Spiritual Attachment and Material Detachment
prakṛtiṁ ca hataujasam
In that position of self-realization, by practice of knowledge and renunciation in devotional service, one sees everything in the right perspective; he becomes indifferent to material existence, and the material influence acts less powerfully upon him.
As the contamination of the germs of a particular disease can influence a weaker person, similarly the influence of material nature, or illusory energy, can act on the weaker, or conditioned, soul but not on the liberated soul. Self-realization is the position of the liberated state. One understands his constitutional position by knowledge and vairāgya, renunciation. Without knowledge, one cannot have realization. The realization that one is the infinitesimal part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit makes one unattached to material, conditional life. That is the beginning of devotional service. Unless one is liberated from material contamination, one cannot engage in the devotional service of the Lord. In this verse, therefore, it is stated, jñāna-vairāgya-yuktena: when one is in full knowledge of one’s constitutional position and is in the renounced order of life, detached from material attraction, then, by pure devotional service, bhakti-yuktena, he can engage himself as a loving servant of the Lord. Paripaśyati means that he can see everything in its right perspective. Then the influence of material nature becomes almost nil. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā: when one is self-realized he becomes happy and free from the influence of material nature, and at that time he is freed from lamentation and hankering. The Lord states that position as mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām, the real beginning of devotional service. Similarly, it is confirmed in the Nārada Pañcarātra that when the senses are purified, they can then be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. One who is attached to material contamination cannot be a devotee.
In the conditional state, we are influenced by material nature. We have already discussed how we are conditioned by the three modes of material nature – ignorance, passion and goodness. Goodness is superior to ignorance and passion because from the platform of goodness we can come to understand Kṛṣṇa and thereby transcend the modes altogether. In this age, people are generally influenced by the lower modes, the modes of ignorance and passion. In these modes, we are not able to serve Kṛṣṇa. It is our constitutional position to serve someone, but when we do not serve Kṛṣṇa, we serve māyā. In any case, we cannot become master. Who can say that he is a master, that he is not serving anyone? We may serve our family, society, country, business, automobile or whatever. If one cannot find anything to serve, he goes and buys a cat or dog and serves it. Why is this? It is because service is our nature. We are simply lacking the knowledge of where to direct the service. Service is meant to be rendered to Kṛṣṇa. In the material world we are serving our lusty desires, not Kṛṣṇa, and we are deriving no pleasure from this. We are also serving in an office or in some employment in order to get some money. In this case, we are serving money, not the person. Thus in the material world we serve the senses and money. In any case, service is there. We must serve.
Actually the only master is Kṛṣṇa. Ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 5.142). All the demigods, human beings, animals, trees and everything else are servants. Self-realization is realizing that one is the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa and that one’s duty is to serve Him. Self-realization is not thinking ahaṁ brahmāsmi, “I have become Brahman, Bhagavān.” How can we become Bhagavān? If we are Bhagavān, we are actually the supreme powerful one. If this is the case, why are we in a miserable condition? Why are we under the influence of māyā? Does Bhagavān come under the influence of māyā? No. Kṛṣṇa says specifically in Bhagavad-gītā that prakṛti, māyā, is working under His directions. Māyā is the maidservant of Kṛṣṇa, and if we are the servants of māyā, how can we be Kṛṣṇa, Bhagavān? When we come to our spiritual senses, we can understand that we are erroneously engaged in māyā’s service and that our duty is to engage in Kṛṣṇa’s service. That is self-realization. As stated here: jñāna-vairāgya-yuktena. Real understanding is knowing oneself to be the servant of Kṛṣṇa, no one else. Because we are under illusion, we are serving kāma, lobha, moha, mātsarya – lust and greed – without benefit and without pleasure. Kāmādīnāṁ kati na katidhā pālitā durnideśāḥ: “There is no limit to the unwanted orders of lusty desires.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 3.2.25) When we come to the understanding that our pleasure lies in serving Kṛṣṇa only, we have attained jñāna-vairāgya. Therefore in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.7) it is stated:
janayaty āśu vairāgyaṁ
jñānaṁ ca yad ahaitukam
“By rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world.” If one engages in the service of Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, this knowledge comes, and one becomes a mahātmā. A mahātmā is one who realizes that Kṛṣṇa is everything. He does not defy Kṛṣṇa or try to become Kṛṣṇa. One who does so is not a mahātmā but a durātmā, a rascal. What is the position and knowledge of a mahātmā? Kṛṣṇa states:
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
“O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” (Bhagavad-gītā 9.13)
A mahātmā cannot be manufactured. He is under the daivī prakṛti, the divine nature. There are two kinds of prakṛti – parā prakṛti and aparā prakṛti. Aparā prakṛti is the material world, and daivī prakṛti is the spiritual world. As soon as one understands that he is uselessly serving māyā in the material world in the form of society, friends, country and so forth, one reaches the stage called jñāna, knowledge. As soon as one attains this knowledge, he reaches the brahma-bhūta stage, Brahman realization, and he becomes prasannātmā, happy. One may ask, “Why should I serve Kṛṣṇa?” We have already explained that being a part means serving the whole. The whole is Kṛṣṇa, and the individuals are meant for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam.
