Śukadeva Gosvāmī said to King Parīkṣit: In the city known as Kānyakubja [Kanauj in present-day India] there lived a brāhmaṇa named Ajāmila who married a prostitute maidservant and lost all his brahminical qualities because of the association of that low-class woman. Ajāmila gave trouble to others by arresting them, by cheating them in gambling, or by directly plundering them. This was the way he earned his livelihood and maintained his wife and children. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.21-22)
The Law of Consequences
Although Ajāmila was born of a brāhmaṇa father and strictly followed the regulative principles—no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling—he fell in love with a prostitute, and therefore all his good qualities were lost. As soon as a person abandons the regulative principles, he engages in various kinds of sinful activities. The regulative principles serve to keep us on the standard of human life. But if we abandon them, we fall down into illusory life, or māyā.
If we want to advance in spiritual life, we must follow the regulative principles and rectify the mistakes of our past lives and this present life. Only those who have become free from all kinds of sinful reactions and are now engaged in pious activities can fully understand God. Persons who commit sinful activities and who are overly attached to bodily comforts and mundane friendship, society, and family affection cannot be spiritually self-realized.
The fault of illicit connection with women is that it destroys all one's brahminical qualities. Ajāmila abandoned all the regulative principles due to his association with a prostitute. He became a cheater and a thief. One who acts dishonestly will be punished. He may escape the king's or government's law, but he can never escape God's law. The materialists think, "I am cheating God, and I can continue to gratify my senses by all nefarious activities." But the śāstras (scriptures) state that such persons are cheating their own happiness in the end, because they will have to accept a material body again and suffer accordingly.
A man who is born in a brāhmaṇa family is expected to be truthful and self-controlled, to be fully cognizant of spiritual life and its practical application, and to have complete faith in the statements of the śāstras.
If a person does not follow the śāstras, he becomes degraded. The great sages and ṛṣis throughout the world have given guidance, and their words are recorded in the śāstras. But rascals and fools misinterpret the scriptures and misguide the people. At present, the Bhagavad-gītā is interpreted in so many different ways, and these so-called explanations are accepted by the innocent public as authoritative knowledge. One interpreter explains that the battlefield of Kurukṣetra refers to the material body and that the five Pāṇḍava brothers are really the five senses of the material body. But this is not the proper understanding. How can anyone explain the Bhagavad-gītā when he does not understand it? Such an attempt is nonsense.
To understand the bona fide science of God, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master and hear the Bhagavad-gītā from him. We have to follow the great personalities, the previous ācāryas (spiritual masters). That will be to our profit. We should not speculate and make up our own statements. We should simply accept the injunctions given by the great ācāryas, because that is the process of the Vedic system. One must approach a bona fide spiritual master and inquire from him submissively. The Absolute Truth is explained in the scriptures, and the scriptures are explained by the spiritual master or a saintly person. Whatever the bona fide, self-realized spiritual master says must be accepted.
There is no room for interpretation of the śāstras. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that Kṛṣṇa lifted Govardhana Hill just as a child lifts a mushroom. He did it so easily, but people do not believe it. Those who do not believe in the Bhāgavatam interpret an indirect meaning. The meaning is clear, and there is nothing to be misunderstood, but these rascals draw their own conclusions nonetheless.
When the language is clear, why should we interpret? By interpretation, so-called scholars and theologians have played havoc with the Vedic literature. No bona fide ācārya has ever interpreted the śāstras according to his own whims, but many so-called modern scholars and leaders have done so, and therefore people are gliding down into the most abominable conditions of material existence. In the interest of the people, these rascals should be exposed. Therefore we are presenting the Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.
The Degradation of Modern Society
Here the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says that the brāhmaṇa Ajāmila became attached to a prostitute and thus lost his brahminical qualifications. He was a young man of about twenty when this happened. Because of his illicit association with the prostitute, Ajāmila was forced to live by begging, borrowing, stealing, and gambling.
