Chapter 17: Taking Shelter of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Controller
nānyatra mad bhagavataḥ
bhayaṁ tīvraṁ nivartate
The terrible fear of birth and death can never be forsaken by anyone who resorts to any shelter other than Myself, for I am the almighty Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original source of all creation, and also the Supreme Soul of all souls.
It is indicated herein that the cycle of birth and death cannot be stopped unless one is a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord. It is said, hariṁ vinā naiva sṛtiṁ taranti. One cannot surpass the cycle of birth and death unless one is favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The same concept is conﬁrmed herewith: one may take to the system of understanding the Absolute Truth by one’s own imperfect sensory speculation, or one may try to realize the self by the mystic yoga process; but whatever one may do, unless he comes to the point of surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, no process can give him liberation. One may ask if this means that those who are undergoing so much penance and austerity by strictly following the rules and regulations are endeavoring in vain. The answer is given by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32): ye ’nye ’ravindākṣa vimukta-māninaḥ. Lord Brahmā and other demigods prayed to the Lord when Kṛṣṇa was in the womb of Devakī: “My dear lotus-eyed Lord, there are persons who are puffed up with the thought that they have become liberated or one with God or have become God, but they are unintelligent.” It is stated that their intelligence, whether high or low, is not even puriﬁed. With puriﬁed intelligence, a living entity cannot think otherwise than to surrender. Bhagavad-gītā, therefore, conﬁrms that puriﬁed intelligence arises in a very wise man. Bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate. After many, many births, one who is actually advanced in intelligence surrenders unto the Supreme Lord.
Without surrendering, one cannot achieve liberation. The Bhāgavatam says, “Those who are simply puffed up, thinking themselves liberated by some nondevotional process, are not intelligent because they have not yet surrendered unto You. In spite of executing all kinds of austerities and penances or even arriving at the brink of Brahman realization, they think that they are in the effulgence of Brahman. But actually, because they have no transcendental activities, they fall down to material activities.” One should not be satisﬁed simply with knowing that he is Brahman. He must engage himself in the service of the Supreme Brahman; that is bhakti. The engagement of Brahman should be the service of Para-brahman. It is said that unless one becomes Brahman, one cannot serve Brahman. The Supreme Brahman is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the living entity is also Brahman. Without realizing that he is Brahman, spirit soul, an eternal servitor of the Lord, if one simply thinks that he is Brahman, his realization is only theoretical. He has to realize and at the same time engage himself in the devotional service of the Lord; then he can exist in the Brahman status. Otherwise he falls down.
The Bhāgavatam says that because nondevotees neglect the transcendental loving service of the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, their intelligence is not pure, and therefore they fall down. The living entity must have some activity. If he does not engage in the activity of transcendental service, he must fall down to material activity. As soon as one falls down to material activity, there is no rescue from the cycle of birth and death. It is stated here by Lord Kapila, “Without My mercy” (nānyatra mad-bhagavataḥ). The Lord is stated here to be Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, indicating that He is full of all opulences and is therefore perfectly competent to deliver one from the cycle of birth and death. He is also called pradhāna because He is the Supreme. He is equal to everyone, but to one who surrenders to Him He is especially favorable. It is also conﬁrmed in Bhagavad-gītā that the Lord is equal to everyone; no one is His enemy and no one is His friend. But to one who surrenders unto Him, He is especially inclined. By the grace of the Lord, simply by surrendering unto Him one can get out of this cycle of birth and death. Otherwise, he may go on in many, many lives and may many times attempt other processes for liberation.
Presently we are so dull and foolish that we do not know what is bhayam and tīvram. The word tīvram means “very terrible,” and bhayam means “very fearsome.” We are entangled by a very terrible fear, but we have become so dull due to the spell of māyā that we do not care. At the time of death there are many troubles, and we become very fearful. Sometimes, when a person is dying, he falls into a coma and lies unconscious. We do not know what kind of fearful test this person is undergoing. He may be dreaming so many things, or he may be crying. He cannot express what is going on. Those who are very sinful especially die in that way. After death, one has to enter into the womb of another mother. That is also a very fearful stage. One becomes packed in a bag, and this bag is ﬁlled with stool and urine, and one has to remain packed in this airtight bag for nine months.
