SSR 1: Learning the Science of the Self
Discovering the Self
This very important Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is meant to save human society from spiritual death. At present human society is being misled by leaders who are blind, for they do not know the aim and objective of human life, which is self-realization and the reestablishment of our lost relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the missing point. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to enlighten human society in this important matter.
According to Vedic civilization, the perfection of life is to realize one's relationship with Kṛṣṇa, or God. In the Bhagavad-gītā, which is accepted by all authorities in transcendental science as the basis of all Vedic knowledge, we understand that not only human beings but all living entities are parts and parcels of God. The parts are meant for serving the whole, just as the legs, hands, fingers, and ears are meant for serving the total body. We living entities, being parts and parcels of God, are duty-bound to serve Him.
Actually our position is that we are always rendering service to someone, either to our family, country, or society. If we have no one to serve, sometimes we keep a pet cat or dog and render service to it. All these factors prove that we are constitutionally meant to render service, yet in spite of serving to the best of our ability, we are not satisfied. Nor is the person to whom we are rendering that service satisfied. On the material platform, everyone is frustrated. The reason for this is that the service being rendered is not properly directed. For example, if we want to render service to a tree, we must water the root. If we pour water on the leaves, branches, and twigs, there is little benefit. If the Supreme Personality of Godhead is served, all other parts and parcels will be automatically satisfied. Consequently all welfare activities as well as service to society, family, and nation are realized by serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is the duty of every human being to understand his constitutional position with God and to act accordingly. If this is possible, then our lives become successful. Sometimes, however, we feel challenging and say, "There is no God," or "I am God," or even, "I don't care for God." But in actuality this challenging spirit will not save us. God is there, and we can see Him at every moment. If we refuse to see God in our life, then He will be present before us as cruel death. If we do not choose to see Him in one feature, we will see Him in another. There are different features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He is the original root of the entire cosmic manifestation. In one sense, it is not possible for us to escape Him.
This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not blind religious fanaticism, nor is it a revolt by some recent upstart; rather, it is an authorized, scientific approach to the matter of our eternal necessity in relation with the Absolute Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Enjoyer. Kṛṣṇa consciousness simply deals with our eternal relationship with Him and the process of discharging our relative duties to Him. Thus, Kṛṣṇa consciousness enables us to achieve the highest perfection of life attainable in the present human form of existence.
We must always remember that this particular form of human life is attained after an evolution of many millions of years in the cycle of transmigration of the spirit soul. In this particular form of life, the economic question is more easily solved than in the lower, animal forms. There are swine, dogs, camels, asses, and so on, whose economic necessities are just as important as ours, but the economic questions of these animals and others are solved under primitive conditions, whereas the human being is given all the facilities for leading a comfortable life by the laws of nature.
Why is a man given a better chance to live than swine or other animals? Why is a highly posted government officer given better facilities for a comfortable life than an ordinary clerk? The answer is very simple: the important officer has to discharge duties of a more responsible nature than those of an ordinary clerk. Similarly, the human being has to discharge higher duties than the animals, who are always busy with filling their hungry stomachs. But by the laws of nature, the modern animalistic standard of civilization has only increased the problems of filling the stomach. When we approach some of these polished animals for spiritual life, they say that they only want to work for the satisfaction of their stomachs and that there is no necessity of inquiring about the Godhead. Yet despite their eagerness to work hard, there is always the question of unemployment and so many other impediments incurred by the laws of nature. Despite this, they still denounce the necessity of acknowledging the Godhead.
We are given this human form of life not just to work hard like the swine or dog, but to attain the highest perfection of life. If we do not want that perfection, then we will have to work very hard, for we will be forced to by the laws of nature. In the closing days of Kali-yuga (this present age) men will have to work hard like asses for only a scrap of bread. This process has already begun, and every year the necessity for harder work for lesser wages will increase. Yet human beings are not meant to work hard like animals, and if a man fails to discharge his duties as a human being, he is forced to transmigrate to the lower species of life by the laws of nature. The Bhagavad-gītā very vividly describes how a spirit soul, by the laws of nature, takes his birth and gets a suitable body and sense organs for enjoying matter in the material world.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is also stated that those who attempt but do not complete the path of approaching God—in other words, those who have failed to achieve complete success in Kṛṣṇa consciousness—are given the chance to appear in the families of the spiritually advanced or in financially well-to-do mercantile families. If the unsuccessful spiritual aspirants are offered such chances of noble parentage, what of those who have actually attained the required success? Therefore an attempt to go back to Godhead, even if half finished, guarantees a good birth in the next life. Both the spiritual and the financially well-to-do families are beneficial for spiritual progress because in both families one can get a good chance to make further progress from the point where he stopped in his previous birth. In spiritual realization the atmosphere generated by a good family is favorable for the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. The Bhagavad-gītā reminds such fortunate well-born persons that their good fortune is due to their past devotional activities. Unfortunately, the children of these families do not consult the Bhagavad-gītā, being misguided by māyā (illusion).
Birth in a well-to-do family solves the problem of having to find sufficient food from the beginning of life, and later a comparatively easier and more comfortable way of life can be led. Being so situated, one has a good chance to make progress in spiritual realization, but as ill luck would have it, due to the influence of the present iron age (which is full of machines and mechanical people) the sons of the wealthy are misguided for sense enjoyment, and they forget the good chance they have for spiritual enlightenment. Therefore nature, by her laws, is setting fires in these golden homes. It was the golden city of Laṅkā, under the regime of the demoniac Rāvaṇa, that was burned to ashes. That is the law of nature.
The Bhagavad-gītā is the preliminary study of the transcendental science of Kṣṇa consciousness, and it is the duty of all responsible heads of state to chalk out their economic and other programs by referring to the Bhagavad-gītā. We are not meant to solve economic questions of life by balancing on a tottering platform; rather, we are meant to solve the ultimate problems of life which arise due to the laws of nature. Civilization is static unless there is spiritual movement. The soul moves the body, and the living body moves the world. We are concerned about the body, but we have no knowledge of the spirit that is moving that body. Without the spirit, the body is motionless, or dead.
The human body is an excellent vehicle by which we can reach eternal life. It is a rare and very important boat for crossing over the ocean of nescience which is material existence. On this boat there is the service of an expert boatman, the spiritual master. By divine grace, the boat plies the water in a favorable wind. With all these auspicious factors, who would not take the opportunity to cross over the ocean of nescience? If one neglects this good chance, it should be known that he is simply committing suicide.
