How to Understand the Lord’s Activities
tāni me śraddadhānasya
Therefore please precisely describe all the activities and pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is full of self-desire and who assumes all these activities by His internal potency.
The word anukīrtaya is very significant. Anukīrtaya means “to follow the description” – not to create a concocted mental description, but to follow. Śaunaka Ṛṣi requested Sūta Gosvāmī to describe what he had actually heard from his spiritual master, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, about the transcendental pastimes that the Lord manifested by His internal energy. Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has no material body, but He can assume any kind of body by His supreme will. That is made possible by His internal energy.
We can understand the pastimes of the Lord by following one or some of the authorized devotional processes.
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
“Hearing, chanting and remembering the holy name, form, pastimes, qualities and entourage of the Lord, offering service according to the time, place and performer, worshiping the Deity, offering prayers, always considering oneself the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, making friends with Him and dedicating everything unto Him – these are the nine processes of devotional service.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.23)
There are nine basic processes of devotional service – hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord, remembering Him, serving His lotus feet, worshiping Him, offering prayers to the Lord, acting as His servant, becoming His friend, and surrendering everything to Him. The beginning is śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam, hearing and chanting. One must be very eager to hear and chant. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.14):
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, the great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.”
We have to speak or chant about the holy activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but first we have to hear about them. This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was recited by Śukadeva Gosvāmī and heard by Parīkṣit Mahārāja, and we in turn have to hear about Kṛṣṇa and then chant about Him (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ). When we speak of Viṣṇu, we mean Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is the origin of the viṣṇu-tattva – that is, Viṣṇu is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. When we speak of Viṣṇu, we understand that the origin of Viṣṇu is Kṛṣṇa. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (10.2), aham ādir hi devānām: “I am the source of the demigods.”
The most important demigods (devas) are Brahmā, Śiva and Viṣṇu. In the beginning of the creation there is Lord Viṣṇu, and from Lord Viṣṇu, Brahmā is born. From Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva is born, and these three gods take charge of the three modes of material nature. Viṣṇu takes charge of sattva-guṇa (the mode of goodness), Lord Brahmā takes charge of rajo-guṇa (the mode of passion), and Lord Śiva takes charge of tamo-guṇa (the mode of ignorance). However, before the creation there was no Brahmā or Śiva. There was only Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa therefore says, aham ādir hi devānām. He is the creator of all demigods and all other living entities. After the cosmic manifestation is created, the living entities are placed in it. Therefore in the Vedas it is stated that in the beginning there was neither Brahmā nor Śiva, but only Nārāyaṇa (eko nārāyaṇa āsīt). Nārāyaṇa is also another plenary expansion of Kṛṣṇa.
We have to learn from the scriptures that Kṛṣṇa is the origin of all. Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam: all the viṣṇu-tattvas and incarnations are but plenary expansions or expansions of the plenary expansions of Kṛṣṇa. There are millions and millions of incarnations. They are as plentiful as waves in the ocean. There are śaktyāveśa-avatāras, guṇa-avatāras and svayam-avatāras, and these are all described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. All these avatāras, or incarnations, are svacchandātmā, free from care and anxiety. If we organize a business, we have many anxieties. The managing director or proprietor of the business particularly has many anxieties. Although he sits in his office without disturbance, he is not very happy because he is always thinking about how to do this or that, how to manage this affair or that. This is material nature, and therefore it is said that there is always anxiety in the material world. When Hiraṇyakaśipu, the father of Prahlāda Mahārāja, asked his son, “My dear boy, what is the best thing you have learned from your teachers?” Prahlāda Mahārāja immediately replied, tat sādhu manye ’sura-varya dehināṁ sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.5). “I have learned that materialists have accepted the asad-guṇa.” Asat means “that which is not.” We should not remain on this platform, but should go to the platform of sat (oṁ tat sat). This is the Vedic injunction. The material world is asad-vastu; it cannot possibly remain. In the material world, everything will ultimately be vanquished. Whatever exists in the material world exists only for some time. It is temporary. The Māyāvādī philosophers say, brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā: “The Supreme Truth is real, whereas the world is false” – but Vaiṣṇavas do not use the word mithyā (false), because God, the Supreme Brahman, is truth, and nothing false can emanate from the truth. If we prepare an earring from gold, the earring is also gold. We cannot say that the earring is false. Yato imāni bhūtāni jāyante: the Supreme Absolute Truth is He from whom everything is emanating. If everything is emanating from the Absolute Truth, nothing can actually be false. The Vaiṣṇava philosophers accept the world as temporary, but not false, as the Māyāvādī philosophers do.
