Meditation Through Transcendental Sound
Lecturing at Boston's Northeastern University in the summer of 1969, Śrīla Prabhupāda introduces a meditation system renowned for its extraordinary power and the fact that it can be easily practiced almost anywhere and at any time. "If you take up this simple process," he says, "chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare, you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform." He adds, "No other meditation is possible while you are walking on the street."
My dear boys and girls, I thank you very much for attending this meeting. We are spreading this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement because there is a great need of this consciousness throughout the world. And the process is very easy—that is the advantage.
First of all, we must try to understand what the transcendental platform is. As far as our present condition is concerned, we are on various platforms. So we have to first of all stand on the transcendental platform; then there can be a question of transcendental meditation.
In the Third Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, you'll find an explanation of the various statuses of conditioned life. The first is the bodily conception of life (indriyāṇi parāṇy āhuḥ). Everyone in this material world is under this bodily concept of life. Someone is thinking, "I am Indian." You are thinking, "I am American." Somebody's thinking, "I am Russian." Somebody's thinking he is something else. So everyone is thinking, "I am the body."
This bodily standard of conditioned life is called the sensual platform, because as long as we have a bodily conception of life we think happiness means sense gratification. That's all. This bodily concept of life is very prominent at the present moment—not only at the present moment, but since the creation of this material world. That is the disease: "I am the body."
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke: [SB 10.84.13] Thinking we are the body means we have a concept of ourself as a bag of skin and bones. The body is a bag of skin, bones, blood, urine, stool, and so many other nice things. So when we think, "I am the body," we are actually thinking, "I am a bag of bones and skin and stool and urine. That is my beauty; that is my everything." So this bodily concept of life is not very intelligent, and improvement of the body is not a right calculation of self-realization.
Those who are too engrossed with the bodily concept of life are recommended to practice the dhyāna-yoga system, the yoga of meditation. That is mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā. In the Sixth Chapter, verses 13 and 14, Kṛṣṇa explains, "One should hold one's body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me and make Me the ultimate goal of life."
Earlier Lord Kṛṣṇa gives preliminary instructions on how one should practice this transcendental meditation. One has to restrict sense gratification, especially sex. One has to select a very solitary place, a sacred place, and sit down alone. This meditation process is not practiced in a place like this, a big city, where many people are gathered. One must go to a solitary place and practice alone. And then you have to carefully select your sitting place, you have to sit in a certain way... There are so many things. Of course, those things cannot be explained within a few minutes. If you are very much interested, you'll find a full description in Bhagavad-gītā, in the chapter called "Dhyāna-yoga."
So from the bodily concept of life one has to transcend, to the spiritual platform. That is the goal of any genuine process of self-realization. I began by saying that at first we are all thinking we are the body. Indriyāṇi parāṇy āhuḥ. Then, one who has transcended the bodily concept of life comes to the platform of mind. Indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ. The word manaḥ means "mind." Practically the whole population of the world is under the bodily concept of life, but above them are some people who are under the mental concept of life. They are thinking they are the mind. And a few people are on the intellectual platform: manasas tu parā buddhiḥ. Buddhiḥ means "intelligence." And when you transcend the intellectual platform also, then you come to the spiritual platform. That is the first realization required.
Before you practice transcendental meditation, you have to reach the transcendental platform. That transcendental platform is called brahma-bhūtaḥ. Perhaps you have heard this word—Brahman. The transcendentalist thinks, "Ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am not the body; I am not the mind; I am not the intelligence; I am spirit soul." This is the transcendental platform.
We are talking of transcendental meditation. So, by transcending the bodily concept of life, transcending the mental concept of life, and transcending the intellectual concept of life, you come to the real, spiritual platform, which is called the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage. You cannot simply say some words—"Now I have realized Brahman." There are symptoms. Everything has symptoms, and how you can know if someone has realized transcendence, Brahman, is explained in Bhagavad-gītā [18.54]: brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā. When one is on the transcendental platform, the brahma-bhūtaḥ stage, his symptom is that he's always joyful. There is no moroseness.
And what does joyful mean? That is also explained: na śocati na kāṅkṣati. Someone on the transcendental platform does not hanker after anything, nor does he lament. On the material platform we have two symptoms: hankering and lamenting. The things we do not possess we hanker after, and the things we have lost we lament for. These are the symptoms of the bodily concept of life.
The whole material world is hankering after sex. That is the basic principle of hankering. Puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etam [SB 5.5.8]. Mithunī-bhāvam means sex. Whether you look at the human society or the animal society or the bird society or the insect society, everywhere you will find that sex is very prominent. That is the materialistic way of life. A boy is hankering after a girl, a girl is hankering after a boy; a man is hankering after a woman, a woman is hankering after a man. This is going on.
And as soon as the man and woman unite, the hard knot in the heart is tied. Tayor mitho hṛdaya-granthim āhuḥ [SB 5.5.8]. They think, "I am matter, this body. This body belongs to me. This woman or man belongs to me. This country belongs to me. This world belongs to me." That is the hard knot. Instead of transcending the bodily concept of life, they become still more implicated. The situation becomes very difficult. Therefore Kṛṣṇa recommends in Bhagavad-gītā that if you are at all interested in practicing yoga and meditation, in trying to rise to the transcendental platform, you must cease from sex.
But in the present age that is not possible. So in our method, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we don't say, "Stop sex." We say, "Don't have illicit sex." Of course, what to speak of transcendental life, giving up illicit sex is a requirement of civilized life. In every civilized society there is a system of marriage, and if there is sex outside of marriage, that is called illicit sex. That is never allowed for people in any civilized society, what to speak of those trying for transcendental life. Transcendental life must be purified of all mental and bodily concepts of self.
But in this age of Kali, where everyone is disturbed, always full of anxieties, and where life is very short, people are generally not interested in any transcendental subject matter. They are interested only in the bodily concept of life. When one is always disturbed by so many anxieties, how can he ascend to the platform of transcendental realization? It is very difficult in this age. It was difficult even five thousand years ago, when Arjuna took instruction on meditation from Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā. Arjuna was a royal prince; he was very much advanced in so many ways. Yet on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra he said, "My dear Kṛṣṇa, it is not possible for me to practice this transcendental meditation, this dhyāna-yoga process. I am a family man; I have come here to fight for my political interest. How can I practice this system, in which I have to go to a solitary place, I have to sit down, I have to cease from sex? It is not possible." Arjuna was so much more qualified than we are, yet he refused to practice this meditation process.