This is a horrible situation, but we have forgotten all about it. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā that our real trouble is janma-mṛtyu – birth and death. When the living entity is packed in the womb, unable to move, he prays to God, “Please relieve me from this horrible condition. If You relieve me, I shall worship You.” Finally, after nine months, the living entity emerges from the womb, and then he also undergoes so many troubles trying to adjust to the atmosphere of a new planet. As an infant, he cries and cries, and he is totally dependent on his mother’s mercy. Sometimes a mother cannot understand what the child wants. Sometimes an ant may be biting the child, but the mother thinks that the child is hungry. There are bugs, worms, mosquitoes, stool, urine and so many things attacking the new body. These are the threefold miseries, yet we think that we have made such progress. We are being attacked moment after moment by one thing after another, yet people close their eyes to birth, old age, disease and death. The atheists want to forget these miseries, and therefore they like to think that there is no life after death. They are like ostriches, who stick their head in the ground when an enemy approaches.
Although the living entity in the womb promises to worship Kṛṣṇa, when he is delivered from the womb he does not fulﬁll his promise. As soon as he is born and grows up, he begins to acquire a good bank balance, a wife and children and then begins to think that his problems are solved and that he will live very happily. Actually his problems are not solved. He may have some temporary facilities, but the main problem is still there. Every minute, every second, people are dying and going to Yamarāja. Those who are living are thinking that they will not die. They see that their friends are dying, but somehow or other they think that they are eternal. Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said that this was the most amazing thing in the world. No one thinks that he is going to die, although everyone else is dying.
The living entity thinks that he is very happy in whatever body he gets. He may get the body of a dog or the body of a cat, but he is happy in his body, and he does not want to lose it. This is called illusion. When an ant sees danger, he will run like anything. This is because he values his body and does not want to lose it. Once Lord Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, was cursed by Bṛhaspati to become a hog. He was going about on earth enjoying his hog body when ﬁnally Lord Brahmā came and told him, “My dear Indra, you have suffered enough. Now come with me and return to your heavenly kingdom.” Indra in the form of a hog said, “Where shall I go?” “To the heavens,” Lord Brahmā replied. It was then that Indra said, “No, I have my family and children. How can I go? I am very happy. Let me remain here.” In this way, everyone is thinking that he is very happy, although he is in a horrible and fearsome condition. However, one who is actually intelligent can understand that he is not actually happy, that he is suffering. It is said that ignorance is bliss, but this is the bliss of a hog. When one actually comes to the understanding that he is not actually happy in the material world, he can begin to relieve his suffering.
There is no possibility of being liberated from suffering without taking shelter at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. People are thinking that they can relieve suffering through abortion, by killing the child within the womb. In this way they are committing one sin after another and becoming more and more entangled. Consequently the aborted living entity will have to enter into the womb of another mother in order to undergo the birth that he is destined to take. Then, when he enters the womb of another mother, he may again be killed, and for many years he may not be allowed to see the light of the sun. In this Kali-yuga, people are becoming so sinful that there is no possibility of rescue unless one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The entire human civilization is falling into the illusory ﬁre of māyā. People ﬂy into the ﬁre just like moths. When there is a beautiful ﬁre, moths come from a long distance, enter it and go pop, pop, pop. In this way one dies, takes birth and suffers and dies again.
