RV 4: Knowledge by Way of the Mahātmās, Great Souls
The presence of Kṛṣṇa in all aspects of the creation is perceived by the mahātmās, the great souls, who are always engaged in the worship of Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa Himself states, these great souls are conversant with the confidential knowledge found in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, and they know Kṛṣṇa to be the source of all things.
mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
"O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible." (Bg.
The great soul knows without a doubt that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He is the origin of all emanations. The Vedānta-sūtra states,
Understanding Kṛṣṇa to be the primal source of everything, how do the great souls act? Kṛṣṇa Himself characterizes them in this way:
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion." (Bg.
That glorification is this process of bhakti-yoga, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. The great souls, understanding the nature of God, His descent and His mission, glorify Him in so many ways, but there are others who do not accept Him. Kṛṣṇa also mentions them in the Ninth Chapter:
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
"Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and my supreme dominion over all that be." (Bg.
The mūḍhas, or foolish men, who are lower than the animals, deride Him. Any person who doesn't believe in God must either be a madman or fool number one. There is no reason not to believe in God, and there is every reason to believe in Him. Man may say that he doesn't believe in God, but who gives him the power to say this? When death comes, this speaking power ceases—so who is giving the power of speech? Has the speaking power come automatically from stone? As soon as the speaking power is withdrawn by the Supreme Authority, the body is no better than stone. The very power of speech is proof that there is a Supreme Power who is giving us everything. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person knows that whatever he has is not under his control. If we do not believe in God, we must believe in some power beyond us which is controlling us at every step, call that power God or nature or whatever. There is a controlling power in the universe, and no sane man can deny it.
Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth and appeared just like a human being with supernatural power. At that time, however, ninety-nine percent of the people could not recognize Him as God. They could not recognize Him because they had no eyes to see (paraṁ bhāvam ajānantaḥ
One must also have the eyes to see God. God cannot be seen by material senses, therefore the bhakti-yoga process is the process of purifying the senses so that we will be able to understand what and who God is. We have power of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and so on, but if these senses are blunt, we cannot understand God. The process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the process of training these senses through regulated principles, specifically through the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa further characterizes the mūḍhas:
rākṣasīm āsurīṁ caiva
prakṛtiṁ mohinīṁ śritāḥ
"Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demonic and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities, and their culture of knowledge are all defeated." (Bg.
The word moghāśā indicates that the aspirations of the atheists will be baffled. The karmīs, or fruitive laborers, are always hoping for something better to gratify their senses. There is no limit to where they will stop. They are trying to increase their bank balance and are hoping to be happy at a certain point, but that point never comes because they do not know the ultimate point of satiation. Those who are enamored by the attractions of illusory energy cannot understand the ultimate aim of life. The word mogha-karmāṇaḥ indicates that they are laboring very hard but that in the end they will only meet with frustration. Unless we are established in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all of our activities will be baffled at the end.
This is not the verdict of an ordinary man, but of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. If we are searching for knowledge, we should conduct research to find out whether Kṛṣṇa is not God. Without any objective, what is the point of thousands of years of speculation? The Supreme Lord is so vast that one cannot reach Him by mental speculation. If we travel at the speed of mind and wind for millions of years, it is not possible to reach the Supreme by speculation. There is not one single instance in which one has arrived at the Supreme Absolute Truth by means of his own mental speculation. Therefore the word mogha-jñānāḥ indicates that the process of mundane knowledge is bewildering. Through our own endeavor it is not possible to see the sun after it has set. We have to wait until the sun reveals itself in the morning at sunrise. If it is not possible with our limited senses to perceive a material thing like the sun, how is it possible to perceive the nonmaterial? We cannot find out or understand Kṛṣṇa by our own endeavor. We have to qualify ourselves through Kṛṣṇa consciousness and wait for Him to reveal Himself.
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." (Bg.