So, reaching the transcendental platform by the haṭha-yoga or dhyāna-yoga system is not at all possible in this age. And if somebody is trying to practice such so-called meditation, he is not actually practicing transcendental meditation. You cannot perform this transcendental meditation in the city. It is not possible. That is very clearly stated in Bhagavad-gītā. But you are living in the city, you are living with your family, you are living with your friends. It is not possible for you to go to the forest and find a secluded place. But Kṛṣṇa says you must do this to practice transcendental meditation.
So here, in this age, if you want to rise to the transcendental platform, then you must follow the recommendations of the Vedic literature: kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt. In this age, simply by chanting the holy name of God one can reach all perfection. We are not introducing this chanting system by our mental concoction, to make things very easy. No, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu introduced this process of transcendental meditation five hundred years ago. Also, the Vedic literature recommends it, and it is practical. You have seen that my disciples, these boys and girls, immediately experience a transcendental feeling as soon as they begin chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. If you practice, you will also see how you are rising to the transcendental platform. So chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is the easiest process of transcendental meditation.
This transcendental sound vibration will immediately carry you to the transcendental platform, especially if you try to hear so that your mind is absorbed in the sound. This Hare Kṛṣṇa sound vibration is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, because Kṛṣṇa is absolute. Since God is absolute, there is no difference between God's name and God Himself. In the material world there is a difference between water and the word water, between a flower and the word flower. But in the spiritual world, in the absolute world, there is no such difference. Therefore, as soon as you vibrate Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, you immediately associate with the Supreme Lord and His energy.
The word Hare indicates the energy of the Supreme Lord. Everything is being done by the energy of the Supreme Lord. Parasya brahmaṇaḥ śaktiḥ. Just as the planets are a creation of the energy of the sun, so the whole material and spiritual manifestation is a creation of the energy of the Supreme Lord. So when we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa we are praying to the energy of the Supreme Lord and to the Supreme Lord Himself: "Please pick me up. Please pick me up. I am in the bodily concept of life. I am in this material existence. I am suffering. Please pick me up to the spiritual platform, so that I will be happy."
You haven't got to change your situation. If you are a student, remain a student. If you are a businessman, remain a businessman. Woman, man, black, white—anyone can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is a simple process, and there is no charge. We are not saying, "Give me so many dollars, and I shall give you this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra." No, we are distributing it publicly. You simply have to catch it up and try it. You'll very quickly come to the transcendental platform. When you hear the chanting, that is transcendental meditation.
This process is recommended in all the scriptures of the Vedic literature, it was taught by Lord Caitanya and followed by His disciplic succession for the last five hundred years, and people are achieving good results from it today, not only in India but here also. If you try to understand what this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is, you'll understand how transcendental meditation is possible. We are not sentimentalists; we have many books: Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Īśopaniṣad. And we have our magazine, Back to Godhead. It is not that we are sentimentalists. We are backed up by high philosophical thought. But if you take up this simple process—chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform, even without reading so much philosophical literature. This Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu's gift to the conditioned souls of the present age, in accordance with the Vedic sanction.
So our request is that you give it a try. Simply chant, at home or anywhere. There is no restriction: "You have to chant this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra in such-and-such a place, in such-and-such a condition." No. Niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ. There is no restriction of time, circumstances, or atmosphere. Anywhere, at any time, you can meditate by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. No other meditation is possible while you are walking on the street, but this meditation is possible. You are working with your hands? You can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is so nice.
Kṛṣṇa is the perfect name for God. The Sanskrit word kṛṣṇa means "all-attractive." And rāma means "the supreme pleasure." So if God is not all-attractive and full of supreme pleasure, then what is the meaning of God? God must be the source of supreme pleasure; otherwise how could you be satisfied with Him? Your heart is hankering after so many pleasures. If God cannot satisfy you with all pleasures, then how can He be God? And He must also be all-attractive. If God is not attractive to every person, how can He be God? But Kṛṣṇa actually is all-attractive.
So the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is not sectarian. Because we are chanting these three names—Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma—someone may think, "These are Hindu names. Why should we chant these Hindu names?" There are some sectarian people who may think like that. But Lord Caitanya says, "It doesn't matter. If you have some other bona fide name of God, you can chant that. But chant God's name." That is the instruction of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. So do not think that this movement is trying to convert you from Christian to Hindu. Remain a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. It doesn't matter. But if you really want to perfect your life, then try to develop your dormant love for God. That is the perfection of life.
Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje [SB 1.2.6]. You may profess any religion, but to test whether your religion is perfect or whether you are perfect, you have to see whether you have developed your love for God. Now we are distributing our love among so many things. But when all this love is concentrated simply on God, that is the perfection of love. Our love is there, but because we have forgotten our relationship with God, we are directing our love toward dogs. That is our disease. We have to transfer our love from so many dogs to God. That is the perfection of life.
So we are not teaching any particular type of religion. We are simply teaching that you should learn to love God. And this is possible by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.
The Way of Yoga
We generally regard yoga merely as a form of physical exercise. But in the following lecture, delivered in February 1969 in Los Angeles, Śrīla Prabhupāda reveals the inner meaning and nature of yoga as taught and practiced in India for centuries. He explains how expert yogīs can—by practicing austerities—travel to any planet in the universe. But, he concludes, at the time of death the most successful yogīs transfer themselves to "the spiritual world and enter into the Kṛṣṇaloka, or the Kṛṣṇa planet, and enjoy with Kṛṣṇa."
mano hṛdi nirudhya ca
mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam
"The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga." [Bhagavad-gītā 8.12]
There are different kinds of transcendentalists, or yogīs: the jñāna-yogī, the dhyāna-yogī, and the bhakti-yogī. All of them are eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world, because the yoga system is meant for reestablishing our link with the Supreme Lord.
Actually, we are eternally connected with the Supreme Lord, but somehow or other we are now entangled in material contamination. So the process is that we have to go back again. That linking process is called yoga.
The actual meaning of the word yoga is "plus." Now, at the present moment, we are minus God, minus the Supreme. But when we make ourselves plus, or connected with God, then our human form of life is perfect.
By the time death comes, we must reach that stage of perfection. As long as we are alive, we have to practice how to approach that point of perfection. And at the time of death, when we give up this material body, that perfection must be realized. Prayāṇa-kāle manasācalena. Prayāṇa-kāle means "at the time of death." For instance, a student may prepare two years, three years, or four years in his college education, and the final test is his examination. If he passes the examination, then he gets his degree. Similarly, if we prepare for the examination of death and we pass the examination, then we are transferred to the spiritual world. All that we have learned in this life is examined at the time of death.
