Returning to the Eternal Religion
Śrīla Prabhupāda Arrives in America
On September 18, 1965, as the Indian steamship Jaladuta nears Boston’s Commonwealth Pier, Śrīla Prabhupāda prays to Lord Kṛṣṇa in a moving poem. “… I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.”
My dear Lord Kṛṣṇa, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me.
But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?
Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied, and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vāsudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.
But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible, because You are the most expert mystic.
How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.
All living entities have come under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if You like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion.
I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.
The words of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives them with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.
It is said in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.17–21]: “Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact. As soon as the irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire, and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy. Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association. Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.”
He will become liberated from the influence of the modes of ignorance and passion and thus all inauspicious things accumulated in the core of the heart will disappear.
How will I make them understand this message of Kṛṣṇa consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.
Somehow or other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.
O spiritual master of all the worlds! I can simply repeat Your message, so if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding.
Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel engladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.
O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance. O Lord, make me dance as You like.
I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.
Signed – the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,
on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier,
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
dated 18th of September, 1965
“Build Your Nations on the Spiritual Platform”
Śrīla Prabhupāda gives an address at the University of Nairobi: “You are trying to develop yourselves, so please develop spiritually, for spiritual development is sound development. Don’t imitate Americans and Europeans, who are living like cats and dogs.… The atomic bomb is already there, and as soon as the next war breaks out, all their skyscrapers and everything else will be finished. Try to understand this from the real viewpoint of human life, the spiritual viewpoint.”
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for kindly coming here to participate in this meeting for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to bring human society to the point where everyone’s life can become successful. The subject today is the real meaning of human life. We are trying to instruct the entire world about this meaning.
Human life is attained after many, many millions of years of evolution. We should remember that there are 8,400,000 species of life according to the Padma Purāṇa. Life began with the aquatics, for we can understand from Vedic literature that at the beginning of creation the entire planet was merged in water. This material world is composed of five gross elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Besides these there are three subtle elements – mind, intelligence, and ego. Behind these curtains is the spirit soul, which is covered by these eight elements. This information is given in the Bhagavad-gītā.
Human beings are not the only living entities to have a spirit soul. We are all spirit souls – beasts, birds, reptiles, insects, trees, plants, aquatics, and so on. The spirit soul is simply covered by different dresses, just as some of you are dressed in white clothes, some in green, some in red, etc. But we are not concerned with the dress; we are concerned with you as spirit soul. Thus it is said in the Bhagavad-gītā [5.18]:
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.”
The sage does not make any distinction on the basis of color, intelligence, or species. He sees every living entity as a small particle of spirit soul. It is stated:
jivaḥ sūkṣma-svarūpo ’yaṁ
saṅkhyātīto hi cit-kaṇaḥ
“There are innumerable particles of spiritual atoms, which are measured as one ten-thousandth of the upper portion of a hair.” Because we have no instrument to measure the dimensions of the spirit soul, the small particle of spirit soul is measured in this way. In other words, the soul is so small that it is smaller than an atom. That small particle is within you, within me, within the elephant, within gigantic animals, in all men, in the ant, in the tree, everywhere. However, scientific knowledge cannot estimate the dimensions of the soul, nor can a doctor locate the soul within the body. Consequently material scientists conclude that there is no soul, but that is not a fact. There is a soul. The presence of the soul makes the difference between a living body and a dead body. As soon as the soul departs from the body, the body dies. It has no value. However great a scientist or a philosopher one may be, he must admit that as soon as the soul departs from the body, the body dies. It then has no value and has to be thrown away. We should try to understand this: the soul is valuable, not the body. The fact that the soul is transmigrating is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.22]:
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ’parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”
When a suit becomes old, we give it up and accept another suit; similarly the soul is changing dresses according to desire. Because the soul is part and parcel of God, it has godly qualities. God is the supreme will, the supreme power, the supreme independent one, and we, being part and parcel of Him, have all these qualities in minute quantity. We have willing, thinking, feeling, and desiring. In the Vedas it is stated that God is the supreme living force among all living forces (cetanaś cetanānām). He is also supplying the necessities of all living entities.
We living entities are innumerable; there is no limit to our number. God, however, is one. He is also living as we are, but we are minute particles of that living force. For example, a particle of gold is the same in quality as a gold mine. If we chemically analyze the ingredients in a small drop of water, we will find all of the ingredients that are to be found in the vast ocean. In a similar way, we are one with God, being His part and parcel. This godly particle, the soul, or the living force, is transmigrating from aquatics to trees and plants and then from trees and plants to insect life, then to reptile life, then to the bodies of birds and beasts. Darwin’s theory of evolution is but a partial explanation of the transmigration of the soul. Darwin has simply taken information from Vedic literature, but he has no conception of the soul. The difference is that the soul is transmigrating from aquatic life to plants and trees, then to insect life, then to bird life, then animal life, then human life, and within human life he moves from uncivilized life to civilized life, etc. The civilized life of a human being represents the culmination of evolution. Here is a junction: from this point we can again slide down into the cyclic process of evolution, or we can elevate ourselves to a godly life. The choice is up to us. This is indicated in the Bhagavad-gītā.
This human form of life actually means developed consciousness; therefore we should not waste our lives like cats, dogs, and hogs. That is the injunction. Although this body is perishable like a dog’s or cat’s body, it is different in that one can attain the highest perfection in this life. We are part and parcel of God, but somehow or other we have fallen into this material existence; now we have to evolve in such a way that we can go back home, back to Godhead. That is the highest perfection.
There is actually another world, a spiritual world. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā [8.20]:
’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.”
In this material nature, everything is created, it stays for some time, produces some by-products, dwindles, and finally vanishes. Our bodies are created at a certain moment by sexual intercourse. The semen of the father emulsifies and takes a pea form, and the living entity, or soul, takes shelter in that form, and because it takes shelter, it develops hands, legs, eyes, etc. This development is complete in the seventh month, and in the ninth month the human being comes out of the womb. It is because the soul is present that the child develops. If the soul is not present, there is no development, and the child is born dead. We can take this dead body and preserve it in chemicals, but it will not develop. Development means change of body. All of us have had baby bodies, but those bodies are no longer existing. The body of a baby develops into the body of a child, and that body develops into the body of a boy, and that body develops into a youth’s body, which eventually turns into an old man’s body. Finally the body completely vanishes. The whole cosmic manifestation, the gigantic form of this material world, is also working according to this same process. It is created at a certain point, it develops, it is maintained, and at a certain stage it is dissolved. That is the nature of the material world. It is manifest at a certain interval, and again it vanishes (bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate).
The word bhāva means “nature.” There is another nature, which never dissolves, which is eternal. As jīvas, spirit souls, we are also eternal. This is verified in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.20]:
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”
Just as God has no birth or death, we spirit souls can have neither birth nor death, but because we think, “I am this body,” we consider that we are born and that we die. Such thinking is called māyā, or illusion, and as soon as we get out of this illusion of identifying the soul with the body, we attain the stage called brahma-bhūta. When one realizes ahaṁ brahmāsmi, “I am not this body; I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman,” he attains what is called Brahman realization. As soon as Brahman realization is attained, one becomes happy.
