by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel.
Illusion: A series of pictures projected rapidly on a screen appears to be a single image in motion. Similarly, the series of bodies we go through appear to be our changing self. In fact, however, our real self is unchanging. This self is our consciousness, or soul, which passes moment by moment through countless bodies on its journey from childhood to old age, and on to an entirely new body after death. The Vedic literatures tell us to end this painful transmigration by realizing our spiritual nature as loving servants of God and returning to His world of eternal bliss and knowledge.
Krsna consciousness, the science of God, is very important, because it enables us to understand God and our relationship with Him. Of course, in every religion there is some conception of God: “God is great.” But simply understanding that God is great is not sufficient. We must have knowledge about our relationship with God.
Generally, we take it for granted that God is our order supplier. So those who believe in God usually approach Him in distress or when they’re in need of money. Then there are some who approach God out of curiosity, and a few who want to understand the science of God. These are the four classes of men who are interested in God, and they all have a background of pious activities. Without a background of pious activities, a person will not be interested in the science of God. Therefore those who are unfortunate, who are impelled by impious activities, do not believe in God; they never care for God. So it is very difficult for the atheists to understand God.
Still, because Krsna consciousness is a science, even an atheist can appreciate it if he is intelligent. Atheist or theist, everyone is conscious. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or you do not believe in God: you are conscious. As soon as I pinch any part of your body, you at once protest, “Somebody is pinching me! I am feeling pain!” Even in the animals there is consciousness.
Now, what is this consciousness? The Bhagavad-gita says, avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam: “Consciousness is that which is spread all over your body, and it is eternal.” How is consciousness eternal? That you can understand by practical experience. In your childhood you were conscious, in your boyhood you were conscious, in your youth you were conscious, and as you progress to old age you will be conscious. So your body is changing, but your consciousness continues unchanged. This you cannot deny. Therefore Bhagavad-gita says, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: “Consciousness is eternal. It is not vanquished with the destruction of the temporary body.”
As soon as there is no consciousness in the body, the body is dead. Then what is consciousness? It is the symptom of the presence of the soul. Just as a fire situated in one place distributes heat and light everywhere, the spirit soul present in your body spreads consciousness all over your body. This is a fact.
From your childhood body to your boyhood body to your youthful body, your consciousness continues. Similarly, your consciousness will carry you into another body, and that transmigration from one body to another is called death. When your old body cannot be maintained any more, the consciousness has to be transferred to a new body. When your garment is too old, it has to be changed. Similarly, when the material body is too old to carry on, your consciousness is transferred to another body and you begin another life. This is the process of nature.
But unfortunately the modern educational system has no department for teaching about consciousness or the spirit soul, although this knowledge is the most important. Without consciousness, without the soul’s being present, the body is useless. Unfortunately, we take very good care of the body but have no knowledge of consciousness or the spirit soul. This ignorance is due to maya, or illusion. We are very serious about the nonpermanent things—the body and its extensions, which will not exist, which will be vanquished after a certain period of years—but we do not care about the eternal consciousness, the spirit soul, which is transmigrating from one body to another. Ignorance of the spirit soul is the main defect of modern civilization.
As long as we are unaware of the presence of the spirit soul in the body, as long as we do not inquire about the spirit soul, all our activities are simply a waste of time. This is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.5]: parabhavas tavad abodha-jato yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam. Anyone who has accepted a temporary body is understood to be foolish. So every one of us is born foolish, because we identify ourselves with the temporary body. Everyone knows that his body will one day not exist, but everyone still identifies himself with his body. This is ignorance, or illusion.
Nearly everyone in the world is immersed in this ignorance, for they do not know that they are spirit souls transmigrating from one body to another. Although no one wants to die, cruel death is forced upon everyone. But people do not consider this problem very seriously. They think they are very happy following the principles of animal life—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. At the present moment people are very proud of the advancement of human civilization, but they are almost totally concerned with these four principles. According to the Vedic literature, this way of life is nobetter than the animals’.
