Everything Is Achieved by Serving Lord Kṛṣṇa
While instructing Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī on the science of devotional service, Lord Caitanya discussed in some detail the material world and the living entities. He pointed out that among the 8,400,000 species of life—900,000 species of aquatics, 2,000,000 kinds of plants, 1,100,000 varieties of insects, 1,000,000 species of birds, 3,000,000 kinds of beasts, and 400,000 species of humans—Homo sapiens are clearly in the minority. Furthermore, humans are subdivided into three categories, namely, the uncivilized, the half-civilized, and the civilized. Also, many who supposedly belong to the civilized group act without restraint and discipline, only for the purpose of enjoyment. In this way they create chaos for the rest. Their sole intention in life being to gratify their senses (their instruments of enjoyment), they always try to keep their senses in fit working condition. They even go to the extent of transplanting monkeys' organs into their bodies once they get too old to enjoy with the vigor of youth.
Such gross sense enjoyers do not understand that the mind is more subtle than the sense organs and superior to them. Superior to the mind is the intelligence, and behind the intelligence is the false ego, which is far superior to the intelligence and which covers the spirit soul. Philosophical inquiry into the existence of the soul will remain a subject beyond the reach of these gross materialists. The gross sense enjoyers are actually to be counted among the animals, because man has more serious matters to attend to than just titillating his senses. Hence he is considered the most advanced among all the living entities. And indeed we do find that some men comprehend the gravity of human life. They carefully reject chaotic living, emulate the exemplary lives of saintly persons, and direct their lives in such a way as to fulfill the purpose of human life.
Followers of various religions—such as the Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists—all adhere to the rules of their faith according to the intensity of their belief and the circumstances in their respective countries. Lord Kṛṣṇa speaks of these persons in Bhagavad-gītā (7.3):
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in Truth.
Since time immemorial, living entities have been going through many lower species of life, gradually rising through the evolutionary process and, due to some good fortune, receiving a human birth. In the lower species of life the spirit souls are densely covered by the material modes, and thus carnal appetites dominate their lives. Among the human species, some denounce sensual pleasures and are honored by the world as a saints, yogīs, philosophers, scholars, and so on. They experience mental perceptions far superior to gross sensual experiences, and may reach even subtler levels of fine intellect. But even more subtle than the intellect is the spirit soul. So true spirituality, or the real religion of the living entity, means to be situated in self.
Except for the religion of the self, all paths and religions are pseudo-spiritual exercises consisting only of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending oneself from danger. These are the primary activities of the animals. The lower species cannot elevate themselves by executing the religion of the self, or soul. But since human beings are inherently able to practice the religion of the self, some endeavor to reach perfection. Only as a human being can one make such inquiries as "Who am I?" and "Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble?"
Human life alone affords one the chance to attain unending happiness. In this life one should think, "Although I do not want suffering, it nevertheless comes; although I do not desire death, it forcibly snatches away my life; although I detest old age, when my youth is finished I will surely begin to age; and although I try to be free from disease and disaster, they never leave me alone." Although he sees all this suffering, a fool works hard to make his life comfortable, whereas an intelligent person calmly considers his situation and thinks of the best means to end his distress once and for all. When such thoughts become frequent and sincere, his search leads him to inquire into the Absolute Truth. Such a person takes up the path of self-realization. He may have many duties, but because of his previous pious activities such a wise person will execute these duties and at the same time confront the realities of birth, death, old age, and disease.
The lower stratum of those who strive for perfection are the karmīs, or fruitive workers, who look to gratify their senses. Above them are the jñānīs, or seekers of knowledge, who restrain the urges of their senses and become situated on the subtle, mental plane. Superior to them are the yogīs who seek mystic perfection. Lord Caitanya has described all these persons as aśānta, restless. Among them, those who are free of all material designations and are rid of the false ego, and who are thus liberated beings situated in the self—they alone can understand Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, in truth. When they become fully conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, such saintly souls can act as spiritual masters for all humanity, regardless of any external designation. Lord Caitanya confirms this in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 8.128):
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei 'guru' haya
Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī, or a śūdra—regardless of what he is—he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.
Therefore we can conclude that neither the karmīs nor the jñānīs can fathom the depths of the science of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. Especially the foolish karmīs are disqualified, for they generally consider Lord Kṛṣṇa an ordinary mortal, and this disregard for the Lord leads them to misconstrue the meaning of His words in the Bhagavad-gītā.
Humanity, now in the grips of the evil influence of the Age of Kali, has become callous to any spiritual culture. Thus people pass their time in the animalistic activities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. What to speak of cultivating spiritual knowledge about the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, they cannot even spare the time for religious rituals or the pursuit of transcendental knowledge. If one strictly follows the scriptural directions for cultivating karma and jñāna, one purifies his consciousness enough to understand the science of Kṛṣṇa to a certain degree. The final conclusion of jñāna is that once one attains the state of oneness with the Absolute, then the doors of an even higher state, that of devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, open up. Since this state of oneness is practically impossible for the people of Kali-yuga to attain, in the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself has taught the science of devotional service to Himself. Then, knowing that the unfortunate human beings of this age would misunderstand even His own words, Lord Kṛṣṇa again appeared—this time in the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, a pure devotee of the Lord—to teach the world the essence of the Bhagavad-gītā through His personal example.
Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā that He is the source of everything, but envious and cunning people try to refute this fact. Thus He appeared as Lord Caitanya and taught that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of everything. There is no difference between the instructions of Lord Kṛṣṇa and those of Lord Caitanya. The object of worship is the same. Still, the unfortunate people of this age refuse to accept these teachings. Trying to give them Kṛṣṇa consciousness is, as the well-known expression goes, like "casting pearls before a herd of swine." The human beings afflicted by Kali-yuga are like a herd of swine. The Lord has shown them boundless mercy by widely teaching the science of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, which is rarely attained even by Lord Brahmā. Yet because it has been so easy for them to come by this precious and rare commodity, they have abused the mercy shown them. This is another manifestation of their misfortune. By teaching them the science of self-realization, Lord Kṛṣṇa has twice personally tried to save the people of this age from groveling in carnal pleasures, and both times they have converted those divine instructions into a means and an excuse for pursuing sense gratification.
When presented with a colorful glass doll and a diamond, a child will naturally be attracted to the doll and not the priceless jewel. Similarly, the people of Kali-yuga, endowed as they are with limited intelligence, have rejected the priceless diamond of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa and instead chosen the cheap doll of fruitive activity and dry speculation. Just as the child cannot comprehend that the invaluable diamond can purchase many thousands of cheap glass dolls, so the less intelligent people of Kali-yuga cannot understand that kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma-kṛta haya: "By rendering transcendental devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities."
Those who know the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness automatically know of subsidiary subjects like fruitive activity, speculative knowledge, yoga, charity, penance, austerity, and chanting mantras. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
By executing devotional service to Me, My devotees easily acquire everything that can be attained by performing penances, fruitive activity, philosophical speculation, renunciation, yoga, charity, religiosity, and other pious acts.
Lord Kṛṣṇa Is the Supreme Absolute Truth
The famous atheist Kapila propagated the Sāṅkhya philosophy. He concluded that the material world consists of twenty-four material elements, namely, earth, water, fire, air, and ether; form, taste, smell, sound, and touch; eyes, tongue, nose, ears, and skin; mouth, hands, legs, anus, and genitals; mind, intelligence, and false ego; and the unmanifested state of the three modes of nature (pradhāna). When Kapila was unable to perceive the unmanifested soul after analyzing the twenty-four elements, he concluded that God does not exist. Thus the devotee community regards Kapila as an atheist.
Lord Kapila, the son of Devahūti, is a different person altogether from the agnostic Kapila. Lord Kapila is accepted as an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa refutes the atheist Kapila's Sāṅkhya philosophy and its contention that the unmanifested soul is nonexistent. In the Gītā (7.4) Lord Kṛṣṇa also establishes that the material ingredients are all under His control and supervision:
bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight comprise My separated material energies.
Who is Lord Kṛṣṇa, and what is His original form? Unless one knows about His opulence, potencies, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation, one can never enter into the realm of pure devotional service. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi 2.117),
siddhānta baliyā citte nā kara alasa
ihā ha-ite kṛṣṇe lāge sudṛḍha mānasa
A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such philosophical conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one's mind becomes attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
One who is situated in knowledge of Kṛṣṇa and acts accordingly is executing devotional service. In pursuing the process initiated by Kapila man failed to fathom the same for hundreds and thousands of years. The Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa has, in a few words, lifted the shroud of mystery and revealed the truth:
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. Besides these, O might-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature. All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.
Those who cannot understand this truth remain far from the science of devotional service, while those who do understand it are strengthened in their devotional life. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme male. So, when the supreme male is present, automatically material nature, his female counterpart, is there to serve Him. Those who falsely pose as the Supreme Person claim to have the material nature at their disposal and conclude that nature is no longer at Lord Kṛṣṇa's beck and call. Naturally this is absurd, and only fools will make such a claim.
Similarly, those philosophical schools which propound that the Supreme Person is subservient to prakṛti, or nature, are also far from the truth. When one thinks about nature and nothing further, the thought is left incomplete. One has to inquire, "Whose nature is it?" Nature has to belong to someone; she cannot exist on her own. Thus what must be established is the identity of the Supreme Person, or puruṣa—the male factor. Prakṛti is the same as śakti, or energy. Through the energy, an intelligent person will seek out the possessor of the energy. The Upaniṣads and other Vedic scriptures clearly state that Brahman is the Absolute Truth and the possessor and source of multifarious energies. In the Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) this Brahman is said to be the bodily effulgence of Kṛṣṇa (brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham). This is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.40):
yasya prabhā prabhavato jagad-aṇḍa-koṭi-
tad brahma niṣkalam anantam aśeṣa-bhūtaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of the nondifferentiated Brahman mentioned in the Upaniṣads, being differentiated from the infinity of glories of the mundane universe appears as the indivisible, infinite, limitless, truth.
Brahman exists as the all-pervading energy in this phenomenal world. Therefore the Vedas have defined Brahman as formless, impersonal, pure, and so on. But the source of Brahman is an eternal personality who has no material form but who has a transcendental form full of spiritual potencies and all divine qualities. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He possesses all six transcendental opulences to an infinite degree, He performs superexcellent divine pastimes, and He alone is to be searched out and known in all the scriptures. The materialistic, fruitive workers make the mistake of thinking that this supreme transcendental personality is mundane, and thus they become degraded into pseudodevotees. And the dry speculators, having been repulsed by the material phenomena in their search for knowledge of the Absolute, think that the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also repulsive, thus clearly proving that their ascending process of acquiring knowledge is insufficient and inferior. Both these groups are in a pathetic spiritual state. Therefore, to shower His causeless mercy upon them, the Supreme Lord has revealed the truth about Himself and His transcendental potencies in the Bhagavad-gītā.
The above-mentioned eight ingredients make up the material nature, or the Supreme Lord's external potency. These material ingredients—earth, water, fire, air, and so on—are devoid of any free will, and so they are known as the Lord's inferior energy. By contrast, the potency that activates the inferior energy is known as the Lord's superior energy, or spiritual potency. On principle the energy cannot be the enjoyer; nor can one energy enjoy another energy. Energy is the enjoyed, and the energetic is the enjoyer.
The living entities are a product of the Lord's superior, spiritual energy, and so they are superior to earth, water, fire, and so on, which are always devoid of volition. But that does not mean the living entities are on the same platform as the Supreme Lord, who is the absolute controlling principle. It is easy to discern the superiority of spirit over inert matter. The jīva principle is setting into motion and sustaining everything in this material world. And if the jīvas did not try to lord it over the material nature, then there would be no variegatedness in this phenomenal world. The material elements would have remained unchanged if the jīvas had not been inclined to control and enjoy them. Only through the material energies' connection with the conscious living entity can such substances as earth, wood, stone, and iron be orchestrated so as to give rise to huge, opulent buildings, factories, and cities. Matter cannot organize itself.
From the foregoing one can understand that this massive cosmic creation, with its innumerable planetary systems and heavenly bodies, has come about only through the interference of some superior and powerful consciousness. It is beyond doubt that matter is inert, incapable of voluntary action, and that consciousness has activated the twenty-four material ingredients so as to exhibit variegatedness in material nature. All this goes to prove the inherent insufficiency and imperfections in material nature. Thus transcendental happiness is possible only in spiritual variegatedness. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.5) Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms that the jīvas belong to His superior energy:
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parāṁ
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
Besides these material energies, O might-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.
Because the spirit soul (jīva) is born of the Lord's superior, spiritual energy, it has little in common with the material energy, just as the aquatics have no affinity for the land and the land beasts are out of place in the water. The apparent close connection between the material energy and the spiritual energy is in fact illusory. The jīvas, being a product of the spiritual energy, try to exploit the material energy, but ultimately such attempts fail, because it is impossible for one energy to always exploit and lord it over another energy. The jīvas can, however, eternally serve the Supreme Energetic, Lord Kṛṣṇa. When the jīva exploits the material energy in his endeavor to serve the Lord, that activity is transcendental—the performance of sacrifice. Any other kind of activity amounts to nothing but materialistic, fruitive work.
In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61) one reads about the three kinds of energy:
viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā
kṣetra jñākhyā tathā parā
tṛtīyā śaktir iṣyate
[Cc. Madhya 6.154]
The potency of Lord Viṣṇu is summarized in three categories—namely, the spiritual potency, the living entities, and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities.
Thus all phenomena in this material world are simply interactions of the Supreme Lord's superior, spiritual energy with His inferior, material energy. The material energy is known as the kṣetra, or field of activity, and the spiritual energy is known as the kṣetra-jña, or the knower of the field of activity. All the different species of living entities, with their varied characteristics, are produced by the interaction of the kṣetra and the kṣetra-jña. The energetic principle, the controller of both these energies, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. He must be recognized as the ultimate cause of the creation, maintenance, and annihilation of this cosmic manifestation. As He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.6-7),
etad yonīni bhūtāni
ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ
prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā
mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva
All created beings have their source in these two natures [the inferior and the superior energies of the Lord]. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution. O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.
