SSR 3: Discovering the Roots
The Immortal Nectar of the Bhagavad-gītā
Through Thy eighteen chapters
Thou showerest upon man
The immortal nectar
Of the wisdom of the Absolute.
O blessed Gītā,
By Thee, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself
Afterward, the ancient sage Vyāsa
Included Thee in the Mahābhārata.
O loving mother,
Destroyer of man's rebirth
Into the darkness of this mortal world,
Upon Thee I meditate.
Salutations to thee, O Vyāsa.
Thou art of mighty intellect,
And thine eyes
Are large as the petals
Of the full-blown lotus.
It was thou
Who brightened this lamp of wisdom,
Filling it with the oil
Of the Mahābhārata.
Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya was an impersonalist from the materialistic point of view. But he never denied the spiritual form known as sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha
No one would care to read the Gītā if it had been spoken by a material man, and certainly Vyāsadeva would not have bothered to incorporate it into the history of the Mahābhārata. According to the above verses, Mahābhārata is the history of the ancient world, and Vyāsadeva is the writer of this great epic. The Bhagavad-gītā is identical with Kṛṣṇa; and because Kṛṣṇa is the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His words. Therefore the Bhagavad-gītā is as worshipable as Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, both being absolute. One who hears the Bhagavad-gītā "as is" actually hears the words directly from the lotus lips of the Lord. But unfortunate persons say that the Gītā is too antiquated for the modern man, who wants to find out God by speculation or meditation.
I salute Thee, O Kṛṣṇa
O Thou who art the refuge
Of ocean-born Lakṣmī
And all who take refuge
At Thy lotus feet.
Thou art indeed
The wish-fulfilling tree
For Thy devotee.
Thy one hand holds a staff
For driving cows,
And Thy other hand is raised-
The thumb touching the tip
Of Thy forefinger,
Indicating divine knowledge.
Salutations to Thee, O Supreme Lord,
For Thou art the milker
Of the ambrosia of the Gītā.
Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya explicitly says, "You fools, just worship Govinda and that Bhagavad-gītā spoken by Nārāyaṇa Himself," yet foolish people still conduct their research work to find out Nārāyaṇa; consequently they are wretched, and they waste their time for nothing. Nārāyaṇa is never wretched nor daridra; rather, He is worshiped by the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, as well as by all living entities. Śaṅkara declared himself to be "Brahman," but he admits Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, to be the Supreme Personality who is beyond the material creation. He offers his respects to Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Brahman, or Para-brahman, because He (Kṛṣṇa) is worshipable by everyone. Only the fools and enemies of Kṛṣṇa, who cannot understand what the Bhagavad-gītā is (though they make commentaries on it), say, "It is not the personal Kṛṣṇa to whom we have to surrender ourselves utterly, but the unborn, beginningless Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa." Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Whereas Śaṅkara, the greatest of the impersonalists, offers his due respects to Kṛṣṇa and His book the Bhagavad-gītā, the foolish say that "we need not surrender to the personal Kṛṣṇa." Such unenlightened people do not know that Kṛṣṇa is absolute and that there is no difference between His inside and outside. The difference of inside and outside is experienced in the dual, material world. In the absolute world there is no such difference, because in the absolute everything is spiritual (sac-cid-ānanda), and Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, belongs to the absolute world. In the absolute world there is only the factual personality, and there is no distinction between body and soul.
Are as a herd of cows,
Lord Kṛṣṇa, son of a cowherd,
Is their milker,
Arjuna is the calf,
The supreme nectar of the Gītā
Is the milk,
And the wise man
Of purified intellect
Is the drinker.
Unless one understands spiritual variegatedness, one cannot understand the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is said that Kṛṣṇa's name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage, and paraphernalia are all ānanda-cinmaya-rasa—in short, everything of His transcendental association is of the same composition of spiritual bliss, knowledge, and eternity. There is no end to His name, form, etc., unlike in the material world, where all things have their end. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, only fools deride Him; whereas it is Śaṅkara, the greatest impersonalist, who worships Him, His cows, and His pastimes as the son of Vasudeva and pleasure of Devakī.
Thou son of Vasudeva
Destroyer of the demons Kaṁsa and Cāṇūra,
Thou supreme bliss of Mother Devakī,
O Thou, guru of the universe,
Teacher of the worlds,
Thee, O Kṛṣṇa, I salute.
Śaṅkara describes Him as the son of Vasudeva and Devakī. Does he mean thereby that he is worshiping an ordinary, material man? He worships Kṛṣṇa because he knows that Kṛṣṇa's birth and activities are all supernatural. As stated in the
bhaja govindaṁ bhaja govindaṁ
bhaja govindam mūḍha-mate
samprāpte sannihite kāle
na hi na hi rakṣati ḍukṛñ-karaṇe
"You intellectual fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death."
