SC 11: The Realm of the Senses
The Demands of the Senses
These verses describe how the living entity becomes entangled in the material body due to the interaction of the material modes of nature. Everyone engages in work with his hands, legs, and other senses just to achieve a certain goal according to his concocted ideas. In this way one tries to enjoy the five sense objects, namely form, sound, taste, aroma, and touch, not knowing that the actual goal of life is to satisfy the Supreme Lord. Because of disobeying the Lord, the living entity is put into material conditions, and he then tries to improve his situation according to his whims, not caring to follow the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nevertheless, the Supreme Lord is so kind that He comes Himself to instruct the bewildered living entity how to act obediently and then gradually return home, back to Godhead, where he can attain an eternal, peaceful life of bliss and knowledge.
In the material world the living entity has a body that is a very complicated combination of the material elements, and with this body he struggles alone, as indicated in verse 50 by the words
People bewildered by material conditions try to be united, but although they strive for unity among men and nations, all their attempts are futile. Everyone must struggle alone for existence with the many elements of nature. Therefore one's only hope, as Kṛṣṇa advises, is to surrender to Him, for He can help one become free from the ocean of nescience. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore prayed:
ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-
"O Kṛṣṇa, beloved son of Nanda Mahārāja, I am Your eternal servant, but somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of nescience, and although I am struggling very hard, there is no way I can save myself. If You kindly pick me up and fix me as one of the particles of dust at Your lotus feet, that will save me."
Similarly, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings,
Pain and Pleasure
Actually, there is no pleasure in the material world; everything is painful. Everyone is trying to be happy by sensual activity, but the result is unhappiness and frustration. This is called
Lord Buddha understood the nature of material pleasure. In his youth he was a prince, enjoying great opulence and sensual pleasures, but he renounced it all. Sitting down in meditation, he stopped all sensual activities, which subject one to the pains and pleasures of this material world. He gave up his kingdom just to teach that sensual activities do not help us attain salvation. Salvation means to get out of the clutches of the pleasure and pain of this world.
Buddhism is concerned largely with the predicament of the body. Due to the interactions of the three modes of material nature, which are acting on our material bodies, we experience various pains and pleasures. Buddhism teaches that one can be relieved of these pains and pleasures as soon as one dismantles the combination of the material elements in the shape of the physical body.
Buddhist philosophy is incomplete, but that does not mean Lord Buddha did not know the complete truth. A teacher may have received his Masters degree, yet he still teaches the ABC's to his students. It is not that his knowledge is limited to the ABC's. Similarly, any especially empowered incarnation (
Therefore there are different schools of religion, like Buddhism and Śaṅkarācārya's Māyāvāda philosophy. Both the Buddhists and the Māyāvādīs encourage their followers to try to get free of pain and pleasure, which are due to sensual activities. No genuine philosopher urges his followers to pursue sensual activities. Buddha finishes with matter: to achieve
Śaṅkarācārya's philosophy is to get out of this combination of material elements and become situated in our original, spiritual position. Thus the Māyāvādīs' motto is
Both Buddhism and Māyāvāda philosophy reveal only partial truth. Śaṅkarācārya's Māyāvāda philosophy accepts Brahman, spirit, but does not describe spirit in its fullness. Māyāvāda philosophy teaches that as soon as we become cognizant of our existence as Brahman (
While meditating on Brahman, the Māyāvādī thinks, "I have become God." In one sense, of course, it is correct to think, "I am one with God," for as spirit souls we are all one with God in quality. But no one can ever become
So the Māyāvādīs' mistake is to think that the part can become equal to the whole. They presume that because they are part and parcel of God, they
Śaṅkarācārya gave a hint about Brahman, teaching everyone to think,
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūtesu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
"One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me."
Real knowledge is attained by applying the senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa. At present, our mind and senses are absorbed in bodily designations, such as "I am American
As we have pointed out, Brahman realization is not the end of spiritual knowledge. There are three stages of self-realization: Brahman, or the realization that one is not this body but a spirit soul; Paramātmā realization, or understanding the Lord within the heart; and Bhagavān realization, realizing the Lord in His personal form as Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Beyond Brahman is Paramātmā realization, realizing Kṛṣṇa in the heart as Supersoul. Brahman is like the sunlight, but Paramātmā realization is like seeing the sun globe itself, the source of the sun's rays. Going still further, one can enter into the spiritual planets of Vaikuṇṭha and see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face. This is the ultimate stage of self-realization and is like meeting the sun-god himself. The sunlight, the sun globe, and the sun-god are one and inseparable, yet they are simultaneously different. The sunlight is the impersonal effulgence of the sun, the sun globe is its localized aspect, and the sun-god is the personal source of both the sun globe and the sunlight. In the
tat tvaṁ pūṣann apāvṛṇu
"O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Please remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee."
So Brahman realization is not enough. A sick man's fever may go down, but he may not yet be cured. He is finally cured when he is not only safe from fever but fully recovered and back to his normal, active life. Otherwise there is danger of relapse. Likewise, understanding "I am a spirit soul, not the body" does not mean one is cured of illusion. Only when a person fully understands that he is the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa and he acts on that understanding is he truly self-realized.
A Special Concession for All People
In the present age, for all people the best path to achieve self-realization is to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
"In this age the only way to attain salvation is to chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way, no other way, no other way."
We can see the power of chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa by studying the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. In this movement all kinds of sinful activities are being given up by persons who have been addicted to bad habits ever since they were living in the wombs of their mothers. This is their good fortune. As Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu says in the
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
"The living entity is rotating in different lives and in different bodies, transmigrating from one situation to another throughout the universe, but if he is fortunate and gets the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, he will get a bona fide spiritual master, from whom he will receive the seed of the creeper of
By cultivating devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, we can get out of our unfortunate position in the material world, which Kṛṣṇa has certified in the
Body of Desire
Each of us has a different type of body: no one's body is identical to anyone else's. The different types of bodies have a cause, and that cause is
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail." The character of the subtle body at the time of death is determined by the sum total of one's activities during one's lifetime. If a human being is taught to change his subtle body by developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness, at the time of death his subtle body will create a gross body in which he will be a devotee of Kṛṣṇa—or if he is still more advanced, he will not take another material body at all but will immediately get a spiritual body and thus return home, back to Godhead. This is the perfection of human life.