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DWT 15: Bhakti-yoga is Science, Not Sentiment

evaṁ prasanna-manaso
bhagavad-bhakti-yogataḥ
bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ
mukta-saṅgasya jāyate

Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.

—Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.20

In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.3) it is said that out of many thousands of ordinary men, one fortunate man endeavors for perfection in life. Mostly men are conducted by the modes of passion and ignorance, and thus they are engaged always in lust, desire, hankerings, ignorance, and sleep. Out of many such manlike animals, there is actually a man who knows the responsibility of human life and thus tries to make life perfect by following the prescribed duties. And out of many thousands of such persons who have thus attained success in human life, one may know scientifically about the Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In the same Bhagavad-gītā (18.55) it is also said that scientific knowledge of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is understood only by the process of devotional service (bhakti-yoga).

The very same thing is confirmed herein in the above words. No ordinary man, or even one who has attained success in human life, can know scientifically or perfectly the Personality of Godhead. Perfection of human life is attained when one can understand that he is not the product of matter but is in fact spirit. And as soon as one understands that he has nothing to do with matter, he at once ceases his material hankerings and becomes enlivened as a spiritual being. This attainment of success is possible when one is above the modes of passion and ignorance, or, in other words, when one is actually a brāhmaṇa by qualification.

A brāhmaṇa is the symbol of sattva-guṇa, or the mode of goodness. And others, who are not in the mode of goodness, are either kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, śūdras, or less than śūdras. The brahminical stage is the highest stage of human life because of its good qualities. So one cannot be a devotee unless one at least qualifies as a brāhmaṇa. The devotee is already a brāhmaṇa by action. But that is not the end of it. As referred to above, such a brāhmaṇa has to become a Vaiṣṇava in fact to be actually in the transcendental stage. A pure Vaiṣṇava is a liberated soul and is transcendental even to the position of a brāhmaṇa. In the material stage even a brāhmaṇa is also a conditioned soul because although in the brahminical stage the conception of Brahman or transcendence is realized, scientific knowledge of the Supreme Lord is lacking. One has to surpass the brahminical stage and reach the vasudeva stage to understand the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.

The science of the Personality of Godhead is the subject matter for study by the postgraduate students in the spiritual line. Foolish men, or men with a poor fund of knowledge, do not understand the Supreme Lord, and they interpret Kṛṣṇa according to their respective whims. The fact is, however, that one cannot understand the science of the Personality of Godhead unless one is freed from the contamination of the material modes, even up to the stage of a brāhmaṇa. When a qualified brāhmaṇa factually becomes a Vaiṣṇava, in the enlivened state of liberation he can know what is actually the Personality of Godhead.

The process of bhakti-yoga is not a concoction or speculation. It is a science. As stated in the present verse, bhagavat-tattva-vijñānam: [SB 1.2.20] "one gains scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead." Vijñāna means "science." In mathematics, "Two plus two equals four" is always true. You cannot make it equal five according to your whims. No. Because mathematics is a science, whether you are in America or India or England, you will find that everyone accepts that two plus two equals four. Similarly, you cannot imagine God according to your whims. Nowadays many people say, "You can imagine your God, and I can imagine my God." No, there is no question of imagining anything about God. As stated here, the scientific truth of God can be understood by a person who is mukta-saṅga, freed from material association. Such a person, being transcendental to the lower modes of nature, is jubilant and enlightened (prasanna-manasaḥ). As long as you are under the jurisdiction of the modes of ignorance and passion, there is no question of jubilation or enlightenment. Therefore you have to come to the platform of pure goodness.

The previous verse stated, ceta etair anāviddhaṁ sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati: "When the heart is free of passion and ignorance and fixed in goodness, one becomes jubilant." At that time one can understand how foolish it is for people to work so hard like cats and dogs simply for material benefits. Human life is meant for understanding God (athāto brahma jijñāsā). The foolish animals cannot understand God, but human beings can because of their developed consciousness.

However, to take advantage of this developed consciousness you must rise to the platform of goodness. Then, by studying nature, you will see that one does not have to work so hard for getting the material necessities. The birds and beasts are getting their food, they are getting their mates, they are being protected in their own way, they have some nest or hole to sleep in. Even the ants are being provided for. When we sit down in a garden we see that even the ant has its family, its home, its food—everything is there. From the ant to the elephant, all are getting their necessities of life. Who is supplying?