Is this not a fact? If you understand clearly that you have no birth and death, that you are eternal, will you not become happy? Yes, certainly. Thus when one is Brahman realized, spiritually realized, he has no more to do with hankering or lamentation. The whole world is simply hankering and lamenting. You African people are now hankering to be like Europeans and Americans, but the Europeans have lost their empire, and now they are lamenting. So in this way one party is hankering and another is lamenting. Similarly, this material life is simply a combination of hankering and lamenting. We are hankering for those things that we do not possess, and we are lamenting for those things that we have lost. That is our material business. If we realize, however, that we are part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Para-brahman) and that we are Brahman, then we will transcend this hankering and lamenting.
The so-called universal brotherhood or unity that the United Nations is trying to achieve is possible only when you come to the spiritual platform, or Brahman realization. Brahman realization is the aim of human life. One should not work like cats, dogs, and hogs. The hog is always very busy day and night trying to find stool, and when he finds it, he eats it and becomes sexually agitated and has sex without discrimination. A hog will have sex with its mother or sister or anyone else, and this is a hog’s life. However, the scriptures indicate that the human form of life is not meant for working hard for sense gratification like cats, dogs, and hogs. It is meant for realizing, “I do not belong to this material world. I am spirit soul and am eternal, but somehow or other I have fallen into this conditioned life of birth, old age, disease, and death.” This human form of life is meant for making a solution to these four material miseries – birth, old age, disease, and death. That is the aim of human life. Just try to understand that human life is not meant for working very hard like hogs and then having some sense gratification and then all of a sudden dying.
People who do not believe in the soul are in a most unfortunate condition. They do not know where they came from nor where they are going. Knowledge of the soul is the most important knowledge, but it is not discussed in any university. But what is the constitution of this body? What is the distinction between a dead body and a living body? Why is the body living? What is the condition of the body, and what is its value? No one is presently studying these questions, but by this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we are trying to educate people so that they can understand that they are not these bodies but are spirit souls. The business of human life is different from the business of cats and dogs. That is our message.
As far as the soul is concerned, the evolutionary process is going on, and we are struggling for existence, struggling to come to the point of eternal life. That eternal life is possible. If you try your best in this human form of life, in your next life you can get a spiritual body. Your spiritual body is already within you, and it will develop as soon as you become free from the contamination of this material existence. That is the aim of human life. People do not know what actual self-interest is; it is to realize oneself, to realize, “I am part and parcel of God, and I have to return to the kingdom of God to join with God.”
Just as we have a social life here, God has a social life in the spiritual kingdom. You can join Him there. It is not that after this body is finished you become void. No. That is a wrong conception. In the Bhagavad-gītā [2.12], Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra:
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”
The process for attaining eternal life is very easy, and yet at the same time very difficult. It is difficult because people in the beginning do not believe in the existence of transmigration of the soul. However, if we simply take knowledge from the authorities, the process becomes very simple. Our process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to take knowledge from Kṛṣṇa, the most perfect being, and not from an ordinary being conditioned by the laws of material nature. Knowledge taken from a conditioned being is sure to be defective.
What are the defects of the conditioned soul? He is sure to commit mistakes, sure to be illusioned, sure to cheat others, and sure to have imperfect senses. We cannot attain knowledge perfectly, because we want to cheat others and our senses are imperfect. Although our senses are imperfect, we are very proud of our eyes, and we want to see everything. Therefore someone says, “Can you show me God?” Actually the answer is yes. Why can’t you see God at every moment? Kṛṣṇa says, raso ’ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of water.” Everyone drinks water, and the taste is there – so if we think of this taste as God, we begin the process of God realization. Kṛṣṇa also says, prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ: “I am the sunshine, and I am the moonshine.” We all see the sunshine and moonshine every day, and if we think of how it is that the sun and moon are emanating light, we will ultimately reach God. There are so many similar instances. If you want to be God conscious and realize God yourself, it is not very difficult. You have simply to follow the prescribed methods. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā [18.55], tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā. We must simply try to understand God in truth and try to understand His appearance, disappearance, and functions. When we understand Him in truth, we immediately enter the kingdom of God. After quitting this body, the person who understands God, or Kṛṣṇa, does not come back again to accept another material body. Kṛṣṇa says, mām eti: “He comes to Me.” That is our aim.
Therefore we should not waste our time living like cats and dogs. We should live comfortably, but at the same time we should be Kṛṣṇa conscious, or God conscious. That will help us become happy. Without understanding God and without becoming God conscious, there is no possibility of peace and happiness. The way of peace and happiness is outlined in the Bhagavad-gītā.
If you really want to understand God, He is very easy to understand. God is the proprietor of everything. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. Unfortunately we are thinking, “I am the proprietor.” In your country, for instance, the British have sometimes claimed to be proprietors, and now you are claiming to be the proprietors – so who knows what will happen in the future? Actually no one knows who the real proprietor is. The land is there, and it is the property of God, but we are simply thinking, “I am the proprietor. I own this, and I own that.” Actually, America existed before the Europeans came, but now the Americans are thinking, “We are the proprietors.” Similarly, before them the Red Indians were thinking, “We are the proprietors.” The fact is that no man is an actual proprietor; the proprietor is God.
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 should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” [Īśopaniṣad 1]
This realization is wanting. Kṛṣṇa claims proprietorship over all forms – including American forms, African forms, cat forms, dog forms, tree forms, etc. – for in actuality He is the proprietor and the supreme father. If we simply realize this, we attain God realization. Actually, if we realize God as prescribed in the authorized books and Vedic literatures, we will find that there will no longer be quarrels between this party and that party. Everything will be peaceful.
Everyone has the right to use God’s property, just as a son has the right to live at the cost of his father. It is stated in the scriptures that even a small animal in the home must be given some food. That is spiritual communism. No one should remain hungry, not even a serpent. We are always afraid of serpents, but if we find a serpent to be living in our house, it is our duty to see that the serpent is also fed. This is the conception of God consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness: samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu. One who is transcendentally situated is equally disposed to every living entity. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā points out that when one sees everyone equally, as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one actually begins his devotional life. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying in an authoritative way to make everyone understand what he is and what the aim of life is. This process of purification of the heart is very easily accomplished. One simply has to chant this mahā-mantra – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. It can actually be seen that in this movement there are boys and girls from different countries and different religions, but no one is concerned with any particular section, country, or religious body. We are simply concerned about knowing ourselves and our relationship with God.
God is the supreme proprietor, and we are all His sons, or servitors. Therefore let us engage ourselves in the service of the Lord, as recommended in the Bhagavad-gītā. As soon as we understand that God is the proprietor of everything, then all the troubles of the world will immediately be solved. This may take some time. It is not expected that everyone will understand this high philosophy, but if the intelligent people in every country try to understand it, that will be sufficient. In the Bhagavad-gītā [3.21] it is stated:
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
We therefore invite the most intelligent men in the world to understand this Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy and try to distribute it all over the world. We have now come to these African countries, and I invite all intelligent Africans to come and understand this philosophy and distribute it. You are trying to develop yourselves, so please develop spiritually, for spiritual development is sound development. Don’t imitate the Americans and Europeans, who are living like cats and dogs. Such civilizations built on the consciousness of sense gratification cannot stand. The atomic bomb is already there, and as soon as the next war breaks out, all their skyscrapers and everything else will be finished. Try to understand this from the real viewpoint of human life, the spiritual viewpoint. This is what this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is about. We therefore request you to try to understand this philosophy. Thank you very much.