There are many īśvaras, controllers, but the supreme īśvara is Kṛṣṇa. As soon as one attains this realization, he has attained perfect knowledge, and he renders service in bhakti-yoga. Foolish people say that bhakti is meant for ajñānīs, unintelligent people, but this is not the case. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa indicates that after many births, the jñānī, the man in knowledge, surrenders unto Him.
As long as we do not understand Kṛṣṇa, Vāsudeva, we should understand that we are still fools. We may advertise ourselves as very great jñānīs, learned personalities, but we are actually fools. That is the śāstric conclusion. If we are actually jñānīs, we should surrender unto Kṛṣṇa.
There are many dharmas, or activities. Some are pious and some impious, but Kṛṣṇa tells us to give up both. Arjuna was thinking that it was impious to fight with his relatives, but Kṛṣṇa was insisting that he fight. How could Arjuna act impiously? He could not, because Kṛṣṇa’s service is transcendental to pious and impious activity. At midnight, when the gopīs heard the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, they ran to the forest to join Him. According to the śāstras, it is immoral for young girls to go see a young boy in a forest in the dead of night. But this was not an impious activity because the gopīs did this for Kṛṣṇa. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who was so strict that no woman could even come near Him to offer respects, actually said: ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇa yā kalpitā. “What could be more wonderful than that worship conceived by the gopīs?” Although it actually appeared immoral for the gopīs to dance with Kṛṣṇa, Caitanya Mahāprabhu states that their relation with Kṛṣṇa is the highest form of worship. This is actually transcendental knowledge. One becomes transcendental to all pious and impious activities when one serves Kṛṣṇa. After all, piety and impiety are within the material modes. Kṛṣṇa’s service is transcendental to good and bad, pious and impious. Bhakti-yoga begins when jñāna and vairāgya are complete. Jñāna is knowledge, and vairāgya is detachment from matter and engagement of the mind in spirit. Both of these are automatically attained when we engage in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
sadṛśo ’sti śivaḥ panthā
Perfection in self-realization cannot be attained by any kind of yogī unless he engages in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for that is the only auspicious path.
That knowledge and renunciation are never perfect unless joined by devotional service is explicitly explained here. Na yujyamānayā means “without being dovetailed.” When there is devotional service, the question arises where to offer that service. Devotional service is to be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul of everything, for that is the only reliable path of self-realization, or Brahman realization. The word brahma-siddhaye means to understand oneself to be different from matter, to understand oneself to be Brahman. The Vedic words are ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Brahma-siddhi means that one should know that he is not matter; he is pure soul. There are different kinds of yogīs, but every yogī is supposed to have attained self-realization, or Brahman realization. It is clearly stated here that unless one is fully engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot easily approach the path of brahma-siddhi.
