Chapter 13: Perfect Knowledge Through Surrender
kācit tvayy ucitā bhaktiḥ
kīdṛśī mama gocarā
yayā padaṁ te nirvāṇam
On hearing this statement of the Lord, Devahūti inquired: What kind of devotional service is worth developing and practicing to help me easily and immediately attain the service of Your lotus feet?
It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that no one is barred from rendering service to the Lord. Whether one is a woman or a laborer or a merchant, if he engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord, he is promoted to the highest perfectional state and goes back home, back to Godhead. The devotional service most suitable for different types of devotees is determined and ﬁxed by the mercy of the spiritual master. Therefore in order to become free from the miseries of material nature, one should approach a bona ﬁde spiritual master inquisitively and submissively. When Arjuna submitted to Kṛṣṇa, he said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, now I no longer care to talk to You as a friend because friendly talks will not beneﬁt me now.” Generally we talk to a friend just to spend time, but when we approach a spiritual master, we should be submissive. Friends approach one another on an equal basis, but this is not the way to approach a spiritual master. Unless one is submissive, one cannot accept sublime instructions. Arjuna teaches us submission by giving up his friendly relationship with Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He says, “I have now become Your disciple. Please instruct me.”
We can speculate for many births, for many years, and yet not be able to understand the ultimate goal of life. Therefore the śāstras all advise that we search out a guru. The word guru means “heavy” or “weighty.” One who has much knowledge is heavy with knowledge. One should consider the bona ﬁde guru in this way, and one should not think, “I know everything. Who can teach me?” No one can say such a thing, for everyone needs instruction.
According to the Vedic system, a child is sent to a guru-kula to learn spiritual knowledge from the very beginning. When a child goes to a guru-kula, he becomes a brahmacārī and works like a menial servant. He may be the son of a great brāhmaṇa or a great king; it doesn’t matter. When one goes to a guru-kula, he immediately becomes the menial servant of the guru. If the guru orders him to perform some lowly service, he is prepared to do it. This is the business of a brahmacārī. Even Kṛṣṇa went to a guru-kula to teach us. There was no need for Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to go to a guru-kula, but He did this simply to set an example. Caitanya Mahāprabhu also accepted a guru.
Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī was a very learned scholar, and he knew that Caitanya Mahāprabhu was also a great scholar, yet he criticized Caitanya Mahāprabhu for chanting and dancing, for Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī felt that a sannyāsī should devote his entire attention to the reading of Vedānta. He therefore considered Caitanya Mahāprabhu a sentimentalist, not a bona ﬁde sannyāsī. Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī inquired, “Why aren’t you reading Vedānta-sūtra? Why are you chanting and dancing?” Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied:
prabhu kahe — śuna, śrīpāda, ihāra kāraṇa
guru more mūrkha dekhi’ karila śāsana
“Actually, I am not very learned, and my guru has stated that I am fool number one. He said that because of this I cannot possibly read Vedānta-sūtra, for Vedānta-sūtra is not meant for an ordinary person. My guru therefore advised me to chant this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, and now I am doing this and getting the results.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 7.71)
At the present moment in Kali-yuga, people are not well educated. They are simply engaged in earning money to ﬁll the belly. Vedānta philosophy is not meant for an ordinary person, nor even for an ordinary learned person. It requires great knowledge of Sanskrit and philosophy. Of course Caitanya Mahāprabhu, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knew all things, but at that moment He had assumed the role of an ordinary person in order to instruct an illiterate, ignorant society. In this age people are not even interested in reading Vedānta-sūtra. People are so badly infected by the inﬂuence of māyā that they do not even care to understand that there is life after death or that there are 8,400,000 life forms. Sometimes if people hear that by acting in such a way they will become a tree, a dog, a cat, an insect or even a human being, they say that they do not even care to know this. Sometimes they say, “Never mind if I become a dog. What’s wrong with that? I will simply forget everything.” Many university students in the Western countries speak this way. They have become so ignorant that they are described as manda. Previously, in India, the brāhmaṇas were interested in understanding Brahman. Athāto brahma-jijñāsā. However, at the present moment everyone is a śūdra, and no one is interested in understanding Brahman. People are simply interested in getting more money and going to the cinemas.
