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Krishna’s Light vs. Maya’s Night

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—by Kirtanananda Swami (ISKCON—Columbus)

Light and dark. Day and night. These are the dualities of the material world, and they are the archetypes of the gulf between the things of this world and the things of the spirit. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Light of the world,” and St. John said, “Men love darkness because their deeds are evil.” Lord Krishna, in Bhagavad Gita states: “What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.” (2.69) And what is the distinction between “all beings” and a “sage”? That is explained in the Seventh Chapter of the Gita: “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.” Therefore we may conclude that knowledge of theAbsolute, Krishna, is Light, and ignorance is darkness, or Maya; and that is actually what Maya means—that which is not. Krishna is just like the sun, for where the sun is there is no darkness. But Krishna is also the Original Sun, and therefore eternally full of knowledge; therefore ignorance and illusion can have no existence in Him.

If, however, one is not in the light of Krishna Consciousness, of knowledge of the Absolute, then there will be some manifestation of darkness, such as excessive sleeping (more than six hours), laziness, intoxication, or madness; but a person in Krishna Consciousness never exhibits these things. His qualities are listed in the Eighteenth Chapter of the Gita as “peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness…”

How, some may ask, can mere knowledge of Krishna change the spectrum of one’s qualities so radically—literally from black to white. And that too Lord Krishna answers in the Bhagavad Gita: “All states of being—be they of goodness, passion, or ignorance are manifested by My energy. I am, in one sense, everything—but I am independent. I am not under the modes of this material Nature.” (7.12) Here Krishna definitely claims to be the author of all states of being, be they goodness (knowledge or light), passion (mixed), or ignorance (darkness). They are all Krishna’s energy, but knowledge means to be in direct contact, whereas ignorance can make no claim at all, being covered by the cloud of illusion. The sun is always shining, but when a cloud intervenes, the sun’s pure qualities of light and heat are distorted. Similarly, the pure qualities of Krishna, as exhibited by Himself and His pure devotees, are distorted by the conditioned soul under the illusion of material nature. Again in the Fifteenth Chapter Krishna states that “remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness” all come from Him—but how? By our desire. That is the whole import of the Gita: “In all activities, and for their results, just depend upon Me, and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me.” (18.57) There is an old proverb in India: “He finds God quickest whose yearning is strongest,” and Meister Eckhart admonishes us that even in those times when we feel no desire for Him, we can at least desire to desire Him.

As soon as we have that sincere desire, Krishna fulfills. Actually, He is more anxious that we regain the Heavenly Kingdom than we ourselves, and if we recall the story of the prodigal son, we’ll remember that while he was “still a long way off” his father “ran and fell on his neck” and embraced him. Krishna says that He is the father of all living entities, and He is not willing that any perish. So the difficulty is not on Krishna’s part. He is eternally present everywhere by one of His energies. Krishna has innumerable energies, all of which are like Himself—Absolute; and He can appear to us by any one or more of these transcendental energies, and deliver the same effect as with any other or all energies. That is His greatness, called omnipotence. Wherever He is, He is Absolute. He can be present in Person, He can be present by representative, or He can be present by potencies. For instance, He can be present by His Name. Krishna’s Name is not different from Himself. In the relative world, of course, this is not true; if someone goes to my room and calls, “Swamiji, Swamiji,” and I am not there personally, it will do no good. I cannot answer. I am now limited to the sensory responses of this body. By mechanical technology I may be able to extend my voice to California, or even to the moon, but I can never extend it everywhere. But Krishna cannot be limited, either in time or extent or in any other way. That is Absolute. So just imagine how great He is. He may not be present, but still He is present by His Name, otherwise great acharyas like Lord Chaitanya would not have bothered chanting His Holy Name.

The presence of Krishna’s chit potency, however, can also be demonstrated practically. Take some beautiful word like rose. Gertrude Stein could repeat it three times, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and still have a nice line of poetry, but one more repitition would have spoiled the whole thing. Or take the name of any famous personage, John, Julius, Mary or anything else, say it twenty times and you are bored. But you can chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare twenty-four hours a day and not get tired. It is the difference between relative and Absolute; Hare Krishna is coming directly from the spiritual platform where everything is eternal, and therefore each time you say Hare Krishna it is as new and fresh as the first time you heard it. So keep Krishna present by His Name; then what is the possibility of ignorance and delusion? Keep Him always on your tongue, and rigidly keep chanting offenselessly. Then He is surely with you, and there is no danger, no ignorance, no Maya.

Krishna is present not only by His Name; He is also present by His Fame. His Pastimes and Leela are also identical with Him, as are His Associates; therefore, when we speak of Narada, Vyasadeva, Lord Chaitanya, the Goswamins or other pure devotees, Krishna is there. Thus the whole of Srimad Bhagwatam is Krishna’s Presence—the discussions of the sages, the adventures of the Pandavas, the fighting at Kurukshetra, as well as the events of His own life—everything is Krishna. It is just like a magnet: there may be one original magnet, but as soon as another piece of iron comes in contact with it, it too becomes a magnet. Everything that comes in contact with Krishna becomes Krishnized, or spiritualized, and regains its original transcendental purity. That is the greatness of Krishna Consciousness and the Bhagavad Gita—they teach us how to make all our activities, even apparently mundane ones like fighting, spiritual. Just put everything in contact with Krishna.

This is an actual fact, but one has to realize it. The sun is present in the sunshine, although millions of miles away, and Krishna is the Sun of suns eternally emanating His Spiritual Energy, Brahmajyoti; and it is actually on this eternal effulgence from Krishna Loka that all other fires and light depend. Therefore Krishna says, “I am the light of the moon.” “Of lights I am the radiant sun.” “I am Agni, fire.” Actually, however, the entire material and spiritual creation rests on this Brahmajyoti, and for that reason many transcendentalists are content to bask in its shine. They are called impersonalists, and their enquiry stops there. But the personalists want to know the Source of that glowing effulgence. The last verse of the Fourteenth Chapter of Gita states: “And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal and imperishable, eternal, the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.” Krishna alone is final.

We must have the realization that Krishna alone is Absolute. This will come: it is simply a question of realization. And that realization will come as we associate with one of Krishna’s energies. It has the same effect as meeting Krishna Personally, because He is Absolute, and there is no difference between seeing Him and hearing of Him. At the present stage of civilization we are putting almost all of the stress on visual perception, but do we really suppose that spiritual understanding will come through our material eyes? We have many senses, and even on the mundane level the eye is not the most important The greatest part of the learning process is dependent on hearing, and it is the aural sense which is first to react to calamity, even during sleep. Hold a piece of paper with some message on it in front of a sleeping man and he will never wake up, but call him and he immediately responds. On the Absolute or Spiritual platform we will gain the same understanding from all the senses, but hearing is best. When Krishna was present on this earth 5,000 years ago, so many could not understand Him, even though He was in range of their eyes. But one who has heard of Krishna by disciplic succession can understand perfectly. Therefore hearing is more important than touching, tasting or smelling, or even seeing. Sound can always reach us, even in sleep. So by Vedic principle, hearing is knowledge, and in the Bible also it is said “Faith cometh by hearing.” And Lord Jesus frequently said: “He who hath ears to hear let him hear.” Hearing from the authentic source is all-important, and if we hear in this way about Krishna, His Name, His Fame, His Associates, His Abode, His Pastimes or Activities, then He is present.

Whereas Krishna is the light of Truth, Maya is the darkness of illusion and ignorance. Maya can no more come before Krishna than darkness can approach the sun. Maya is actually a servant of Krishna, but due to the shameful nature of her work she has no access to that Great Person. Her task is also thankless for she is always dealing in miseries. She is always discharging her duty by inflicting the four-fold miseries of material existence, namely, birth, old age, diseases, and death, but no one appreciates it. It is something like the police—unless they become ruthless they cannot execute their duty, and when they do, everyone dislikes them. Even if a policeman should come to one of our kirtans to hear about Krishna, we would be very suspicious of his real intent. That is the nature of their work—no one likes them. So too, Maya can neither approach Krishna, nor is she liked by the conditioned soul.

