Reaching Life’s Perfection
“The Human Form of Life is Meant for God Realization”
Śrīla Prabhupāda gives an address at London’s Conway Hall, in 1969: “If one thinks like that – ‘I am no one else’s servant; my business is to serve God’ – then he is liberated. His heart is immediately cleansed, and he is liberated. And after one has reached that, then all one’s cares and anxieties in this world are over, because one knows, ‘I am a servant of God. God will give me protection. Why should I worry about anything?’”
Today’s subject is our relationship with God. That is self-realization. The saṅkīrtana movement is the easiest process for self-realization because it cleanses the heart. Our misunderstanding of our identity is due to the dust covering the mirror of the mind. In a mirror that is covered with dust one cannot see himself. But if it is very clear, then one can see himself. So meditation is a process for cleansing the heart. Meditation means to try to understand one’s relationship with the Supreme.
With everything with which we come in contact there is a relationship. Because I am now sitting on this cushion, the relationship is that I shall sit and the cushion will hold me. You have relationships. You are Englishmen or Indians, so there is a relationship with your society, with your family, with your friends. So what is our relationship with God?
If you ask everyone, very few people will be able to explain their relationship with God. They say, “What is God? God is dead. I don’t believe in God, what to speak of a relationship.” Because these dirty things are covering their hearts, they cannot see. We have a relationship with everything – why do we not try to understand our relationship with God? Is that very intelligent? No. That is ignorance. All the creatures in this material world are covered by the three modes of material nature. Therefore they cannot see God. They cannot understand God, nor do they try to understand Him. But God is there. In England in the morning there is mist, so you cannot see the sun behind the fog. But does this mean that there is no sun? You cannot see it because your eyes are covered. But if you send a telegram to another part of the world, they will say, “Yes, the sun is here. We can see it. It is very dazzling, full of light.” So when you deny the existence of God or you cannot ascertain your relationship with God, that means that you are lacking in knowledge. It is not that there is no God. We are lacking. The sun is not covered. The sun cannot be covered. The fog or the cloud or the mist does not have the power to cover the sun. How big the sun is! It is so many times bigger than this earth. And the clouds can cover at most ten or twenty or a hundred miles. So how can the clouds cover the sun? No. The clouds cannot cover the sun. They cover your eyes. When an enemy comes and a rabbit cannot defend himself, the rabbit closes his eyes and thinks, “My enemy is now gone.” Similarly, we are covered by the external energy of God and are thinking, “God is dead.”
The Lord has three kinds of energies. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa there are descriptions of the energy of the Supreme Lord. And in the Vedas also, in the Upaniṣads, there are descriptions of the energies of the Supreme Lord. Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate [Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8]. Śakti means “energy.” The Lord has multienergies. The Vedas say, “God has nothing to do.” We have to work because we have no other means to exist – we have to eat, we wish to enjoy this, that – but why should God work? God does not have to work. Then how can we say that God created this universe? Is that not work? No. Then how did it happen? His multifarious energies are so strong that they are acting naturally and are full of knowledge. We can see how a flower blooms and grows and systematically displays multicolors: one side a little spot, another side a little spot, white on one side, more white on the other side. The butterfly also exhibits such artistic symmetry. So this is all being painted, but in such a perfect way and so swiftly that we cannot see how. We cannot understand how it is being done, but it is being done by the energy of the Lord.
It is due to a lack of knowledge that people say that God is dead, that there is no God, and that we have no relationship with God. These thoughts have been compared to the thoughts of a man haunted by a ghost. Just as a haunted man speaks all nonsense, when we become covered by the illusory energy of God we say that God is dead. But this is not a fact. Therefore, we need this chanting process to cleanse our heart. Take to this simple process of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. In that way, in your family life, in your club, in your home, on the road – everywhere – chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, and this darkness covering your heart, covering your real position, will be removed. Then you’ll understand your real constitutional position.
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommended: ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam. Mārjanam means “cleansing”; darpaṇam means “mirror.” The heart is a mirror. It is like a camera. Just as a camera takes all kinds of pictures of days and nights, so also our heart takes pictures and keeps them in an unconscious state. Psychologists know this. The heart takes so many pictures, and therefore it becomes covered. We do not know when it has begun, but it is a fact that because there is material contact, our real identity is covered. Therefore ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: one has to cleanse his heart. There are different processes to cleanse the heart – the jñāna process, the yoga process, the meditation process, pious activities. Karma also cleanses the heart. If one acts very piously, his heart will gradually be cleansed. But although these processes are recommended for cleansing the heart, in this age they are all difficult. To follow the path of philosophical knowledge one must become a very learned scholar, one must read so many books, one must go to learned professors and scholars and speculate. One must search out a person who has seen the light. So these are all philosophical processes. Meditation is also a recommended process. One should question, “What am I?” Just consider: Am I this body? No. Am I this finger? No, this is my finger. If you contemplate your leg, you will see, “Oh, this is my leg.” Similarly, you will find everything to be “mine.” And where is that “I”? Everything is mine, but where is that “I”? When one is searching for that “I,” that is meditation. Real meditation means concentrating all the senses in that way. But that meditation process is very difficult. One must control the senses. The senses are dragging one outward, and one has to bring them inward for introspection. Therefore there are eight processes in the yoga system. The first is controlling the senses by regulative principles. Then sitting postures – that will help to concentrate the mind. If one sits leaning over, that will not help; if one sits up straight, that will help. Then controlling the breathing, then meditation, then samādhi. But today these are very, very difficult processes. No one can immediately perform them. The so-called yoga processes are fragmental – only the sitting postures and a few breathing exercises are practiced. But that cannot bring one to the perfectional stage. The actual yoga process, although a recommended Vedic process, is very difficult in this age. Similarly one can try to get knowledge by the speculative philosophical process: “This is Brahman, this is not Brahman, so what is Brahman? What is spirit soul?” Such empiric philosophical discussion is also recommended, but it is useless in this age.
Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu – not only Caitanya Mahāprabhu but also the Vedic literature – says:
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Kalau means “in this age.” Nāsty eva, nāsty eva, nāsty eva – three times nāsty eva. Eva means “certainly,” and nāsti means “not.” “Certainly not, certainly not, certainly not.” What is that “certainly not”? One cannot realize oneself by karma. That is the first “certainly not.” One cannot realize oneself by jñāna. That is the second “certainly not.” One cannot realize oneself by yoga. Certainly not. Kalau. Kalau means “in this age.” Kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā. In this age one certainly cannot achieve success by any of these three methods. Then what is the recommended process? Harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam. Simply chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Kevalam means “only.” Simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is the easiest and most sublime process. This is recommended, practical, and authorized. So take it. Accept it in any condition of life. Chant. There is no expenditure, there is no loss. We are not chanting a secret. No. It is open. And by chanting you will cleanse your heart.
In this material world no one wants misery, but it comes. Unexpectedly, like a forest fire that starts without anyone’s striking a match, it comes. No one wants a war, but war is fought. No one wants famine, but famine comes. No one wants pestilence, but it comes. No one wants fighting, but there is fighting. No one wants misunderstanding, but there it is. Why? This is like a blazing fire in the forest. And it cannot be extinguished by fire engines. This blazing fire of problems cannot be extinguished by our so-called advancement of knowledge. No. That is not possible. Just as one cannot extinguish a forest fire by sending a fire engine or by bringing some water, the problems of our life cannot be solved by material processes.
There are many examples. Prahlāda Mahārāja says, “My dear Lord, the father and mother are not actually the protectors of the children.” The father and mother take care of their children; that is their duty. But they are not the ultimate protectors. When nature’s law calls the child, the father and mother cannot protect him. Therefore although generally it is considered a fact that the father and mother are the protectors of the child, actually it is not a fact. If someone is sailing the ocean and he thinks he has a very nice boat, will that protect him? No. Still he may drown. A nice airplane is flying in the sky, everyone is safe, but all of a sudden it crashes. Nothing material can protect us. Suppose someone is diseased. He may engage a good physician who gives good medicine, but that will not guarantee that he will live. Then what is the ultimate guarantee? Prahlāda Mahārāja says, “My dear Lord, if You neglect someone, nothing can protect him.”
This is our practical experience. We can invent so many methods to solve the problems presented by the laws of material nature, but they are not sufficient. They will never solve all the problems, nor will they give actual relief. This is the fact. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “Māyā, this external energy, is very, very strong. No one can surpass it. It is almost impossible.” Then how can one get free from this material nature? Kṛṣṇa says, “Simply by surrendering unto Me one can get relief from the onslaught of material nature.” That is a fact. So we have to cleanse the heart to learn what is our relationship with God.