Human life is meant for understanding our situation, and we should take instructions from Bhagavad-gītā. Arjuna is personally teaching us by accepting Kṛṣṇa as his guru. He asks Kṛṣṇa to become his spiritual master and teach him. The lessons given by Śrī Kṛṣṇa are not simply meant for Arjuna but for everyone. Kṛṣṇa tells us in Bhagavad-gītā that we should search out a guru. The ﬁrst guru is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, and whoever represents Śrī Kṛṣṇa is also a guru. If I am a businessman, and someone goes to canvass for my business and take orders for me, he is my representative. If he simply says that he is my representative and yet takes some orders but uses the money for something else, he is not really my representative.
Kṛṣṇa’s representative does not say, “I have become Kṛṣṇa.” Such a person is neither a representative nor a guru. He is simply a cheater. Kṛṣṇa’s representative is one who canvasses for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says, “Give up everything and surrender unto Me.” Kṛṣṇa’s representative says, “Give up everything and simply surrender unto Kṛṣṇa.” This is certainly not very difﬁcult to understand. Anyone can become Kṛṣṇa’s representative. Nonetheless, for the past two hundred years, many yogīs and svāmīs have gone to foreign countries, but no one has spoken about Kṛṣṇa. They have simply presented a hodgepodge of Indian philosophy. No one has actually presented Vedic culture as it is.
We should read Bhagavad-gītā as it is and understand the philosophy as Arjuna understood it. Arjuna was a friend of Kṛṣṇa’s. He was sitting with Kṛṣṇa and speaking to Him as a friend speaks to a friend. In the eleventh chapter, after having seen the universal form, Arjuna tells Kṛṣṇa: “I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Kṛṣṇa,’ ‘O Yādava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love.”
Arjuna understood that although Kṛṣṇa was his friend, He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead and therefore the proper person to be his guru. He therefore told Kṛṣṇa at the beginning of Bhagavad-gītā (2.7), śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam: “Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.”
These are the instructions we get from Bhagavad-gītā, and whoever reads Bhagavad-gītā has to accept Kṛṣṇa as the guru. We have to render service to a guru and surrender ourselves. It is not that one should accept just any person as a guru. The guru must be the representative of Kṛṣṇa; then one can surrender oneself. Surrender means that one will accept whatever the guru says. It is not that one thinks, “I do not care for my guru’s order. Still I am a disciple.” That is not actually accepting a guru. Of course, it has become a fashion to accept a guru in this way, but this will not help anyone. As soon as Kṛṣṇa became Arjuna’s guru, Kṛṣṇa immediately chastised him. Śrī Kṛṣṇa told him:
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
“While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Bhagavad-gītā 2.11)
In this way Kṛṣṇa essentially told Arjuna that he was fool number one for lamenting for those things for which one should not lament. Arjuna was lamenting for the body, thinking that it was horrible that his relatives would be killed in war. This was not the proper subject matter for him to be contemplating. The real subject matter for a wise man to contemplate is the salvation of the soul. Therefore Śrī Kṛṣṇa ﬁrst explained the distinction between the body and the soul.