“A Devotee Always Feels Compassion”
“When Lord Jesus Christ presented himself, for instance, he was greatly afflicted by the miserable conditions of the people. Regardless of which country or sect they belong to, all Vaiṣṇavas, or devotees – any people who are God conscious, or Kṛṣṇa conscious – are thus compassionate.”
Today I shall speak to you about the glorification of the holy name of God. This was discussed between Mahārāja Parīkṣit and Śukadeva Gosvāmī in connection with a brāhmaṇa who was very fallen and addicted to all kinds of sinful activities but was saved simply by chanting the holy name. This is found in the Sixth Canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
The universal planetary systems are very nicely explained in the Fifth Canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Within the universe there are some planets that are hellish. Actually, not only the Bhāgavatam but all religious scriptures contain descriptions of hell and heaven. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam you can find out where those hellish planets are and how distant they are from this planet, just as you can obtain information from modern astronomy. Astronomers have calculated how far the moon is from here and what the distance is between this planet and the sun; similarly, the Bhāgavatam contains descriptions of the hellish planets.
We have experience of different atmospheric conditions even on this planet. In the Western countries near the North Pole, the climate is different than in India, which is near the equator. Just as there are differences in atmosphere and living conditions on this planet, similarly there are many planets that have different atmospheres and conditions of life.
After hearing a description of the hellish planets from Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Parīkṣit Mahārāja said:
yathaiva narakān naraḥ
tan me vyākhyātum arhasi
“Sir, I have heard from you about the hellish planets. Men who are very sinful are sent to those planets.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.6] Parīkṣit Mahārāja is a Vaiṣṇava [devotee], and a Vaiṣṇava always feels compassion for others’ distress. He is very afflicted by the miseries of others. When Lord Jesus Christ presented himself, for instance, he was greatly afflicted by the miserable conditions of the people. Regardless of which country or sect they belong to, all Vaiṣṇavas, or devotees – any people who are God conscious, or Kṛṣṇa conscious – are thus compassionate. Therefore to blaspheme a Vaiṣṇava, a preacher of God’s glories, is a great offense.
Kṛṣṇa, God, is never tolerant of offenses committed at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava. Kṛpāmbudhi: a Vaiṣṇava is an ocean of mercy. Vāñchā-kalpa-taru: everyone has desires, but a Vaiṣṇava can fulfill all desires. Kalpa-taru means “desire tree.” There is a tree in the spiritual world which is called a desire tree. In this material world, you get a particular type of fruit from a particular type of tree, but in Kṛṣṇaloka as well as in all the Vaikuṇṭha planets, all the trees are spiritual and will fulfill all your desires. That is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā: cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vṛkṣa.
A Vaiṣṇava is addressed as mahā-bhāga, which means “fortunate.” One who becomes a Vaiṣṇava and is God conscious is understood to be greatly fortunate.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu has explained that the living entities are rotating in different species of life, in different planetary systems all over the universe. A living entity can go anywhere – to hell or heaven – as he likes and as he prepares himself. There are many heavenly planets, many hellish planets, and many species of life. There are 8,400,000 species of life. The living entity is rotating, wandering through these species and creating bodies according to his mentality in the present life. As you sow, so shall you reap.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that out of all these numberless living entities who are traveling in the material world, one is fortunate, not everyone. If everyone were fortunate, they would all have taken to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is being distributed freely everywhere. But why are people not taking it? Because they are unfortunate. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that only those who are fortunate take to this Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and they get hopeful life, pleasant life, blissful life, a life of knowledge.
It is the duty of a Vaiṣṇava to go door to door to make the unfortunate people fortunate. A Vaiṣṇava thinks, “How can these people be delivered from their hellish life?” That was Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s inquiry. “Sir,” he said, “you have described that on account of one’s sinful activities one is put into a hellish condition of life or in a hellish planetary system. Now, what are the countermethods by which such persons can be saved?” This is the question. When a Vaiṣṇava comes, when God Himself comes, or when God’s son or His very confidential devotees come, their only mission is to save the sinful men who are suffering. They have knowledge of how to do this.
When Prahlāda Mahārāja met Nṛsiṁha-deva, he said:
śoce tato vimukha-cetasa indriyārtha-
māyā-sukhāya bharam udvahato vimūḍhān
“My dear Lord,” Prahlāda says, “I am not very anxious for my own deliverance.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.9.43] Māyāvādī philosophers are very careful that their personal salvation is not interrupted. They think, “If I go to preach in association with others, I may fall down, and my realization will be finished.” Therefore they do not come. Only the Vaiṣṇavas come, at the risk of falldown – but they do not fall down. They may even go to hell to deliver the conditioned souls. This is Prahlāda Mahārāja’s mission. He says, naivodvije: “I am not very anxious about living in this material world.”
Prahlāda Mahārāja says further, “I have no anxiety for myself, because somehow or other I have been trained to be always Kṛṣṇa conscious.” Because he is Kṛṣṇa conscious, he is confident that in his next life he is going to Kṛṣṇa. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that if one executes the Kṛṣṇa conscious regulative principles carefully, it is certain that he will reach the supreme destination in his next life.
Prahlāda Mahārāja continues: “There is only one source of anxiety for me.” Just see – although he had no anxiety for himself, he still had anxiety. He says, śoce tato vimukha-cetasaḥ: “I am anxious for those persons who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious. That is my anxiety. For myself I have no anxiety, but I am thinking of those who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious.” Why aren’t they Kṛṣṇa conscious? Māyā-sukhāya bharam udvahato vimūḍhān. These rascals have created a humbug civilization for temporary happiness.
Māyā-sukhāya. Actually this is a fact. We have a humbug civilization. So many cars are being manufactured every year, and for that purpose so many roads have to be excavated and prepared. This creates problem after problem. Therefore it is māyā-sukhāya, illusory happiness, and yet we are trying to be happy in this way. We are trying to manufacture some way to be happy, but this only creates other problems.
In your country you have the greatest number of cars, but that does not solve any problems. You have manufactured cars to help solve the problems of life, but I have experienced that this also creates more problems. When my disciple Dayānanda wanted to take me to a doctor in Los Angeles, I had to take the trouble to travel thirty miles before I could even consult the doctor. Once you create cars, then you must travel thirty or forty miles to meet your friends.
You can fly from New York to Boston in one hour, but it takes even longer than that just to get to the airport. This situation is called māyā-sukhāya. Māyā means “false,” “illusory.” We are trying to create some very comfortable situation, but we have created another uncomfortable situation. This is the way of the material world; if we are not satisfied by the natural comforts offered by God and nature and we want to create artificial comforts, then we have to create some discomfort also. Most people do not know that. They think that they are creating a very comfortable situation, but actually they are traveling fifty miles to go to the office to earn a livelihood and fifty miles to come back. Because of such conditions, Prahlāda Mahārāja says that these vimūḍhas – these materialistic persons, these rascals – have created an unnecessary burden on themselves simply for temporary happiness. Vimūḍhān/ māyā-sukhāya bharam udvahataḥ. Therefore, in Vedic civilization it is recommended that one free himself from material life, take sannyāsa, the renounced order of life, and prosecute spiritual life with absolutely no anxiety.