There is certainly a great deal of comfort in the first-class coach of a train, but if the train does not move toward its destination, what is the benefit of an air-conditioned compartment? Contemporary civilization is much too concerned with making the material body comfortable. No one has information of the real destination of life, which is to go back to Godhead. We must not just remain seated in a comfortable compartment; we should see whether or not our vehicle is moving toward its real destination. There is no ultimate benefit in making the material body comfortable at the expense of forgetting the prime necessity of life, which is to regain our lost spiritual identity. The boat of human life is constructed in such a way that it must move toward a spiritual destination. Unfortunately this body is anchored to mundane consciousness by five strong chains, which are: (1) attachment to the material body due to ignorance of spiritual facts, (2) attachment to kinsmen due to bodily relations, (3) attachment to the land of birth and to material possessions such as house, furniture, estates, property, business papers, etc., (4) attachment to material science, which always remains mysterious for want of spiritual light, and (5) attachment to religious forms and holy rituals without knowing the Personality of Godhead or His devotees, who make them holy. These attachments, which anchor the boat of the human body, are explained in detail in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā. There they are compared to a deeply rooted banyan tree which is ever increasing its hold on the earth. It is very difficult to uproot such a strong banyan tree, but the Lord recommends the following process: "The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment. So doing, one must seek that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and in whom everything is abiding since time immemorial." (Bg.
Neither the scientists nor speculative philosophers have yet arrived at any conclusion concerning the cosmic situation. All they have done is posit different theories about it. Some of them say that the material world is real, others say that it is a dream, and yet others say that it is ever existing. In this way different views are held by mundane scholars, but the fact is that no mundane scientist or speculative philosopher has ever discovered the beginning of the cosmos or its limitations. No one can say when it began or how it floats in space. They theoretically propose some laws, like the law of gravitation, but actually they cannot put this law to practical use. For want of actual knowledge of the truth, everyone is anxious to promote his own theory to gain certain fame, but the actual fact is that this material world is full of miseries and that no one can overcome them simply by promoting some theories about the subject. The Personality of Godhead, who is fully cognizant of everything in His creation, informs us that it is in our best interest that we desire to get out of this miserable existence. We must detach ourselves from everything material. To make the best use of a bad bargain, our material existence must be one-hundred-percent spiritualized. Iron is not fire, but it can be turned into fire by constant association with fire. Similarly, detachment from material activities can be effected by spiritual activities, not by material inertia. Material inertia is the negative side of material action, but spiritual activity is not only the negation of material action but the activation of our real life. We must be anxious to search out eternal life, or spiritual existence in Brahman, the Absolute. The eternal kingdom of Brahman is described in the Bhagavad-gītā as that eternal country from which no one returns. That is the kingdom of God.
The beginning of our present material life cannot be traced, nor is it necessary for us to know how we became conditioned in material existence. We have to be satisfied with the understanding that somehow or other this material life has been going on since time immemorial and now our duty is to surrender unto the Supreme Lord, who is the original cause of all causes. The preliminary qualification for going back to Godhead is given in the
One who is convinced of his spiritual identity and is freed from the material conception of existence, who is free from illusion and is transcendental to the modes of material nature, who constantly engages in understanding spiritual knowledge and who has completely severed himself from sense enjoyment can go back to Godhead. Such a person is called amūḍha, as distinguished from mūḍha, or the foolish and ignorant, for he is freed from the duality of happiness and distress.
And what is the nature of the kingdom of God? It is described in the
Although every place in the creation is within the kingdom of God because the Lord is the supreme proprietor of all planets, there is still the Lord's personal abode, which is completely different from the universe in which we are now living. And this abode is called paramam, or the supreme abode. Even on this earth there are countries where the standard of living is high and countries where the standard of living is low. Besides this earth, there are innumerable other planets distributed all over the universe, and some are considered superior places and some inferior places. In any case, all planets within the jurisdiction of the external energy, material nature, require the rays of a sun or the light of fire for their existence, because the material universe is a region of darkness. Beyond this region, however, is a spiritual realm, which is described as functioning under the superior nature of God. That realm is described in the Upaniṣads thus: "There is no need of sun, moon, or stars, nor is that abode illumined by electricity or any form of fire. All these material universes are illumined by a reflection of that spiritual light, and because that superior nature is always self-luminous, we can experience a glow of light even in the densest darkness of night." In the Hari-vaṁśa the spiritual nature is explained by the Supreme Lord Himself as follows: "The glaring effulgence of the impersonal Brahman [the impersonal Absolute] illuminates all existences, both material and spiritual. But, O Bhārata, you must understand that this Brahman illumination is the effulgence of My body." In the Brahma-saṁhitā this conclusion is also confirmed. We should not think that we can attain that abode by any material means such as spaceships, but we should know for certain that one who can attain that spiritual abode of Kṛṣṇa can enjoy eternal, spiritual bliss without interruption. As fallible living entities, we have two phases of existence. One is called material existence, which is full of the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease, and the other is called spiritual existence, in which there is an incessant spiritual life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. In material existence we are ruled by the material conception of the body and the mind, but in spiritual existence we can always relish the happy, transcendental contact of the Personality of Godhead. In spiritual existence, the Lord is never lost to us.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to bring that spiritual existence to humanity at large. In our present material consciousness, we are attached to the sensual material conception of life, but this conception can be removed at once by devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If we adopt the principles of devotional service, we can become transcendental to the material conceptions of life and be liberated from the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, even in the midst of various material engagements. Everyone who is engaged in material affairs can derive the highest benefit from the pages of Back to Godhead and the other literatures of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. These literatures help all people sever the roots of the indefatigable banyan tree of material existence. These literatures are authorized to train us to renounce everything related to the material conception of life and to relish spiritual nectar in every object. This stage is obtainable only by devotional service and nothing else. By rendering such service, one can at once get liberation (mukti) even during this present life. Most spiritual endeavors are tinged with the colors of materialism, but pure devotional service is transcendental to all material pollution. Those who desire to go back to Godhead need only adopt the principles of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and simply aim their consciousness at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.
What Is Kṛṣṇa Consciousness?
nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-prema 'sādhya' kabhu naya
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is dormant in everyone's heart, and when one comes in contact with devotees, it is awakened. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not artificial. Just as a young boy awakens his natural attraction for a young girl in her association, similarly, if one hears about Kṛṣṇa in the association of devotees, he awakens his dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
First-class religion teaches one how to love God without any motive. If I serve God for some profit, that is business—not love. Real love of God is ahaituky apratihatā: it cannot be checked by any material cause. It is unconditional. If one actually wants to love God, there is no impediment. One can love Him whether one is poor or rich, young or old, black or white.
