Man looks to woman, and woman looks to man.
The teachings of the boy devotee Prahlada Maharaja explain that we’re
looking in the wrong place.
A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The powerful tyrant Hiranyakasipu sent his son Prahlada to be trained as a ruthless diplomatic ruler. Prahlada’s teachers tried systematically and unceasingly to teach him about politics, economic development, sense gratification, and other mundane topics, but the great devotee Prahlada was not interested. Whenever the teachers would go home, Prahlada would teach his class friends about the uselessness of the materialistic way of life. He explained the transcendental science of knowing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, and requested his friends to engage in the Lord’s devotional service, especially by chanting Lord Krsna’s holy names and dancing. His friends appreciated these transcendental instructions and took them very seriously, rejecting the materialistic instructions of their teachers.
Today I shall tell you the history of a boy devotee whose name is Prahlada Maharaja. He was born in a family that was stubbornly atheistic. There are two kinds of men in this world: one type is called the demon, and the other is called the demigod. What is the difference between them? The main difference is that the demigods, or godly persons, are devoted to the Supreme Lord, whereas the demons are atheistic. They do not believe in God because they are materialists. These two classes of men always exist in this world. At the present moment, due to this Age of Kali [Quarrel], the number of demons has increased, but the classification has existed since the beginning of creation. The incident that I am narrating to you occurred very, very long ago, a few million years after the time of creation.
Prahlada Maharaja happened to be the son of the most atheistic person—and the most materially powerful as well—so you will be interested to hear this history. Because the society was materialistic, the boy had no opportunity to glorify the Supreme Lord. The characteristic of a great soul is that he is very eager to broadcast glorification of the Supreme Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, for example, was very much eager to broadcast the glorification of God, but demoniac people misunderstood him and crucified him.
Prahlada Maharaja was a five-year-old boy, and when he was in school, as soon as there was a recreation period, when the teacher was off, he would say to his friends, “My dear friends, come on. We shall speak about Krsna consciousness.” I am just opening a scene. This is in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Seventh Canto. The devotee Prahlada is saying, “My dear boys, my dear friends, this is the time, in this young age, to prosecute Krsna consciousness.” Before that, he had held discussions with his little friends, but they said, “Oh, we shall play now. Why take up this Krsna consciousness?” In answer to this, Prahlada is stating, “If you are intelligent, then you must begin Krsna consciousness from childhood.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam offers bhagavata-dharma, or scientific knowledge about God. Bhagavatam means the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and dharma means the regulative principles of understanding Krsna consciousness. This human form of life is very rare. It is a great opportunity. Therefore Prahlada says, “My dear friends, you are born as civilized human beings, so this is the greatest opportunity.” Although I can’t predict the exact length of my life, it’s calculated that in this age the human body is meant to exist not more than a hundred years. But as the Age of Kali advances, memory, mercy, religiousness, duration of life, and all other such assets decrease.
Although human life is temporary, you can achieve the highest perfection while in this human form. Why is this so important? Because in this form you have the opportunity to understand the Supreme Lord, the all-pervading Lord. By nature’s law, a human body is given to you so that you can promote yourself to the spiritual life and go back home, back to Godhead.
The ultimate goal of life is Visnu. In another verse, Prahlada Maharaja will say, “People who are interested in this material world, enamored by the material energy, do not know what the goal of human life is.” Why? They have been enchanted by the glaring external energy. They have forgotten that they are spiritual energy. This is explained later on, but here he says, “This life is an opportunity to understand the ultimate goal of perfection: Visnu.” Why should we be very eager to know Visnu, or God? Prahlada Maharaja gives a reason: “Visnu is the dearmost person.”
We have forgotten this. We all seek some dear friend—everyone searches in this way. A man searches for dear friendship in a woman, and a woman searches for dear friendship in a man. Or else a man searches in a man, and a woman searches in a woman. Everyone searches after some dear friend, some sweet friend. Why? We want the cooperation of a dear friend who will help us. This is part of the struggle for existence, and this is natural. But we do not know that our dearmost friend is Visnu, the Supreme Lord. We are searching after some dear friend, but we do not know who this dear friend can be.
Those who have read the Bhagavad-gitawill find this nice verse in the Fifth Chapter: “If you make friendship with Krsna, the Supreme Lord, then you can understand perfectly that everything that exists in this world or other worlds is all the property of Krsna. He is the proprietor and enjoyer of everything.” Why are you performing austerity? Why are you performing religious rituals? Why are you giving in charity? Why do you engage in righteous activities? Whatever formulas you have manufactured are meant for pleasing the Supreme Lord, and nothing more. By your actions, by your righteous activities, when the Supreme Lord is pleased, you will get the result. If by your actions you want to gain either material happiness or spiritual happiness, if you want to live on this planet or on other planets, if you want to be a human being or you want to be a tiger, cat, or dog, whatever you like you will get. Therefore, He is the most sincere friend. Whatever you want from Him, you can get. But the intelligent man does not want anything that is materially contaminated.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that one can elevate himself to the highest planet, which is known as Brahmaloka, where the duration of life is millions and millions of years. You cannot figure out the duration of life there; your arithmetic will be ineffective. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says Brahma’s life is so long that 4,320,000.000 years make up one of his days. Krsna says, “Whatever position you want—from the ant up to Lord Brahma—you can have. But the repetition of birth and death will be there. But if, by discharging Krsna consciousness in devotional service, you come to Me, then you don’t have to come back again to this miserable material condition.”