If one can execute Kṛṣṇa consciousness in family life, that is very good. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a family man, a magistrate, and still he executed devotional service so nicely. Dhruva Mahārāja and Prahlāda Mahārāja were gṛhasthas, householders, but they trained themselves in such a way that even as householders they were faced with no interruption in their service. Therefore, Prahlāda Mahārāja says, “I have learned the art of always remaining in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” What is that art? Tvad-vīrya-gāyana-mahāmṛta-magna-cittaḥ. Simply glorifying the victorious activities and pastimes of the Lord. Vīrya means “very heroic.”
Kṛṣṇa’s activities are heroic. You can read about them in Kṛṣṇa, The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Kṛṣṇa’s name, His fame, His activities, His associates, and all other things related to Him are heroic. Prahlāda Mahārāja says in this connection, “I am certain that wherever I go, I can glorify Your heroic activities and be safe. There is no question of my falling down. But I am simply anxious for these persons who have created a type of civilization in which they are always busy working hard. I am thinking of them.”
Prahlāda says further:
maunaṁ caranti vijane na parārtha-niṣṭhāḥ
naitān vihāya kṛpaṇān vimumukṣa eko
nānyaṁ tvad asya śaraṇaṁ bhramato ’nupaśye
“My dear Lord, there are many saintly persons and sages who are very interested in their own liberation.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.9.44] Munayaḥ means “saintly persons” or “philosophers.” Prāyeṇa deva munayaḥ sva-vimukti-kāmāḥ: they are very interested in their own liberation. They try to live in solitary places like the Himalaya Mountains. They do not talk to anyone, and they are always afraid of mixing with ordinary people in the city and becoming disturbed or maybe even falling down. They think, “Better let me save myself.”
Prahlāda Mahārāja regrets that these great saintly persons do not come to the city, where people have manufactured a civilization of very hard work all day and night. Such saints are not very compassionate. He says, “I am anxious for these fallen people who are unnecessarily working so hard simply for sense gratification.”
Even if there were some point in working that hard, such people do not know what it is. All they know is sex. Either they go to a naked dance or to a naked club or to this or that. Prahlāda Mahārāja says, naitān vihāya kṛpaṇān vimumukṣa ekaḥ: “My Lord, I do not need salvation alone. Unless I take all these fools with me, I shall not go.” He refuses to go to the kingdom of God without taking all these fallen souls with him. This is a Vaiṣṇava. Nānyaṁ tvad asya śaraṇaṁ bhramato ’nupaśye: “I simply want to teach them how to surrender unto You. That’s all. That is my goal.”
The Vaiṣṇava knows that as soon as one surrenders, one’s path is clear. Naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaraṇyās tvad-vīrya-gāyana-mahāmṛta-magna-cittaḥ: “Somehow or other, let them bow down before Kṛṣṇa.” This is a simple method. All you have to do is bow down before Kṛṣṇa with faith and say, “My Lord Kṛṣṇa, I was forgetful of You for so long, for so many lives. Now I have come to consciousness; please accept me.” That’s all. If one simply learns this technique and sincerely surrenders himself to the Lord, his path is immediately open. These are the philosophical thoughts of a Vaiṣṇava. A Vaiṣṇava is always thinking about how the fallen conditioned souls can be delivered. He is always involved in making plans in that way, just like the Gosvāmīs. What was the business of the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, Lord Caitanya’s direct disciples? That is stated by Śrīnivāsa Ācārya:
lokānāṁ hita-kāriṇau tri-bhuvane mānyau śaraṇyākarau
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau
“The six Gosvāmīs, namely, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, are very expert in scrutinizingly studying the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. They are always absorbed in the mood of the gopīs and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.” [Ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭaka 2]
With similar Vaiṣṇava compassion, Parīkṣit Mahārāja says to Śukadeva Gosvāmī: “You have described the different types of hellish conditions of life. Now, tell me how those who are suffering can be delivered. Kindly explain this to me.”
yathaiva narakān naraḥ
tan me vyākhyātum arhasi
Nara means human beings, those who are fallen. Narakān naraḥ / nānogra-yātanān neyāt tan me: “How can they be delivered from their fierce miseries and horrible pains?” That is a Vaiṣṇava heart. Mahārāja Parīkṣit says, “Somehow or other they have fallen down to this hellish life. But that does not mean that they should remain in that condition. There must be some means by which they can be delivered, so kindly explain that.”
Śukadeva Gosvāmī replied:
kṛtasya kuryān mana-ukta-pāṇibhiḥ
dhruvaṁ sa vai pretya narakān upaiti
ye kīrtitā me bhavatas tigma-yātanāḥ
“Yes, I’ve already described the different types of hellish conditions and very severe painful life, but one has to counteract it.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.7]
How can this be done? Sinful activities are committed in various ways. We can commit sinful activity or thus make a plan, thinking, “I shall kill that man.” Either way, it is sinful. When the mind is thinking, feeling, and willing, then there is action.
The other day I was reading in a book that if someone’s dog barks at you when you are passing on the road, then that is an offense on the part of the dog owner, according to law. No one should have to be scared by dogs barking, so one should take care of his dog. I read this. It is a law in your country. The dog is simply barking, but it is sinful. The dog is not responsible, because it is an animal, but because the owner of the animal has made the dog his best friend, he is responsible by law. If an outside dog enters your house, it may not be killed, but the owners of the dog may be prosecuted.
Just as the barking of the dog is unlawful, so when you speak something offensive to others, that is also sinful. That is just like barking. Therefore sinful activities are committed in so many ways. Whether we think of sinful activities, or we speak something sinful, or we actually commit a sinful activity, they are all considered sinful activities. Dhruvaṁ sa vai pretya narakān upaiti. One has to suffer punishment for such sinful activities.
People do not believe in a next life, because they want to avoid this botheration. But we cannot avoid it. We must act according to the law, or we will be punished. Similarly, I cannot avoid God’s law. That is not possible. I can cheat others, commit theft, and hide myself, thereby saving myself from the punishment of the state law, but I cannot save myself from the superior law, the law of nature. It is very difficult. There are so many witnesses. The daylight is witness, the moonlight is witness, and Kṛṣṇa is the supreme witness. You cannot say, “I am committing this sin, but no one can see me.”
Kṛṣṇa is the supreme witness sitting within your heart. He notes down what you are thinking and what you are doing. He also gives facility. If you want to do something to satisfy your senses, Kṛṣṇa gives the facility for that action. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ: “I am sitting in everyone’s heart.” Mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca: “From Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness.”
In this way Kṛṣṇa gives us a chance. If you want Kṛṣṇa, then He will give you a chance to have Him, and if you don’t want Kṛṣṇa, then He will give you a chance to forget Him. If you want to enjoy life forgetting Kṛṣṇa, forgetting God, then Kṛṣṇa will give you all facility so that you can forget, and if you want to enjoy life with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then Kṛṣṇa will give you the chance to make progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is up to you.