When you come to this stage of loving God, that is perfection. Neither the karmī, the jñānī, nor the yogī can know God—only the bhakta. As Kṛṣṇa says in the
Civilized men know the art of preparing nutritious foods from milk. For instance, on our New Vṛndāvana farm in West Virginia, we make hundreds of first-class preparations from milk. Whenever visitors come, they are astonished that from milk such nice foods can be prepared. The blood of the cow is very nutritious, but civilized men utilize it in the form of milk. Milk is nothing but cow's blood transformed. You can make milk into so many things—yogurt, curd, ghee (clarified butter), and so on—and by combining these milk products with grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can make hundreds of preparations. This is civilized life—not directly killing an animal and eating its flesh. The innocent cow is simply eating grass given by God and supplying milk, which you can live on. Do you think cutting the cow's throat and eating its flesh is civilized?
We are not introducing the caste system, in which any rascal born in a brāhmaṇa family is automatically a brāhmaṇa. He may have the habits of a fifth-class man, but he is accepted as first class because of his birth in a brāhmaṇa family. We don't accept that. We recognize a man as first class who is trained as a brāhmaṇa. It doesn't matter whether he is Indian, European, or American; lowborn or highborn—it doesn't matter. Any intelligent man can be trained to adopt first-class habits. We want to stop the nonsensical idea that we are imposing the Indian caste system on our disciples. We are simply picking out men with first-class intelligence and training them how to become first class in every respect.
brāhmaṇe ga vi hastini
śuni caiva śvapāke ca
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater."
A Definition of God
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for kindly participating in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. When this society was registered in 1966 in New York, a friend suggested that it be named the Society for God Consciousness. He thought that the name Kṛṣṇa was sectarian. The dictionary also says that Kṛṣṇa is a Hindu god's name. But in actuality, if any name can be attributed to God, it is "Kṛṣṇa."
Actually God has no particular name. By saying He has no name, we mean that no one knows how many names He has. Since God is unlimited, His names also must be unlimited. Therefore we cannot settle on one name. For instance, Kṛṣṇa is sometimes called Yaśodā-nandana, the son of Mother Yaśodā; or Devakī-nandana, the son of Devakī; or Vasudeva-nandana, the son of Vasudeva; or Nanda-nandana, the son of Nanda. Sometimes He is called Pārtha-sārathi, indicating that He acted as the charioteer of Arjuna, who is sometimes called Pārtha, the son of Pṛthā.
God has many dealings with His many devotees, and according to those dealings, He is called certain names. Since He has innumerable devotees and innumerable relations with them, He also has innumerable names. We cannot hit on any one name. But the name Kṛṣṇa means "all-attractive." God attracts everyone; that is the definition of God. We have seen many pictures of Kṛṣṇa, and we see that He attracts the cows, calves, birds, beasts, trees, plants, and even the water in Vṛndāvana. He is attractive to the cowherd boys, to the gopīs, to Nanda Mahārāja, to the Pāṇḍavas, and to all human society. Therefore if any particular name can be given to God, that name is "Kṛṣṇa."
Parāśara Muni, a great sage and the father of Vyāsadeva, who compiled all the Vedic literatures, gave the following definition of God:
vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ
saṇṇāṁ bhaga itiṅgana
Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is thus defined by Parāśara Muni as one who is full in six opulences—who has full strength, fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation.
Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the proprietor of all riches. There are many rich men in the world, but no one can claim that he possesses all the wealth. Nor can anyone claim that no one is richer than he. We understand from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, however, that when Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth He had 16,108 wives, and each wife lived in a palace made of marble and bedecked with jewels. The rooms were filled with furniture made of ivory and gold, and there was great opulence everywhere. These descriptions are all given vividly in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In the history of human society we cannot find anyone who had sixteen thousand wives or sixteen thousand palaces. Nor did Kṛṣṇa go to one wife one day and another wife another day. No, He was personally present in every palace at the same time. This means that He expanded Himself in 16,108 forms. This is impossible for an ordinary man, but it is not very difficult for God. If God is unlimited, He can expand Himself in unlimited forms, otherwise there is no meaning to the word unlimited. God is omnipotent; He can maintain not only sixteen thousand wives but sixteen million and still encounter no difficulty, otherwise there is no meaning to the word omnipotent.
These are all attractive features. We experience in this material world that if a man is very rich, he is attractive. In America, for instance, Rockefeller and Ford are very attractive because of their riches. They are attractive even though they do not possess all the wealth of the world. How much more attractive, then, is God, who is the possessor of all riches.
Similarly, Kṛṣṇa has unlimited strength. His strength was present from the moment of His birth. When Kṛṣṇa was only three months old, the Pūtanā demon attempted to kill Him, but instead she was killed by Kṛṣṇa. That is God. God is God from the beginning. He does not become God by some meditation or mystic power. Kṛṣṇa is not that type of God. Kṛṣṇa was God from the very beginning of His appearance.
Kṛṣṇa also has unlimited fame. Of course, we are devotees of Kṛṣṇa and know of Him and glorify Him, but apart from us, many millions in the world are aware of the fame of the Bhagavad-gītā. In all countries all over the world the Bhagavad-gītā is read by philosophers, psychologists, and religionists. We are also finding very good sales with our Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. This is because the commodity is pure gold. There are many editions of the Bhagavad-gītā, but they are not pure. Ours is selling more because we are presenting the Bhagavad-gītā as it is. The fame of the Bhagavad-gītā is Kṛṣṇa's fame.
Beauty, another opulence, is possessed unlimitedly by Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa Himself is very beautiful, as are all His associates. Those who were pious in a previous life receive an opportunity in this material world to take birth in good families and good nations. The American people are very rich and beautiful, and these opulences are a result of pious activities. All over the world people are attracted to the Americans because they are advanced in scientific knowledge, riches, beauty, and so on. This planet is an insignificant planet within the universe, yet within this planet, one country—America—has so many attractive features. We can just imagine, then, how many attractive features must be possessed by God, who is the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation. How beautiful He must be—He who has created all beauty.
