Pilgrim with a Purpose
Ajāmila continued: “I am a shameless cheater who has killed his brahminical culture. Indeed, I am sin personified. What am I in comparison to the all-auspicious chanting of the holy name of Lord Nārāyaṇa?
“I am such a sinful person, but since I have now gotten this opportunity, I must completely control my mind, life, and senses and always engage in devotional service so that I may not fall again into the deep darkness and ignorance of material life.
“Because of identifying oneself with the body, one is subjected to desires for sense gratification, and thus one performs many kinds of pious and impious acts. This is what constitutes material bondage. Now I shall disentangle myself from my material bondage, which has been caused by the Supreme Lord’s illusory energy in the form of a woman. Being a most fallen soul, I was victimized by the illusory energy and have become like a dancing dog led around by a woman’s hand. Now I shall give up all lusty desires and free myself from this illusion. I shall become a merciful, well-wishing friend to all living entities and always absorb myself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
“Simply because I chanted the holy name of the Lord in the association of devotees, my heart is now becoming purified. Therefore I shall not fall victim again to the false lures of material sense gratification. Now that I have become fixed in the Absolute Truth, I shall no longer identify myself with the body. I shall give up the false conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and fix my mind on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.”
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: Because of a moment’s association with devotees – the Viṣṇudūtas – Ajāmila detached himself from the material conception of life with determination. Thus free from all material attraction, he immediately started for Hardwar. There he took shelter at a Viṣṇu temple, where he executed the process of bhakti-yoga. He controlled his senses and fully applied his mind in the service of the Lord. Thus Ajāmila fully engaged in devotional service, and in this way he detached his mind from the process of sense gratification and became fully absorbed in thinking of the form of the Lord.
When his intelligence and mind were fixed upon the form of the Lord, Ajāmila once again saw before him four celestial persons. He could understand that they were those he had seen previously, and thus he offered them his obeisances by bowing down before them.
Upon seeing the Viṣṇudūtas, Ajāmila gave up his material body at Hardwar on the bank of the Ganges. He regained his original, spiritual body – one appropriate for an associate of the Lord. Accompanied by the order-carriers of Lord Viṣṇu, he then boarded an airplane made of gold. Passing through the airways, he went directly to the abode of Lord Viṣṇu, the husband of the goddess of fortune.
Because of bad association, Ajāmila had given up all brahminical culture and religious principles. Becoming most fallen, he had stolen, drunk liquor, and performed other abominable acts. He had even kept a prostitute. Thus he had been destined to be carried away to hell by the order-carriers of Yamarāja. But he was immediately rescued simply by a glimpse of the chanting of the holy name Nārāyaṇa.
Therefore one who desires freedom from material bondage should adopt the process of chanting and glorifying the name, fame, form, and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at whose feet all the holy places stand. One cannot derive this benefit from other methods, such as pious atonement, speculative knowledge, or meditation in mystic yoga, because even after following such methods a person will take to fruitive activities again, unable to control his mind, which is contaminated by the base qualities of nature, namely passion and ignorance.
Because this very confidential historical narration has the potency to vanquish all sinful reactions, a person who hears or describes it with faith and devotion is no longer doomed to hellish life, regardless of his having a material body and regardless of how sinful he may have been. Indeed, the Yamadūtas do not approach him even to see him. After giving up his body, he returns home, back to Godhead, where he is very respectfully received and worshiped.
While suffering at the time of death, Ajāmila chanted the holy name of the Lord, and although the chanting was directed toward his son, he nevertheless returned home, back to Godhead. Therefore if a person faithfully and inoffensively chants the holy name of the Lord, what doubt is there that he will return to Godhead? (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.2.34–49)
The holy name of God is all-auspicious. Therefore for one who constantly practices chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, there cannot be any inauspiciousness. Just by chanting, one is put into an auspicious condition of life perpetually.