In the Kaṭha Upaniṣad it is stated, nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām. The Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead, or the Absolute Truth, is eternal. God is eternal, and we are also eternal. But the Vedas indicate that He is the supreme living creature. He is not dead. If He is not living, how is this world working? In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, “Under My supervision things are going on.” In the Bible also it is said, “God created.” That is a fact. Not that at one time there was a chunk and then this happened and then that. No. The Vedas tell us the actual facts, but we have to open our eyes to see. Ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam. That is the process of cleansing our hearts. When we cleanse our hearts, then we will be able to understand what Kṛṣṇa and the Vedas say. We need to be purified. If a man is suffering from jaundice and you give him a piece of sugar candy, he will say that it is very bitter. But is sugar candy bitter? No, it is very sweet. And the medicine for jaundice is that sugar. Modern science prescribes this, and it is prescribed in the Vedic literature also. So if we take a great quantity of this sugar candy, then we will be relieved from jaundice. And when there is relief, then one says, “Oh, this is very sweet.” So the modern jaundice of a godless civilization can be cured by this chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the beginning it may appear bitter, but when one advances, then he will see how pleasing it is.
As soon as one understands his identity, his relationship with God, then immediately he becomes happy. We are so full of miseries because we have identified ourselves with the material world. Therefore we are unhappy. Anxieties and fearfulness are due to our misidentifying with the material world. The other day I was explaining that one who identifies with this bag of bones and skin is like an animal. So by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa this misunderstanding will be cleansed. Cleansing of the heart means that one will understand that he does not belong to this material world. Ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am spirit soul. As long as one identifies oneself with England, with India, or with America, this is ignorance. Today you are an Englishman because you were born in England, but in your next life you may not take your birth in England; it may be in China or Russia or some other country. Or you may not get this human form of body. Today you are a nationalist, you are a very great follower of your country, but tomorrow if you stay in your country you may be a cow being taken to the slaughterhouse.
So we have to thoroughly know our identity. Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that the actual identity of every living creature is that he is the eternal servant of God. If one thinks like that – “I am no one else’s servant; my business is to serve God” – then he is liberated. His heart is immediately cleansed, and he is liberated. And after one has reached that, then all one’s cares and anxieties in this world are over because one knows, “I am a servant of God. God will give me protection. Why should I worry about anything?” It is just like a child. A child knows that his mother and father will take care of him. He is free. If he should go to touch fire, his mother will take care of him: “Oh, my dear child, don’t touch.” The mother is always looking after him. So why don’t you put your trust in God? Actually, you are under the protection of God.
People go to church and say, “God, give us our daily bread.” Actually, if He did not give it to us, we would not be able to live. That is a fact. The Vedas also say that the one Supreme Personality supplies all the necessities of every other living creature. God is supplying food for everyone. We human beings have our economic problem, but what economic problem is there in societies other than human society? The bird society has no economic problem. The beasts have no economic problem. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and out of that, human society is very, very small. So they have created problems – what to eat, where to sleep, how to mate, how to defend. These are problems for us, but the majority of creatures – the aquatics, the fish, the plants, the insects, the birds, the beasts, and the many millions upon millions of other living creatures – do not have such problems. They are also living creatures. Don’t think that they are different from us. It is not true that we human beings are the only living creatures and that all others are dead. No. And who is providing their food and shelter? It is God. The plants and animals are not going to the office. They are not going to the university to get technological education to earn money. So how are they eating? God is supplying. The elephant eats hundreds of pounds of food. Who is supplying? Are you making arrangements for the elephant? There are millions of elephants. Who is supplying?
So the process of acknowledging that God is supplying is better than thinking, “God is dead. Why should we go to church and pray to God for bread?” In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, “Four kinds of people come to Kṛṣṇa: the distressed, those who are in need of money, the wise, and the inquisitive.” One who is inquisitive, one who is wise, one who is distressed, and one who is in need of money – these four classes of men approach God. “My dear God, I am very hungry. Give me my daily bread.” That’s nice. Those who approach God in this way are recommended as sukṛtinaḥ. Sukṛti means “pious.” They are pious. Although they are asking for money, for food, they are considered pious because they are approaching God. And others are just the opposite. They are duṣkṛtinaḥ, impious. Kṛti means “very meritorious,” but the word duṣkṛti indicates that their energy is being misused to create havoc. Just like the man who invented atomic weapons. He has a brain, but it has been misused. He has created something that is dreadful. Create something that will insure that man will no longer have to die. What is the use of creating something so that millions of people will immediately die? They will die today or tomorrow or after a hundred years. So what have the scientists done? Create something so that man will not die immediately, so that there will be no more disease, so that there will be no more old age. Then you will have done something. But the duṣkṛtinas never go to God. They never try to understand God. Therefore their energy is misdirected.
The gross materialists who ignore their relationship with God are described in the Bhagavad-gītā as mūḍhas. Mūḍha means “ass,” “donkey.” Those who are working very, very hard to earn money are compared to the donkey. They will eat the same four capātīs [whole-wheat bread-patties] daily, but they are unnecessarily working to earn thousands of dollars. And others are described as narādhama. Narādhama means “the lowest of mankind.” The human form of life is meant for God realization. It is the right of man to try to realize God. One who understands Brahman, God, is a brāhmaṇa, not others. So that is the duty of this human form of life. In every human society there is some system that is called “religion” and by which one may try to understand God. It doesn’t matter whether it is the Christian religion, the Muhammadan religion, or the Hindu religion. It doesn’t matter. The system is to understand God and our relationship with Him. That’s all. This is the duty of the human beings, and if this duty is ignored in human society, then it is animal society. Animals have no power to understand what is God and their relationship with God. Their only interests are eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. If we are only concerned with these things, then what are we? We are animals. Therefore the Bhagavad-gītā says that those who ignore this opportunity are the “lowest of mankind.” They got this human form of life after evolving through 8,400,000 births and yet did not utilize it for God realization but simply for the animal propensities. Therefore they are narādhama, the lowest of mankind. And there are other persons who are very proud of their knowledge. But what is that knowledge? “There is no God. I am God.” Their actual knowledge has been taken away by māyā. If they are God, then how have they become dog? There are so many arguments against them, but they simply defy God. Atheism. Because they have taken to the process of atheism, their actual knowledge is stolen away. Actual knowledge means to know what is God and our relationship with God. If one does not know this, then it is to be understood that his knowledge has been taken away by māyā.
So in this way, if we try to understand our relationship with God, there are ways and means. There are books, and there is knowledge, so why not take advantage of them? Everyone should take advantage of this knowledge. Try to understand that in the Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures, everywhere, it is said that God is great and that although we are qualitatively one with God, we are minute. The ocean and the minute particle of water have the same quality, but the quantity of salt in the drop of water and the quantity of salt in the ocean are different. They are qualitatively one but quantitatively different. Similarly, God is all-powerful, and we have some power. God creates everything, and we can create a small machine to fly, just like the small machines with which children play. But God can create millions of planets flying in the air. That is the qualification of God. You cannot create any planets. Even if you can create a planet, what is the benefit of that? There are millions of planets created by God. But you also have the creative power. God has power, and you have power. But His is so great that yours cannot compare to it. If you say, “I am God,” that is foolishness. You can claim that you are God, but what acts have you performed so extraordinary that you can claim that you are God? This is ignorance. The knowledge of one who thinks himself God has been taken away by the spell of māyā. So our relationship is that God is great and we are minute. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa clearly says, “All living entities are My parts and parcels. Qualitatively they are one with Me, but quantitatively they are different.” So we are simultaneously one with and different from God. That is our relationship. We are one because we have the same qualities as God. But if we study ourselves minutely, we will find that although we have some great qualities, God has them all in greater quantities.
We cannot have anything that is not in God. That is not possible. Therefore in the Vedānta-sūtra it is said that everything that we have is also found in God. It is emanating from God. So our relationship is that because we are small, because we are minute, we are the eternal servitors of God. In this material world also, in ordinary behavior, we see that a man goes to serve another man because the other man is greater than him and can pay him a nice salary. So naturally the conclusion is that if we are small, our duty is to serve God. We have no other business. We are all different parts and parcels of the original entity.