A person is attractive not only because of his beauty, but also because of his knowledge. A scientist or philosopher may be attractive because of his knowledge, but what knowledge is more sublime than that given by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā? There is no comparison in the world to such knowledge. At the same time, Kṛṣṇa possesses full renunciation (vairāgya). So many things are working under Kṛṣṇa's direction in this material world, but actually Kṛṣṇa is not present here. A big factory may continue to work, although the owner may not be present. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa's potencies are working under the direction of His assistants, the demigods. Thus Kṛṣṇa Himself is aloof from the material world. This is all described in the revealed scriptures.
God, therefore, has many names according to His activities, but because He possesses so many opulences, and because with these opulences He attracts everyone, He is called Kṛṣṇa. The Vedic literature asserts that God has many names, but "Kṛṣṇa" is the principal name.
The purpose of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is to propagate God's name, God's glories, God's activities, God's beauty, and God's love. There are many things within this material world, and all of them are within Kṛṣṇa. The most prominent feature of this material world is sex, and that also is present in Kṛṣṇa. We are worshiping Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and attraction exists between them, but material attraction and spiritual attraction are not the same. In Kṛṣṇa, sex is real, but here in the material world it is unreal. Everything we deal with here is present in the spiritual world, but here it has no real value. It is only a reflection. In store windows we see many mannequins, but no one cares about them, because everyone knows they are false. A mannequin may be very beautiful, but still it is false. When people see a beautiful woman, however, they are attracted because they think she is real. In actuality, the so-called living are also dead, because this body is simply a lump of matter; as soon as the soul leaves the body, no one would care to see the so-called beautiful body of the woman. The real factor, the real attracting force, is the spiritual soul.
In the material world everything is made of dead matter; therefore it is simply an imitation. The reality of things exists in the spiritual world. Those who have read the Bhagavad-gītā can understand what the spiritual world is like, for there it is described:
paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo
'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
"Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is." (
Scientists are attempting to calculate the length and breadth of this material world, but they cannot begin. It will take them thousands of years simply to travel to the nearest star. And what to speak of the spiritual world? Since we cannot know the material world, how can we know what is beyond it? The point is that we must know from authoritative sources.
The most authoritative source is Kṛṣṇa, for He is the reservoir of all knowledge. No one is wiser or more knowledgeable than Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa informs us that beyond this material world is a spiritual sky, which is filled with innumerable planets. That sky is far, far greater than material space, which constitutes only one fourth of the entire creation. Similarly, the living entities within the material world are but a small portion of the living entities throughout the creation. This material world is compared to a prison, and just as prisoners represent only a small percentage of the total population, so the living entities within the material world constitute but a fragmental portion of all living entities.
Those who have revolted against God—who are criminal—are placed in this material world. Sometimes criminals say that they don't care for the government, but nonetheless they are arrested and punished. Similarly, living entities who declare their defiance of God are placed in the material world.
Originally the living entities are all part and parcel of God and are related to Him just as sons are related to their father. Christians also consider God the supreme father. Christians go to church and pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven.', The conception of God as father is also in the
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
"It should be understood that all the species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father."
There are 8,400,000 species of life—including aquatics, plants, birds, beasts, insects, and human beings. Of the human species, most are uncivilized, and out of the few civilized species only a small number of human beings take to religious life. Out of many so-called religionists, most identify themselves by designations, claiming, "I am Hindu," "I am Muslim," "I am Christian," and so on. Some engage in philanthropic work, some give to the poor, and open schools and hospitals. This altruistic process is called karma-kāṇḍa. Out of millions of these karma-kāṇḍīs, there may be one jñānī ("one who knows"). Out of millions of jñānīs, one may be liberated, and out of billions of liberated souls, one may be able to understand Kṛṣṇa. This, then, is the position of Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa Himself says in the
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
"Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth."
Understanding Kṛṣṇa, then, is very difficult. But although the understanding of God is a difficult subject, God explains Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā. He says, "I am like this, and I am like this. The material nature is like this, and the spiritual nature is like that. The living entities are like this, and the Supreme Soul is like that." Thus everything is completely described in the Bhagavad-gītā. Although understanding God is very difficult, it is not difficult when God Himself gives us His own knowledge. Actually that is the only process by which we can understand God. To understand God by our own speculation is not possible, for God is unlimited and we are limited. Our knowledge and perception are both very limited, so how can we understand the unlimited? If we simply accept the version of the unlimited, we can come to understand Him. That understanding is our perfection.
Speculative knowledge of God will lead us nowhere. If a boy wants to know who his father is, the simple process is to ask his mother. The mother will then say, "This is your father." This is the way of perfect knowledge. Of course, one may speculate about one's father, wondering if this is the man or if that is the man, and one may wander over the whole city, asking, "Are you my father? Are you my father?" The knowledge derived from such a process, however, will always remain imperfect. One will never find his father in this way. The simple process is to take the knowledge from an authority—in this case, the mother. She simply says, "My dear boy, here is your father." In this way our knowledge is perfect. Transcendental knowledge is similar. I was just previously speaking of a spiritual world. This spiritual world is not subject to our speculation. God says, "There is a spiritual world, and that is My headquarters." In this way we receive knowledge from Kṛṣṇa, the best authority. We may not be perfect, but our knowledge is perfect because it is received from the perfect source.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is meant to give perfect knowledge to human society. By such knowledge one can understand who he is, who God is, what the material world is, why we have come here, why we must undergo so much tribulation and misery, and why we have to die. Of course, no one wants to die, but death will come. No one wants to become an old man, but still old age comes. No one wants to suffer from disease, but surely enough, disease comes. These are the real problems of human life, and they are yet to be solved. Civilization attempts to improve eating, sleeping, mating, and defense, but these are not the real problems. A man sleeps, and a dog sleeps. A man is not more advanced simply because he has a nice apartment. In both cases, the business is the same—sleeping. Man has discovered atomic weapons for defense, but the dog also has teeth and claws and can also defend himself. In both cases, defense is there. Man cannot say that because he has the atomic bomb he can conquer the entire world or the entire universe. That is not possible. Man may possess an elaborate method for defense, or a gorgeous method for eating, sleeping, or mating, but that does not make him advanced. We may call his advancement polished animalism, and that is all.
Real advancement means knowing God. If we are lacking knowledge of God, we are not actually advanced. Many rascals deny the existence of God because if there is no God they can continue their sinful activities. It may be very nice for them to think that there is no God, but God will not die simply because we deny Him. God is there, and His administration is there. By His orders the sun is rising, the moon is rising, the water flows, and the ocean abides by the tide. Thus everything functions under His order. Since everything is going on very nicely, how can one realistically think that God is dead? If there is mismanagement, we may say that there is no government, but if there is good management, how can we say that there is no government? Just because people do not know God, they say that God is dead, that there is no God, or that God has no form. But we are firmly convinced that there is God and that Kṛṣṇa is God. Therefore we are worshiping Him. That is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Try to understand it. Thank you very much.