Those engaged in broadcasting the holy name through the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement should always consider what their position was before they came and what it is now. They had fallen into abominable lives as meat-eaters, drunkards, and woman-hunters, performing all kinds of sinful activities, but now they have been given the opportunity to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Therefore they should always appreciate this opportunity. By the grace of the Lord we are opening many branches, and the members of this movement should use this good fortune to chant the holy name of the Lord and serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly. They must be conscious of the difference between their present conditions and their past conditions and should always be very careful not to fall from the most exalted life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Every devotee of Kṛṣṇa should have this determination. Devotees have been elevated to an exalted position by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, and if they remember that this is a great opportunity and pray to Kṛṣṇa that they will not fall again, their lives will be successful.
Being fully Kṛṣṇa conscious, Ajāmila settled the debts he had accrued due to his sinful activities, and he was filled with determination to continue chanting the holy name of the Lord, Nārāyaṇa: “If I continue chanting the holy name of the Lord,” he thought, “I will always be engaged in the highest welfare activities for the benefit of all living entities, and I shall be very peaceful.” Because he was now purified of all sinful reactions, Ajāmila realized that Kṛṣṇa was dictating from within his heart that his duty was to become every living entity’s well-wisher.
The devotees of the Lord are very kind. They preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness for the welfare of the general public, and thus they are friends to all living entities. Others cannot be the well-wishers of all. The politicians, for example, engage in so-called service of their countrymen, but they are not the true friends of everyone in the land, because although they may serve the interests of their fellow men, they do not look after the interests of the animals. In this way they discriminate. A devotee is a friend to every living entity, whether man, animal, insect, or plant. A devotee is not willing to kill even an ant, but a nondevotee will mercilessly send animals to the slaughterhouse and in the same breath declare himself the friend of everyone.
Kṛṣṇa, God, is the best friend of every living entity. He is equal to everyone. He is not only the friend of the residents of Vṛndāvana – the gopīs, His parents, the cowherd men and boys, the cows – but He is everyone’s friend, because everyone is part and parcel of Him. So Kṛṣṇa loves everyone unlimitedly. And Kṛṣṇa’s devotees inherit the superexcellent loving qualities of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore they are truly the friends of everyone.
The karmīs, fruitive workers, perform sinful acts for their personal interest, killing innocent animals and becoming puffed up with their material opulence. Jñānīs, those in search of liberation through knowledge of Brahman, are also interested only in themselves. But bhaktas, or devotees, are interested in the well-being of everyone. A devotee is especially merciful to the fallen, conditioned souls. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the personification of bhakti, loving devotion to God, teaching all of us how to become devotees. He is therefore called patita-pāvana, or the one who delivers the fallen, conditioned souls. Anyone following in His footsteps is also patita-pāvana. Ajāmila was now in this same mood, and thus he thought, “Now I shall be able to become the friend of all living entities and become peaceful.”
This should be the standard of determination for all Kṛṣṇa conscious persons. A devotee of Kṛṣṇa should free himself from the clutches of māyā, and he should also be compassionate to all others suffering in those clutches. The activities of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are meant not only for oneself but for others also. This is the perfection of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One who is interested only in his own salvation is not as advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness as one who feels compassion for others and who therefore propagates Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such an advanced devotee will never fall down, for Kṛṣṇa will give him special protection. That is the sum and substance of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Everyone is like a plaything in the hands of the illusory energy and is acting as she dictates. One should come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness to release oneself and others from this bondage.
Association with Devotees
These verses lucidly explain how a living entity is victimized by his material conditioning. The beginning of illusion is to misidentify oneself as the body. Therefore the Bhagavad-gītā begins with the spiritual instruction that one is not the body but the spirit soul within the body. One can always remain conscious of this fact only if one remains pure by chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, and staying in the association of devotees. This is the secret of success. Therefore we stress that one should chant the holy name of the Lord and keep oneself free from the contaminations of this material world, especially the contaminations of lusty desires for illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling. With determination one should vow to follow these principles and thus be saved from the miserable condition of material existence.