Of that terrifying river
Of the battlefield of Kurukṣetra
Over which the Pāṇḍavas victoriously crossed,
Bhīṣma and Droṇa were as the high banks,
Jayadratha as the river's water,
The King of Gāndhāra the blue water-lily,
Śalya the shark, Kṛpa the current,
Karṇa the mighty waves,
Aśvatthāmā and Vikarṇa the dread alligators,
And Duryodhana the very whirlpool-
But Thou, O Kṛṣṇa, wast the ferryman!
May the spotless lotus of the Mahābhārata
That grows on the waters
Of the words of Vyāsa
And of which the Bhagavad-gītā
Is the irresistibly sweet fragrance
And its tales of heroes
The full-blown petals
Fully opened by the talk of Lord Hari,
Who destroys the sins
And on which daily light
The nectar-seeking souls,
As so many bees
May this lotus of the Mahābhārata
Bestow on us the highest good.
Salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa
The embodiment of supreme bliss,
By whose grace and compassion
The dumb become eloquent
And the lame scale mountains-
Him I salute!
Foolish followers of foolish speculators cannot understand the meaning of offering salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the embodiment of bliss. Śaṅkara himself offered his salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa so that some of his intelligent followers might understand the real fact by the example set by their great master, Śaṅkara, the incarnation of Lord Śiva. But there are many obstinate followers of Śaṅkara who refuse to offer their salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa and instead mislead innocent persons by injecting materialism into the Bhagavad-gītā and confusing innocent readers by their commentaries, and consequently the readers never have the opportunity to become blessed by offering salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the cause of all causes. The greatest disservice to humanity is to keep mankind in darkness about the science of Kṛṣṇa, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by distorting the sense of the Gītā.
Salutations to that supreme shining one
Whom the creator Brahmā, Varuṇa,
Indra, Rudra, Marut, and all divine beings
Praise with hymns,
Whose glories are sung
By the verses of the Vedas,
Of whom the singers of Sāma sing
And of whose glories the Upaniṣads
Proclaim in full choir,
Whom the yogīs see
With their minds absorbed
In perfect meditation,
And of whom all the hosts
Of gods and demons
Know not the limitations.
To Him, the Supreme God, Kṛṣṇa, be all salutations—
Him we salute! Him we salute! Him we salute!
By recitation of the ninth verse of his meditation, quoted from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śaṅkara has indicated that Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshipable by one and all, including himself. He gives hints to materialists, impersonalists, mental speculators, "void" philosophers, and all other candidates subjected to the punishment of material miseries—just offer salutations to Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is worshiped by Brahmā, Śiva, Varuṇa, Indra, and all other demigods. He has not mentioned, however, the name of Viṣṇu, because Viṣṇu is identical with Kṛṣṇa. The Vedas and the Upaniṣads are meant for understanding the process by which one can surrender unto Kṛṣṇa. The yogīs try to see Him (Kṛṣṇa) within themselves by meditation. In other words, it is for all the demigods and demons who do not know where the ultimate end is that Śaṅkara teaches, and he especially instructs the demons and the fools to offer salutations to Kṛṣṇa and His words, the Bhagavad-gītā, by following in his footsteps. Only by such acts will the demons be benefited, not by misleading their innocent followers by so-called mental speculations or show-bottle meditations. Śaṅkara directly offers salutations to Kṛṣṇa, as if to show the fools, who are searching after light, that here ls light like the sun. But the fallen demons are like owls that will not open their eyes on account of their fear of the sunlight itself. These owls will never open their eyes to see the sublime light of Kṛṣṇa and His words the Bhagavad-gītā. They will, however, comment on the Gītā with their closed owl-eyes to mislead their unfortunate readers and followers. Śaṅkara, however, discloses the light to his less intelligent followers and shows that the Bhagavad-gītā and Kṛṣṇa are the only source of light. This is all to teach the sincere seekers of truth to offer salutation to Lord Kṛṣṇa and thus surrender unto Him without misgivings. That is the highest perfection of life, and that is the highest teaching of Śaṅkara, the great learned scholar whose teachings drove the voidist philosophy of Buddha out of India, the land of knowledge. Oṁ tat sat.
The Scriptural Basis of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness
"Dr. J. F. Staal, Professor of Philosophy and Near Eastern [sic] Languages at UC Berkeley and an instructor in Indian philosophy, believes that the Kṛṣṇa sect is an authentic Indian religion and that its adherents are sincere. He attributes the Society's rapid increase in members to the tendency of today's younger generation to reject organized churchgoing while at the same time searching for fulfillment of a belief in mysticism.
"He points out, however, that persons who turn away from Christianity, Muhammadanism, and Judaism have usually lost faith with the personal god of those religions and are looking for a mystical religion without absolutes.
" 'These people in the Kṛṣṇa movement have turned to Hinduism, but, curiously, it is a cult that is highly personalistic,' Staal said. 'They accept a personal god, Kṛṣṇa, and Christianity has that. I feel that they have transferred some of their Christian background to a Hindu sect.'
"He also feels that they spend too much time chanting to develop a philosophy. On these grounds he and others on the faculty turned down the request to grant credit for an experimental course in Kṛṣṇa consciousness that will be taught during the winter quarter by Hans Kary, president of the sect's Berkeley temple."
Śrīla Prabhupāda's Letter to the Los Angeles Times
January 14, 1970
Los Angeles Times
Dear Sir:With reference to your article in the Los Angeles Times dated Sunday, January 11, 1970, under the heading "Kṛṣṇa Chant," I beg to point out that the Hindu religion is perfectly based on the personal conception of God, or Viṣṇu. The impersonal conception of God is a side issue, or one of the three features of God. The Absolute Truth is ultimately the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Paramātmā conception is the localized aspect of His omnipresence, and the impersonal conception is the aspect of His greatness and eternity. But all these combined together make the Complete Whole.
Dr. J. F. Staal's statement that the Kṛṣṇa cult is a combination of Christian and Hindu religion, as if something manufactured by concoction, is not correct. If Christian, Muhammadan, or Buddhist religions are personal, that is quite welcome. But the Kṛṣṇa religion has been personal from a time long, long ago when Christian, Muhammadan, and Buddhist religions had not yet come into existence. According to the Vedic conception, religion is basically made by the personal God as His laws. Religion cannot be manufactured by man or anyone except God superior to man. Religion is the law of God only.
Unfortunately, all the svāmīs who came before me in this country stressed the impersonal aspect of God, without sufficient knowledge of God's personal aspect. In the Bhagavad-gītā, therefore, it is said that only less intelligent persons consider that God is originally impersonal but assumes a form when He incarnates. The Kṛṣṇa philosophy, however, based on the authority of the Vedas, is that originally the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His plenary expansion is present in everyone's heart in His localized aspect, and the impersonal Brahman effulgence is the transcendental light and heat distributed everywhere.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly said that the aim of the Vedic way of searching out the Absolute Truth is to find the personal God. One who is satisfied only with the other aspects of the Absolute Truth, namely the Paramātmā feature or the Brahman feature, is to be considered possessed of a poor fund of knowledge. Recently we have published our Śrī Īśopaniṣad, a Vedic literature, and in this small booklet we have thoroughly discussed this point.
As far as the Hindu religion is concerned, there are millions of Kṛṣṇa temples in India, and there is not a single Hindu who does not worship Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not a concocted idea. We invite all scholars, philosophers, religionists, and members of the general public to understand this movement by critical study. And if one does so seriously, one will understand the sublime position of this great movement.
The chanting process is also authorized. Professor Staal's feeling of disgust in the matter of constant chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is a definite proof of his lack of knowledge in this authorized movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Instead of turning down the request to give Kary's course credit, he and all other learned professors of the University of California at Berkeley should patiently hear about the truth of this authorized movement so much needed at present in godless society. [Credit for the course was later established.] This is the only movement which can save the confused younger generation. I shall invite all responsible guardians of this country to understand this transcendental movement and then give us all honest facilities to spread it for everyone's benefit.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Spiritual Master of the Hare Kṛṣṇa Movement
The Exchange Between Śrīla Prabhupāda and Dr. Staal
Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Thank you very much for sending me a copy of your letter to the Los Angeles Times, now also published in the Daily Californian. I think you will agree with me that apart from publicity, little is gained by discussing religious or philosophic issues through interviews and letters in the press; but allow me to make two brief observations.
First, I know that devotion to Kṛṣṇa is old (though definitely not as old as the Vedas) and has never been influenced by Christianity, Islam, or Judaism (I never referred to Buddhism in this connection). The differences between the personal and impersonal are relatively vague, but adopting this distinction for simplicity, I expressed surprise at seeing people who have grown up in a Western culture which stresses the personal take to an Indian cult which does the same. I am less surprised when people who are dissatisfied with Western monotheism take to an Indian philosophy which stresses an impersonal absolute.
Second, I never expressed nor felt disgust at the chanting of the name of Kṛṣṇa. I am not only not irritated at it (like some people), but I rather like it. But it is an indisputable fact that the Bhagavad-gītā (not to mention the Vedas) does not require such constant chanting. The Gītā deals with quite different subjects, which I treat at some length in my courses on the philosophies of India.
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
J. F. Staal
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
University of California
My dear Professor Staal:
I thank you very much for your kind letter dated January 23, 1970. In the last paragraph of your letter you have mentioned that you are not irritated at the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra (like some people), but rather like it. This has given me much satisfaction, and I am sending herewith a copy of our magazine, Back to Godhead, issue number 28, in which you will find how the students [at a program at Ohio State University] liked this chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, although all of them were neophytes to this cult of chanting. Actually this chanting is very pleasing to the heart and is the best means of infusing spiritual consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, into the hearts of people in general.
This is the easiest process of spiritual realization and is recommended in the Vedas. In the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa it is clearly stated that it is only chanting of the holy name of Hari [Kṛṣṇa] that can save people from the problems of materialistic existence, and there is no other alternative, no other alternative, no other alternative in this age of Kali.
Western culture is monotheistic, but Westerners are being misled by impersonal Indian speculation. The young people of the West are frustrated because they are not diligently taught about monotheism. They are not satisfied with this process of teaching and understanding. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is a boon to them, because they are being really trained to understand Western monotheism under the authoritative Vedic system. We do not simply theoretically discuss; rather, we learn by the prescribed method of Vedic regulations.
But I am surprised to see that in the last paragraph of your letter you say, "It is an indisputable fact that the Bhagavad-gītā (not to mention the Vedas) does not require such constant chanting." I think that you have missed the following verse in the Bhagavad-gītā, apart from many other similar verses:
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
The engagement of the great souls, freed from delusion and perfect in their realization of God, is described here: satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ—they are always (satataṁ) chanting (kīrtayantaḥ) My glories and—nitya-yuktā upāsate-always worshiping Me (Kṛṣṇa).
So I do not know how you can say "indisputable." And, if you want references from the Vedas, I can give you many. In the Vedas, the chief transcendental vibration oṁkāra is also Kṛṣṇa. Praṇava oṁkāra is the divine substance of the Vedas. Following the Vedas means chanting the Vedic mantras, and no Vedic mantra is complete without oṁkāra. In the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, oṁkāra is stated to be the most auspicious sound representation of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed again in the Atharva Veda. Oṁkara is the sound representation of the Supreme Lord and is therefore the principal word in the Vedas. In this connection, the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, says, praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu: "I am the syllable oṁ in all the Vedic mantras." (Bg.
Furthermore, in Bhagavad-gītā, Chapter Fifteen,
The goal of Vedantic study, therefore, is to know the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. This point is stressed in the Bhagavad-gītā, Chapter Eight, verse
This is accepted by the exemplary disciple, Arjuna, who has perfectly learned the conclusion of spiritual science from the yogeśvara, the master of mystic knowledge, Kṛṣṇa. Recognizing Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme Brahman, Arjuna addresses Him, sthāne hṛṣīkeśa...: "The world becomes joyful hearing Your name, and thus do all become attached to You." (Bg.
In the Nārada Pañcarātra it is stated that all the Vedic rituals, mantras, and understanding are compressed into the eight words Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare. Similarly, in the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad it is stated that these sixteen words, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, are especially meant for counteracting the degrading and contaminating influence of this materialistic age of Kali.
All these points are elaborately presented in my book Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
The process of chanting is, therefore, not only the sublime method for practical perfection of life but the authorized Vedic principle inaugurated by the greatest Vedic scholar and devotee, Lord Caitanya (whom we consider an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa). We are simply following in His authorized footsteps.
The scope of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is universal. The process for regaining one's original spiritual status of eternal life, full with bliss and knowledge, is not abstract, dry theorizing. Spiritual life is not described in the Vedas as theoretical, dry, or impersonal. The Vedas aim at the inculcation of pure love of God only, and this harmonious conclusion is practically realized by the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, or by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.
As the goal of spiritual realization is only one, love of God, so the Vedas stand as a single comprehensive whole in the matter of transcendental understanding. Only the incomplete views of various parties apart from the bona fide Vedic lines of teaching give a rapturous appearance to the Bhagavad-gītā. The reconciliative factor adjusting all apparently diverse propositions of the Vedas is the essence of the Veda, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness (love of God).
Thanking you once again,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Thank you very much for your kindness in sending me your long and interesting letter of January 30, together with the last issue of Back to Godhead. So far I have had a few discussions with members of your society here, but they were not entirely satisfactory from my point of view. But now I have your much more authoritative letter, whereby the discussion moves to a higher level.
And yet, I am afraid, you have not convinced me that all the scriptures you quote prescribe only chanting of the name of Kṛṣṇa. Let me refer only to the most important ones.
More important, I think, than the precise meaning of this word, is that the entire verse does not require that everyone always engage in kīrtana, but merely states that some great souls do so. This is obvious from the next verse, which states that anye, "others," engage in jñāna: yajñena... yajanto mām, "worshiping me... with the worship of knowledge." The Bhagavad-gītā is broad-minded and tolerant of a variety of religious approaches, although it also stresses one aspect above all others (i.e., sarva-phala-tyāga).
Finally, in the last sūtra of the Vedānta-sūtra, anāvṛttiḥ śabdāt..., śabda refers to the scripture or to the revelation of the Vedas, as is clear from the context and from the commentators. Śaṅkara quotes a number of texts (ending with ity ādi-śabdebhyaḥ, "according to these śabdas") to support this, i.e., to support the statement that "according to the scripture there is no return." He also refers to śabda in this sūtra by saying mantrārtha-vādādi..., "mantras, descriptions, etc." Vācaspati Miśra in the Bhāmati supports this and clarifies it further by adding that a contrary view is śruti-smṛti-virodhaḥ, "in conflict with the smṛti and the śruti."
Thanking you once again for your kind attention.
J. F. Staal
J. F. Staal
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
My dear Dr. Staal:
I am very glad to receive your letter dated Sunday, February 8, 1970. I am very much pleased also to note the contents.
Regarding convincing you that all scriptures prescribe chanting of the name of Kṛṣṇa, I can simply present the authority of Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya recommended, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ ["Hari, Kṛṣṇa, is constantly to be praised" (
In this way we find all the scriptures aiming at the Supreme Person. In the
Regarding the Bhagavad-gītā, verse
nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayaṁ
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
"O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls." (
It is said that Mahārāja Parīkṣit attained salvation simply by hearing, and similarly Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained salvation simply by chanting. In our devotional service there are nine different methods for achieving the same goal, love of Godhead, and the first process is hearing. This hearing process is called śruti. The next process is chanting. The chanting process is smṛti. We accept both śruti and smṛti simultaneously. We consider śruti the mother and smṛti the sister, because a child hears from the mother and then again learns from the sister by description.
Śruti and smṛti are two parallel lines. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī therefore says:
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
That is, without references to śruti, smṛti, Purāṇas, and Pañcarātras, unadulterated devotional service is never achieved. Therefore, anyone who shows a devotional ecstasy without reference to the śāstras [Vedic scriptures] simply creates disturbances. On the other hand, if we simply stick to the śrutīs, then we become
Therefore Bhagavad-gītā, although smṛti, is the essence of all Vedic scripture,
Regarding Ānandagiri's quotation that kīrtana means vedānta-śravaṇaṁ praṇava japaś ca ["listening to the Vedānta and muttering oṁ"], the knower of Vedānta is Kṛṣṇa, and He is the compiler of Vedānta. He is veda-vit and vedānta-kṛt. So where is there a greater opportunity for vedānta-śravaṇa than to hear it from Kṛṣṇa?
Regarding the next verse, in which it is mentioned that jñāna-yajñena... yajanto mām, the object of worship is Kṛṣṇa, as indicated by mām ["Me"]. The process is described in the Īśopaniṣad,
vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yas
tad vedobhayaṁ saha
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā
"Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality."
The culture of vidyā, or transcendental knowledge, is essential for the human being, otherwise the culture of avidyā, or nescience, binds him to conditional existence on the material platform. Materialistic existence means the pursuit or culture of sense gratification, and this kind of knowledge of sense gratification (avidyā) means advancement of repeated birth and death. Those who are absorbed in such knowledge cannot learn any lesson from the laws of nature, and they do the same things over repeatedly, being enamored of the beauty of illusory things. Vidyā, or factual knowledge, on the other hand, means to know thoroughly the process of nescient activities while at the same time culturing transcendental science and thereby undeviatingly following the path of liberation.
Liberation is the enjoyment of the full blessings of immortality. This immortality is enjoyed in the eternal kingdom of God (sambhūty-amṛtam aśnute), the region of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and is the result obtained by worshiping the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes, sambhavāt. So in this way real knowledge, vidyā, means to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa; that is jñāna-yajñena, the worship of knowledge.
This jñāna-yajñena... yajanto mām is the perfection of knowledge, as stated in the
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ
"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me [Kṛṣṇa], knowing Me to be the cause of all causes, and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."
If one has not yet come to this conclusion of knowledge and simply indulges in dry speculation without Kṛṣṇa, then his hard speculative labor is something like beating empty husks of grain. The unhulled rice and the empty husks of rice look very much the same. One who knows how to get the grain out of the unhulled rice is wise, but one who beats on the empty husk, thinking to get some result, is simply wasting his labor uselessly. Similarly, if one studies the Vedas without finding the goal of the Vedas, Kṛṣṇa, he simply wastes his valuable time.
So to cultivate knowledge for worshiping Kṛṣṇa culminates after many, many births and deaths when one actually becomes wise. When one becomes wise in this way, he surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, recognizing Him at last to be the cause of all causes and all that is. That sort of great soul is very rare. So those who have surrendered to Kṛṣṇa life and soul are rare sudurlabha mahātmās. They are not ordinary mahātmās.
By the grace of Lord Caitanya that highest perfectional status of life is being distributed very freely. The effect is also very encouraging; otherwise, how are boys and girls without any background of Vedic culture quickly occupying the posts of rare mahātmās simply by vibrating this transcendental sound, Hare Kṛṣṇa? And simply on the basis of this chanting, the majority of them (those who are very sincere) are steady in devotional service and are not falling down to the four principles of material sinful life, namely (1) meat-eating, (2) illicit sexual connection, (3) taking of intoxicants, including coffee, tea, and tobacco, and (4) gambling. And that is the last sūtra of the Vedānta-sūtra, i.e., anāvṛttiḥ śabdāt ["By sound vibration one becomes liberated"].
One has to learn by the result (phalena paricīyate). Our students are ordered to act like this, and they are not falling down. That they are remaining on the platform of pure spiritual life without hankering to culture the above principles of avidyā, or sense gratification, is the test of their proper understanding of the Vedas. They do not come back to the material platform, because they are relishing the nectarean fruit of love of God.
Sarva-phala-tyāga ["renunciation of all the fruits of one's work"] is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā by the Lord Himself in the words sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Thank you very much for your very interesting letter of February 15, 1970, with enclosure.
I am afraid that whenever you quote a passage purporting to show that only the chanting of the name Kṛṣṇa is required, I can quote another one which requires something else, adding, yadi śloko 'pi pramāṇam, ayam api ślokaḥ pramāṇaṁ bhavitum arhati: "If mere verses are authoritative, this verse also ought to be regarded as authoritative." And there may be no end to this in the foreseeable future, as Patañjali also says, mahān hi śabdasya prayoga-viṣayaḥ: "For vast is the domain for the use of words."
J. F. Staal
Los Angeles, California 90034
April 24, 1970
Dear Dr. Staal:
I beg to thank you very much for your kind letter dated February 25, 1970. I am sorry that I could not reply to your letter earlier because I was a little busy in the matter of purchasing a new church estate at the above address. We have secured a very nice place for a separate temple, lecture room, my quarters, and the devotees' residential quarters, all together in a nice place with all the modern amenities.
I beg to request you to visit this place at your convenience, and if you kindly let me know a day before, my students will be very glad to receive you properly.
Regarding our correspondence, actually this quotation and counter-quotation cannot solve the problem. In a court both the learned lawyers quote from law books, but that is not the solution to the case. The determination of the case is the judgment of the presiding judge. So argument cannot bring us to a conclusion.
The scriptural quotations are sometimes contradictory, and every philosopher has a different opinion, because without putting forward a different thesis, no one can become a famous philosopher. It is therefore difficult to arrive at the right conclusion. The conclusion is, as above mentioned, to accept the judgment of authority. We follow the authority of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, and His version according to Vedic scripture is that in this age this chanting is the only solution for all problems of life. And that is actually being shown by practical experience.
Recently there was a big procession of our students in Berkeley on the Advent Day of Lord Caitanya, and the public has remarked as follows: "This crowd of men is not like others, who assemble to break windows and create havoc." This is also confirmed by the police in the following words: "Members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement cooperated fully with the police, and their efforts to maintain peaceful order throughout the parade were so successful that only minimal police involvement was required."
Similarly, in Detroit there was a big peace march, and our men were appreciated as "angels" in the crowd. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is actually needed at the present moment as the panacea for all kinds of problems in human society.
Other quotations will not act very appreciably at this time. In a drugstore there may be many medicines, and all may be genuine, but what is required is that an experienced physician prescribe medicine for a particular patient. We cannot say in this case, "This is also medicine, and this is also medicine." No. The medicine which is effective for a particular person is the medicine for him—phalena paricīyate.
Yours very sincerely,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Final Note by Śrīla Prabhupāda
In a court of justice two lawyers put forward their respective relevant arguments taken from the authorized law books to decide a point, but it is up to the judge to decide the case in favor of one of the litigants. When the opposing lawyers put forward their arguments, both of them are legal and bona fide, but the judgment is given as to which argument is applicable to the particular case.
Lord Caitanya gives His judgment on the authority of śāstras that the chanting of the holy names of the Lord is the only means to elevate one to the transcendental platform, and actually we can see it is effective. Each and every one of our students who has seriously taken to this process may be examined individually, and any impartial judge will find it easy to see that they have advanced in their transcendental realization further than any philosophers, religionists, yogīs, karmīs, etc.
We have to accept everything favorable to the circumstances. Rejection of other methods in a particular circumstance does not mean that the rejected ones are not bona fide. But for the time being, taking into consideration the age, time, and object, methods are sometimes rejected even though bona fide. We have to test everything by its practical result. By such a test, in this age the constant chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra undoubtedly proves very effective.
Hindu Cult or Divine Culture?
There is a misconception that the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement represents the Hindu religion. In fact, however, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is in no way a faith or religion that seeks to defeat other faiths or religions. Rather, it is an essential cultural movement for the entire human society and does not consider any particular sectarian faith. This cultural movement is especially meant to educate people in how they can love God.
Sometimes Indians both inside and outside of India think that we are preaching the Hindu religion, but actually we are not. One will not find the word Hindu in the Bhagavad-gītā. Indeed, there is no such word as Hindu in the entire Vedic literature. This word has been introduced by the Muslims from provinces next to India, such as Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia. There is a river called Sindhu bordering the north western provinces of India, and since the Muslims there could not pronounce Sindhu properly, they instead called the river Hindu, and the inhabitants of this tract of land they called Hindus. In India, according to the Vedic language, the Europeans are called mlecchas or yavanas. Similarly, Hindu is a name given by the Muslims.
India's actual culture is described in the Bhagavad-gītā, where it is stated that according to the different qualities or modes of nature there are different types of men, who are generally classified into four social orders and four spiritual orders. This system of social and spiritual division is known as varṇāśrama-dharma. The four varṇas, or social orders, are brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya. and śūdra. The four āśramas, or spiritual orders, are brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, and sannyāsa. The varṇāśrama system is described in the Vedic scriptures known as the Purāṇas. The goal of this institution of Vedic culture is to educate every man for advancement in knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, or God. That is the entire Vedic program.
When Lord Caitanya talked with the great devotee Rāmānanda Rāya, the Lord asked him, "What is the basic principle of human life?" Rāmānanda Rāya answered that human civilization begins when varṇāśrama-dharma is accepted. Before coming to the standard of varṇāśrama-dharma there is no question of human civilization. Therefore, the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to establish this right system of human civilization, which is known as Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or daiva-varṇāśrama—divine culture.
In India, the varṇāśrama system has now been taken in a perverted way, and thus a man born in the family of a brāhmaṇa (the highest social order) claims that he should be accepted as a brāhmaṇa. But this claim is not accepted by the śāstra (scripture). One's forefather may have been a brāhmaṇa according to gotra, or the family hereditary order, but real varṇāśrama-dharma is based on the factual quality one has attained, regardless of birth or heredity. Therefore, we are not preaching the present-day system of the Hindus, especially those who are under the influence of Śaṅkarācārya, for Śaṅkarācārya taught that the Absolute Truth is impersonal, and thus he indirectly denied the existence of God.
Śaṅkarācārya's mission was special; he appeared to reestablish the Vedic influence after the influence of Buddhism. Because Buddhism was patronized by Emperor Aśoka, twenty-six hundred years ago the Buddhist religion practically pervaded all of India. According to the Vedic literature, Buddha was an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa who had a special power and who appeared for a special purpose. His system of thought, or faith, was accepted widely, but Buddha rejected the authority of the Vedas. While Buddhism was spreading, the Vedic culture was stopped both in India and in other places. Therefore, since Śaṅkarācārya's only aim was to drive away Buddha's system of philosophy, he introduced a system called Māyāvāda.
Strictly speaking, Māyāvāda philosophy is atheism, for it is a process in which one imagines that there is God. This Māyāvāda system of philosophy has been existing since time immemorial. The present Indian system of religion or culture is based on the Māyāvāda philosophy of Śaṅkarācārya, which is a compromise with Buddhist philosophy. According to Māyāvāda philosophy there actually is no God, or if God exists, He is impersonal and all-pervading and can therefore be imagined in any form. This conclusion is not in accord with the Vedic literature. That literature names many demigods, who are worshiped for different purposes, but in every case the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, is accepted as the supreme controller. That is real Vedic culture.
The philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not deny the existence of God and the demigods, but Māyāvāda philosophy denies both; it maintains that neither the demigods nor God exists. For the Māyāvādīs, ultimately all is zero. They say that one may imagine any authority—whether Viṣṇu, Durgā, Lord Śiva, or the sun-god—because these are the demigods generally worshiped in society. But the Māyāvāda philosophy does not in fact accept the existence of any of them. The Māyāvādīs say that because one cannot concentrate one's mind on the impersonal Brahman, one may imagine any of these forms. This is a new system, called pañcopāsanā. It was introduced by Śaṅkarācārya, but the Bhagavad-gītā does not teach any such doctrines, and therefore they are not authoritative.