This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is also concerned with the soul, and therefore we have used the word “consciousness” because consciousness belongs to the soul. Consciousness is the symptom of the soul’s presence. Because the soul is in the body, the body feels pleasure and pain. When the soul leaves the body, the body can be hacked to pieces, and yet it will not protest. This is because the consciousness is gone. We feel pleasure and pain because consciousness is present, and Kṛṣṇa advises us that it is this consciousness that is eternal, not the body. We have to purify our consciousness in order to understand that consciousness is eternal. If we can do this, our lives will be successful. At the time of death, our consciousness carries us into another body. There are the mind, the intelligence and the ego, which constitute the subtle body, and there is also the spirit soul, which is even more subtle. We know that we possess a mind, although we cannot see it. Nor can we see the intelligence, the ego or the soul. We can only see the gross material body, and when this gross material body ends, we say that everything is ﬁnished. In order to understand these things, we have to approach a guru, just as Arjuna approached Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna in very gentlemanly language that he was not a learned man. In essence, He said, “You are not a paṇḍita. Just try to understand that the real life is the life of the soul.” Vedic education means taking care of the soul. Presently the soul is encaged, embodied, entangled in material affairs. The soul is suffering, and it is to our beneﬁt to rescue him from these material clutches. This is real education. To receive this education, one has to approach a proper guru. The guru is there – Kṛṣṇa. The guru is also there as Kapiladeva, the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa informs us that He is the owner of the body, and He has explained this in many different ways. He has stated that the soul can never be cut to pieces, burned by ﬁre, moistened by water nor withered by the wind. Matter interacts with matter, but the soul does not belong to the material world. This means that the soul is above material action and reaction. In the material world even iron and stone can be melted, but the laws of material nature do not apply to the spirit soul.
To understand these subjects, we should be careful to approach Kṛṣṇa’s representative. We should not approach a bogus guru, who is like a blind man trying to lead other blind men. We must go to one who has open eyes, to one who has seen the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is there, just as the sun is there for everyone to see. The sun does not hide, but a person can try to hide from the sun by closing his door. One must open the door in order to see the sun. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa is there, God is there, and we have to come to Kṛṣṇa and take the lessons of Bhagavad-gītā to learn who and what God is. Rascals will not do this, but will simply manufacture some philosophy or other. There is actually no difﬁculty because Kṛṣṇa’s instructions are there, and Kṛṣṇa Himself is there. Kṛṣṇa is so kind that He says, “All right, if you cannot understand Me in this way, just see Me in water. Come on, if you do not understand Me in that way, just see Me in the sunshine.” Is this very difﬁcult? There is nothing difﬁcult about it, but we are very obstinate. Māyā is also very strong, and as soon as we try to accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord, māyā will whisper in our ear, “No, no. There are many gods. Why are you accepting Kṛṣṇa?” However, the śāstras say, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. “Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” We should take our lessons from the ācāryas and the śāstras. At least in India there are many great ācāryas – Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, and even Śaṅkarācārya and Guru Nanak. All of these have accepted Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Why, then, should we reject Him? Why should we accept a competitor? We should not simply engage in mental speculation but should accept Kṛṣṇa in full consciousness and be happy. This is made possible by the help of the guru; therefore Devahūti is further questioning her son, Kapiladeva.
yo yogo bhagavad-bāṇo
kīdṛśaḥ kati cāṅgāni
The mystic yoga system, as you have explained, aims at the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is meant for completely ending material existence. Please let me know the nature of that yoga system. How many ways are there by which one can understand in truth that sublime yoga?
There are different kinds of mystic yoga systems aiming for different phases of the Absolute Truth. The jñāna-yoga system aims at the impersonal Brahman effulgence, and the haṭha-yoga system aims at the localized personal aspect, the Paramātmā feature of the Absolute Truth, whereas bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which is executed in nine different ways, headed by hearing and chanting, aims at complete realization of the Supreme Lord. There are different methods of self-realization. But here Devahūti especially refers to the bhakti-yoga system, which has already been primarily explained by the Lord. The different processes of the bhakti-yoga system are hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping the Lord in the temple, accepting service to Him, carrying out His orders, making friends with Him and ultimately surrendering everything for His service.
The word nirvāṇātman is very signiﬁcant in this verse. Unless one accepts the process of devotional service, one cannot end the continuation of material existence. As far as jñānīs are concerned, they are interested in jñāna-yoga, but even if one elevates oneself, after a great performance of austerity, to the Brahman effulgence, there is a chance of falling down again to the material world. Therefore, jñāna-yoga does not actually end material existence. Similarly, regarding the haṭha-yoga system, which aims at the localized aspect of the Lord, Paramātmā, it has been experienced that many yogīs, such as Viśvāmitra, fall down. But bhakti-yogīs, once approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead, never come back to this material world, as conﬁrmed in the Bhagavad-gītā. Yad gatvā na nivartante: upon going, one never comes back. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti: after giving up this body, he never comes back again to accept a material body. Nirvāṇa does not ﬁnish the existence of the soul. The soul is ever-existing. Therefore nirvāṇa means to end one’s material existence, and to end material existence means to go back home, back to Godhead.