So here in the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa is describing what we should do at the point of death, when we are giving up this present body.
For the dhyāna-yogīs the prescription is: sarva-dvārāṇi saṁyamya mano hṛdi nirudhya ca. In the technical language of the yoga system, this process is called pratyāhāra. Pratyāhāra means "just the opposite." For example, suppose my eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty. So I would have to refrain from enjoying that external beauty and instead engage in meditation to see the beauty within. That is called pratyāhāra. Similarly, I would have to hear oṁkāra—the sound representation of the Lord—from within. And in the same way, all the senses must be withdrawn from their external activities and engaged in meditation on God. That is the perfection of dhyāna-yoga: to concentrate the mind on Viṣṇu, or God. The mind is very agitating. So it has to be fixed on the heart: mano hṛdi nirudhya. Then we have to transfer the life air to the top of the head: mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam āsthito yoga-dhāraṇām. That is the perfection of yoga.
A perfect dhyāna-yogī can choose his own destination after death. There are innumerable material planets, and beyond the material planets is the spiritual world. Yogīs have information about all the different planets. Where did they get this information? From the Vedic scriptures. For instance, before I came to your country, I got the description of your country from books. Similarly, we can get the descriptions of higher planets and the spiritual world from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
The yogī knows everything, and he can transfer himself to any planet he likes. He does not require the help of any spaceship. The scientists have been trying to reach other planets for so many years with their spaceships, and they will go on trying for one hundred or one thousand years. But they'll never be successful. Rest assured. This is not the process to reach another planet. Maybe, by scientific progress, one man or two men can succeed, but that is not the general process. The general process is that if you want to transfer yourself to any better planet, then you have to practice this dhyāna-yoga system—or the jñāna system. But not the bhakti system.
The bhakti system is not meant for attaining any material planet. Those who render devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, are not interested in any planet of this material world. Why? Because they know that regardless of what planet you elevate yourself to, the four principles of material existence will still be there. What are those principles? Birth, death, disease, and old age. You will find these on any planet you go to. On some higher planets your duration of life may be very, very much longer than on this earth, but still, death is there. Material life means birth, death, disease, and old age. And spiritual life means relief from these botherations. No more birth, no more death, no more ignorance, and no more misery. So those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet of this material world.
Now the scientists are trying to reach the moon planet, but it is very difficult for them to gain entrance, because they do not have a suitable body. But if we enter into the higher planets by this yoga system, then we will get a body suitable for those planets. For every planet there is a suitable body. Otherwise, you cannot enter. For example, although we cannot live in the water with this body, we can live in the water with oxygen tanks—for fifteen or sixteen hours. But the fish, the aquatic animals, have a suitable body—they are living their whole life underwater. And of course, if you take the fish out of the water and put them on the land, they'll die instantly. So you see, even on this planet you have to have a suitable kind of body to live in a particular place. Similarly, if you want to enter into another planet, you have to prepare yourself by getting a particular type of body.
In the higher planets, our year is equal to one day and night, and you live for ten thousand of such years. That is the description in the Vedic literature. So you get a very long duration of life undoubtedly. But then there is death. After ten thousand years, or twenty thousand years, or millions of years—it doesn't matter. It is all counted, and death is there. But you, the spirit soul, are not subject to death—that is the beginning of Bhagavad-gītā. Na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre: [Bg. 2.20] you are an eternal spirit soul.
Why should you subject yourself to this birth and death? To ask this question is a sign of real intelligence. Those persons who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are very intelligent. They aren't interested in promotion to any planet where there is death, regardless of how long you live. They want a spiritual body, just like God's. God's body is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ [Bs. 5.1]. Sat means "eternal," cit means "full of knowledge," and ānanda means "full of pleasure." If we leave this body and transfer ourselves to the spiritual world—to live with Kṛṣṇa Himself—then we get a body similar to His: sac-cid-ānanda—eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. Those who are trying to be Kṛṣṇa conscious have a different aim of life than those who are trying to promote themselves to any of the better planets in this material world.
You are a very minute, spiritual particle within this body, and you are being sustained in the prāṇa-vāyu, or life airs. The dhyāna-yoga system—the ṣaṭ-cakra system—aims to get the soul from its position in the heart to the topmost part of the head. And the perfection is when you can place yourself at the top of the head and, by rupturing this topmost part of the head, transfer yourself into the higher planets, as you like. A dhyāna-yogī can transfer into any planet—wherever he likes.
So if you like—just like you are inquisitive about the moon planet—become a yogī and go there. A yogī thinks, "Oh, let me see what the moon planet is like. Then I shall transfer myself to higher planets." It is the same with ordinary travelers. They come to New York, then go to California, then go to Canada. Similarly, you can transfer yourself to so many planets by this yoga system. But anywhere you go, the same systems—visa system and customs system—are there. So a Kṛṣṇa conscious person is not interested in these temporary planets. Life there may be of a long duration, but he is not interested.
For the yogī there is a process of giving up this body:
oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma
vyāharan mām anusmaran
yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaṁ
sa yāti paramāṁ gatim
At the time of death—"Oṁ. .. " He can pronounce oṁ, the oṁkāra. Oṁkāra is the concise form of transcendental sound vibration. Oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma vyāharan: If he can vibrate this sound, oṁkāra, and at the same time remember Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu (mām anusmaran), he can enter into the spiritual kingdom.
The whole yoga system is meant for concentrating the mind on Viṣṇu. But the impersonalists imagine that this oṁkāra is the form of Viṣṇu, or the Lord. Those who are personalists do not imagine. They see the actual form of the Supreme Lord. Anyway, whether you concentrate your mind by imagining or you see factually, you have to fix your mind on the Viṣṇu form. Here mām means "unto the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu." Yaḥ prayāti tyajan deham: Anyone who quits his body remembering Viṣṇu—sa yāti paramāṁ gatim—he enters into the spiritual kingdom.
Those who are actual yogīs do not desire to enter any other planet in the material world, because they know that life there is temporary. That is intelligence. Those who are satisfied with temporary happiness, temporary life, and temporary facilities are not intelligent, according to the Bhagavad-gītā: antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām [Bg. 7.23]. I am permanent. I am eternal. Who wants nonpermanent existence? Nobody wants it.
Suppose you are living in an apartment and the landlord asks you to vacate. You are sorry. But you'll not be sorry if you go to a better apartment. So this is our nature: Wherever we live, because we are permanent, we want a permanent residence. That is our inclination. We don't wish to die. Why? Because we are permanent. We don't want to be diseased. These are all artificial, external things—disease, death, birth, miseries. They are external things.
Just like sometimes you are attacked with fever. You are not meant for suffering from fever, but sometimes it comes upon you. So you have to take precautions to get out of it. Similarly, these four kinds of external afflictions—birth, death, disease, and old age—are due to this material body. If we can get out of this material body, we can get out of these afflictions.
So for the yogī who is an impersonalist, the recommended process is vibrating this transcendental sound, oṁ, while leaving this body. Anyone who is able to quit this material body while uttering the transcendental sound oṁ, with full consciousness of the Supreme Lord, is sure to be transferred to the spiritual world.
But those who are not personalists cannot enter into the spiritual planets. They remain outside. Just like the sunshine and the sun planet. The sunshine is not different from the sun disk. But still, the sunshine is not the sun disk. Similarly, those impersonalists who are transferred to the spiritual world remain in the effulgence of the Supreme Lord, which is called the brahma-jyotir. Those who are not personalists are placed into the brahma-jyotir as one of the minute particles.
We are minute particles, spiritual sparks, and the brahma-jyotir is full of such spiritual sparks. So you become one of the spiritual sparks. That is, you merge into the spiritual existence. You keep your individuality, but because you don't want any personal form, you are held there in the impersonal brahma-jyotir. Just as the sunshine is small molecules, shining molecules—those who are scientists know—similarly, we are tiny particles, smaller than an atom. Our magnitude is one ten-thousandth of the tip of a hair. So that small particle remains in the brahma-jyotir.
The difficulty is that, as a living entity, I want enjoyment. Because I am not only simply existing. I have got bliss. I am composed of three spiritual qualities: sac-cid-ānanda. I am eternal, and I am full of knowledge, and I am full of bliss. Those who enter into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord can remain eternally with full knowledge that they are now merged with Brahman, or the brahma-jyotir. But they cannot have eternal bliss, because that part is wanting.
If you are confined in a room alone, you may read a book or think some thought, but still you cannot remain alone all the time, for all the years of your life. That is not possible. You'll find some association, some recreation. That is our nature. Similarly, if we merge into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord, then there is a chance of falling down again to this material world. That is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [10.2.32]:
ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
It's just like the astronauts who go higher and still higher—twenty-five thousand or thirty thousand or a hundred thousand miles up. But they have to come to rest on some planet. So coming to rest is required. In the impersonal form the resting place is uncertain. Therefore the Bhāgavatam says, āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ. Even after so much endeavor, if the impersonalist gets into the spiritual world and remains in that impersonal form, the risk is patanty adhaḥ, that he will come down into material existence again. Why? Anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ: Because he has neglected to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion.
So, as long as we are here we have to practice loving Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord. Then we can enter the spiritual planets. This is the training. If you are not trained in that way, then by impersonal endeavor you can enter into the spiritual kingdom, but there is the risk of falling down again—because that loneliness will create some disturbance, and you'll try to have association. And because you have no association with the Supreme Lord, you'll have to come back and associate with this material world.
So better that we know the nature of our constitutional position. Our constitutional position is that we want eternity, we want complete knowledge, and we want pleasure also. If we are kept alone, we cannot have pleasure. We'll feel uncomfortable, and for want of pleasure we'll accept any kind of material pleasure. That is the risk. But in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we'll have full pleasure. The highest pleasure of this material world is sex life, and that is also perverted—so diseased. So even in the spiritual world there is sex pleasure in Kṛṣṇa. But we should not think that this is something like sex life in the material world. No. But, janmādy asya yataḥ: [SB 1.1.1] unless that sex life is there, it cannot be reflected here. It is simply a perverted reflection. The actual life is there, in Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is full of pleasure.
So the best thing is to train ourselves in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then at the time of death it will be possible to transfer ourselves to the spiritual world and enter into Kṛṣṇaloka, Kṛṣṇa's own planet, and enjoy with Him.
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣam tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
These are the descriptions of Kṛṣṇaloka. Cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu: The houses are made of touchstone. Perhaps you know touchstone. If a small particle of it is touched to an iron beam, the iron will at once become gold. Of course, none of you have seen this touchstone, but there is such a thing. So all the buildings there are touchstone. Cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu. Kalpa-vṛkṣa: [Bs. 5.29] The trees are desire trees. Whatever you like, you can get. Here, from mango trees you get only mangoes, and from apple trees you get apples. But there, from any tree, anything you like you can have. These are some of the descriptions of Kṛṣṇaloka.
So the best thing is not to try elevating ourselves to another material planet, because on any material planet you enter, you find the same principles of miserable life. We are accustomed to them. We have been acclimated to birth and death. We don't care. The modern scientists are very proud of their advancement, but they have no solution to any of these unpleasant things. They cannot make anything that will check death or disease or old age. That is not possible. You can manufacture something that will accelerate death, but you cannot manufacture anything that will stop death. That is not in your power.
So, those who are very intelligent are concerned about finding a permanent solution to these four problems—janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi: [Bg. 13.9] birth, death, old age, and disease. They are concerned about attaining their spiritual life, full of bliss and full of knowledge. And that is possible when you enter into the spiritual planets. As Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gītā [8.14]:
yo māṁ smarati nityaśaḥ
tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha
Nitya-yuktaḥ means "continuously in trance." This is the highest yogī: one who is continuously thinking of Kṛṣṇa, who is always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such a perfect yogī does not divert his attention to this sort of process or that sort of yoga system or the jñāna or dhyāna systems. Simply one system: Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Ananya-cetāḥ: without any deviation. He's not disturbed by anything. He simply thinks of Kṛṣṇa. Ananya-cetāḥ satatam. Satatam means "everywhere and at all times."
For example, my residence is at Vṛndāvana. That is the place of Kṛṣṇa, where Kṛṣṇa advented Himself. So now I am in America, in your country. But that does not mean I'm out of Vṛndāvana, because if I think of Kṛṣṇa always, it is as good as being in Vṛndāvana. I am in New York, in this apartment, but my consciousness is there in Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa consciousness means you already live with Kṛṣṇa in His spiritual planet. You simply have to wait to give up this body.