The various quotations we hear from the Vedas concerning Brahman—ekam evādvitīyaṁ brahama: "Brahman is one without a second"; neha nānāsti kiñcana: "Besides this, nothing exists"; sarvaṁ khalv idam brahma: "Everything and everywhere is Brahman"; ahaṁ brahmāsmi: "I am by nature Brahman," and so on—find their conclusion in the verses from the Bhagavad-gītā quoted above. The Supreme Lord, endowed with the six transcendental opulences to the absolute degree, is the highest governing principle. Thus no other personality is equal to or greater than He. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this point by saying "There is no truth superior to Me," and then explaining how He is present everywhere and intimately connected with everything through His all-pervasive energies.
The material nature is the result of the transformation of the Lord's energies. Both the energies and the energetic are inconceivable, and they are simultaneously one and different. Hence the phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma, ("Everything is Brahman") in fact declares that everything consists of transformations of the Supreme Lord's material and spiritual energies. The transformation of His energies neither increases nor decreases the Supreme Absolute Truth; hence Brahman is described as changeless. And the inferior energy, being only the reflection of Brahman, is nirākāra, impersonal.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu propagated the philosophy of the simultaneous oneness and difference of the Lord and His energies. The highest esoteric truth is that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth and that both the living entities and the material world are His subordinate energies. Those who fail to understand this principle are materialists, while those who do understand it and are trying to reestablish their relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa are liberated souls, devotees of the Lord. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains this in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.13-14):
tribhir guṇa-mayair bhāvair
ebhiḥ sarvam idaṁ jagat
mām ebhyaḥ param avyayam
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te
Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion, and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me, who am above the modes and inexhaustible. This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
The dualities of like and dislike, good and bad, are all due to the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance. These modes hold all conditioned living entities under their sway. Therefore it is difficult for conditioned souls to understand that the Supreme Lord, being absolutely spiritual, is above the three modes and thus param avyayam, absolutely inexhaustible. The reason the Lord uses these words param avyayam is that although He permeates everything by means of His transcendental energies, He remains eternally unchanged and the complete whole. One should avoid making the mistake of thinking that because Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, pervades the entire cosmic manifestation, therefore He cannot possess a definitive form or personality. The heat radiating from a fire spreads in all directions, yet the fire remains unchanged. Similarly, the sun has been emanating light and heat since time immemorial, yet it has not lost any of its potency. And the sun possesses but a minuscule fraction of the Supreme Lord's inexhaustible potency. So what question is there of the Lord's potency being either transformed or decreased? The Lord's energies, like a fire's heat and light, spread everywhere, yet His energies can never diminish at any time. Thus in the Bhagavad-gītā He describes Himself as param avyayam, inexhaustible, the supreme energetic principle. The Vedas describe Him in the following way:
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya
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)
Like the Supreme Lord Himself, the process for freeing oneself from the mesmerizing grip of the material energy and coming closer to the Lord is also one without a second. As the only way to see the sun is by the help of sunlight, so the only way to see the Supreme Personality, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is by the illumination of sunlike Kṛṣṇa Himself. Only by surrendering to His lotus feet and rendering Him loving devotional service can one approach Him. Neither fruitive activity through physical strain nor speculative knowledge through mental gymnastics can help one attain the highest perfection of God consciousness. Only through bhakti, or devotion, can the Supreme Lord be achieved. Speculative knowledge and mystic yoga can at best accord one a partial realization of the Absolute Truth—namely, realization of Brahman and Paramātmā (the Supersoul), respectively. It is through the singular means of bhakti that one can perceive face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. When the rising sun chases away the blackness of night, everything becomes clearly visible. Similarly, when the sun of Kṛṣṇa rises above the horizon of one's consciousness, the stygian gloom of māyā, the illusory energy, is driven away, and the original form of every object comes into distinct focus. Thus full knowledge and realization of the Absolute Truth come exclusively through devotion to the Supreme Lord.
However, the path to this perfect realization is fraught with hindrances caused by māyā, the insurmountable material energy. In this regard one may ask, "If by serving Lord Kṛṣṇa one can automatically discharge all subsidiary duties, then why doesn't everyone in the world surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa and worship Him as the supreme absolute being? Almost everyone in the world more or less agrees that there is only one God, not two or more. Yet when that one and only Supreme Personality, Lord Kṛṣṇa, comes personally to declare this truth, why do people still refuse to surrender to Him? Perhaps it is understandable that those who are illiterate and ignorant cannot accept Lord Kṛṣṇa's supremacy and therefore do not surrender to Him. But there are many erudite scholars, philosophers, and leaders of society who extensively discuss the scriptures yet still do not take shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. Why?" The Lord Himself answers this question in His Bhagavad-gītā (7.15):
na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are the lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.
People with demoniac mentalities never surrender to the Supreme Lord. There have always existed two kinds of men: the good, pious men and the impious reprobates. These two types of people are always present in every country and at every period in history. Pious men obey God's laws and are gradually elevated to perfection. The impious, on the other hand, capriciously flaunt God's laws and try to be independent. The racial strife, civil wars, violent revolutions, and world wars so common in the modern age are all caused by the whimsical and selfish nature of impious men.
Pious people can live in any country and adhere to the instructions of their scripture, or they can associate with other pious men from another country and exchange knowledge and realizations. As a result, these seekers of the Absolute Truth can certainly perceive that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the other hand, sinful persons have one interest: to satisfy their egoistic cravings. They may make a show of being vanguards of religion, but behind this facade they continue their reprehensible activities. They vilify the sanctity of the religion of their birth and go against their own country's interest. Their self-centered lives preclude their following even the common etiquette of human behavior, what to speak of dedicating their lives to Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotional service. Such demoniac persons are more dangerous than poisonous snakes.
Generally, the gross fools and the ignorant fruitive workers do not surrender to the Supreme Lord. Such people never enquire into the Absolute Truth. They never ask such questions as "Who is God?" "What is the world?" "Who am I?" "Why am I working like an ass my whole life?" or "What is the result of my endeavors?" The ass slaves his whole life carrying the washerman's burden, just for a handful of grass. Similarly, the karmīs (fruitive workers) toil tirelessly simply to secure a supply of food and other necessities. The ass is a symbol of foolishness, for he works hard only to fill his belly and copulate with a she-ass. So also do the asinine karmīs toil tirelessly out of affection and attachment, struggling to maintain their homes and, beyond that, the land of their birth, which they consider worshipable. In the home the karmī's sole source of enjoyment is his wife, who cooks for him and provides pleasure for his misery-ridden senses. The shortsighted karmīs do not want to know of any broader issues concerning themselves or their world; they are simply tethered to their home and bodily cares. And those leaders who foster the people's sensual lives are bigger fools and rascals than the ordinary karmīs. Therefore they never come in contact with the Bhagavad-gītā or Lord Kṛṣṇa. The word surrender means nothing to them.
People who do not surrender to the Supreme Lord are called narādhama, "the lowest of men." Such men fritter away their human lives, behaving like animals. In other words, when a person does not use this rare human birth to achieve its actual purpose but wastes it in degraded activities, he is called a narādhama. When a beggar suddenly finds a treasure yet continues to live like a beggar, he is surely a miser and a narādhama. Similarly, when someone receives the priceless gift of a human birth yet squanders it by living like an animal—simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—then such a person is a narādhama. These fools do not realize that after many millions of births in lower species, the soul finally receives the rare human birth. And it is in this birth that the soul must sincerely endeavor to elevate himself to the transcendental platform, attain the Absolute Truth, and return to his original home in the spiritual world. If in this human life the soul makes no attempt to alleviate his situation, even after learning how horribly he has suffered in millions of previous lifetimes, then such a person is certainly a miserable miser and narādhama. But if one tries to utilize his rare human birth for self-realization by becoming elevated to the brahminical class, then his life is successful. Brāhmaṇa does not mean brāhmaṇa by birth. A brāhmaṇa is one who surrenders to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Lord of the brāhmaṇas. A narādhama cannot do so. Therefore another meaning of narādhama is "one who rejects devotional service."
Another class of men who do not surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa are the demons, those who are staunchly inimical to Him. Famous and powerful demon kings like Rāvaṇa, Hiraṇyakaśipu, Jarāsandha, and Kaṁsa acquired many mystic powers through learning and severe austerities. But because they always challenged the various incarnations of the Supreme Lord, such as Lord Rāma, Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva, Lord Viṣṇu, and Lord Kṛṣṇa, they are known as demons. Often the demons do not lack education or intelligence, but because of their fiendish mentality toward the Supreme Lord, their learning and brain capacity come to naught. Their abilities, being fully in the grip of material nature, are ultimately taken from them. The reason for the demons' failure has been stated earlier: If one does not surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa, it is impossible to surmount material nature.
Torturing the devotees of Kṛṣṇa is the preoccupation of the demons, who think that Lord Rāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa cannot punish them because They are ordinary mortals. Thus the demons conclude that they themselves are as learned and intelligent as Lord Rāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa. The atheistic students of Navadvīpa thought Lord Caitanya was an ordinary human being, and thus to win their respect the Lord accepted the renounced and austere sannyāsa order of life. In this way the Lord showed Himself to be the personification of divine magnanimity. The demons invariably confuse matters: they worship humans as gods and call God a human being. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord fittingly describes such grossly foolish persons: avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam [Bg. 9.11]. "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form." The demons' learning, intelligence, and titles are like the gems that glitter on a poisonous snake's hood. The presence of a priceless gem on a snake's hood does not decrease his venom. Similarly, a demon's erudition, intelligence, and titles do not make him less of a demon, and thus he is as horrendous as a venomous snake.
Decorating a dead body and taking it to the funeral pyre with pomp is certainly nothing but a flagrant display for entertainment only. The public is similarly cheated when accolades and scholarly degrees are piled on a demon who is an arrant competitor of the Supreme Lord. The atheistic, demoniac education imparted to the young in modern universities is simply producing a bunch of demons with titles. Proof of this is the recent incident in which Principal Garg of Aligarh University was murdered by some students. The whole state of Uttar Pradesh is shocked and has opened a probe into this vicious act. The governor has called for a conference of the leaders and teachers, but in the past all such conferences have met with the same frustrating fate: no solution. We think the present conference will also fail. The only means to eradicate the demoniac mentality in society is to teach the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Having taken note of all the disaster and corruption wreaked by the demons, it is the moral responsibility of every citizen in the world to learn and teach the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Dr. Ane's comment on the system of education
We were pleased to hear Dr. Ane's address at the Calcutta University convocation on January 12, 1957. Dr. Ane is presently the honorable governor of the state of Bihar. An excerpt from his speech follows:
Our youth are being brought up in a tradition of veiled contempt for religion and everything religious. Spiritualists and religious devotees are the laughing-stock of the educated youth, and as the general masses are religious-minded and have great respect and reverence for such devotees and spiritualists, they feel generally disgusted with the attitude of the educated class and have no regard for them. The educated class has also no affection for the masses, whose way of life is mostly molded by religious ideas. The result is that the educated classes have not been able to produce a sufficient number of servants to work with a real missionary spirit for the amelioration of the suffering of the masses.
Dr. Ane goes on to say that the existing academic courses in schools and colleges exclude classes on religion.
We have included this portion of Dr. Ane's speech, taken from a local newspaper, because we want to impress upon the reader the urgent need for introducing religious studies into the universities. Because in the past strong objections were raised against including religious classes in the schools, they have been excluded, and now severe reactions are being seen in today's youth. I think that excluding spiritual studies from education thwarts all chances for the human mind to awaken and blossom. Because of a lack of spiritual education, today's youth are undisciplined. Students who do not pray or meditate in the early morning, and again in the evening, gradually become agnostics, and their minds float about aimlessly without purpose. They reject religious ideas and ethics and instead embrace logic and argument as supreme. Often they fall into the vicious grip of some unscrupulous politician. The exclusion of religious courses from the universities is the main reason one does not see nowadays a pure and sublime relationship between student and teacher. Many educators feel the need for religious education today.
A few months ago (on January 18, 1957) we had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Ane at the Government House in Patna, and we had some discussions. Being a pious man, he could appreciate our spiritual topics and offered us full support for our missionary activities which are aimed at eradicating the demoniac mentality on a wide scale. His recent speech gives us hope of improvement.
Possessed of perverted intelligence, the demons, rascals, and fools can never surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa never shows them His mercy. The most munificent incarnation of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, repudiated the sinner Gopāla Cāpala because he was envious of the Lord's devotee. In this regard, the Supreme Lord states His opinion in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.11): ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham. "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly." Thus the Lord arranges for the demons to slide lower and lower into degraded species of life and suffer hell for many millions of births. In Chapter 16.19-20 the Lord says:
tān aham dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
āsurīṁ yonim āpannā
mūḍhā janmani janmani
mām aprāpyaiva kaunteya
tato yānty adhamāṁ gatim
Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life. Attaining repeated birth amongst the demoniac species of life, O son of Kuntī, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence.
Yet the Supreme Lord's devotees, being more merciful than the Lord Himself, are compassionate toward even the lowest demons like us.
The Lord's devotees can save even those whom the Lord Himself rejects. This is their unique character. Therefore the devotees of the Lord arrange various means to save the fallen, reprobate souls from perdition. In fact, they live among these spiritual derelicts to encourage them toward spiritual perfection, using any means at hand-even tricks. His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda wanted to open a students' hostel in London, the logic being that it was necessary to give sugar-coated pills, in the form of a little sense gratification, to those debauched students in order to attract them to join the path of God-realization.
If they so desire, powerful spiritual masters, or pure devotees of the Lord, can instantly deliver the entire universe and take everyone to the shelter of the Supreme Lord's lotus feet. Śrīla Vāsudeva Datta declared to Lord Caitanya that he was prepared to take on all the sinful reactions of every living entity in the universe and suffer eternally in hell if the Lord was willing to liberate all the living entities at one time. The pure devotees are so magnanimous that they are always concerned about the spiritual well-being of every soul. The only way to receive the Supreme Lord's mercy is to bathe oneself in the dust of the lotus feet of such unalloyed devotees.
The devotees of the Lord understand that it is māyā's influence that has spoiled the people and made them demoniac. Thus the inherently noble disposition of the devotees leads them to think only of the demons' benefit, without a tinge of envy. The devotees are therefore known as patita-pāvana, "the saviors of the fallen." In fact, the devotees are more compassionate than the Supreme Lord Himself. Of course, it is the Supreme Lord's grace alone that makes them more compassionate than the Lord. And by the mercy of such devotees, the lowest sinful men and women can attain the lotus feet of the Lord.