A screw that is connected with a machine is valuable because it is working with the whole machine. And if the screw is taken away from the machine, or if it is faulty, it is worthless. My finger is worth millions of dollars as long as it is attached to this body and is serving the body. And if it is cut off from this body, then what is it worth? Nothing. Similarly, our relationship is that we are very small particles of God; therefore our duty is to dovetail our energies with Him and cooperate with Him. That is our relationship. Otherwise we are worthless. We are cut off. When the finger becomes useless the doctor says, “Oh, amputate this finger. Otherwise the body will be poisoned.” Similarly, when we become godless we are cut off from our relationship with God and suffer in this material world. If we try to join again with the Supreme Lord, then our relationship is revived.
The Highest Love
“Spiritual life means to be in association with the Supreme Lord and to exist in bliss and knowledge eternally. Such eternal association means to play with Kṛṣṇa, to dance with and love Kṛṣṇa. Or Kṛṣṇa can become your child – whatever you like.… Unless one can love Kṛṣṇa, unless one finishes with love for cats, dogs, country, nation, and society and instead concentrates his love on Kṛṣṇa, there is no question of happiness.”
If one protects the tender creeper of devotional service nicely, then gradually it will produce the fruit of unalloyed love for God. Unalloyed love for God means love that is not tinged by desire for material benefit, for mere philosophical understanding, nor for fruitive results. Unalloyed love is to know, “God is great, I am His part and parcel, and therefore He is my supreme lovable object.” This consciousness is the highest perfection of human life and the ultimate aim of all methods of self-realization. If one reaches this point – God is my only beloved, Kṛṣṇa is the only lovable object – then one’s life is perfect. And when one tastes that transcendental relationship with Kṛṣṇa, then one feels real happiness. The devotional creeper will then be so strongly protected that just by catching hold of it, one will be able to reach the supreme destination. If one climbs steadily up a tree, one eventually comes to the very top. Similarly, if one can achieve love of Godhead by catching that devotional creeper, there is no doubt that one will reach the transcendental abode of Kṛṣṇa and will associate with Him personally, just as we are associating here, face to face.
God is not fictional or imaginary. He is as real as we are. (Actually, we are under illusion; we are living as if this body were our factual self, although this body is not at all reality, but only a temporary manifestation.) We dare to presume that there is no God or that He has no form. This mental speculation is due to a poor fund of knowledge. Lord Kṛṣṇa and His abode exist, and one can go there, reach Him, and associate with Him. That is a fact. Spiritual life means to be in association with the Supreme Lord and to exist in bliss and knowledge eternally. Such eternal association means to play with Kṛṣṇa, to dance with and love Kṛṣṇa. Or Kṛṣṇa can become your child – whatever you like.
There are five primary relationships with Kṛṣṇa: as a passive devotee, as a servant, as a friend, as a parent, and as a lover. The cows in Kṛṣṇa’s abode are also liberated souls. They are called surabhi cows. There are many popular pictures showing how Kṛṣṇa loves the cows, how He embraces and kisses them. That passive relationship with Kṛṣṇa is called śānta. Their perfect happiness is achieved when Kṛṣṇa comes and simply touches them.
Other devotees are inclined to actually give service. They think, “Kṛṣṇa wants to sit down. I will arrange a place for Him. Kṛṣṇa wants to eat. I will get Him some nice food.” And they actually make these arrangements. Other devotees play with Kṛṣṇa as friends on equal terms. They do not know that Kṛṣṇa is God; to them, Kṛṣṇa is their lovable friend, and they cannot forget Him for a moment. All day and all night they think of Kṛṣṇa. At night when they are sleeping they think, “Oh, in the morning I shall go and play with Kṛṣṇa.” And in the morning they go to Kṛṣṇa’s house and stand by while Kṛṣṇa is decorated by His mother before going out to play with His friends in the fields. There is no other activity in Kṛṣṇaloka [Kṛṣṇa’s abode]. There is no industry, no rushing to the office, or any such nonsense. There is sufficient milk and butter, and everyone eats plentifully. Kṛṣṇa is very fond of His friends, and sometimes He enjoys stealing butter for them. One can actually live this way, and that is the perfection of existence. We should hanker for that perfectional stage of life. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the process to attain it.
But as long as one has even a slight attachment for this material world, one has to remain here. Kṛṣṇa is very strict. He does not allow anyone to enter into His association who has any tinge of the material conception of life. Bhakti must be free from material contamination. Do not think, “I am a very learned scholar. I shall find out what is the Absolute Truth by mental speculation.” That is nonsense; one can go on and on speculating and will never find the source of all sources. It is said in the Brahma-saṁhitā, “One can go on speculating about the Absolute Truth for millions and millions of years, and still it will not be revealed.” One can rot in this material world as he is and can go on speculating, but that is not the right process. Here is the process – bhakti-yoga.
Lord Caitanya says that to render devotional service to Kṛṣṇa is the highest perfectional stage of life, and compared to this, other things for which people are hankering in this material world are like bubbles in the ocean. Generally, people are after rewards, and therefore they become religious. They say, “I am a Hindu,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a Jew,” “I am Muhammadan,” “I am this,” “I am that,” and therefore I cannot change my religion. I cannot accept Kṛṣṇa.” This is called religiosity, dharma. With such a materialistic, sectarian idea of religion, they will rot in this material world, stuck to rituals and faith. They are under the impression that if they follow their religious principles, they will get material prosperity. Of course, if one sticks to any kind of religious faith, he will get facilities for material life.
Why do people want this material prosperity? For sense gratification. They are thinking, “I shall have a very nice wife. I shall have very good children. I shall have a very good post. I shall become president. I shall become prime minister.” This is sense gratification. And when one is frustrated and has seen that to be rich or to attain the presidency cannot give him happiness, after squeezing out all the taste of sex life, when he is completely frustrated, then perhaps he takes to LSD and tries to become one with the void. But this nonsense cannot give happiness. Here is happiness: one must approach Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, it will end in LSD confusion and roaming in impersonal void concepts. People are frustrated. They must be frustrated if they do not have genuine spiritual life, because a person is spiritual by nature.
How can anyone be happy without Kṛṣṇa? Suppose one is thrown into the ocean. How can he be happy there? That is not for us. One may be a very good swimmer, but how long will he be able to swim? He eventually becomes tired and drowns. Similarly, we are spiritual by nature. How can we be happy in this material world? It is not possible. But men are trying to remain here, making so many temporary adjustments for survival. This patchwork is not happiness. If one really wants happiness, here is the process: one must attain love of Godhead. Unless one can love Kṛṣṇa, unless one finishes with love for cats, dogs, country, nation, and society and instead concentrates his love on Kṛṣṇa, there is no question of happiness. Rūpa Gosvāmī has given a very nice example in this regard: there are many drugs that saturate one with ideas or hallucinations. But Rūpa Gosvāmī says that unless one tastes that final drug of love of Godhead, kṛṣṇa-prema, he will have to be captivated by meditation, impersonal monism, and so many other distractions.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu describes that to attain unalloyed love of Kṛṣṇa one has to execute devotional service, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One has to engage oneself exclusively in serving Kṛṣṇa. The highest perfectional stage of unalloyed devotion is to be free from all material desires, all mental speculation, and all fruitive activities. The basic principle of unalloyed devotion is that one cannot maintain any desire other than to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious. Even if one knows that all other forms of God are also Kṛṣṇa, one should not worship any other form, but should concentrate on the Kṛṣṇa form. Kṛṣṇa has many forms, but one only has to worship Kṛṣṇa in His form with the flute, as in the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deity. Simply concentrate on that form, and all mental speculation and fruitive activities will fall away. One has to cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness favorably, and that means to execute service by which Kṛṣṇa becomes satisfied. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not attained by manufacturing one’s own way. I may think that I am doing something in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but who has sanctioned it? For instance, in the Bhagavad-gītā, Arjuna hesitated to fight, for certain moral reasons, but he was viewing the situation from the platform of fruitive activities, on which one has to enjoy or suffer the results. He was considering that if he killed his family members, he would then be subjected to many reactions. This conclusion, however, was not sanctioned by Kṛṣṇa. The law of action and reaction in the material world is called karma, but devotional service transcends karma.
