Purifying the Mind for Self-Realization
muktaye cātmano matam
guṇeṣu saktaṁ bandhāya
rataṁ vā puṁsi muktaye
The stage in which the consciousness of the living entity is attracted by the three modes of material nature is called conditional life. But when that same consciousness is attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is situated in the consciousness of liberation.
There is a distinction here between Kṛṣṇa consciousness and māyā consciousness. Guṇeṣu, or māyā consciousness, involves attachment to the three material modes of nature, under which one works sometimes in goodness and knowledge, sometimes in passion and sometimes in ignorance. These different qualitative activities, with the central attachment for material enjoyment, are the cause of one’s conditional life. When the same cetaḥ, or consciousness, is transferred to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, or when one becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, he is on the path of liberation.
vītaṁ yadā manaḥ śuddham
aduḥkham asukhaṁ samam
When one is completely cleansed of the impurities of lust and greed produced from the false identification of the body as “I” and bodily possessions as “mine,” one’s mind becomes purified. In that pure state he transcends the stage of material happiness and distress.
Kāma and lobha are the symptoms of material existence. Everyone always desires to possess something. It is said here that desire and greed are the products of false identification of oneself with the body. When one becomes free from this contamination, his mind and consciousness also become freed and attain their original state. Mind, consciousness and the living entity exist. Whenever we speak of the living entity, this includes the mind and consciousness. The difference between conditional life and liberated life occurs when we purify the mind and the consciousness. When they are purified, one becomes transcendental to material happiness and distress.
In the beginning Lord Kapila has said that perfect yoga enables one to transcend the platform of material distress and happiness. How this can be done is explained here: one has to purify his mind and consciousness. This can be done by the bhakti-yoga system. As explained in the Nārada Pañcarātra, one’s mind and senses should be purified (tat-paratvena nirmalam). One’s senses must be engaged in devotional service of the Lord. That is the process. The mind must have some engagement. One cannot make the mind vacant. Of course there are some foolish attempts to try to make the mind vacant or void, but that is not possible. The only process that will purify the mind is to engage it in Kṛṣṇa. The mind must be engaged. If we engage our mind in Kṛṣṇa, naturally the consciousness becomes fully purified, and there is no chance that material desire and greed will enter.
Our mind is our friend, and our mind is our enemy. If it is cleansed, it is a friend, and if it is dirty, we contract material diseases. If we keep ourselves clean, pure, we will not be contaminated. According to Vedic civilization, one has to cleanse himself externally three times daily – once in the morning, again at noon, and again in the evening. Those who strictly follow the brahminical rules and regulations follow this process. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Conditional life means that the mind is covered with dirty things, and this is our disease. When we are in the lower modes of tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa, these dirty things are very prominent. One has to raise himself to the mode of sattva (goodness) by the process of saṅkīrtana and śravaṇa. One has to hear kṛṣṇa-kathā. Kṛṣṇa is within everyone’s heart. The individual soul is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa wants the individual soul to turn to Him. Unfortunately the conditioned soul is attached to material enjoyment, and this is the cause of his bondage to birth, death, old age and disease. He is so foolish that he does not take into consideration that these miseries are repeated. He is like an ass that belongs to a washerman who loads him down with heavy clothes. For a few morsels of grass, the ass has to carry heavy loads all day, although not a single piece of clothing belongs to him. This is the way of the karmīs. They may become big multimillionaires, but they are just like asses, working hard day and night. Regardless of how much money they may have, their stomachs can only hold so much. And they require only six feet of space to sleep. Nonetheless, these big karmīs are thinking themselves very important. They think, “Without me, all the members of my nation will die. Let me work day and night to the point of death.” People are thinking, “I belong to this family, this nation, this community. I have this duty or that duty,” and so on. People do not know that these are all false designations.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore enjoins, jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’: our actual position is that of eternal servants of Kṛṣṇa. We are mistakenly thinking that we are servants of a family or nation, but this is due to ignorance, tamo-guṇa. However, we can attain the platform of sattva-guṇa by following the instructions given in Bhagavad-gītā. Hearing kṛṣṇa-kathā, topics about Kṛṣṇa, clears all the dirty things from the mind. Also, if we chant and dance, these dirty things will be wiped away. The mind is the cause of bondage, and the mind is the cause of liberation. When it is dirty, it brings about bondage. In conditional life, we take birth, remain for some time, and enjoy or suffer. But really there is no question of enjoyment. There is only suffering. When we die, we have to give up the body and then take on another body. We immediately enter the womb of another mother, stay for nine months or so, and then come out. Then a new chapter of life begins. This is conditioned life, and it goes on again and again and again. In this way we undergo the tribulations of birth, old age, disease and death. The dogs and cats cannot understand this process, but we can understand it in human life through the Vedic literatures. If we don’t take advantage of these literatures, all our education is for nothing.
People actually waste their time talking politics, sociology, anthropology, and so on. They read many literatures that do not glorify the Supreme Lord Hari, and thus they waste their time. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is giving everyone a chance to become pious. Puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ. It is not necessary to give money or bathe in the Ganges. There are many pious activities and many processes recommended in the śāstras for becoming pious. However, in Kali-yuga people have lost all their stamina. They are so sinful that there is no question of becoming pious through all these prescribed methods. The only means is hearing about Kṛṣṇa and chanting His names. Kṛṣṇa has given us ears to hear and a tongue to speak. We can hear from a realized soul and thus perfect our lives. In this way we are given a chance to purify ourselves. Unless we are purified, we cannot become devotees. Human life is meant for purification. Unfortunately in this age people are not interested in Kṛṣṇa, and they suffer through material existence one life after another after another. In one life they may be very opulent. Then they don’t care about the next life. They think, “Let me eat, drink and be merry.” This is going on all over the world, but the śāstras say that people are making mistakes in this way. Nūnaṁ pramattaḥ kurute vikarmaḥ (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.5.4): people have become mad with sense gratification, and therefore they engage in all sorts of forbidden things. Karma means regulated work, and vikarma means just the opposite – unlawful, forbidden activities. The word akarma means that one is not affected by the results of work. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (3.9):
loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya
“Work done as a sacrifice for Viṣṇu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.”
When people are in the modes of passion and ignorance, they perform vikarma. They do not care for their future lives, and they are habituated to eating anything and everything, just like hogs. They do not care for the śāstric injunctions, and they are totally irresponsible. They are just like street boys who have no education and do not care for anything. Such urchins do whatever they like, for their fathers and mothers do not care for them. Life in ignorance, tamo-guṇa, is such a careless life. People simply act unlawfully, not considering the results of their actions. They act for sense gratification, and actually they take pleasure in committing sins. In Calcutta I have seen people taking pleasure in cutting the throats of chickens and laughing when the chicken jumps and flaps about. Sometimes in Western countries students are taken to slaughterhouses just to see how the cows are butchered. In this age, people take pleasure in committing all kinds of sins. They have no brains to see that this body is temporary and full of suffering. They are completely in the mode of darkness, just like the animals they slaughter. There may be many animals in a pasture, and if one takes an animal aside and cuts its throat, the other animals will simply stand, look, and continue eating grass. They do not realize that the next time they may be slaughtered. The people in Kali-yuga are in the same situation, but the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to give these rascals a little sense. We are saying, “Don’t remain animals. Become human beings.” In the words of Caitanya Mahāprabhu:
ataeva māyā tāre deya saṁsāra-duḥkha
“Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy (māyā) gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.117) When one forgets his relationship with Kṛṣṇa, he acts in a very foolish way, and māyā gives him one misery after another. It is also stated:
jīvere kṛpāya kailā kṛṣṇa veda-purāṇa
“The conditioned soul cannot revive his Kṛṣṇa consciousness by his own effort. But out of causeless mercy, Lord Kṛṣṇa compiled the Vedic literature and its supplements, the Purāṇas.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.122)
The Vedic literatures – the Vedānta, Upaniṣads, Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and many others – should be utilized if we wish to become free from the contamination of tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa. The whole world is revolving due to kāma and lobha. Kāma means “lusty desire,” and lobha means “greed.” People cannot have enough sex or money, and because of this, their hearts are filled with contaminations, which have to be cleansed by hearing, repeating and chanting. Human life is meant to get rid of anarthas, unwanted things, but where is the university or college where this science of purification is taught? The only institution is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness society. Kṛṣṇa is within the heart, and the contaminations are also there, but Kṛṣṇa will help us cleanse them. Naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.18). We must regularly hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa; these are the two processes recommended by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Haridāsa Ṭhākura was chanting three hundred thousand holy names a day, but we have fixed the number at sixteen rounds. Nonetheless, we are so unfortunate and fallen that we cannot even perform them. We should not waste our time reading and talking nonsense, but should engage in the study of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Our time is very valuable, and we should not waste it. Cāṇakya Paṇḍita has said: āyuṣaḥ kṣaṇa eko ’pi na labhyaḥ svarṇa-koṭibhiḥ. We may live for a hundred years, but not one moment of these hundred years can be returned, not even if we are prepared to pay millions of dollars. We cannot add a moment, nor can we get a moment back. If time is money, we should just consider how much money we have lost. However, time is even more precious because it cannot be regained. Therefore not a single moment should be lost. Human life should be utilized only for chanting and reading Vedic literatures. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is publishing many books so that people can utilize their time properly by reading them and make their lives successful. Not only should we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but we should also serve the person bhāgavata, one whose life is nothing but Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā. By this process we can attain the stage of bhagavad-bhakti, but first we must get rid of all these anarthas, unwanted things. Presently we are wasting our time thinking, “This is my country. This is my nation. This is my body and my family,” and so on. Nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā. We can vanquish all these false conceptions when we come to the platform of sattva-guṇa. Then we will not be disturbed by tamo-guṇa or rajo-guṇa, nor by kāma or lobha (lust and greed). This is the vasudeva platform. Oṁ namo bhagavate vāsudevāya.
Lord Kapiladeva, in the next verse, points out the results that follow the successful completion of this purificatory process.
kevalaṁ prakṛteḥ param
At that time the soul can see himself to be transcendental to material existence and always self-effulgent, never fragmented, although very minute in size.
In the state of pure consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one can see himself as a minute particle nondifferent from the Supreme Lord. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā, the jīva, or the individual soul, is eternally part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Just as the sun’s rays are minute particles of the brilliant sun, so a living entity is a minute particle of the Supreme Spirit. The individual soul and the Supreme Lord are not separated as in material differentiation. The individual soul is a particle from the very beginning. One should not think that because the individual soul is a particle, it is fragmented from the whole spirit. Māyāvāda philosophy enunciates that the whole spirit exists, but a part of it, which is called the jīva, is entrapped by illusion. This philosophy, however, is unacceptable because spirit cannot be divided like a fragment of matter. That part, the jīva, is eternally a part. As long as the Supreme Spirit exists, His part and parcel also exists. As long as the sun exists, the molecules of the sun’s rays also exist.
The jīva particle is estimated in the Vedic literature to be one ten-thousandth the size of the upper portion of a hair. He is therefore infinitesimal. The Supreme Spirit is infinite, but the living entity, or individual soul, is infinitesimal, although he is not different in quality from the Supreme Spirit.
Two words in this verse are to be particularly noted. One is nirantaram, which means “nondifferent” or “of the same quality.” The individual soul is also expressed here as aṇimānam. Aṇimānam means “infinitesimal.” The Supreme Spirit is all-pervading, but the very small spirit is the individual soul. Akhaṇḍitam means not exactly “fragmented” but “constitutionally always infinitesimal.” No one can separate the molecular parts of the sunshine from the sun, but at the same time the molecular part of the sunshine is not as expansive as the sun itself. Similarly, the living entity, by his constitutional position, is qualitatively the same as the Supreme Spirit, but he is infinitesimal.