The first necessity is to become freed from the bodily conception of life. Ajāmila was immediately freed from the illusory bodily conception of life by hearing the conversation between the Viṣṇudūtas and the Yamadūtas. The proof is that right after this incident he left his wife and children and went straight to Hardwar for further advancement in spiritual life. It is mentioned here that he took shelter in a temple of Viṣṇu and executed the process of devotional service. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has established temples all over the world for this very purpose. There is no need to travel to Hardwar. Anyone can take shelter of the temple nearest him, engage in the devotional service of the Lord, and thus achieve the highest success in life by becoming absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
If one worships the Deity of Kṛṣṇa in the temple, one’s mind will naturally be absorbed in thought of the Lord and His form. There is no distinction between the form of the Lord and the Lord Himself. Therefore bhakti-yoga is the easiest system of yoga. Yogis try to concentrate their minds upon the form of the Supersoul, Viṣṇu, within the heart, but this same objective is easily achieved when one’s mind is absorbed in thinking of the Deity in the temple. In every temple there is a transcendental form of the Lord, and one may easily think of this form. By seeing the Lord during the formal worship ceremony, or ārati, by sacrificing one’s money, time, and energy for the worship of the Deity, and by constantly thinking of the form of the Deity, one becomes a first-class yogī. This is the best process of yoga, as confirmed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.47):
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
“Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving serve to Me – he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” So the first-class yogi is he who controls his senses and detaches himself from material activities by always thinking of the form of the Lord.
Back to Godhead
The Viṣṇudūtas who had rescued Ajāmila came before him again when his mind was firmly fixed upon the form of the Lord. They had gone away for some time to give Ajāmila a chance to become firmly fixed in meditation upon the Lord. Now that his devotion had matured, they returned to take him back to Godhead. Understanding that the same Viṣṇudūtas had returned, Ajāmila offered them his obeisances by bowing down before them.
Ajāmila was now ready to return home, back to Godhead, and thus he gave up his material body and regained his original, spiritual body. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.9):
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.” The result of perfection in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is that after giving up one’s material body, one is immediately transferred to the spiritual world in one’s original, spiritual body to become an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some devotees go to Vaikuṇṭha to become associates of Lord Viṣṇu, and others go to Goloka Vṛndāvana to become associates of Kṛṣṇa.
Spiritual airplanes from the spiritual planets, like the one that came for Ajāmila, can take one back home, back to Godhead, in a second. The speed of such a spiritual airplane can only be imagined. Spirit is finer than the mind, and everyone has experience of how swiftly the mind travels from one place to another. Therefore one can imagine the swiftness of the spiritual form by comparing it to the speed of the mind. In less than even a moment, a perfect devotee can return home, back to Godhead, immediately after giving up his material body.
Such perfection is not available to anyone but devotees of the Lord. It has been seen that even after achieving so-called perfection, many karmīs, jñānīs, and yogis become attached to material activities again. Many so-called svāmīs and yogis give up material activities as false (jagan mithyā), but after some time they nevertheless resume material activities by opening hospitals and schools or performing other activities for the benefit of the public. Sometimes they participate in politics, although still falsely declaring themselves sannyāsīs, members of the renounced order. All these activities are illusory aspects of the material world.
If one actually desires to get out of the material world, he must take to devotional service, which begins with śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ: chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has actually proved this. In the Western countries, many young boys and girls who had been addicted to drugs and who had other bad habits, which they could not give up, abandoned all those propensities and very seriously engaged in chanting the glories of the Lord as soon as they joined the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. In other words, this process is the perfect method of atonement for actions performed in the modes of passion and ignorance. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.19) confirms this:
kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ
sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati
As a result of acting under the modes of passion and ignorance, one becomes increasingly lusty and greedy, but when one takes to the process of chanting and hearing about Kṛṣṇa, one comes to the platform of goodness and becomes happy. As he advances in devotional service, all his doubts are completely eradicated (bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ). Thus the knot of his desire for fruitive activities is cut to pieces.
At the time of death one is certainly bewildered because his bodily functions are disordered. At that time, even one who throughout his life has practiced chanting the holy name of the Lord may not be able to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra very distinctly. Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit, therefore, why should we not chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly? If a person does so, it is quite possible that even at the time of death he will be able to properly chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith. In conclusion, one who chants the holy name of the Lord constantly is guaranteed to return home, back to Godhead, without a doubt.