Human life is meant for advanced knowledge. And what is that advanced knowledge? To know oneself, to answer the question, What am I? In every civilized society there is some set of religious principles, either Mohammedanism or Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism. And what is the purpose of the scriptures and religious principles? To understand consciousness, to understand the spirit soul and how it has fallen into material, conditioned life, how it is transmigrating among various species of life, and how it can be released from this cycle of birth and death. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and we are wandering among them. Only when we reach the human form of life do we have the opportunity to ask the question, What am I? If we do not understand what we are, then we miss the opportunity of human life. We simply waste our time in the propensities of animal life—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
We must inquire, “I do not wish to die; why is death forced upon me? I do not want to be diseased; why is disease forced upon me?” But even if a person becomes very ill, he will generally not inquire like this. He will simply think, “All right, I am diseased. Let me go to the doctor and get some medicine.” But from the innermost part of his heart he doesn’t ever want to be diseased, he doesn’t want to be dead. Why? Because he is eternal. His real position is eternal life, blissful life, without any death, without any birth, without any disease. So he is missing the opportunity of human life unless he inquires into how he can attain this position.
The human form of life is the opportunity to achieve the highest perfection.If we do not make progress toward that vision, we are simply spoiling this opportunity of civilized human life. I especially mention civilized human life, with developed consciousness, developed education. At this developed stage we should ask, “Why are calamities being forced upon me?” Nobody wants to meet calamities. In every city of your country I see the fire brigade and the ambulance always wandering in the street. Who wants his house to be set on fire? Who wants to meet an accident? These things are being forced on us, but still no one asks, “I do not want these calamities. Why are they being forced upon me?” As soon as we become inquisitive to know why all these miserable conditions of life are being forced upon us, that is the beginning of our self-realization.
Now you are trying to solve these problems through so-called scientific research or so-called philosophical research, but the actual solution is to reform or purify your consciousness. If you purify your consciousness, you will end the process of transmigration from body to body. Of course, now you may be very happy that you have a nice American body. You are enjoying life. But do you know what your next life will be? That you do not know. But you should know that life is a continuity. This present life is only a flash—a moment in our journey through millions of species of life. So the Krsna consciousness movement is the movement for purifying consciousness, ending transmigration, and solving all problems.
Krsna consciousness is very simple. Simply chant these sixteen words: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We are simply requesting you to chant these sixteen words. There is no loss on your part, but there is immense gain. Why don’t you make an experiment? It is not very difficult. These American’ boys are chanting. Although the mantra is written in Sanskrit, it is a universal transcendental vibration.
If we take to chanting this mantra, we come directly in touch with the Supreme Lord. That makes us purified. If we go near the fire we become warm. Similarly, if we come directly in touch with the Supreme Spirit, our purification begins. So if you chant this Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, your impure consciousness will be purified and you will know what you are.
Chanting Hare Krsna is the process of’ cleansing the mind of all dirty things. And as soon as you are cleansed of all dirty things, your material anxieties are over. That is stated in Bhagavad-gita [18.54]:
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
The word brahma-bhutah means that as soon as you come to the platform of spiritual understanding, you immediately get free from all material anxieties. You no longer hanker after any profit, nor are you very sorry when there is a great loss (na socati na kanksati). Then you can see everyone on an equal level, and your lost relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is again established. Then your real life begins.
Taking up Krsna consciousness means that we begin our real life and get free from the temporary life of changing from one body to another. So the Krsna consciousness movement is a very important movement. Try to understand it. We have our magazine, back TO godhead, and we have branches in several places in your country.
So we invite you to come. There is no expenditure. We simply request that you come and try to understand this movement. It is very scientific; it is not a bogus bluff. Try to understand with all your argument, reason, logic. We are prepared to answer your questions.
This movement is for your benefit; it is not an institution to make some profit. It is just meant to render service to the whole of humanity so that you may understand the science of God and be benefited. We are simply presenting Krsna consciousness before you. Now it is up to you to accept it or not. Thank you very much.
Are there any questions?
Student: How does Krsna consciousness relate to advaita philosophy?
Srila Prabhupada: The basic principle of advaita philosophy is that the living being is one with God. That is a fact. We are nondifferent from God. For example, the president of your country is an American, and you are also an American. So there is no difference between you as far as being Americans is concerned. In that sense you are one. But at the same time, you are not the president. That you are an American does not mean you are on an equal level with the president. Is that not a fact?