Kṛṣṇa is within, but due to our material conditioning, we do not realize it. Those who are of the nature of fiends and demons (rākṣasīm āsurīm) think that this material life is all and that it is the purpose of human life to squeeze out as much pleasure from matter as possible. They try squeezing, but they are constantly baffled. Squeezing material nature is not the process for finding out real pleasure. If we are searching for real pleasure, we have to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. All happiness in the material world has a beginning and an end, but happiness in Kṛṣṇa is unlimited, and there is no end. In order to get this happiness we simply have to sacrifice a little time and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. In former ages, the great sages and demigods used to sacrifice their whole lives for realizing the Supreme, and still they would not attain success. For this age Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given an easy process for God realization. All that is necessary is careful listening. We have to listen to Bhagavad-gītā, and we have to chant the names of Kṛṣṇa and listen to them carefully. We should not be puffed up, falsely thinking that our knowledge is great or that we are very learned. We need only become a little gentle and submissive to hear the messages from Kṛṣṇa.
At present, this world is being managed by the rākṣasas. The rākṣasas are man-eaters who eat their own sons for the satisfaction of their senses. Now great regimes have been created to smash so many people for the satisfaction of the rākṣasas senses, but they do not realize that their senses will never be satisfied in this way. Nonetheless, the rākṣasas are prepared to sacrifice everything to satisfy their whimsical desires. It is very difficult for them to understand the real situation because they are overly enamored with material civilization. Who then can understand? Those who are mahātmās, whose hearts have become magnified, understand that "everything belongs to God, and I also belong to God."
Such mahātmās are not under the control of material nature (mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
By serving the great, the mahātmās also become great through identifying with the superior energy: (
There is no question of stopping service, for we are meant for service. Is there anyone who does not serve? If we ask the President, "Who are you serving?" he will tell us that he is serving the country. No one is devoid of service. Service we cannot stop, but we do have to redirect our service from the illusion to the reality. When this is done, we become mahātmā.
This process of kīrtana (kīrtayantaḥ), always chanting the glories of the Lord, is the beginning of mahātmā. That process is simplified by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu who imparted to mankind this chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. There are nine different processes of devotional service, of which śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam
Formerly, the Vedas were heard by the student from the spiritual master, and thus the Vedas became known as śruti, meaning "that which is heard." In Bhagavad-gītā, for example, we see that Arjuna is listening to Kṛṣṇa on the battlefield. He is not engaged in the study of Vedānta philosophy. We can hear from the Supreme Authority in any place, even in the battlefield. The knowledge is received, not manufactured. Some people think, "Why should I listen to Him? I can think for myself. I can manufacture something new." This is not the Vedic process of descending knowledge. By ascending knowledge, one tries to elevate himself by his own effort, but by descending knowledge one receives the knowledge from a superior source. In the Vedic tradition, knowledge is imparted to the student from the spiritual master, as in Bhagavad-gītā (evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
No one can become a representative of God without being a devotee of God's. One who thinks, "I am God," cannot be a representative. Because we are part and parcel of God, our qualities are the same as His, and therefore if we study these qualities in ourselves, we come to learn something of God. This does not mean that we understand the quantity of God. This self-realization process is one way of understanding God, but in no case can we preach, "I am God." We cannot claim to be God without being able to display the powers of God. As far as Kṛṣṇa is concerned, He proved that He was God by displaying so much power and by revealing His universal form to Arjuna. Kṛṣṇa showed this awesome form in order to discourage people who would claim to be God. We should not be fooled by one who claims to be God; following in the footsteps of Arjuna, we should request to see the universal form before accepting anyone as God. Only a fool would accept another fool as God.
No one can be equal to God, and no one can be above Him. Even Lord Brahmā and Śiva, the most exalted demigods, are subservient to Him and pay their respectful obeisances. Instead of trying to become God by some meditational process or other, we had better hear about God submissively and try to understand Him and our relationship to Him. The representative of God or the incarnation of God never claims to be God but the servant of God. This is the sign of the bona fide representative.
Whatever we learn of God from authoritative sources can be described, and that will help us make spiritual progress. This description is called kīrtana. If we try to repeat what we hear, we become established in knowledge. By the process of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam