RTW 1: Knowledge of the Supreme

This Material Nature Is Full of Suffering

The editor of the daily Amrita Bazar Patrika, published from Allahabad, began the editorial the other day on a rather sad note:

The nation's week began with memories of '

Now, if one consults the accounts ledger of India's serfdom and freedom, and views the contents from a spiritual perspective, the conclusion will be as follows: The four yugas, or ages, namely Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali, add up to 4,320,000 years. Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years, began from the time of Mahārāja Parīkṣit's rule, some five thousand years ago. For approximately one thousand of these five thousand years—i.e., since the invasion of Mohammad Ghori in A.D. 1050—India has been experiencing foreign rule. In other words, when we calculate according to scripture, India has exercised absolute sovereignty over the entire planet Earth for a period of 3,772,000 years, till Mahārāja Parīkṣit's rule. Hence the meagre thousand years of foreign subjugation are not such a lamentable thing. Neither in the past nor at present has India's political serfdom or freedom been the prime concern of India's greatest thinkers and philosophers, who well knew the actual value of such things. The kings of India up to Mahārāja Parīkṣit were able to rule the entire world, and not for a mere couple of centuries but for hundreds of thousands of years. The reason for their rule was not a political one.

India's wise men of yore easily realized that the threefold miseries we humans are condemned to suffer can never be mitigated by the political condition controlling the country—whether foreign rule or freedom from it. At the dawn of modern history, the Armageddon fought in India over a political question lasted only eighteen days. On that historic battlefield the problem of human suffering and its permanent solution was discussed, and this discussion was compiled in the form of the Bhagavad-gītā.

Thus millennia ago the Bhagavad-gītā comprehensively discussed the same topic the editor of Amrita Bazar Patrika writes about in a despondent mood: "If one kind of trouble goes, another quickly follows." In the Gītā (7.14) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "This divine energy of mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome." The Sanskrit words daivī māyā used here can be translated into modern terms as "nature's law." This natural law is so stringent that it is impossible to overcome it, in spite of our prolific articles in the newspapers or our big conferences tabling motions that run into volumes. Our advanced technological and scientific efforts aimed at protecting us from the clutches of nature's law are futile because they are all controlled by the very same nature's law, or daivī māyā. Therefore trying to utilize mundane science to overpower nature's law is like creating a Frankenstein. Efforts to extirpate human suffering through advanced technology and bring about lasting happiness have brought us to the Atomic Age. Western thinkers have become gravely concerned about the extent of destruction an atomic explosion can cause. Some leaders are trying to calm the alarm with platitudes about how atomic energy is to be used solely for peaceful purposes, but this is another form of deception caused by daivī māyā, or nature's law.

It is impossible for anyone to surmount the two-pronged attack of daivī māyā—that is, her covering potency and her throwing potency. The more we try to conquer this divine energy, the more powerfully she defeats us by exciting us through the mode of passion and punishing us with the threefold miseries, culminating in all-devouring death. This struggle between the divine energy and the evil forces is eternal. Our inability to understand this struggle has led us to lament, "In the dispensation of providence, mankind cannot have any rest."

Despite repeatedly tasting defeat at the hands of the divine energy, the evil forces cannot understand why "mankind cannot have any rest." Yet in the Bhagavad-gītā the Supreme Personality of Godhead clearly explains this. At first He sternly warns the evil forces with these words, daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā: "This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome" [Bg. 7.14]; and then in the next line He tells them how to overcome this divine energy, mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te: "But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it."

The Cause of Suffering

na māṁ duṣkṛtino muḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ

"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me."

In the Bhagavad-gītā (16.7-20) the Supreme Lord has exhaustively described the nature of such atheistic demons:

Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behaviour nor truth is found in them. They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent.

They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds and thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks, 'So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.' In this way such persons are deluded by ignorance. Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell.

Self-complacent and always impudent, deluded by wealth and false prestige, they sometimes proudly perform sacrifices in name only, without following any rules or regulations. Bewildered by false ego, strength, pride, lust, and anger, the demons become envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated in their own bodies and in the bodies of others, and blaspheme against the real religion. Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life. Attaining repeated birth amongst the species of demoniac life, O son of Kuntī, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence.

These verses from the Gītā aptly describe the demoniac nature.

There have always existed two types of men, the devotee and the demon. Long ago there lived a big demon named

But now, in modern times, Rāvaṇa's dynasty has multiplied into millions. This has given rise to many different opinions, which have made the demons inimical toward one another. Thus they are all competing tooth and nail, trying to kidnap the goddess of fortune, Sītā-devī. Each one is thinking, "I am the most cunning, and so I will enjoy Sītā-devī all by myself." But like Rāvaṇa, all these demons, along with their entire families, are being destroyed. So many powerful leaders like Hitler have come, but enamoured by the illusion of enjoying and exploiting the Supreme Lord's energy and consort—Sītā-devī, the goddess of fortune—all of them have been thwarted and crushed in the past, are being thwarted and crushed in the present, and will be thwarted and crushed in the future. The root cause of the aforementioned lament—"In the dispensation of providence, mankind cannot have any rest"—is this demoniac mentality of exploiting and enjoying the Lord's divine energy.

The demons do not know when or where to renounce, nor do they know when or where to accept or receive. When diagnosing a patient, one has to properly judge this accepting and rejecting principle. So, in order to cure the demoniac mentality in human society, which causes the Rāvaṇa syndrome of trying to steal Sītā-devī, it is essential that the demoniac nature be transformed. For any treatment, two important factors are that the patient be in clean surroundings and that his medicine and food be administered punctually. Similarly, to transform the demoniac mentality, people have to be clean, disciplined, and truthful. This end is not served by advocating the theory of yata mat, tata path—that "there are as many ways to salvation as there are opinions"—for in this way one confuses and deceives the populace. By bringing the clean and the unclean, the disciplined and undisciplined, the truthful and the untruthful onto the same level, one will find it impossible to cure or even treat any patient.

The Godless Demons

The grossly materialistic demons are so completely bereft of spiritual knowledge that although at every moment they perceive the transience of the material body, all their activities center on the body. They are unable to understand that the soul within the body is the permanent and essential substance and that the body is mutable and temporary. Becoming first enamoured of then deluded by vivartavāda (the theory of evolution), they conclude that the entire cosmic body also lacks a Soul. Since the fallacious theory they apply to their own physical existence leads them to reject any research into the existence of a soul residing within the body, they fail to perceive the presence of the Supersoul within the gigantic body of the cosmic manifestation. They falsely conclude that the body is everything, that there is nothing beyond it; similarly, they think that the material creation, which is the universal body, is factually governed only by the laws of nature. Any discussion on this subject is invariably put to premature death by their insistence that nature is the be—all and end—all. The more intelligent among them carry this discussion a little further and postulate that impersonalism is the quintessence of everything. But far beyond this realm of manifest and unmanifest material nature is the transcendental and eternal state. The atheists, however, are characteristically unable to believe in its existence.

In this way, with their perverted minds bereft of far-sightedness, demoniac men perform activities that bring only misery to the people. And as a result of many such unwanted activities, the atom bomb was discovered. The endless plans these demoniac men chalk out can never bode well for humanity. In the past, Rāvaṇa attempted to build a stairway to heaven, claiming this was for humanity's benefit. Actually, he was trying to cheat the Supreme Lord, Rāmacandra. But he was unsuccessful. History repeats itself, for now we find that Rāvaṇa's descendants are attempting to cheat the Lord in the name of planning to benefit society. The thing to take note of is that no demon will compliment other demons' plans. Every demon will declare that since his plan is the most wonderful, all others must vote for him. Then an opponent will say that in actuality his plan is the best and hence he should rightfully be given all the votes. In this age of votes, the fighting over who is to actually get the votes has untimely broken all the stairways to heaven. If one calmly considers the facts, one will easily conclude that all these plans manufactured by the perverted brains of the demons, with their myopic vision, can never bring peace in the world. Of course, in one matter all the demons readily agree, and that is to surreptitiously enjoy Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune and eternal consort of the Supreme Lord, without the knowledge of the Lord Himself.

Every demon is vainly proud, thinking no one is more intelligent and esteemed than himself. Therefore the overpowering desires that urge him on to perform various activities are, according to him, ultimately beneficial for human society. In the end, of course, it is inevitably revealed that all his aspirations were illusory and unrealistic. Yet despite this revelation, the demons continue to influence the populace through manipulations and lies.

There are no limits to the imagination of these unclean and deluded demons. They pose as self-styled leaders and endlessly worry about the welfare of society. They worry, for example, about where to lodge the people who come to purchase in the marketplace. What they actually think about is how to make foolproof arrangements to secure their own long-lasting enjoyment, along with their children's, their grandchildren's, and their great-grandchildren's enjoyment, up to the final dissolution of the world. But when they experience suffering instead of pleasure, the demons revert to violence against their fellow men to accumulate wealth. Their material desires are insatiable, and so even billions of dollars cannot appease them. Whoever is expert in illegally amassing huge fortunes becomes the top dog. The demons are full of hate, greed, anger, lust, etc., and they are tireless in their efforts to illicitly amass great wealth merely to gratify their sensual urges. On the other hand, their competitors are no less expert in cheating them of their black wealth. How can such ruthless competition aimed at stealing one another's illegally-earned money bring about peace and prosperity? Hence the demons can never help the person who laments, "In the dispensation of providence, man cannot have any rest."

The demon is always ruminating on how to increase their bank balance: "Today the stocks have gone up, and so also have my profits. Tomorrow, if these other commodities become dearer, my bank balance will further increase. And so my future looks bright and prosperous." The demon continues to think, but now on a slightly different subject: "One of my enemies has already been destroyed, and another one is soon to meet his end. This puts me in a more secure position. So now that I have become adept at eliminating my enemies, I am God Almighty. Why must one look in search of God? Hundreds of 'Gods' are floating right before your eyes." Such thoughts and actions make the demons more and more atheistic, and thus they refuse to hear the transcendental message of God. They proudly declare, "Who is God? Why, I am God! When I can illegally manipulate funds and become so wealthy that I can enjoy everything in this world, then I am indeed Almighty God. I am strong and happy and accomplished. Those who are weaklings, without money and means, must respect me as God. What is the use of crying after any other God?"

The demons are under the impression that no one is more wealthy and popular than themselves. They think that their wealth will somehow be protected by some spirit, and in this way they are deluded. Their final destination is hell.

The few religious deeds that the demons perform are merely a show; they are meant only to flatter their false ego and bring them more recognition and respect. They perform them only for their own sense enjoyment and are invariably acts of violence. The demons engage in these rituals without following the scriptural injunctions, merely to appease their vainglory.

Strutting with false pride, strength, anger, lust, and so on, the demons become totally absorbed in bodily consciousness, thinking "This is my body. I am Indian, Bengali, and so on. He is a Muslim; he is a Hindu; he is a German." In this way they perpetrate acts of violence on others. The Supreme Lord repeatedly puts these most abominable, wretched sinners into the most distressful conditions, constantly punishing them with His stringent laws of nature, or daivī māyā. Thus taking repeated births as demons, these reprobates can never appreciate the transcendental pastimes, names, beauty, and so on, of the Supreme Lord. Gradually cultivating the impersonal knowledge of the Absolute, they are destined to suffer the worst possible life.

The Cause of the Demoniac Mentality

There are numerous causes of the demoniac mentality, but in this essay we shall broadly delve into only three: lust, anger, and greed. In the Bhagavad-gītā (16.21) Lord Kṛṣṇa describes these three characteristics as destroyers of the self-portals leading to hell.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the sole proprietor and enjoyer of everything. When the living entities forget this fact, they develop an intense desire to enjoy this phenomenal world. But they cannot be fully satisfied by such endeavors, and thus anger develops. Anger causes frustration, as in the story of the unsuccessful fox and the "sour grapes." The living entity is then forced to pretend to be a renouncer. But at the bottom of such renunciation burns the great flame of greed and the desire for enjoyment. This is only another stage of material desire. Therefore, unless one transcends this stage of acceptance and rejection of physical pleasures and becomes situated on the platform of the eternal self, one cannot understand the sublime message of the Lord. And without this understanding, one will continue to cultivate the demoniac mentality.

The only method by which one can elevate himself form the depths of demoniac depravity to the path of self-realization is to learn the injunctions of the scriptures and act accordingly. Chaotic and undisciplined activities contrary to scriptural instructions are actions performed out of lust. It is not possible to eradicate anger and greed through such acts of lust; nor is it possible to experience true happiness and divine elevation. Therefore if we wish to find the path to spiritual upliftment and eternal peace—the need for which is expressed in the lament "In the dispensation of providence, mankind cannot have any rest"—revealed scriptures are our only guide. Simply by executing the injunctions of the scriptures, we can become free from acts of lust and chaotic living.

At present we are living in the thick of

Seeing the miserable condition of the living entities in the Kali-yuga, Lord Caitanya, the savior of the fallen souls, has expounded a method for their salvation. This method is taken from the scriptures and is applicable to everyone. In previous ages, one could study the Vedas and purify oneself by living according to those instructions. But it is impossible for the present population to properly execute scriptural injunctions, which includes strictly following vows of celibacy. One who is extremely degraded and sinful cannot find the accurate path to realization by studying the Vedas. It is a waste of time even to explain the meaning of the Vedas to such persons, who are devoid of proper up-bringing and discipline. Lord Caitanya has indeed showered His mercy upon these Kali-yuga people. So there is no doubt that those who are unable even to receive this mercy from Lord Caitanya are forever bereft of saving grace. As for those fortunate souls who, after realizing the greatness of Lord Caitanya's mercy, have accepted it—they have escaped the punishments of māyā, or "the dispensation of providence." But for those who have agreed to come under the influence of the cycle of karmic reactions and are being pummeled about by māyā, the Supreme Lord has arranged the process of karma-yoga, or fruitive activities with the aim of sacrifice to the Supreme Lord.

The learned sages say that the living entities go through 8,400,000 species of life. There are 900,000 aquatic species; 2,000,000 plants, mountains, and other nonmoving species; 1,100,000 insect and worm species; 1,000,000 bird species; 3,000,000 animal species; and 400,000 human species. After passing through all these species, the soul is finally born as a human being in Bhārata-varṣa, India. He achieves this birth by gradually awakening his consciousness. Many millions of years flash by as the soul goes through each of the above-mentioned species of life. So, even after all this, if the soul, despite being born as a human being in India, continues to be subjugated by māyā and goes round in the whirlpool of "the dispensation of providence," then there is no limit to his misfortune. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāj has therefore written,

bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya-janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari' kara para-upakāra
[Cc. Ādi 9.41]

One who has take his birth as a human being in the land of India (Bhārata-varṣa) should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people.

Human beings can perfect their lives by following in the footsteps of those great sages of India who have all along shown the proper path. The reason for this is simple: Nowhere else can we find an example of the manner in which the sages of India have endeavored to find absolute cessation of māyā's attack and to become an eternal dust particle of the Supreme Lord's lotus feet. In other countries, especially in the Occident, tremendous progress has been a made in the various fields of material science—but it is all based on the material mind and body, which are creations of māyā, the illusory potency. It is for this reason that the Westerners lament, "In the dispensation of providence, man cannot have any rest." At present, the Indians have similarly taken to the path of self-destruction by aping the Western ways. The have discarded and desecrated their own culture and have become beggars at another's door. They are now flying their flag of independence, but this is also a dispensation of māyā. Factually, they cannot gain anything from it. The Occident has never delved into the three stages in the development of the eternal relationship between the infinitesimal soul and the infinite Supreme Whole. These stages are, first, the initial contact with the Supreme Lord and the re-awakening of one's relationship with him; second, the execution of the means to achieve one's eternal relationship with Him; and finally, the blossoming of that relationship into one of love and total dependence of the soul upon the Lord.

Although Western people have brilliantly developed in mundane matters, they are tossed about in a sea of despair and listlessness. Similarly, the Indians, although trying to feel grateful for their mundane development, are experiencing the same listlessness and dissatisfaction. Strangely enough, now the Western thinkers are looking toward India to find peace and calm. We can safely harbor the firm conviction that soon the message of peace will reach their ears.

The Formula for Peace

Lord Krṣṇa, seeing the distressful condition of the living entities and forseeing their bleak future, spoke the scripture known as Bhagavad-gītā, which contains unequivocal instructions for mankind. These instructions are like the cooling showers of peace on the blazing forest fire of material existence. Ordinary human activities are quite different from the activities recommended in the Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā; understanding this difference is essential for us. In our times we find many fruitive workers who claim to be karma-yogīs but in fact are seen to enjoy the fruits of their labor. What is needed is not this false karma-yoga but genuine buddhi-yoga, which Lord Kṛṣṇa several times explains in the Bhagavad-gītā. Buddhi-yoga means "devotion to the Supreme Lord." The Lord says in the Gītā (10.10), "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." Elsewhere in the Gītā (18.56) the Lord says, "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service." Therefore, since buddhi-yoga is the means to attain the Supreme Lord, then buddhi-yoga is nothing other than devotional service. The Supreme Lord is attained through loving devotional service. This fact is well known. Hence the Lord is also known as bhakta-vatsala, "He who is especially inclined toward His devotees."

