Chapter 4: Approaching Kṛṣṇa, the All-pervading Truth
govindāya namo namaḥ
Let me therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto the Lord, who has become the son of Vasudeva, the pleasure of Devakī, the boy of Nanda and the other cowherd men of Vṛndāvana, and the enlivener of the cows and the senses.
The Lord, being thus unapproachable by any material assets, out of unbounded and causeless mercy descends on the earth as He is in order to show His special mercy upon His unalloyed devotees and to diminish the upsurges of the demoniac persons. Queen Kuntī speciﬁcally adores the incarnation, or descent, of Lord Kṛṣṇa above all other incarnations because in this particular incarnation He is more approachable. In the Rāma incarnation He remained a king’s son from His very childhood, but in the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, although He was the son of a king, He at once left the shelter of His real father and mother (King Vasudeva and Queen Devakī) just after His appearance and went to the lap of Yaśodāmayī to play the part of an ordinary cowherd boy in the blessed Vrajabhūmi, which is very sanctiﬁed because of His childhood pastimes. Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa is more merciful than Lord Rāma. He was undoubtedly very kind to Kuntī’s brother Vasudeva and the family. Had He not become the son of Vasudeva and Devakī, Queen Kuntī could not claim Him to be her nephew and thus address Kṛṣṇa in parental affection. But Nanda and Yaśodā are more fortunate because they could relish the Lord’s childhood pastimes, which are more attractive than all other pastimes. There is no parallel to His childhood pastimes as exhibited at Vrajabhūmi, which are the prototypes of His eternal affairs in the original Kṛṣṇaloka, described as the cintāmaṇi-dhāma in the Brahma-saṁhitā. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa descended Himself at Vrajabhūmi with all His transcendental entourage and paraphernalia. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore conﬁrmed that no one is as fortunate as the residents of Vrajabhūmi, and speciﬁcally the cowherd girls, who dedicated their everything for the satisfaction of the Lord. His pastimes with Nanda and Yaśodā and His pastimes with the cowherd men and especially with the cowherd boys and the cows have caused Him to be known as Govinda. Lord Kṛṣṇa as Govinda is more inclined to the brāhmaṇas and the cows, indicating thereby that human prosperity depends more on these two items, namely brahminical culture and cow protection. Lord Kṛṣṇa is never satisﬁed where these are lacking.
In the beginning of her prayers, Kuntīdevī said, namasye puruṣaṁ tvādyam īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param: “I offer my obeisances unto the person, puruṣa, who is prakṛteḥ param, beyond this material manifestation.” Thus in the beginning Kuntīdevī gave us the understanding that God is the supreme puruṣa, the Supreme Person. He is not impersonal. He is a person, but He is not a person of this material world or this material creation, and He does not have a material body. This is to be understood. The poor fund of knowledge held by the impersonalists cannot accommodate how the Supreme Absolute Truth can be a person, because whenever they think of a person they think of a person of this material world. That is their defect. Why should God be a person of this material world? Therefore in the beginning Kuntīdevī cleared away this misunderstanding by saying that the Lord is prakṛteḥ param, beyond this material creation. Yet He is a person, and now by the grace of Kuntī we can understand that this Supreme Person, although alakṣyam, invisible, has now visibly appeared as Kṛṣṇa.
Kuntīdevī says, kṛṣṇāya vāsudevāya. The word vāsudeva is sometimes understood to mean “the all-pervading.” The impersonalists have this conception of Vāsudeva, and therefore Kuntīdevī points out, “That Vasudeva, the all-pervading, is Kṛṣṇa.” Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati: Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, is present in everyone’s heart. Thus He is all-pervading.
Kṛṣṇa, the original person, exists in three features: as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as the all-pervading Paramātmā (the Supersoul), and as the impersonal Brahman effulgence. Those who are interested in bhakti-yoga have no interest in the impersonal Brahman effulgence, which is for common men. If one were an inhabitant of the sun, what interest would he have in the sunshine? That would be most insigniﬁcant for him. Similarly, those who are advanced in spiritual life are not interested in the impersonal Brahman effulgence. Rather, they are interested in puruṣa, the Supreme Person, Vāsudeva. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā, this realization of the Supreme Person takes place after many, many births (bahūnāṁ janmanām ante). The jñānīs, the impersonalists, who are attached to the Brahman effulgence, try to understand the Absolute Truth by dint of their knowledge, but they do not know that their knowledge is imperfect and limited whereas Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, is unlimited. We cannot approach the unlimited by our limited knowledge. That is not possible.