On the other hand, offending such pure devotees finishes all possibility of salvation. If one offends the Supreme Lord, only His pure devotees can save the offender, but if one offends the pure devotee, then even the Supreme Lord will not save the offender from doom. For this reason alone, pure devotees never feel offended. When Jesus Christ was being crucified, he did not blame anyone for it. Haridāsa Ṭhākura was severely lashed in twenty-two marketplaces by the Muslim Kazi's sentries. Still he prayed to the Lord not to punish his tormentors. Lord Nityānanda was wounded by the two rascals Jagāi and Mādhāi, yet the Lord stood His ground, bleeding profusely. He delivered the two notorious brothers and thus brilliantly exemplified the title patita-pāvana. Such is the profound compassion of the pure devotees.
Therefore the reprobates' only means of attaining any piety is through the association of devotees. We are looking forward to that time when the stalwart disciples of that illustrious crest jewel of all Vaiṣṇavas, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, having received the blessings of their spiritual master, will come together again for the benediction of the whole world and, without wasting any more time, preach the message of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī. Śrīla Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī always tried to dissuade his disciple, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, from going to Calcutta, which he considered a bastion of Kali-yuga. Yet though some might think Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura disobeyed his guru's order, he preached not only in Calcutta but in other capitals of Kali-yuga, such as London, Berlin, Bombay, Madras, and Delhi. He vehemently opposed the idea of constructing a temple in some quiet spot and leading a passive and uneventful life in the monastery. He represented perfectly the ideal of utilizing 100 percent of one's energy in God's service for the spiritual upliftment of humanity. A certain Gujarati friend offered to build him a temple in Ville Parle, a quiet and remote section of Bombay. He immediately refused. We had the greatest good fortune of seeing him act and preach in this way. And now it is our ill fate that after the passing away of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the exemplar of patita-pāvana, we have returned to our lowly, fallen ways. Is there a glimmer of hope for our deliverance?
From the ocean of loving compassion, which had been completely dammed up, Lord Nityānanda cut a canal of love of Godhead and flooded the entire world. And then some persons called caste Gosvāmīs, claiming to be the Lord's descendants, again dammed up that ocean of mercy with their malpractices of fruitive activities and rituals. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura once more cut open the canal of love of Godhead and brought in the flood waters. And now are we, of all persons, trying once more to dam it up like the caste Gosvāmīs? By the influence of the good association of the Lord's devotees, even a fool and rascal like me, possessed of a destructive, demoniac mentality, can accumulate enough piety to become inspired to serve the Supreme Lord.
By nature children are restless and playful, so in the kindergarten they are given toys and games to interest them in learning. Similarly, a neophyte is trained to perform activities in the mood of sacrifice, and he is encouraged to worship the Deities according to the scriptural injunctions. The expert Vaiṣṇava preceptor then gradually draws him toward the platform of pure devotion by narrating the spiritually potent topics of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and giving him the remnants of food offered to the Supreme Lord. These two aspects of devotional life act like medicine on the neophyte, who, like the rest of the world, is affected by the material disease. Devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa is the living entity's eternal birthright; it is not a new subject fabricated by the human mind. A base fool thinks that devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa is merely a mundane psychological state of mind. But in truth devotional service is our eternal spiritual substance—"the essential spiritual reality" (vāstava-vastu), according to the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.2). Devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa can be invoked naturally in the purified hearts of devotees. When a disease is cured, the patient feels hungry; similarly, when a neophyte accrues sufficient piety by associating with devotees, he feels attraction for devotional service within his heart.
Four kinds of pious men establish a relationship with the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. As the Lord states in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.16)
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino 'rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
O best among the Bhāratas, four kinds of men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.
One obtains another kind of piety by strictly executing his duties under the system of varṇāśrama-dharma, a social system containing four spiritual orders and four social orders. Learned sages have long propagated this system. As the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (3.8.9) states,
puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā
[Cc. Madhya 8.58]
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Viṣṇu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varṇa and āśrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varṇas and āśramas.
The brāhmaṇas (the intellectual, priestly class), the kṣatriyas (kings and administrators), the vaiśyas (the mercantile community), and the śūdras (menial workers) are the four social orders, or varṇas. If they live according to the scriptural injunctions pertaining to their particular varṇa, then they can accrue piety. Similarly, if the members of the four āśramas—namely, the brahmacārīs (celibate students), gṛhasthas (householders), vānaprasthas (pilgrims), and sannyāsīs (renunciants)—also act in conformity with the scriptural edicts, they too acquire immense piety. But when the ill influence of Kali-yuga corrupts this varṇāśrama system, human society is beset by all sorts of degradations. As a result, the living entities are punished by a variety of natural calamities caused by the illusory potency of the Lord. When the citizens abide by the rules of the king, the kingdom runs smoothly and everyone is prosperous and content. But when the demoniac population of thieves, rogues, and criminals steadily increases, the kingdom is filled with chaos and terror.
In search of the Supreme Lord
Varṇāśrama religion cannot be practised in an atmosphere of such chaos and violence. The system now being called varṇāśrama is actually ungodly, demoniac religion in disguise. To wear the holy thread and go through the purificatory process within this demoniac system does not result in piety. Discarding all purificatory processes and religious rites, the men of Kali-yuga vie with each other to become the biggest and the strongest. A person becomes a "brāhmaṇa" just by slipping a holy thread over his head-indeed, such has been predicted in the scriptures—but this does not earn him any piety. Lord Caitanya rejected this kind of cheating varṇāśrama system. Foreseeing the degraded condition of Kali-yuga, Lord Kṛṣṇa hardly discusses varṇāśrama religion in the Bhagavad-gītā and instead stresses the performance of work as sacrifice. Hence it is clearly understood that by the performance of sacrifice for Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Person, He becomes satisfied and all ill effects are eradicated.
Persons afflicted by disease or other miseries are known as ārta, "the distressed." Commonly, a sick person depends on a doctor and medicine to cure his disease. But far-sighted scholars say that suffering of any kind is a result of sinful activities performed in the past. Ordinary people do not understand that sinful reactions result from ignorance. This ignorance exists in manifest (prārabdha), unmanifest (aprārabdha) and latent (kuṭashta) form.
There is no material means of counteracting these sinful reactions. Administering a pain-killer provides temporary relief but cannot remove the root cause of a disease. Similarly, no materialistic effort aimed at counteracting sinful reactions can provide ultimate relief. One obtains maximum only by surrendering to the Supreme Lord. The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu [The Nectar of Devotion] supplies us with numerous proofs of how devotional service to the Lord destroys sinful reactions, and ignorance, the root of all sin. Hence we see that pious men depend solely on the Supreme Lord in moments of distress.
It is not the prime duty of human beings to try to relieve their present sufferings. The search in life is for that medicine—that panacea—which will cure the material disease altogether. This disease manifests itself in countless ways, such as birth, old age, disease, and death. The pious person seeks the association of saintly persons and follows the scriptures, and in this way he endeavors for his greatest good. The beginning of devotional service is the development of faith in the scriptures and the words of the saints. This faith destroys all unwanted desires in the heart and increases one's surrender to the Supreme Lord's will.
Innocent enquirers are known as jijñāsu, "those who are inquisitive." These innocent enquirers are society's hope for the future. Most intelligent and innocent young children are inquisitive: they question their parents about many things and remember the answers. When these bright young boys and girls receive proper guidance from parents and teachers who can lucidly answer their queries, they easily understand each point and gradually develop fine brains. From among these intelligent souls, those who are especially pious begin to keenly enquire about God and other spiritual topics. Others, who pursue ignoble material knowledge, cannot become successful in life and end up beating the chaff. Those who are inquisitive about the self and the Absolute Truth, Brahman, quickly surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Such surrender proves their good measure of piety brought over from their previous births. Beginning with fundamental enquiries about Brahman, they swiftly become elevated, understand the statement of Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) that He is the basis of the impersonal Brahman, and begin to worship Him.
A person with meagre piety, however, can never become a devotee of the Supreme Lord. As the scripture states,
viśvāso naiva jāyate
O king! A person with little piety can never develop faith in Lord Govinda, His mercy, His holy name, or His pure devotees.
Most householders desire material gain. Nowadays especially, everyone is feeling the pinch of poverty. The ordinary man thirsts for money solely to enjoy his senses. Once a person falls into the useless company of sense gratifiers, he spends his wealth on fineries, gold, and women. With more wealth, he seeks adoration and distinction, and along with these he gets mansions, cars, and so on. There is only one interest in this endeavor, and that is to enjoy the senses. Persons whose only goal in life is to gratify the senses were referred to earlier as the less intelligent fruitive workers, or karmīs. If any among them happen to have some piety, then this select group will not merely fritter away all their time in titillating their senses, but will spend some time worshiping the Supreme Lord. Although these elite karmīs do not associate with the pure devotees of the Lord, they call themselves spiritualists. Actually, they harbor the desire to gratify their carnal desires. They fail to comprehend that the Supreme Lord is known as Hṛsīkeśa, "the supreme master of the senses." Sometimes a jñānī (a seeker of knowledge) or a practitioner of mystic yoga will also worship the Lord, but they also are merely interested ultimately in sensual pleasures. The only way these adulterated devotees can become pure devotees is if they read Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī's Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. This book is an authority on the science of devotional service.
Genuine jñānīs know how everything is connected to Brahman, the Absolute Truth. They are humble, unassuming, clean, brahminical, and reverent toward the guru, and they possess many other good qualities. Most often they take to the renounced order (sannyāsa) and lead a pure and saintly life. Yet frequently these sannyāsīs develop one major fault: they consider themselves God. They misinterpret the meaning of the Vedic phrase ahaṁ brahmāsmi, "I am Brahman," and thus they cannot realize pure knowledge of Brahman. They end up deifying the process of negation, and that finally leads to absolute monism. In this way, many jñānīs who want to know the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Brahman, get somehow misled by the illusory potency, māyā. Māyā prepares her last fatal trap, liberation, by which she keeps the monists stranded in the ocean of material existence. She deludes them into thinking "I am that," "I am He," as if they were in a drunken daze.
If by some chance the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs can earn a little piety and then be graced by a pure Vaiṣṇava devotee—as the Māyāvādīs of Benares were by Lord Caitanya—then they can easily realize that knowledge of the impersonal Brahman or the Supersoul is incomplete. Then they can be enlightened with the transcendental knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Many sages in the past, like the great Sanaka Ṛṣi, and many self-realized renunciants, like the famous Śukadeva Gosvāmī, got a taste for knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead after practicing their impersonal disciplines. Then they relished indescribable bliss by hearing the Supreme Lord's transcendental pastimes. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.9), Śukadeva Gosvāmī says,
pariniṣṭhito 'pi nairguṇya
ākhyānaṁ yad adhītavān
O saintly King [Parīkṣit], I was certainly situated in transcendence, yet I was still attracted by the delineation of the pastimes of the Lord, who is described by enlightened verses.
One of the stalwarts in the spiritual line of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, has given his opinion on the four types of pious men who approach the Lord—namely, the distressed, those desiring material gain, the inquisitive, and those who knows things as they are. He says,
The distressed, those in need of material gain, and the inquisitive—these three are neophyte fruitive devotees. Their devotion is mixed with fruitive desires. All of them want to fulfill their desires according to their specific qualities. Finally, when they become purified, they desire to reach the divine abode of the Supreme Lord—the Vaikuṇṭha planets. They are not like the karmīs, or fruitive workers, who want to attain to the heavenly planets. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.25) yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām: "One who worships Me attains My supreme abode." The jñānī, or one who knows things as they are, is the fourth type of pious man, and he is superior to the other three kinds. He attains a higher result because his devotion is mixed with knowledge. Like Sanaka Ṛṣi, he attains the devotional mellow of neutrality. Moreover, because the Lord and His pure devotees shower their causeless mercy upon him, a jñānī devotee can also achieve pure love of Godhead, as in the case of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. When devotion mixed with fruitive desires becomes free from those fruitive desires, it is automatically transformed into devotion mixed with knowledge. The result of practising this devotion mixed with knowledge is mentioned above.
Sometimes, when devotees belonging to the categories of mixed devotion develop a taste for the devotional mellow of servitude and practice it, they attain devotion in servitude mixed with awe and reverence. When their devotion becomes more purified, they attain pure devotion in the mellow of servitude, friendship, and so on, and due to their love for the Lord they become His eternal associates. All this is clearly delineated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Here we have discussed only a few points for reference."
Lord Kṛṣṇa Alone Is the Supreme Godhead; Everyone Else Is His Servant
Generally the tendency of the jñānīs is to veer toward impersonal monistic thought. Their idea of monism is this: having experienced the transience and bitterness of material existence and recognized the futility of fruitive activity, they now realize that they are the Self, Brahman, the Absolute Truth. In fact, when realization of the transcendence is perfectly complete, one perceives the personal aspect of the Absolute Truth in the highest spiritual abode. And when the perception of the personal aspect of the Supreme Godhead deepens, one becomes naturally attracted to the absolute transcendental beauty of Lord Kṛṣṇa. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.19),
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaṁ 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.
One who fully understands Lord Kṛṣṇa never experiences any bitterness anywhere in the entire material existence. He thrives on the knowledge of His of eternal relationship with the Lord; indeed, he sees everything in the world, and the world itself, in relation to Kṛṣṇa. In this way he is unlike the impersonalistic salvationists, who regard this world as merely evanescent matter. Such a wise devotee realizes that everything is engaged in Lord Kṛṣṇa's service, that nothing can exist outside this relationship, independent of Lord Kṛṣṇa. In other words, for the devotee this world becomes transformed, surcharged with the existence of Kṛṣṇa in everything. The illusory potency recedes into oblivion, and this world takes on the characteristics of the spiritual world, Vaikuṇṭha. Such a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa is not selfish, thinking he alone will enjoy the benefits of surrendering to Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. Rather, he tries to attract everyone in the world to Lord Kṛṣṇa, and by this effort he becomes known as a mahātmā, a magnanimous soul. Such magnanimous souls are truly rare.
It is seen that many so-called mahātmās, without first realizing that this entire world is pervaded with Lord's Kṛṣṇa's presence, want to become the Lord and master themselves and be served in that capacity. In this way they become fully imprisoned by His illusory potency. They become hounded and bombarded by endless desires, which finally force them to begin worshiping demigods, who are inferior to the Supreme Lord. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.20),
kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.