The course of action one chooses through executing buddhi-yoga is the very means for mankind to attain lasting peace. Such a course of action will enable man to find rest "in the dispensation of providence." We can clearly understand the essence of buddhi-yoga from the Bhagavad-gītā (Chapter 2.39-40):

Thus far I have described this knowledge to you through analytical study. Now listen as I explain it in terms of working without fruitive results. O son of Pṛthā, when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of works. In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.

The attainment of peace through the process of sāṅkhya-yoga is for the modern man almost impossible. But peace is easily available through the process of buddhi-yoga, or loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord. And this peace is of the highest nature: it far exceeds the happiness experienced through any other process. Activities that are directly connected to devotional service blossom and develop unhindered by anything external. The amount of devotional activity one performs always remains intact; it is a permanent spiritual gain for the performer, never to be rendered futile. Even a little execution of devotional service is enough to save one from the greatest type of fear.

The process of pure devotional service is one. At the same, time the Gītā points out how to execute buddhi-yoga through jñāna, or analytical study, and karma, or fruitive action. When buddhi-yoga is executed in conjunction with fruitive activity, it is known as karma-yoga. Similarly, when it is executed in conjunction with analytical study, then it is called jñāna-yoga. And when buddhi-yoga, or devotional service, transcends both karma-yoga and jñāna-yoga and becomes completely unalloyed, that devotion is called pure bhakti-yoga, or loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord.

The fruitive activities one performs in this world, whether according to social norms or Vedic standards, give different results. Again, by experiencing the fruits of those labors, one creates new sets of activities and their concomitant results, which in turn give rise to newer sets of activities and their results. All these activities and their results cannot automatically be labeled karma-yoga. We can see that the process of performing fruitive actions and experiencing their results is like a mammoth tree sprouting endless branches and twigs. Can the performer of actions who experiences the endless fruits of that mammoth tree ever enjoy peace and benediction? No. Therefore it is said, "In the dispensation of providence, mankind cannot have any rest." Even in this lifetime, one who performs fruitive work is totally entangled in the cycle of karma as he sits on the tree of material existence. As a result, the soul must enter 8,400,000 species and suffer the threefold miseries, never finding any rest or peace.

Yet people find it impossible to renounce fruitive activities. Even the so-called sannyāsīs who make a show of renouncing such activities must still perform many activities, at least to relieve their hunger. Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, seeing the condition of the sannyāsīs during his time, commented, "One takes on many different garbs just to fill one's stomach." And trying to give up all activities is no solution. When Śrī Arjuna, a warrior, wanted to forsake his duty of fighting a war, the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, advised him, "Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work." (Bhagavad-gītā 3.8)

A person should never give up his prescribed duty without scriptural authorization, for this will cause chaos in the world. Since it is impossible to maintain the body without activities, it is impossible to totally renounce activities. On the other hand, the tree of material entanglement, which thrives on fruitive activities and their results, can never bring forth any hope for peace. It is for this reason that the Supreme Lord has explained how one is to perform activities:

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 this way you will always remain free from bondage. (Bhagavad-gītā 3.9)

It is another kind of "dispensation of providence" when the fruits of actions do not bind one. To perform all activities only as a sacrifice for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu is true freedom from the results of activities, or the real art of karma-yoga. Through this process of karma-yoga one is freed from the shackles of fruitive results and one's inherent eternal loving devotion for the Supreme Lord gradually manifests. This type of karma-yoga is also referred to as desireless actions, or naiṣkarmya, or in other words activities performed without expectation of any sense gratification. One who works in this way offers all the results of his actions to the Supreme Lord instead of enjoying them himself.

All of us must try to earn whatever money is required to maintain ourselves and our family. Money buys food, and food maintains our body. Without sufficient food, the body becomes weak and useless, and then it cannot generate further means for its sustenance. Which is the cause and which the effect is very difficult to establish. Such is the cycle of fruitive activities. Our material existence birth after birth consists of going round the great cycle of fruitive activity. If, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord or His pure representative, a fortunate soul caught in the midst of this turning wheel can understand his distressful condition, he begins to perform activities that will free him from this bondage.

Life's Only Goal

Our objective is not the temporary peace and happiness available in the material world. As living entities we are eternal, and hence the desire for permanent happiness should be our prime motive. Yet we souls change millions of bodies, going up and down the fourteen material planetary systems, chasing after illusory peace and pleasures, expending huge amounts of blood and energy. The permanent peace and happiness we demonically run after eludes us constantly; we do not know where real peace and happiness are available. As Prahlāda Mahārāja says in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.9.25),

In this material world, every living entity desires some future happiness, which is exactly like a mirage in the desert. Where is water in the desert, or, in other words, where is happiness in this material world?

In search of truth we become deviated and, taking shelter of the boat of the material body and mind, travel aimlessly in the ocean of material existence, with no land in sight. Mercilessly tossed about, we brood, "In the dispensation of providence, man cannot have any rest." If only we knew that our ultimate destination is Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead! Then we could end our suffering. To dispel our ignorance about this fact, Lord Krṣṇā has informed us that we must perform all activities as a sacrifice for Lord Viṣṇu's satisfaction. The Ṛg Veda confirms this: "Lord Viṣṇu is the Supreme shelter of everything. All the demigods are constantly meditating on Him." Thus we see that the demigods also consider Lord Viṣṇu's lotus feet their supreme destination, and they become liberated simply by performing all activities for His pleasure. One who wants release from the vicious karmic cycle must have Lord Viṣṇu's lotus feet as his final objective. Otherwise, he will have to become demoniac.

The followers of the varṇāśrama way of life, or sanātana-dharma, are now being called Hindus. Their forefathers, especially those who belonged to the upper castesthe brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, and vaiśyas—centered their lives on Lord Viṣṇu. In every stage of life, especially in the householder stage, people worshiped Lord Viṣṇu in their homes, performing devotional service for His satisfaction. A few very devoted souls continue to do so even today. They collect money only for the Lord's service. The money buys grains and vegetables, which they cook with devotion and then offer to Lord Viṣṇu. Later the devotees honor this prasādam, the Lord's mercy in the form of food, by eating it. In all these activities Lord Viṣṇu is the enjoyer, and one seeks to please Him. In the past, the times were conducive to such activities, and even now they are practiced in many places. Actually, such devotional service is applicable to everyone, to all places, and to all times.

Lord Viṣṇu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the goal of everything. Performing all works for His satisfaction is the only way to open up the path of liberation from the cycle of fruitive action, or karma. It is recommended that all progressive and beneficial activities be executed for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Echoing the words of the scriptures, the learned sages proclaim "the attainment of Lord Viṣṇu's lotus feet is the same as becoming liberated." The final step in the karma-yoga process is to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu, at which point one's own desires are automatically fulfilled. While delineating this point, Lord Kṛṣṇa says that if work is not performed for His satisfaction, then all activities are tainted with sin and result in sinful reactions, which created havoc in society. In the Bhagavad-gītā (3.13), Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is first offered for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin."

Preparing and eating food in the way just mentioned is service to the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Sometimes it may appear that some sin is being committed in its execution, but if one takes and honors the remnants of the sacrifice, or offering to Lord Viṣṇu, then one is automatically exonerated from all binding reactions and becomes liberated. Though we may live very carefully, trying to avoid sins and strictly follow the path of nonviolence, still our lives are controlled by the cycle of karmic reactions. Hence, unwittingly we are forced to commit many kinds of sin. We commit so many sins in business transactions, common human dealings, daily chores, and especially political and administrative activities. It is fine to vociferously support nonviolence, but in actual life one is compelled to commit acts of violence. One may succeed in avoiding many kinds of sin, but it is impossible to escape committing the five great sins called pañca-sūnā. While walking on the street we may crush many ants to death against our wishes. While cleaning house, we may squash many insects to death. While grinding food grains or lighting a fire, we destroy many tiny lives. In this way, while executing our ordinary, daily chores we are forced to commit violence and take many innocent lives. Willingly or unwillingly, we commit sins. Thus, when a religion fabricated by the human brain prompts one to embrace the path of nonviolence for its own sake, it inevitably gives advantage to one and difficulty to another.

It is impossible to be exempted from the adversities caused by mentally concocted beliefs. According to man-made laws, if one person murders another he is condemned to the gallows, but no action is taken against a man for killing animals. Such is not the law of providence. The law of God is such that it punishes the killers of both man and animals; both acts of murder are penalized. The atheists deny the existence of God because in this way they think they can commit sins unhindered. But all the revealed, authorized scriptures say that by killing innocent creatures, the householders commit many sins willingly or unwillingly while performing their normal daily activities. To get release from these sins, the householders are enjoined to perform certain sacrifices. Foremost of these is to eat and honor the remnants of food offered to Lord Viṣṇu. As for those selfish householders who cook food only for their own sensual pleasure and not for the service of Lord Viṣṇu, they have to suffer all the sinful reactions incurred while cooking and eating. This is the law of providence. Therefore, to get rid of these sins, the followers of the Vedic religion dedicate their household activities to Lord Viṣṇu's service.

The leaders of society are therefore advised to perform devotional service for Lord Viṣṇu's satisfaction—both for their own benefit and for the benefit of those they lead. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says to Śrī Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.21), "Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." Because everyone follows their example, the leaders are required to carefully study the process of devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu. This is their duty. Thus for the benefit of human society, there is a great need to construct universities that will impart knowledge of devotional service.

Alas! The times are such that those who are considered leaders and stalwarts of society are more viciously inimical to God than others. Therefore, what devotional service for Lord Viṣṇu's satisfaction can they perform? And if they cannot perform devotional service, then how will they gain release from their innumerable sins? If the stalwarts of society are not willing to declare that Lord Viṣṇu is the omnipresent Absolute Truth, and that He is all-pervasive due to His being both a person as well as formless, then what can the lesser men, the man on the street, understand about this esoteric subject matter? The Supreme Lord is the sole proprietor of everything. We cannot take the position of the enjoyer and proprietor of this material world. Whatever the Supreme Lord mercifully gives us as His remnants, that alone should we accept. We must never desire another's property. As the Īśopaniṣad states,

Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."

Only when the leaders of society center all their activities on the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, will these activities bring good fortune and benediction to the leaders themselves, as well as to their followers. But if the leaders avoid performing their activities for Lord Viṣṇu and instead pose as Lord Viṣṇu themselves—taking worship, wealth, and praise from their followers and returning the same to them as remnants—then others might become attracted by their pretentious renunciation and thus follow their path to doom. But nothing further will be achieved. Such leaders uselessly excite their ignorant sycophants, inducing them to perform many sinful activities. In this way such selfish leaders bring about their followers' doom simply to increase their own distinction, adoration, and wealth. Unfortunately, the leaders do not know that these miniscule portions of distinction, adoration, and wealth will be burned to ashes with their death. But the sinful methods used to acquire these temporary material advantages will beget results, which will then very subtly mix with their subtle body, namely mind, intelligence, and false ego. And these results will later become the seeds of further sinful activities, which will entangle the soul in the cycle of karmic reactions birth after birth, forcing him go through many different species of life.

How to Cure the Material Disease

The general populace simply follows the dictates and decisions of the leaders, who are bereft of any spiritual realization. Therefore it is advised that the leaders of society should act responsibly. The easy path to prosperity opens up when these leaders intelligently put into practice the precepts of karma-yoga. Without first becoming adept at curing one's own disease, why try to treat many patients? This is unreasonable. First a leader has to adopt the principles of karma-yoga in his own life; then he has to diagnose the disease of the people; then the medicine is to be prescribed and the proper diet given. Simply to offer the suffering people a sense-gratificatory cure that titillates their senses—this is not going to make them healthy. Rather, this will spread the disease further, and at one stage the doctor himself will be infected and finally die from it.

Forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, is human society's real and original disease. So, if one does not treat this ailment but instead shows insincere and shallow concern for the patients, one might give them some momentary relief and pleasure, but ultimately such a course of action cannot cure them permanently. If the patient goes for proper medicine and diet but is instead administered bad medicine and diet, then he is certainly in the jaws of death.

The remnants of food offered to the Supreme Lord, known as prasādam, is the best diet for all patients. And to discuss and hear topics glorifying the Supreme Lord, to see the Lord's Deity form and offer worship to Him, and to completely surrender oneself to the Lord—these constitute the greatest medicine, the panacea. These activities are the only secure path to prosperity, whereas other activities will wreak disaster. The practices of devotional service to the Lord can never cause harm to society; rather, they can only usher in an age of opportunities and benedictions. Those who are opportunists and financial speculators should calmly consider these facts.

Stalwarts of society like Mahātmā Gandhi are trying in various ways to usher in an age of peace, but because such endeavors are not inspired or blessed by the spiritually evolved saints, they are not turning out successful, nor will they be fruitful in the future. The God of the monists, or Māyāvādīs, cannot eat, see, or hear. Such a concocted, formless God can never bring peace to the world. How can a God who has no sensory organs see the miseries of the people or hear their heartfelt prayers? To worship such a formless God in the name of searching for spiritual truth can only produce misfortune in the world, never good fortune. In the Māyāvāda school of philosophy, discussions on pure knowledge can throw some light on the real nature of the Absolute Truth, but they are unable to fully reveal the esoteric and personal aspects of the Supreme Absolute Being. These dry, empirical discussions fall far short of their objective: a complete understanding of the Absolute Truth. Therefore only if leaders like Mahatma Gandhi strive to realize the Supreme Absolute Person-not a formless energy—can they truly benefit human society.

Conditioned human beings are expert at dealing with this material body and mind. These gross materialists, who cannot see beyond materialistic activities, find it impossible to believe that besides our material universe, a spiritual universe exists. Completely identifying with the body, such materialists are like animals, simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. They are so captivated by these four animalistic propensities that they lose the power to discriminate between sinful and pious activities. They tirelessly endeavor for a little sense gratification, but all their efforts end in futility. Many modern scientists have taken up the role of priests facilitating such gross activities, which are unbeneficial and fatal. These scientists have made available a variety of products meant simply to titillate the senses, thus creating a deadly competitive mood among the materialists, which has in turn caused an obnoxious atmosphere in society. People think they become free and independent through such sensual activities, but factually they become more tightly bound up in chains. The greater their accumulated wealth, the greater their anxiety and depravity. As much as they try to usurp the Supreme Lord's position of being the only enjoyer, that much and more are they drawn into the jaws of a horrible death. And these activities make a Herculean task out of such a simple and basic activity as sustaining the body, which needs a little nourishment only.

A grade higher than this mean class of gross materialists are those who believe in the transmigration of the soul. These are the fruitive workers who perform pious activities such as giving in charity, but their only motive is to ensure that their next life is one of luxury and sense enjoyment. Neither of these grades of fruitive workers realizes that both pious as well as sinful activities cause bondage. These materialists do not know that karma-yoga, activity performed without fruitive desire, is the best form of activity. Therefore they often think that the karma-yogīs are as attached to this material world as the gross materialists. The sole motive of the karma-yogī, however, is to instruct the members of society for their benefit. As Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.25) "As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path."

Like others, sages who are in knowledge of the Absolute Truth maintain their bodies, but the difference is that the goal of all their activities is to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu. Although the general mass of people may wrongly think that the sages' activities are the same as their own, in fact the sages are performing karma-yoga, not fruitive activity.

Present times have seen the widespread expansion of modern science and technology in our world in a variety of forms, which have entangled society more and more in the vicious cycle of karma. Huge factories, universities, hospitals, and so on, are certain to entangle society further in the karmic cycle. Bygone ages never witnessed such huge, complex arrangements for gross materialistic activities. Wrong and simply bad association has tightly bound up the innocent populace in mean activities. But the learned man, the karma-yogī, can show society how to perform all these activities for the satisfaction of the Lord.

Previously, sages arranged for Lord Viṣṇu's Deity to be worshiped in practically every household, thereby creating the atmosphere for people to become karma-yogīs. Similarly, it is now urgent that similar arrangements be made to worship and serve Lord Viṣṇu in the huge factories, mercantile firms, hospitals, and so on. This can firmly establish true equality among men under a spiritual banner. Lord Nārāyaṇa is not poor; He is the Supreme Lord of Lords. And hence attempts to say that the poor people are "Nārāyaṇas" is foolish. Rather, by widely organizing the worship and service of the Lord, one can greatly benefit everyone, including the poor. The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself in many forms, but the sages have chosen three of His multifarious forms to serve and worship as the Deity. They are Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa, Sītā-Rāma, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. These three Deity couples are widely worshiped all over the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, we request the owners of large factories and business firms to establish the worship and service of any of these three Deities in their establishments. The owners can then distribute prasādam, offered food, to everyone. This practice will repair any disagreements between worker and owner, because both will become karma-yogīs.

Most factory workers and other laborers cannot maintain a good character and thus slide down to depravities. And if such derelicts increase in population, the world has no chance for a prosperous and fortunate future. But if the owners give their laborers and office staff prasādam, then both the givers and the receivers will gradually become purified and more attracted to the Supreme Lord. The whole society will become elevated, civilized, and united in harmony. On the other hand, by trying to achieve only their selfish interests, the owners create a situation in which any harmony or unity is not only fragile but dangerous. And when the owners fire these degraded laborers in pursuit of their crass self-interest, neither the owners themselves nor the laborers are benefited. Soon the workers automatically turn inimical toward their employers.

When laborers and bosses perform activities that are not intended to please Lord Viṣṇu and are in fact troublesome to the Lord, they end up arguing and fighting with each other, thus creating an awful situation in society. The Communists and Socialists are spending money, intelligence, and even lives propagating their "isms"; the Bolsheviks revolted, disrupting the entire land of Russia and promising to fulfill the people's dream of a prosperous household life on a mass scale; the workers' unions are constantly at odds with the employers. All these complicated problems have one simple solution: everyone should perform karma-yoga, or work meant to please the Supreme Lord.

The endeavors human beings have made to establish a close and harmonious relationship with one another have culminated in the United Nations. This organization is based on the concept of the family unit. The gradual expansion of the family unit to a large community, to a village, to a state, to a country, and finally to a continent has given the clue for the formation of the United Nations. The thing to be noted, however, is its center. What is the central attraction? If the process of expansion were reversed, we would end up with the human body as the basic unit. The senses are of prime importance in the body; more important than the senses is the mind, then intelligence, and finally the false ego. And more important than the false ego is the real self, a pure spiritual being that is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Therefore the conclusion is that the fountainhead of everything is Lord Viṣṇu. For this reason Prahlāda Mahārāja said,

Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Viṣṇu.

Those who lose sight of the center and become attracted to the externals are shallow and misguided. These misguided persons are in a sense blind; hence the world cannot expect them to give any guidance toward enlightenment. However much these blind people may pretend to guide and benefit other blind people, factually they are fully controlled by the will of providence. We should make the effort to understand that the cause and source of everything is Lord Viṣṇu, the Absolute Truth, and that the fullest manifestation of this Absolute Truth is Lord Kṛṣṇa, the source of even Lord Viṣṇu. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.7), "O conqueror of wealth, [Arjuna], there is no truth superior to Me."

Thus the ultimate source of everything is indeed Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. After considerable deliberation, the sages in the past concluded that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Being, the origin of all expansions and manifestations of the Supreme Absolute Truth. As the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28) declares, "All of the abovementioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead..." Later we will discuss more thoroughly the subject of the expansions of Lord Viṣṇu, but for now let us establish that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the highest aspect of the Supreme. The Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) confirms this: "Kṛṣṇa who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes."

Thus if we can transcend the material body and its physical relationships and become connected with everyone through the Lord Kṛṣṇa, the original Godhead, we can relate on a platform of truth and reality. Then the actual meaning of fraternity and equality will crystalize.

The Living Entities' Real Identity

A man's relationship with his sister's husband is based on his relationship with his sister. The brother-in-law, prior to his marriage with the sister, was a complete stranger to the man. And when their children become the man's nieces and nephews, his relationship with them is also based on his sister. Similar relationships grow up among races and nationalities, centering on the country of birth. Thus we have Indians, Bengalis, Punjabis, Germans, and so on. We also find relationships centering on religious beliefs. Thus there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and so on. But however much we might endeavor to adapt to such partial personalities of the self, and however we try to increase the number of these fractional identities, we will remain infinitesimal and partial. Being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, if we do not aspire to serve Him, then we forgo our actual identity and fall down into nescience. An appropriate parallel is the functioning of the body: If a limb refuses to execute its usual duty, it becomes useless to the body. Similarly, if our activities are not focused on Lord Kṛṣṇa, they are rendered impotent and valueless. The eternal constitutional position of the self is to serve the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. In fact, all our sufferings start from our refusal to act in our original capacity as Lord Kṛṣṇa's eternal servants. Therefore, the prime duty of all living entities is to become re-instated in their original, constitutional position. The first step toward that goal is to perform karma-yoga. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is stated, "The living entity is bound around the neck by the chain of māyā because he has forgotten that he is eternally a servant of Kṛṣṇa."

People in general are ignorant and addicted to fruitive activities. Without disturbing their minds, the karma-yogī can benefit them by explaining the truth about man's eternal position as Lord Kṛṣṇa's servant. Thus in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.26) Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs,

So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness].

It is very difficult to convince those who adhere to fruitive activities that they should render devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The reason is that most fruitive workers are foolish, fallen and impious. Therefore all their activities are whimsical and motivated by evil. Their intelligence and expertise are thus utilized in defiance of the Supreme Lord. They are totally in the grip of the illusory potency, māyā, and so they imagine themselves to be the Supreme Lord Himself, or at least His biggest competitor, like the demon Śiṣupāla. They simply try to enjoy this material world in various ways. In fact, their hopes for enjoying this world are just make—believe, or māyā, and this make-believe yearning leaves them hopelessly cheated. Yet they cannot give up the hope to enjoy. And when they realize that fruitive activities are futile and are more or less forced to renounce them, then such renunciation becomes merely another illusory scheme for a greater enjoyment.

Those who hanker after the fruits of their actions undertake many hardships in executing their work, their imagination wanders like an untethered bull, and all the while their mind dictates to them that they are the actual enjoyers. Therefore, without disrupting the minds of these foolish, perverted karmīs, the intelligent person should engage them in doing what they are expert in and using the fruits in Lord Kṛṣṇa's service. Such a course of action will automatically uncover the fruitive workers' eternal relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa. So, to instruct the people for their benefit, the servant of Kṛṣṇa, who is free from the reactions of fruitive activities, will lead a life seemingly like that of the fruitive workers, but actually he is all along performing karma-yoga.

Had not Lord Kṛṣṇa mercifully instructed the process of karma-yoga to His devotee Śrī Arjuna, the ignorant souls would have suffered miserably for all time. These wretched karmīs have the noose of māyā constantly wrapped around their necks and are living from one distress to another, but because the Lord's deluding potency covers their intelligence, they cannot understand any of this. However much they might pretend to be the controllers, they are being continuously goaded by māyā, who leaves them helpless and impotent. Lord Kṛṣṇa has explained this in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.27), "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

The foolish karmī cannot comprehend that because he has forgotten Lord Kṛṣṇa and is trying to usurp His position, the Lord's external potency, māyā, has tied a noose around his neck with the rope of the three modes of nature and is making him suffer excruciating pains. Although all of his activities are within the grip of the three modes of material nature and orchestrated by māyā, still the grossly foolish karmī believes that he is the master of his situation. Thus he busies himself with trying to make better arrangements for living in the world of duality.

Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs us that the living entities are His separated parts. The duty of the part is to serve the whole. A complete body has different parts and limbs, such as hands, legs, eyes, and ears. The hands and legs work the hardest, but they do not refuse to give food to the stomach, although the stomach does very little. On the other hand, if the hands and legs act contrarily and actually refuse to feed the stomach, then an impossible situation is created. There is no question of the hands and legs trying to enjoy in this situation, because the lack of food in the stomach will cause the hands and legs to become weak and useless. The book Hitopadeśa explains this point in detail in the story "The Belly and the Senses."

Lord Kṛṣṇa is like the life air and the soul of the massive body of the entire cosmos. In several places in the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa makes this point—that He is the origin and cause of everything. Especially notable are 7.7, "There is no truth superior to Me," and 9.24, "I am the only enjoyer and master of all sacrifices." Therefore, how can there still be any doubt that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord and that the living beings are His eternal servitors? We have forgotten this simple truth, and thus instead of using our mind and senses in the Supreme Lord's service, we ourselves are posing as little Supreme Lords and utilizing our mind and senses to enjoy this material world. This is māyā.

Nowadays, different societies are shooting up like mushrooms. One such society that has made its presence felt claims to have started a movement for establishing the ideal kingdom of Lord Rāmacandra. But the kingdom of Rāma it is propagating seems to be without Lord Rāma. Lord Rāma's biggest competitor was a demon named Rāvaṇa, and present-day descendants of Rāvaṇa are also busy trying to kill Lord Rāma. So, where is the question of wanting to usher in the golden age of Lord Rāma? If one is sincere about establishing the ideal kingdom of Lord Rāma, then everything in the world should be engaged in Lord Rāma's service. But the attempt to reduce the position and prestige of Lord Rāma is in fact an attempt to establish the tyrannical rule of Rāvaṇa, the demon king. And if such a mistake is committed, then Hanumān, the valiant and invincible servant of Lord Rāma, will have to come and rectify the situation by destroying the entire race of demons. In order to avoid this mistake at the outset, we must follow the path of karma-yoga taught by Lord Kṛṣṇa.

The karmīs are foolish and ignorant, whereas the karma-yogīs are wise and learned. These wise men know that the nature of the material modes and material activities is exactly opposite to that of the soul. For this reason the karma-yogīs never engage in material activities under the modes of material nature, as the karmīs do, but rather perform karma-yoga, which is meant to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu. Such wise men always keep themselves aloof from close association with this phenomenal world, for they aspire to elevate the soul to its original spiritual position. They understand that the soul has come into contact with matter only by a freak arrangement. Therefore, although their ears, eyes, and other senses are involved in this phenomenal world, the sages refrain from material activities. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.28),

One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed one, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results.

Then in Chapter 3.30-31, Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the means for achieving such a liberated state,

Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight. Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions.

Identifying the self with the material body and mind, or thinking that the soul is material, or thinking that everything in relation to the body belongs to oneself—such illusions keep a person ignorant and bereft of self-realization. Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa advises us to be situated in knowledge of the self. When we become spiritually aware, we can understand that the "I," the self, is not the body or mind; we can realize that we are products of the superior, spiritual energy of the Supreme Lord and hence fully spiritual and eternal. With realization of these transcendental truths comes knowledge of the actual nature of the material energy in its pure form. And when these spiritual realizations gradually mature, one achieves a natural distance from the dualities of material nature. At this stage of spiritual development, the false ego is destroyed, all false identification and titles are removed, and we are liberated from the shackles of the illusory, material energy on the strength of our spiritual association with the Transcendence. No longer does māyā entangle us in material activities.

There are sufficient scriptural proofs to substantiate that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth. Even scriptures like the Bible or the Koran, declare that the Absolute Truth is the all-powerful, all knowing Supreme Person. Throughout the Vedic literature, that Supreme Person is declared to be Lord Kṛṣṇa. And in the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself says that He is the Absolute Truth. Thus simply by associating somehow with Lord Kṛṣṇa, we can become illuminated about the divine Self. When the sun rises in the morning, everything again becomes visible in the sunlight. Similarly, when the sun of Lord Kṛṣṇa rises on the horizon of the transcendental spiritual sky of our realization, the darkness of illusion is immediately extirpated. Then only does one become purified and radiant with pristine beauty.

These facts may sound exaggerated or mythical to a foolish man, but these are not fairy tales for little boys: they are the reality and the truth. Those who have taken shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa or His devotee can appreciate and fathom this subject matter. The only ones who will not accept this truth are those who are inimical toward Lord Kṛṣṇa and who want to be the Supreme Lord themselves because of a perverted mind. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.11), "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form." Such men are envious of the Lord. The truth about Lord Kṛṣṇa and His transcendental position can never enter such confused and deluded brains.

In Praise of the Supreme Lord's Devotees

The pious and saintly Vaiṣṇavas understand the exact meaning of the Bhagavad-gītā. The simple message of the Gītā is self-illuminated like the sun. Its knowledge is not hidden under a gloomy shroud of impersonalism. There is actually no room for extracting some alternative meaning and then giving a so-called esoteric dissertation on it. The devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa alone can fully take to heart the instructions of the Gītā, and by acting accordingly they are liberated from the awesome and eternal enslavement of the cycle of karma. Such persons are not restricted to a particular country, race, or society. The Lord's devotees belong to a class of their own—they form a spiritual society unhindered by geographical conditions. God is not the monopoly of any particular group. Therefore the message of the Gītā, being universal can be followed by anyone and everyone. After all, it is in the Gītā (9.32) that Lord Kṛṣṇa has unconditionally declared,

O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas (merchants), as well as śūdras (workers)—can attain the Supreme destination.

The demons misinterpret the words of Lord Kṛṣṇa concerning caste and social division, and they act capriciously on that basis. But this cannot blemish Lord Kṛṣṇa or His words. In the Bhagavad-gītā (4.13) Lord Kṛṣṇa clearly says,

According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.

The four divisions of society—namely intellectuals, administrators, merchants, and laborers—should be determined not by birth but by merit, just as one becomes a doctor or a judge not by birthright but by merit alone. In this world of the three modes of material nature, social classes have always existed. Therefore a person's birth should never determine his caste or class in society. The four classes were created according to a person's qualifications.

Doctors are available in every country and society; similarly, the four classes of men are also present in every country and society. A son born to a doctor is not necessarily sure to grow up to be a doctor; similarly, the progeny of the four classes of society do not automatically fix their future career according to that of their parents. The scriptures describe in detail the divisions of society, with their inherent characteristics. Therefore we commit a serious mistake when we regard the different classes of men as belonging to particular countries or races. The Indian culture of today is restricted by the hereditary caste system and kept in the custody of narrow-minded people who are like frogs in a well. If instead India had spread the transcendental message of Bhagavad-gītā in the generous manner befitting a noble brāhmaṇa, then peace and tranquillity in this world would not be in such acutely short supply. By the propagation of brahminical culture, the world would have greatly prospered. Instead, the Vedic culture has been seriously maimed by the imposition of the hereditary caste system, and this has had grievously adverse effects on the world. The Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya has opened many avenues to peaceful living by propagating the brahminical culture, which He calls the religion of the soul. Those who are fortunate can emulate His life, follow His divine teachings, and perfect their lives.

Varṇāśrama-dharma, the system of four spiritual orders and four social orders of life, is of two kinds: demoniac and transcendental. They have nothing in common. The divisions of society mentioned in the scriptures are present at all times and in all lands. If one with knowledge of the scriptures scrutinizes the different societies, he can easily discern the four classes. Persons possessing brahminical or priestly qualities in varying degrees are seen in practically every society. In modern terms they are called intellectuals. All the other classes are also present. Therefore it is an established fact that the four divisions of society, according to merit, are, were, and will be present everywhere.

Those who think that brāhmaṇas and the other three castes exist only in Indian society are sadly mistaken. The scriptures have declared that in Kali-yuga everyone is born a śūdra, or a menial laborer, a member of the fourth class. Still, India has many persons endowed with high, brahminical characteristics, and without doubt such persons are also seen in every other country. Every country has these four classes of men, determined according merit. As a matter of a fact, even those who are less than śūdras—the caṇḍālas or dog-eaters—are eligible to perform devotional service. If a caṇḍāla becomes an elevated devotee of the Lord, then on the basis of his merit he should be respected by all other classes. There is much scriptural evidence in this regard: The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (10.91) states, "A devotee caṇḍāla achieves the same spiritual success as the devotee brāhmaṇa." And in the Bhāgavatam (7.9.10), Prahlāda Mahārāja says, "A devotee caṇḍāla is many times more elevated than an ordinary ritualistic brāhmaṇa." Indeed, such a devotee caṇḍāla can be the guru of the brāhmaṇas; this has been shown throughout history by many spiritual preceptors who were born in a low caste but who initiated persons of higher castes. So, the castes are classified according to merit and activity, but a pure devotee of the Lord is beyond all these classifications. He is transcendental to everything material. How can a person who is elevated beyond all castes, a saint, be adequately worshiped if he is worshiped only as a brāhmaṇa? Therefore one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the recipient of all good fortune in all countries and at all times. The Bhagavad-gītā mentions this in several places.

Whatever part of this world a person belongs to, if he follows the instructions of the Supreme Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā, then he attains the transcendental platform and can become even more elevated than a brāhmaṇa. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā (4.24),

A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.

This verse explains how one can attain spiritual knowledge by performing activities that please the Supreme Lord.

Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya propounded the impersonal theory, citing phrases like sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: "By nature everything is Brahman, spirit." Śaṅkarācārya's theory has caused great confusion about established scriptural conclusions, but this phrase clearly supports the the Gītā verse quoted above.

At this point it is urgent that we discuss how one can perform devotional service for the Supreme Lord's pleasure. In this regard it is also noteworthy how saintly leaders like King Janaka executed karma-yoga, or devotional service, by performing sacrifice. The aim of all sacrifices should be to please the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. Contact with matter is unavoidable in our present conditioned state, because while performing activities to sustain the body and to accomplish other purposes, we become intimate with material nature. But if we can spiritualize these activities by performing every one of them as a service to Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, then these activities become yajña, or sacrifice. When the Vedic phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma is interpreted in this way, it is acceptable. In other words, when one invokes the spiritual or transcendental or absolute in everything, then matter loses its mundaneness, and then only can one realize the perfect meaning of the phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. The Vaiṣṇavas say that anything connected with the Lord in devotional service is transcendental. In other words, it is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord Himself, Mādhava. Just as iron in long and constant touch with fire loses the characteristics of iron and becomes fiery, so everything offered in sacrifice to the Absolute, or the Transcendence, becomes absolute, or transcendental.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness." This verse unequivocally declares that Brahman is Lord Kṛṣṇa's bodily effulgence. Since Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of Brahman, devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa establishes the true meaning of sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A sacrifice is properly performed only when all the sacrificial ingredients—the offerings, the fire, the ghee, and so on—become spiritualized, or reach the stage of Brahman, by their contact with Lord Kṛṣṇa. And since the performance of sacrifice culminates in the manifestation of real love for Lord Viṣṇu, loving devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu is the very best form of sacrifice. Such a stage can be also described as total absorption in Brahman.

Persons who act in this way become progressively detached from matter and attached to Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotional service. Thus they are able to purify the mirror of their hearts, extinguish the forest fire of material existence, and become situated in their original, spiritual position. They exist at a level of realization far above the impersonal realization of the Absolute, for they are free from the contamination of vainly trying to merge with the Supreme and usurping His Absolute position. They never fall from this stage of consciousness. Fully absorbed in their own transcendental identity, they are the complete masters of their senses. They are the perfect persons to rule this universe, if they so desire, and they alone bring good fortune to everyone. The conditioned souls, however, are unable to benefit the world in any way. The purified, rare souls continuously perform karma-yoga and are always in a liberated state. In the Bhagavad-gītā (5.7) it is stated,

One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.

There are those who live and act in a manner exactly opposite to that of the pure souls, who are constantly acting in karma-yoga. Such fruitive workers have no connection with the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, they cannot cleanse their heart of material contamination. They are slaves of their sensual urges, spending their time in gratifying their senses according to their whims. Yet they shamelessly say that all their actions are prompted by the Supreme Lord. Being cheaters and atheists, they speak like this so that their impious acts may be acceptable, and thus they inflict untold misfortunes and calamities on the world. By contrast, the pure, self-realized souls are constantly absorbed in serving Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet with their body, mind, and words. They never associate with atheistic people. These saintly persons know that although the spirit soul is infinitesimal, it is nevertheless endowed with minute free will at all times. The Supreme Lord is absolutely independent and can exercise absolute free will over all; because the spirit soul is qualitatively the same as the Supreme Lord, the Lord does not annul his minute free will.

The spirit soul unfortunately misuses this God-given minute free will and falls into the dark well of nescience and illusion. Once the spirit soul takes shelter of māyā, the illusory material energy, he develops the material qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. The spirit soul loses his original characteristics and develops a new nature, which is controlled by the three modes of material nature, and this continues until such time as he transcends them. His actions are prompted accordingly. If it happened in any other way, then material variegatedness would not be visible in this phenomenal world. So if a person fails to inform himself about the very subtle laws and workings of material nature, and at the same time he argues that all activities are sanctioned and inspired by the Supreme Lord, then he is reducing the Supreme Lord's position and making Him out to be partial and unjust. The Lord never favors one and discriminates against another. Factually, He advises everyone to give up all material activities, which are by nature unstable and temporary. Because of forgetfulness of God, a man becomes an eternal victim of ignorance, which then colours all his actions. The Bhagavad-gītā (5.14) says,

The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.

Therefore all activities except those performed as a sacrifice to Lord Viṣṇu are whimsical actions done of one's own volition. They are not performed under the Supreme Lord's direction or sanction. Since such activities stem from the material modes of nature, they are automatically under nature's total control. The Supreme Lord is merely an impartial and silent witness to such activities.

The actions of the karma-yogī, or devotee, are always connected with the Absolute Truth. Hence the devotee remains situated on the transcendental platform, far beyond the mundane sphere. In such a realized position, he does not see this material creation as separate from the Supreme Lord but as a transformation of His energy. Such perceptions are unhindered by the the material modes of nature. Indeed, the karma-yogī's realization of everything's inherent connection with Lord Kṛṣṇa is equipoised and transcendental. The Gītā (5.18) states, "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]."

The brāhmaṇa endowed with such learning is primarily in the material mode of goodness. Among the animals, the cow is also in the mode of goodness; elephants, lions, and so on, are situated primarily in the mode of passion; dogs and some humans (such as the caṇḍālas and other outcastes) are in the mode of ignorance. The karma-yogīs, who are always meditating on the Supreme, never see these outer coverings of the soul, but rather the pure soul proper. This is true equal vision in relation to the Supreme. The karma-yogīs perceive that all elements and objects in this world are materials for the Supreme Lord's worship and that all living entities are eternal servitors of Lord Kṛṣṇa. One attains the purest stage of equal vision when one ceases to take into consideration the outer covering of the soul, the body, but rather is established in the soul's innate nature of serving the Lord. In this stage one engages all things in devotional service to the Supreme Lord by using them as ingredients for sacrifice to please Lord Viṣṇu.

The karma-yogī knows that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the only enjoyer and exploiter of all material objects and that He is the only Lord and master of all living entities. Forgetful of this relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa, the living entity falls into the clutches of māyā, or illusion. Under the influence of māyā, he tries in vain to act the part of an enjoyer or a renouncer—but this is all a mere fantasy. In fact, the real affliction of the living entity is the pretense he is the enjoyer or renouncer. All types of good and pious activities—like yoga, the cultivation of knowledge, austerity, and renunciation—are misapplied labor if they cannot kindle in the heart the flame of loving attraction for topics relating to the Supreme Lord. As Lord Kṛṣṇa declares in the Bhagavad-gītā (5.29),

A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.

Earlier in this book we discussed the need for performing work as sacrifice, and now from this verse the truth that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Person, the enjoyer of all sacrifices, comes out with clarity. It must be understood that the results of sacrifice performed by the karma-yogīs, as well as the austerities of the knowledge-seekers, are all meant to be enjoyed by Lord Kṛṣṇa alone. The object of the yogīs' meditation, the Supersoul within the heart, is actually a partial expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa. We will discuss this subject matter in detail later in this book.

Lord Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher of the followers of all the different disciplines—karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, aṣṭānga-yoga (meditation), and bhakti-yoga. And because Lord Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher of everyone, He sends His close associates to the world to establish proper religious teachings in every millennium. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme master of all the planets, the original Lord, and the cause of all causes. The only path to peace is the path of gradual elevation in karma-yoga, leading to realization of the Absolute Truth, Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Those who are already executing their work for the satisfaction of Lord Kṛṣṇa are not required to separately perform sacrifices, austerities, or meditation, that are not on the platform of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Previously we explained that a pure karma-yogī is automatically a brāhmaṇa, sannyāsī, and a yogī. Like a karmī, or fruitive worker, he is expert in performing sacrifices and executing his duties; like a jñānī, or seeker of knowledge, he is renounced and austere; and like a yogī, he is also detached from the fruits of his work and has brought his senses under control. One who is completely detached from all fruitive work and has become attracted to the Supreme Lord and His loving devotional service is simultaneously ornamented with all good qualities. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.1),

One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.

Since the karma-yogī knows that the ultimate enjoyer of the fruits of all his activities is Lord Kṛṣṇa, he does not hanker after those fruits and is fully detached from them. He always thinks of doing everything for Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such an unattached karma-yogī never thinks that action in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant for enjoying sense pleasure or avoiding pain. The sannyāsī renounces everything, including activities prescribed by the scriptures, in favor of cultivating knowledge of the Absolute. The yogī retires from active service and, desiring to see the Supersoul within his heart, spends his days in meditation with half-closed eyes. But he whose work is a sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Supreme makes no endeavors for his physical requirements. Since he is engaged in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, he is not required to execute the ritualistic activities recommended in the scriptures. Such a detached karma-yogī is superior to one who is merely unattached to the fruits of his work. The karma-yogī is automatically accomplished in the knowledge of the Absolute that the sannyāsī seeks and the eight mystic perfections that the meditating yogī aspires for.

The real karma-yogīs are in fact devotees of the Supreme Lord. Since they have attained perfection, they do not hanker for profit, adoration, or distinction. In their state of perfection, all knowledge and mystic powers automatically embellish them. With everything desirable available to them, why should they need anything else?

Following the eightfold path of Patañjali, the meditative yogīs gradually elevate themselves, mastering the different stages until they reach samādhi, or the state of absorption in the Supersoul. In their desire to reach perfection, they tolerate all sorts of adversities and sufferings and remain fixed on their goal. Ultimately they attain a state of consciousness that cannot be compared to anything in this material world. In this state of mystic perfection, no suffering—not even death—seems formidable. Lord Kṛṣṇa's comment about such yogīs has been recorded in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.22),

Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty."

In his purport to this verse, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that when one detaches himself from the sensual world and becomes situated in samādhi, complete absorption in the Absolute Truth, one perceives the pure spiritual self and is rewarded with intense bliss. Such a yogī never deviates his concentration from the Absolute Truth, the object of his meditation. The eight mystic perfections—aṇimā, laghimā, prāpti, prākāmya,

Not to speak of karma-yoga, even in the lesser discipline of eightfold yoga, whatever progress the yogī makes on the path toward the goal of samādhi does not go in vain, although he may not reach the ultimate goal in one lifetime. In his next life he will continue his progress. By contrast, when the fruitive worker dies, whatever wealth and education he has acquired, along with the endeavor that went into acquiring them, all become null and void. As for the pure karma-yogī, or devotee, his devotional activities are all beyond the level of mind and body. They are related to the soul and the Supreme Soul, and hence his activities become the wealth of his pure, eternal soul. Just as the soul is never destroyed with the disintegration of the body, so this wealth of devotional service is never devalued. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā says that the karma-yogī always works for the benefit and elevation of his soul, and that this endeavor and its results remain permanent spiritual assets in this life and the next. These spiritual assets are never liquidated. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.40),

Son of Pṛthā, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction, either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.

Human beings are divided into two categories: the law-abiders and the law-breakers. Those who care only about satisfying their senses and do not submit to discipline and law are like animals, completely uncontrolled. Whether such an uncontrolled person is cultured or uncultured, educated or uneducated, weak or strong, his actions are always bestial. Their can never benefit anyone.

The law-abiding human beings are further divided into three groups: the karmīs, or fruitive workers, the jñānīs, or knowledge-seekers, and the bhaktas, or devotees. The karmīs are divided into two sections: the sakāma-karmīs, or fruitive workers who want to enjoy the results of their labor, and the naiṣkāma-karmīs, who renounce the fruits of action. The sakāma-karmīs are greedy after insignificant, transient happiness. They make progress in their mundane activities and enjoy the heavenly planets in the life hereafter, but all that enjoyment is temporary. Therefore the soul's real benefit evades them.

To attain true, eternal happiness, which comes only after the dissipation of material bondage, is the real benefit for the soul. Thus any path that does not lead the soul to strive for this supreme goal—eternal transcendental bliss—is considered useless. When eternal bliss is the goal of ritualistic activities (karma-kāṇḍa), then they are transformed into karma-yoga. Through the practice of karma-yoga, the heart is purified of material contamination and one gains knowledge of the Absolute. Thereafter one becomes situated in meditation on the Absolute, and finally one attains bhakti, pure devotional service. In the process of karma-kāṇḍa, it is recommended that one renounce physical pleasures for a time; so a karmī may sometimes be called an ascetic. Yet however much penance a karmī may perform, ultimately this penance is another form of sensual enjoyment, since that is its ultimate goal. The demons also perform penance to increase their powers, but it is all simply to enjoy their senses. Once the living entity can transcend the stage of hankering after sensual pleasures, he comes easily to the stage of karma-yoga, which is in all respects good. Only such a person can benefit society.

The spiritual progress the karma-yogī makes in this lifetime remains intact, and he continues in his next life from that point. In the Bhagavad-gītā (6.43), Lord Kṛṣṇa comments, "On taking such a birth, he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru." In his next life the unsuccessful yogī may be born in the family of a pious brāhmaṇa or wealthy merchant. When we talk of failure in yoga, we refer karma-yogīs, dhyāna-yogīs, and jñāna-yogīs. Among the followers of these paths, the karma-yogī is closest to becoming a pure devotee, since he has dedicated his activities to the Supreme Lord's service. Gradually, acting in this manner, he becomes a bhakta-yogī. Such a yogī is in the highest order, and he is fit to instruct all other yogīs.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (6.47) Lord Kṛṣṇa says,

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.

The fruitive workers cannot be counted among the yogīs. The actual yogīs are the karma-yogīs, the jñāna-yogīs, the aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, and the bhakti-yogīs. Factually they are the same, although named differently. The yogic process is like a ladder one ascends gradually toward the final goal of the Absolute Truth. Niṣkāma-karma, or renunciation of the fruits of one's labor, is the first step on this ladder. When knowledge and austerity are added to it, it becomes jñāna-yoga, the second step in this ladder. And when meditation on the Supreme is added to jñāna-yoga, the third step is reached, namely aṣṭāṅga-yoga. Finally, when loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord is practiced along with aṣṭāṅga-yoga, it is transformed into bhakti-yoga. This entire successive process is yoga. For an exact and clear delineation of the subject of yoga, all four steps need to be explained separately. Those who desire the best for humanity take to the path of yoga. The process for progressing in yoga requires, first, determination and strict execution of discipline at each stage. When a person is firmly situated at one stage, he then has to relinquish attachment and adherence to the practices of that stage in order to elevate himself to the next higher stage. Those who cannot reach the top for some reason and get stuck at any one of the four stages acquire the designation of that particular stage. Thus there are karma-yogīs, jñāna-yogīs, aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, and bhakta-yogīs. Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna that one who renders loving devotional service to Him, the Supreme Lord, is the highest among all yogīs, and that Arjuna should thus strive to become such a bhakti-yogī.

The successive, step-by-step spiritual path is not the same as step-by-step progress in the material world. In the mundane process the rules of progress are strict and cannot be transgressed. If one wants to acquire a doctorate at a university, he has to begin from the elementary school level and gradually work upwards. It is impossible to go directly to the university without prior schooling. In spiritual life, however, although there are strict regulations, by the Supreme Lord's grace one can bypass many intermediary stages and reach the top, or "doctorate" level. One can attain this divine grace by intimate and constant association with the Supreme Lord. And such intimate association with the Lord comes about through confidential exchanges with a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord. Everyone of us is intimately and eternally related to the Supreme Lord, but due to the bad influence of māyā we have forgotten our relationship with Him.

The living entities are like sons of the Lord, and as such they are rightful heirs to the great wealth of their rich father. But because of the reactions to sins committed in previous lives, they are roaming about without a home, suffering acute poverty. That the living entities are suffering is quite clear to all. But they do not know who their wealthy father is or where they can go to reclaim their valuable inheritance. Without proper knowledge, they are trying in vain to escape from their poverty while aimlessly roaming about like poor beggars. They meet many who promise to help them, but in the end such helpers turn out to be beggars themselves. A few among these strangers seem rich and prosperous, but the directions they give do not lead to the father's house, and so the living entities' poverty knows no end. The wealthy strangers suggest many paths, such as karma, jñāna, or dhyāna, but the problem of poverty remains unsolved. The living entities can escape their poverty only by learning and practicing the science of devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the source of all incarnations, explained the science of devotional service to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Prayāga (Allahabad). These instructions are the crest jewel of teachings for all humanity. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.151), the Lord says,

According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down to the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Lord Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.

By the mercy of Lord Kṛṣṇa, this seed of devotion is available in the Bhagavad-gītā. Only one who is able to receive this devotional seed can understand the purport of the Bhagavad-gītā. Otherwise, simply repeatedly reading the Bhagavad-gītā and discussing its teachings will not produce any results.

In the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself reveals the truth about Himself. When an ordinary mortal writes an autobiography, he receives many accolades, but when the Supreme Lord writes about Himself, we unfortunately do not fully believe in His words. Furthermore, we overlook the cardinal issues in His writings and quibble over lesser subjects, trying to magnify them by giving them concocted connotations and meanings. This practice is stretched to such absurdity that the original meaning is lost and the lop-sided conclusions attract only ridicule from readers. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa unequivocally declares that He is the Supreme Absolute Truth and that it is the duty of everyone to render Him loving devotional service. The Bhagavad-gītā was revealed for the sole purpose of explaining these two principal points. One who understands them is eligible to begin spiritual life as a neophyte devotee. Śraddhā, or faith, is the first prerequisite in spiritual life and is described as synonymous with neophyte devotion. Thus Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.62) says,

By rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called śraddhā.