By the grace of devotees like Kuntīdevī, we can understand that the all-pervading Absolute Truth, Vāsudeva, Paramātmā, is present as Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇāya vāsudevāya). This realization of Vāsudeva is not possible for impersonalists very easily. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (7.19):
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, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” The word mahātmā means “broad-minded.” One who cannot understand Kṛṣṇa is not broad-minded but cripple-minded. If one becomes broad-minded, then by the grace of Kṛṣṇa one can understand Kṛṣṇa.
The process of understanding Kṛṣṇa is sevonmukha – by rendering service. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau. Realization of Vāsudeva is possible by rendering service, beginning with the tongue. The tongue has two functions – to vibrate and to taste. So if one repeatedly hears and vibrates the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and tastes prasāda, food offered to Kṛṣṇa, by this very simple method one will realize Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself. It is not that by our endeavor alone we can understand Kṛṣṇa, but our endeavor in loving service will make us qualiﬁed, and then Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself (svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ).
Kṛṣṇa is very much anxious to take us back home, back to Godhead, but we are stubborn and do not wish to go. Therefore He is always looking for the opportunity to take us back home. He is just like an affectionate father. When a son who is a rascal leaves his father and goes loitering in the street, with no food and no shelter, and suffers very much, the father is always anxious to bring the boy back home. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa is the supreme father, and all the living entities within this material world are exactly like misled children of a wealthy man who have left home to loiter in the street. Therefore the greatest beneﬁt one can bestow upon one’s fellow human being is to give him Kṛṣṇa consciousness. No kind of material proﬁt will satisfy the living entity, but if he is given Kṛṣṇa consciousness he will actually be satisﬁed. A bewildered boy loitering in the street may be reminded, “My dear boy, why are you suffering so much? You are the son of a very rich man who has so much property. Why are you loitering in the street?” And if he comes to understand, “Yes, I am the son of this important man. Why shall I loiter in the street?” he may then return home. Therefore the best service is to inform those who have forgotten Kṛṣṇa, “You are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. You are the son of Kṛṣṇa, who is full in all opulence. Why are you rotting in this material world?” This is the greatest service. Māyā, illusion, is very strong, but it is the duty of every devotee of Kṛṣṇa to try to enlighten everyone to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kuntīdevī, for example, ﬁrst said that although Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, is within and without, to rascals and fools He is invisible. Therefore she points out, “Here is the Lord – Kṛṣṇa.”
Kṛṣṇa is the all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead (kṛṣṇāya vāsudevāya), but He is very much pleased to become the son of Devakī (devakī-nandanāya). Devakī-nandana is also mentioned in the Atharva Veda. Kṛṣṇa comes as Devakī-nandana, and His father is Nanda-gopa, Nanda Mahārāja. Kṛṣṇa likes to be related with His devotees who act as father and mother. Although here in this material world we try to make our relationship with the Supreme by accepting Him as father, Kṛṣṇa wants to become the son. He takes pleasure in becoming the son of a devotee. Ordinary men want God as their father, but that is not very pleasing to Kṛṣṇa because the son always bothers the father: “Give me this, give me this, give me this.”
Of course, Kṛṣṇa has immense potencies by which He can supply as much as everyone wants. Eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān. He supplies food to the elephant, and He supplies food to the ant, so why not to the human being? But rascals do not know this. They work like asses day and night to ﬁnd bread, and if they go to church, there also they pray, “Give me bread.” They are concerned only with the bread problem.
Although the living entity is the son of the richest, most opulent person, he has created a bread problem. This is called ignorance. He thinks, “If I do not solve my bread problem, if I do not drive my trucks day and night, how can I live?” This is the nonsense of our modern civilization. Where is there a bread problem? Kṛṣṇa can supply unlimited amounts of bread. There are thousands of elephants in Africa, and Kṛṣṇa supplies food to them. So if He can supply food to the elephants, why not to the human beings? The Bhāgavatam therefore says, “Don’t waste your time with this bread problem.”
tasyaiva hetoḥ prayateta kovido
na labhyate yad bhramatām upary adhaḥ
We should not waste our time with solving economic problems. Economic development is nonsense. Of course, this proposal is very revolutionary, and people may even hate me for it. “What is Swamiji saying?” they may ask. But actually it is a fact. This economic development is madness. Suppose one has a rich father and enough food. Suppose one knows, “My father is the richest man in the city.” Then where is one’s economic problem? Actually, that is our position. We have no economic problem. Everything is completely provided. We want water. Just see – there are oceans of water. Of course, we want pure water, and although the ocean has so much water, when water is scarce we shall have to take help from Kṛṣṇa, who will evaporate the water and turn it into clouds, and then when the rain falls down the water will be sweet. Otherwise we cannot drink it.
Everything is under control, and everything – water, light, heat, and so on – is complete.
oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaṁ
pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya
“The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.” (Īśopaniṣad, Invocation)
Kṛṣṇa’s stock is never exhausted. We must simply become obedient to Him, and the supply will be there. Therefore a Kṛṣṇa conscious person has no economic problem; everything is sufﬁciently supplied by Kṛṣṇa. In Los Angeles the neighbors of our temple are sometimes very envious. “You do not work,” they say to our Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees. “You have no anxiety. You have four cars. You are eating so nicely. How is that?” Actually, they are right. Somehow or other we are getting everything we need, and we have no problems, for if one simply becomes a sincere servant of Kṛṣṇa, everything is provided. They are envious of us because we do not work but still we have so much. But why don’t they come join us? That they will not do. “Come with us,” we say. “Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.” “No, no, no. That I cannot do.” “All right. Then work with your trucks.” By zooming around in their cars and trucks, they have made their own lives dangerous, and they have created danger for others also. At any moment there may be an accident. But they say that this is civilization. Nonsense. This is not civilization. Civilization means calmness, prosperity, and śānti, peace. In peace and prosperity one should be Kṛṣṇa conscious always.
People work so hard, day and night, simply for a little food, not knowing that their food has already been provided. Avidyā-karma-saṁjñānyā tṛtīyā śaktir iṣyate (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.7.61). This material world is full of ignorance (avidyā). Therefore our endeavor should be to become free from this ignorance. It is only for this reason that we should work – to come out of ignorance. We are thinking, “I am this material body. I have to work day and night, and then I shall get my food, and I shall live.” This is ignorance. We have lived this life of ignorance in forms other than that of a human being. We have lived in bird life, in beast life, and so on, but now, in this life, we should be peaceful, calm, and quiet, and should simply inquire about the Absolute Truth (jīvasya tattva-jijñāsā, athāto brahma-jijñāsā). That should be one’s occupation.
We are simply sitting down and inquiring about Kṛṣṇa, and this is what one should do. This is life. Why should one work day and night like an ass? What kind of life is this? No. This is not life. Therefore the Bhāgavatam says to one who is intelligent (kovida), “Your life should be engaged for this purpose – for understanding the Absolute Truth.” Then how will my economic problem be solved? The answer is that happiness one desires from economic development will come automatically in due course of time. Tal labhyate duḥkha-vad anyataḥ (Bhāgavatam 1.5.18). We are looking for happiness. Are you looking for distress? “No, sir.” Then why does distress come upon you? If you are not eager for calamities and distress, why do they come upon you? According to our karma, our life holds some portion of happiness and some portion of distress. Therefore, if distress comes without invitation, happiness will also come without invitation.
We are already destined to have a certain amount of happiness and a certain amount of distress, and we cannot change that. The change we should make, therefore, is to get free from this material condition of life. That should be our only business. According to our karma, we are sometimes taking birth in a higher planetary system as demigods and sometimes taking birth as cats and dogs or as germs in stool. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu said:
ei rūpe brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona ﬁde spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 19.151) Only a fortunate living entity gets the opportunity to associate with Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s devotee, and in this way he gets the seed of devotional service, the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, and then his life becomes sublime.
Kuntīdevī, therefore, is pointing our attention toward Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, who is alakṣya, invisible to all. Who is that invisible person? Here – Kṛṣṇa. “Oh, Kṛṣṇa,” one may say. “There are so many Kṛṣṇas.” Therefore Kuntīdevī says, “I am offering my prayers to Vāsudeva, the son of Vasudeva.” “There are many Vāsudevas.” “No. Nanda-gopa-kumārāya: I am praying to the foster son of Mahārāja Nanda.” In this way, three times she points out, “Here is Kṛṣṇa.”
Kṛṣṇa ofﬁcially takes birth as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva, but in His childhood He enjoys the company of mother Yaśodā and Nanda Mahārāja. This is Kṛṣṇa’s pastime. Ānanda-līlāmaya-vigrahāya: Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are all jubilant. Ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt (Vedānta-sūtra 1.1.12): He is by nature full of bliss. We shall never ﬁnd Kṛṣṇa unhappy. Kṛṣṇa is always happy, and whoever associates with Him is also happy. Therefore He is known as Govinda. The word go means “senses.” We are looking for sense gratiﬁcation, and if we associate with Kṛṣṇa we shall enjoy our senses abundantly, just like the gopīs who are dancing with Kṛṣṇa. Thus there is no scarcity of sense gratiﬁcation, but this sense gratiﬁcation in association with Kṛṣṇa is not gross sense gratiﬁcation; rather, it is the spiritual sense gratiﬁcation enjoyed in the spiritual world. Ānanda-cin-maya-sad-ujjvala-vigrahasya. That ānanda, or pleasure, is not the third-class ānanda we enjoy with our bodily senses. Such bodily enjoyment is not ānanda but illusion. We are thinking, “I am enjoying,” but that ānanda is not factual, because we cannot enjoy this material pleasure of the senses for long. Everyone has experience that this material pleasure comes to an end. Spiritual enjoyment, however, does not end; rather, it increases. That is the difference. Ānanda-cinmaya-sad-ujjvala-vigrahasya govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.32). Therefore we have to associate with Govinda.
Here also it is said, govindāya namo namaḥ: “I offer my respectful obeisances to Govinda.” The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so sublime that it puts one directly in contact with Govinda. The worship of the Deity of Kṛṣṇa in the temple is also direct contact with Govinda. Śrī-vigrahārādhana-nitya-nānā-śṛṅgāra-tan-mandira-mārjanādau (Śrī Gurv-aṣṭaka 3). The vigraha, the Deity of Kṛṣṇa, appears by Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Because Kṛṣṇa is alakṣya, invisible, He becomes visible to give us the facility to see Him. It is not that Kṛṣṇa is stone, wood, or metal. Kṛṣṇa is always Kṛṣṇa, but because we cannot see anything beyond material elements like wood, stone, and metal, He appears in a form made of these elements. But He is neither wood, metal, nor stone. When we associate with the Deity, we associate with Kṛṣṇa personally. Because Kṛṣṇa is invisible, He very kindly takes a form that is visible to us. This is Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Do not think, “Oh, here is a stone Kṛṣṇa.” Kṛṣṇa is everything, and therefore Kṛṣṇa is stone also, but He is not the kind of stone that cannot act. Even in the form of stone or metal, Kṛṣṇa can act as Kṛṣṇa, and one who worships the Deity will perceive that. Svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. The Deity, although apparently stone, may speak with a devotee. There are many instances in which this has happened.
I am very pleased, therefore, when my disciples nicely dress the Deity, offer the Deity nice foodstuffs, and keep the temple very clean. Śrī-mandira-mārjanādau. Mārjana means “cleansing.” Whether one dresses Kṛṣṇa or cleanses the temple, the spiritual beneﬁt one receives is the same. Don’t think, “I am only a cleanser, and he is a dresser.” No, the person who is dressing the Deity and the person who is cleansing the temple are the same because Kṛṣṇa is absolute. Therefore, one should engage in Kṛṣṇa’s service in any way, and one’s life will be successful. This is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
By the grace of Kuntīdevī we can understand that Kṛṣṇa, Vāsudeva, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word vāsudeva also indicates that the Lord is understood when one comes to the platform of pure goodness, which is also called vasudeva, or viśuddha-sattva. Sattvaṁ viśuddhaṁ vasudeva-śabditam (Bhāgavatam 4.3.23). To understand the Supreme Lord, we must ﬁrst come to the platform of sattva, goodness, but goodness here in the material world is sometimes contaminated by the lower qualities ignorance and passion. By hearing about Kṛṣṇa, however, one comes to the platform of pure goodness. Śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ. We should try to hear and chant about Kṛṣṇa always, twenty-four hours a day, and in this way the dirty things will be cleansed from our hearts. It is not that one should only attend a bhāgavata-saptāha, an ofﬁcial reading of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for seven days. That is another form of exploitation. In the Bhāgavatam it is said, naṣṭa-prāyesv abhadreṣu nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā. The word nityam means “daily” or “twenty-four hours a day.” One should always read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and carry out the order of one’s spiritual master. The word bhāgavata may refer either to the spiritual master or to the book Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. So one should always serve the person bhāgavata or the book Bhāgavata. Bhagavaty uttama-śloke bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī. Then one will be ﬁxed immovably (naiṣṭhikī) in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In this way, one should realize the beneﬁts of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement by the prescribed spiritual process and try to distribute these beneﬁts to other people. To awaken the dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness of others is the greatest welfare activity in the world. We can actually see that devotees who were not Kṛṣṇa conscious four or ﬁve years ago have been awakened and are now Kṛṣṇa conscious. Similarly, others can be awakened also. There is no difﬁculty. The process is the same.
By following in the footsteps of devotees like Kuntī, we shall be able to understand Kṛṣṇa’s identity. For example, we may ask a person’s identity by asking, “What is your father’s name?” So Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam presents God with His father’s name, His mother’s name, and even His address. We are not impersonalists with a vague idea of God. If one takes advantage of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, one can understand God perfectly and completely.