Reincarnation and Beyond
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
"For the soul, there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." (Bg.
Truth and Beauty
There may sometimes be arguments about whether "truth" and "beauty" are compatible terms. One would willingly agree to express the truth, one might say, but since truth is not always beautiful—indeed, it is frequently rather startling and unpleasant—how is one to express truth and beauty at the same time?
In reply, we may inform all concerned that "truth" and "beauty" are compatible terms. Indeed, we may emphatically assert that the actual truth, which is absolute, is always beautiful. The truth is so beautiful that it attracts everyone, including the truth itself. Truth is so beautiful that many sages, saints, and devotees have left everything for the sake of truth. Mahatma Gandhi, an idol of the modern world, dedicated his life to experimenting with truth, and all his activities were aimed toward truth only.
Why only Mahatma Gandhi? Every one of us has the urge to search for truth alone, for the truth is not only beautiful but also all-powerful, all-resourceful, all-famous, all-renounced, and all-knowledgeable.
Unfortunately, people have no information of the actual truth. Indeed, 99.9 percent of men in all walks of life are pursuing untruth only, in the name of truth. We are actually attracted by the beauty of truth, but since time immemorial we have been habituated to love of untruth appearing like truth. Therefore, to the mundaner "truth" and "beauty" are incompatible terms. The mundane truth and beauty may be explained as follows.
Once a man who was very powerful and strongly built but whose character was very doubtful fell in love with a beautiful girl. The girl was not only beautiful in appearance but also saintly in character, and as such she did not like the man's advances. The man, however, was insistent because of his lustful desires, and therefore the girl requested him to wait only seven days, and she set a time after that when he could meet her. The man agreed, and with high expectations he began waiting for the appointed time.
The saintly girl, however, in order to manifest the real beauty of absolute truth, adopted a method very instructive. She took very strong doses of laxatives and purgatives, and for seven days she continually passed loose stool and vomited all that she ate. Moreover, she stored all the loose stool and vomit in suitable pots. As a result of the purgatives, the so-called beautiful girl became lean and thin like a skeleton, her complexion turned blackish, and her beautiful eyes sank into the sockets of her skull. Thus at the appointed hour she waited anxiously to receive the eager man.
The man appeared on the scene well dressed and well behaved and asked the ugly girl he found waiting there about the beautiful girl he was to meet. The man could not recognize the girl he saw as the same beautiful girl for whom he was asking; indeed, although she repeatedly asserted her identity, because of her pitiable condition he was unable to recognize her.
At last the girl told the powerful man that she had separated the ingredients of her beauty and stored them in pots. She also told him that he could enjoy those juices of beauty. When the mundane poetic man asked to see these juices of beauty, he was directed to the store of loose stool and liquid vomit, which were emanating an unbearably bad smell. Thus the whole story of the beauty-liquid was disclosed to him. Finally, by the grace of the saintly girl, this man of low character was able to distinguish between the shadow and the substance, and thus he came to his senses.
This man's position was similar to the position of every one of us who is attracted by false, material beauty. The girl mentioned above had a beautifully developed material body in accordance with the desires of her mind, but in fact she was apart from that temporary material body and mind. She was in fact a spiritual spark, and so also was the lover who was attracted by her false skin.
Mundane intellectuals and aesthetics, however, are deluded by the outward beauty and attraction of the relative truth and are unaware of the spiritual spark, which is both truth and beauty at the same time. The spiritual spark is so beautiful that when it leaves the so-called beautiful body, which in fact is full of stool and vomit, no one wants to touch that body, even if it is decorated with a costly costume.
We are all pursuing a false, relative truth, which is incompatible with real beauty. The actual truth, however, is permanently beautiful, retaining the same standard of beauty for innumerable years. That spiritual spark is indestructible. The beauty of the outer skin can be destroyed in only a few hours merely by a dose of a strong purgative, but the beauty of truth is indestructible and always the same. Unfortunately, mundane artists and intellectuals are ignorant of this beautiful spark of spirit. They are also ignorant of the whole fire which is the source of these spiritual sparks, and they are ignorant of the relationships between the sparks and the fire, which take the form of transcendental pastimes. When those pastimes are displayed here by the grace of the Almighty, foolish people who cannot see beyond their senses confuse those pastimes of truth and beauty with the manifestations of loose stool and vomit described above. Thus in despair they ask how truth and beauty can be accommodated at the same time.
Mundaners do not know that the whole spiritual entity is the beautiful person who attracts everything. They are unaware that He is the prime substance, the prime source and fountainhead of everything that be. The infinitesimal spiritual sparks, being parts and parcels of that whole spirit, are qualitatively the same in beauty and eternity. The only difference is that the whole is eternally the whole and the parts are eternally the parts. Both of them, however, are the ultimate truth, ultimate beauty, ultimate knowledge, ultimate energy, ultimate renunciation, and ultimate opulence.
Although written by the greatest mundane poet or intellectual, any literature which does not describe the ultimate truth and beauty is but a store of loose stool and vomit of the relative truth. Real literature is that which describes the ultimate truth and beauty of the Absolute.
The Art of Dying
A small child walking with his father goes on inquiring constantly. He asks his father so many odd things, and the father has to satisfy him with proper answers. When I was a young father in my householder life, I was overflooded with hundreds of questions from my second son, who was my constant companion. One day it so happened that a bridegroom's party was passing our tramcar, and the four-year-old boy, as usual, inquired what the big procession was. He was given all possible answers to his thousand and one questions regarding the marriage party, and finally he asked whether his own father was married! This question gave rise to loud laughter from all the elderly gentlemen present, although the boy was perplexed as to why we were laughing. Anyway, the boy was somehow satisfied by his married father.
The lesson from this incident is that since a human being is a rational animal, he is born to make inquiries. The greater the number of questions, the greater the advancement of knowledge and science. The whole of material civilization is based on this originally large volume of questions put by young men to their elders. When elderly persons give the proper answers to the questions of the youngsters, civilization makes progress, one step after another. The most intelligent man, however, inquires about what happens after death. The less intelligent make lesser inquiries, but the questions of those who are more intelligent go higher and still higher.