In the beginning of the second chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that when one engages in the devotional service of Vāsudeva, spiritual knowledge and renunciation of the material world are automatically manifest. Thus a devotee does not have to strive separately for renunciation or knowledge. Devotional service itself is so powerful that by one’s service, everything is revealed. It is stated here, śivaḥ panthā: this is the only auspicious path for self-realization. The path of devotional service is the most confidential means for attaining Brahman realization. That perfection in Brahman realization is attained through the auspicious path of devotional service indicates that the so-called Brahman realization, or realization of the brahma-jyotir effulgence, is not brahma-siddhi. Beyond that brahma-jyotir there is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Upaniṣads a devotee prays to the Lord to kindly put aside the effulgence, brahma-jyotir, so that the devotee may see within the brahma-jyotir the actual eternal form of the Lord. Unless one attains realization of the transcendental form of the Lord, there is no question of bhakti. Bhakti necessitates the existence of the recipient of devotional service and the devotee who renders devotional service. Brahma-siddhi through devotional service is realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The understanding of the effulgent rays of the body of the Supreme Godhead is not the perfect stage of brahma-siddhi, or Brahman realization. Nor is the realization of the Paramātmā feature of the Supreme Person perfect because Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is akhilātmā – He is the Supersoul. One who realizes the Supreme Personality realizes the other features, namely the Paramātmā feature and the Brahman feature, and that total realization is brahma-siddhi.
As stated before, the word yoga means “to connect.” Brahma-siddhaye means “self-realization,” and ahaṁ brahmāsmi means “I am spirit soul.” Actually, realizing oneself to be spirit is not sufficient. One has to progress further. One’s fever may be cured, but one must also regain his strength and appetite in order to be totally cured. Then one can have a normal, healthy life, free of disease. Similarly, simply realizing that one is spirit soul is not sufficient. One has to engage in spiritual activity, and that spiritual activity is bhakti. Māyāvādī philosophers think that it is sufficient to stop all material activity, and the Buddhist philosophers advocate nirvāṇa, cessation of material life. Neither give more information. Actually we are suffering due to this material combination, and that is a fact. This body is composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and ego. The Buddhists and Māyāvādīs advocate the annihilation of the components. They say, “Let the earth go to earth, let the water go to water, let the fire go to fire and become zero.” If we dismantle the house of the material body and become zero, we attain nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa means the cessation of pleasure and pain. The Māyāvādīs and Buddhists claim that if we fill an empty pitcher, the water will make some sound as long as the pitcher is not completely filled. When the pitcher is filled, there will no longer be any sound. Thus they claim that all the Vedic mantras and hymns stop when one is completely Brahman realized. In other words, the Buddhists and Māyāvādīs claim that the material world is false, mithyā, and that we should somehow or other make it zero. However, simply realizing Brahman, realizing one’s identity as spirit soul, is insufficient. We must realize that Bhagavān is everywhere:
yac-chaktir asti jagad-aṇḍa-cayā yad-antaḥ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship the Personality of Godhead, Govinda, who, by one of His plenary portions, enters the existence of every universe and every atomic particle and thus unlimitedly manifests His infinite energy all over the material creation.” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.35)
Śrī Bhagavān is not alone. He is not only localized, but is everywhere. Although Kṛṣṇa has a particular place, He is everywhere. It is not that because Kṛṣṇa is in one place He cannot be in others. Since we are conditioned, when we sit in our office we cannot be at home. Kṛṣṇa is not like this. Goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūtaḥ. Kṛṣṇa is always in Goloka Vṛndāvana, yet He is aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham. He is within every atom of this universe. This universe is existing due to the Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu. There is not only one universe, but there are many millions, and they are all working very nicely because the Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu is present. We should not think that all these planets are floating in space without any arrangement having been made. There is definitely an arrangement.
In order to be completely free of the material modes, one has to come not only to the platform of jñāna and vairāgya, but to bhakti also. When we mention bhakti, some people say, “I render bhakti to my wife. I love her very much and take care of her. If I do not see her, I become mad.” Thus people have bhakti for their family, country, goddess Durgā, other demigods and so on. However, that kind of bhakti will not do. Therefore it is said, bhaktir bhagavati. Bhakti must be rendered unto the Supreme. It is not that one should render bhakti unto an imitation Bhagavān. If one says that he is Bhagavān, we should ask, “Are you present in everyone’s heart? Can you tell me what I am thinking now?” If one is Bhagavān, he must be akhilātmā. If one is īśvara, he must be present in everyone’s heart. Kṛṣṇa is present in everyone’s heart (sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ). All this should be scrutinizingly studied. It is not that one should accept this rascal or that rascal as Bhagavān. Nor should one render bhakti to this demigod or that demigod, to one’s family, country, society, wife, cat, dog or whatever. All this is not really bhakti but imitation bhakti. It is actually lustful desire. If we can develop bhakti for Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our lives will be successful. Actually there is no alternative. As stated in this verse, sadṛśo ’sti śivaḥ panthā. Para-brahman is Kṛṣṇa, and brahma-siddhaye means understanding our relationship with Kṛṣṇa. It is all right for one to understand oneself as Brahman (ahaṁ brahmāsmi), but what is our relationship with the Para-brahman? There are always two: Brahman and Para-brahman, ātmā and Paramātmā, īśvara and Parameśvara, the individual living being and the supreme living being, nitya and nityānām, cetanaś and cetanānām. There are always two present, and two means a relationship. We should therefore understand our relationship with the Supreme, with Para-brahman. Understanding that relationship is brahma-siddhaye.
