignorance with the light of knowledge. Kṛṣṇa is sitting within our hearts, acting as guru. When we begin hearing topics about Him, the dust that has accumulated on our minds due to so many years of material contamination becomes gradually cleaned. Kṛṣṇa is a friend to everyone, but He is a special friend to His devotees. As soon as we become a little inclined toward Him, He begins to give favorable instructions from within our heart so that we can gradually make progress. Kṛṣṇa is the first spiritual master, and when we become more interested in Him, we have to go to a sādhu, or a holy man, who serves as the spiritual master from without. This is enjoined by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself in the following verse:
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.34)
It is necessary to select a person to whom we can surrender ourselves. Of course, no one likes to surrender to anyone. We are puffed up with whatever knowledge we have, and our attitude is, “Oh, who can give me knowledge?” Some people say that for spiritual realization there is no need for a spiritual master, but so far as the Vedic literature is concerned, and as far as the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the Upaniṣads are concerned, there is need of a spiritual master. Even in the material world, if one wants to learn to be a musician, he has to search out a musician to teach him, or if one wants to be an engineer, he has to go to a technological college and learn from those who know the technology. Nor can anyone become a doctor by simply purchasing a book from the market and reading it at home. One has to be admitted to a medical college and undergo training under licensed doctors. It is not possible to learn any major subject simply by purchasing books and reading them at home. Someone is needed to show us how to apply the knowledge found in the books. As far as the science of God is concerned, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, advises us to go to a person to whom we can surrender. This means that we have to check to see if a person is capable of giving instructions on the Bhagavad-gītā and other literatures of God realization. It is not that we are to search out a spiritual master whimsically. We should be very serious to find a person who is actually in knowledge of the subject.
At the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna was talking to Kṛṣṇa just like a friend, and Kṛṣṇa was questioning how he, as a military man, could give up fighting. But when Arjuna saw that friendly talks would not make a solution to his problems, he surrendered to Kṛṣṇa, saying, śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam: “Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” (Bhagavad-gītā 2.7) This is the process. It is not that we should blindly surrender, but we should be able to inquire with intelligence.
Without inquiry, we cannot make advancement. In school, a student who makes inquiries from the teacher is usually an intelligent student. It is generally a sign of intelligence when a small child inquires from his father, “Oh, what is this? What is that?” We may have a very good spiritual master, but if we have no power to inquire, we cannot make progress. Nor should the inquiry be of the nature of a challenge. One should not think, “Now I will see what kind of spiritual master he is. I will challenge him.” Our inquiries (paripraśnena) should be on the subject of service (sevayā). Without service our inquiries will be futile, but even before making inquiries, we should have some qualification. If we go to a store to purchase some gold or jewelry and we know nothing about gold or jewels, we are likely to be cheated. If we go to a jeweler and say, “Can you give me a diamond?” he will understand that this is a fool. He could charge us any price for anything. That kind of searching will not do at all. We first have to become a little intelligent, for it is not possible to make spiritual progress otherwise.
The beginning injunction of the Vedānta-sūtra is athāto brahma-jijñāsā: “Now is the time to inquire about Brahman.” The word atha means that one who is intelligent, who has come to the point of realizing the basic frustrations of material life, is capable of making inquiry. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that one should inquire from a spiritual master about subjects that are “beyond this darkness.” This material world is by nature dark, and it is artificially lighted by fire. Our inquiries should be about the transcendental worlds, which lie beyond this universe. If one is desirous to find out about these spiritual worlds, he should seek out a spiritual master; otherwise, there is no point in searching. If I want to study the Bhagavad-gītā or the Vedānta-sūtra in order to make material improvement, it is not necessary to find a spiritual master. One should first want to inquire about Brahman and then search out a master who has perfect vision of the Absolute Truth (jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ). Kṛṣṇa is the supreme tattva, Absolute Truth. In the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā Śrī Kṛṣṇa states:
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Bhagavad-gītā 7.3)
Thus out of many perfected spiritualists, one man may know what Kṛṣṇa actually is. As this verse indicates, the subject matter of Kṛṣṇa is not so easy; it is very difficult. Yet the Bhagavad-gītā also indicates that it is easy.