Yet Kṛṣṇa and His devotees are so kind and compassionate that they are unhappy to see all the misery of this material world. Kṛṣṇa is the father of all living entities, and He is very unhappy to see His sons suffer. Kṛṣṇa therefore comes and canvasses: “Why are you captivated by this false, so-called happiness? Give up all of this and surrender to Me. Come to Me, and I will relieve you. You will then live happily, eternally and blissfully. You will not have any want, nor will you be troubled by anything.” For this reason Kṛṣṇa comes. Actually He has no other business to carry out here because His agent prakṛti does everything. Nonetheless, out of compassion Kṛṣṇa comes in His original form or in an incarnation like Kapiladeva. Kṛṣṇa also sends His representative, who says, “You rascal! Simply take shelter of Kṛṣṇa and be happy.”
Kṛṣṇa comes once in a day of Brahmā, and His incarnations also come, to educate foolish people who think that they are living happily on this earth. Kapiladeva comes to propound this Sāṅkhya philosophy, which is unalloyed devotion to the Lord. Herein Kapiladeva says that one is condemned to death unless he takes shelter of the Lord. There is no other way to be saved. We are all in a very fearful situation, but we do not understand this. Under the spell of māyā, we are thinking we are very happy, but this is not a fact. If we want relief from our dangerous situation, we have to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and revive our old connection with Him. What is that connection? We are all His eternal servants. We should not foolishly think that we can become one with God or equal to God. This is all the result of rascaldom. The beginning of knowledge is to understand that we are the eternal sons and servants of Kṛṣṇa. There is no difference between a son and a servant. The son serves the father, just as the servant serves the master. There is affection between master and servant and son and father. The father also serves the son in so many ways; therefore the relationship is reciprocal. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has deﬁned our original svarūpa, our original identity, as that of eternal servant. People are artiﬁcially thinking, “I am independent. I am no one’s servant. I have become God. I have become Bhagavān. I am this, or I am that.”
In the material world, it is not very pleasant to be a servant of anyone. We think that being God’s servant is like this because we are materially infected. We are thinking that being a servant of God is like being a servant of some man, but in the spiritual world the servant and the served are the same. For instance, the guru is the servant of Kṛṣṇa, but he is accepted as Kṛṣṇa.
sākṣād dharitvena samasta-śāstrair
uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ
kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam
“The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most conﬁdential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master, who is a bona ﬁde representative of Śrī Hari [Kṛṣṇa].” (Gurv-aṣṭaka 7) This is the verdict of all śāstras. The guru never says, “I am Kṛṣṇa, I am God, I am Bhagavān.” Rather, the guru says, “I am the most humble servant of the servant of the servant of God.” He does not even say that he is the direct servant. Rather, he is the servant one hundred times removed. Gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsa. We should not try to become direct servants, for that is not possible. First of all we must become the servant of the servant. The guru is the servant of Kṛṣṇa, and if we become his servant, we become an actual bona ﬁde servant. That is our real position. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu prays:
ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
“O son of Nanda Mahārāja, I am Your eternal servant, but somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of birth and death.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 5) Caitanya Mahāprabhu addresses the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa as the son of Nanda Mahārāja. Kṛṣṇa is very pleased if one addresses Him as the son of Vasudeva, Yaśodā or Mahārāja Nanda. Kṛṣṇa likes to be named in relation to His pure devotees. Therefore He is called Yaśodā-nandana, Nanda-nandana, Vasudeva-nandana, Rādhikā-ramaṇa and so on. Thus Caitanya Mahāprabhu addresses Kṛṣṇa in this way. He says that although He is Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servant, somehow He has fallen into the ocean of birth and death, accepting one body after another, dying and being born again, not only in this planet but throughout the whole universe, in many species of life. This is the situation with conditioned living entities, wandering from one life to another and from one planet to another for millions upon millions of years. We do not care about this because we say that we are brave and not afraid. We are very proud in this way, but this is a fool’s pride. It is said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” In order to save ourselves from this fearful situation, we must take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the verdict of all the śāstras, and Kṛṣṇa comes for this purpose and sends His devotees, who work day and night to propagate this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