Similarly, we are all qualitatively one with God. The word qualitatively means that whatever we have as spirit souls. God also has. There is no difference in quality. For example, suppose you take a drop of water from the vast Atlantic Ocean and you chemically analyze the ingredients. The composition of the drop of water is the same as the composition of the vast Atlantic Ocean. So qualitatively the drop of water is equal to the vast mass of water in the Atlantic Ocean. Similarly, you are a spirit soul, a spark of the Supreme Spirit Soul, God. You have all the spiritual qualities that God has. But God is great, you are minute. He is infinite, you are infinitesimal. So you and God are qualitatively one, but quantitatively different.
Those who are simply accepting the feature of being qualitatively one with God—they are called advaita-vadis. They forget that quantitatively they cannot be equal to God. If the living entity is quantitatively equal to God, then why has he fallen into this conditioned life of material existence? Because the living entity’s constitutional position is infinitesimal, he is prone to be caught up by the influence of maya, illusion. How could he be caught by maya. if he is also the Supreme? Then maya would be greater than God. These things are to be considered.
So our philosophy, the Vedanta philosophy, is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference between God and the living entity. We are qualitatively one with God, but quantitatively we are different. That is our philosophy, Vaisnava philosophy. So advaita-vada (oneness) and dvaita-vada (difference) are both true. We are nondifferent from God in quality, but different in quantity. That is perfect philosophy.
Is that clear to you?
Student: Well, I heard someone give an analogy that we’re just like rivers flowing to the sea. The sea is Brahman, the Absolute, and when we reach enlightenment we merge into Brahman and become one with the pure light and the spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: But although water is always being poured into the sea, water is also being taken out. That is a fact. From the sea, water evaporates and forms a cloud, and from the cloud water again falls down into the sea as rain. Sea water is not in a fixed position.
So do not think that because you have once mixed with the sea water there is no chance of coming out again. You have to come out. But if you enter within the water and become one of the living entities there, you don’t have to come out. So our philosophy is not to mix with the water but to go deep into the water and become one of the aquatics there. Then we won’t have to come out again.
This is a very nice verse. It says that although some people think they have become liberated by Brahman realization, their thoughts are not yet purified, because they reject the service ofKrsna. Therefore, even after performing severe austerities and entering the Brahman effulgence, they must come back again to the material world. So if you don’t want to come back again, then you have to enter deep into the “water” of the spiritual kingdom and remain as one of the servants of the Lord. This is the Vaisnava philosophy.
We want to enter into the spiritual kingdom and live in our spiritual identity. We don’t want to superficially mix with water and again evaporate, again come back. Those who believe in the philosophy of advaita-vada generally give the example you have given, but any sane man can understand that mixing superficially with the water of Brahman is not perfection. Then you must come out again by evaporation. If you want to use that example, you have to also accept this conclusion. How can you say you are not coming back? It is a fact.
So if you don’t want to come back again, go deep into the water and become one of the living entities under the shelter of the water. They have no problem; they do not come back. The big aquatics live peacefully within the water. They never come out into the rivers, because in the rivers there is no place to accommodate them. So if you want to live perpetually in the spiritual kingdom, you have to understand your identity as one of the servants of God. Then you’ll be perfect. Otherwise you’ll be baffled, that’s all.
Your question is very intelligent. Unfortunately, most people are not intelligent enough to ask questions about this great science of Krsna consciousness. Although they are very proud of their advanced education, they do not know what they are. They are simply taking birth, living for some time, and dying just like cats and dogs. That’s all. At the present moment the condition of human civilization is most abominable, because people do not care about the real identity of the self. They are mistakenly identifying themselves with the body (yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke). Srimad-Bhagavatam says that one who identifies his body as his self, who thinks he is the protector of his kinsmen, who thinks the part of the world where his body has been produced is worshipable—such a man is no better than an ass or a cow (sa eva go-kharah). So this is the challenge in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
But people are so much engrossed in ignorance that they don’t care. “All right. Let us go on like this.” But if I say, “You are God; you can do whatever nonsense you like,” then they will be very pleased. People will be very eager to hear me. But we cannot say such a thing.
Any further questions?
All right, let us chant. Please chant Hare Krsna with us for some time.