Prahlada Maharaja says the same thing: We are searching for the dearmost friend, Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Why is He the dearmost friend? By nature He is dear. What is the dearmost thing within yourself? Have you analyzed? You are yourself the dearmost thing. I’m sitting here, but if there is a fire alarm I shall at once take care of myself: “How can I save myself?” We forget our friends. “Let me first of all take care of myself.” Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
Atma, “self,” in the grossest sense refers to the body. In the subtler sphere the mind is atma. And in the real sense atma means the soul. In the gross stage we are fond of protecting the body, and in a subtler stage we are very fond of protecting the mind. But above this mental, intellectual plane, where the atmosphere is spiritualized, we can understand, “I am not this mind and not this body. Aham brahmasmi—I am part and parcel of the Supreme Lord.” That is the platform of real understanding.
Prahlada Maharaja says that of all living entities, Visnu is the supreme well-wisher. Therefore we are all searching for Him. When a child cries, what does he long for? He longs for his mother. But he has no language to express this. By nature, he has a body, born of the mother’s body, so there is an intimate relationship with the mother’s body. The child won’t like any other woman. The child cries, but when the woman who is the child’s mother comes and picks him up, at once he is pacified. He has no language to express all this, but the real demand is there. Similarly, we are trying to protect the body. This is self-preservation. It is the natural law of the living entity, just as eating is a natural law and sleeping is a natural law. I defend the body because within the body is the soul.
What is the soul? The soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. As we want to protect the hand or finger because it is part of the whole body, similarly we try to save ourselves because this is the defending process of the Supreme. The Supreme does not need defense, but this is a manifestation of our love toward Him, which is now perverted. The finger and the hand are meant to act in the interests of the whole body. As soon as I want the hand to come here, it comes, and as soon as I want the finger to play on the drum, it plays. This is the natural position.
Similarly, we are searching for God, to dovetail our energy for the Supreme, but under the spell of the illusory, material energy we do not know it. That is our mistake. Now, here is an opportunity in human life. You have come to understand about Krsna consciousness, about your real goal of life, because you are human beings. I cannot invite some dogs to sit down here. That is the difference between dogs and human beings. A human being can understand the necessity of life. If he loses the opportunity, it is a great catastrophe.
Prahlada says, “God is the dearmost person. We have to search for God.” Then what about the material necessities of life? To this Prahlada replies, “You are after sense gratification. I know that. Sense gratification is automatically achieved by contact with this body.” Because a hog has a certain type of body, his sense gratification comes from eating stool, the very thing that is most obnoxious to you. At once, after evacuating, you leave to get free from the bad smell—but the hog is waiting. As soon as you evacuate, he will at once enjoy. Other animals are not attracted, because one’s form of pleasure-seeking is due to one’s particular body. There are different types of sense gratification according to different types of bodies. Therefore Prahlada says, “My dear friends, sense gratification is achieved according to one’s particular type of body.” Everyone who has a material body receives sense gratification. Don’t think that the hogs eating stool are unhappy. No, they are getting fat in that way. They are very happy.
Now, if a hog can achieve sense gratification, why not a human being? But that is not our achievement. That is given by nature; the facilities of a hog’s body are offered by nature, and the facilities of a dog’s body are also offered by nature, or God. Why should you labor for facilities that you are destined to receive anyway by nature’s law? In every form of life the bodily demands are satisfied by nature’s arrangements. This gratification is arranged, just as there is an arrangement for distress. Do you like fever? No. Why does it come? I do not know. But it does come, does it not? Yes. Did you try for it? No. So how does it come? By nature. That is the only answer. Similarly, if miseries come by nature, your happiness will also come by nature. Don’t bother about it. That is the instruction of Prahlada Maharaja. If you can receive the miseries of life without effort, you can also have your happiness without effort.
Then what is the real purpose of human life? You have to cultivate Krsna consciousness. Other things will be obtained by nature’s law, or God’s law. Even if I don’t try, whatever I am to achieve because of my past work and my particular type of body will be supplied. At any stage or in any form of life, facility is given for sense gratification. As you do not try for misery, so also happiness will take place without your control. Your real concern, therefore, should be to seek out the higher goal of human life.