Among the most intelligent of men was Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the great king of the entire world, who was accidentally cursed by a brāhmaṇa to meet death from the bite of a serpent within seven days. The brāhmaṇa who cursed him was only a boy, yet he was very powerful, and because he did not know the importance of the great king, the boy foolishly cursed him to meet death within seven days. This was later lamented by the boy's father, whom the king had offended. When the king was informed of the unfortunate curse, he at once left his palatial home and went to the bank of the Ganges, which was near his capital, to prepare for his impending death. Because he was a great king, almost all the great sages and learned scholars assembled at the place where the king was fasting prior to leaving his mortal body. At last, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the youngest contemporary saint, also arrived there, and he was unanimously accepted to preside at that meeting, although his great father was also present. The king respectfully offered Śukadeva Gosvāmī the principal seat of esteem and asked him relevant questions regarding his passing from the mortal world, which was to take place on the seventh day thenceforward. The great king, as a worthy descendant of the Pāṇḍavas, who were all great devotees, placed the following relevant inquiries before the great sage Śukadeva. "My dear sir, you are the greatest of the great transcendentalists, and therefore I submissively beg to ask you about my duties at this moment. I am just on the verge of my death. Therefore, what should I do at this critical hour? Please tell me, my lord—what should I hear, what should I worship, or whom should I remember now? A great sage like you does not stay at the home of a householder more than necessary, and therefore it is my good fortune that you have kindly come here at the time of my death. Please, therefore, give me your directions at this critical hour."
The great sage, having thus been pleasingly requested by the king, answered his questions authoritatively, for the sage was a great transcendental scholar and was also well equipped with godly qualities, since he was the worthy son of Bādarāyaṇa, or Vyāsadeva, the original compiler of the Vedic literature.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī said, "My dear king, your inquiry is very much relevant, and it is also beneficial for all people of all times. Such inquiries, which are the highest of all, are relevant because they are confirmed by the teachings of the vedānta-darśana, the conclusion of the Vedic knowledge, and are ātmavit-sammataḥ; in other words, liberated souls, who have full knowledge of their spiritual identity, put forward such relevant inquiries in order to elucidate further information about the Transcendence."
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the natural commentary upon the great Vedānta (or Śārīraka) sūtras, which were compiled by Śrīla Vyāsadeva. The Vedānta-sūtras are the topmost Vedic literature, and they contain the nucleus of basic inquiries about the transcendental subject of spiritual knowledge. Yet although Śrīla Vyāsadeva compiled this great treatise, his mind was not satisfied. Then he happened to meet Śrī Nārada, his spiritual master, who advised him to describe the identity of the Personality of Godhead. Upon receiving this advice, Vyāsadeva meditated on the principle of bhakti-yoga, which showed him distinctly what is the Absolute and what is the relativity, or māyā. Having achieved perfect realization of these facts, he compiled the great narration of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, or beautiful Bhāgavatam, which begins with actual historical facts concerning the life of Mahārāja Parīkṣit.
The Vedānta-sūtra begins with the key inquiry about the Transcendence,
As long as a man is in the full vigor of life, he forgets the naked truth of death, which he has to meet. Thus a foolish man makes no relevant inquiry about the real problems of life. Everyone thinks that he will never die, although he sees evidence of death before his eyes at every second. Here is the distinction between animalism and humanity. An animal like a goat has no sense of its impending death. Although its brother goat is being slaughtered, the goat, being allured by the green grass offered to it, will stand peacefully waiting to be slaughtered next. On the other hand, if a human being sees his fellow man being killed by an enemy, he either fights to save his brother or leaves, if possible, to save his own life. That is the difference between a man and a goat.
An intelligent man knows that death is born along with his own birth. He knows that he is dying at every second and that the final touch will be given as soon as his term of life is finished. He therefore prepares himself for the next life or for liberation from the disease of repeated birth and death.
A foolish man, however, does not know that this human form of life is obtained after a series of births and deaths imposed in the past by the laws of nature. He does not know that a living entity is an eternal being, who has no birth and death. Birth, death, old age, and disease are external impositions on a living entity and are due to his contact with material nature and to his forgetfulness of his eternal, godly nature and qualitative oneness with the Absolute Whole.
Human life provides the opportunity to know this eternal fact, or truth. Thus the very beginning of the Vedānta-sūtra advises that because we have this valuable form of human life, it is our duty-now-to inquire, What is Brahman, the Absolute Truth?
A man who is not intelligent enough does not inquire about this transcendental life; instead, he inquires about many irrelevant matters which do not concern his eternal existence. From the very beginning of his life, he inquires from his mother, father, teachers, professors, books, and so many other sources, but he does not have the right type of information about his real life.
As mentioned before, Parīkṣit Mahārāja was given a warning notice that he would meet death within seven days, and he at once left his palace to prepare himself for the next stage. The king had at least seven days at his disposal in which to prepare for death, but as far as we are concerned, although at least we know that our death is sure, we have no information of the date fixed for the occurrence. I do not know whether I am going to meet death at the next moment. Even such a great man as Mahatma Gandhi could not calculate that he was going to meet with death in the next five minutes, nor could his great associates guess his impending death. Nonetheless, all such gentlemen present themselves as great leaders of the people.
It is ignorance of death and life that distinguishes an animal from a man. A man, in the real sense of the term, inquires about himself and what he is. Wherefrom has he come into this life, and where is he going after death? Why is he put under the troubles of threefold miseries although he does not want them? Beginning from one's childhood, one goes on inquiring about so many things in his life, but he never inquires about the real essence of life. This is animalism. There is no difference between a man and an animal as far as the four principles of animal life are concerned, for every living being exists by eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating. But only the human life is meant for relevant inquiries into the facts about eternal life and the Transcendence. Human life is therefore meant for research into eternal life, and the Vedānta-sūtra advises one to conduct this research now or never. If one fails to inquire now into these relevant matters about life, one is sure to go back again to the animal kingdom by the laws of nature. Therefore, even if a foolish man appears advanced in material science—that is, in eating, sleeping, fearing, mating, and so on—he cannot get free from the cruel hands of death by the law of nature. The law of nature works under three modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance. Those who live under conditions of goodness are promoted to the higher, spiritual status of life, and those who live under conditions of passion remain stationed in the same place in the material world where they are now, but those who live under conditions of ignorance are sure to be degraded to the lower species.
The modern setup of human civilization is a risky one because it offers no education about relevant inquiries into the essential principles of life. Like animals, people do not know that they are going to be slaughtered by the laws of nature. They are satisfied with a bunch of green grass, or a so-called jolly life, like the waiting goat in a slaughterhouse. Considering such a condition of human life, we are just trying to make a humble attempt to save the human being by the message of Back to Godhead. This method is not fictitious. If there is at all to be an era of reality, this message of Back to Godhead is the beginning of that era.