Sometimes it is asked how the living entity falls down from the spiritual world to the material world. Here is the answer. Unless one is elevated to the Vaikuṇṭha planets and is directly in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is prone to fall down, either from the impersonal Brahman realization or from an ecstatic trance of meditation. Another word in this verse, bhagavad-bāṇaḥ, is very signiﬁcant. Bāṇaḥ means “arrow.” The bhakti-yoga system is just like an arrow aiming up to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The bhakti-yoga system never urges one toward the impersonal Brahman effulgence or to the point of Paramātmā realization. This bāṇaḥ, or arrow, is so sharp and swift that it goes directly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, penetrating the regions of impersonal Brahman and localized Paramātmā.
We must understand the Supreme Person, tattvataḥ, in truth. Generally people are not interested in knowing about God or their relationship with Him. However, the entire Vedic instruction is for this purpose. First of all we have to know God, then we have to know our relationship with God. The next step is acting on the basis of that relationship. Kṛṣṇa states that out of many millions of people, one may be interested in knowing the purpose of life. Human life is meant for this end, and if one does not come to this understanding, he is no better than an animal. We not only have to understand God and our relationship with Him but also how to act in that relationship. In this way we can perfect our lives. When one is a siddha, one understands himself – that is, one understands, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: “I am not this body.” This is Brahman realization, the brahma-bhūta platform. When one attains this stage, he becomes very happy. However, we must progress beyond this and come to the platform of bhakti-yoga. On that platform, there is variety and ānanda, bliss. As stated previously, we are seeking spiritual variety, and if we do not enter the spiritual world, we will again fall down into the material atmosphere.
The varieties of the spiritual world are mentioned in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.29–30):
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the ﬁrst progenitor, who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems and surrounded by millions of purpose trees. He is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune.
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His ﬂute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head decked with peacock’s feather, with the ﬁgure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of Cupids.”
We should not consider Kṛṣṇa’s form to be imagined by some artist. He is described in the Vedas as veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣam. He plays a ﬂute, and His eyes are like the petals of a lotus ﬂower. He wears a peacock feather, and His complexion is very beautiful, like a dark cloud. He is so beautiful that He attracts many hundreds of thousands of Cupids (kandarpa-koṭi-kamanīya-viśeṣa-śobham). These are descriptions of Govinda found in the śāstras.
In the material world we are simply chewing the chewed, throwing it away, picking it up and then chewing it again. Spiritual variety is not like this. Spiritual variety is ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam: it is constantly increasing. It is even greater than the ocean, because the ocean does not increase. The shores of the ocean are set; they have certain limits. However, the ocean of bliss is constantly increasing. The more we enter into that spiritual bliss, the more we become joyful.
The young people in the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra all the time. If this mantra were material, how long would they chant it? It is not possible to chant a material name for very long because the chanting would become hackneyed and very tiresome. No one could be satisﬁed simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa unless Hare Kṛṣṇa itself were spiritual. We may chant, “Mr. John, Mr. John, Mr. John,” but after an hour we will be fed up. However, the more we become spiritually advanced, the more bliss we will derive from chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.
We can experience ānanda perfectly in the association of Kṛṣṇa. We can associate with Kṛṣṇa as a servant, a friend, a father, a mother or a conjugal lover. There are ﬁve basic rasas – śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya. In this material world, we experience the same rasas, or relationships. We are related to someone as a father, a son, a lover, a beloved, a master, a servant or whatever. These are perverted reﬂections of the relationship with Kṛṣṇa found in the spiritual world. Today in the material world I may be relishing my love for my son, but tomorrow my son may be my greatest enemy. There is no eternity in this kind of love. Or, if my son does not become my enemy, he may die. Today I may love some man or woman, but tomorrow we may break up. All of this is due to the defects of the material world. However, in the spiritual world these relationships never break up. They simply increase and increase, and this is called perfection.
Kṛṣṇa is very fond of tending surabhi cows, but the Māyāvādīs cannot understand this. They say, “What is this Kṛṣṇa?” Even Lord Brahmā was bewildered. He said, “How is it that this Kṛṣṇa, this boy of Vṛndāvana, is being worshiped? He is called the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How is that?” Lord Indra was also bewildered. Therefore if we do not wish to be bewildered we have to understand Kṛṣṇa in truth from Kṛṣṇa Himself or His bona ﬁde representative.
The activities of Kṛṣṇa are not ordinary but divine. If we can understand this, we immediately become liberated. We need only understand the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. These pastimes are not ordinary. In the material world, a young man wants to dance with many young girls, but Kṛṣṇa’s dancing with the gopīs is different. Because people cannot understand Kṛṣṇa, when they hear about Kṛṣṇa’s dancing with the gopīs, they take this as some kind of concession, and say, “Now let us dance with young girls.” In this way they go to hell. Therefore we have to learn from the proper person about Kṛṣṇa’s activities. We should not immediately try to understand Kṛṣṇa’s dealings with the gopīs, for they are very conﬁdential. These dealings are given in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and this indicates that we have to understand Kṛṣṇa as He is by ﬁrst reading the preceding nine cantos. When we have understood these nine cantos, we can go on to the tenth. In this way we can understand that Kṛṣṇa’s activities are not ordinary but divine, and we can immediately become liberated.
We may either hear about Kṛṣṇa, chant His names, worship Him or offer prayers. In any case, we should work under the directions of our spiritual master or Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. For instance, Hanumān simply carried out Lord Rāmacandra’s orders. Hanumān apparently had no education, and he was not capable of teaching Vedānta, but he simply carried out the orders of Lord Rāmacandra and attained perfection. Arjuna, on the other hand, took Kṛṣṇa as his most intimate friend. Arjuna was not a Vedāntist but a ﬁghter, a warrior. He had no time to study Vedānta because he had to deal with war and politics, but still he was the greatest devotee. People may say, “Oh, Arjuna was not a Vedāntist, nor even a brāhmaṇa or a sannyāsī. How could Kṛṣṇa accept him as a devotee?” Nonetheless, in Bhagavad-gītā (4.3), Kṛṣṇa says that Arjuna is His very dear friend and devotee: bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti. If one becomes a devotee, there is no material impediment.
Actually bhakti should be automatic and spontaneous. There should be no motive in serving Kṛṣṇa, but even if there is a motive, service rendered unto Kṛṣṇa is good. Even if one approaches Kṛṣṇa with some ulterior motive, one is considered pious. For instance, Dhruva Mahārāja initially worshiped Kṛṣṇa with a motive, but after attaining perfection in devotional service, his ulterior motive vanished. When he actually saw Kṛṣṇa, he said, “I do not want anything from You. I don’t want any benediction other than Your service.” After hearing about the many transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa, if we somehow or other become attracted to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our lives will be successful. Tasmāt kenāpy upāyena manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet: “Somehow or other we have to attach our minds to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.1.32) Then Kṛṣṇa will help us and give us intelligence from within, as He indicates in Bhagavad-gītā (10.10):
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” This is actual buddhi-yoga. Bhakti-yoga means buddhi-yoga, because one who is highly intelligent decides to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way, one can perfect his life by engaging in devotional service under the directions of the śāstras and the spiritual master. Devahūti understands this and is thus submitting to her son just as Arjuna submitted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa on the battleﬁeld.
tad etan me vijānīhi
yathāhaṁ manda-dhīr hare
sukhaṁ buddhyeya durbodhaṁ
My dear son, Kapila, after all, I am a woman. It is very difﬁcult for me to understand the Absolute Truth because my intelligence is not very great. But if You will kindly explain it to me, even though I am not very intelligent, I can understand it and thereby feel transcendental happiness.
Knowledge of the Absolute Truth is not very easily understood by ordinary, less intelligent men; but if the spiritual master is kind enough to the disciple, however unintelligent he may be, then by the divine grace of the spiritual master everything is revealed. Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura therefore says, yasya prasādād, by the mercy of the spiritual master, the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, bhagavat-prasādaḥ, is revealed. Devahūti requested her great son to be merciful toward her because she was a less intelligent woman and also His mother. By the grace of Kapiladeva it was quite possible for her to understand the Absolute Truth, even though the subject matter is very difﬁcult for ordinary persons, especially women.
In this verse Devahūti shows us the process for understanding transcendental subject matters. It is not by challenge but by submission. The entire bhakti process is a process of submission. That is also Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s teaching:
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
If one is interested in advancing in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Caitanya Mahāprabhu advises that one be humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the trees. One should not be very proud of his intelligence but should give all respect to others. In this way, one can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa offenselessly. Although Devahūti was the mother of Kapiladeva, she presented herself as a humble woman. It was not that she considered herself superior because she was His mother.
We have to please the spiritual master by service, and the entire bhakti process depends on the attitude of service. The transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa is not possible to understand with our blunt material senses. Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities and pastimes are all divya, divine. Our present material senses have to be puriﬁed by engagement in the Lord’s service, and our ﬁrst engagement begins with the tongue. It is with the tongue that we can chant the transcendental names of the Lord. This is not very difﬁcult, and this path is open to everyone – even women, vaiśyas and śūdras. After describing all the faults of Kali-yuga, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.3.51) states:
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
“There is one special advantage about this age of Kali-yuga, and that is that people can attain liberation and return home, back to Godhead, simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. There is no other way, no other way at all in Kali-yuga.”
We should try to avoid the ten offenses in chanting the holy name, but anyone who chants Hare Kṛṣṇa sincerely is puriﬁed. Ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇam (Śikṣāṣṭaka 1). This is the easiest process by which the mirror of the mind can be cleansed. If Kṛṣṇa sees that someone is sincerely chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, He will help. He is within everyone, and He can understand whether one is sincere or not. Kṛṣṇa helps a sincere devotee internally and externally. Internally He helps as Paramātmā by giving intelligence from within. Dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ tam. Externally He helps as His representative, the spiritual master. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says: guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja. “By the grace of Kṛṣṇa, one gets a bona ﬁde guru, and by the grace of the guru, one gets Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 19.151) Thus the śāstras have given us a very easy way to appreciate our transcendental life. That is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Devahūti has submissively accepted her son as her guru. She wants to understand Kṛṣṇa perfectly, by the grace of Kapiladeva. It is very important to receive the causeless mercy of Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master. By Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, we receive a spiritual master, and by the spiritual master’s mercy, we receive Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has greatly stressed the mercy of the guru, and it is an actual fact that if we satisfy the guru by our service, he will give us his blessings. This is a very great opportunity, for the guru is the conﬁdential servant of Kṛṣṇa. The guru never claims that he is Kṛṣṇa, although he is worshiped as Kṛṣṇa: sākṣād dharitvena samasta-śāstrair uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ (Gurv-aṣṭaka 7).
All the śāstras describe the guru as being on an equal basis with Kṛṣṇa, for he is the representative of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore he is worshiped as Kṛṣṇa. Being the most conﬁdential servant of Kṛṣṇa, the guru is very dear to Kṛṣṇa; therefore if he recommends someone to Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa accepts the person. The guru is the conﬁdential servant of Kṛṣṇa because he canvasses from door to door, saying, “Please become Kṛṣṇa conscious and surrender unto Kṛṣṇa.” Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that such a person is very dear to Him. The bona ﬁde guru tells people to surrender not unto him but unto Kṛṣṇa. Thus one has to surrender unto Kṛṣṇa through the via medium of the guru, not directly. This is the process. The guru does not accept respect from his disciple for his personal self but conveys this respect to Kṛṣṇa. If we cannot receive the mercy of the guru, Kṛṣṇa is very difﬁcult to approach directly.