The world (jagat) has emanated from the Supreme; therefore it is not mithyā, but it is temporary. That is also explained in Bhagavad-gītā (8.19): bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate. The material world comes into existence, remains for some time, and is then annihilated. It is not false, for it can be utilized to realize the Supreme Truth. This is Vaiṣṇava philosophy. The world is temporary, but we must use it for spiritual purposes. If something is used for the ultimate truth, the Absolute Truth, it becomes integral with the Absolute Truth. As stated by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī:
yuktaṁ vairāgyam ucyate
vairāgyaṁ phalgu kathyate
The word mumukṣubhiḥ refers to those who aspire for mukti, liberation. When one becomes disgusted with material engagement, one wants to destroy everything that has anything to do with the material world. However, the Vaiṣṇava says, prāpañcikatayā buddhyā hari-sambandhi-vastunaḥ. Everything has some relationship with the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth. For instance, a microphone is made of metal, but what is metal? It is another form of earth. In Bhagavad-gītā (7.4) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these comprise My separated material energies.” All of these are Kṛṣṇa’s energies, and if Kṛṣṇa is the source of them, how can they be untrue? They are not. A Vaiṣṇava will never say that metal has no connection with Kṛṣṇa. It is a product of one of His energies, just as this material world is a product of the sun. We cannot say that the sunshine is false and that the sun is true. If the sun is true, the sunshine is also true. Similarly, we do not say that the material universe is false. It may be temporary, but it is not false. Therefore the Gosvāmīs and Kṛṣṇa Himself tell us that since everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa, everything should be utilized for His purpose.
This creation emanates from Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord, who is without anxiety. Kṛṣṇa very pleasantly associates with His consort Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and enjoys playing His flute. If God is anxious, what kind of God is He? Even Lord Brahmā and other demigods are anxious. Lord Brahmā is engaged in meditation, Lord Śiva dances to annihilate the universe, the goddess Kālī is engaged in killing with her sword, and so forth. The demigods have many activities, but Kṛṣṇa is always peaceful. The Kṛṣṇa who engages in killing demons is Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa, not the original Kṛṣṇa. The original Kṛṣṇa does not go anywhere; He never takes a step away from Vṛndāvana. The other activities performed by Kṛṣṇa are performed in the Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Aniruddha or Pradyumna forms. Kṛṣṇa expands as Saṅkarṣaṇa, Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu, Mahā-viṣṇu, Garbhodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu and Kṣīrodaka-śāyī Viṣṇu. God can expand Himself in many, many forms.
ādyaṁ purāṇa-puruṣaṁ nava-yauvanaṁ ca
He is the ādi-puruṣa, the original soul of all. Govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi: Lord Brahmā says that he is not ādi-puruṣa but that Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, is the ādi-puruṣa. This Kṛṣṇa has many expansions (advaitam acyutam anādim). He has no beginning, but He is the beginning of everything. He has expanded Himself in many forms. The viṣṇu-tattva consists of bhagavat-tattva-svāṁśa, the personal expansions. We are also Kṛṣṇa’s forms, but we are vibhinnāṁśa, separated expansions. We are the expansions of the energies. According to Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (7.5):
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
“Besides the inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which consists of the living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.”
Thus there are the jīva-prakṛti, the parā prakṛti expansions, who belong to Kṛṣṇa’s superior energy. In any case, Kṛṣṇa is always svacchandātmā – without anxiety. Even if He is killing a demon, He experiences no anxiety. That is also confirmed in the Vedas:
na tat-samaś cābhyadhikaś ca dṛśyate
parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate
svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca
“The Supreme Lord has nothing to do, for everything is done automatically by His various potencies. No one is seen to be equal to, or greater than, Him.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8)
Śrī Kṛṣṇa has nothing to do personally. It is His energy that acts. When an important man wants to get something done, he simply tells his secretary, who does everything. The important man is quite confident that because he has told his secretary, his desires will be carried out. The secretary is a person, energy (śakti). If an ordinary man within this world has many energies in the form of secretaries, then we can hardly imagine the energies possessed by Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is jagad-īśvara, the controller of the entire universe, and thus He is managing the entire universe. Foolish people say that there is no brain behind the universe, but this is due to ignorance. By taking information from the śāstras, the scriptures, we can understand who that brain is. According to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (9.10):
“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, and producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” We see His energies working in this material world all the time. There is thunder and rain, and from rain comes the food we enjoy. This process is outlined in Bhagavad-gītā (3.14):
yajñād bhavati parjanyo
“All living beings subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajña [sacrifice], and yajña is born of prescribed duties.” The origin of everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Through yajña, sacrifice, we have to satisfy the Supreme Person, and yajñas can be executed when human society is regulated according to the varṇāśrama-dharma, the system of four social orders (varṇas) and four spiritual orders (āśramas). There are four varṇas (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra) and four āśramas (brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa). These varṇas and āśramas have their respective duties, and unless human society is divided according to these eight scientific divisions and everyone acts according to his position, there can be no peace in the world.
puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Viṣṇu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varṇa and āśrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 3.8.9)
The ultimate goal of all activity is the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.31). Foolish people do not know that their ultimate interest is the satisfaction of Viṣṇu. Therefore, when there are dharmasya glāniḥ, discrepancies in dharma, Kṛṣṇa or His incarnation personally comes. It is therefore said: yad yad vidhatte bhagavān. Although He comes, He has no anxiety. He comes by His internal potency, and He does not take help from anyone. He possesses a variety of energies, all of which work correctly and perfectly (parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca).
Impersonalists cannot understand how everything is being carried out perfectly because they cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead: mohitaṁ nābhijānāti mām ebhyaḥ param avyayam. As stated by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (7.14):
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” Being covered by the three modes of material nature, one cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, the Supreme Lord reveals Himself to His devotees.
It is our business to understand Kṛṣṇa in truth; then our lives will be successful. It is not that we can succeed by understanding Kṛṣṇa superficially. It is therefore stated here: tāni me śraddadhānasya kīrtanyāny anukīrtaya. The word anukīrtaya, as we have initially pointed out, means that we should not manufacture anything. The word anu means “to follow.” Therefore the bhagavat-tattva, or Bhagavān, can be understood only by the paramparā system, the system of disciplic succession.
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ paran-tapa
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.2)
Formerly the kings (rājās) were great saintly persons. They were not ordinary people engaged in drinking and dancing. They were all ṛṣis (sages), up to the time of Mahārāja Parīkṣit. They were trained in such a way that they were not ordinary men but were called nara-deva. Nara-deva refers to Bhagavān in the form of a human being. The king was worshiped because he was a rājarṣi, both a king and a sage. Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that if the king knows the purpose of life, he can rule well. If he does not, he thinks that eating, sleeping, sex and defense are all in all. In this case, his subjects live like animals. Today no one knows the object of human life; therefore although the foolish people of this age are trying to be happy, their hopes will never be fulfilled. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ durāśayāḥ. People are trying to be happy in this material world by accepting material objects, but their plans will never be fulfilled. Therefore in world history we see that there have been many leaders who have died working hard. They could not adjust things properly, despite all their hard efforts. There were Napoleon, Hitler, Gandhi, Nehru and many others, but they could not ultimately prevail. This is durāśaya. The ultimate goal of life is to understand Viṣṇu, yet people are going on blindly trying to satisfy their senses. If one blind man tries to lead another, what is the result? If both the leaders and followers are blind, they will all fall in a ditch, for they are all bound by their nature.
Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam, hearing and chanting, are the beginning of bhakti, devotional service. Therefore it is said: tāni me śraddadhānasya kīrtanyāny anukīrtaya. The word anukīrtaya means to follow the paramparā system. First of all we must receive the information from authorities; then we can speak the truth. One first has to learn how to describe the Absolute Truth, Bhagavān – His actions, His mercy and His compassion upon all living beings. The Supreme Lord is more anxious to give us education and enlightenment than we are to receive them. He gives us His literature, His devotees and the paramparā system, but it is up to us to take advantage of these. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is intended to give society the proper understanding of the Absolute Truth. We are not presenting a manufactured, bogus philosophy. Why should we unnecessarily waste our time concocting some philosophy? There is so much to be learned that has already been given by the supreme authority. All we have to do is take this Vedic literature, try to learn it and distribute it. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission.
janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 9.41)
It is the duty of everyone, especially one born in the land of Bhāratavarṣa, India, to make his life successful by taking advantage of this Vedic literature. Unfortunately, we are simply trying to learn technology, and that is our misfortune. Real education means solving all life’s problems.
Transcendental education means learning how to gain relief from the entanglement of material life. This is made possible by learning about the Lord’s transcendental activities.