According to Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the real fact is that a gṛhamedhī, or a person who has tied himself, like the goat meant for slaughter, in the business of family, society, community, nation, or humanity at large in regard to the problems and necessities of animal life—namely eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating—and who has no knowledge of the Transcendence is no better than an animal. He may have inquired about physical, political, economic, cultural, educational, or similar other matters of temporary, material concern, but if he has not inquired about the principles of transcendental life, he should be regarded as a blind man driven ahead by uncontrolled senses and about to fall into a ditch. That is the description of the gṛhamedhī.
The opposite of the gṛha-medhī, however, is the gṛha-stha. The gṛhastha āśrama, or the shelter of spiritual family life, is as good as the life of a sannyāsī, a member of the renounced order. Regardless of whether one is a householder or a renunciate, the important point is that of relevant inquiries. A sannyāsī is bogus if not interested in relevant inquiries, and a gṛhastha, or householder, is bona fide if he is inclined to put forward such inquiries. The gṛhamedhī, however, is simply interested in the animal necessities of life. By the laws of nature, the gṛhamedhī's life is full of calamities, whereas the life of the gṛhastha is full of happiness. But in the modern human civilization, the gṛhamedhīs are posing as the gṛhasthas. We should therefore know who is what. A gṛhamedhī's life is full of vices, because he does not know how to live a family life. He does not know that beyond his control is a power who supervises and controls his activities, and he has no conception of his future life. The gṛhamedhī is blind to his future and has no aptitude for making relevant inquiries. His only qualification is that he is bound by the shackles of attachment to the false things he has contacted in his temporary existence.
At night such gṛhamedhīs waste their valuable time by sleeping or by satisfying their different varieties of sexual urges by visiting cinema shows and attending clubs and gambling houses, where women and liquor are indulged in lavishly. And during the day, they waste their valuable life in accumulating money or, if they have sufficient money to spend, by adjusting the comforts of their family members. Their standard of living and their personal needs increase with their increase in monetary income. Thus there is no limit to their expenses, and they are never satiated. Consequently there is unlimited competition in the field of economic development, and therefore there is no peace in any society of the human world.
Everyone is perplexed by the same questions about earning and spending, but ultimately one must depend on the mercy of mother nature. When there is a scarcity in production or there are disturbances caused by providence, the poor planmaking politician blames it on cruel nature but carefully avoids studying how and by whom the laws of nature are controlled. The Bhagavad-gītā, however, explains that the laws of nature are controlled by the Absolute Personality of Godhead. God alone is the controller of nature and the natural laws. Ambitious materialists sometimes examine a fragment of the law of nature, but they never care to know the maker of these laws. Most of them do not believe in the existence of an absolute person or God who controls the laws of nature. Rather, they simply concern themselves with the principles by which different elements interact, but they make no reference to the ultimate direction which makes such interactions possible. They have no relevant questions or answers in this regard. The second of the Vedānta-sūtras, however, answers the essential question about Brahman by asserting that the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Transcendence, is He from whom everything is generated. Ultimately, He is the Supreme Person.
Not only is the foolish gṛhamedhī ignorant of the temporary nature of the particular type of body he has obtained, but he is also blind to the actual nature of what is happening before him in the daily affairs of his life. He may see his father die, his mother die, or a relative or neighbor die, yet he does not make the relevant inquiries about whether or not the other existing members of his family will die. Sometimes he thinks and knows that all the members of his family will die today or tomorrow and that he also will die. He may know that the whole family show—or, for that matter, the whole show of community, society, nation, and all such things—is but a temporary bubble in the air, having no permanent value. Yet he is mad after such temporary arrangements and does not concern himself with any relevant inquiries. He has no knowledge as to where he has to go after his death. He works very hard for the temporary arrangements of his family, society, or nation, but he never makes any future arrangement either for himself or for others who will pass away from this present phase of life.
In a public vehicle like a railway carriage, we meet and sit down together with some unknown friends and become members of the same vehicle for a short time, but in due course we separate, never to meet again. Similarly, in a long sojourn of life, we get a temporary sitting accommodation in a so-called family, country, or society, but when the time is up, we are unwillingly separated from one another, never to meet again. There are so many questions relevant to our temporary arrangements in life and our friends in these temporary arrangements, but a man who is a gṛhamedhī never inquires about things of a permanent nature. We are all busy making permanent plans in various degrees of leadership, without knowing the permanent nature of things as they are. Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, who especially strove to remove this ignorance in society and who advocated the cult of spiritual knowledge in regard to the all-pervading impersonal Brahman, said in despair, "Children are engaged in playing, young boys are engaged in so-called love affairs with young girls, and the old are seriously thoughtful about adjusting a baffled life of struggle. But, alas, no one is prepared to inquire relevantly into the science of Brahman, the Absolute Truth."
Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, who was asked for direction by Mahārāja Parīkṣit, responded to the king's relevant inquiries by advising him as follows:
tasmād bhārata sarvātmā
bhagavān īśvaro hariḥ
śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca
"O descendant of Bhārata, it is the duty of mortal men to inquire about, hear about, glorify, and meditate upon the Personality of Godhead, who is the most attractive person because of His fullness in opulence. He is called Hari because He alone can undo the conditional existence of a living being. If we at all want to be freed from conditional existence, we must make relevant inquiries about the Absolute Truth so that He may be pleased to bestow upon us perfect freedom in life." (
Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī has particularly used four words in regard to the Absolute Personality of Godhead. These words distinguish the Absolute Person, or Para-brahman, from other persons, who are qualitatively one with Him. The Absolute Personality of Godhead is addressed as sarvātmā, or all-pervading, because no one is aloof from Him, although not everyone has this realization. The Personality of Godhead, by His plenary representation, resides in everyone's heart as Paramātmā, the Supersoul, along with each individual soul. Therefore every individual soul has an intimate relationship with Him. Forgetfulness of this eternally existing intimate relationship with Him is the cause of conditional life since time immemorial. But because He is Bhagavān, or the supreme personality, He can at once reciprocate the responsive call of a devotee. Moreover, because He is the perfect person, His beauty, opulence, fame, strength, knowledge, and renunciation are all unlimited sources of transcendental bliss for the individual soul. The individual soul becomes attracted by all these different opulences when they are imperfectly represented by other conditioned souls, but the individual soul is not satisfied by such imperfect representations, and therefore he perpetually seeks the perfect one. The Personality of Godhead's beauty has no comparison, nor do His knowledge and renunciation. But above all, He is īśvara, or the supreme controller. We are at present being controlled by the police action of this great king. This police control is imposed upon us because of our disobedience of law. But because the Lord is Hari, He is able to cause the disappearance of our conditional life by giving us full freedom in spiritual existence. It is therefore the duty of every man to make relevant inquiries about Him and thus go back to Godhead.