So, one who is in the mode of goodness will ask, "Since God is supplying life's necessities to all 8,400,000 species of life, why are the so-called civilized human beings struggling so hard for these things?" We have greater intelligence than the animals; therefore our struggle for existence should be less than theirs. Still, it is greater. What sort of civilization is this? This is not civilization. Everyone wants a peaceful, calm life, but instead the modern human society forces everyone to work like an ass the whole day and night simply to satisfy the four basic necessities of life—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. And even then these are not guaranteed. When I lived in India before going to America, I thought that since America is very rich the people there have no problem eating, sleeping, and so on. But the Americans have created a civilization where a certain section of the people are obliged to lie down on the street or in a park, and they have no proper dress, not enough food, and no fixed-up sex life. In such a so-called civilization, people are always disturbed and full of anxiety. Then how they can understand God?

To understand God you first have to come to the stage of tranquillity. Then, when one understands God, one will be prasanna-manasa, always jubilant. One can become jubilant only by practicing bhakti-yoga, not by any other process. There are many other yoga systems—karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, dhyāna-yoga, haṭha-yoga. Every endeavor for spiritual enlightenment is a type of yoga. But real yoga is bhagavad-bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.47) Kṛṣṇa says,

yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ

"Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion." So the first-class yogi is the devotee who is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa within his heart by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. That is bhagavad-bhakti-yoga. And if the devotee progresses nicely, following all the rules and regulations, then one day he will understand God in truth and become prasanna-manasa—enlightened, engladdened, and free of all lamentation and hankering.

God is not so cheap. "Come on," say the cheaters, "I shall show you God. You haven't got to follow any rules and regulations." People who want God cheaply are prone to be cheated, and there are many cheaters who will take advantage of them. The actual process of understanding God is a science. Suppose someone says, "I shall teach you the science of chemistry within a second. Give me some money." Or "I shall teach you mathematics within a second. Give me some money." Will you agree to such impossible proposals? Then why are these rascals allowed to mislead people into believing they can understand God so cheaply? Bhakti-yoga is science, not sentiment.

Rūpa Gosvāmī instructs us,

śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā
aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate
[Brs. 1.2.101]

So many rascals are causing a disturbance in society by posing that they have understood God without reference to the Vedic literature, the revealed scriptures. These include the śruti, such as the four Vedas and the Upaniṣads, the smṛti, such as the Bhagavad-gītā, the Purāṇas, such as the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the pañcarātras, such as the Nārada Pañcarātra. To understand God is a great science. How can you ignore the authorized books of knowledge and manufacture a process for knowing God?

Therefore any religion without a scientific, philosophical understanding of God is simply sentiment. It is not religion. And philosophy without religion is simply mental speculation. In other words, that philosophy which does not answer the ultimate questions—What is the Absolute Truth? What is God?—is useless. Religion and philosophy should be combined so that we can scientifically understand who is God, what is our relationship with God, what is our duty toward God, and so on.

From its beginning the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam kicks out all cheating so-called religions and presents bhagavat-tattva-vijñāna, the genuine science of God. This science has to be studied, it has to be practiced, and it has to be realized. We are presenting this scientific understanding as Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is not for the sentimentalists but for those who are serious about perfecting their lives.

It is not so easy to reach perfection and understand Śrī Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā [Bg. 7.3],

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

"Out of many thousands of men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth." Still, because Kṛṣṇa is compassionate upon the fallen souls of this age, He appeared as Lord Caitanya and freely distributed Himself. That is His prerogative. If Kṛṣṇa wants to distribute Himself freely, that is His right, and then the whole process becomes very easy. Otherwise, it is not so easy to understand Kṛṣṇa. For example, to earn a million dollar is not so easy, but if you are fortunate and meet someone who freely gives you a million dollars, that is a different thing.

Therefore Rūpa Gosvāmī glorified Lord Caitanya as the most munificent incarnation:

namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te
kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya-nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
[Cc. Madhya 19.53]

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatar, even Kṛṣṇa Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given—pure love of Kṛṣṇa." If we follow in the footsteps of Rūpa Gosvāmī, we can understand Lord Caitanya. And if we get the favor of Lord Caitanya, we can very easily understand Kṛṣṇa.