Unalloyed love must be free of all tinges of fruitive activities (karma) and all tinges of mental speculation and material desire. That unalloyed devotional service should be favorably fixed on Kṛṣṇa. “Favorably” means in accordance with what He desires. Kṛṣṇa desired that the Battle of Kurukṣetra take place; it was all arranged by Him. Arjuna was told, “You are thinking in your own way, but even if you do not fight, rest assured that because it has been arranged by Me, none of these warriors who are assembled here are going back to their homes. They will be killed here. It has already been arranged.” God’s desire is such that one cannot change it. Kṛṣṇa has two qualities: He can protect and He can also kill. If He wants to kill someone, there is no power in the world that can protect him, and if He protects someone, there is no power in the world that can kill him. Kṛṣṇa’s desire is supreme. Therefore, we have to dovetail our desires with Kṛṣṇa’s. Whatever Kṛṣṇa desires, no one can make null and void, because He is the Supreme Lord. Therefore, our duty is to dovetail our acts with Kṛṣṇa’s desire, not to manufacture an action and then declare: “I am doing this action in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” We have to be very careful to ascertain whether Kṛṣṇa actually wants it. Such authorized knowledge is instructed by the representative of Kṛṣṇa. In our prayers of praise to the spiritual master we are singing daily, “If the spiritual master is satisfied, then God will be satisfied. And if one dissatisfies his spiritual master, then there is no way for him to please God.”
Therefore, as far as possible, one has to execute the order of one’s spiritual master. That will enable one to progress. That is the essence of the favorable execution of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In my old age, I have come to America, and I am trying to teach Kṛṣṇa consciousness, because my spiritual master gave me an order that I must do it. It is my duty. I do not know whether I shall be a success or failure. It doesn’t matter; my duty is completed if I can present before you whatever I have heard from my spiritual master. This is called the favorable execution of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Those who are actually serious should take the order of Kṛṣṇa through the representative of Kṛṣṇa as their entire life and soul. One who sticks to this principle is sure to progress. Caitanya Mahāprabhu spoke in that way, and my spiritual master used to say, “The spiritual master is the transparent medium.” For example, I can see the letters of this book very nicely through these transparent eyeglasses, without which I cannot see because my eyes are defective. Similarly, our senses are all defective. We cannot see God with these eyes, we cannot hear Hare Kṛṣṇa with these ears, we cannot do anything without the medium of the spiritual master. Just as a defective eye cannot see without the medium of spectacles, so one cannot approach the Supreme Lord without the transparent medium of the spiritual master. “Transparent” means that the medium must be free of contamination. If it is transparent, one can see through it.
In unalloyed love of Godhead we have to engage our senses – sarvendriya, all the senses. This means that sex is also to be engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The conception of God as a father or mother does not allow the engagement of one’s sex in the service of the Lord because there is no sexual relationship with the father and mother. But in the conception of God as a lover, there is sexual engagement also. Therefore, Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave the most perfect information of our engagement with the Supreme Lord. In other religious conceptions of life, God is at the utmost taken as the father or mother. Many worshipers in India take the goddess Kālī to be the representation of God. Of course, that is not sanctioned, but the belief is there, and also in the Christian religion the conception of God is as a father. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu informs us that one can even have sexual engagement with the Lord. This information is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s unique contribution. In this material world, sexual engagement is considered to be the highest engagement, the greatest pleasure, although it exists only in a perverted form. No one, however, has conceived that there can be sexual engagement in the spiritual world. There is not a single instance of such theology anywhere in the entire world. This information is given for the first time by Caitanya Mahāprabhu: one can have the Supreme Personality of Godhead as one’s husband, as one’s lover. This is possible in the worship of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, but no one, especially the impersonalists, can understand Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The impersonalists have no idea; they cannot even conceive that God has form. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that not only does God have form, but He has sex life also. This is the highest contribution of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
One can serve the Supreme Lord in various relationships, but in the material world those relationships exist only as perverted reflections. What is our engagement in relationship to this material world? What are our ideas of society, friendship, and love? They are all based on the material conception of life. In our society, someone is engaged as a father or mother to a son, and others are engaged as husband and wife, lover and beloved. There are other rasas (relationships) also, such as to be engaged with another as an enemy. There are twelve different relationships, out of which five are predominant. The other seven are indirect relationships, such as, for example, to be someone’s enemy. There is usually a relationship between enemies, even between a murderer and the one he murders. As far as our relationship with Kṛṣṇa is concerned, however, even if one establishes a relationship as His enemy, then his life is successful. Therefore, when one engages his senses with Kṛṣṇa, a relationship can be established in one of twelve different varieties, of which five varieties are direct and seven are indirect.
When Kṛṣṇa appeared in the arena of Kaṁsa, there were many big wrestlers prepared to kill Him. In fact, He was invited there to be killed. His enemy Kaṁsa thought, “Soon the boys will come. We have tried for sixteen years to kill Them, but that boy Kṛṣṇa could not be killed. But now I have invited Him as a guest, and when He arrives He will fight with these wrestlers, and they will kill Him.” The demoniac or atheistic people are always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, or God, in terms of killing Him. Therefore they present their theories that God is dead. They think that if God becomes dead, then they will be free to act however they please. But as far as their actual activities are concerned, God may be dead or alive, but God’s agent, the material energy, is so strong that no one can freely do any wrong. As soon as anyone does something wrong, there is immediate punishment. It does not require the presence of God. God may be dead or alive, but the material energy is sufficient to punish anyone who violates the material laws, even to the slightest degree. God has set these conditions, but foolish people do not understand.
Lord Caitanya, however, speaks of favorably engaging all the senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa in pure devotional life. One should favorably engage one’s senses and should do whatever Kṛṣṇa wants. Yet even if one engages one’s senses against the will of Kṛṣṇa but still thinks of Kṛṣṇa, that is also advantageous. The demon Pūtanā, for example, thought of killing Kṛṣṇa. Just as the occupation of godly persons is to serve God, so the demons and atheists are always prepared to kill God. Pūtanā thought, “I shall kill Kṛṣṇa. He is only a child.” This is another mistake of the demoniac. They think Kṛṣṇa, or God, to be an ordinary child or man. So in this way Pūtanā was thinking: “Let me smear my breast with poison, and when the child goes to suck my milk, He will die.” As we study this, we see that she approached Kṛṣṇa as His enemy, and yet He accepted her as a friend because He is so merciful. He did not take the demoniac portion of her mentality, but He accepted her. Every living entity is conditioned, but Kṛṣṇa is not. A doctor or psychiatrist treats madmen, but he does not become mad. Sometimes a patient may become angry with him or call him ill names, but the doctor is sober and simply treats him. Similarly, if someone regards Kṛṣṇa as his enemy, Kṛṣṇa does not become his enemy.
Pūtanā came to poison Kṛṣṇa, but He took it otherwise. He thought, “I have sucked her breast milk. Therefore she has become My mother.” Kṛṣṇa treated her as His mother, and therefore she became liberated to the same position as Kṛṣṇa’s real mother, Yaśodā. The conclusion is that the highest perfection is to establish a favorable relationship with Kṛṣṇa, but even if one engages himself unfavorably, Kṛṣṇa is so merciful that He at least gives one salvation. All the enemies killed by Kṛṣṇa were immediately liberated.
Two classes of men may merge into the impersonal brahma-jyotir: those who are intentionally aspiring to merge into the impersonal brahma-jyotir may enter, and those who are enemies of Kṛṣṇa and are killed by Him may also do so. Therefore, the devotee concludes, Why should I accept a condition that is offered even to God’s enemies?
Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommends pure devotional service. There should be no desire to fulfill one’s own material desires, there should be no attempt to understand Kṛṣṇa by experimental philosophy, and there should be no fruitive activities to derive material benefits from Kṛṣṇa. The only desire should be to serve Him favorably, as He desires. If Kṛṣṇa wants something, then we should do it. Suppose I were to ask a disciple, “My dear student, please give me a glass of water.” It is then his duty to give me a glass of water. If he thinks, “Prabhupāda wants a glass of water, but why not give him something better? Why not a glass of hot milk?” that is not service. In his consideration, hot milk is very palatable and is better than water, yet because I have asked for water, he has to give me water, not milk. That is favorable service. One has to understand what Kṛṣṇa wants. When there is that intimate relationship, then one can serve Kṛṣṇa most favorably. And as long as there is not that intimate relationship, one must take information of what Kṛṣṇa wants through the transparent medium of the spiritual master.
A Vaiṣṇava never thinks that he has a direct relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya says, “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant – a hundred times the servant of the servant – of Kṛṣṇa.” We have to agree to become the servant of the servant of the servant. This is the process of disciplic succession, and if one wants real, transcendental love of God, then he has to adopt this process. Because people do not accept this process, they do not develop real love of God. They speak of God, but actually they do not love God; because there is no cultivation of pure devotional service, they love dog.