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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.55)
If we accept the process of devotional service, we can understand Kṛṣṇa very easily. Through it we can understand the science of Kṛṣṇa perfectly and become eligible for entering into the spiritual kingdom. If, as the Bhagavad-gītā says, after many births we have to eventually surrender to Kṛṣṇa, why not surrender to Him immediately? Why wait for many, many births? If surrender is the end of perfection, why not accept perfection immediately? Of course the answer is that people are generally doubtful. Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be attained in one second, or it cannot be had even after a thousand births and deaths. If we choose, we can immediately become great souls by surrendering to Kṛṣṇa, but because we have doubts whether or not Kṛṣṇa is actually the Supreme, we have to take time to dissipate these doubts through study of the scriptures. By studying the Bhagavad-gītā under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, we can remove these doubts and make definite progress.
It is the fire of knowledge that burns all doubts and fruitive activities to ashes. Śrī Kṛṣṇa gives the following information about the results of inquiring about the truth from one who has actually seen the truth.
evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava
yena bhūtāny aśeṣāṇi
drakṣyasy ātmany atho mayi
bhasmasāt kurute ’rjuna
bhasmasāt kurute tathā
“Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or, in other words, that they are Mine. Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries. As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.35–37)
The fire of knowledge is ignited by the spiritual master, and when it is ablaze, all the reactions to our works are turned to ashes. The reactions to our work, or our karma, are the cause for our bondage. There are good works and bad works, and in this verse the word sarva-karmāṇi indicates both. For one who wants to be liberated from this material bondage, the reactions of both good works and bad works are detrimental. In this material world we are attached to performing good works if we are situated in the mode of goodness. If we are in the modes of passion and ignorance, however, we do bad work in passion and ignorance. But for those who are going to be Kṛṣṇa conscious, there is no need of good work or bad work. By good work we may get a good birth in an aristocratic or wealthy family, and by bad work we may take birth even in the animal kingdom or in degraded human families, but in any case birth means bondage, and one who is striving for Kṛṣṇa consciousness is striving for liberation from the bondage of transmigration. What is the advantage of being born in a wealthy or aristocratic family if one does not get rid of his material miseries? Whether we enjoy the reactions of good work or suffer the reactions of bad, we have to take on the material body and thereby undergo the material miseries.
By engaging in the transcendental service of Kṛṣṇa, we actually get out of the cycle of birth and death. But because the fire of knowledge is not burning in our minds, we accept material existence as happiness. A dog or hog cannot understand what kind of miserable life he is passing. He actually thinks he is enjoying life, and this is called the covering or illusory influence of material energy. On the Bowery there are so many drunkards lying in the street, and they’re all thinking, “We are enjoying life.” But those who are passing them by are thinking, “Oh, how miserable they are.” That is the way of the illusory energy. We may be in a miserable condition, but we accept it thinking that we are very happy. This is called ignorance. But when one is awakened to knowledge, he thinks, “Oh, I am not happy. I want freedom, but there is no freedom. I don’t want to die, but there is death. I don’t want to grow old, but there is old age. I don’t want diseases, but there are diseases.” These are the major problems of human existence, but we ignore them and concentrate on solving very minor problems. We consider economic development to be the most important thing, forgetting how long we shall live here in this material world. Economic development or no economic development, at the end of sixty or a hundred years our life will be finished. Even if we accumulate a million dollars, we must leave it all behind when we leave this body. We need to come to understand that in the material world whatever we are doing is being defeated by the influence of material nature.
We want freedom, and we want to travel all over the world and all over the universe. Indeed, that is our right as spirit soul. The spirit soul in the Bhagavad-gītā is called sarva-gataḥ, which means that he has the ability to go wherever he likes. In the Siddhalokas there are perfected beings, or yogis, who can travel wherever they want without the aid of airplanes or other mechanical contrivances. Once we are liberated from material conditioning we can become very powerful. Actually we have no idea how powerful we are as spiritual sparks. Instead we are very much satisfied staying on this earth and sending up a few spaceships, thinking that we have become greatly advanced in material science. We spend millions and millions of dollars constructing spaceships without knowing that we have the ability to travel wherever we want, free of charge.