Self-realization means seeing one’s proper identity as the infinitesimal jīva. At the present moment, we are seeing the body, but this is not our proper identity. We have no vision of the real person occupying the body. The first lesson we receive from Bhagavad-gītā (2.13) informs us that the body and the owner of the body are different. When we can understand that we are not the body, that is the beginning of self-realization, and that is called the brahma-bhūta stage. Ahaṁ brahmāsmi. I am not this material body, but spirit soul. And what are the characteristics of the jīva, the soul? First of all, he is aṇimānam, very minute, infinitesimal. We are also jyoti, effulgent, like God, but God is brahma-jyotir, all-pervading and infinite. According to the Māyāvāda theory, we are the same as that brahma-jyotir. Māyāvādīs give the example of a pot and the sky. Outside the pot there is sky, and within the pot there is sky. The separation is only due to the wall of the pot. When the pot is broken, the inside and outside become one. However, this example does not properly apply to the soul, as it is described in Bhagavad-gītā (2.24):
akledyo ’śoṣya eva ca
nityaḥ sarva-gataḥ sthāṇur
acalo ’yaṁ sanātanaḥ
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” The soul cannot be cut in pieces or segmented. This means that the soul is eternally, perpetually minute. We are the eternal parts and parcels of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself states in Bhagavad-gītā (15.7):
“The living entities in the conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts.” The word sanātana means “eternal,” and the word aṁśa means “particles.” God, Kṛṣṇa, is very great. No one is equal to Him or greater than Him. It is said that God is great, but we do not actually realize how great God is. He is so great that millions of universes are emanating from the pores of His body.
jīvanti loma-vila-jā jagad-aṇḍa-nāthāḥ
viṣṇur mahān sa iha yasya kalā-viśeṣo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“The Brahmās and other lords of the mundane worlds appear from the pores of the Mahā-viṣṇu and remain alive for the duration of His one exhalation. I adore the primeval Lord, Govinda, for Mahā-viṣṇu is a portion of His plenary portion.” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.48)
kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna
viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam
ekāṁśena sthito jagat
“But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.”
This universe (jagat) is situated on the strength of one part of Kṛṣṇa’s yogic powers. In this way we must understand the greatness of God and our own identity as minute particles. It is stated in the Purāṇas that the individual soul is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair. If we could somehow divide the tip of a hair into ten thousand parts, we might begin to understand how the soul is invisible. Self-realization means knowing our identity as small particles. The small particle of spirit soul is within every one of us, but it is not possible to see with material eyes. There is no instrument existing in the material universe by which one can actually see the soul. Because of our inability to perceive the soul, we say it is nirākāra, formless. We cannot even calculate its dimension (ākāra). Although we cannot calculate it, it is there nonetheless. The living entity has full form. There are small microbes and insects we can barely see, but they have an anatomy consisting of many working parts. Within a small insect there is also the spirit soul, and that spirit soul also exists within the elephant and other big animals.
When we actually realize our identity as Brahman, our life becomes successful. Presently we are identifying with the body, but as long as we do so, we are no better than cats and dogs, although we may have a considerable amount of scientific knowledge. Conditioned souls consider the body to be the self, and because of this the jīvas identify themselves as American, Indian, brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, man, woman, elephant and so forth. Thinking in these bodily terms, people consider their wives and children to be theirs and the land of their birth to be worshipable. Thinking thus, people are willing to fight and die for their country. Presently everyone is laboring under this delusion, but in order to understand our spiritual identity, we must find the proper guru.
Realizing our identity means realizing that we are Kṛṣṇa’s eternal parts and parcels, that we are very minute, infinitesimal, and that we have a perpetual and eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, just as a part has its relationship to the whole. At no time can we be as great as Kṛṣṇa, although we are the same qualitatively. No one is equal to God, and no one is greater than Him. If someone claims to be God, he has to prove that no one is equal to him and that no one is greater. If he can do this, he is God. This is a very simple definition. Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) also verifies this statement: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. The word īśvara means “controller,” and the word parama means “supreme.” We small living entities are controllers to a degree. We can control, at times, our family members, wives, children and so forth. Or we can control our office, factory, country or whatever. There are small controllers and larger controllers. If we go to Brahmā, we see that he is controlling the entire universe, but he is not the supreme controller. It is stated in the śāstras that Brahmā, the greatest living being within this universe, is also meditating in order to learn how to control. Tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.1).
First of all, Brahmā learned to control the universe; then he became qualified as Brahmā. Although he was born Brahmā, he still had to be educated. If he was the first living being in the universe, who educated him? Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (10.2), aham ādir hi devānām: “I am the source of the demigods.”
The original demigods are Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. Lord Kṛṣṇa is Viṣṇu, but He is the instructor of Brahmā and Śiva. Therefore it is said that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of all the demigods.