Persons who are thus constantly tormented by unlimited desires suffer much distress, which spoils their intelligence. That is why Kṛṣṇa calls them hṛta-jñānāḥ, "men with lost intelligence." They become polytheists and hasten to worship various demigods. Polytheists cannot comprehend that kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma-kṛta haya: "By worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa, one automatically takes care of all other, subsidiary duties." Polytheists think that demigods like the sun-god are equal to the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Such men of distorted intelligence can never take shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. On the other hand, lofty-minded persons with incisive intelligence are convinced that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Being. If somehow they harbor some material desires, they immediately approach Lord Kṛṣṇa and pray to Him. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.7) we find this verse:
akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā
yajeta puruṣaṁ param
A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.
Whatever desire a person may have, to fulfill it he must serve Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with intense and unfaltering devotion. (This point was discussed earlier by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura.) If this injunction is followed, then even those who have an aversion to Lord Kṛṣṇa will eventually decide to surrender to Him.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Controller and the Supreme Absolute Being, yet He never forces His will upon the infinitesimal living entities. Rather, it is to the living entity's own benefit to recognize that Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that everyone else is His servitor. The sun-god and other demigods perform their duties according to Lord Kṛṣṇa's wishes; indeed, this is why they are called demigods. And since a devotee of the Supreme Lord also follows His wishes, he is also known as a sura, or demigod. Conversely, those who are oppose the Lord's wishes are known as asuras, demons.
The demigods do not possess any independent powers. In fact, they do not wield enough power even to invoke respect for themselves. That is done by the Supreme Lord. Lord Kṛṣṇa's partial expansion, the Supersoul, resides in everyone's heart, and it is He who instills within one's heart faith and respect for the various demigods. The extraordinary powers seen in the sun-god and other demigods are in fact the Supreme Lord's powers. Once attracted to these extraordinary powers, an intelligent person will gradually be drawn to the source of that power, the Supreme Energetic, Lord Kṛṣṇa. Worship of demigods is indirect, inferior, and unsystematic worship of the Supreme Lord. Those who are too attached to fulfilling their material desires are naturally more attracted to the energy than to the Energetic, the source of that energy. Hence in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.21-22) Lord Kṛṣṇa says,
yo yo yāṁ yāṁ tanuṁ bhaktaḥ
tasya tasyācalāṁ śraddhāṁ
tām eva vidadhāmy aham
sa tayā śraddhayā yuktas
labhate ca tataḥ kāmān
mayaiva vihitān hi tan
I am in everyone's heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship some demigod, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to that particular deity. Endowed with such a faith, he endeavors to worship a particular demigod and obtain his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.
The demigods' powers are like those of a king's officers. The demigods have no independent powers because they are jīvas, minute living entities. An officer of the king can bestow some favors because of the powers invested in him by the king. Similarly, a demigod can shower benefits upon his worshipper because the Supreme Lord has given the demigod some power. If the desire-filled demigod-worshipper becomes a little enlightened about the fact that the demigod he worships is fulfilling his desires by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa, then with clear intelligence he will begin worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa directly.
Different demigods have different powers. The sun-god has the power to cure diseases; the moon-god imbues plants with taste and nutritional or medicinal potency; Goddess Durgā gives strength and courage; Goddess Sarasvatī bestows learning; Goddess Lakṣmī grants wealth; Goddess Cāṇḍī offers one the opportunity to consume meat and intoxicants, and Gaṇeśa gives success in one's endeavors. But all these powers are invested in the demigods by the Supreme Lord, and thus only He, the complete whole, can bestow every kind of benediction. There is an immeasurable difference between a well and the ocean.
We have already touched on the point that everything in the world has been produced by the interaction of the Lord's kṣetra-śakti (His inferior energy, comprising the "field of action") and His kṣetrajña-śakti (His superior energy, which is "the knower of the field"). Therefore everything in this world is merely a transformation of Lord Kṛṣṇa's energies. In one sense the energy principle and the energetic principle are nondifferent, just as fire and its burning potency are inseparable and non-different. Unfortunately, the impersonalists, the monistic philosophers, have wreaked havoc in the world with their misguided opinions concerning transformation of the Lord's energy.
Demigods and all other living entities belong to the energy principle, as does the universe itself. No one but the Lord and His plenary expansions are in the category of the energetic principle. Thus the energy and the energetic are one and different. A person who cannot grasp this subtle principle of simultaneous, inconceivable oneness and difference of the Lord and His energies will surely degenerate into an impersonalist, or Māyāvādī. He will be forced from the path of devotion and become silent. The Supreme Lord, the source of all opulence, is the energetic principle. If we consider Him to be impersonal, then we limit His absoluteness. The words "Supreme Absolute" are applicable to Lord Kṛṣṇa alone. The Lord is the Supreme Absolute Principle, unequalled and unsurpassed. Thus the Vedas say He is "one without a second." The Lord's energies are manifested in various forms, and those who become bewildered by these variegated manifestations end up becoming polytheists. It should be clear to all that whatever variegatedness we see in the universe is but a transformation of the Supreme Lord's diverse energies.
The Māyāvādīs reject the theory of transformation of energy and subscribe to the theory of the transformation of Brahman itself. Thus they become fixed in their belief that Brahman is impersonal. The Supreme Lord has described the specific situations in which He manifests Himself in His impersonal form. There are many quotes from the scriptures substantiating this point. The Supreme Lord, by manifesting both His personal and impersonal features, has firmly established the principle that the Supreme Absolute Person is inconceivably and simultaneously one with and different from His energies. This philosophical conclusion—called acintya-bhedābheda-tattva—has been explained by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.12): matta eveti tān viddhi na tv ahaṁ teṣu te mayi. "I am, in one sense, everything, but I am independent. I am not under the modes of material nature, for they, on the contrary, are within Me."
The Supreme Energetic is the source of all energies. Yet although all energies emanate from Him, He remains aloof from the workings of these energies. From this we can conclude that the demigods' extraordinary potencies are an intrinsic part of the Supreme Lord's potencies, but that the demigods are separate from the Lord. Hence the boons granted by demigods benefit the recipient only temporarily. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this fact in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.23):
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 ultimately reach My supreme planet.
We have already discussed that if fruitive workers filled with fruitive desires approach the Supreme Lord instead of going to the demigods, then the benedictions they receive from the Supreme Lord will be everlasting. They will automatically rise a step higher in the ladder of yoga—from fruitive activities to jñāna-yoga, or the path of absolute knowledge. This means that instead of being elevated to the heavenly planets within this material world, they will attain liberation in the Vaikuṇṭha planets, the Lord's spiritual abode beyond this material world. The demigod-worshippers go to the planets of the demigods, the heavenly planets, which are temporary. Once a person's accrued piety is used up, he has to come back to earth. On the other hand, once the devotees of the Supreme Lord attain to Vaikuṇṭha, His supreme abode in the spiritual sky, they never have to return to this world of mortality.
Lord Kṛṣṇa Incarnates in Kali Yuga in the Form of His Holy Name
Persons with meagre intelligence worship the demigods for fleeting fortunes. So one may ask, "If by worshiping the Supreme Lord one can have all his desires fulfilled, why doesn't everyone worship Him?" Devaṛsi Nārada once answered a similar question posed by Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja. The sage said,
viśvāso naiva jāyate
O king, a person with little piety can never develop faith in the Lord Govinda, His mercy, His holy name, or His pure devotees.
Lord Kṛṣṇa has corroborated this in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.28):
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the dualities of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination.
Persons with a demoniac mentality are steeped in sin; hence their understanding of the importance of spiritual knowledge is nil. Those who have been able to eradicate their sins by living according to the dictates of their social and spiritual order, and who have thus acquired sufficient piety, are qualified to practice karma-yoga. Gradually they progress to jñāna-yoga, and finally, in meditation, they realize the transcendental and supreme position of the Lord. Such highly fortunate realized souls can see in their hearts the eternal, transcendental, two-handed form of the Supreme Lord, known as Śyāmasundara, playing His flute. The description of the Lord in Śrī Brahma-saṁhitā (5.30) reads,
veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head bedecked with peacock's feather, with the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of cupids.
Those who are committing sins like illicit sex, fault-finding, and unjustified violence rarely attain spiritual knowledge or realization. Sinful activities deepen the dark gloom of ignorance, while pious activities bring the light of transcendental knowledge into one's life. This knowledge culminates in realization of Kṛṣṇa. However, simply performing pious activities does not make one eligible for God-realization. Only when a person performs pious activities and associates with saintly persons does spiritual knowledge dawn on his consciousness. Then, when he transcends the platform of duality—especially when he no longer takes part in the controversy over the Absolute Truth's monistic or dualistic existence—he sees Lord Kṛṣṇa in his enlightenment and worships Him with determination as one without a second, matchless and supreme. In the perfected stage of pious activities, the mode of goodness dominates the consciousness, dissipating the darkness of nescience and illusion, which are products of the mode of ignorance. As soon as the mode of passion is fully subdued, spiritual realization illuminates the sky of one's consciousness.
The point to consider at this juncture is, does anyone in the present age, Kali-yuga, have the means to properly perform such pious activities as fire sacrifices, giving in charity, penances, or austerities? It is universally accepted that the unfortunate people of Kali-yuga are absolutely unable to undertake such extravagances. For this reason Lord Caitanya, the most munificent incarnation of Godhead and the savior of the Kali-yuga, has declared the truth of the following mantra from the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
[Cc. Ādi 17.21]
In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord, chanting the holy name of the Lord, chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.
In the age of Kali the only process for attaining perfection is to hear, chant, and remember the holy name of the Supreme Lord. Numerous quotes from the scriptures substantiate this. All inauspiciousness is destroyed by chanting the all-auspicious name of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.12.55) confirms this:
kṣiṇoty abhadrāṇi ca śaṁ tanoti
sattvasya śuddhiṁ paramātma-bhaktiṁ
jñānaṁ ca vijñāna-virāga-yuktam
Remembrance of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet destroys everything inauspicious and awards the greatest good fortune. It purifies the heart and bestows devotion for the Supreme Soul, along with knowledge enriched with realization and renunciation.
Therefore, to remain beyond the reach of delusion and duality, one has to always remember and meditate on the beatific form of Lord Kṛṣṇa, who has a darkish complexion and is playing His flute. One must also remember and chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, which is nondifferent from Him, its nature being eternal, perfect, pure, and independent. In the Bhagavad-gītā (8.6-7) Lord Kṛṣṇa explains the importance of remembering Him always:
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail. Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
At the time of death, our state of consciousness determines our next birth. Death destroys the body made up of the five gross elements, but the subtle body, consisting of mind, intelligence, and false ego, remains. As the air carries the scent of the place it blows over, so the soul carries a person's subtle body of mind, intelligence, and false ego, along with his state of consciousness, on to his next birth, and his body is determined accordingly. When a breeze blows over a garden, it carries the fragrance of flowers with it, but when it blows over a rubbish heap, the breeze is filled with the stench. Similarly, the activities a person performs during his lifetime continuously influence his mentality, and at the time of death the cumulative effect of these activities determines his state of consciousness. Thus the subtle body formed during one's lifetime is carried over to one's next birth and manifests as the soul's next gross body. Naturally, therefore, the gross body reflects one's state of consciousness. As the popular saying goes, "The face is the index of the mind." And the mind is the product of the activities of one's present and previous lives. In other words, one's mind, intelligence, and false ego, which are influenced by one's habits in this and previous births, form the matrix that determines the type of body and mentality one will have in the next life. Hence the connection between one's previous, present, and future lives is the mind, intelligence, and false ego.
The activities of the day evoke dreams at night and induce emotions appropriate to those activities. Similarly, the activities performed in one's lifetime flash across one's mind at the moment of death and determine one's next life. Therefore, if one's present activities are directed toward chanting, hearing, and remembering the Supreme Lord's transcendental name, along with descriptions of His beauty, qualities, pastimes, associates, and paraphernalia, then one's consciousness at the moment one leaves his body will automatically be attracted to the Lord. Such a spiritual state of consciousness at the moment of death ensures the soul entry into the Supreme Lord's eternal abode in his very next birth. To awaken this spiritual consciousness is man's prime goal in life. We therefore find that Lord Kṛṣṇa, out of compassion for the conditioned souls, instructs Arjuna to fight and at the same time remember Him. This is called karma-yoga. Therefore devotees always remember Him in all their activities—in their endeavors for food and safety and even in the middle of the battlefield while fighting a war. Life being like a battlefield, in which one may die at any time, the devotees remember Him at every moment, and He willingly becomes the charioteer of their chariotlike bodies. The activities of their bodies, minds, and words are thus prompted by the Supreme Lord's will, and at the end, when they leave their gross and subtle bodies, they go directly to the spiritual sky.
The prime symptom of pure devotional service is constant chanting, hearing, and remembrance of the holy name. Mixed devotional service, as we have previously discussed, is devotional service adulterated by karma (fruitive desire) and jñāna (attachment to knowledge). Such devotional service is often impeded by the particular situation or association a person finds himself in. But there is never any impediment to pure devotional service. Perfect realization of the Supreme Lord does not occur until one is firmly situated in unalloyed devotional service. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55): bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ. "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by pure devotional service." And in verse 8.14 the Lord mentions the primary characteristic of this pure devotional service:
yo māṁ smarati nityaśaḥ
tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha
For one who always remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Pṛthā, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.
Undeviating concentration on the Supreme Lord is the first sign of pure devotion. In other words, a pure devotee is one who wards off all desires and thoughts not related to unflinching devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Many spiritual stalwarts have commented upon pure devotional service. For example, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the foremost of the great spiritual preceptors in the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, wrote in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu
śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttama
[Cc. Madhya 19.167]
One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.