So this is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness: ananya-cetāḥ satataṁ yo māṁ smarati nityaśaḥ. Smarati means "remembering"; nityaśaḥ, "continuously." Kṛṣṇa declares that He becomes easily available to someone who is always remembering Him. The highest, most valuable thing becomes very inexpensive for one who takes up this process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ: [Bg. 8.14] "Because he's continuously engaged in such a process of yoga, bhakti-yoga—oh, I am very cheap. I am easily available."
Why should you try for any hard process? Simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. And you can chant twenty-four hours a day. There are no rules or regulations. Either in the street or in the subway, at your home or in your office—there is no tax, no expense. Why don't you do it?
Thank you very much.
Making Friends with the Mind
Is the mind the ultimate reservoir of human resources? Or is there a greater source of knowledge beyond our minds? In the following lecture, recorded in February 1969 in Los Angeles, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains why the mind must be brought under the control of spiritual energy. His theme is based on the following famous verse from India's most widely read and respected scripture, the Bhagavad-gītā:
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya
anātmanas tu śatrutve
"For one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, the mind will be the greatest enemy." [Bhagavad-gītā 6.6]
The whole purpose of the yoga system is to make the mind our friend. The mind in material contact is our enemy, just like the mind of a person in a drunken condition. In Caitanya-caritāmṛta [Cc. Madhya 20.117] it is said, kṛṣṇa bhuli' se jīva anādi-bahirmukha ataeva māyā tāre deya saṁsāra-duḥkha: "Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the Lord's external feature from time immemorial. Therefore, the illusory energy [māyā] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence." I am a spiritual soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but as soon as my mind is contaminated I rebel, because I have a little independence. "Why shall I serve Kṛṣṇa, or God? I am God." When this idea is dictated from the mind, my whole situation turns. I come under a false impression, an illusion, and my whole life is spoiled. So, we are trying to conquer so many things—empires and so on—but if we fail to conquer our minds, then even if we conquer an empire we are failures. Our very mind will be our greatest enemy.
The purpose of practicing eightfold yoga is to control the mind in order to make it a friend in discharging the human mission. Unless the mind is controlled, the practice of yoga is simply a waste of time; it is simply for show. One who cannot control his mind lives always with the greatest enemy, and thus his life and its mission are spoiled. The constitutional position of the living entity is to carry out the order of the superior. As long as one's mind remains an unconquered enemy, one has to serve the dictations of lust, anger, avarice, illusion, and so on. But when the mind is conquered, one voluntarily agrees to abide by the dictation of the Personality of Godhead, who is situated within the heart of everyone as the Supersoul (Paramātmā). Real yoga practice entails meeting the Paramātmā within the heart and then following His dictation. For one who takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness directly, perfect surrender to the dictation of the Lord follows automatically.
"For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquillity. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same." [Bhagavad-gītā 6.7]
Actually, every living entity is intended to abide by the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone's heart as Paramātmā. When the mind is misled by the external energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one's mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one is to be considered as having already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When one's mind is fixed on the superior nature, one has no alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme from within. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. The effect of controlling the mind is that one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramātmā, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence—distress and happiness, cold and heat, and so on. This state is practical samādhi, or absorption in the Supreme.
yukta ity ucyate yogī
"A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogī, or mystic, when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything—whether it be pebbles, stones, or gold—as the same." [Bhagavad-gītā 6.8]
Book knowledge without realization of the Supreme Truth is useless. In the Padma Purāṇa this is stated as follows:
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
[Cc. Madhya 17.136]
"No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him."
This is very important. Now, we accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord. And why do we accept that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord? Because it is stated in the Vedic literature. The Brahma-saṁhitā, for example, says, īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ [Bs. 5.1]: "The supreme controller is Kṛṣṇa, who has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body." Those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance simply imagine the form of God. And when they are confused, they say, "Oh, there is no personal God. The Absolute is impersonal or void." This is frustration.
Actually, God has a form. Why not? The Vedānta-sūtra says, janmādy asya yataḥ: [SB 1.1.1] "The Supreme Absolute Truth is that from whom or from which everything emanates." Now, we have forms. And not only we but all the different kinds of living entities have forms. Wherefrom have they come? Wherefrom have these forms originated? These are very commonsense questions. If God is not a person, then how have His sons become persons? If my father is not a person, how have I become a person? If my father has no form, wherefrom did I get my form? Nonetheless, when people are frustrated, when they see that their bodily forms are troublesome, they develop an opposite conception of form, and they imagine that God must be formless. But the Brahma-saṁhitā says no. God has a form, but His form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss (īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ [Bs. 5.1]). Sat means "eternity," cit means "knowledge," and ānanda means "pleasure." So God has a form, but His form is full of pleasure, full of knowledge, and eternal.
Now, let's compare our body to God's. Our body is neither eternal nor full of pleasure nor full of knowledge. So our form is clearly different from God's. But as soon as we think of form, we think the form must be like ours. Therefore we think that since God must be the opposite of us, He must have no form. This is speculation, however, not knowledge. As it is said in the Padma Purāṇa, ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ: [Cc. Madhya 17.136] "One cannot understand the form, name, quality, or paraphernalia of God with one's material senses." Our senses are imperfect, so how can we see the Supreme Person? It is not possible.
Then how is it possible to see Him? Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau: If we train our senses, if we purify our senses, those purified senses will help us see God. It is just as if we had cataracts on our eyes. Because our eyes are suffering from cataracts, we cannot see. But this does not mean that there is nothing to be seen—only that we cannot see. Similarly, now we cannot conceive of the form of God, but if our cataracts are removed, we can see Him. The Brahma-saṁhitā says, premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocaneṇa santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti: [Bs. 5.38] "The devotees whose eyes are anointed with the love-of-God ointment see God, Kṛṣṇa, within their hearts twenty-four hours a day." So, we require to purify our senses. Then we'll be able to understand what the form of God is, what the name of God is, what the qualities of God are, what the abode of God is, and what the paraphernalia of God are, and we'll be able to see God in everything.
The Vedic literature is full of references to God's form. For example, it is said that God has no hands or legs but that He can accept anything you offer: apāṇi-pādo javano gṛhītā. Also, it is said that God has no eyes or ears but that He can see everything and hear everything. So, these are apparent contradictions, because whenever we think of someone seeing, we think he must have eyes like ours. This is our material conception. Factually, however, God does have eyes, but His eyes are different from ours. He can see even in the darkness, but we cannot. God can hear, also. God is in His kingdom, which is millions and millions of miles away, but if we are whispering something—conspiracy—He can hear it, because He is sitting within us.
So, we cannot avoid God's seeing or God's hearing or God's touching. In the Bhagavad-gītā [9.26] Lord Kṛṣṇa says,
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
"If somebody offers Me flowers, fruits, vegetables, or milk with devotional love, I accept and eat it." Now, how is He eating? We cannot see Him eat, but He is eating. We experience this daily: When we offer Kṛṣṇa food according to the ritualistic process, we see that the taste of the food changes immediately. This is practical. So God eats, but because He is full in Himself, He does not eat like us. If someone offers me a plate of food, I may finish it, but God is not hungry, so when He eats He leaves the things as they are. Pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate: [Īśo Invocation] God is so full that He can eat all the food that we offer and still it remains as it is. He can eat with His eyes. This is stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā: aṅgāni yasya sakalendriya-vṛttimanti. "Every limb of the body of God has all the potencies of the other limbs." For example, we can see with our eyes, but we cannot eat with our eyes. But if God simply sees the food we have offered, that is His eating.
Of course, these things cannot be understood by us at the present moment. Therefore, the Padma Purāṇa says that only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him. We cannot understand God by our own endeavor, but God can reveal Himself to us. Trying to see God by our own efforts is just like trying to see the sun when it is dark outside. If we say, "Oh, I have a very strong flashlight, and I shall search out the sun," we will not be able to see it. But in the morning, when the sun rises out of its own will, we can see it. Similarly, we cannot see God by our own endeavor, because our senses are all imperfect. We have to purify our senses and wait for the time when God will be pleased to reveal Himself before us. This is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We cannot challenge, "Oh, my dear God, my dear Kṛṣṇa, You must come before me. I shall see You." No, God is not our order-supplier, our servant. When He is pleased with us, we'll see Him.
So, our yoga process tries to please God so that He will reveal Himself to us. That is the real yoga process. Without this process, people are accepting so many nonsensical "Gods." Because people cannot see God, anybody who says "I am God" is accepted. No one knows who God is. Somebody may say, "I am searching after truth," but he must know what truth is. Otherwise, how will he search out truth? Suppose I want to purchase gold. I must know what gold is, or at least have some experience of it. Otherwise, people will cheat me. So, people are being cheated—accepting so many rascals as God—because they do not know what God is. Anyone can come and say, "I am God," and some rascal will accept him as God. The man who says "I am God" is a rascal, and the man who accepts him as God is also a rascal. God cannot be known like this. One has to qualify himself to see God, to understand God. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ: [Brs.
Now, this Bhagavad-gītā is the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. No one can become Kṛṣṇa conscious simply by mundane scholarship. Simply because one has some titles—M.A., B.A., Ph.D.—that does not mean he'll understand the Bhagavad-gītā. This is a transcendental science, and one requires different senses to understand it. So one has to purify his senses by rendering service to the Lord. Otherwise, even if one is a great scholar—a doctor or a Ph.D.—he will make mistakes in trying to find out what Kṛṣṇa is. He will not understand—it is not possible. This is why Kṛṣṇa appears in the material world as He is. Although He is unborn (ajo 'pi sann avyayātmā), He comes to make us know who God is. But since He is not personally present now, to know Him one must be fortunate enough to associate with a person who is in pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, because He is satisfied with pure devotional service. So we have to acquire the grace of Kṛṣṇa. Then we can understand Kṛṣṇa, then we can see Kṛṣṇa, then we can talk with Kṛṣṇa—then we can do everything.
Kṛṣṇa is a person. He is the supreme person. That is the Vedic injunction: nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13)—"We are all eternal persons, and God is the supreme eternal person." Now we are meeting birth and death because we are encaged within this body. But actually, being eternal spirit souls, we have no birth and death at all. According to our work, according to our desire, we are transmigrating from one kind of body to another, another, and another. Yet actually, we have no birth and death. As explained in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.20], na jāyate mriyate vā: "The living entity never takes birth, nor does he ever die." Similarly, God is also eternal. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13): "God is the supreme living entity among all living entities, and He is the supreme eternal person among eternal persons." So, by practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by purifying our senses, we can reestablish our eternal relationship with the supreme eternal person, the complete eternal person. Then we will see God.
Through realized knowledge one becomes perfect. Through transcendental knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, but with mere academic knowledge one can be easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions. It is the realized soul who is actually self-controlled, because he is surrendered to Kṛṣṇa. And he is transcendental, because he has nothing to do with mundane scholarship. For him, mundane scholarship and mental speculation (which may be as good as gold to others) are of no greater value than pebbles or stones.
Even if one is illiterate, even if he does not know the ABC's, he can realize God-provided he engages himself in submissive transcendental loving service to God. On the other hand, although one is a very learned scholar, he may not be able to realize God. God is not subject to any material condition, because He is the supreme spirit. Similarly, the process of realizing God is also not subject to any material condition. It is not true that because one is a poor man he cannot realize God, or that because one is a very rich man he shall realize God. No. God is beyond our material conditions (apratihatā). In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.6] it is said, sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje: "That religion is first class which helps one advance his devotional service and love of God."
The Bhāgavatam does not mention that the Hindu religion is first class or the Christian religion is first class or the Mohammedan religion is first class or some other religion is first class. The Bhāgavatam says that that religion is first class which helps one advance his devotional service and love of God. That's all. This is the definition of a first-class religion. We do not analyze that one religion is first class or that another religion is last class. Of course, there are three qualities in the material world (goodness, passion, and ignorance), and religious conceptions are created according to these qualities. But the purpose of religion is to understand God and to learn how to love God. Any religious system, if it teaches one how to love God, is first class. Otherwise, it is useless. One may prosecute his religious principles very rigidly and very nicely, but if his love of God is nil, if his love of matter is simply enhanced, then his religion is no religion.
In the same verse, the Bhāgavatam says that real religion must be ahaitukī and apratihatā: without selfish motivation and without any impediment. If we can practice such a system of religious principles, then we'll find that we are happy in all respects. Otherwise there is no possibility of happiness. Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje [SB 1.2.6]. One of God's names is Adhokṣaja. Adhokṣaja means "one who conquers all materialistic attempts to be seen." Akṣaja means "direct perception by experimental knowledge," and adhaḥ means "unreachable." We cannot understand God by experimental knowledge. No. We have to learn of Him in a different way—by submissive aural reception of transcendental sound and by the rendering of transcendental loving service. Then we can understand God.