We should not foolishly claim that we are as great as the Supreme God. We should understand that we are like sparks of the original fire. The spark is also fire, but if it falls from the original flame, it will go out. One should not think that because he is qualitatively one with God, he is God. One may be an īśvara, a controller, but one cannot be īśvaraḥ paramaḥ, the supreme controller. It is very fashionable nowadays to claim to have become Nārāyaṇa, God. The Māyāvādīs address one another as Nārāyaṇa, and thus everyone supposedly becomes Nārāyaṇa. In this way we are overcrowded with Nārāyaṇas here and there. But how can everyone become Nārāyaṇa? Nārāyaṇa is one, and the śāstras warn:
sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam
“Whoever thinks Lord Viṣṇu and the demigods are on the same level is to be immediately considered a rogue as far as spiritual understanding is concerned.” If one compares Nārāyaṇa to the demigods, he simply reveals his lack of intelligence. It is also fashionable to speak of daridra-nārāyaṇa, poor Nārāyaṇa, claiming that the poor man in the street is Nārāyaṇa. But what is this nonsense? Nārāyaṇa is the exalted Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even Śaṅkarācārya says: nārāyaṇaḥ paro ’vyaktāt. Nārāyaṇa is beyond this universe. Avyaktād aṇḍa-sambhavaḥ: the entire universe is a product of this avyakta. We should not compare Nārāyaṇa to anyone, what to speak of the poor man in the street (daridra). This is all foolishness. Nārāyaṇa is Lakṣmīpati, the husband and controller of the goddess of fortune. How, then, can He be daridra? This is all due to misunderstanding. Therefore the śāstras warn that if one thinks that the demigods are equal to Nārāyaṇa, one is a pāṣaṇḍī, an atheist. We should not think that because we have become liberated, we have attained the position of Nārāyaṇa. By severe austerity and penance one may elevate himself to the position of Brahman, but this is not the position of Para-brahman. Āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.2.32). Although one rises to the platform of Brahman, one again falls down to the material position if he neglects to worship the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. One may rise to the Brahman effulgence, but because there is no shelter there one will return to the material atmosphere. One may go to Brahmaloka, the highest planet in the material sky, but one’s position there is temporary. However, in the para-vyoma, the spiritual sky, there are many spiritual planets, called Vaikuṇṭha-lokas. There are millions of these gigantic planets, and unless we take shelter of one of them, we will fall down again into the material atmosphere.
It is not sufficient to rise to the platform of Brahman. Brahman is sat (being), and a partial realization of the Absolute Truth. We are actually after ānanda. Sac-cid-ānanda: cit means “knowledge,” and that is also partial. We must add ānanda (bliss) in order to have complete realization. If we simply fly in the sky, we can’t have ānanda. We have to descend to an airport at some time or another. If we simply rise to the Brahman effulgence, we do not experience ānanda. Ānanda is experienced when we enter the spiritual planets, where Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa, is present. Paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo ’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ (Bhagavad-gītā 8.20). We have to enter the eternal planets and associate with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in order to be happy. If we do not attain this position, we will return to the material world. And how can this position be attained? We simply have to try to understand Kṛṣṇa. Why does He come? What is His business? What is His form?
The purpose of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is to teach people how to understand Kṛṣṇa. If one is fortunate in understanding Him, one’s life is successful. As long as we have lusty desires and greed, we cannot come to this understanding. The bhakti-yoga process is the process of purification whereby we can become free from kāma and lobha, lust and greed, and the influence of the lower guṇas, tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa, ignorance and passion. As soon as we engage in devotional service, we immediately become freed from the influence of the guṇas. Because we are not expert in approaching the Supreme Lord, we have to follow the principles of bhakti-yoga enunciated by the ācāryas. When a boy goes to school, he has to follow the rules and regulations, but after a while he becomes accustomed to them and does not have to be taught. In other words, he learns automatically to come to school at a certain time, take his seat and study nicely. Similarly, in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, we have certain rules and regulations. We must rise early in the morning for maṅgala-ārati, chant sixteen rounds of Hare Kṛṣṇa daily, and execute all the functions of bhakti-yoga. In this way, we become attached to rendering service to Kṛṣṇa, and we become practiced in this science. When we attain this stage, we immediately become self-realized.