These verses indicate how degraded one becomes simply by indulging in illicit sex with a prostitute. Illicit sex is not possible with chaste women, but only with unchaste women. The more society allows prostitution and illicit sex, the more impetus it gives to cheaters, thieves, plunderers, drunkards, and gamblers. Therefore we first advise all the disciples in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to avoid illicit sex, which is the beginning of all abominable life and which is followed by meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication, one after another. Of course, restraint is difficult, but it is quite possible if one fully surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, since all abominable habits gradually become distasteful for a Kṛṣṇa conscious person.
While in his time Ajāmila was an exception, in the present age there are millions of Ajāmilas. But if illicit sex is allowed to increase, the entire society will be condemned, for it will be full of rogues, thieves, cheaters, and so forth.
Therefore, if we actually want to improve the world situation, we have to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as that gives the best service to human society, both materially and spiritually. Whatever abominable characteristics we have developed, we have only to take to the process of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, in order to completely eradicate them. We have developed so many anarthas, or unwanted habits, the chief of which are meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling. But we can curb them by accepting the principles of bhakti-yoga as they are presented in the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Scarcely anyone knows these Vedic scriptures, and therefore no one heeds their instructions. People would rather read all kinds of books by all kinds of rascals, but the result of such books is to kill Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In illusion a person may think he can get rid of unwanted habits and be saved by some artificial, mystic meditation. And in fact at one time it was possible to attain liberation by practicing aṣṭāṅga-yoga, or eightfold yogic meditation. But at present almost no one can follow this process, and artificial attempts at yoga will not help us.
Therefore to help the fallen people of this Age of Kali, the Supreme Lord appeared five hundred years ago as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He knew that the people of this age would not even be able to follow the regulative principles, what to speak of practicing aṣṭāṅga-yoga. Therefore He gave the mahā-mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—so that we can gradually be elevated to the highest position of spiritual life. Other processes of purification or sacrifice cannot be followed in this age, because for the most part people are too degraded. But anyone may take to this process of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. As it is said in the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa (3.8.126),
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
[Cc. Ādi 17.21]
"In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way." Chanting the holy name of the Lord is always superbly effective, but it is especially effective in this Age of Kali. Its practical effectiveness will now be explained by Śukadeva Gosvāmī through the history of Ajāmila, who was freed from the hands of Yamarāja, the universal judge, simply because of chanting the holy name of Nārāyaṇa.
The Dangers of Illicit Sex
To benefit fully from chanting the holy name of the Lord, one needs to chant offenselessly. And to guarantee offenseless chanting, some austerity is required. First of all, one should not indulge in illicit sex. Sex is one of the bodily needs, so it is sanctioned in the śāstras to some degree: one is allowed to live peacefully with one's wife and have sex for begetting children. Other than to beget children, however, there is no need of indulging in sex. One who does not take the responsibility of family life but remains a bachelor and engages in illicit sex is considered irresponsible, and he will have to suffer the consequences.
Of course, one who thinks that family life is too big a responsibility can forgo it and thus avoid a lot of trouble. Family responsibility is very great; therefore if a man feels he cannot accept the responsibility, he should remain a brahmacārī, a celibate student. A person who practices the science of brahmacarya under the care of a spiritual master automatically becomes seventy-five percent free from material entanglement.
Today, however, no one wants to undergo the austerities of brahmacarya. Everyone wants to remain unmarried but also engage in sex. In this way people are losing all good character. To maintain a woman who is nothing more than a prostitute and engage in illicit sex with her for producing children is sinful. Such children are unwanted (varṇa-saṅkara), and in this way society becomes degraded.
Ajāmila became attracted to a prostitute, and with her he begot ten children. He became so degraded that he could not execute honest business to support his large family, and he was forced to beg, borrow, and steal to maintain them. If a person indulges in illicit sex, intoxication and gambling automatically follow. His expenses will be unlimited, and to meet all his expenses he will have to adopt methods of cheating and stealing. The basis for Ajāmila's degradation was his illicit connection with the prostitute.
Therefore, in the practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness we do not allow any illicit sex. Devotees must either get married or remain celibate; this regulation is very effective for maintaining a high standard of purity.