We are qualitatively one with Para-brahman, but Para-brahman is very great whereas we are very small. Para-brahman is one (kaivalya). There is no alternative and no duplicate. There is no one equal to Him or greater than Him. That is the meaning of kaivalya. Human life is meant for inquiring about Para-brahman and one’s relationship with Him. Unfortunately, people are not asking questions about Para-brahman. Everyone is asking about the news and the morning paper, and everyone is concerned with going to the market and purchasing so many goods for cheaper prices. All this is going on in human society and in cat and dog society also.
This world is full of darkness and ignorance, but Kṛṣṇa consciousness is transcendental to this material world. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there is no darkness but simply light. If we try to find things at night, it becomes very difficult; however, in the daytime, there is no difficulty. The śāstras enjoin that we leave this darkness and come to light. This light is given by the guru.
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena
tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
“I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.”
It is the guru’s business to give light by knowledge. The guru has completely assimilated the Vedic essence of life. Śruti, knowledge, is received by hearing. It is not experimental. We cannot understand that which is beyond our sense perception by experiment. We cannot understand who our father is by experimental knowledge. One cannot say, “Let me find out who my father is by experiment.” Our father was existing before we were existing, and it is not possible to understand by experimental knowledge that this or that man is my father. The real authority is the mother; therefore Vedic knowledge has been likened to the mother and the Purāṇas to the sisters. We should understand from the Vedas what ultimate knowledge really is. The ultimate knowable objective is Kṛṣṇa, and simply by understanding Kṛṣṇa, we can understand everything. We do not have to understand things separately. Kṛṣṇa is within our hearts. He is not far away; rather, He is everywhere. If Kṛṣṇa sees that we are attached to Him, He becomes our friend. He is a friend to everyone, but He is especially a friend to His devotees. As Kṛṣṇa Himself says in Bhagavad-gītā (10.11):
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
“Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.”
Jñāna is there, it is simply covered with the curtain of ignorance. Light is there, and darkness is there, but when we are in darkness we cannot see things as they are. Kṛṣṇa says that as one devotes himself to rendering service, He Himself dispels the darkness of ignorance. If we actually want to become perfect in this life, we only need to engage in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān. It is not that Bhagavān is difficult to find. Bhagavān is within the heart. Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati (Bhagavad-gītā 18.61). That is the real Bhagavān, within the hearts of all. That Bhagavān is always active. He instructed Brahmā, the lord of the universe, and Brahmā, having received Kṛṣṇa’s instructions, created the entire universe. Kṛṣṇa will also give instructions to us if we simply take to devotional service.
ātmanaḥ kavayo viduḥ
sa eva sādhuṣu kṛto
Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.
Here it is clearly stated that attachment for one thing is the cause of bondage in conditioned life, and the same attachment, when applied to something else, opens the door of liberation. Attachment cannot be killed; it has simply to be transferred. Attachment for material things is called material consciousness, and attachment for Kṛṣṇa or His devotee is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Consciousness, therefore, is the platform of attachment. It is clearly stated here that when we simply purify the consciousness from material consciousness to Kṛṣṇa consciousness we attain liberation. Despite the statement that one should give up attachment, desirelessness is not possible for a living entity. A living entity, by constitution, has the propensity to be attached to something. We see that if someone has no object of attachment, if he has no children, he transfers his attachment to cats and dogs. This indicates that the propensity for attachment cannot be stopped; rather, it must be utilized for the best purpose. Our attachment for material things perpetuates our conditional state, but the same attachment, when transferred to the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotee, is the source of liberation.
Here it is recommended that attachment should be transferred to the self-realized devotees, the sādhus. And who is a sādhu? A sādhu is not just an ordinary man with a saffron robe or long beard. A sādhu is described in Bhagavad-gītā as one who unflinchingly engages in devotional service. Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service, if one simply has unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, he is understood to be a sādhu. Sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ. A sādhu is a strict follower of devotional service. It is recommended here that if one at all wants to realize Brahman, or spiritual perfection, his attachment should be transferred to the sādhu, or devotee. Lord Caitanya also confirmed this. Lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya: simply by a moment’s association with a sādhu, one can attain perfection.
Mahātmā is a synonym of sādhu. It is said that service to a mahātmā, or elevated devotee of the Lord, is dvāram āhur vimukteḥ, the royal road of liberation. Mahat-sevāṁ dvāram āhur vimuktes tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.5.2). Rendering service to the materialists has the opposite effect. If anyone offers service to a gross materialist, or a person engaged only in sense enjoyment, then by association with such a person the door to hell is opened. The same principle is confirmed here. Attachment to a devotee is attachment to the service of the Lord because if one associates with a sādhu, the sādhu will teach one how to become a devotee, a worshiper and a sincere servitor of the Lord. These are the gifts of a sādhu. If we want to associate with a sādhu, we cannot expect him to give us instructions on how to improve our material condition, but he will instruct us how to cut the knot of the contamination of material attraction and how to elevate ourselves in devotional service. That is the result of associating with a sādhu. Kapila Muni first of all instructs that the path of liberation begins with such association.
According to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu:
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.54)
It is said that man is a social animal, and, according to our association, we can mold our character. Businessmen associate with one another to develop their business capabilities. There are many different types of association, and association brings about bondage to a particular thing. If one associates with materialistic people, one’s bondage to sense gratification tightens. Woman is the symbol of sense gratification; therefore anything dealing with sense gratification is called yoṣit-saṅga. This material world is filled with yoṣit-saṅga because everyone is interested in sense gratification. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (2.44):
samādhau na vidhīyate
“In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place.” The word bhoga means “sense gratification.” Bhogaiśvarya: Those who are overly attached to opulence and sense gratification cannot understand spiritual life, and they are very slow to take to it. At the present moment people are manda, very slow. They do not take this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement very seriously because they have been taught by modern civilization simply to enjoy life for sense gratification. In the Western countries, especially, there are many implements for sense gratification. There are even machines for shaving, although formerly an ordinary razor would do. Now, thanks to the machine, one does not even have to move his hand. So this is considered progress. However, we learn from the śāstras that human life is not meant for sense enjoyment but for tapasya. That is Vedic civilization. First of all, one must be trained in the brahmacārī system and learn how to deny the senses. A brahmacārī should be trained in tapasya, not in enjoyment. Formerly, brahmacārīs would have to go from door to door to beg alms for the āśrama, and they were trained from the very beginning to address every woman as mother.
Presently, people are in such a miserable condition that they are saying, “Let us die. Let us die.” However, Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā says, “Why should you die?” People want to die in order to put an end to the threefold miseries of material nature, but who is making research on how to stop death? From Bhagavad-gītā we learn that death is not really natural for us. It is artificially imposed upon us, and we have to become deathless again. That is the perfection of human life, but no one cares about it. We have become so dull that we cannot avoid birth, old age, disease and death. We are actually experiencing them because we are not alert. For this reason, when Sanātana Gosvāmī approached Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he said, “My dear Lord, somehow or other You have dragged me to Your lotus feet. I am now asking You what my actual position is. Why am I forced to suffer the threefold miseries of material life?” No one is interested in inquiring about this matter. Mokṣa, liberation, means getting free from the threefold miseries of life as well as birth, old age, disease and death. Sometimes, when people are a little interested, they take to a path that is not even approved, or they invent something. But nothing need be invented. By this Kṛṣṇa consciousness process, everyone can be elevated. Everyone can be delivered, regardless of his situation or culture. We have spread this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement throughout the world, and people are becoming happy because of it.