The Bhagavad-gītā accepts the existence of the demigods. The demigods are described in the Vedas, and one cannot deny their existence, but they are not to be understood or worshiped according to the way of Śaṅkarācārya. The worship of demigods is rejected in the Bhagavad-gītā. The
kāmais tais tair hṛta jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." Furthermore, in the
samādhau na vidhīyate
"In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service does not take place." Those who are pursuing the various demigods have been described as hṛta jñānāḥ, which means "those who have lost their sense." That is also further explained in the
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
"Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees reach My supreme abode." The rewards given by the demigods are temporary, because any material facility must act in connection with the temporary body. Whatever material facilities one gets, whether by modern scientific methods or by deriving benedictions from the demigods, will be finished with the body. But spiritual advancement will never be finished.
People should not think that we are preaching a sectarian religion. No. We are simply preaching how to love God. There are many theories about the existence of God. The atheist, for example, will never believe in God. Atheists like Professor Jacques Monod, who won the Nobel prize, declare that everything is chance (a theory already put forward long ago by atheistic philosophers of India such as Cārvāka). Then other philosophies, such as the karma-mīmāṁsā philosophy, accept that if one goes on doing his work nicely and honestly, automatically the result will come, without need for one to refer to God. For evidence, the proponents of such theories cite the argument that if one is diseased with an infection and takes medicine to counteract it, the disease will be neutralized. But our argument in this connection is that even if one gives a man the best medicine, he still may die. The results are not always predictable. Therefore, there is a higher authority, daiva-netreṇa, a supreme director. Otherwise, how is it that the son of a rich and pious man becomes a hippie in the street or that a man who works very hard and becomes rich is told by his doctor, "Now you may not eat any food, but only barley water"?
The karma-mīmāṁsā theory holds that the world is going on without the supreme direction of God. Such philosophies say that everything takes place by lust (kāma-haitukam). By lust a man becomes attracted to a woman, and by chance there is sex, and the woman becomes pregnant. There is actually no plan to make the woman pregnant, but by a natural sequence when a man and a woman unite, a result is produced. The atheistic theory, which is described in the Sixteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā as asuric, or demoniac, is that actually everything is going on in this way, because of chance and resulting from natural attraction. This demoniac theory supports the idea that if one wants to avoid children, he may use a contraceptive method.
Actually, however, there is a great plan for everything—the Vedic plan. The Vedic literature gives directions regarding how men and women should unite, how they should beget children, and what the purpose of sex life is. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā that sex life sanctioned by the Vedic order, or sex life under the direction of the Vedic rules and regulations, is bona fide and is acceptable to Him. But chance sex life is not acceptable. If by chance one is sexually attracted and there are children, they are called varṇa-saṅkara, unwanted population. That is the way of the lower animals; it is not acceptable for humans. For humans, there is a plan. We cannot accept the theory that there is no plan for human life or that everything is born of chance and material necessity.
Śaṅkarācārya's theory that there is no God and that one can go on with his work and imagine God in any form just to keep peace and tranquillity in society is also more or less based on this idea of chance and necessity. Our way, however, which is completely different, is based on authority. It is this divine varṇāśrama-dharma that Kṛṣṇa recommends, not the caste system as it is understood today. This modern caste system is now condemned in India also, and it should be condemned, for the classification of different types of men according to birth is not the Vedic or divine caste system.
There are many classes of men in society—some men are engineers, some are medical practitioners, some are chemists, tradesmen, businessmen, and so on. These varieties of classes are not to be determined by birth, however, but by quality. No such thing as the caste-by-birth system is sanctioned by the Vedic literature, nor do we accept it. We have nothing to do with the caste system, which is also at present being rejected by the public in India. Rather, we give everyone the chance to become a brāhmaṇa and thus attain the highest status of life.
Because at the present moment there is a scarcity of brāhmaṇas, spiritual guides, and kṣatriyas, administrative men, and because the entire world is being ruled by śūdras, or men of the manual laborer class, there are many discrepancies in society. It is to mitigate all these discrepancies that we have taken to this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. If the brāhmaṇa class is actually reestablished, the other orders of social well-being will automatically follow, just as when the brain is perfectly in order, the other parts of the body, such as the arms, the belly, and the legs, all act very nicely.
The ultimate goal of this movement is to educate people in how to love God. Caitanya Mahāprabhu approves the conclusion that the highest perfection of human life is to learn how to love God. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion. No Christian gentleman will be interested in changing his faith from Christian to Hindu. Similarly, no Hindu gentleman of culture will be ready to change to the Christian faith. Such changing is for men who have no particular social status. But everyone will be interested in understanding the philosophy and science of God and taking it seriously. One should clearly understand that the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not preaching the so-called Hindu religion. We are giving a spiritual culture that can solve all the problems of life, and therefore it is being accepted all over the world.