We may say, “love of God,” but unless we adopt this principle, then we will have to love dog, not God. That is the mistake. Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that if one really wants love of God, then one has to follow the process of pure devotional service. It is not that Caitanya Mahāprabhu is speaking out of His own mental concoction; His statements are confirmed in Vedic scriptures such as the Nārada Pañcarātra and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. These two books, and the Bhagavad-gītā, are very authentic scriptures meant for devotees. Caitanya Mahāprabhu quotes from a verse in the Nārada Pañcarātra: hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate. This is the definition of pure devotional service. Hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanam. Hṛṣīkeṇa means “by one’s senses.” We have to engage our senses; it is not that we engage only our minds. If someone says, “I am always thinking of Kṛṣṇa,” that is not pure devotional service. Meditation is thinking, but no one thinks of Kṛṣṇa; they think of void or something impersonal. If someone is thinking of Kṛṣṇa or Nārāyaṇa or Viṣṇu, as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures, that is real yoga; yoga meditation means to focus one’s mind upon the Supersoul. The Supersoul is the representation of Kṛṣṇa in the form of four-handed Nārāyaṇa. Even Patañjali, an authority on the yoga system, prescribes meditation on Viṣṇu. But just as people are manufacturing bogus religious processes, the so-called yogis of today have manufactured their own way of thinking of something void.
But the Nārada Pañcarātra says, hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanam: one must engage not only one’s mind but one’s senses. Engage the senses in the service of the master of the senses. These three Sanskrit words are very significant. Hṛṣīkeśa means “the Lord of the senses.” So bhakti-yoga means to serve with the senses the Lord of the senses. The Lord of the senses is Kṛṣṇa. We should always remember that we have our senses because we wanted to enjoy this material world, and therefore the Lord has given us a particular set of senses for our enjoyment. The hog has a particular type of body and senses because he wanted to enjoy eating stool. Similarly, a man has a particular type of body and senses because he wanted to enjoy something else. We have a particular set of conditioned senses with which to enjoy this material world, and this is what we have to purify. Our senses are original, but now they are covered by material desires. We have to cure ourselves and become free from such desires. When one’s senses are no longer inclined toward material sense gratification, one’s status is called pure devotion.
From this verse of the Nārada Pañcarātra, we can understand that the spirit soul has original senses. However small a body it may have entered, the spirit soul is not impersonal; it has senses. Perhaps one may find a bug on one’s book. It is so small, smaller than a pinpoint, but still it moves; it has all the senses. The small bacteria also move, and they have their senses. Originally, all living entities have senses. It is not that the senses have developed under certain material conditions. The atheistic theory is that under material conditions we have developed senses, that in the spiritual condition there are no senses, and that we are impersonal. By logic and reason, however, that cannot be so. A minute particle of spiritual force, even if it is smaller in size than an atom, has its senses. These senses, being covered by material elements, manifest themselves in a perverted way. We have to purify the senses, and when the senses are purified, we can engage them for the pleasure of the master of the senses. Kṛṣṇa is the master and proprietor of the senses. Therefore, because we are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, our senses are borrowed from Him; they are on rental. The best thing is to use the senses for His sense satisfaction, and not for our own. This is the process of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
From the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Lord Caitanya gives an example of pure devotion: it is said in the Bhāgavatam that Kṛṣṇa is situated in everyone’s heart. Therefore, just as rivers flow and their natural tendency is to reach the sea, so as soon as one hears the glories of the Lord, his soul is at once attracted toward the Supreme Lord. This is the beginning of pure devotional service. As soon as there is the chanting vibration, Hare Kṛṣṇa, immediately Kṛṣṇa’s paraphernalia, Kṛṣṇa’s name, Kṛṣṇa’s fame, Kṛṣṇa’s abode, Kṛṣṇa’s associates – everything – all of a sudden become manifested within because He is present. This is the beginning of one’s Kṛṣṇa consciousness. To remember by reference to a context means that as soon as one hears a code word, one at once remembers all the information behind that code. Similarly, when our minds are attracted to Kṛṣṇa and everything about Kṛṣṇa simply by hearing a little glorification of His qualities, that is the beginning of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then there is no more gati, or movement of the mind.
It was just that way with the gopīs: as soon as they heard the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, they gave up everything. Some of them were lying down, some were working in their family affairs, some were taking care of their children, but as soon as they heard Kṛṣṇa’s flute, they forgot everything and rushed to Him. Their husbands, their brothers, and their fathers said, “Why are you going and leaving your duty?” But they did not care – they simply left. There is no impediment and no stumbling block in that merge of the mind with Kṛṣṇa. This is the beginning of pure devotion.
Puruṣottama means Kṛṣṇa. The word puruṣa means “enjoyer.” The conditioned living entities are false enjoyers, imitation enjoyers. Here in this material world, all living entities are acting as puruṣas. The more exact meaning of puruṣa is “male.” The male is considered to be the enjoyer, and the female is considered to be the enjoyed. In the material world, whether one has a male or a female body, everyone has the propensity to enjoy, and therefore everyone is called puruṣa. But actually the only puruṣa is the Supreme Lord. We living entities are His energy, and He is the supreme enjoyer. We are not puruṣa. Energies are employed for enjoyment, and we are energies, instruments of the Supreme Person. Therefore Puruṣottama is the supreme transcendental person, Kṛṣṇa. When our pure devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead is employed and there are no impediments or stumbling blocks, that is the symptom of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
There is no ambition or motive in pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Every other transcendental function or mode of worship is backed by a motive: someone wants salvation, someone wants material prosperity, someone wants to go to a higher planet, someone wants to go to Kṛṣṇaloka. These ambitions should not be there. A pure devotee has no such ambitions. A pure devotee does not even desire to go to the supreme abode of Kṛṣṇa. Of course, he goes, but he has no desire. He simply wants to engage himself fully in Kṛṣṇa’s service.
There are different kinds of salvation. There is sālokya liberation, to live on the same planet as the Supreme Lord. The residents of the Vaikuṇṭha planets live on the same planet as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sārṣṭi liberation means to have almost the same opulence as Nārāyaṇa. The liberated individual soul can appear just like Nārāyaṇa, with four hands, the four emblems, almost the same bodily features, the same opulence, the same ornaments, the same buildings, everything. Sārūpya means to have the same form or features. Sāmīpya means never to be far away but always to be associated with the Supreme Lord. For example, just as we are sitting together, so one can associate with the Lord. This is called sāmīpya-mukti, the liberation of being nearer. Pure devotees, however, do not accept these various forms of liberation. They only want to be engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service. They are not concerned with any kind of liberation. Those who are actually Kṛṣṇa conscious achieve the association of the Supreme Lord, but they do not desire it; their only ambition is to be engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The highest perfection of devotional service, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is exhibited when a devotee refuses to accept any benediction or profit from the Supreme Lord. Prahlāda Mahārāja was offered whatever he liked, he had only to ask for it, but he said, “My Lord, I am Your eternal servant. It is my duty to serve You, so how can I accept any benefit from it? Then I would not be Your servant; I would be a merchant.” He replied in that way, and that is the sign of a pure person. Kṛṣṇa is so kind that He fulfills all the desires of a devotee, even if he wants material benedictions. If at the bottom of the devotee’s heart there is some desire, He also fulfills that. He is so kind. But the sublime position of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is that a pure devotee refuses to accept the various kinds of liberation, even if offered by the Supreme Lord.
If one has material desires or motives within himself, and for fulfillment of such desires he engages himself in devotional service, the result will be that he will never get pure love of God. If one is thinking, “I am engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in Kṛṣṇa’s devotional service, because I want such and such an opulence,” that desire may be fulfilled, but he will never get such unalloyed love of Kṛṣṇa as the gopīs had. If one has a motive, even though he discharges his devotional duty, he still will not be able to reach the stage of pure love of Godhead. In a verse from the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Rūpa Gosvāmī says, “As long as one desires some material benefit [bhukti], or even if he wants salvation [mukti], then he must take those ghostly representations.” As long as that māyā exists within one’s heart, how can one enjoy the spiritual bliss derived from pure love of Godhead? In other words, if one has material desires, or even a desire for salvation, he cannot attain pure love of Godhead. Pure devotion is devoid of all desires – it is simply to render loving service for its own sake.
There is a nice example in the life of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Rūpa Gosvāmī and his brother Sanātana Gosvāmī were living separately in Vṛndāvana and going on with their bhajana, devotional service. Rūpa was living in the forest, and there was no facility for cooking nice food or begging from the village for a capātī to eat. Rūpa Gosvāmī was the younger brother, and he thought, “If I could get some foodstuffs, then I could prepare nice dishes and offer them to Kṛṣṇa and invite my elder brother.” He had that desire. The next moment, a nice girl about twelve years old came and delivered an abundance of foodstuffs – milk, flour, ghee, etc. That is the Vedic system; sometimes householders present foodstuffs to mendicants and sages in the renounced order of life. Rūpa Gosvāmī was very glad that Kṛṣṇa had sent so many things and that he could now prepare a feast. He prepared a feast and then invited his elder brother.
When Sanātana Gosvāmī came, he was astonished. “How have you secured such things? You have prepared such a nice feast in this forest. How is it possible?”
So Rūpa Gosvāmī explained, “In the morning I desired for it, and by chance Kṛṣṇa sent me all these things. A nice girl came, and she offered it to me.” He was describing the girl: “A very nice girl.”
Then Sanātana said, “This nice girl is Rādhārāṇī. You have taken service from Rādhārāṇī, the Lord’s eternal consort. It is a great blunder.” That is their philosophy. They would not accept service from the Lord. They simply wanted to render service. But Kṛṣṇa is so clever that He also wants to serve His devotee. He looks for an opportunity to serve His devotee. This is spiritual competition. A pure devotee does not want anything from Kṛṣṇa; he simply wants to serve Him. And Kṛṣṇa also looks for the opportunity to serve His devotee. Kṛṣṇa is always as anxious to please His devotee as the devotee is to please Him.
This is the transcendental world. On the absolute plane, there is no exploitation. Everyone wants to serve; no one wants to take service. In the transcendental world, everyone wants to give service. You want to give service to me, and I want to give service to you. This is such a nice attitude. This material world means that I want to pickpocket you, and you want to pickpocket me. That’s all. This is the material world. We should try to understand it. In the material world, everyone wants to exploit his friend, his father, his mother, everyone. But in the transcendental world, everyone wants to serve. Everyone has Kṛṣṇa as the central point of serving, and all the devotees, either as friends or servants or parents or lovers of Kṛṣṇa, all want to serve Him. And at the same time, Kṛṣṇa also wants to serve them. This is a transcendental relationship; the main function is service, although there is no necessity of service, for everyone is full. There is no hunger, there is no necessity of eating, but still everyone offers nice things to eat. This is the transcendental world. Unless we attain the stage of simply serving Kṛṣṇa or His devotee, we cannot relish the transcendental pleasure of service. If we have any motive, then that sense will never be awakened. Without a motive, without desire for personal sense gratification, service should be rendered to the Supreme Lord and His devotees.
Approaching Kṛṣṇa with Love
“This is the formula – we should not try to satisfy our senses separately but should try to satisfy Kṛṣṇa’s senses. Then naturally we will become satisfied. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is always trying to give satisfaction to Kṛṣṇa.”
When Kṛṣṇa was on this earth, all the residents of Vṛndāvana loved Him. Indeed, they knew nothing but Kṛṣṇa. They did not know whether Kṛṣṇa is God or not God, nor were they disturbed by such thoughts as “I shall love Kṛṣṇa if He is God.” Their attitude was one of pure love, and they thought, “He may or may not be God – it doesn’t matter. We love Kṛṣṇa, that’s all.” This, then, is the platform of real, unalloyed love. When one thinks, “If Kṛṣṇa is God, I shall love Him,” it should be known that this is not the platform of pure love but of conditional love. While on earth, Kṛṣṇa exhibited extraordinary powers, and the vraja-vāsīs, the residents of Vṛndāvana, often thought, “Oh, Kṛṣṇa is such a wonderful child. Maybe He is some demigod.” They thought in this way because people were generally under the impression that the demigods were all-powerful. Within the material world the demigods are powerful, but people are not aware that Kṛṣṇa is above all of them. The highest of the demigods, Brahmā, gave his opinion of this matter in the verse īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ: “Kṛṣṇa is the supreme controller, and His body is full of knowledge, bliss, and eternality.” Little did the residents of Vṛndāvana know of Kṛṣṇa’s power as the ultimate controller and master of all the demigods. What is noteworthy is that their love for Him was not subject to such considerations.
As the residents of Vṛndāvana loved Kṛṣṇa unconditionally, similarly Kṛṣṇa loved them unconditionally. Vraja-jana-vallabha giri-vara-dhārī. When the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana stopped performing sacrifices to Lord Indra, the chief demigod of the heavens, they placed themselves in a very dangerous position. Indra became very angry and sent powerful clouds that rained over Vṛndāvana incessantly for seven days. The whole area began to flood, and the inhabitants became very disturbed. Although He was only seven years old, Kṛṣṇa saved the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana by lifting Govardhana Hill and holding it up as an umbrella to shield the village. Lord Kṛṣṇa thus taught the demigod Indra that his disturbances could be stopped simply by His little finger. Seeing this, Lord Indra bowed down before Kṛṣṇa.
Thus Kṛṣṇa also became known as Gopījana-vallabha, which indicates that His only business is to protect the gopī-jana. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement aims at teaching people how to become gopī-janas, or pure lovers of Kṛṣṇa. When we reach that stage of pure love of God, the Lord will save us from any danger, even if it means His lifting a hill or a mountain. Kṛṣṇa did not have to practice some yoga system in order to lift Govardhana Hill. As God, He is all-powerful, even as a child. He played like a child and dealt with others like a child, but when there was need, He manifested Himself as God Almighty. That is the nature of Kṛṣṇa, or God: He does not have to practice meditation or follow some system of yoga in order to become God. He is not a manufactured type of God, but is God eternally.
Although He is God, He enjoys loving relationships with His devotees, and in order to satisfy His devotees, He often takes roles that appear to be subsidiary. Kṛṣṇa often likes being the child of a devotee, and thus He became the beloved child of Yaśodā, Yaśodā-nandana. Because He is God and everyone worships Him, no one chastises Him. However, Kṛṣṇa enjoys being chastised by His devotee father and mother, and because Kṛṣṇa takes pleasure in being chastised, the devotees also take up the role, saying, “All right, I shall become Your father and chastise You.” Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa wants to fight, one of His devotees becomes the demon Hiraṇyakaśipu and fights with Him. In this way, all Kṛṣṇa’s activities are carried out in connection with His devotees. If we aspire to become such associates of Kṛṣṇa, we must develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, awareness of Kṛṣṇa.
Yaśodā-nandana vraja-jana-rañjana. Kṛṣṇa’s only business is satisfying the vraja-janas, and their only business is satisfying Kṛṣṇa. This is the reciprocation of love. Yamunā-tīra-vana-cārī: Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, wanders on the banks of the Yamunā to please the gopīs, the cowherd boys, the birds, the bees, and the cows and calves. These are not ordinary birds, bees, cows, calves, or men; they have all reached the summit of self-realization and thus, after many, many lives, have attained a position whereby they can play with Kṛṣṇa. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement can enable everyone to go to Kṛṣṇaloka and become Kṛṣṇa’s associate as a friend, servant, father, or mother. Kṛṣṇa is agreeable to take any of these positions in relation to His devotee. How He does so is all described in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya. To realize our relationship with Kṛṣṇa, we have but to follow in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and His chief associates, the Six Gosvāmīs – Śrī Rūpa, Sanātana, Śrī Jīva, Gopāla, Raghunātha dāsa, and Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa. These Gosvāmīs were always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and dancing in ecstasy. They taught that when one is merged in kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, or the chanting of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa, he merges into the ocean of love of Kṛṣṇa. As soon as the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s name is vibrated, one can immediately merge into the ocean of love. That is the sign of pure devotion. Thus at kīrtanas the Six Gosvāmīs would merge immediately into the ocean of love of Godhead.
The Six Gosvāmīs were dear not only to the other devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu but to the nondevotees as well. A pure devotee’s position is that he has no enemy because he is not envious. A pure devotee is always open to everyone, and he does not discriminate that this person can be allowed to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and that person should not be allowed. On the material platform, which is a platform of dualism, there are differences between high and low, man and woman, and this or that, but on the spiritual platform there are no such distinctions. The pure devotee, seeing everything with an equal mind, is therefore nonenvious. Because he is nonenvious, he is worshipable. Indeed, it may even be said that a person is worshipable simply if he is nonenvious, for it is only possible to be nonenvious on the spiritual platform. This is also the verdict of the Bhagavad-gītā [5.18–19]:
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
yeṣāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ
nirdoṣaṁ hi samaṁ brahma
tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ
“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. Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.”
Such a position can be obtained by one who has acquired the mercy of Lord Caitanya. Upon obtaining His mercy, a person can deliver suffering humanity from material contamination. Because the Six Gosvāmīs were such devotees, we offer our respectful obeisances unto them with the mantra: vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau. The six Gosvāmīs were expert in scrutinizingly studying all the scriptures with the aim to establish real religion in the world. They left many books to guide us, the most famous of which is Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion), which gives the neophyte devotee initial direction. The Gosvāmīs always worked very hard, day and night, and their business was simply writing books, chanting, and dancing. Indeed, they were practically released from the bodily necessities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending themselves out of fear. There was no question of mating at all, nor was there any question of fearing or defending, for they were totally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. At most they used to sleep one and a half hours daily, and they ate practically nothing. Whenever they felt hungry, they would simply go to a householder’s home and beg one or two pieces of bread.
The mission of such saintly persons is but to make suffering humanity happy by elevating everyone to spiritual consciousness. In the material world, everyone is trying to exploit one another – one nation is trying to exploit another nation, one society is trying to exploit another, one businessman is trying to exploit another, etc. This is called the struggle for existence, and out of it the people who are struggling have invented a law called “Might is right,” but we can actually see that even the most powerful must struggle, just as in the current world situation. There is a great struggle going on between Russia, America, and China. Because of such a struggle, everyone is suffering. Indeed, the very struggle for existence means suffering. The pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa, however, are interested not in exploiting others but in helping people become happy, and therefore they are worshiped on all planets. Cāṇakya Paṇḍita even said that a rich man and a learned man cannot be compared, for a rich man may be honored in his own country or on his own planet, but a learned man, a devotee of God, is honored wherever he goes.
Nor for a devotee is there a distinction between heaven and hell, because Kṛṣṇa is with him in both places. Where there is Kṛṣṇa, there is no question of hell; every place is Vaikuṇṭha. Haridāsa Ṭhākura, for instance, did not enter the Jagannātha temple at Purī, for he was born in a Muhammadan family, and the Hindus opposed the Muhammadans’ entering the temple. Haridāsa Ṭhākura did not let this disturb him, however. He thought, “Oh, why should I go and disturb them? I shall chant here.” Consequently Lord Caitanya, who is Lord Jagannātha Himself, came daily to see Haridāsa. This is the power of a pure devotee: he doesn’t have to go to Jagannātha; Jagannātha comes to him. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to go see Haridāsa Ṭhākura daily when the Lord was going to bathe in the sea. The Lord would enter Haridāsa’s cottage and ask, “Haridāsa, what are you doing?” and Haridāsa would reply, “Please come in, my Lord.” This then is the actual position of a devotee. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says that worship of His devotee is even more valuable than worship of Himself. The devotee is actually able to deliver Kṛṣṇa, for he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the science of hearing Kṛṣṇa’s words, eating kṛṣṇa-prasāda, and enjoying Kṛṣṇa. The impersonalists and voidists may preach dry philosophical treatises on ahaṁ brahmāsmi – “I am spirit” – but ultimately who will be attracted? What is the difference between someone who thinks, “I am a stone,” and someone who thinks, “I am void”? Why should we become stone, wood, or void? Our actual position should be in reciprocating loving affairs with Kṛṣṇa.
The spark of love for Kṛṣṇa is struck by the spiritual master, the pure devotee. As for myself, my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, ordered me to take up the responsibility of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the Western world. His Divine Grace had a great desire to preach Lord Caitanya’s message in the West, and my success is both his grace and pleasure. When I first met my spiritual master, I was a very young man in India, a nationalist, engaged in a very responsible office. But although I did not want to go, one of my friends, who is still living in Calcutta, forcibly took me to His Divine Grace. I was reluctant to see him because in our home our father used to receive many sannyāsīs and I was not very satisfied with their dealings. I thought that Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja might be a similar man, and if he were, what business would I have in seeing him? But my friend took me forcibly. “Why not see him?” he asked. I finally relented and went with him, and I profited.
On my first visit, His Divine Grace said that it was necessary for educated boys like me to go to foreign countries and preach the gospel of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. I replied that India was a foreign-dominated nation and that no one would hear our messages. Actually, at the time foreigners considered Indians very insignificant because in the face of so many independent nations India was still dependent, being dominated by Britain. At the time there was one Bengali poet who actually lamented that even uncivilized nations were independent, whereas India was dependent on the British. His Divine Grace convinced me that dependence and independence are simply temporary conditions, and he pointed out that because we are concerned with the eternal benefit of humanity, we should take up this challenge of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. This meeting with His Divine Grace, my Guru Mahārāja, took place in 1922, half a century ago.
I was officially initiated in 1933, just three years before the passing of Guru Mahārāja from this mortal world. At the last moment, just a fortnight before his passing away, he wrote me a letter repeating his instructions. He specifically said that I should try to preach this gospel among English-speaking people. After receiving this letter, I sometimes dreamed that Guru Mahārāja was calling me and that I was leaving home and following him. I was dreaming in this way and thinking, “I have to give up my home. My Guru Mahārāja wants me to give up my home and take sannyāsa.” At the same time I thought, “This is horrible. How can I leave my home? My wife? My children?” This is called māyā. Actually I did not want to give up my home life, but Guru Mahārāja made me give it up. Following his orders, I left my home, including a few children, but now Guru Mahārāja has given me many nice children all over the world. Thus by serving Kṛṣṇa no one becomes a loser, and this is an example from my own practical experience.
When I left India alone in 1965, I feared that I would have a great deal of trouble. The Indian government would not allow me to take any money out of the country, so I came with only a few books and forty rupees. I arrived in New York City in such a condition, but it was all by the grace of Guru Mahārāja and Kṛṣṇa. Everything happens by the combined mercy of Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is stated that the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and guru are combined. This is the secret of the success of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Kṛṣṇa is always within us, and consequently He knows everything about our purposes, and He gives us the opportunity to work as we decide. If we decide to enjoy this material world, Kṛṣṇa gives us the intelligence to become a very shrewd businessman or a popular politician or a cunning man so that we can earn money and enjoy ourselves. According to the standards of material life, many people are becoming great. They begin as very poor men and soon, by good fortune, become millionaires. We should not think, however, that they are attaining such success by their own puny endeavors. Without intelligence, no one can improve, and that intelligence is given by Kṛṣṇa. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa states that He is seated in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul and that by His will a man can remember, and by His will a man can forget. Kṛṣṇa supplies forgetfulness and remembrance according to the living entity’s desire. If we want to forget Kṛṣṇa and enjoy the material world, He will give us the necessary intelligence so that we can forget Him for good.
Many people are thinking, “I can enjoy this material world very nicely. Everyone is having such a good time. There is no reason I can’t enjoy myself as much as they.” This idea is illusion because there is no real enjoyment in the material world. We may rise to a very high position like President Kennedy. We may be very good-looking, very famous, very intelligent and well educated, very wealthy and very powerful, and we may have a very beautiful wife and children and hold the highest position in the country – but at any moment we are subject to be shot down. This is the nature of the material world: we have to face danger at every step. There is no question of having pleasure without impediments. Even when the pleasures are earned, they are earned after a great deal of struggle and sacrifice, and whatever pleasure may be acquired is temporary, for in the material world there is no pleasure that can give us constant and unending enjoyment. Only Kṛṣṇa can give us that.
Therefore Kṛṣṇa instructs in the Bhagavad-gītā that it is the welfare of every living entity to give up this nonsensical material activity and just surrender unto Him. Unfortunately, in this age people are so attracted by the glitter of material nature, to illusion, or māyā, that they are not very interested. Kṛṣṇa even declares that if one surrenders unto Him, He will give all protection from all sinful reactions, but still people are so attached that they cannot do it. People always fear that by surrendering to Kṛṣṇa they will lose something, just as I feared losing my family by going to the Western world and preaching. But Kṛṣṇa is so kind that if He takes anything away, He will reward us a thousandfold.