mad-bhayād vāti vāto ’yaṁ
sūryas tapati mad-bhayāt
varṣatīndro dahaty agnir
mṛtyuś carati mad-bhayāt
It is because of My supremacy that the wind blows, out of fear of Me; the sun shines out of fear of Me, and the lord of the clouds, Indra, sends forth showers out of fear of Me. Fire burns out of fear of Me, and death goes about taking its toll out of fear of Me.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, says in Bhagavad-gītā that the natural laws are perfect because of His superintendence. No one should think that nature is working automatically, without superintendence. The Vedic literature says that the clouds are controlled by the demigod Indra, heat is distributed by the sun-god, the soothing moonlight is distributed by Candra and the air is blowing under the arrangement of the demigod Vāyu. But above all these demigods is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the chief living entity. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām. The demigods are also ordinary living entities, but due to their faithfulness – their devotional service – they have been promoted to such posts. These different demigods, or directors, such as Candra, Varuṇa and Vāyu, are called adhikāri-devatā. The demigods are departmental heads. The government of the Supreme Lord consists not only of one planet or two or three; there are millions of planets and millions of universes. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has a huge government, and He requires assistants. The demigods are considered His bodily limbs. These are described in Vedic literature. The sun-god, moon-god, ﬁre-god and air-god are working under the direction of the Supreme Lord. It is conﬁrmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.10), mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram. The natural laws are being conducted under His superintendence. Because He is in the background, everything is being performed punctually and regularly.
One who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is completely protected from all other inﬂuences. He no longer serves or is obliged to anyone else. Of course he is not disobedient to anyone, but his full power of thought is absorbed in the service of the Lord. The statements by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kapila, that under His direction the air is blowing, the ﬁre is burning, the sun is giving heat, etc., are not sentimental. The impersonalist may say that the Bhāgavatam devotees create and imagine someone as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and assign qualiﬁcations to Him; but actually it is neither imagination nor an imposition of artiﬁcial power in the name of Godhead. In the Vedas it is said, bhīṣāsmād vātaḥ pavate/ bhīṣodeti sūryaḥ: “Out of fear of the Supreme Lord, the wind-god and the sun-god are acting.” Bhīṣāsmād agniś candraś ca/ mṛtyur dhāvati pañcamaḥ: “Agni, Indra and Mṛtyu are also acting under His direction.” These are the statements of the Vedas.
If the demigods are subject to fear, what of ordinary living entities? Material life is not very happy because we are always fearful of something. No one can say, “I am not afraid of anything.” Everyone is afraid of something. There is not a bird, beast, human being or living entity alive that is not afraid of something. This is because we are absorbed in the bodily conception, thinking, “I am this body.” Since everyone is thinking in this way, everyone fears bodily destruction. When there was an earthquake in Los Angeles, everyone ran out of their houses screaming. Everyone was terriﬁed, thinking, “Now death is coming!” This is material nature. There are many events in nature that cause fear. There are great cyclones and tornadoes. There is excessive heat and excessive rain. There is ﬂood and famine and war. Yet people are thinking of being happy on this planet.
Modern scientists say that there are no demigods and that there is no God, that all events are being carried out by nature. It is true that nature is working, but nature, after all, is nothing but matter. Matter cannot work without being directed by a living being. We cannot say that matter works independently. In the ocean we always see that there are great waves moving. Water is dull matter, but the air is pushing these great waves and dashing them onto the earth. Scientists say that nature works in this way and that, but nature is not independent. We receive information from authoritative śāstras that nature is moving under the direction of the demigods. So we cannot say that these processes are automatically taking place. Scientists admit that nature is working in a wonderful way, but, after all, nature is not under their control. The scientists may accept or defy Kṛṣṇa, but they cannot defy the activities of nature. Everyone is subordinate to nature. Nature, however, is working under the direction of God; therefore everyone is subordinate to God.