The point is that we should cultivate our spiritual potencies by knowledge. The knowledge is already there; we simply have to accept it. In former ages people underwent so many penances and austerities to acquire knowledge, but in this age this process is not possible because our lives are very short and we are always disturbed. The process for this age is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, which was inaugurated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. If, by this process, we can kindle the fire of knowledge, all of the reactions of our activities will be reduced to ashes, and we will be purified.
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaṁ yoga-saṁsiddhaḥ
“In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has become accomplished in the practice of devotional service enjoys this knowledge within himself in due course of time.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.38)
What is that sublime and pure knowledge? It is the knowledge that we are part and parcel of God and that we are to dovetail our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. This is the purest knowledge in the material world. Here everything is contaminated by the modes of material nature – goodness, passion, and ignorance. Goodness is also a kind of contamination. In goodness one becomes aware of his position as well as transcendental subjects, etc., but his defect is in thinking, “Now I have understood everything. Now I am all right.” He wants to stay here. In other words, the man in the mode of goodness becomes a first-class prisoner and, becoming happy in the prison house, he wants to stay there. And what to speak of those in the modes of passion and ignorance? The point is that we have to transcend even the quality of goodness. The transcendental position begins with the realization ahaṁ brahmāsmi, “I am not matter but spirit.” But even this position is unsettled. More is required.
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.54)
In the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage one no longer identifies with matter. The first symptom of one’s having become established on the brahma-bhūtaḥ platform is that one becomes jolly (prasannātmā). On that platform, there is neither lamentation nor hankering. But even if we rise to this stage and do not take to the loving service of Kṛṣṇa, there is the possibility of falling down again into the material whirlpool. We may rise very high in the sky, but if we have no shelter there, if we do not land on some planet, we will again fall down. A simple understanding of the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage will not help us unless we take to the shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. As soon as we engage ourselves in the service of Kṛṣṇa, there is no longer any chance of falling down again into the material world.
Our nature is such that we want some engagement. A child may commit mischief, but he cannot refrain from mischief unless he is given some engagement. When he is given some toys, his attention is diverted and his mischievous activities stop. We are like mischievous children, and therefore we must have spiritual engagement. Simply understanding that we are spirit soul will not help. After understanding that we are spirit, we have to sustain the spirit by spiritual engagement. It is not uncommon in India for a man to give up all material engagements, to leave his home and family and to take the renounced order, sannyāsa, and then after meditating for a while, to take up philanthropic work by opening hospitals or engaging in politics. The hospital-making business is being conducted by the government; it is the duty of a sannyāsī to make hospitals whereby people can actually get rid of their material bodies, not patch them up. But for want of knowing what real spiritual activity is, we take up material activities.
By becoming perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, knowledge and wisdom are found in due course of time. There may be some discouragement at first, but the word kālena, “in due course of time,” indicates that if we simply persevere, we will be successful. Faith is required, as stated in the next verse.
jñānaṁ labdhvā parāṁ śāntim
“A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.39)
For those who are hesitant and have no faith, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is very difficult. Even in our daily affairs a certain amount of faith is required. When we buy a ticket, we have faith that the airline company will take us to our destination. Without faith we cannot even live in the material world, what to speak of making spiritual progress. Where are we to keep our faith? In the authority. We should not book our ticket with an unauthorized company. Faith must be in Kṛṣṇa, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gītā. How do we become faithful? Control of the senses (saṁyatendriyaḥ) is required. We are in the material world because we want to gratify our senses. If we have faith that a physician can cure us, and he tells us not to eat such and such, and we eat it anyway, what kind of faith do we have? If we have faith in our physician, we will follow his prescriptions for cure. The point is that we have to follow the instructions with faith. Then wisdom will come. When we attain to the stage of wisdom, the result is parāṁ śāntim, supreme peace. Kṛṣṇa indicates that when one controls the senses, faith comes in the near future (acireṇa). Having attained that stage of faith in Kṛṣṇa, one feels that he is the happiest man in the world. This is our position. We have to accept the formula and execute it with faith. This faith must be in the supreme authority, not in a third-class man. We must search out a spiritual master in whom we can have faith. Kṛṣṇa is the most authorized personality, but anyone who is Kṛṣṇa conscious can be accepted because a person fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa. Having tasted the words of Kṛṣṇa’s representative, we will feel satisfied, just as we feel satisfied upon eating a full meal.
nāyaṁ loko ’sti na paro
na sukhaṁ saṁśayātmanaḥ
“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.40)
Those who hesitate to take this path of knowledge have no chance. Hesitation is due to ignorance (ajñaś ca). For one hesitant in taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not even this material world will be happy, what to speak of the next life. The material world is already miserable, but if one has no faith, it will be more miserable. Thus for the faithless the situation is very precarious. We may put thousands of dollars in a bank because we have faith that that bank will not close down. If we have faith in banks and airlines, why not have faith in Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is acknowledged by so many Vedic literatures and sages to be the supreme authority? Our position is to follow in the footsteps of great authorities like Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānujācārya, and Caitanya Mahāprabhu. If we keep our faith by executing our duties and following in their footsteps, success is guaranteed.
As stated before, we must search out one who has seen the Absolute Truth and surrender to him and serve him. When this is done, there is no doubt about one’s spiritual salvation. Everyone is anxious to see God, but in our present stage of life we are conditioned and deluded. We have no idea of things as they really are. Although we are Brahman and by nature jolly, we have somehow fallen from our constitutional position. Our nature is sac-cid-ānanda – eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge – yet this body is destined to die, and while it exists it is full of ignorance and miseries. The senses are imperfect, and it is not possible to attain perfect knowledge through them. Therefore it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that if we at all want to learn transcendental knowledge, we must approach one who has actually seen the Absolute Truth (tad-viddhi praṇipātena). Traditionally, brāhmaṇas are meant to be spiritual masters, but in this Age of Kali it is very difficult to find a qualified brāhmaṇa. Consequently, it is very difficult to find a qualified spiritual master. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu has recommended, kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya/ yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya: “Whether one be a brāhmaṇa or a śūdra or a sannyāsī or a householder, it doesn’t matter. If he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa, he’s a bona fide spiritual master.”
The Bhagavad-gītā is the science of Kṛṣṇa, and if we study it scrutinizingly with all of our argument, sense, and philosophical knowledge, we will come to know that science. It is not that we are to submit ourselves blindly. The spiritual master may be self-realized and situated in the Absolute Truth, yet we have to question him in order to understand all spiritual points. If one is able to factually answer the questions about the science of Kṛṣṇa, he is the spiritual master, regardless of where he is born or what he is – whether he be a brāhmaṇa or śūdra or American or Indian or whatever. When we go to a doctor, we do not ask him whether he is a Hindu, Christian, or brāhmaṇa. He has the qualification of a medical man, and we simply surrender, saying, “Doctor, treat me. I am suffering.”
Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate goal of spiritual science. Of course, when we speak of Kṛṣṇa we refer to God. There are many names for God throughout the world and throughout the universe, but Kṛṣṇa is the supreme name according to Vedic knowledge. Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommended the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare as the supreme means for realization in this age. Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not make any distinctions as to caste or social position. Indeed, most of His foremost disciples were considered to be fallen in society. Caitanya Mahāprabhu even appointed Haridāsa Ṭhākura, a Muslim, as nāmācārya, or preceptor of the holy names. Similarly, Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī, two of Lord Caitanya’s principal disciples, were formerly known as Sākara Mallika and Dabira Khāsa and were employed by the Muslim government. In those days, the Hindus were so strict that if a brāhmaṇa accepted service from a non-Hindu, he was immediately ostracized from Hindu society. Despite this, Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī were made principal authorities in the science of Kṛṣṇa by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. So there is no bar against anyone; anyone can become a spiritual master provided he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa. This is the only qualification, and this science in essence is contained in the Bhagavad-gītā. At the present moment, thousands of spiritual masters are needed to spread this great science throughout the world.
We should understand that when Kṛṣṇa is speaking to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā, He is speaking not simply to Arjuna alone but to the whole human race. Kṛṣṇa Himself declares that simply by knowing the science of Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna would not be subject to illusion (yaj jñātvā na punar moham). If we have a very good ship, we can easily cross the Atlantic Ocean. At present we are in the midst of the ocean of ignorance, for this material world has been likened to a great ocean of nescience. Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu prayed to Kṛṣṇa in this way:
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja
“O son of Mahārāja Nanda, I am Your eternal servitor, and although I am so, somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and fix me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 5)
If we have the boat of perfect knowledge, there is no fear, for we can cross the ocean very easily. Even if a person is most sinful, if he receives the boat of the science of Kṛṣṇa, he can cross the ocean very easily. As stated before (Bhagavad-gītā 4.36), it does not matter what we were in our past lives. Because we were in ignorance, we may have committed so many abominable actions. Indeed, no one can say that he is free from sinful activity. But according to the Bhagavad-gītā this does not matter. Just by knowing the science of Kṛṣṇa, one becomes free.
It is therefore absolutely necessary that we seek knowledge, and the perfection of knowledge is to understand Kṛṣṇa. Today there are so many theories, and everyone claims to know the best way to live; therefore so many ism’s have evolved. Of these, communism has become very prominent in the world. But in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we find the seed for spiritual communism. There Nārada Muni explains that in this material universe – whether one be in a lower, middle, or higher planetary system, or even in outer space – all natural resources are manifested by the Supreme Lord. We must understand that whatever exists in this world was not produced by any human being, but everything was created by God. No sane man can deny this. Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Mantra 1 enjoins:
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One must therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one must not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”
Consequently, all living entities, beginning from Brahmā, the highest demigod, down to the lowest ant, have the right to use natural resources. Nārada Muni points out that we can use these resources as much as we require, but if we take more than required, we become thieves. Unfortunately, everyone is trying to conquer and predominate. Countries race to the moon in order to put up their flags and claim that planet. When Europeans came to America, they put up their flag and claimed it for their nation. This flag-planting and flag-waving are all due to ignorance. We do not stop to think where we are putting our flag. It is not our property but God’s. Knowing this fact is knowledge, and thinking that it is my property is ignorance. We have the right to utilize but not to claim or hoard.
If we throw a bag of grain into the street, pigeons may come and eat four or five small grains and then go away. They will not take more than they can eat, and having eaten, they go freely on their way. But if we were to put many bags of flour on the sidewalk and invite people to come and get them, one man would take ten or twenty bags and another would take fifteen or thirty bags and so on. But those who do not have the means to carry so much away will not be able to take more than a bag or two. Thus the distribution will be uneven. This is called advancement of civilization; we are even lacking in the knowledge the pigeons, dogs, and cats have. Everything belongs to the Supreme Lord, and we can accept whatever we need, but not more. That is knowledge. By the Lord’s arrangement the world is so made that there is no scarcity of anything. Everything is sufficient, provided that we know how to distribute it. However, the deplorable condition today is that one is taking more than he needs while another is starving. Consequently the starving masses are revolting and asking, “Why should we starve?” But their methods are imperfect. The perfection of spiritual communism is found in the knowledge that everything belongs to God. By knowing the science of Kṛṣṇa, we can easily cross over the ignorance of false proprietorship.
We are actually suffering due to our ignorance. In the law court ignorance is no excuse. If we tell the judge that we are not aware of the law, we will be punished anyway. If one has illegally amassed so much wealth and yet claims ignorance of his transgression, he will be punished nonetheless. The whole world is lacking this knowledge, and therefore thousands of teachers of the science of Kṛṣṇa are needed. There is a great necessity for this knowledge now. We should not think that because Kṛṣṇa was born in India that knowledge of the Bhagavad-gītā is sectarian or that Kṛṣṇa is a sectarian God. Indeed, in the fourteenth chapter Śrī Kṛṣṇa proclaims Himself to be the father of all beings, as pointed out previously (Bhagavad-gītā 14.4).
As spirit souls we are part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, but due to our desire to enjoy this material world, we have been put into material nature. Yet in whatever species of life we may be, Kṛṣṇa is the Father. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā is not meant for any particular party or nation but for everyone all over the world – even for the animals. Now that the sons of the Supreme are committing theft due to ignorance, it is the duty of one who is conversant with the Bhagavad-gītā to spread this supreme knowledge to all beings. In this way people may realize their true spiritual nature and their relationship to the supreme spiritual whole.