People propitiate demigods to satisfy their material desires. Those neophyte devotees of Kṛṣṇa who try to appease demigods like the sun-god in order to escape ill health do so because they succumb to serious doubts about Lord Kṛṣṇa's supreme divinity. In analyzing the word anyābhilāṣa ("desires other than those directed toward serving Lord Kṛṣṇa"), we find that one fosters this type of perverted intelligence when one thinks that the sun-god, who is merely a manifestation of the Supreme Lord's potency, can protect one from ill health but that the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, cannot. Once these mind—clouding doubts disperse, one enters the doors of pure devotional service. Karmīs and jñānīs are also tainted by material desires—the desire to enjoy their senses and the desire for liberation, respectively. Pure devotional service is attained only when these material desires are dissipated and one renders unbroken, favorable devotional service to the Lord Kṛṣṇa. The great sage Nārada has said,
sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
[Cc. Madhya 19.170]
Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto Him, there are two side effects-one is freed from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the service of the Lord, one's senses are purified. (Nārada-Pañcarātra).
The various identities a person adopts in relation to his mind and body are all material designations. The pure soul is unencumbered by such mundane designations, for the only identity he has is that of a servant and inseparable part of the Supreme Lord. Thus, with the shedding of all false designations, one enters a state of transcendence, and when one is firmly situated in transcendence, one becomes pure. Serving the Supreme Lord, the master of all senses, with such purified senses is unalloyed devotional service.
In Bhagavad-gītā (8.14), the two words ananya-cetāḥ ("without deviation") and nitya-yukta ("regularly") are very significant. One cannot become undeviating in devotional practice without being fixed in undeviating faith. When a person regularly serves the Supreme Lord with this faith, he automatically loses all desires for fruitive activity, speculative knowledge, worship of the demigods, and ritualistic pious activities, and he becomes undeviating in his devotional service. The word satatam ("always") must be understood to imply that devotional service is independent of time, place, circumstance, adversity, and so on. Everyone, regardless of race, caste, sex, or other material designation, can give up mental speculation, fruitive actions, and yoga practice and take complete shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet without deviation. The word nitya means "daily," "regularly," or "constantly." Those who meditate constantly on Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet can easily attain Him. As Lord Brahmā states in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.33),
advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam
ādyaṁ purāṇa-puruṣaṁ nava-yauvanaṁ ca
vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, who is inaccessible to the Vedas, but who is obtainable by pure unalloyed devotion of the soul, who is without a second, who is not subject to decay, is without a beginning, whose form is endless, who is the beginning, and the eternal puruṣa, yet He is a person possessing the beauty of blooming youth.
In the process of executing religious duties, performing fruitive activities, cultivating empiric knowledge, and practising mystic yoga, much endeavor, time, and money is spent. One has to accept the sinful reactions along with the pious results of such activities. The only way to nullify these results and reactions is to worship the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Thus worshiping and serving Lord Kṛṣṇa are the only advantageous activities for the entire world.
The Supreme Lord is the embodiment of eternal bliss and is always engaged in transcendental pastimes. The only thing required to worship Him is undeviating devotion—ostentation will not please Him. Devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa does not produce hate or envy; only the agnostic reprobates are strongly opposed to the Lord's devotional service and His devotees. One derives the greatest bliss in devotional service. Indeed, when one finally obtains the Lord, it is like being drowned in an ocean of unlimited ecstasy. Only the devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa can taste this ecstasy and be always joyful.
Under Illusion of Māyā Man has Forgotten Lord Kṛṣṇa
The karmīs, jñānīs, and yogīs, as well as the common politicians and anyone else who is working hard to make a comfortable and peaceful situation in this material world, must clearly realize that the world is transitory and full of misery. However much one may toil to make a permanent settlement in this world, at the end everyone is forced to leave. As long as one stays here, one must come to grips with the reality of suffering. Since time immemorial the soul has been coming and going. The Lord's devotees, however, not only live happily in this world, but after they leave here they enter the eternal and ever-blissful abode of the Lord. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.15),
mām upetya punar janma
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.
According to the above verse, the devotees attain the highest perfection—that is, they join the elevated corps of the Lord's eternal associates. The mystic yogī's eightfold mystic perfection is not the same as the devotee's para-siddhi, or "highest perfection." While mystic yoga brings perfections that are material and temporary, devotional service to the Supreme Lord brings absolute perfection, which is transcendental and eternal. The Supreme Lord incessantly manifests His ever-fresh transcendental pastimes within this unlimited material universe, which He has created. These pastimes, known as bhauma-līlā, have been going on since time immemorial. The sun remains in one place, yet somewhere on earth people see it rising, while elsewhere people see it setting. This rising and setting has been going on since the dawn of creation. Similarly, although Lord Kṛṣṇa eternally resides in Goloka, His eternal abode, He manifests His transcendental pastimes at every moment in the countless universes of this cosmic creation. As it is a mistake to think the sun rises and sets, it is a gross misconception to think that Lord Kṛṣṇa was born on such-and-such a day and was slain by someone on such-and-such a day. The Lord's birth and activities are all transcendental and miraculous. And those who can comprehend this esoteric truth attain the highest perfection. As the Lord states in the the Bhagavad-gītā (4.9),
janma-karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so 'rjuna
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.
When Lord Kṛṣṇa desires to manifest His earthly pastimes, He appears through His eternal parents, Śrīmatī Devakī and Śrī Vasudeva, and is later brought up by His foster parents, Mother Yaśodā and Nanda Mahārāja. Saintly souls who perfect their devotional service by following in the footsteps of the Lord's eternal parents are elevated to the highest position as eternal associates of the Supreme Lord. Once having entered into the Lord's eternal transcendental pastimes, these great souls relish superexcellent devotional mellows in ecstatic love of Godhead.
In the innumerable universes, Lord Kṛṣṇa reveals His earthly pastimes with His intimate friend and eternal associate Arjuna. The Lord makes this clear in two Bhagavad-gītā verses (4.5-6):
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
ajo 'pi sann avyayātmā
bhūtānām īśvaro 'pi san
prakṛtiṁ svām adhiṣṭhāya
Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy! Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.
As for those unfortunate souls who do not strive for the supreme goal of entering the eternal pastimes of the Supreme Lord and instead become attracted to the mundane practices of karma, jñāna, and yoga, which ultimately elevate one to the heavenly planets—such souls must once again take birth in this material world. Although they may reach a high status in this cosmic system, they must come down as if on a ferris wheel. Kṛṣṇa describes this phenomenon in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.16):
punar āvartino 'rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again.
The higher planetary systems in this material world are Bhūrloka, Bhuvarloka, Svargaloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, and up to Satyaloka, or Brahmaloka. Whichever of these planets one rises to in his next life, one must finally return to earth. What to speak of the next life, even in this life the high position one attains after considerable hard work—such as king, emperor, minister, governor, or president—is lost after some time, and one is thrown back to a mean and humble status. Only leaders who have experienced this kind of humiliation can know the trepidation that accompanies it. But if at any stage of life the grossly foolish miscreants described in the Gītā decide to render devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, they can escape the ferris wheel of karma. On this wheel, sometimes one goes to heaven and sometimes to hell, sometimes one is born a king and sometimes a slave, sometimes one becomes a brāhmaṇa and sometimes śūdra, and so it goes on. But once a person enters the spiritual abode of the Supreme Lord, he begins his eternal life in his original, constitutional position.
By the influence of karma, one who is attached to the material body and mind has to change bodies life after life. In this way the soul roams the fourteen planetary systems within this material universe, sometimes going up and sometimes coming down. These planets are transitory—merely theatrical stages upon which the soul enacts his mundane existence. But when the living entity is elevated to spiritual perfection and is situated in his pure, eternal identity, devoid of all mundane designations, he attains the natural habitat of the spirit soul, the supramundane realm transcending this material creation and the intermediary zone of the unmanifested Brahman effulgence.
The material body, made up of material ingredients such as earth, water, fire, and air, is mortal. Similarly, because this material universe is an amalgam of earth, water, fire, air, etc., it is also transitory. But the spirit soul (which, incidently, has never been duplicated in the laboratory despite repeated efforts) is imperishable, as is its natural, eternal home—the kingdom of God. The process that takes the eternal soul to his eternal home is called sanātana-dharma, or "the eternal religion."
Empirical, atheistic philosophers like Kapila spent innumerable tedious hours researching the material phenomena of this cosmic creation. Yet it remained beyond the grasp of their limited intelligence to understand that there exists a realm transcendental and far superior to this manifested material world. Finally, when their probing minds failed to sight land in an ocean of speculation, they concluded that the absolute truth is unmanifest.
Compared to other species, human beings are certainly endowed with good intelligence, yet unless they are devotees of the Lord, all their thinking is limited within mundane boundaries. Therefore it is impossible for the mundane mind to approach the transcendence. But instead of surrendering to the Supreme Lord or His representative, the empirical philosophers try to explain away as "unmanifest" that which is beyond their mundane minds. This is known as the logic of the frog in the well.
No matter how big a thinker a tiny living entity may be, all his activities are limited by mundane boundaries, just as a frog in the well can never comprehend that such a thing as an ocean exists outside his little domain. He refuses to acknowledge that a mass of water infinitely bigger than his tiny puddle can at all be possible. Similarly, we are trapped in the dark well of our body and mind. And although we may try hard through yoga or empirical speculation to overcome our limitations, no matter how erudite we are it is impossible to reach beyond the limitations of our self-made well.
So, who can bring us news of the great ocean? Is there any record of how long we have been struggling in the water to stay afloat in the well of this material world, sometimes going up to the higher planets, sometimes coming down? Only the Supreme Lord Himself or His empowered representative can possibly free us from confinement in this dark well. Under their guidance we can come to know of the limitless ocean of the spiritual sky. This process—hearing from higher authorities—is called the deductive, or descending, process of knowledge. It is the only authorized way to learn transcendental knowledge. By this method alone is eternal truth transmitted.
And what can we learn by this process? Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the spiritual and material worlds as follows in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.17-20):
By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of Brahmā's one day. And such also is the duration of his night. At the beginning of Brahmā's day, all living entities become manifest from the unmanifest state, and thereafter, when the night falls, they are merged into the unmanifest again. Again and again, when Brahmā's day arrives, all living entities come into being, and with the arrival of Brahmā's night they are helplessly annihilated. Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is."
People become awestruck when they learn that the life span on Brahmaloka is many millions of years. One has to undergo severe austerities and renunciation, accepting the sannyāsa order of life, in order to reach Brahmaloka. However, we must consider one essential fact: even Lord Brahmā, the presiding deity of that planet, is not immortal. Those who have researched the Vedic scriptures in depth can calculate the lifetime of Brahmā. Human beings count 365 days in their year, and the cycle of four yugas comprises approximately 4,320,000 such years. A thousand cycles of four yugas make up one day-time (twelve hours) of Lord Brahmā's life. In this way his month and year can be calculated, and Brahmā lives for a hundred years of his time. But despite this vast life span—311 trillion 40 billion human years—Lord Brahmā is a mortal being, and this universe created by him is also perishable. Thus it is not strange that human beings, who are also his creation, should perish. As human beings seem immortal to a tiny insect, so Lord Brahmā and the demigods seem immortal to us. In fact, however, no material body of any form is ever eternal.
At the end of Lord Brahmā's day, when night approaches, a partial dissolution inundates the universe up to the Svargaloka, the abode of the demigods. All the living entities of this world are created at the dawn of Lord Brahmā's day and annihilated at dusk, and this creation and annihilation go on in a continuous cycle.
The Supreme Lord always resides in the eternal Vaikuṇṭha planets
This material creation is manifested and subsequently destroyed during Lord Brahmā's day and night. But beyond this material world is an eternal existence—the spiritual sky—which is untouched by creation and annihilation. That spiritual abode is known as the Vaikuṇṭha planets. Even when this material creation is destroyed, the Vaikuṇṭha planets remain unscathed and intact. Once anyone enters these planets, he never again suffers the repetition of birth and death, which is inevitable for earthly beings. While the material world is covered and pervaded by the material sky, the spiritual planets are suspended in the spiritual sky, known as paravyoma. All the planetary systems within the paravyoma are transcendental abodes where the Supreme Lord performs His pastimes eternally.
Earlier we discussed that the Supreme Lord possesses two main energies, the material energy and the spiritual energy. The Vaikuṇṭha planets are a product of the spiritual energy of the Lord. The living entities belong to this spiritual energy, but because they can reside in either the spiritual world or the material world, even though they are originally spiritual they are designated as taṭastha-śakti, or "marginal potency."
The Vaikuṇṭha planets are a manifestation of the Lord's internal potency, while the material world is a manifestation of His external potency. Since the Supreme Lord is the master of all energies, it is an irrefutable fact that He is in full control of both the spiritual and material worlds. The perfect analogy is an earthen pot: What is needed to manufacture an earthen pot are clay, a potter's wheel, and a potter. The clay is the material, or ingredient cause of the pot, the wheel is the instrumental or efficient cause, and the potter is the prime cause. Similarly, while the material energy is both the ingredient and efficient cause of this cosmic creation, the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, is the prime cause. Like a shadow, the material energy works strictly in accordance with the Supreme Lord's dictates. As Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.10):
This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.
The sad fact is that although Kṛṣṇa reveals the truth about Himself throughout the Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures, the luckless populace cannot regard Him as the Supreme Lord. In particular, the impersonalistic philosophers, who make tall claims of being bastions of religiosity, reduce the Supreme Lord to the level of a mediocre mortal and thereby accrue heavy sins. Such atheistic offenders can never approach the subject of God on their own merit. The Supreme Lord and His surrendered servitors have in various ways clarified and transmitted the knowledge of the Supreme Absolute, but those who offend the Supreme Lord and His devotees can never comprehend such topics. As Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja says in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.30-31),
matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā
mitho 'bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ
durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ
andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās
te 'pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ
Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Kṛṣṇa are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both. Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Viṣṇu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.
Lord Kṛṣṇa also describes this kind of person in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.11):
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.
Puny human beings can manufacture only insignificant items like pots, pans, and factories. Therefore, when a personality who was born not so long ago in Mathurā and who looks like a human being is introduced as the Supreme Controller of the entire cosmic manifestation, the Lord of all lords and possessor of all absolute qualities, then, no matter how clearly one explains these truths, ordinary people cannot absorb them, due to their tiny dog's-bent-tail intelligence. Thus they embrace monistic, impersonal philosophy. Denying that Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is God, they insist that they are also "Gods." In this manner they embrace grossly foolish ideas about themselves and God and try to compete with Him, completely disregarding all etiquette and sound philosophical conclusions.
Spiritualists from the West often conclude that such atheistic people are possessed by Satan. In bygone ages many such satanic persons—Rāvaṇa, Hiraṇyakaśipu, Jarāsandha, Kaṁsa—challenged the Supreme Lord's authority. In modern times they have steadily multiplied. These demons have dismissed even Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, insulting Him with derogatory name—calling as "son of aunt Śacī."
The point to consider is that no one can really compete with God. The Supreme Lord is unparalleled, second to none. As it is said in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya: [Cc. Ādi 5.142] "Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is the Supreme Godhead, and all others are His servants." Only those who go through life being kicked about by fate, slaving hard to fill their bellies and maintain a roof overhead, can harbor so preposterous a wish as to compete with the omnipotent Supreme Controller. It is ludicrous. They dare harbor such desires because they are totally ignorant of the supreme, transcendental position of the Lord. Yet the Supreme Lord is so compassionate that by various tricks He tries to teach even these fools the facts of His transcendental and supreme position. And the Lord's confidential servitors, accepting many hazards and pains, also try every possible means to exorcise Satan from these people, who are possessed by the demon of atheism.
Then there are those so-called scholars who claim that they they alone know the scriptures and that all others are illiterate fools. Such "scholars" say that research of the holy texts clearly reveals that Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is the cause of this material creation and that Lord Kṛṣṇa, the son of Vasudeva and Devakī, is at best Viṣṇu's partial expansion. Thus we see that even intelligent men are sometimes bewildered by the illusory potency, māyā, and subscribe to demoniac ideas. How is it possible for such bewildered souls to accept that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes?
If we consult the śruti and smṛti scriptures on this topic, we will find many references proving that Lord Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, is the origin of Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and not vice-versa. For example, the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.47) states,
yaḥ kāraṇārnava-jale bhajati sma yoga-
ādhāra-śaktim avalambya parāṁ sva-mūrtiṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I adore the primeval Lord Govinda who assuming His own great subjective form, who bears the name Śeṣa, replete with the all-accommodating potency, and reposing in the Causal Ocean with the infinity of the worlds in the pores of His hair, enjoys creative sleep [yoganidrā].
The Bible says, "God created man after His own image." According to this statement, man possesses two hands because he has a form similar to God's. But this doesn't mean that God is a human being because He has two hands. It is a heinous offence to try to diminish the position of Lord Kṛṣṇa because He appeared in a human form. The truth about His divine potency and supreme position should be learned from the self-realized spiritual master, the saintly souls, and the revealed scriptures.
Demonic persons fail to understand the real purpose of human life. Instead, they are always quick to try to diminish the supreme position of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such atheists may have very high ambitions and may perform great, noble deeds, but because their ambitions and deeds are cut off from a loving relationship to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Godhead, they are all useless. The demon Rāvaṇa wanted to reach heaven by constructing a stairway, but he failed. And all atheists' ambitions are like that. A zero placed next to the number one gives ten, a second zero makes one hundred, and so on. As long as the number one is there, the value keeps rising as the zeroes increase. But without the number one, any number of zeroes are valueless. Similarly, if a person spends his whole life simply increasing the "zeroes" of material wealth, fame, and learning, without any relationship to the "one"—Lord Kṛṣṇa—then his whole life is valueless. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā,
rākṣasīm āsurīṁ caiva
prakṛtiṁ mohinīṁ śritāḥ
Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demoniac and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities, and their culture of knowledge are all defeated.
Although a person may call himself a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, if he considers Kṛṣṇa a human being or thinks that He started off as a human being and then evolved into God (as is now in vogue, with so many "incarnations" mushrooming), then such a person is not a devotee but an imposter. One often comes across monists and pseudo-devotees posing as Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotees, but eventually they try to usurp Kṛṣṇa's position. They want to be Lord Kṛṣṇa themselves. Persons with such insidious desires are totally bewildered. If a fruitive worker thinks that Lord Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary mortal, he does not attain the goal of his fruitive work—elevation to the heavenly planets. And if an anthropomorphist happens to be a jñānī, an empirical philosopher, then he also fails to achieve the goal of his pursuit of knowledge—liberation from the material modes.
Following in the Footsteps of Self-Realized Saints
Atheists gradually develop a demoniac nature and live in the world like beggars chasing after name, fame, wealth, and so on. Constantly deluded by māyā, they live useless lives. On the other hand, those who are truly dedicated to serving the Supreme Lord are never attacked by such a demoniac mentality. These great souls do not carry the title "Mahātmā" as an appendage. Someone who follows the satanic path and always challenges the Supreme Lord may try to fool the people into thinking he is a mahātmā, but the characteristics of an actual mahātmā are found in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.13):
mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.
Real mahātmās do not distract their minds with sense gratification and material desires, but with single-minded resolve they engage in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord. Because they are under the protection of His divine energy, they understand that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme cause of all causes. Such persons alone possess all saintly qualities. Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotees are exceptional personalities, for at all times they are embellished with extraordinary characteristics rarely attained even by the demigods. To usher in the age of peace in this world, the presence such mahātmās is imperative.
Recently, at a medical convention held in New Delhi, our honorable prime minister made the following observation in his speech:
We go in for public health, sanitation, and all kinds of preventive measures rather than wait for people to fall ill and then treat them. Why not apply that principle in the larger sphere and prevent social diseases that, left untreated, we will have to deal with later in a much more difficult form? So when wise men like you gather together, perhaps you might think of the ills and diseases of humanity as a whole that create so many conflicts and troubles and impede human progress.
Factually, whatever problems crop up in the world are caused by the mind. Paṇḍitas have researched the scriptures thoroughly and held many discussions on this topic. If we can follow the example set by the subjects of King Ambarīṣa, who under his guidance concentrated their minds on the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa, then the mind can be cured of all ills. Any other process will bring upon us the fate described by Prahlāda Mahārāja in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.18.12): harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇāḥ manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ.
... a person devoid of devotional service and engaged in material activities has no good qualities. Even if he is adept at the practice of mystic yoga or the honest endeavor of maintaining his family and relatives, he must be driven by his own material speculations and must engage in the service of the Lord's external energy. How can there be any good qualities in such a man?
The only way to cure this mental disease is to wholeheartedly follow Lord Caitanya's instruction to chant the holy names of Kṛṣṇa. This will cleanse the heart of all impurities. Until this esoteric truth is propagated widely, the world will remain deprived of the panacea that cures all mental diseases. Our honorable prime minister should seriously consider this. If the number of Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotees even slightly increases, there will immediately be a resurgence of peace and prosperity in the world. For man to rise to the glorious heights of a demigod, he needs only to revive his latent Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the greatest boon to humanity.
The mahātmās possess other wonderful qualities, some of which Lord Kṛṣṇa describes in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.14):
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with great devotion.
This text gives some hints of how to become a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The word satatam ("always") has been used to indicate that the process of purifying one's consciousness does not depend on fruitive activity, empiric knowledge, yoga, or on time, place, or circumstance.
A living entity becomes free from all suffering as soon as he admits that he is an eternal servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such a servant of the Lord need not perform fruitive activity or cultivate empiric knowledge, nor does he have to undergo any other process of purification. The only essential factor is his intense greed for devotional service to the Lord.
An extreme longing for Lord Kṛṣṇa is the only means for attaining Him. Thus intense, unflinching devotional service is another symptom of a mahātmā. These mahātmās execute all nine limbs of devotional service, beginning with hearing, chanting, and remembering the name, form, qualities, pastimes, and paraphernalia of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such devotional service is transcendental to any mundane consideration of time, place, or circumstance. Mahātmās are always eager to render loving devotional service to the Lord. They tirelessly dedicate their lives, energy, words, intelligence, body, society—everything—in the service of the Lord.
The great endeavor the mahātmā undertakes to execute devotional service is more intense than the ordinary man's voluntary acceptance of excessive pains and troubles to maintain his family and home. The struggle for maintaining family and relatives is illusion, or māyā. Hence it is truly distressing. By contrast, the difficulties one accepts in serving the Supreme Lord are transcendental, and therefore they are a source of sublime bliss. Moreover, a person who serves the Supreme Lord automatically serves his family. But the opposite is not true: serving the family is not equivalent to serving the Lord. All mahātmās agree on this point. Not only does the person who serves the Supreme Lord serve his relatives, but he also serves the entire world of moving and nonmoving living beings. Thus service to Lord Kṛṣṇa is the prime cause of world peace and harmony.
The mahātmās are always ready to render such service to the Lord with great determination. In this regard His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura once made this comment in a lecture:
The neophyte Vaiṣṇava devotees' ringing the bell even once during worship of the Deity of the Supreme Lord is a million times more valuable, spiritually and otherwise, than the charitable fruitive workers building many hospitals, feeding thousands of the poor, or building homes, or even the empirical philosophers' Vedic studies, meditation, austerities, and penances.
The mahātmās have shown the perfect path of charity: devotional service to the Lord. If anyone ignores this path and instead builds hospitals, his effort to help humanity is a mere pretense. Humanity can never reap any permanent advantage from such activities. Indeed, the number of patients only increases along with the number of hospitals. And as for feeding the poor, this will never eradicate poverty, but encourage it. Frankly speaking, we are not against opening hospitals or feeding the poor, or any other such humanitarian service. But what we have learned from our beloved spiritual master is that when devotional service to the Lord is neglected, every other activity is illusory and futile. Without genuine devotional service, even opening hospitals and feeding the poor in the name of Lord Kṛṣṇa is futile. Spiritual groups that do not strictly follow in Lord Caitanya's line cannot comprehend this because they do not wish to abide by the instructions of the mahātmās. They do not follow Lord Caitanya's injunction to be "more humble than a blade of grass." If they were that humble, they would give up their pride in being the doer of good deeds, the wisest person, the most devoted, and so on.
Those who strive to emulate the mahātmās never fall prey to passivity and regression. Their eagerness and determination to serve the Lord steadily increase. Such followers observe spiritual occasions like
The Supreme Lord: Lover of His Devotees
Members of the so-called educated class ask, "If one is busy all the time rendering devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, how is one to maintain himself and his family?" The so-called educated men think only a fool would be blind to his immediate physical needs and uselessly waste his time in devotional service so he could rise to the platform of a mahātmā. In fact, they think that a real mahātmā is he who strives to improve his material facilities from good to better. They say that it is because of the economists' poor planning that the world is facing a major crisis in food production. Both the economists and their critics should turn to the Bhagavad-gītā (9.22) and hear what Lord Kṛṣṇa has to say on this subject:
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.
It is relevant to mention here how in the Western world one atheistic government tried to induce the innocent citizens to embrace atheistic views. The government sent their propagandists to proselytize the people in the villages. They asked the innocent villagers, "Why do you all go to church? What do you pray to God for?" The villagers simply answered, "God gives us food." The atheists then led the villagers to the church and asked them to pray to God for food. The villagers, of simple faith, began to pray to God. At the end of their prayers, the officials asked them if they had received food or not. Bewildered, the people shook their heads. The atheists then asked the villagers to pray to them for food, which they did. Immediately, with a look of triumph, the atheists brought out baskets of bread. The villagers became happy and thought that the government representatives were more responsive and productive than God.
Alas! If only a devotee of the Lord had been present there, the villagers' devotion would not have been molested. The neophyte devotees' tender devotion is always susceptible to damage. But bread, after all, does came from God, and not from the atheists. If those villagers had been more conversant with the scriptures, the atheists would never have been successful in their evil plan. The simple villagers were illiterate, and hence they had no idea that the Supreme Lord alone can give them food. If the earth did not produce grain, then the atheists, despite their advanced material science, could never make bread or other foods.
Many may claim that in the modern age material scientists have helped increase agricultural yield. But we fearlessly proclaim that it is precisely such atheistic views that have brought the world to the present acute food crisis. If we are not careful, the day will soon come when fruits will be reduced to just skin and seed, cows' udders will dry up, and paddy fields will grow only grass. The scriptures predict that these things will come to pass in the Kali-yuga.
In reality, the Supreme Lord is always protecting us. The inmates of a prison are being punished by the government, yet the same government feeds them and looks after them. Similarly, sinful, atheistic people, though punished by the Lord's illusory energy (māyā personified as Durgā-devī), are still fed and cared—for by the Lord Himself. And if the Supreme Lord feeds and maintains even the worst sinners, reprobates, and helpless souls, then what to speak of those who are eternally surrendered to His lotus feet? He is like a king who takes proper care of his subjects, but who especially looks after the needs of his near and dear relatives. Therefore it is not true that a comfortable life can be enjoyed only by those who perform ordinary pious activities, but not by the devotees, who are free from fruitive action and empirical knowledge. The devotees do not always suffer, for the Supreme Lord personally takes care of them. The devotees are the Lord's relatives and family members. Just as ordinary people feel joy and satisfaction when they look after the needs and comforts of their family, the Lord also feels pleasure when he tends to the well-being of His devotees. Thus the Supreme Lord is known as Bhakta-vatsala, "the maintainer of the devotees." But He is never referred to as Karmī-vatsala, "the maintainer of fruitive workers," or Jñānī-vatsala, "the maintainer of empiric philosophers."
The devotees of the Lord fully depend on Him for everything, and so whatever they do to maintain themselves and their family is favorable to devotional surrender. Such pure souls are always fixed in devotion, never wasting a moment in activities outside the Lord's service. They are not assailed by materialistic desires, because everything they do is for the Lord's pleasure. Hence they alone are truly peaceful.
The devotee himself arranges for all expenditures incurred in executing devotional service. To an ordinary eye, earning and spending money in this way may look like sense enjoyment. But when the devotee is devoid of all material desires, the Supreme Lord feels great satisfaction in fulfilling all his needs. Though the obedient son may never express his wants to his father, the loving father spontaneously tries to make his son happy and derives joy from doing so. Therefore the Lord's devotees never lack anything, even materially, and at the end of this life, after leaving the body, they are situated in eternal bliss. This is the transcendental wealth a devotee inherits. Others—the fruitive workers, empiric philosophers, demigod-worshippers, and mystic yogīs—cannot attain eternal bliss.
Although Lord Kṛṣṇa is equally disposed toward all, He is nonetheless especially concerned about His devotees' well-being. However, one should not conclude that the Lord is nepotistic. As He declares in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.11), ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly." Though the devotees are desireless and undemanding, the Lord always sees to their requirements. The devotees are ever-joyful upon receiving such grace from the Lord, and there is no offence or sin in accepting His benedictions.