So, a religious principle is perfect if it teaches us how to develop our love for the Godhead. But our love must be without selfish motive. If I say, "I love God because He supplies me very nice things for my sense gratification," that is not love. Real love is without any selfish motive (ahaitukī). We must simply think, "God is great; God is my father. It is my duty to love Him." That's all. No exchange—"Oh, God gives me my daily bread; therefore I love God." No. God gives daily bread even to the animals—the cats and dogs. God is the father of everyone, and He supplies food to everyone. So, appreciating God because He gives me bread—that is not love. Love without motive. I must think, "Even if God does not supply me daily bread, I'll love Him." This is real love. As Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, āśliṣya vā pāda-ratāṁ pinaṣṭu mām adarśanān marma-hatāṁ karotu vā: [Cc. Antya 20.47] "O Lord, You may embrace me, or You may trample me down with Your feet. Or You may never come before me, so that I become brokenhearted without seeing You. Still, I love You." This is pure love of God. When we come to this stage of loving God, then we'll find ourselves full of pleasure. Just as God is full of pleasure, we'll also be full of pleasure. This is perfection.
The Ultimate Yoga
In this 1969 discourse, Śrīla Prabhupāda focuses on the perfected stage of yoga practice. According to ancient Vedic teachings, the yoga system—beginning with haṭha-yoga, prāṇāyāma (physical exercises and breath control) and karma-yoga—culminates in bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion to the Personality of Godhead. "If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that one has surpassed all other yogas," says Śrīla Prabhupāda. "And the test of one's mastery of bhakti-yoga is based on how much one is developing one's love for God."
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
"And of all yogīs, 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." [Bhagavad-gītā 6.47]
Here it is clearly stated that out of all the different kinds of yogīs—the aṣṭāṅga-yogī, the haṭha-yogī, the jñāna-yogī, the karma-yogī, and the bhakti-yogī—the bhakti-yogī is on the highest plat-form of yoga. Kṛṣṇa directly says, "Of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me... is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." Since Kṛṣṇa is speaking, the words in Me mean "in Kṛṣṇa." In other words, if one wants to become a perfect yogī on the highest platform, one should keep oneself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In this regard, the word bhajate in this verse is significant. Bhajate has its root in the verb bhaj, which is used to indicate devotional service. The English word worship cannot be used in the same sense as bhaja. To worship means "to adore" or "to show respect and honor to a worthy one." But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can avoid worshiping a respectable man or a demigod and be called merely discourteous, but one cannot avoid serving the Supreme Lord without being thoroughly condemned.
So, worship is very different from devotional service. Worship involves some selfish motive. We may worship some very big businessman because we know that if we please him, he may give us some business and we'll derive some profit. The worship of the demigods is like that. People often worship one of the demigods for some particular purpose, but this is condemned in Bhagavad-gītā [7.20]: kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ prapadyante 'nya-devatāḥ—"Those who have lost their sense and are bewildered by lust worship demigods with a selfish motive."
Thus when we speak of worship, there is a selfish motive, but when we speak of devotional service, there is no motive except the desire to please the beloved. Devotional service is based on love. For example, when a mother renders service to her child, there is no personal motive: she serves only out of love. Everyone else may neglect the child, but the mother cannot, because she loves him. Similarly, when there is a question of service to God, there should be no question of a personal motive. That is perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that is recommended in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.6] in the description of the first-class system of religious principles: sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje—"The first-class system of religious principles is that which enables one to develop one's God consciousness, or love of God." If one can develop one's love for God, one may follow any religious principle—it doesn't matter. But the test is how much one is developing one's love for God.
But if one has some personal motive and thinks, "By practicing this system of religion, my material necessities will be fulfilled," that is not first-class religion. That is third-class religion. First-class religion is that by which one can develop one's love of God, and that love must be without any personal motive and without any impediment (ahaituky apratihatā). That is first-class religion, as recommended here by Kṛṣṇa in this final verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the perfection of yoga, but even if one looks at it from a religious viewpoint it is first class—because it is performed with no personal motive. My disciples are not serving Kṛṣṇa so that He will supply them with this or that. There may be this or that, but that doesn't matter. Of course, there is no scarcity; devotees get everything they need. We shouldn't think that by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious one becomes poor. No. If Kṛṣṇa is there, everything is there, because Kṛṣṇa is everything. But we shouldn't make any business with Kṛṣṇa: "Kṛṣṇa, give me this, give me that." Kṛṣṇa knows what we require better than we do, just as a father knows the necessities of his child. Why should we ask? Since God is all-powerful, He knows our wants and He knows our necessities. This is confirmed in the Vedas: eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān—"God is supplying all the necessities of the innumerable living entities."
We should simply try to love God, without demanding anything. Our needs will be supplied. Even the cats and dogs are getting their necessities. They don't go to church and ask God for anything, but they are getting their necessities. So why should a devotee not get his necessities? If the cats and dogs can get their necessities of life without demanding anything from God, why should we demand from God, "Give me this, give me that"? No. We should simply try to love Him and serve Him. That will fulfill everything, and that is the highest platform of yoga.
Service to God is natural; since I am part and parcel of God, my natural duty is to serve Him. The example of the finger and the body is appropriate. The finger is part and parcel of the body. And what is the duty of the finger? To serve the whole body, that's all. If you are feeling some itch, immediately your finger is working. If you want to see, your eyes immediately work. If you want to go somewhere, your legs immediately take you there. So, the bodily parts and limbs are helping the whole body.
Similarly, we are all part and parcel of God, and we are all meant simply for rendering service to Him. When the limbs of the body serve the whole body, the energy automatically comes to the limbs. Similarly, when we serve Kṛṣṇa, we get all our necessities automatically. Yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena [SB 4.31.14]. If one pours water on the root of a tree, the energy is immediately supplied to the leaves, the twigs, the branches, and so on. Similarly, simply by serving Kṛṣṇa, or God, we serve all other parts of creation. There is no question of serving each living entity separately.
Another point is that by serving God, we will automatically have sympathy for all living beings—not only for human beings, but even for animals. Therefore God consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is the perfection of religion. Without Kṛṣṇa consciousness our sympathy for other living entities is very limited, but with Kṛṣṇa consciousness our sympathy for other living entities is full.
Every living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, and thus every living entity is intended to serve the Supreme Lord by his own constitution. Failing to do this, he falls down. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [11.5.3] confirms this as follows:
ya eṣāṁ puruṣaṁ sākṣād
na bhajanty avajānanti
sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ
"Anyone who neglects his duty and does not render service unto the primeval Lord, who is the source of all living entities, will certainly fall down from his constitutional position."
How do we fall down from our constitutional position? Once again, the example of the finger and the body is appropriate. If one's finger becomes diseased and cannot render service to the whole body, it simply gives one pain. Similarly, any person who is not rendering service to the Supreme Lord is simply disturbing Him, giving Him pain and trouble. Therefore, such a person has to suffer, just like a man who is not abiding by the laws of the state. Such a criminal simply gives pain to the government, and he's liable to be punished. He may think, "I'm a very good man," but because he's violating the laws of the state, he's simply torturing the government. This is easy to understand.
So, any living entity who is not serving Kṛṣṇa is causing Him a kind of pain. And that is sinful-to make Kṛṣṇa feel pain. Just as the government collects all the painful citizens and keeps them in the prison house—"You criminals must live here so you can't disturb people in the open state"—so God puts all the criminals who have violated His laws, who have simply given Him pain, into this material world. Sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ: They fall down from their constitutional position in the spiritual world. Again we may cite the example of the finger. If your finger is extremely painful, the doctor may advise, "Mr. So-and-so, your finger has to be amputated. Otherwise, it will pollute your whole body." Sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ: The finger then falls down from its constitutional position as part of the body.
Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we have all fallen down to this material world. If we want to revive our original position, we must again establish ourselves in the service attitude. That is the perfect cure. Otherwise, we shall suffer pain, and God will be suffering pain on account of us. We are just like bad sons of God. If a son is not good, he suffers, and the father suffers along with the son. Similarly, when we are suffering, God is also suffering. Therefore, the best thing is to revive our original Kṛṣṇa consciousness and engage in the service of the Lord.
The word avajānanti used in the verse cited from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is also used by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā [9.11]:
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
"Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be." Only the fools and rascals deride the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa. The word mūḍha means "fool" or "rascal." Only a rascal does not care for Kṛṣṇa. Not knowing that he will suffer for this attitude, he dares neglect Him. Without knowing the supreme position of the Lord, the rascals worship some cheap "God." God has become so cheap that many people say, "I am God, you are God." But what is the meaning of the word God? If everyone is God, then what is the meaning of God?
So, the word avajānanti is very appropriate. Avajānanti means "neglectful," and it perfectly describes the person who says, "What is God? I am God. Why should I serve God?" This is avajānanti—neglecting God's real position. A criminal may have the same attitude toward the government: "Oh, what is the government? I can do whatever I like. I don't care for the government." This is avajānanti. But even if we say, "I don't care for the government," the police department is there. It will give us pain; it will punish us. Similarly, even if we don't care for God, the material nature will punish us with birth, old age, disease, and death. To get out of this suffering, we must practice yoga.
The culmination of all kinds of yoga practice lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward this destination. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga, executed without fruitive desires, is the beginning of this path. (Fruitive activities, or karma, include sinful activities also. Karma-yoga, however, does not include sinful activities but only good, pious activities, or prescribed activities. This is karma-yoga.) Then, when karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jñāna-yoga. When jñāna-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by various physical processes, and when the mind is on Him, one has reached the stage called aṣṭāṅga-yoga. And when one surpasses aṣṭāṅga-yoga and comes to the point of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, one has reached bhakti-yoga, the culmination.
Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other, minor yogas. The yogī who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal auspiciousness, whereas one who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogī, jñāna-yogī, or aṣṭāṅga-yogī. But if one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that one has surpassed all the other yogas. Therefore, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, when we speak of the Himālayas, we refer to the world's highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered the culmination.
If someone practicing jñāna-yoga thinks that he is finished, that is wrong. He has to make further progress. For example, suppose you want to go to the highest floor of a building—say, the hundredth floor—by walking up a staircase. You will pass the thirtieth floor, the fiftieth floor, the eightieth floor, and so on. But suppose when you come to the fiftieth or eightieth floor you think, "I have reached my goal." Then you are unsuccessful. To reach your destination you have to go to the hundredth floor. Similarly, all the processes of yoga are connected, like a staircase, but we shouldn't be satisfied to stop on the fiftieth floor or the eightieth floor. We should go to the highest platform, the hundredth floor—pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Now, if somebody who wants to reach the hundredth floor is given a chance to use the elevator, within a minute he will be able to come to the top. Of course, he may still say, "Why should I take advantage of this elevator? I shall go step by step." He can do this, but there is a chance he will not reach the top floor. Similarly, if one takes help from the "elevator" of bhakti-yoga, within a short time he can reach the "hundredth floor"—the perfection of yoga, Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the direct process. You may go step by step, following all the other yoga systems, or you may take directly to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Lord Caitanya has recommended that in this age, since people are very short-lived, disturbed, and full of anxiety, they should take up the direct process. And by His grace, by His causeless mercy, He has given us the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, which lifts us immediately to the platform of bhakti-yoga. It is immediate; we don't have to wait. That is the special gift of Lord Caitanya. Therefore Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prayed, namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te: [Cc. Madhya 19.53] "O Lord Caitanya, You are the most munificent incarnation because You are directly giving love of Kṛṣṇa." Ordinarily, to attain love of Kṛṣṇa one has to pass through so many steps and stages of yoga, but Lord Caitanya gave it directly. Therefore He is the most munificent incarnation. This is the position of Lord Caitanya.
The only way to know God in truth is through bhakti-yoga. In Bhagavad-gītā [18.55] Kṛṣṇa confirms this. Bhaktyā māṁ abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ: "Only by devotional service can one understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is." The Vedas confirm that only through bhakti, or devotional service, can one attain the highest perfectional stage. If one practices other yoga systems, there must be a mixture of bhakti if one is to make any progress. But because people don't have sufficient time to execute all the practices of any other yoga system, the direct process of bhakti-yoga, unadulterated devotion, is recommended for this age. Therefore, it is by great fortune that one comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the path of bhakti-yoga, and becomes well situated according to the Vedic directions.
The ideal yogī concentrates his attention on Kṛṣṇa, who is as beautifully colored as a cloud, whose lotuslike face is as effulgent as the sun, whose dress is brilliant with jewels, and whose body is flower-garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahma-jyotir. He incarnates in different forms, such as Rāma, Varāha, and Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He descends as a human being—as the son of Mother Yaśodā—and He is known as Kṛṣṇa, Govinda, and Vāsudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend, and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. One who remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord is the highest yogī. This stage of perfection in yoga can be attained only by bhakti-yoga, as confirmed in all Vedic literature.