lābho jīveta yāvatā
nārtho yaś ceha karmabhiḥ
Life's desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one's works.
The completely bewildered material civilization is wrongly directed toward the fulfillment of desires in sense gratification. In such a civilization, in all spheres of life, the ultimate end is sense gratification. In politics, social service, altruism, philanthropy, and ultimately in religion or even in salvation, the very same tint of sense gratification is ever-increasingly predominant. In the political field the leaders of men fight with one another to fulfill their personal sense gratification. The voters adore the so-called leaders only when they promise sense gratification. As soon as the voters are dissatisfied in their own sense satisfaction, they dethrone the leaders. The leaders must always disappoint the voters by not satisfying their senses. The same is applicable in all other fields; no one is serious about the problems of life. Even those who are on the path of salvation desire to become one with the Absolute Truth and desire to commit spiritual suicide for sense gratification.
But here the Bhāgavatam says that one should not live for sense gratification. One should satisfy the senses only insomuch as required for self-preservation, and not for sense gratification. Because the body is made of senses, which also require a certain amount of satisfaction, there are regulative directions for satisfaction of such senses. But the senses are not meant for unrestricted enjoyment. For example, marriage, or the combination of a man with a woman, is necessary for progeny, but it is not meant for sense enjoyment. In the absence of voluntary restraint, there is propaganda for family planning, but foolish men do not know that family planning is automatically executed as soon as there is the search after the Absolute Truth. Seekers of the Absolute Truth are never allured by unnecessary engagements in sense gratification because the serious students seeking the Absolute Truth are always overwhelmed with the work of researching the Truth. In every sphere of life, therefore, the ultimate end must be seeking after the Absolute Truth, and that sort of engagement will make one happy because one will be less engaged in varieties of sense gratification.
The business of human beings is not simply to eat, sleep, have sex, and defend. That may be the business of the cats and dogs, but human life is meant for a higher purpose. Human civilization should be molded so that people will have the chance to think soberly about the truth of life—to inquire about God, this material nature, our relationship with God and with nature, and so on. That is called tattva-jijñāsā, inquiry into the Absolute Truth. It is everyone's duty to inquire into the Absolute Truth. There is no question of this being the duty of the Hindus but not the Muslims and the Christians. Truth is truth. That two plus two equals four is accepted by the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, and everyone else. Science is science. Therefore everyone should be inquisitive about the science of the Absolute Truth.
Where to inquire into the Absolute Truth? The Bhāgavatam (11.3.21) says, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: "Those who are inquisitive to know the Absolute Truth must approach a guru." As in the present verse of the Bhāgavatam, the word jijñāsā, "inquisitive," is also used in this verse from the Eleventh Canto. This word is used when someone in an inferior position inquires from a superior. For example, when a child inquires from his father, that is jijñāsā. An intelligent child always inquires, "Father, what is this? What is that?" and the father explains. In this way the child gets knowledge.
From whom should you inquire about the Absolute Truth? Kṛṣṇa answers in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.34): upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ. Those who have actually seen the Absolute Truth (the tattva-darśīs) can give you knowledge of the Absolute Truth. According to the Vedic scriptures, a tattva-darśī should be very pure. Therefore, one should generally go to a qualified brāhmaṇa to inquire about the Absolute Truth. Lord Kṛṣṇa gives the qualities of a brāhmaṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.42):
śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ brahma-karma svabhāva-jam
"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work."
So, in the Vedic system the first qualification of a guru is that he must be a brāhmaṇa. He need not have taken birth in a brāhmaṇa family, but he must possess the qualities of a brāhmaṇa. Still, even if he has the qualities of a brāhmaṇa, he cannot become a guru if he is not a Vaiṣṇava. That is the injunction of the śāstra:
ṣaṭ-karma-nipuṇo vipro mantra-tantra-viśāradaḥ
avaiṣṇavo gurur na syād vaiṣṇavaḥ śva-paco guruḥ
"Even if a brāhmaṇa is very learned in the Vedic scriptures and knows the six occupational duties of a brāhmaṇa,* he cannot become a spiritual master unless he is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, if one is born in a family of dog-eaters but is a pure devotee of the Lord, he can become a spiritual master."
So a guru has to be a Vaiṣṇava, a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise, he cannot know Lord Kṛṣṇa in truth. As Kṛṣṇa says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.3), bhakto 'si me sakhā ceti rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam: "My dear Arjuna, it is because you are My devotee and friend that you can understand this secret science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness I am speaking to you." Therefore the guru must be a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, or in other words Kṛṣṇa's representative.
By serving the guru and inquiring from him, we can come to the point where Kṛṣṇa will enlighten us from within. Kṛṣṇa, the supreme guru, first imparted knowledge into the heart of Brahmā, the original person in the universe (tene brahma hṛdā ādi-kavaye [SB 1.1.1]). Kṛṣṇa is situated in everyone's heart as the Supersoul, and as you become purified He speaks to you from within. Actually, He is always speaking to us, but in our impure condition we cannot hear Him. In the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15) Kṛṣṇa confirms that He is the source of our knowledge: sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca. "I am situated within the heart of everyone, and from Me come all remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." So as Paramātmā, the Supersoul, Kṛṣṇa is always prepared to help every one of us, provided we serve Him and take His instruction. He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.10),
teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ yena mām upayānti te
"To those who are always engaged in serving Me with great love and devotion, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
If we want to know the Absolute Truth, we have to follow the proper process, and that process is simply to engage oneself in the loving service of the Lord. That will enable us one day to directly perceive the Absolute Truth. With our present blunt material senses we cannot perceive the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For example, with a blunt knife you cannot cut anything. You must sharpen it first; then it cuts very nicely. Similarly, to understand the Absolute Truth you must sharpen and purify your senses by engaging them in the service of the Lord. Now you cannot see God, or Kṛṣṇa. But if you purify your eyes and your other senses, you will be able to see God, to hear God, to talk with God—everything. That is possible by the process of bhakti.
The Nārada Pañcarātra defines bhakti as follows:
sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaṁ tat-paratvena nirmalam
hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
[Cc. Madhya 19.170]
Now we are deluded by so many material designations (upādhis), and so we are misusing our senses. For instance, we may think, "This hand is my hand and I will use it for my purposes," or "Let me use this hand for my family, my community, or my nation." Actually the hand belongs to Kṛṣṇa and should therefore be used for His purposes, not for anything else. That is why one of Kṛṣṇa's names is Hṛṣīkeśa, the master of the senses. When we actually engage our senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa, we become free of material designations and our senses become purified. This is bhakti, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Everyone should awaken to this consciousness, beginning with tattva-jijñāsā, inquiry into the Absolute Truth. The answers to your inquiries have been provided by Kṛṣṇa in so many books of knowledge—the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Bhagavad-gītā, and so on. We should take advantage of this treasure house of knowledge. But instead of utilizing this knowledge, people are reading bunches of useless newspapers. In the morning the newspaper is delivered, and after one hour it is thrown away. In this way people's attention is being diverted by so much nonsense literature, and no one is interested in inquiring about the Absolute Truth from the real treasure house of knowledge, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Therefore in the present verse the Bhāgavatam warns, jīvasya tattva-jijñāsā nārtho yaś ceha karmibhiḥ: "Your only business is to inquire about the Absolute Truth." And what that Absolute Truth is is explained in detail in the next verse.