The sun, oceans, land, space and everything else in material creation are but manifestations of Kṛṣṇa’s external energy. Nothing is independent of Kṛṣṇa or His energy. In Brahma-saṁhitā (5.44) it is said that material nature is so powerful that it can create, maintain and destroy in itself: Sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhana-śaktir ekā. However, material nature is working just like a shadow. If we place our hand before a light, we can see its shadow move on a wall. Similarly, material nature is working due to the touch of spirit soul. It is not possible for an automobile to drive itself. A person, a spirit soul, must be within to push certain buttons. Due to the touch of the spirit soul, the machine is moving. The entire universe is similarly moving due to the touch of God. According to the śāstras, the wind is blowing, the water is moving, the sun is shining and the earth is revolving under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If the directors of the different material elements do not work properly, they are punished by their master, Kṛṣṇa.
When Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth, He saw that Lord Indra, the lord of the heavens and of rain, was somewhat puffed up. Kṛṣṇa therefore advised His father Nanda Mahārāja not to bother worshiping Indra. He told His father, “There is no need to offer sacriﬁces to Indra. It is better to worship Govardhana Hill, which is the representative of God. The cows receive their grass and grains from Govardhana Hill; therefore it is better to worship it.” At ﬁrst, Nanda Mahārāja was not willing to do this, but out of affection for Kṛṣṇa, he ﬁnally agreed. When Indra saw that Nanda Mahārāja was worshiping Govardhana Hill, he became very angry and sent vicious clouds to inundate all of Vṛndāvana with a ﬂood. Kṛṣṇa then showed Indra that his power was not even competent to deal with the little ﬁnger of His left hand. Therefore Kṛṣṇa lifted Govardhana Hill with the small ﬁnger of His left hand and used it as an umbrella to save all the people of Vṛndāvana from Indra’s torrents. All of this is related in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Thus everyone is a servant. No one can actually claim to be master. If we simply take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, we do not have to offer sacriﬁces to various demigods. If we water the root of a tree, we do not have to water the branches, twigs, ﬂowers or fruits. If we supply food to the stomach, we do not have to feed the eyes, hands and legs separately. Similarly, if we worship Kṛṣṇa, the source of everything, no other worship is necessary.
Large amounts of wealth are necessary to perform sacriﬁces. In former ages, tons of food were offered in a ﬁre as a sacriﬁce, but this is not possible in this age. Therefore saṅkīrtana-yajña, the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, is recommended. Anyone can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. There is no need for instruments, although Caitanya Mahāprabhu introduced the mṛdaṅga (drum) and karatālas (cymbals). Otherwise, clapping in itself is sufﬁcient. Anyone can sit down with his family, clap hands and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. This saṅkīrtana is very easy to perform. In the evening people go to restaurants and cinemas and waste time and money at clubs and dances. They are not aware of the fearful situation of birth, old age, disease and death. People are carried away by the waves of material nature, and they have submitted to its laws. We should not waste our time in this valuable human form but should begin to solve our problems.
Eventually everything on this earth will be annihilated. At present, three fourths of this earth is covered with water. In the beginning, the entire earth was covered with water, but gradually the water is drying up, and more land is emerging. Since the land has emerged, we have calculated that this is the Asian continent, this is North America, South America, Africa and so on. Eventually there will be no water but only land, and this means that there will ultimately be destruction. Since there will be no water, the heat will be scorching, and eventually the earth will be burned to ashes. Then again there will be rainfall, and everything will be mixed up again, and again there will be destruction. In this way things come into existence and are dissolved. Similarly, this body comes into existence, takes a nice form, and then is ﬁnally ﬁnished forever. We will then have to get another body. The body is like a bubble. It is present for one moment, then it bursts and is gone forever.
We simply take on one bubble after another, one body after another, and we think that we will become happy in this way because we are so foolish. Kṛṣṇa comes as a person like us, but we are such rascals that we think He is simply a man, and this is our misfortune. If we just surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, we will no longer be subjected to the karma of different bodies. Even if we attempt to render some devotional service to Him and fall down, we lose nothing and gain everything. A human life is guaranteed in our next birth. It is therefore to our beneﬁt to accept Kṛṣṇa.