by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
at the International Student Society in Boston.
Thank you very much for participating with us in this Krsna consciousness movement. I understand that this society is known as the International Student Society. There are many other international societies, such as the United Nations. So the idea of an international society is very nice, but we must try to understand what the central idea of an international society should be.
If you throw a stone into the middle of a pool of water, a circle will expand to the limit of the bank. Similarly, radio waves expand in a circle, and when you capture the waves with your radio you can hear the message. In the same way, our loving feeling can also expand.
At the beginning of our life, we simply want to eat. Whatever a small child grabs, he wants to eat. He has only personal interest. Then, when the child grows a little, he tries to participate with his brothers and sisters: “All right. You also take a little.” This is an increase in the feeling of fellowship. Then, as he grows up, he begins to feel some love for his parents, then for his community, then for his country, and at last for all nations. But unless the center is right, that expansion of feeling—even if it is national or international—is not perfect.
For example, the meaning of the word national is “one who has taken birth in a particular country.” You feel for other Americans because they are born in this country. You may even sacrifice your life for your countrymen. But there is a defect: if the definition of national is “one who is born in a particular country,” then why are the animals born in America not considered Americans? The problem is that we are not expanding our feelings beyond the human society. Because we don’t think animals are our countrymen, we send them to the slaughterhouse.
So the center of our national feeling or our international feeling is not fixed on the proper object. If the center is right, then you can draw any number of circles around that center and they’ll never overlap. They’ll simply keep growing, growing, growing. They’ll not intersect with one another if the center is all right. Unfortunately, although everyone is feeling nationally or internationally, the center is missing. Therefore your international feeling and my international feeling, your national feeling and my national feeling, are overlapping and conflicting. So we have to find the proper center for our loving feelings. Then you can expand your circle of feelings and it will not overlap or conflict with others’.
That center is Krsna.
Our society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is teaching the people of all countries that the center of their affection should be Krsna. In other words, we are teaching people to be mahatmas. You may have heard this word mahatma before. It is a Sanskrit word that is applied to a person whose mind is expanded, whose circle of feelings is very much expanded. This is a mahatma. Maha means “big” or “great,” and atma means “soul.” So he who has expanded his soul very wide is called a mahatma.
The Bhagavad-gita [7.19] gives a description of the person who has expanded his feelings very wide:
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
The first idea in this verse is that one can become a mahatma only after many births (bahunam janmanam ante). The soul is transmigrating through many bodies, one after another. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and we evolve through them until at last we come to the human form of life. Only then can we become a mahatma. This is why Krsna says bahunam janmanam ante: “After many, many births one may become a mahatma.”
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a similar verse. Labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu-sambhavante: “After many, many births you have achieved a human body, which is very difficult to get.” This human form of life is not cheap. The bodies of cats and dogs and other animals are cheap, but this human form is not. After being born in at least 8,000,000 different species, we get this human form. So the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita say the same thing. All Vedic literatures corroborate one another, and the person who can understand them doesn’t find any contradiction.
So the human form of life is obtained after many, many births in other-than-human forms of life. But even in this human form of life, many, many births are required for one who is cultivating knowledge of the central point of existence. If one is actually cultivating spiritual knowledge—not in one life but in many, many lives—one eventually comes to the highest platform of knowledge and is called jnanavan, “the possessor of true knowledge.” Then, Krsna says, mam prapadyate: “He surrenders unto Me, Krsna, or God.” (When I say “Krsna” I mean the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead.)
Now, why does a man in knowledge surrender to Krsna? Vasudevah sarvam iti: because he knows that Vasudeva, Krsna, is everything—that He is the central point of all loving feelings. Then, sa mahatma sudurlabhah. Here the word mahatma is used. After cultivating knowledge for many, many births, a person who expands his consciousness up to the point of loving God—he is a mahatma, a great soul. God is great, and His devotee is also great. But, Krsna says, sa mahatma sudurlabhah: that sort of great soul is very rarely to be seen. This is the description of a mahatma we get from the Bhagavad-gita.
Now we have expanded our feelings of love to various objects. We may love our country, we may love our community, we may love our family, we may love our cats and dogs. In any case, we have love, and we expand it according to our knowledge. And when our knowledge is perfect, we come to the point of loving Krsna. That is perfection. Love of Krsna is the aim of all activities, the aim of life.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.8] confirms that the goal of life is Krsna:
dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
notpadayed yadi ratim
srama eva hi kevalam
The first words in this verse are dharmah svanusthitah pumsam. This means that everyone is doing his duty according to his position. A householder has some duty, a sannyasi [renunciant] has some duty, a brahmacari [celibate student] has some duty. There are different types of duties according to different occupations or professions. But, the Bhagavatam says, if by performing your duties very nicely you still do not come to the understanding of Krsna, then whatever you have done is simply useless labor (srama eva hi kevalam). So if you want to come to the point of perfection, you should try to understand and love Krsna. Then your national or international feelings of love will actually expand to their limit.
Now, suppose a man says, “Yes, I have expanded my feelings of love very widely.” That is all right, but he must show the symptoms of how his feelings of love are expanded. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [5.18]:
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
If one is actually a pandita, someone who is elevated to the stage of perfect wisdom, then he must see everyone on an equal platform (sama-darsinah). Because the vision of a pandita is no longer absorbed simply with the body, he sees a learned brahmana as a spirit soul, he sees a dog as a spirit soul, he sees an elephant as a spirit soul, and he also sees a lowborn man as a spirit soul. From the highborn brahmana down to the candala [outcaste], there are many social classes in human society, but if a man is really learned he sees everyone, every living entity, on the same level. That is the stage of true learning.
We are trying to expand our feeling socially, communally, nationally, internationally, or universally. That is our natural function—to expand our consciousness. But my point is that if we actually want to expand our consciousness to the utmost, we must find out the real center of existence. That center is Krsna, or God. How do we know Krsna is God? Krsna declares Himself to be God in the Bhagavad-gita. Please always remember that the Krsna consciousness movement is based on understanding Bhagavad-gita as it is. Whatever I am speaking is in the Bhagavad-gita. Unfortunately, the Bhagavad-gita has been misinterpreted by so many commentators that people have misunderstood it. Actually, the purport of the Bhagavad-gita is to develop Krsna consciousness, love of Krsna, and we are trying to teach that.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna has given several descriptions of a mahatma. He says, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah: “A mahatma, one who is actually wise and broadminded, is under the shelter of My spiritual energy.” He is no longer under the spell of the material energy.
Whatever we see is made up of various energies of God. In the Upanisads it is said, parasya-saktir vividhaiva sruyate: “The Supreme Absolute Truth has many varieties of energies.” And these energies are acting so nicely that it appears they are working automatically (svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca). For example, we have all seen a blooming flower. We may think that it has automatically blossomed and become so beautiful. But no, the material energy of God is acting.
Similarly, Krsna has a spiritual energy. And a mahatma, one who is broad-minded, is under the protection of that spiritual energy; he is not under the spell of the material energy. These things are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. There are many verses in the Bhagavad-gita that describe how Krsna’s energies are working, and our mission is to present Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any nonsensical commentary. There is no need of nonsensical commentary. Bhagavad-gita is as clear as the sunlight. Just as you don’t require a lamp to see the sun, you don’t require the commentary of an ignorant, common man to study the Bhagavad-gita. You should study the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then you will get all spiritual knowledge. You will become wise and will understand Krsna. Then you will surrender to Him and become a mahatma.
Now, what are the activities of a mahatma? A mahatma is under the protection of Krsna’s spiritual energy, but what is the symptom of that protection? Krsna says, mam . . . bhajanty ananya-manasah: “A mahatma is always engaged in devotional service to Me.” That is the main symptom of a mahatma: he is always serving Krsna. Does he engage in this devotional service blindly? No. Krsna says, jnatva bhutadim avyayam: “He knows perfectly that I am the source of everything.”
So Krsna explains everything in the Bhagavad-gita. And our purpose in the Krsna consciousness movement is to spread the knowledge contained in the Bhagavad-gita, without adding any nonsensical commentary. Then the human society will profit from this knowledge. Now society is not in a sound condition, but if people understand the Bhagavad-gita, and if they actually broaden their outlook, all social, national, and international problems will be solved automatically. There will be no difficulty. But if we don’t find out what the center of existence is, if we manufacture our own ways to expand our loving feelings, there will be only conflict—not only between individual persons but between the different nations of the world. The nations are trying to be united; in your country there is the United Nations. Unfortunately, instead of the nations becoming united, the flags are increasing. Similarly, India was once one country, Hindustan. Now there is also Pakistan. And some time in the future there will be Sikhistan and then some other “stan.”
Instead of becoming united we are becoming disunited, because we are missing the center. Therefore, my request, since you are all international students, is that you please try to find out the real center of your international movement. Real international feeling will be possible when you understand that the center is Krsna. Then your international movement will be perfect.
In the fourteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita [14.4], Krsna says,
Here Krsna says, “I am the father of all forms of life. The material nature is the mother, and I am the seed-giving father.” Without a father and mother nobody can be born. The father gives the seed, and the mother supplies the body. In this material world the mother of every one of us—from Lord Brahma down to the ant—is the material nature. Our body is matter; therefore it is a gift of the material nature, our mother. But I, the spirit soul, am part and parcel of the Supreme Father, Krsna. Krsna says, mamaivamso . . . jiva-bhutah:
“All these living entities are part and parcel of Me.”
So if you want to broaden your feelings of fellowship to the utmost limit, please try to understand the Bhagavad-gita. You’ll get enlightenment; you’ll become a real mahatma. You will feel affection even for the cats and dogs and reptiles. In the Seventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam you’ll find a statement by Narada Muni that if there is a snake in your house you should give it something to eat. Just see how your feelings can expand! You’ll care even for a snake, what to speak of other animals and human beings.
So we cannot become enlightened unless we come to the point of understanding God, or Krsna. Therefore we are preaching Krsna consciousness all over the world. The Krsna consciousness movement is not new. As I told you, it is based on the principles of the Bhagavad-gita, and the Bhagavad-gita is an ancient scripture. From the historical point of view it is five thousand years old. And from a pre-historical point of view it is millions of years old. Krsna says in the fourth chapter, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam: “I first spoke this ancient science of yoga to the sun-god.” That means Krsna first spoke the Bhagavad-gita some millions of years ago. But simply from a historical point of view, Bhagavad-gita has existed since the days of the Battle of Kuruksetra, which was fought five thousand years ago. So it is older than any other scripture in the world.
Try to understand Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any unnecessary commentary. The words of the Bhagavad-gita are sufficient to give you enlightenment, but unfortunately people have taken advantage of the popularity of the Bhagavad-gita and have tried to express their own philosophy under the shelter of the Bhagavad-gita. That is useless. Try to understand the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then you will get enlightenment; you will understand that Krsna is the center of all activities. And if you become Krsna conscious, everything will be perfect and all problems will be solved.
Thank you very much. Are there any questions?
Indian student: I don’t know the exact Sanskrit from the Gita, but somewhere Krsna says, “All roads lead to Me. No matter what one does, no matter what one thinks, no matter what one is involved with, eventually he will evolve toward Me.” So is enlightenment a natural evolution?
Srila Prabhupada: No, Krsna never says that whatever you do, whatever you think, you will naturally evolve toward Him. To become enlightened in Krsna consciousness is not natural for the conditioned soul. You require instruction from a spiritual master. Otherwise, why did Krsna instruct Arjuna? You have to get knowledge from a superior person and follow his instructions.
Arjuna was perplexed. He could not understand whether he should fight or not. Similarly, everyone in the material world is perplexed. So we require guidance from Krsna or his bona fide representative. Then we can become enlightened.
Evolution is natural up through the animal species. But when we come to the human form of life, we can use our own discretion. As you like, you make your choice of which path to follow. If you like Krsna, you can go to Krsna; if you like something else, you can go there. That depends on your discretion.
Everyone has a little bit of independence. At the end of the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Just give up everything and surrender unto Me.” If this surrender is natural, why would Krsna say, “You should do this”? No. Surrendering to Krsna is not natural in our materially conditioned state. We have to learn it. Therefore we must hear from a bona fide spiritual master—Krsna or His authorized representative—and follow his instructions. This will bring us to the stage of full enlightenment in Krsna consciousness.