According to Bhagavad-gītā (9.32), anyone can take shelter of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa never denies anyone, and similarly, Kṛṣṇa’s devotee never denies anyone. That is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We tell everyone, “Yes, you are welcome. Take this education and spiritual life and become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa.” Sometimes we are criticized because of this, but Kṛṣṇa specifically says in Bhagavad-gītā that even those who are lowborn can take shelter of Him and become elevated for liberation. What, then, to speak of pious people born in brahminical families? Unfortunately, in this age people born in rich or brahminical families often don’t care for spiritual realization. They misuse their chance and exhaust the results of their pious activities. Society needs first-class sādhus in order to improve. If everyone is a śūdra and debauchee, how can society be peaceful? Therefore in order to organize society, Kṛṣṇa recommends the varṇāśrama-dharma. There must be ideal brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras. However, no one cares about this now.
One may ask, “What is a sādhu?” A sādhu is one who serves Kṛṣṇa and engages in Kṛṣṇa consciousness without reservation. In Bhagavad-gītā (9.30), Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.”
It is the sādhu’s business to be very tolerant. When one becomes a devotee, many people become one’s enemy, because in this age people are asuric, demoniac. Even one’s father may turn into an enemy like Hiraṇyakaśipu, the father of Prahlāda Mahārāja. Prahlāda was only five years old and was chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, but his father was prepared to kill him because he was a devotee. Hiraṇyakaśipu was saying, “Why are you chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa? Why are you speaking of a separate God? I am God.” That is the meaning of asuric, demoniac. Rascals who claim to be God themselves are simply demons. Although Prahlāda’s father was insisting that he was God, Prahlāda Mahārāja could not accept this. He simply accepted his father as an asura, and consequently there was a quarrel between them. When Hiraṇyakaśipu asked Prahlāda Mahārāja, “What is the best thing you have learned from your teachers?” Prahlāda replied, “O best of the asuras, as far as I can understand, because we have accepted this material body, we have to accept death. But this is not the object of human life. Human life is meant for mokṣa, liberation.” Unfortunately, foolish people do not understand this. Kṛṣṇa says, mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś cāham: “I am death, and I will take away everything you possess.” (Bhagavad-gītā 10.34) Hiraṇyakaśipu was such a powerful demon that even the demigods were afraid of him, but Kṛṣṇa took everything away in a second. Hiraṇyakaśipu was looking for security, and he was thinking, “I will not die in this way, and I will not die in that way.” But he did not think that he would be killed by the Lord in the form of Nṛsiṁha. However intelligent we may be, and however much we may try to cheat Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa is always more intelligent. When mother Yaśodā tried to bind Kṛṣṇa with a rope, she found that the rope was always two inches too short. Our intelligence is like that. We want to cheat God and surpass Him, but this is not possible. People think themselves very advanced in knowledge, but actually, due to their pride, their knowledge is taken away by māyā. Kṛṣṇa actually takes the knowledge away from atheistic, demoniac people like Hiraṇyakaśipu. Atheists do not know that Kṛṣṇa’s intelligence is always at least two inches greater than anyone else’s.
In material life, we simply struggle for existence. We want to exist, and we do not want to die. Nor do we want to undergo the pains of birth, catch diseases or grow old. There are so many miseries in material life that we do not want, but they are forced upon us. Unfortunately, we are not intelligent enough to make a solution to all these problems. We should be inquiring like Sanātana Gosvāmī about how to put an end to them all. Instead, we are working in such a way that we have to accept another material body. We are experiencing the difficulties arising from this material body, but we are not working in a way to become free. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is giving information on how to become liberated.
Those who are mahātmās are always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Bhajana is the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. If we serve a mahātmā like Haridāsa Ṭhākura, who was always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, our path of liberation is opened. However, if we associate with materialistic people, who are simply mad for sense gratification, we take the way of darkness. Tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam. The Vedas enjoin that we not remain in darkness but that we go to the light. We have accepted a body, but we will not be allowed to remain in that body permanently. We will have to give it up and accept another, and then another and another. What is this business? The material world is in such darkness, and people are taking on one body after another. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is therefore here to give enlightenment and liberation, and it is offering not only the simplest process of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa but also the most sublime philosophy.