The conditioned soul, illusioned by Maya, thinks like a madman: “I am,” “It is mine,” “I am lord of all I survey,” “This is my country,” “These are my children,” “My home,” “My father.” Simply “me and mine.” But Ishopanishad tells us that nothing is ours—everything belongs to Krishna! And Krishna Himself states: “With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support these entire universes.” (Bg., 10.42) The whole world is moving under a false impression (Maya) because men are claiming Krishna’s property as their own.

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tells us that if we wish to escape this great snare of Maya (“I,” “me” and “mine”) then we have to take to the process of Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness means association with Krishna, either with His Name, His Devotee, His Messages—every one of His energies which is Absolute. For this present age Lord Chaitanya has especially recommended the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting at once removes the cloud of illusion from our minds and reveals that eternally effulgent form of Krishna. We cannot imagine where there is sunshine and darkness simultaneously, nor can we imagine Krishna and Maya: but where Krishna is not, Maya is sure to be. So we must be very careful to chant Krishna’s Name always. This is the only path, and the more we make progress by chanting inoffensively, the more the consciousness of “I” and “mine” will vanish in exactly the same way that hunger and weakness disappear after sufficient food has been eaten. It is not a question of denial but satisfaction, and the more one is in Krishna consciousness the more satisfied he becomes. This is fact. Full Krishna consciousness may not come all at once, and some “weakness” may linger for some time. But that does not matter, for we will surely attain the goal by Krishna’s Grace.

If we fail to make progress on the Path, it is due to lack of surrender. In his book Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Swami Bhaktivedanta outlines six phases of surrender: 1) accepting everything favorable to the discharge of devotional service; 2) rejecting everything unfavorable to devotional service; 3) being convinced that no one can protect him but Krishna; 4) accepting only Krishna as his maintainer, not demigods; 5) being conscious that his desires are not independent, and that unless Krishna fulfills them they cannot be fulfilled; and 6) always thinking himself as the most fallen, so that Krishna may take care of him. If we think of Krishna as an ordinary man, then there will be doubts, and the Path will be blocked; but if we clear our doubts, as we have a right to do, by approaching a self-realized Spiritual Master and inquiring of him submissively, he will instruct us about Krishna and all doubts will subside. We must not miscalculate the Lord because He sits on the lap of Mother Yasoda. He is still God. When Krishna was three months old, a great demon, a friend of Kansa, came to Vrindaban in the form of a beautiful young damsel. She quickly made her way to Nanda Maharaj’s house and asked Mother Yasoda if she could please feed the beautiful young child. Being pure and simple, Krishna’s mother consented, not knowing that it was a well calculated plan of Kansa’s for disposing of the Lord. Being God Absolute, the Lord knew perfectly well that the demon’s breasts were filled with poison, and so He sucked her breasts, but also sucked out her very life, and she fell over dead in her original huge demon form. Yasoda screamed, “O God has saved my child.” God is on her lap, but she says, “God has saved my child.” That is called yogamaya. Her connection was one of love only. This can happen by supernatural Grace only, but these things must be studied, seen, and heard through the line of pure devotees.

Unless we hear of Krishna perfectly, we cannot surrender perfectly; and how much we have surrendered, He knows. God is much more intelligent than we. Prabhupada says, “He is at least two inches more intelligent—always.” That is God eternally “two inches beyond.” If we sincerely practice this Krishna consciousness, we can be linked on to that “two inches beyond,” but if we refuse to surrender and continue to doubt. then we will never understand Krishna and difficulties will forever disturb us. If we simply revive our transcendental consciousness by chanting Hare Krishna, surely we will live in bliss eternally.

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