It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that knowledge of Kṛṣṇa is received through the paramparā, the disciplic succession. Evaṁ paramparā-prāptam. The guru offers the same respects to his guru, and his guru offers respects to his, and so it goes all the way to Kṛṣṇa. Thus the mercy of Kṛṣṇa comes down through the paramparā system, and the respect offered to Kṛṣṇa is offered up through the paramparā system. One has to learn to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead in this way. Thus if we want to approach God, we have to take shelter of the guru in the beginning. Devahūti is begging the mercy of Kapiladeva in order to understand the way to approach Kṛṣṇa. She approaches Him very humbly saying, “My dear Kapila, You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but I am a woman, and my intelligence is not very sharp. Nonetheless, I want to understand these sublime transcendental subjects from You. It is possible by Your mercy.”
The process of approaching and understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead was also discussed between Rāmānanda Rāya and Caitanya Mahāprabhu. First, Rāmānanda Rāya explained the process in terms of varṇāśrama-dharma. He said ﬁrst of all that human life is meant for approaching Lord Viṣṇu through the rules and regulations governing varṇāśrama-dharma. Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied that it is very difﬁcult in this age to execute the rules and regulations of varṇāśrama-dharma. It is very difﬁcult to be a brāhmaṇa in this age, and it is practically impossible to revive the old varṇāśrama-dharma culture. Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore said that this method is not very practical. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has been called by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī “the most muniﬁcent avatāra” because He distributes love of Kṛṣṇa free of charge. First of all, we cannot even understand Kṛṣṇa; therefore there is no question of loving Him. If we do not understand someone, how can we love him? The love is very far away, but Caitanya Mahāprabhu is so kind that He distributes kṛṣṇa-prema, love of Kṛṣṇa, to whomever will take it. In His life, Caitanya Mahāprabhu cried for Kṛṣṇa and showed how one should be mad after Him.
śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ
“O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are ﬂowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 7)
Without Kṛṣṇa, one should see everything as vacant. This is Rādhārāṇī’s frame of mind, but this is not possible for an ordinary living being. It was possible for Caitanya Mahāprabhu and a few devotees, His immediate disciples like the six Gosvāmīs, who were following in His footsteps. They worshiped Kṛṣṇa in separation and sought Kṛṣṇa everywhere.
he rādhe vraja-devike ca lalite he nanda-sūno kutaḥ
śrī-govardhana-kalpa-pādapa-tale kālindī-vane kutaḥ
ghoṣantāv iti sarvato vraja-pure khedair mahā-vihvalau
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances to the six Gosvāmīs, namely Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, who were chanting very loudly everywhere in Vṛndāvana, shouting, ‘Queen of Vṛndāvana, Rādhārāṇī! O Lalitā! O son of Nanda Mahārāja! Where are you all now? Are you just on the hill of Govardhana, or are you under the trees on the bank of the Yamunā? Where are you?’ These were their moods in executing Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” (Ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭaka 8)
The Gosvāmīs never said, “We have seen Kṛṣṇa.” This is the recommended process – worship in separation. We should awaken our lost Kṛṣṇa consciousness in this way and become mad after Kṛṣṇa in our separation from Him. This is called kṛṣṇa-prema, and this love was distributed by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. We should not try to understand Kṛṣṇa by our small knowledge. Since we are imperfect, how can we speculate on Kṛṣṇa? There are many people like jñānīs and theosophists who try to understand the Absolute Truth by speculation, but this is not possible.
athāpi te deva padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda-leśānugṛhīta eva hi
jānāti tattvaṁ bhagavan-mahimno
na cānya eko ’pi ciraṁ vicinvan
“My Lord, if one is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet, he can understand the greatness of Your personality. But those who speculate in order to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.29) Even if one speculates for many years, he cannot understand Kṛṣṇa. One has to receive the mercy of Kṛṣṇa through the spiritual master, and this is the path recommended by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhiḥ (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.14.3). Another name for Kṛṣṇa is Ajita. No one can conquer Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa can be conquered by His devotee. One should be submissive and say, “Kṛṣṇa, I am very poor. I have no means to understand You. Please be merciful upon me. Please allow me to understand You and surrender.” This is wanted. Kṛṣṇa is very merciful, and when He sees that someone has surrendered, He will help from within.