If you think that you can be happy without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Kṛṣṇa does not object to that. Yathecchasi tathā kuru. After advising Arjuna, He simply said, “Now I have explained everything to you. Whatever you desire you can do.” Arjuna replied immediately, kariṣye vacanaṁ tava: “Now I shall execute Your order.” That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
God does not interfere with your little independence. If you want to act according to the order of God, then God will help you. Even if you fall down sometimes, if you become sincere – “From this time on I shall remain Kṛṣṇa conscious and execute His orders” – then Kṛṣṇa will help you. In all respects, even if you fall down, He will excuse you and give you more intelligence. This intelligence will say, “Don’t do this. Now go on with your duty.” But if you want to forget Kṛṣṇa, if you want to become happy without Kṛṣṇa, He will give you so many chances that you will forget Kṛṣṇa life after life.
Parīkṣit Mahārāja says here, “It is not that if I say there is no God then there will be no God or I will not be responsible for what I do.” That is the atheistic theory. Atheists do not want God, because they are always sinful – if they thought that there was a God, then they would be forced to shudder at the thought of punishment. Therefore they deny the existence of God. That is their process. They think that if they do not accept God, then there is no punishment and they can do whatever they like.
When rabbits are being attacked by bigger animals, they close their eyes and think, “I am not going to be killed.” But they are killed anyway. Similarly, we may deny the existence of God and the law of God, but still God and His law are there. In the high court you may say, “I don’t care for the law of the government,” but you will be forced to accept the government law. If you deny the state law, then you will be put into prison and be forced to suffer. Similarly, you may foolishly decry the existence of God – “There is no God” or “I am God” – but nevertheless you are responsible for all your actions, both good and bad.
There are two kinds of activities, good and bad. If you act nicely and perform pious activities, then you get good fortune, and if you act sinfully, then you have to suffer. Therefore Śukadeva Gosvāmī says:
yateta mṛtyor avipadyatātmanā
doṣasya dṛṣṭvā guru-lāghavaṁ yathā
bhiṣak cikitseta rujāṁ nidāna-vit
There are different kinds of atonement. If you commit some sin and counteract it by something else, that is atonement. There are examples of this in the Christian Bible. Śukadeva Gosvāmī says, “You should know that you are responsible, and according to the gravity of sinful life, you should accept some type of atonement as described in the śāstras, the scriptures.”
Actually, just as when one is diseased he must go to a doctor and pay doctor bills as a form of atonement, according to the Vedic way of life there is a class of brāhmaṇas to whom one should go for the prescribed atonement according to the sins one commits.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī says that one has to execute the prescribed atonement according to the gravity of one’s sinful life. He continues the example: doṣasya dṛṣṭvā guru-lāghavaṁ yathā bhiṣak cikitseta rujāṁ nidāna-vit. When you consult a physician, he prescribes an inexpensive medicine or a costly medicine, according to the gravity of the disease. If you simply have a headache, he may prescribe an aspirin, but if you have something very severe, he immediately prescribes a surgical operation that will cost a thousand dollars. Similarly, sinful life is a diseased condition, so one must follow the prescribed cure to become healthy.
Acceptance of the chain of birth and death is a diseased condition of the soul. The soul has no birth and death and no disease, because it is spirit. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.20]: na jāyate, the soul has no birth, and mriyate, it has no death. Nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo / na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre. The soul is eternal and everlasting. It is not lost with the dissolution of this body. Na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre. Na hanyate means that it is not killed or destroyed, even after the destruction of this body.
The missing point of modern civilization is that there is no educational system to instruct people on what happens after death. Thus we have the most defective education, because without this knowledge of what happens after death, one dies like an animal. The animal does not know that he is going to have another body; he has no such knowledge.
Human life is not meant for becoming an animal. One should not simply be interested in eating, sleeping, sex life, and defense. You may have a very nice arrangement for eating, or many nice buildings for sleeping, or a very good arrangement for sex life, or a very good defense force to protect you, but that does not mean that you are a human being. That type of civilization is animal life. Animals are also interested in eating, sleeping, and sex life, and according to their own methods they defend also. Where, then, is the distinction between human life and animal life if you simply engage in these four principles of bodily nature?
The distinction is made when a human being is inquisitive – “Why have I been put into this miserable condition? Is there any remedy for it? Is there any perpetual, eternal life? I do not want to die. I want to live very happily and peacefully. Is there a chance of this? What is that method? What is that science?” When these inquiries are there and steps are taken to answer these questions, that is human civilization; otherwise it is doggish civilization, animal civilization.
Animals are satisfied if they can eat, sleep, have some sex, and have some defense. Actually there is no defense, because no one can protect himself from the hands of cruel death. Hiraṇyakaśipu, for instance, wanted to live forever, and so he underwent severe austerities. So-called scientists are now saying that we shall stop death by scientific methods. This is also another crazy utterance. That is not possible. You may make great advancement in scientific knowledge, but there is no scientific solution to these four problems – birth, death, old age, and disease.
One who is intelligent will be eager to solve these four prime problems. No one wants to die. But there is no remedy. I have to die. Everyone is very anxious to stop the increase of population by employing so many contraceptive methods, but still, birth is going on. So there is no stoppage of birth. You may invent up-to-date medicines by your scientific methods, but you cannot stop disease. It is not possible just to take a tablet to put an end to disease.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam: one might think that he has solved all the problems of his life, but where is the solution to these four problems of birth, death, old age, and disease? That solution is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Kṛṣṇa also says in the same book:
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
Every one of us is giving up our body at every moment. The last phase of giving up this body is called death. But Kṛṣṇa says, “If anyone understands My appearance and disappearance and My activities – not superficially, but in truth – after giving up this body he never again accepts a material body.”
What happens to such a person? Mām eti – he returns to Kṛṣṇa. If you are to go to Kṛṣṇa, then you have to prepare your spiritual body. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If you keep yourself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then gradually you prepare your next body, a spiritual body, which will carry you immediately to Kṛṣṇaloka, the abode of Kṛṣṇa, and you will become happy. You will live there perpetually and blissfully.
“They Have Given Everything to Kṛṣṇa – and That Is Never a Mistake”
In his letter to Lynne Ludwig, Śrīla Prabhupāda asks, “Kindly forgive my beloved disciples for any unkindness or indiscretion on their part. After all, to give up one’s life completely for serving the Lord is not an easy thing, and māyā, or the illusory material energy, tries especially hard to again entrap those who have left her service to become devotees.… They have become a little detached from māyā’s love, or lust, and they want Kṛṣṇa’s love, or endless, fully rewarding love, but they have not yet developed to that point, that’s all.”
Please accept this letter with Love … K-Mart; San Fernando. We have talked with two of your boys at different times. Both had a very negative outlook toward the people they meet.
Do not believe this is in any way as it should be.
These boys happen to represent God. This comes from within. Their outlook must have mercy. We realize this; therefore handpick these little pieces of heaven to place in the middle of these people. Or else it will defeat your purpose.
Love Is. Let it be as it is; with Love or not at all.
My prayers be with you … and I beg yours with me.
Yours in God, Blessed Be,
My dear Lynne Ludwig,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter from California, and I have noted the contents carefully, although due to extensively traveling and preaching in a tour in India I have not had the opportunity to reply to you at length until now. Your complaint is that you have met two of my young disciples in California and they appeared to you to have “a very negative outlook toward the people they meet.” Of course, I do not know the case and what the circumstances are, but kindly forgive my beloved disciples for any unkindness or indiscretion on their part. After all, to give up one’s life completely for serving the Lord is not an easy thing, and māyā, or the illusory, material energy, tries especially hard to again entrap those who have left her service to become devotees. Therefore, in order to withstand the attack of māyā and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, young or inexperienced devotees in the neophyte stage of devotional service will sometimes adopt an attitude against those things or persons that may possibly be harmful or threatening to their tender devotional creepers. They may even overindulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some nondevotees, who are perhaps themselves still very much enamored by the material energy of māyā, to be negative or pessimistic.
But the actual fact is that this material world is a miserable, negative place, full of danger at every step; it is duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam, a temporary abode of death, birth, disease, and old age, a home of suffering and pain only. To come to the platform of understanding these things as they are is not very common, and therefore persons who attain to it are described as “great souls.”
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
This means that those who have understood that the material worlds are places of misery and temporality (duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam) never return here again, and because they are mahātmānaḥ, the great souls, Kṛṣṇa keeps them with Him because they have qualified themselves to escape this nasty place by becoming His pure devotees. This verse is spoken by Kṛṣṇa, or God Himself, in the Bhagavad-gītā [8.15]. Who can be a more final authority? The point is that to make advancement in spiritual life, one must view everything material with a pessimistic eye unless it is utilized to serve and please Kṛṣṇa. We are not very much hopeful for any lasting pleasure or satisfaction for our deepest cravings within this realm of gross matter.
You refer to the word “love” several times in your letter, but the actual fact is that there is no love in this material world. That is false propaganda. What they call love here is lust only, or desire for personal sense gratification:
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, His disciple, that “It is lust only… which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” [Bhagavad-gītā 3.37] In the Vedic language there is no word for materialistic “love,” as we call it in the present day. The word kāma describes lust or material desire, not love, but the word that we find in the Vedas for actual love is prema, meaning one’s love of God only. Outside of loving God there is no possibility of loving. Rather, there is lusty desire only. Within this atmosphere of matter, the entire range of human activities – and not only every activity of human beings but all living entities – is based upon, given impetus by, and thus polluted by sex desire, the attraction between male and female. For that sex life, the whole universe is spinning around – and suffering! That is the harsh truth. So-called love here means that “you gratify my senses, I’ll gratify your senses,” and as soon as that gratification stops, immediately there is divorce, separation, quarrel, and hatred. So many things are going on under this false conception of love. Actual love means love of God, Kṛṣṇa.
Everyone wants to repose his loving tendency in some object which is in his opinion worthy. But the question is one of ignorance only, because people have a poor fund of knowledge about where to find that supreme lovable object who is actually worthy to accept and reciprocate their love. People simply do not know. There is no proper information. As soon as you have some attachment for anything material, it will kick you on the face, deteriorate, and disappoint you. It’s bound to dissatisfy and frustrate you. That’s a fact. But these young boys in your country, and all over the world, are accepting, “Yes, that is a fact,” and they are getting the right information from Kṛṣṇa:
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually wise surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” [Bhagavad-gītā 7.19] Again Kṛṣṇa uses that word mahātmā, great soul. Therefore our devotees that you have met are not ordinary boys and girls. No. They are to be considered actually wise, great souls because they have experienced in many births the miserable disease of material life and have become disgusted. Therefore they are seeking higher knowledge – they are seeking something better – and when they find Kṛṣṇa and surrender unto Him, they become mahātmās, who are actually situated in knowledge. This material world is just like a prison house; it is a punishing place meant to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted, surrendering at last to Kṛṣṇa, and going back to our original nature of eternal life in bliss and complete knowledge. Therefore it is to the credit of these devotees that they have done what is su-durlabhaḥ, very rare among all men in human society.
By surrendering to Kṛṣṇa one will find the final object in which to invest his love: God. Love of God is present in everyone, just like fire in an unlit match, but it is covered over. But if one somehow or other develops his dormant love of God, and Kṛṣṇa becomes his supreme adorable object, supreme friend, supreme master, or supreme lover, than he shall never again become disappointed or unhappy. Rather, because his loving propensity is rightfully placed:
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca
The devotee whose life is surrendered to Kṛṣṇa is always enjoying “great satisfaction and bliss,” and he is constantly enlightened, always positive, not negative, as you say [Bhagavad-gītā 10.9]. The advanced devotee is the friend of everyone. The yoga-yukto viśuddhātmā, purified soul engaged in loving devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, is sarva-bhūtātma-bhūtātmā, dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. In another place Kṛṣṇa claims that yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ, His devotee, who is very dear to Him, adveṣṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca, is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities. The devotee is supposed to be, furthermore, equal to everyone (paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ). He never discriminates, saying, “This one is good, this one is bad.” No.
These are descriptions of the more advanced stages of Kṛṣṇa consciousness that devotees get by development of mature knowledge. At present many of our students are young boys. They are learning gradually, and the process is so effective, certain, and authorized that if they stick to it they will come to the right point, as you say, of loving. But that love is not material, so it should not be judged on the false, sentimental platform of ordinary, mundane dealings. That is our point. Therefore to say they are not loving may be true from the materialists’ point of view. They have given up affection for family, friends, wife, country, race, and so on, which is all based upon the bodily concept of life, or flickering sense gratification. They have become a little detached from māyā’s love, or lust, and they want Kṛṣṇa’s love, or endless, fully rewarding love, but they have not yet developed to that point, that’s all. We cannot expect that all of a sudden your countrymen, who are addicted to so many bad habits, will give up eating flesh, taking intoxicants, having illicit sex, and so many other nasty things, and overnight become great, self-realized souls. That is not possible. That is utopian. But just being initiated as Kṛṣṇa’s devotee puts one in the topmost category of human society. Sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt: “He is intelligent in human society. He is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” And although such a devotee may not yet have advanced to the highest level of spiritual understanding, still he is to be considered the most exalted personality, regardless of any temporary frailties.
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
“Even if a devotee commits the most abominable actions, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” [Bhagavad-gītā 9.30] As you will say, “To err is human.” Therefore in the neophyte stage we may always expect some discrepancies. Kindly see the thing in this light and forgive their small mistakes. The big thing is that they have given everything, even their lives, to Kṛṣṇa – and that is never a mistake.
Your ever well-wisher,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
An Awareness of What Is Best and Most Beautiful
In Rome, during May of 1974, Śrīlā Prabhupāda met with Mr. Desmond James Bernard O’Grady, a noted Irish poet: “My request to you is this. You are a poet. Just describe God. You are expert in describing, and therefore I ask you to kindly describe God in your occupation. Then your life will be successful.”
Mr. O’Grady: Your edition of the Bhagavad-gītā is very nice.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: It is the fifth edition in two years.
Mr. O’Grady: In which country has the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement been the most successful?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Everywhere. In Africa, America, Canada, Japan, China. But actually it has been most successful in America. Many Americans have taken to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Mr. O’Grady: What about here in Rome? Have you had problems with the police?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We have problems everywhere. Police sometimes harass us, but usually they become tired and eventually don’t do anything. [Laughter.]
Mr. O’Grady: The system give up? That’s marvelous. I feel very tired of the system myself. Something is wrong with the present state of affairs. Maybe you can give me some advice on how to beat the system.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: You Irish people! You are never tired of fighting.
Mr. O’Grady: No. [Laughter.] It’s inside us.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Actually, the fighting has been going on constantly.
Mr. O’Grady: Well, what do you suggest we do about it? I mean, is it morally correct for me to be sitting here …
Śrīla Prabhupāda: As long as we remain illusioned by the bodily conception of life, thinking we are these bodies, one man thinking “I am Irish,” another thinking “I am Italian,” “… American,” “… Indian,” and so on – as long as this goes on, the fighting will go on. You cannot stop fighting between dogs and cats. Why do they fight? The dog simply thinks, “I am a big dog.” And the cat thinks, “I am a big cat.” In the same way, if we think, “I am an Irishman” or “I am an Englishman,” then we are no better than the cats and dogs. As long as people remain in a bodily conception of life, there will be fighting.
Mr. O’Grady: What was Mahatma Gandhi fighting in the House of Commons?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That was another dog-ism. There is no difference. A dog thinks, “I am a dog,” because he has the body of a dog. If I am thinking that I am Indian because this body was born on Indian soil, then how am I different from the dog? The bodily conception of life is simply animalism. When we understand that we are not these bodies but are spirit souls, there will be peace. There cannot be any peace otherwise. Sa eva go-kharaḥ. The Vedic literatures state that a person in the bodily concept of life is exactly like a cow or an ass. People have to transcend this inferior conception of the self. How is that done?
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
“One who engages in the spiritual activities of unalloyed devotional service at once transcends the modes of material nature and is elevated to the spiritual platform.” [Bhagavad-gītā 14.26]
In our society, there are many Mexicans, Canadians, Indians, Jews, and Muslims, but they no longer consider themselves Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whatever. They are all servants of Kṛṣṇa. That is Brahman realization.
Mr. O’Grady: That’s giving it a name also.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, a name must be there. But although, for example, your name is different from that of another Irishman, you nonetheless all feel that you are Irish. One’s name may be different, but that doesn’t matter. The quality should be one. That is required. When we acquire Kṛṣṇa’s quality, then, despite different names, there will be peace. That is called so ’ham. The names of different people in a nation may be different, but all the people feel the same nationality. Varieties may exist, but if the quality is the same, that is oneness, brahma-bhūta.
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.54]
This world is miserable for the materially infected person, but for the devotee, the entire world is as good as Vaikuṇṭha. For the impersonalist, achieving the Brahman stage, becoming one with the Absolute, is the last word.
Mr. O’Grady: Is the Absolute external or internal?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: There is no external or internal. The Absolute is without duality.
Mr. O’Grady: OK, but on an individual level …
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We are not absolute. When we are situated on the absolute platform, we are absolute. However, now we are in the relative world. The Absolute Truth is here also, but our senses are not sufficiently elevated to understand that Absolute Truth. As long as we are under the control of time, there is no question of becoming absolute.
Mr. O’Grady: So “absolute” means life beyond time?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is stated 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.”
That is absolute – going back home, back to Godhead. As long as one is in the material world and identifies with this body, he transmigrates from one body to another. That is not absolute. This is clearly stated here. When one goes back to the spiritual world, he attains the absolute position.
Mr. O’Grady: All right, but this is my question: Is it sufficient for us to sit here – you sitting there and we as friends sitting with you engaging in the gentle art of conversation, while across the ocean …
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The point you have missed is that although you are sitting in one place and I am sitting in a different place, this difference does not affect our actual existence. We are both human beings. The conceptions of “Irishman,” “ Englishman,” “Protestant,” “Catholic,” and so on are but different dresses. One has to become free from these designations. When one is thus free, he becomes purified.
sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
When you have purified your senses and engaged those purified senses in the service of the master of the senses, Kṛṣṇa, you have perfected your life. That is nonduality, and that is absolute.
Mr. O’Grady: But the system insists that you think yourself American or Indian or African or whatever.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Materialistic society means duality.
Mr. O’Grady: But that is unavoidable. How can you avoid material existence?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is possible in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The lotus lives in the water but never touches the water.
Mr. O’Grady: I don’t think you can explain situations in one area with metaphors from another. How can you argue political problems in terms of vague spiritual concepts? Their nature is completely different.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Sometimes a variety of examples helps us to understand or appreciate the problem better. In the vase there is a variety of flowers, and that variety helps us better appreciate the idea of flowers. From any point of view, Kṛṣṇa can resolve all problems. Why just the problems of Irishmen or Englishmen? All problems. That is called unity in diversity. Our students come from different backgrounds, but because they are all in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they are unified.
Mr. O’Grady: Very good. Yes, I accept that. I would like to know, though, that when you say “Kṛṣṇa consciousness,” is there any difference between that and Christ consciousness?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, there is no difference. Christ came to preach the message of God. If you actually become Christ conscious, you become Kṛṣṇa conscious.
Mr. O’Grady: And does becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious or God conscious mean becoming self-conscious? That is, conscious of who we really are?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, God consciousness includes self-consciousness, but self-consciousness is not necessarily God consciousness.
Mr. O’Grady: But it may be?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No.
Mr. O’Grady: One may achieve consciousness of the God that is within.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That means he is God conscious. You are now in the sunlight, and consciousness of the sun includes your ability to see yourself. In the darkness you cannot see yourself. At night you can’t even see your own hands or legs, but if you come before the sun, you see the sun and yourself also. Without sunlight, without God consciousness, self-consciousness is incomplete. However, God consciousness makes self-consciousness very clear.
Mr. O’Grady: We meet a lot of young people in our teaching profession, and we don’t try to teach them any kind of didactic salvation. We do try to direct them toward an awareness of what is best and what is most beautiful and what is most spiritually nourishing in the world about them – that is, insofar as the system allows us. Very frequently the students are not neutral enough to be in a spiritual condition; they are more in an emotional one. What we are faced with often is the basic question of “Who am I?” or, “What is it all about?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Mr. O’Grady: Or they ask, “Why am I here?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, very good.
Mr. O’Grady: We are asked, “Why should I be here? Who are you, teacher, and what gives you the right to tell us what to think or what to be or what not to be? Why should I read Shakespeare? Why should I listen to Mozart? I prefer Bob Dylan.” These kind of questions seem to emanate from a very disillusioned state of mind, and insecurity, and uncertainty, and a lack of credibility in the total structure of things as they are. Frequently we have to answer these questions in a cataclysmic sort of way. Rather than presenting direct answers, we must answer indirectly, taking account of the conditioning that prompted students to ask these questions in the first place. Do you think that we should try to reach them more directly?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: You are talking about the problem of …
Mr. O’Grady: Modern education.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. So many questions are there, but they are not answered by modern education. “Why have I come here? What is the purpose?” These questions should be answered perfectly. Therefore the Vedas enjoin: tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet. To find answers to all these questions, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master.
Mr. O’Grady: What if you have none? What if we are told that Mr. Nixon is the bona fide spiritual master? What do we do?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, no. [Laughter.] There is a standard for bona fide spiritual masters. You have only heard one line of the verse. Who is the spiritual master? That is the next line: śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham. The word śrotriyam refers to one who has heard from another bona fide source. A spiritual master is he who has taken the message from another qualified spiritual master. This is just like a medical man who has taken the knowledge of medical science from another medical man. Similarly, the bona fide spiritual master must come in a line of successive spiritual masters. The original spiritual master is God.
Mr. O’Grady: Yes. Granted.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: One who has heard from God explains the same message to his disciples. If the disciple doesn’t change the message, he is a bona fide spiritual master. That is our process. We take lessons by hearing from Kṛṣṇa, God, and from Him understand who is perfect. Or we hear from His representative, who does not contradict Kṛṣṇa and who has realized His message. It is not that we speak one thing and do all nonsense. One who does so is not a spiritual master.
Mr. O’Grady: Now there’s my poor old father, living in western Ireland. A simple old man, seventy-eight years now, your generation. He has gotten to the point at his age where he says, “They tell me, the priests, they tell me ultimately that it’s God who knows. But I want to know who told God.” Then he comes to me and says, “You went to school, and you read books. Tell me, who told God?” So I have no answer. That is the difference between seventy-eight and thirty-nine years.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, it is not a difference of age. The difference is knowledge. In the Brahma-sūtra the question is raised: Who is God? First of all there is this question.
Mr. O’Grady: Who taught God?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. First of all there is the question who is God. Then we shall ask who taught God. The Vedānta-sūtra says, athāto brahma-jijñāsā: now we should inquire who is God. Unless you know who God is, how can you raise the question of who instructed God? If you don’t know God, the question does not arise who instructed God. Is this not so?
Mr. O’Grady: Yes.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Who God is, is explained in the Brahma-sūtra. Janmādy asya yataḥ: God is He from whom everything emanates. That is God – the Supreme Being from whom everything emanates. Now, what is the nature of that Supreme Being? Is He a dead stone or a living entity? That is also explained. Janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ sva-rāṭ [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.1]: the Supreme Being is fully cognizant of everything, directly and indirectly. Unless He is fully cognizant of everything, He cannot be God. Then the question that you raised comes, Who taught God? And that is also answered. Sva-rāṭ: He is fully independent. He does not need to take lessons from anyone. That is God. If one needs to take lessons from others, he is not God. Kṛṣṇa spoke the Bhagavad-gītā, and He did not have to learn it from anyone. I had to learn it from my spiritual master, but Kṛṣṇa did not have to learn it from anyone. One who does not need to take lessons from others is God.
Mr. O’Grady: Where does human love come in?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Everything is coming from God. Being part and parcel of God, we manifest partial love because the original love is there in Him. Nothing can exist if it is not in God; therefore love is there in God.
Mr. O’Grady: And manifestations of love are manifestations of God?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Unless the loving propensity is there in God, how can we manifest it? A son born of a particular father has the symptoms of the father. Because the loving propensity is in God, we have that same propensity.
Mr. O’Grady: Maybe love is generated in you by the need.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, there is no question of “maybe.” We are defining God in absolute terms. Janmādy asya yataḥ: God is He from whom everything has emanated. The fighting propensity is also there in God, but His fighting and His loving are absolute. In the material world we experience that fighting is just the opposite of loving, but in God the fighting propensity and the loving propensity are one and the same. That is the meaning of “absolute.” We learn from the Vedic scriptures that when the so-called enemies of God are killed by God, they attain liberation.
Mr. O’Grady: Is it possible to arrive at this understanding of God alone?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. Therefore we have cited this verse: tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet. The word abhigacchet means “must.” It is not possible alone. In Sanskrit grammar this is called the vidhi-liṅ form of a verb, and this form is used when there is no choice. The word abhigacchet means that one must approach a guru. That is the Vedic version. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā you will find that Arjuna was talking to Kṛṣṇa, but when he saw that things were not being resolved, he surrendered himself to Kṛṣṇa and accepted Him as his guru.
pṛcchāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaṁ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” [Bhagavad-gītā 2.7] So here we can see that Arjuna is confused about his duty.
Mr. O’Grady: Is this duty to the self, to others, or to the state?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: A soldier’s duty is to fight with the enemy. Arjuna was a soldier, and Kṛṣṇa advised him, “The opposite party is your enemy, and you are a soldier. Why are you trying to be nonviolent? This is not good.” Then Arjuna said, “Actually, I am confused. In this confusion I cannot make the right decision. I therefore accept You as my spiritual master. Please give me the proper lesson.” In a chaotic condition, in a confused state of life, one should approach another, who is in full knowledge of the matter. You go to a lawyer to solve legal problems, and you go to a physician to solve medical problems. Everyone in the material world is confused about spiritual identity. It is therefore our duty to approach a bona fide spiritual master, who can give us real knowledge.
Mr. O’Grady: I am very confused.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So you must approach a spiritual master.
Mr. O’Grady: And he makes a decision on how to help me stop this confusion?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, the spiritual master is one who solves all confusion. If the spiritual master cannot save his disciple from confusion, he is not a spiritual master. That is the test.
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam
This whole confused world is just like a blazing forest fire. In a forest fire all the animals are confused. They do not know where to go to save their lives. In the blazing fire of the material world, everyone is confused. How can that blazing forest fire be extinguished? It is not possible to utilize your man-made fire brigade, nor is it possible to simply pour buckets of water. The solution comes when rain from the clouds falls on the forest fire. Only then can the fire be extinguished. That ability is not in your hands, but is in the mercy of God. So, human society is in a confused state, and it cannot find a solution. The spiritual master is one who has received the mercy of God, and he can deliver the solution to the confused man. One who has received the mercy of God can become a spiritual master and deliver that mercy to others.
Mr. O’Grady: The problem is to find this spiritual master.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is not the problem. The problem is whether you are sincere. You have problems, but God is within your heart. Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānām. God is not far away. If you are sincere, God sends you a spiritual master. Therefore God is also called caitya-guru, the spiritual master within the heart. God helps from within and from without. Everything is thus described in the Bhagavad-gītā. This material body is like a machine, but within the heart is the soul, and with the soul is the Supersoul, Kṛṣṇa, who gives directions. The Lord says, “You wanted to do this; now here is the chance. Go and do it.” If you are sincere, you say, “Now, God, I want You.” Then He will give you directions. “Yes, now you come and get Me like this.” This is His kindness. However, if we want something else, that is all right. We can have it. God is very kind. When I want something, He is in my heart directing me and telling me how to have it. So why should He not give directions on how to have a spiritual master? First of all we must again be eager to revive our God consciousness. Then God will give us a spiritual master.
Mr. O’Grady: Thank you very much.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Thank you very much. My request to you is this. You are a poet. Just describe God. You are expert in describing, and therefore I ask you to kindly describe God in your occupation. Then your life will be successful. And if one hears you, his life will also be successful. That is the injunction:
sviṣṭasya sūktasya ca buddhi-dattayoḥ
avicyuto ’rthaḥ kavibhir nirūpito
There are many leaders in society who are poets, scientists, religionists, philosophers, politicians, and so on. Those who are so expert are given this injunction: Your duty is to perfect your occupation by describing the glories of the Supreme Being.
Mr. O’Grady: My experience is that, for some extraordinary reason, one is chosen to do a particular thing.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That reason is given here. Avicyutaḥ. The infallible choice is this: “Let them describe the glories of the Lord.”
Mr. O’Grady: But you were saying that the spiritual master is chosen. The spiritual master, the poet, the priest, is chosen by God. This person is chosen to write poems or paint pictures or make music.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So when you compose music, compose music about God. That is your perfection.
Mr. O’Grady: When one works for God in his line, then his line becomes his perfection?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Mr. O’Grady: Thank you very much.