The spiritual master is also kind in that he begs from door to door, country to country, town to town: “My dear ladies and gentlemen, my dear boys and girls, please take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” In this way he renders very confidential service to Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord who gives the orders, and the spiritual master executes those orders; therefore the spiritual master is very dear to Kṛṣṇa. Whether Kṛṣṇa sends him to heaven or to hell makes no difference to him. For the spiritual master, a pure devotee, heaven and hell are both the same if there is no Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In hell people are suffering in so many ways, and in heaven they are enjoying their senses in so many ways, but a devotee of the Lord can live any place where there is Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and since he brings this consciousness with him, he is always self-satisfied. If he is sent to hell, he will be satisfied simply chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In fact, he does not believe in hell but in Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, if he were put in heaven, where there are so many opportunities for sense gratification, he would also remain aloof, for his senses are satisfied by Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus for the service of the Lord a devotee is prepared to go anywhere, and for this reason he is very dear to Kṛṣṇa.
Renounced impersonalist philosophers say that this world is false and that the impersonal Brahman is truth. But if they are asked to go out into society where material sense gratification predominates, they will refuse for fear of being affected by those conditions. For a Kṛṣṇa conscious person, however, there is no such difficulty. Because he is controlled and has taken shelter of Kṛṣṇa, he is not afraid of going anywhere.
Consequently, when devotees meet in a place where there is no Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there is no harm, for they take the opportunity to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and infuse the place with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This opportunity should always be taken. It is not that one should close himself up in a room and chant alone. The great sage Nārada is a spaceman who travels all over the universe. Although he can dwell in the most elevated planets, he sometimes goes to hell and preaches there. That is the beauty of a servant of God – he is always acting out of love for Kṛṣṇa and His parts and parcels.
The underlying principle of devotional service is unalloyed love for Kṛṣṇa. Regardless of the position of a particular devotee – as friend, servant, parent, or lover of Kṛṣṇa – his service is unconditional, for Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not dependent on any material condition. It is transcendental and has nothing to do with the modes of material nature. A devotee is not afraid to go anywhere, and because of this he sees all material conditions as equal. In the world we may say that this is a good place to be and that is a bad place, but, as pointed out before, the devotee is not subject to these mental concoctions. For him the basic principle of material existence is bad, for material existence means forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa.
In the neutral stage of devotion one may give more importance to the impersonal effulgence of the Lord and to the Supersoul within the heart, but Kṛṣṇa consciousness actually develops when one thinks, “Kṛṣṇa is my very intimate master of intimate relationships.” In the beginning, of course, impersonal realization and realization of the Supersoul are part of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The partial realization of God in His impersonal aspect or in His aspect as Supersoul enables one to develop veneration for the Lord, but when one has an intimate relationship with Kṛṣṇa as a friend, master, son, or lover, then the veneration disappears.
This platform of personal relationship is certainly higher than the impersonal platform or the platform of Supersoul, or Paramātmā, realization. In the neutral conception, one simply realizes that he and the Absolute Truth are one in quality, or he realizes that he is part and parcel of the Supreme. That is certainly knowledge, for when one develops a personal relationship with Kṛṣṇa as servant, he begins to appreciate the full opulence of the Supreme Lord. One who realizes that God is full in six opulences actually begins rendering service. As soon as one becomes aware of the greatness of Kṛṣṇa and understands Kṛṣṇa’s superiority, his service begins. The awareness of God’s greatness increases when transcendental service is rendered. A person who serves the Lord in order to satisfy the senses of the Lord becomes satisfied, because Kṛṣṇa is the Supersoul and the individual living entity is His part and parcel. If He is satisfied, then the living entity is satisfied. If the stomach is satisfied, then all the parts of the body are satisfied, for they receive nourishment through the stomach. When one of my Godbrothers began to fan my Guru Mahārāja on a very hot day, Guru Mahārāja asked, “Why are you fanning me all of a sudden?“ The boy replied, “Because if you are satisfied, we are all satisfied.” This is the formula – we should not try to satisfy our senses separately, but should try to satisfy Kṛṣṇa’s senses. Then naturally we will become satisfied.
A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is always trying to give satisfaction to Kṛṣṇa, and this is the beginning of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because in the impersonal conception there is no form of God, there is no opportunity to satisfy His senses. However, one who sees Kṛṣṇa as master can render service. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa is referred to as Hṛṣīkeśa, master of the senses. When it is understood that the Absolute Truth is the master of the senses, that our senses are products of His senses, and that they should therefore be utilized for the satisfaction of His senses, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is dormant within everyone, begins to awaken. Once Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked, “What is the difference between the neutral position in relation to Kṛṣṇa and the relationship of master and servant?” In both cases one can understand that Kṛṣṇa is great, but in the neutral position there is no inclination for service. Therefore the master-servant relationship between Kṛṣṇa and the living entity is more elevated. Then when one attains friendship with Kṛṣṇa, another transcendental quality is added. There is the conception that God is great and that service must be rendered unto Him, but there is also an extra feeling: “Kṛṣṇa is my friend. Therefore I must treat Him in such a way that He will be happy.” With a friend we are not simply content with rendering service but in making him actually happy and satisfied. There is also equality in such a relationship, for Kṛṣṇa and the devotee relate on equal terms. Thus devotees in this position actually forget Kṛṣṇa’s superiority. When Kṛṣṇa’s boyfriends used to ride on His shoulders playing games, they did not think that they were greater than Him. There is no question of sense gratification or self-glorification, for the relationship is based on pure love. The devotee’s only desire is to give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa also takes His friends on His shoulders to derive pleasure from them. Sometimes a person simply accepts the fact that his friend will slap his face – but there is no question of inferiority in such an action. When friendship and mutual pleasure are the basis of the relationship, there is no question of insult or inferiority.
The whole basis of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and a relationship with Kṛṣṇa is the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa Himself. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the damsels of Vraja, and Kṛṣṇa’s cowherd boyfriends are all expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure potency. We all have a tendency toward pleasure, because the source from which we emanate is fully potent in pleasure. Impersonalists cannot think in these terms, for they deny the pleasure potency; therefore the impersonalist philosophy is incomplete and inferior. Those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness recognize the pleasure potency in Kṛṣṇa and in all His paraphernalia – His friends, servants, father, mother, and consort. All relationships with Kṛṣṇa that aim at satisfying Kṛṣṇa’s senses are manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure potency.
As far as the individual soul is concerned, it is originally a part and parcel of this pleasure potency, of the reservoir of pleasure Himself. However, due to contact with material nature, the soul has forgotten its actual position and has become trapped in the evolutionary process of transmigration from one body to another. Thus one struggles hard for existence. Now we must extricate ourselves from the sufferings of the struggle, from the countless transmigrations that force us to suffer the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death, and come to the point of our eternal life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That eternal life is possible. If one tries his best in this human form of life, in his next life he will get a spiritual body. The spiritual body is already within the gross material body, but it will develop only as soon as one becomes free from the contamination of this material existence. That is the aim of human life and the actual self-interest of all people. Self-interest is actually realizing, “I am part and parcel of God. I have to return to the kingdom of God and join with Him.” Just as we have a social life here, God has a social life in the spiritual kingdom, and we can join Him there. It is not that after finishing this body we become void. In the Bhavagad-gītā [2.12] Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna, “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.” Our existence is therefore eternal, and the changes of birth and death are simply the changes of the temporary material bodies.
The actual process for achieving eternal life is not at all difficult. This process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is based on knowledge received from Kṛṣṇa, the most perfect being. Knowledge received from others is defective because the conditioned soul is certain to commit mistakes, certain to be illusioned, certain to cheat, and certain to have imperfect senses. The knowledge received from Kṛṣṇa, however, actually enables us to see Kṛṣṇa. Someone may challenge, “Can you show me God?” and our answer is, “Yes. God can be seen at every moment.” Kṛṣṇa says, raso ’ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of water.” We drink water every day, and the taste of water is there, so if we think of this taste as Kṛṣṇa, we will have begun realizing God every day. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa further says, prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ: “I am the light of the sun and the moon.” Every day we receive sunlight, and in the evening there is moonshine, so if we think of the source of these emanations, we will ultimately become God conscious. There are so many similar instances given in the Bhagavad-gītā, for Kṛṣṇa is the beginning, middle, and the end of all manifestations. If we want to become God conscious and realize our own essence, it is not very difficult. We only have to understand God in truth – how He appears, how He disappears, and what His functions are – then we can become eligible to enter into the kingdom of God. After quitting this material body, a person who understands God, Kṛṣṇa, does not return again to earth to accept another material body. Where does he go? Kṛṣṇa says, mām eti: “He comes to Me.” That should be the aim of any intelligent human being.