Here one may pose a question: "Why do only the devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa attain to His transcendental abode? After all, the demigods are simply energies of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and the scriptural conclusion is that the energy and the energetic are nondifferent. Therefore, why can't those who worship the demigods, Kṛṣṇa's energies, attain to the transcendental abode of the Lord?"
In reply, let us first refer to what Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself says on this subject in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.23):
ye 'py anya-devatā bhaktā
te 'pi mām eva kaunteya
Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kuntī, but they do so in a wrong way.
People worship demigods to fulfill temporary material desires, and the results they achieve from such worship are equally temporary and material. But if one worships the demigods with the knowledge that they are the Supreme Lord's energies, then this worship is accepted as authorized, and gradually such a worshipper becomes a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Godhead. But if one worships the demigods with the idea that they are on an equal level with Lord Kṛṣṇa, then such worship is unauthorized, because Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, unequalled and unsurpassed. Therefore no demigod can exist independent of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa is just like a king, and the demigods are like his ministers. The minister may sit on a throne and manage state affairs, but he is not independent: his powers come from the king.
By virtue of being the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Kṛṣṇa is eternally full of knowledge and bliss, beyond this material world. In the material world we often compare one person with another in terms of their position and power, and so we can rightly say that in comparison with human beings, the demigods are very highly placed. But there is no comparison between the Supreme Lord and the demigods, who are simply living entities belonging to the category as humans. Living entities, or jīvas, belong to the Lord's marginal potency, which emanates from His transcendental, internal potency. Therefore anyone who considers the demigods to be independent Supreme Gods is speculating and is totally wrong, because as jīvas they are invested only with temporary powers and position.
If a highly placed servant in the king's court is mistakenly honored as the king, that does not mean the king becomes the servant and vice versa. Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa is the only Supreme Person, and everyone else is His servant. The Brahma-saṁhitā clearly explains the relationship between Lord Kṛṣṇa and the demigods. There are numerous proofs that beings who are in the category of viṣṇu-tattva-supreme personalities on the level of Lord Viṣṇu—are the highest absolute beings. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam confirms this truth by proclaiming that of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, is the most elevated.
In India, the Hindus worship many gods—the sun-god, the moon-god, and so on. But the rituals of worship always begin with the worship of Lord Viṣṇu, and in the end everything is offered to Lord Viṣṇu's lotus feet because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A brāhmaṇa, a member of the priestly class, must start every ritual of worship by invoking Lord Viṣṇu as the Supreme Being; otherwise all his worship and rituals will be rendered useless. This same Lord Viṣṇu is, in fact, a partial expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is the ultimate cause of all causes and the original Supreme Lord. Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa is the receiver of all oblations and sacrifices and is the ultimate benefactor of all worship. As He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.24),
ahaṁ hi sarva-yajñānāṁ
bhoktā ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mām abhijānanti
tattvenātaś cyavanti te
I am the only enjoyer and master of all sacrifices. Therefore, those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.
At the time of worshiping the demigods, the reason for placing Lord Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, on the throne as the supreme enjoyer of the ritual or sacrifice is that the various demigods also worship Him and offer Him sacrifices. Therefore He is the Lord and master of all sacrifices. The Supreme Lord fulfills the desires of the demigod-worshippers through the agency of the demigods, but because the demigod-worshippers are ignorant of the Supreme Lord's transcendental position, their unauthorized demigod-worship leads them to confusion and illusion.
Demigod-worshippers often try to rationalize their worship of the demigods by thinking, "I am a devotee of this demigod, so he will certainly shower his grace upon me and fulfill all my heart's desires. Hence he is indeed the Supreme Lord." But the authorized scriptures condemn such demigod-worshippers and their worship as unethical and philosophically wrong. Such worshippers cannot understand that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord, the ultimate source of all energies. The demigods are in fact manifestations of the Lord's energies, though to the illusioned demigod worshippers they appear to be the ultimate object of their worship and devotion. Those who persist in this misunderstanding will never attain the Absolute Truth. On the other hand, those who worship the demigods strictly according to scriptural injunctions quickly realize that their object of worship is subordinate to the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. With this realization, their illusion is destroyed and they take shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet.
Offering a Leaf, a Flower, a Fruit, or a Little Water
One should always keep in mind that it is unnecessary to worship anyone but Lord Kṛṣṇa. Especially in this Age of Kali it is impossible to perform opulent sacrifices and worship. Of late, it has become a popular practise to publicly worship demigods with great pomp. Such worship is conducted whimsically, without following the scriptural rules. It is an excuse for people in the mode of ignorance to engage in base sense enjoyment and fiendish revelry. No ethics are maintained, no arrangements made for sumptuous public feasting, no authorized mantras chanted, no proper offerings made to the deities. These occasions are simply an excuse for wild singing, dancing, and misbehaving. All such worship is unauthorized.
Therefore intelligent people will follow the process of the congregational chanting of the holy names of God and in this way worship Lord Gaurāṅga who is Kṛṣṇa Himself with a golden complexion. Worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa is not an expensive affair, and worshiping Lord Caitanya is even easier and less expensive than worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa. The reason is that the little effort taken to collect a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water for the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa is not even required in Lord Caitanya's worship. But in any case, both the Supreme Lords can be worshiped easily in any country, in any condition, by anyone—be he foolish or wise, sinful or pious, highborn or lowborn, rich or poor. Thus we find Lord Kṛṣṇa saying in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.26),
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it.
Once the Supreme Lord is satisfied, the entire world is automatically satisfied, for by worshiping Him, one worships everyone else. Just as an entire tree-branches, leaves, and so on—receives water once the root of the tree is watered, so when the Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshiped and satisfied, then all the demigods and human beings are worshiped and satisfied.
There is no mention anywhere that worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa has to be conducted with large expenditures and pomp. Nor is there any restriction of time, place, or circumstance. Just as everyone has the right to bathe in the Ganges, so everyone has the right to serve Lord Kṛṣṇa. Flowers, fruit, leaves, and water are available everywhere. Even a pauper can arrange to find these four things with very little effort and at no cost. Thus the process of worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa is so simple that anyone from anywhere can participate.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is unborn, yet He can accept any form imaginable. And because He is the supreme father of every living being, anyone—whether a high-born brāhmaṇa or a social outcast—can offer Him a flower, a fruit, a leaf, and water with love and devotion. Then Lord Kṛṣṇa, the cause of all causes, will accept this offering, and by such spiritual activity the worshipper becomes eligible to enter His eternal abode. Who could be more foolish than the person who rejects this easy and joyful process and, becoming captivated by the mirage of material existence and craving for temporary mundane facilities, takes shelter of demigods? Recent times have witnessed a concerted and noble effort on all fronts to bring about unity, peace, and harmony in the world, but these are possible only when people worship Lord Kṛṣṇa and render Him devotional service.
Such a proposal is neither preposterous nor comic. In fact, if someone is a sincere seeker of the Absolute Truth, then whatever his present situation may be, by regularly offering the Supreme Lord flowers, fruit, leaves, and water with love and devotion, he will readily experience that the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is gradually coming nearer to him. We humbly request all our readers to kindly try this excellent method of approaching Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. This method requires no monetary expenditure, physical exertion, philosophical knowledge, or noble birth.
The differences between a demigod-worshipper and a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa are wide and numerous. In general, persons approach demigods only out of temporary material desires, whereas the devotees aim to re-establish their eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Lord. To that end the devotees offer Him worship, gifts, and anything they can collect, together with love and devotion, and the Lord accepts all these with relish. Such devotional offerings are free of any cravings for material benefit.
By contrast, the polytheists' offerings, which are laden with selfish motivations for material gain, are never accepted by the Supreme Lord, even if these offerings are opulent and elaborate. The demigod-worshippers have no real love or devotion for the particular demigod they worship, yet Lord Kṛṣṇa is so merciful that He fulfills the material desires of the foolish demigod worshippers.
Lord Kṛṣṇa never accepts any offering bereft of love and devotion. A person who is not hungry cannot suddenly develop an appetite, even if he is given delectable food. Similarly, the Lord has no attraction for opulent offerings made without love and devotion. We have already discussed that unauthorized worship of the Supreme Lord stems from the absence of devotion and the presence of material desire. One who is full of devotion aims to satisfy the Supreme Lord's senses, while one who is full of material desire aims to gratify his own senses. Those who carry in their hearts the desire to gratify themselves but make a show of serving the Supreme Lord will never experience the joys of being a real devotee. The scriptures have aptly described them as mercenaries. Devotion's prime objective is the attainment of God. Therefore, one must offer the Lord everything in one's possession, including the results of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, mystic yoga, austerity, meditation, and so on. This perfect process of surrender will lead to the attainment of God. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa openly proclaims in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.27),
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerity you perform-do that, O son of Kuntī, as an offering to Me.
If a person follows this injunction and with love offers the Lord everything he has-wife, house, family, intelligence, learning, business, religiosity, labor, food, water, whatever is required to maintain the body, and even lust, greed, and anger—then the Lord accepts these offerings and completely satisfies the offerer. And at the time of death the Lord takes such a surrendered soul to His Supreme abode.
The demigods are empowered to accept only certain types of offerings, whereas Lord Kṛṣṇa can accept the karma-phala, or fruitive results, of everyone. The Supreme Lord alone is powerful enough to accept conflicting fruitive results and moods of worship. This indicates Kṛṣṇa's supreme lordship and absolute position. It is unlikely that all of humanity will be able to understand the science of pure devotional service, yet everyone always has the ability to attain the Lord's lotus feet, even in the face of striking odds. Therefore the best course is to offer everything to the Supreme Lord.
All the points we have discussed regarding niṣkāma-karma are mentioned in detail in the scriptures. Paṇḍitas define niṣkāma-karma as "activities free from the desire for fruitive gain or empirical knowledge." Only such transcendental activities can be offered to Lord Kṛṣṇa. But all activities—whether verbal, physical, or mental—are transcendental if offered to the Lord with love and devotion. And He duly receives these offerings by His causeless mercy.
However, at this juncture we must avoid committing a mistake. Our present discussion does not include the materialistic caste brāhmaṇas' offering of oblations or fruitive work to Lord Nārāyaṇa. Because such offerings are not devoid of lust, there is no love or devotion in them. We have earlier established that the main criterion for a proper offering to the Lord is that it be done with love and devotion, for the satisfaction of His senses. Hence we must understand that only those things or services offered solely for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord are actually accepted by Him.
Exerting oneself to satisfy one's own hunger is kāma-karma, fruitive activity, but to tirelessly toil to feed the Supreme Lord with delicacies is niṣkāma-karma, transcendental work aimed at pleasing Him. Pleasing the Lord should be the sole purpose of commerce and trade, and also of research, science, charity, austerity, and all other activities. Such a practice will inspire one to hear and chant transcendental topics related to Lord Kṛṣṇa, and this hearing and chanting are the foremost of the ninefold devotional activities. In Vedic times, all human activities were strongly affiliated with devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Today the same eternal principle applies: everything must be utilized in the Lord's service.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer of all sacrifices. Thus He accepts the fruits of everyone's labor, and by so doing He crowns all His devotees' endeavors with glowing success. Such is the transcendental potency possessed by the omnipotent Lord. We must pay careful heed, however, never to allow the desire for self-aggrandizement or sense gratification to surreptitiously slip into our consciousness while we are performing devotional service. We should simply follow in the footsteps of the previous spiritual masters. In the Lord's presence, everyone is equal. Therefore, whoever serves the Lord with unwavering single-mindedness is listed among His close associates. They are truly "hari-janas," Lord Hari's own men. To rubber-stamp as a hari-jana a person who does not possess the prerequisite—devotional service—is a farce and an onerous hindrance on the path of devotional surrender.
Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.29),
samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham
I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me and I am also a friend to him.
One must not misunderstand the meaning of the word samaḥ, "equal." It does not mean that the Lord is impersonal and that He will bless any whimsical act, even unruly behaviour. The Lord is absolutely personal, the reservoir of divine sentiments, the supreme performer of transcendental pastimes. And He is the well-wishing friend of all living beings. But friendship has different degrees of intimacy. Thus the Lord's equal disposition is not without varieties of personalism. In other words, the Lord reciprocates with us according to our intensity of love for Him. In the Gītā (4.11) He says, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly." He responds to all the different devotional mellows—servitorship, fraternity, parental affection, and conjugal love. Similarly, he ignores those who disrespect Him by regarding Him as an ordinary mortal. Conversely, He always shelters and protects those who accept Him as the Supreme Lord and serve Him with loving devotion, following in the footsteps of past saintly masters.
Give Up all Kinds of Religion and Surrender unto Me."
The so-called progressive modern civilization has produced reprobate human beings, whose sins have been accumulating over many lifetimes. Yet if they surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa, even they will have all their sins eradicated forever. The process of devotional service and remembrance of Lord Kṛṣṇa will gradually dissipate unwanted, base desires from within their hearts. And those hearts, which previously sheltered immoral yearnings will become fully cleansed and auspicious.
The sinful and the destitute can understand their mistakes and misfortune only by Lord Kṛṣṇa's mercy. Once they begin to repent for their sins and surrender to the Lord, they are saved; they become purified and start manifesting saintly characteristics. And if even after a person takes to the devotional process some vestige of immorality remains in his character, that also will soon be eradicated by the Lord's grace. The single-minded devotee who never offends the Supreme Lord or His devotees is to be considered a saintly soul. Even if it seems that such a saint is not yet rid of all sinful propensities, he will never be destroyed, as are the yogīs and karmīs in a similar situation. This the Supreme Lord Himself has declared.
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam's account of the deliverance of Ajāmila conclusively proves this fact. Once undeviating faith in devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa penetrates a person's heart, the process of purification is firmly underway, even though his external activities may show residues of sin. Lord Kṛṣṇa has boldly broadcast in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.31) His promise that His surrendered devotees can never be vanquished: kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati. That Lord Kṛṣṇa will always protect His devotees is proved in this verse, especially since the Lord, instead of declaring the promise Himself, asks the valiant prince Arjuna to do so on His behalf. The Lord may break His own promise, but because He is favorable to His devotees, He will always try to uphold their promises. By breaking His own promise and keeping Bhīṣmadeva's on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra, the Lord has proved beyond a doubt that He favors His surrendered devotees .
A brāhmaṇa or someone of noble birth endowed with beauty, wealth, and learning may fallaciously conclude that elimination of degraded habits still visible in a devotee can occur only in the case of a brāhmaṇa like Ajāmila. Ajāmila was a brāhmaṇa by birth, but on account of sinful activities caused by bad reactions from his past life, he began performing abominable activities. At the end of his life, however, his remembrance of the Supreme Lord absolved him of all sins. But deliverance is possible for everyone, not just those of high birth. Even the lowest people, who are naturally given to base activities, can reach the spiritual abode of Lord Kṛṣṇa if they simply surrender at His lotus feet. As He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.32):
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya
ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās
te 'pi yānti parāṁ gatim
O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas [merchants], and śūdras [workers]—will attain the supreme destination.
When the lowest of human beings can attain the supreme destination by surrendering to Lord Kṛṣṇa, then what to speak of high-born brāhmaṇas? Those who follow the path of devotional service to the Supreme Lord are not hounded by caste and colour discrimination. Monotheism—one religion and one creed—is possible only under the shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet, and not in any other way.
The illusory potency, māyā, constantly terrorizes and shackles the people in the present Age of Quarrel, Kali-yuga. Due to forgetting their real identity as spirit souls, they bring disaster to the world. Under such a siege, modern-day thinkers and philosophers are desperately trying to bring purity and unity into society. They are conducting in-depth research into this problem. But Lord Kṛṣṇa long ago gave the solution to our modern problems in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.34):
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
O people of the world! Please try to translate the Gītā's message into action and channel your thoughts toward Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. Serve Him with your mind and body. If you dovetail all your energy in the Lord's service, then not only will you feel intense exhilaration in this lifetime, but you will be immersed in eternal bliss in the spiritual world, perpetually serving Him. The most munificent incarnation of Godhead, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, recently advented in the Age of Kali to propagate this message. By the great fortune of all Bengalis, He appeared in Bengal and blessed the Bengali race. Thus Bengalis can preach His mission and instructions to the entire human race and deliver the people of the planet and themselves. The presentation of this knowledge in a systematic and scientific manner will bring about universal sublime peace. Yet the shocking fact is that thirteen unauthorized cults have mushroomed into prominence and are fast expanding their illegitimate fold with naive disciples. What one fails to comprehend is how the leaders of these cults, who have never accept discipleship and tutelage from any bona fide spiritual master, can suddenly rise to the position of spiritual master themselves. The subject matter that needs to be promulgated among the people is not some cheap, sentimental concoction meant to deceive them; it is in fact a deeply profound and esoteric theology. The words of Lord Caitanya can never be disseminated by unscrupulous self-styled "gurus" who fake spiritual sentiments to impress the ignorant mass of people. All saintly persons beware!
Our general experience is that impersonalists, given as they are to speculation and sophistry, hesitate to accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Godhead. Thus they will always be frustrated in their endeavors to know the Supreme Absolute Truth by dint of their own intelligence. They cannot perceive this shortcoming in themselves, and even if it is pointed out to them by persons who know the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they cannot grasp it. Such polluted consciousness is a result of not surrendering to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Lord's name, form, qualities, pastimes, and paraphernalia are all transcendental and extraordinary; hence blunt material senses cannot perceive them. The sun becomes visible only by the help of sunlight; similarly, the Supreme Lord reveals Himself only to those engaged in His devotional service.
The facilities available to us in our material condition are many. One facility in the mode of goodness is intelligence, which gives us the ability to distinguish subtle elements and to discriminate between matter and spirit, and in this way to avoid coming under illusion. Also in the mode of goodness are tolerance, truthfulness, control of the senses, equanimity, and other such qualities. Added to the list are qualities in the mode of passion, such as strong desire, fearlessness, and unwavering determination, as well as qualities in the mode of ignorance, such as fear, madness, and distress over birth, death, old age, and disease. All these facilities are products of the Lord's external, material energy. Since māyā is under the Supreme Lord's control, all the above-mentioned qualities also emanate from Kṛṣṇa Himself. But Lord Kṛṣṇa is beyond the periphery of our sensual experience, and therefore simply cultivating the nobler qualities—those in the mode of goodness—is not sufficient spiritual practice to elevate us to the Lord's lotus feet. The only way to overcome māyā is to take complete shelter at the Lord's lotus feet. Kṛṣṇa states in the Gītā (7.14) that those who surrender to Him can easily cross beyond māyā. Once māyā is surmounted, one's endeavor is crowned with the realization that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Lord Brahmā says in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1):
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
Kṛṣṇa who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other oridin and He is the prime cause of all causes.
Only when one is free from the influences of māyā can one perceive the transcendental opulence, power, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation of the Supreme Lord. With this transcendental realization one can fathom the Supreme Lord's own words in the Bhagavad-gītā (10. 8-10):
I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in my devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me. To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
All Perfections Come from Bhakti-yoga
Whatever exists—manifest or unmanifest, material or spiritual—has one primary source: the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. He is the primeval, supreme controller, the cause of all causes, the Lord of all lords. As the Supersoul within the heart, He inspires all the activities of a transcendentally situated devotee. Those who possess true knowledge of the Absolute can render service to Lord Kṛṣṇa in the mood of a servitor, a friend, and so on. Their hearts are always absorbed in thoughts of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and they yearn to perceive and relish His eternal, transcendental pastimes.
By the grace of the Supreme Lord, these unalloyed devotees can unravel the mysteries of His intimate worship. Then, due to their love for the Lord, they find it difficult to maintain their lives without hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord's name, form, qualities, pastimes, associates, and paraphernalia. They seek the association of like-minded devotees, and with them they dive into the ocean of the nectar of devotion. Situated in their spiritual identity, they relish spiritual exchanges and hear, discuss, and remember the all-auspicious topics of Lord Kṛṣṇa's transcendental pastimes, thus practising the ninefold devotional process.
They execute this ninefold devotional service in the stage of sādhana, or practice, and feel deep satisfaction in the perfected, or siddha, stage. They become saturated with the transcendental spiritual mellows of servitorship, friendship, and so on, from which they derive divine ecstasy. Lord Kṛṣṇa grants genuine transcendental understanding, buddhi-yoga, to those devotees who experience spiritual satisfaction and divine bliss through constant devotional service; gradually their specific devotional attitude increases to the point where they can relish pure love of God.
In the stage of bhāva, or spontaneous devotional service in ecstasy, there is a direct transcendental exchange of mellows between Lord Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotee. The Supreme Lord Himself gives His devotee buddhi-yoga, or spiritual intelligence, and the devotee, acting with that intelligence, serves the Lord until he gradually approaches the Lord's supreme abode. Such a devotee can never be affected by ignorance.
The impersonalists and empiric philosophers consider the unalloyed devotees of the Lord sentimental fools, and thus they deride them. This is a big offense. Such offences cause the impersonalists and pseudo-devotees to slowly become demoniac. Having lost good sense and a stable mind, they gradually develop animosity toward the Supreme Lord and find all their life's endeavors reduced to suffering and futility. If one of these deluded demoniac impersonalists comes in contact with a pure devotee and by his mercy regains his lost insight, then he can begin to understand that the pure devotees he offended are exchanging spiritual mellows with Lord Kṛṣṇa and are thus forever free from ignorance and illusion. The impersonalists must understand that the Supreme Lord, acting from within as the Supersoul, removes all ignorance from the devotee's heart. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.11):
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
The dry speculative philosophers may kindly note one point: By using the word teṣām, Lord Kṛṣṇa openly declares that He is always merciful to His surrendered devotees. The reason that the Lord expands Himself as the Supersoul and enters everyone's heart is not to bless the empiric philosophers and yogīs but to bless the devotees from within. If the Supreme Lord Himself wishes to enlighten the devotees with spiritual knowledge and gradually draw them closer to Him, then what question is there of such devotees ever coming under the spell of nescience? Rather, it is out of nescience only that the empiric philosophers try to approach the Supreme Truth on the strength of their own intellect. We know that the Supreme Lord can dissipate the darkness of ignorance with the spiritual effulgence emanating from His body. Can the empiricists do the same? One can never lift the gloom of nescience by one's own efforts. Empiricists such as the atheist Kapila, unable to reach enlightenment by their own efforts, feel great relief in trying to explain away the Absolute Truth as unknowable and unmanifest. But great suffering befalls these dry speculators attached to the theory of the unmanifest Absolute, as Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (12.5):
kleśo 'dhikataras teṣām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.
The austerities a monist performs are painful both during the initial stage of practice (sādhana) and when he has supposedly reached perfection. The impersonalists suffer excruciating pains trying to establish the oneness of matter and spirit through speculative theories. Thinking that Brahman is impotent, through sophistry they try to equate the Lord's inferior, material energy with His superior, spiritual energy, thus reaping ridicule from truly learned circles. In attempting to prove that the Absolute Truth cannot be the Supreme Personality of Godhead with unlimited energies, they argue that this would mean immutable Brahman is actually mutable. Thus their logic loses all cohesion and they become a laughingstock. In trying to refute the established theory of pariṇāma-vāda, or the "transformation of energy," they accuse Śrīla Vyāsadeva of being mistaken when he says that the material universe and the living entities are all transformations of the Lord's energy and are therefore real, not false. Thus in their philosophical discussions the monists reject the main purport and essence of all Vedic scriptures and their corollaries and hang on to nonessential injunctions, such as tat tvam asi, "You are that." They like to deliberate on these subpoints, but when confronted with the arguments of a learned Vaiṣṇava, they turn and run from the battlefront.
Without understanding that the Supreme Lord is a transcendental personality, the monists make futile and grossly mundane attempts at restraining their senses, meditating on the Lord's impersonal aspect as the ultimate and original Absolute Truth. As it is impossible to dam a flooding river, so it is impossible to control the senses by meditating on the impersonal Brahman. As the great sage Sanat Kumāra says in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.22.39):
karmāśayaṁ grathitam udgrathayanti santaḥ
tadvan na rikta-matayo yatayo 'pi ruddha-
sroto-gaṇās tam araṇaṁ bhaja vāsudevam
The devotees, who are always engaged in the service of the toes of the lotus feet of the Lord, can easily overcome hard-knotted desires for fruitive activities. Because this is very difficult, the nondevotees—the jñānīs and yogīs—although trying to stop the waves of sense gratification, cannot do so. Therefore you are advised to engage in the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa, the son of Vasudeva.
Lord Viṣṇu's impersonal aspect is known as Brahman. So when the jīva soul, a product of Lord Viṣṇu's superior, spiritual energy, attains sāyujya-mukti, or liberation by merging with Brahman, it is not at all surprising. The energetic principle always enjoys the prerogative of enfolding within itself His own energy, but that does not destroy the energy's eternal individuality. The impersonalists, desiring to merge with Brahman and knowing that it is feasible, still experience intense suffering in their effort to reach brahmānanda, "the bliss of Brahman." The Lord's devotees consider the pleasures of such liberation worse than hell. The impersonalists, in trying to destroy the illusion inherent in material forms, do away with even the eternal spiritual forms. That is indeed very foolish. Treating a patient to cure his disease is one thing, but ending the patient along with the disease is the work of an idiot. Thus we have this instruction from the great authority Brahmā in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.4):
śreya-sṛtiṁ bhaktim udasya te vibho
kliśyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye
teṣām asau kleśala eva śiṣyate
nānyad yathā sthūla-tuṣāvaghātinām
My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If one gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.
Instead of becoming an impersonalist and inviting misfortune and misery, the devotee surrenders to Lord Kṛṣṇa and never suffers in this world. When he leaves his present body, he transcends the material platform and becomes eligible to participate in the Lord's eternal pastimes. As the Supersoul, Lord Kṛṣṇa enlightens the devotee from within the heart and disperses the gloom of ignorance. The Lord gives the devotee the spiritual intelligence to attain Him. The ocean of nescience is very difficult to cross, but when the devotee attempts to cross it, the Lord Himself intervenes to help. Alone the devotee would surely drown, but with the Lord's help he easily crosses over. Thus taking shelter of the Lord is the surest way to surmount the ocean of material existence. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (12.6-7)
ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā—for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
Those who surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa, who repose their unflinching faith in the personal form of the Supreme Lord, offer him their mental and physical activities, along with everything else. With unalloyed, single-minded devotion unencumbered by desires for empirical knowledge, fruitive activity, or severe austerities, they worship and meditate on the eternal, beautiful, two-handed form of Lord Kṛṣṇa playing a flute. Such pure devotees, their hearts saturated with love for Kṛṣṇa, quickly and easily transcend the cycle of material existence, for Lord Kṛṣṇa personally helps them. The merciful Lord promises to reciprocate with each one according to his degree of devotion.
The impersonalists are obsessed with the idea that the Supreme Being is impersonal and that the final goal is to merge into that Brahman existence. Naturally the Lord does not object. If a patient wants to end his disease by ending his life, then who will suffer but him? The more intelligent person will surely want to cure his disease without ending his life, and to that end he will strive to regain his original health. Similarly, the soul infected with the material disease should want to return to his pure, original state without annihilating his individual identity. Lord Kṛṣṇa saves such persons from the jaws of the demoniac conception of trying to become one with God. It is suicidal for the spirit soul to attempt to lose his inherent individuality. The happiness the impersonalist experiences by disentangling himself from the knots of material existence is automatically available to the Lord's devotee as a by-product of devotional service. As the Nāradīya Purāṇa says,
One should not engage in fruitive activity or cultivate knowledge by mental speculation. One who is devoted to the Supreme Lord, Nārāyaṇa, can attain all the benefits derived from other processes, such as yoga, mental speculation, rituals, sacrifices, and charity. That is the specific benediction of devotional service.
And in the Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (107), Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura states:
bhaktis tvayi sthiratarā bhagavān yadi syād
daivena naḥ phalati divya-kiśora-mūrtiḥ
muktiḥ svayaṁ mukulitāñjali sevate 'sṁān
O Lord! If our devotion to You is undeviating, then Your ever-youthful form will spontaneously manifest within our heart. At that time liberation personified will serve us like a maidservant, and religiosity, economic development, and sense gratification [the other three goals of the Vedas] will humbly await our bidding.
yā vai sādhana-sam pattiḥ
tayā vinā tad āpnoti
Even without the usual requirements for achieving the perfection of life, a person will gain that perfection if he is simply a surrendered devotee of Nārāyaṇa. (Nāradiya Purāṇa)