Heart surgeon Wants to Know What a Soul Is
WINDSOR—A world-famous Canadian heart surgeon says he believes the body has a soul which departs at death and theologians ought to try to find out more about it.
Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow, head of the cardiovascular surgery unit at Toronto General Hospital, said that "as a person who believes there is a soul," he thought the time had come "to take the mystery out of this and find out what it is."
Bigelow was a member of a panel which appeared before the Essex County Medical-Legal Society to discuss problems associated with attempts to define the exact moment of death.
The question has become vital in the age of transplants of hearts and other organs in cases when the donors are inevitably dying.
The Canadian Medical Association has produced a widely accepted definition of death as the moment when the patient is in coma, responds to no stimulus of any kind, and brain waves recorded on a machine are flat.
The other members of the panel were Mr. Justice Edson L. Haines of the Ontario Supreme Court and J. Francis Leddy, president of the University of Windsor.
Bigelow, elaborating on points he had raised during the discussion, said in an interview later that his thirty-two years as a surgeon had left him no doubts that there is a soul.
"There are certain cases where you happen to be present at the moment when people pass from a living state to death, and some mysterious changes take place.
"One of the most noticeable is the sudden lack of life or luster to the eyes. They become opaque and literally lifeless.
"It's difficult to document what you observe. In fact, I don't think it can be documented very well."
Bigelow, who became world renowned for his pioneering work in the "deep freeze" surgical technique known as hypothermia and for his heart valve surgery, said "soul research" should be undertaken by theology and allied disciplines within the university.
During this discussion Leddy said that "if there is a soul, you are not going to see it. You are not going to find it."
"If there is a principle of vitality or life, what is it?" The problem was that "the soul doesn't exist anywhere specifically, geographically. It's everywhere and yet it's nowhere in the body."
It would "be nice to start experimenting, but I don't know how you are going to get on any of these things," Leddy said. He said the discussion reminded him of the Soviet cosmonaut who returned from space to report there was no God, because he didn't see Him up there.
Maybe so, said Bigelow, but in modern medicine when something was encountered that could not be explained, "the watchword is discover the answer, take it into the laboratory, take it somewhere where you can discover the truth."
The central question, said Bigelow, was "where is the soul and where does it come from?"
Śrīla Prabhupāda Gives the Vedic Evidence
My dear Dr. Bigelow:
Please accept my greetings. Recently I have read an article in the Gazette by Rae Corelli entitled "Heart Surgeon Wants to Know What a Soul Is," and it was very interesting. Your comments show great insight, and so I thought to write you on this matter. Perhaps you may know that I am the founder-ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I have several temples in Canada-Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Hamilton. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is specifically meant to teach every soul his original, spiritual position.
Undoubtedly the soul is present in the heart of the living entity, and it is the source of all the energies for maintaining the body. The energy of the soul is spread all over the body, and this is known as consciousness. Since this consciousness spreads the energy of the soul all over the body, one can feel pains and pleasures in any part of the body. The soul is individual, and he is transmigrating from one body to another, just as a person transmigrates from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to boyhood, from boyhood to youth, and then to advanced old age. Then the change called death takes place when we change to a new body, just as we change our old dress to a new dress. This is called transmigration of the soul.
When a soul wants to enjoy this material world, forgetting his real home in the spiritual world, he takes this life of hard struggle for existence. This unnatural life of repeated birth, death, disease, and old age can be stopped when his consciousness is dovetailed with the supreme consciousness of God. That is the basic principle of our Kṛṣṇa movement.
As far as heart transplant is concerned, there is no question of success unless the soul is there in the heart. So the presence of the soul has to be accepted. In sexual intercourse, if there is no soul, there is no conception, no pregnancy. Contraception deteriorates the womb so that it no longer is a good place for the soul. That is against the order of God. By the order of God, a soul is sent to a particular womb, but by this contraceptive he is denied that womb and has to be placed in another. That is disobedience to the Supreme. For example, take a man who is supposed to live in a particular apartment. If the situation there is so disturbed that he cannot enter the apartment, then he is put at a great disadvantage. That is illegal interference and is punishable.
The undertaking of "soul research" would certainly mark the advancement of science. But advancement of science will not be able to find the soul. The soul's presence can simply be accepted on circumstantial understanding. You will find in the Vedic literature that the dimension of the soul is one ten-thousandth the size of a point. The material scientist cannot measure the length and breadth of a point. Therefore it is not possible for the material scientist to capture the soul. You can simply accept the soul's existence by taking it from authority. What the greatest scientists are finding, we've explained long ago.
As soon as one understands the existence of the soul, he can immediately understand the existence of God. The difference between God and the soul is that God is a very great soul, and the living entity is a very small soul; but qualitatively they are equal. Therefore God is all-pervading, and the living entity is localized. But the nature and quality are the same.
The central question, you say, is "Where is the soul, and where does it come from?" That is not difficult to understand. We have already discussed that the soul is residing in the heart of the living entity and that it takes shelter in another body after death. Originally the soul comes from God. Just as a spark comes from fire, and when the spark falls down it appears to be extinguished, the spark of soul originally comes from the spiritual world to the material world. In the material world he falls down into three different conditions, which are called the modes of nature. When a spark of fire falls on dry grass, the fiery quality continues; when the spark falls on the ground, it cannot display its fiery manifestation unless the ground is favorably situated; and when the spark falls on water, it becomes extinguished. As such, we find three kinds of living conditions. One living entity is completely forgetful of his spiritual nature; another is almost forgetful but still has an instinct of spiritual nature; and another is completely in search of spiritual perfection. There is a bona fide method for the attainment of spiritual perfection by the spiritual spark of soul, and if he is properly guided then he is very easily sent back home, back to Godhead, wherefrom he originally fell.
It will be a great contribution to human society if this authorized information from the Vedic literature is presented to the modern world on the basis of modern scientific understanding. The fact is already there. It simply has to be presented for modern understanding.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami