Bhakti as Ultimate Liberation
viditvārthaṁ kapilo mātur ittham
jāta-sneho yatra tanvābhijātaḥ
tattvāmnāyaṁ yat pravadanti sāṅkhyaṁ
provāca vai bhakti-vitāna-yogam
Śrī Maitreya said: After hearing His mother’s statement, Kapila could understand her purpose, and He became compassionate toward her because of having been born from her body. He then described the Sāṅkhya system of philosophy, which is a combination of devotional service and mystic realization, as received by disciplic succession.
The philosophy propounded by the atheist Kapila is an analysis of the material elements and is very much appreciated by Western philosophers. The sāṅkhya-yoga explained by Lord Kapiladeva, the son of Devahūti, is practically unknown in the West. The sāṅkhya-yoga propounded herein is actually bhakti. It is stated here that the proper way to receive this knowledge is by disciplic succession, not by philosophical speculation. Speculation is an improper way to understand the Absolute Truth. Generally Western philosophers try to understand the Absolute Truth by the ascending process of mental speculation. This is the process of inductive logic. The other process is the descending process, and this is the paramparā process. By this method, knowledge descends from a higher source.
In Bhagavad-gītā, many yoga systems are explained, but the bhakti-yoga system is considered highest of all. Ultimately, all yogas end in bhakti-yoga. The ultimate conclusion of jñāna-yoga and haṭha-yoga is bhakti-yoga. In the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the haṭha-yoga system of meditation is explained, and Arjuna, who was highly elevated, said that he could not concentrate his mind in this way. If the haṭha-yoga system was so difficult five thousand years ago for a person so elevated that he was Kṛṣṇa’s friend, how is it possible today? Arjuna frankly said that this system of yoga was impossible to execute because the mind is as difficult to control as the wind.
The haṭha-yoga system is basically meant for those who are overly attached to the body; otherwise, the preferred yoga is sāṅkhya-yoga or bhakti-yoga. When Arjuna told Śrī Kṛṣṇa that the haṭha-yoga system was too difficult to execute, the Lord pacified him by saying that the first-class yogī is one “who is always thinking of Me.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.47) Arjuna did not know anything but Kṛṣṇa, and Arjuna requested that Kṛṣṇa be present on his side in the battle. When Duryodhana approached Kṛṣṇa with Arjuna and requested Him to take sides, Kṛṣṇa said, “I have eighteen military divisions. These divisions will take one side, and I personally will take another. However, I will not fight in this battle.” At first Arjuna thought it wise to take the eighteen divisions with their many thousands of elephants and horses, but then he considered that if he simply had Kṛṣṇa on his side, that would be sufficient. He would not need ordinary soldiers. Duryodhana, on the other hand, decided to take Kṛṣṇa’s soldiers. Thus in order to pacify Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa told him not to worry, although he could not execute the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system.
“The first-class yogī is he who always thinks of Me.” One should always remember that Kṛṣṇa is within his heart and think of Him. This is the proper system of meditation. If we always chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, we will always remember Kṛṣṇa, and immediately the form of Kṛṣṇa will be awakened within our hearts. The process of always thinking of Kṛṣṇa is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The first-class yogī is he who is always conscious of Kṛṣṇa. One can be conscious of Kṛṣṇa by hearing about Him submissively.
We have to accept Kṛṣṇa through the disciplic succession. There are four sampradāyas, disciplic successions. One comes from Lord Brahmā (the Brahma-sampradāya), and another comes from Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, (the Śrī-sampradāya). There are also the Kumāra-sampradāya and the Rudra-sampradāya. At the present moment, the Brahmā-sampradāya is represented by the Madhva-sampradāya, and we belong to the Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya. Our original sampradāya stems from Madhvācārya. In that sampradāya there was Mādhavendra Purī, and Mādhavendra Purī’s disciple was Śrī Īśvara Purī. Śrī Īśvara Purī’s disciple was Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Thus we are coming in the disciplic succession from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and therefore our sampradāya is called the Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya. It is not that we have manufactured a sampradāya; rather, our sampradāya stems from Lord Brahmā. There is also the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, which comes from the Śrī-sampradāya, and there is the Viṣṇu Svāmī-sampradāya,which comes from the Rudra-sampradāya. The Nimbāditya-sampradāya comes from the Kumāra-sampradāya. If we do not belong to any sampradāya, our conclusion is fruitless. It is not that one should think, “I am a big scholar, and I can interpret Bhagavad-gītā in my own way. All these sampradāyas are useless.” We cannot manufacture our own comments. There are many commentaries made in this way, and they are all useless. They have no effect. We have to accept the philosophy as it was contemplated by Lord Brahmā, Nārada, Madhvācārya, Mādhavendra Purī and Īśvara Purī. These great ācāryas are beyond the imperfections of so-called scholars. Mundane scientists and philosophers use the words “perhaps” and “maybe” because they cannot arrive at a proper conclusion. They are simply speculating, and mental speculation cannot be perfect.
Bhakti-yoga is at the top of the stairs of all the yogas. The first step is karma-yoga, and then jñāna-yoga and dhyāna-yoga, but the ultimate is bhakti-yoga. Everyone is trying to reach the ultimate Absolute Truth, but the other yogas end in partial understanding. The understanding derived from bhakti-yoga is complete, and even if partially executed, it has potency. It is also recommended by the great mahājanas like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and Kapiladeva. Since the path of perfection is very difficult to understand, the śāstras recommend that we follow the mahājanas, who are thus described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.3.20):
kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo
balir vaiyāsakir vayam
Another name for Lord Brahmā is Svayambhū because he was born from a lotus flower emanating from the navel of Lord Viṣṇu. Since he was not born of a father and mother, he is therefore called Svayambhū. Nārada Muni is also a mahājana, and Śambhu is Lord Śiva. Kumāra refers to the four Kumāras – Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Sanat-kumāra. There are twelve authorities following the Sāṅkhya philosophy, or bhakti-yoga, and these include Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Kapiladeva, Manu, Bhīṣmadeva, Janaka Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Prahlāda Mahārāja. If we simply accept one of these mahājanas, we will be successful in understanding the Absolute Truth, but if we try to understand the Absolute Truth by logic and argument, we will ultimately be frustrated. One philosopher may be a better logician than another, and one philosophical argument may counteract another, but this process goes on and on. It is simply a useless waste of time. Even if we approach Vedic scriptures, there are difficulties. There are so many scriptures – Yajur Veda, Ṛg Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda, the Upaniṣads, the Purāṇas, Brahma-sūtra, Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and so forth. Different people read them and arrive at different conclusions. There are also the Bible and the Koran. According to so many different men, there are so many interpretations. One philosopher defeats another philosopher on the basis of scripture. It is even stated that one cannot become a ṛṣi, a philosopher, unless one propounds a different system of philosophy. Nāsāv ṛṣir yasya mataṁ na bhinnam. Thus the truth of spiritual life is very complicated and difficult to understand. The conclusion is that one should follow one of these twelve mahājanas in order to be successful. Kṛṣṇa is the original mahājana, and He instructed Lord Brahmā. Lord Brahmā is also a mahājana. Actually, Kṛṣṇa instructed everyone in Bhagavad-gītā, and thus everyone has learned from Kṛṣṇa.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.1) it is also stated: tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye. Thus Kṛṣṇa gives His personal instructions just as Kapiladeva gave His personal instructions. There is no contradiction between Kṛṣṇa’s philosophy in Bhagavad-gītā and Kapiladeva’s philosophy. We need only receive the transcendental knowledge through the mahājanas, and the results will be beneficial. Kapiladeva explained this Sāṅkhya philosophy to His mother, and although He had a natural affection for His mother, we should not think that Devahūti was an ordinary woman. She was very submissive, and when Kapiladeva saw this, He became very compassionate. He saw that she was eager to know about the Absolute Truth, and He considered that, after all, He had received His body from her. Therefore He concluded that He should try to give her the ultimate conclusion of philosophical knowledge, which is this Sāṅkhya philosophy.
vṛttiḥ svābhāvikī tu yā
bhaktiḥ siddher garīyasī
Lord Kapila said: The senses are symbolic representations of the demigods, and their natural inclination is to work under the direction of the Vedic injunctions. As the senses are representatives of the demigods, so the mind is the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mind’s natural duty is to serve. When that spirit of service is engaged in devotion to the Personality of Godhead, without any motive, that is far better than salvation.
The senses of the living entity are always engaged in some occupation, either in activities prescribed in the Vedic injunctions or in material activities. The natural inclination of the senses is to work for something, and the mind is the center of the senses. The mind is actually the leader of the senses; therefore it is called sattva. Similarly, the leader of all the demigods who are engaged in the activities of this material world – in managing the sun, moon, etc. – is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is stated in the Vedic literature that the demigods are different limbs of the universal body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Our senses are also controlled by different demigods; our senses are representations of various demigods, and the mind is the representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The senses, led by the mind, act under the influence of the demigods. When the service is ultimately aimed at the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the senses are in their natural position. The Lord is called Hṛṣīkeśa, for He is actually the proprietor and ultimate master of the senses. The senses and the mind are naturally inclined to work, but when they are materially contaminated, they work for some material benefit or for the service of the demigods, although actually they are meant to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The senses are called hṛṣīka, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called Hṛṣīkeśa. Indirectly, all the senses are naturally inclined to serve the Supreme Lord. That is called bhakti.
Kapiladeva said that in devotional service the senses, without desire for material profit or other selfish motives, are engaged in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That spirit of service is far better than siddhi, salvation. Bhakti, the inclination to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is in a transcendental position far superior to mukti, or liberation. Thus bhakti is the stage after liberation. Unless one is liberated, one cannot engage the senses in the service of the Lord. When the senses are engaged either in material activities of sense gratification or in the activities of the Vedic injunctions, there is some motive, but when the same senses are engaged in the service of the Lord without ulterior motive, that is called animittā and is the natural inclination of the mind. The conclusion is that when the mind, undeviated either by Vedic injunctions or by material activities, is fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is situated far above mere liberation from material entanglement.
Bhakti, devotional service, is transcendental even to mukti, liberation. Generally people are concerned with dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. In the beginning, there is dharma (religion), then artha (economic development), kāma (sense gratification), then mokṣa (merging into the Supreme One). However, bhakti is above all these. Mukti is not very important for a bhakta. In the words of Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura: muktiḥ svayaṁ mukulitāñjaliḥ sevate ’smān. “Mukti herself is standing with folded hands, waiting to serve the devotee.” (Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta 107) This is the experience of Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura, who was a very rich South Indian brāhmaṇa. Due to bad association, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura became a very staunch prostitute hunter, and he spent all his money on a prostitute named Cintāmaṇi. One night, during a terrible rainstorm, Bilvamaṅgala went to see Cintāmaṇi, but the prostitute was thinking, “Surely tonight Bilvamaṅgala will not come. This is a terrible storm.” Nonetheless, Bilvamaṅgala came, despite all difficulties. Somehow he managed to cross the raging river, and when he saw the gates of Cintāmaṇi’s house closed, he somehow managed to jump over them. Despite all the dangers, he reached Cintāmaṇi’s house, and the prostitute, being very astonished, said, “How is it you have come tonight? Oh, you are so attracted to this skin! If you just had this much attraction for Kṛṣṇa, it would certainly be to your benefit.” Bilvamaṅgala then immediately left the prostitute’s house and went to Vṛndāvana. The fact was that in his previous life he had executed devotional service up to bhāva-bhakti. Thus the prostitute Cintāmaṇi actually became his guru. While in Vṛndāvana, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura wrote a book named Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, which has been recommended by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In that book, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura writes: “If we have devotion fixed on You, my Lord Bhagavān, then we can easily see Your divine form as kaiśora-mūrti, a young boy.”
Another name for Kṛṣṇa is Kaiśora. The word kaiśora refers to the age before marriage – that is, it refers to a boy between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is always kaiśora-mūrti. By devotional service, one can see the kaiśora-mūrti of Kṛṣṇa very easily.
When Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura was going to Vṛndāvana, he was still attracted to women. One night he stayed at the house of a very rich merchant, and the merchant’s wife told her husband that Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura was attracted to her. She asked her husband what to do, and the merchant simply said, “Serve him.” Finally Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura came to his senses, and he thought, “These eyes are my enemies.” When the beautiful woman approached him, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura said, “Mother, please give me the pins out of your hair. I am very mad after the beauty of women. So let me pluck out my eyes.” In this way, he blinded himself. Although he could not see, in Vṛndāvana he was supplied milk by Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus he personally realized Kṛṣṇa through bhakti and wrote of his personal experience. He wrote, “Mukti is not a very important thing. She is always at my service with folded hands, saying, ‘My dear sir, what can I do for you?’ ” Thus a devotee is not very anxious for mukti because he is already liberated. If a man has a million dollars, why should he hanker after ten rupees?
Bhakti should be animittā, without motive. Actually Kṛṣṇa can fulfill all of our wishes without difficulty because He is almighty and full of all opulences. If we want material happiness from Kṛṣṇa, it is certainly not difficult for Him to grant it. He can also give us mukti, liberation, but it is foolishness to ask anything from Kṛṣṇa except bhakti. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say that asking God for mukti or anything else other than bhakti is like going to a rich man and asking for ashes. There is another story, about an old woman who was carrying a bundle of dry wood through the forest. Somehow or other the bundle, which was very heavy, fell to the ground. The old woman became very disturbed, and thought, “Who will help put this bundle back on my head?” She then began to call on God, saying, “God help me.” Suddenly God appeared and said, “What do you want?” She said, “Please help me put this bundle back on my head.” So this is our foolishness. When God comes to give us some benediction, we simply ask Him to load us down again with all these material bundles. We ask Him for more material things, for a happy family, for a large amount of money, for a new car or whatever.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches us that we should only beg God for His service life after life. This is the actual meaning of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. When we are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma, Rāma, Hare Hare, we are actually addressing God and His energy, Harā. Harā is Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī or Lakṣmī. Jaya rādhe! This is daivī prakṛti, and the devotees take shelter of the daivī prakṛti, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Thus the Vaiṣṇavas worship Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa and Sītā-Rāma. In the beginning of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra we first address the internal energy of Kṛṣṇa, Hare. Thus we say, “O Rādhārāṇī! O Hare! O energy of the Lord!” When we address someone in this way, he usually says, “Yes, what do you want?” The answer is, “Please engage me in Your service.” This should be our prayer. We should not say, “O energy of the Lord, O Kṛṣṇa, please give me money. Please give me a beautiful wife. Please give me many followers. Please give me some prestigious position. Please give me the presidency.” These are all material hankerings, which should be avoided. Lord Buddha advocated that we give up all material desires. It is not possible to become desireless, but it is possible to give up material desires. It is the nature of the living entity to desire; it is not possible to be desireless. If one is desireless, he is dead. Desirelessness means purifying one’s desire, and desire is purified when we only desire the service of Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches:
kavitāṁ vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
mama janmani janmanīśvare
bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
“O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 4) He requests Lord Kṛṣṇa’s service birth after birth. It is not that He is seeking salvation; rather, He simply wants to serve Kṛṣṇa one life after another. The devotees are not anxious to merge into the existence of the Supreme. The Buddhist philosophy advocates nirvāṇa, the negation of all material desires. Buddha does not offer more than this. Śaṅkarācārya gives a little more, saying that we should become desireless in this material world and then enter into the Brahman effulgence. This is called brahma-nirvāṇa. According to the Vaiṣṇava philosophy, however, we should negate material desires and be situated on the Brahman platform, but in addition we should engage in the devotional service of the Lord. This is called bhakti. Māyāvādī philosophers cannot understand this, but Kṛṣṇa says that this devotional service is on the transcendental platform.
The Sāṅkhya philosophy of the atheist Kapila, which is a material philosophy, is simply the study of the twenty-four elements. However, the real Sāṅkhya philosophy, propounded by Kapiladeva, is transcendental to the twenty-four elements and material activity. Thus in this Sāṅkhya philosophy, which is actually bhakti-yoga, there is no desire for material benefits. On the material platform, a person works for his own personal sense gratification or for some expanded sense gratification. One may work for himself, family, wife, children, society, community, nation or humanity at large. This is simply expanded sense gratification. Whether one steals for himself, family, community or whatever, the fact remains that he is a thief. It is said that when Alexander the Great arrested a common thief, the thief told Alexander, “What is the difference between us? I am a small plunderer, and you are a great plunderer.” Being very sensible, Alexander released him, saying, “Yes, there is no difference.” Regardless whether the sense gratification is for oneself, one’s family, one’s nation or whatever, it is, after all, sense gratification. The quality changes only when we work for the sense gratification of Kṛṣṇa.
It is noteworthy that Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam never states that kṛṣṇa uvāca (“Kṛṣṇa says”) or kapiladeva uvāca (“Kapiladeva says”). Rather, it states bhagavān uvāca (“the Supreme Personality of Godhead says”). This means that the version is perfect. If we receive knowledge from an ordinary man, there will be many defects. An ordinary person is subject to illusion, and he also has the tendency to cheat. Although an ordinary person may be a very advanced scholar, he does not possess perfect knowledge. Perfection is something totally different from what we find in the material world. Perfection means that there is no mistake, no illusion, no cheating, no imperfection. Therefore it is stated bhagavān uvāca, for Bhagavān is all-perfect. We should therefore take knowledge from Bhagavān or from one who speaks according to the version of Bhagavān.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is based on this principle. We are not presenting anything that we ourselves could manufacture. Whatever we manufacture is sure to be defective or deficient. What is the value of my philosophy? What is the value of my thought? Generally, people say, “In my opinion,” thinking that “my opinion” really means something. People do not think, “I am simply a rascal.” People value their opinion, thinking it something very big. Everyone in this material world has imperfect senses; therefore whatever knowledge has been gathered through the senses is necessarily imperfect. As we have stressed over and over, we have to receive knowledge from the disciplic succession. Knowledge has to be received from Bhagavān, the perfect one. If we simply follow this system, we can become a guru for the whole world.
The devotee never thinks that he is a great bhakta. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, has stated, purīṣera kīṭa haite muñi se laghiṣṭha: “I am lower than the worms in stool.” (Ādi 5.205) This is the Vaiṣṇava conception. A Vaiṣṇava is by nature very humble. He never says, “I am the Supreme; I have become God.” Kṛṣṇa says, “I am God. Worship Me.” The Vaiṣṇava says, “Kṛṣṇa is God. Worship Kṛṣṇa.” It is not difficult to become a guru, provided that we repeat what Kṛṣṇa says. Whatever Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gītā is dharma. Dharma is one. It cannot be different. Dharma means abiding by the orders of God. However, if we do not know God or His orders, we can only set about manufacturing some rubbish and fighting among ourselves. This is not dharma but philosophical speculation. All of this speculation and manufactured dharma has been kicked out of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam because it is all cheating. Bhāgavata-dharma is not cheating, for it is related to the Supreme Lord. Bhakti can be applied only to Bhagavān, and if there is no Bhagavān, there is no bhakti. If Bhagavān is zero, where is bhakti? Bhakti is the transaction between Bhagavān and the bhakta. Bhagavān is there, and the bhaktas are there, and the bhaktas address Bhagavān, feed Bhagavān, chant Bhagavān’s names, invoke people to hear about Bhagavān, publish books about Bhagavān and worship Bhagavān, and in this way they are constantly absorbed in Bhagavān. This is the process of bhakti.
nigīrṇam analo yathā
Bhakti, devotional service, dissolves the subtle body of the living entity without separate effort, just as fire in the stomach digests all that we eat.
Bhakti is in a far higher position than mukti because a person’s endeavor for liberation from the material encagement is automatically realized in devotional service. If the digestive power is sufficient, then whatever we eat will be digested by the fire in the stomach. Similarly, a devotee doesn’t have to try separately to attain liberation. That very service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the process of liberation because to engage in the service of the Lord is to liberate oneself from material entanglement.
For a devotee, liberation is no problem at all. Liberation takes place without separate endeavor. Bhakti, therefore, is far better than mukti or the impersonalist position. The impersonalists undergo severe penances and austerities to attain mukti, but the bhakta, simply by engaging in the bhakti process, especially in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, immediately develops control over the tongue by chanting and accepting the remnants of foodstuff offered to the Personality of Godhead. As soon as the tongue is controlled, all other senses are controlled automatically. Sense control is the perfection of the yoga principle, and one’s liberation begins immediately as soon as he engages in the service of the Lord. It is confirmed by Kapiladeva that bhakti, or devotional service, is garīyasi, more glorious than siddhi, liberation.
It is stated in this verse that bhakti dissolves the subtle body. The spirit soul has two coverings – subtle and gross. The gross body is composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence and ego. Of the eight material elements, five are gross and three are subtle. We cannot see the subtle, and the soul is even more subtle. Anyone with eyes can see the body, but not everyone can perceive the soul, the actual person. When we understand that the soul, or the person, has left the body, we cry, “Oh, my friend has left.” We can perceive that the body is there, but something is obviously missing. Thus one’s friend is actually different from the body. At the present moment when we say, “This is my friend,” we refer to the body, but that is simply the vision of an animal. Animals think, “This is my dog friend, and this is my mother dog.” They cannot see beyond the gross body. Similarly, we cannot see the soul, and if we cannot see the minute soul, how can we hope to see God with these blunt eyes? We cannot actually see one another. How, then, can we hope to see God? It is stated: ataḥ śri-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ. “Material senses cannot appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, form, qualities and pastimes.”
Our present senses are incapable of seeing God. Generally, at death we can understand that something has gone. We understand that what we were seeing was not actually our friend but a lump of matter. This is knowledge. However, one who understands before death that the body is simply a lump of matter is called a wise man. He sees the soul through the eyes of knowledge. Those who are on the gross platform, who are like animals, can see neither the soul nor Bhagavān. The karmīs, the gross fruitive workers, do not understand the distinction between the body and the soul. Out of many millions of karmīs, there may be one jñānī, one wise man who can understand. The jñānī knows that he is not the body, and out of many millions of jñānīs, one may be actually liberated. The Māyāvādīs think that because they are spirit soul, they are one with the Supreme. Being equal in quality does not mean that one is the Supreme Soul. Because the Māyāvādīs think that they have become one with Nārāyaṇa, they address one another as Nārāyaṇa. They say, “You are Nārāyaṇa, I am Nārāyaṇa, everyone is Nārāyaṇa.” From this misconception, the idea of daridra-nārāyaṇa (poor Nārāyaṇa) arises. The devotees fully engaged in the service of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord do not think in this way. They think, “If I am one with the Supreme, how is it I have fallen into this condition?” They know that a drop of seawater is one in quality with the vast ocean, but they also know that a drop of water is never equal to the ocean itself.
Sometimes the Māyāvādīs worship Lord Viṣṇu, but they do not actually believe in the form of Lord Viṣṇu. They consider His image to be some imaginary form to utilize as a means for self-realization. Māyāvādīs say that the Absolute Truth has no rūpa, no form, but it is stated: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ. “Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body.”
The word vigraha refers to the supreme form, but the Māyāvādīs do not understand this. There are also many so-called Vaiṣṇavas who worship Lord Viṣṇu with an aim of becoming one with the Supreme. They sometimes give the example of a drop of water merging into the great ocean itself. This is simply nonsense. The ocean is a combination of countless molecules of water, and it is impossible for one molecule to merge into the totality. The sunshine is a combination of countless trillions of small shining particles, and each particle has its individual identity as an atom. Because we do not have the eyes to see the small atomic divisions, we think that they are one, but actually they are not homogeneous. Similarly, although we are very small particles of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we all have different identities. In Bhagavad-gītā (2.12) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”
Kṛṣṇa never says that He, Arjuna, and all the soldiers shall eventually become one. Rather, He says that everyone will retain his own individuality.
Those who have complete knowledge never think that in the future they will become one with the Supreme. They simply want to remain in their constitutional position as part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. Although we are now covered by the material body, the material body can be easily dissolved by the process of bhakti-yoga. If we are strong in bhakti-yoga, we actually no longer have a material body but a spiritual one. We are free.
When we are baffled, we want to become the husband of goddess Lakṣmī. The husband of goddess Lakṣmī is Nārāyaṇa, God Himself. In this material world, we are hankering after Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, but we are frustrated in our attempts. We think, “Now let me become the husband of Lakṣmī.” Actually, no one can enjoy Lakṣmī but Nārāyaṇa. Even exalted demigods like Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are inferior to Lord Nārāyaṇa, but we are so foolish that we are thinking of assuming Nārāyaṇa’s position, or making Nārāyaṇa into daridra-nārāyaṇa, the poor man in the street. The śāstras never equalize Nārāyaṇa with anyone, not even Lord Brahmā or Lord Śiva, what to speak of foolish rascals.
One may ask why Nārāyaṇa has created us, why it is we are part and parcel of Nārāyaṇa. Eko bahu syām. Why has Nārāyaṇa become many? He has created us for enjoyment. Ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt. He has created us in the same way a gentleman accepts a wife. If one takes on a wife, he will beget children. A man takes on the responsibility of maintaining a wife and children because he thinks that through them he will enjoy life. In the material world we see that during the evening a man tries to enjoy life with his wife, children and friends. Therefore he takes on so many responsibilities. This is supposed to be ānanda, bliss, but because it takes place in the material world, the ānanda is converted into something distasteful. However, we can enjoy this ānanda when we are with our Supreme Father, Kṛṣṇa. We are all children of the Supreme Father, and in Bhagavad-gītā (14.4) Kṛṣṇa claims all species of life as His children:
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.”
The Supreme Father, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, has created us for His enjoyment, not to create distress. Although we are Kṛṣṇa’s children, we have given up our Supreme Father because we wish to enjoy ourselves independently. Consequently we are suffering. If a rich man’s son gives up his home to try to enjoy life independently, he simply suffers. It is to our benefit to return home, back to Godhead, to enjoy ourselves with our original father, Kṛṣṇa. This will give us happiness. Kṛṣṇa is full of all opulence. He possesses in totality wealth, strength, beauty, fame, knowledge and renunciation. He possesses everything in unlimited quantity. If we return to our original father, we can enjoy ourselves with Him unlimitedly. It is not that we can enjoy ourselves independent of Kṛṣṇa. Nor can we say that to enjoy ourselves we have to become one with Kṛṣṇa. In the material world, our father gives us our birth, and we are an entity separate from him. If we are suffering, do we say, “My dear father, I am suffering. Will you please once again make me one with you?” Is this a very good proposal? A father says, “I have begotten you separately to enjoy yourself. You remain separate, and I remain separate, and in this way we will enjoy. Now you are asking to become one with me. What is this nonsense?”
The Māyāvādīs want to become one with the Supreme because they are suffering in the material world. Kṛṣṇa has created us to enjoy ourselves in His company, but due to our desire for independent enjoyment, we are not doing that. Consequently we are suffering in this material world, and because we are suffering we are thinking of becoming one with our father. It is māyā’s business to try to build up the living entity, to puff him up, and māyā’s last snare is to make the living entity think that he can become one with God. Māyāvādīs think that becoming one with the Supreme is the highest perfection, but this is not perfection because our original constitutional position is to enjoy the company of Kṛṣṇa. Friends sit together in a room and enjoy one another’s company. What enjoyment can one have by himself? Variety is the mother of enjoyment, and real enjoyment is being in Kṛṣṇa’s company. Therefore devotees never desire to become one with the Supreme. It is Caitanya Mahāprabhu who says:
bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
“My dear Lord, I do not want to put an end to the process of birth and death. I am not anxious for mukti. Let me go ahead and take one birth after another. It doesn’t matter. Simply let me engage in Your service birth after birth.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 4) This is real ānanda. Unless we are fully qualified devotees, we cannot enter into the Vaikuṇṭha planets. We have to live outside in the brahma-jyotir. If we desire this, Kṛṣṇa will give us the opportunity. After all, Kṛṣṇa is everything. He is brahma-jyotir and Paramātmā also. If we want to become one with the Supreme, we will be allowed to live outside the Vaikuṇṭha planets, in the brahma-jyotir. However, that position is not eternal. As we have explained before, we cannot live eternally in the brahma-jyotir because we want variety. Without variety, there is no enjoyment.
In all conditions, the pure devotee is liberated. He may engage in some occupation or business, but he is always thinking of how to serve Kṛṣṇa, and in this way he is automatically liberated. It is not that he thinks of becoming one with the Supreme and attaining liberation. Rather, his liberation lies in his personal relationship with the Supreme Lord Himself.