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Spiritual Knowledge to Cure the Ills of the Age

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Fifty centuries ago, a far-seeing sage wrote a book of Vedic wisdom that speaks directly to our troubled times.

A lecture by

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

anarthopasamam saksad
bhakti-yogam adhoksaje
lokasyajanato vidvams
cakre satvata-samhitam

The literary incarnation or God , Srila Vyasadeva, writes the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his Himalayan asrama.

The literary incarnation or God , Srila Vyasadeva, writes the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his Himalayan asrama.

“The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service to Lord Krsna. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature [the Srimad-Bhagavatam], which is in relation to the Supreme Truth” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.6).

There are two kinds of knowledge: material knowledge and spiritual knowledge. Material knowledge is knowledge regarding the necessities of the body, and spiritual knowledge is knowledge regarding the necessities of the spirit soul, the conscious self within the body. The modern educational system is simply imparting material knowledge. But material knowledge is superfluous, because the body itself is superfluous.

Everyone knows that his body is impermanent, but no one knows what the cause of his present body is or what kind of body he will have in his future life. We created a certain type of mentality in our past life, and by our karma we have gotten a particular type of body in this life, through which we are enjoying or suffering. Actually, there is no question of enjoyment: it is all suffering. For example, we run a fan because the body is suffering. Otherwise, there is no necessity for a fan. And we require a light because without light the eyes will suffer. So, we have discovered electricity just to counteract the sufferings of the material body. The body is therefore anartha, “that which is not required.” Artha means “something we require,” and anartha means “that which we do not require,” or “things unnecessarily imposed upon us.”

Unfortunately, people do not know that we can exist without the material body. Actually, we are existing in a spiritual body, and the material body is simply a covering. Just as your shirt and coat are covering your material body, your material body is covering your spiritual body.

When a person comes to the understanding that his material body is unnecessary, he has real knowledge, or brahma-jnana. We are trying to educate people in this understanding—the basic principle of all Vedic knowledge—that we are not matter but spirit and that we must search out the ultimate goal of our spiritual body.

Now, some transcendentalists, known as jnanis, think that if the spirit soul merges into the Supreme Soul and becomes one with Brahman, there will be an end to the sufferings caused by the body. And other transcendentalists, the yogis, think that if with their spiritual vision they can continuously observe the Paramatma, the Supreme Spirit within the heart, then that is the solution to their suffering. Then there are those who have no spiritual knowledge, the fools and rascals, who think that if they can satisfy their senses they have reached the perfection of life. These are the karmis.

So there are three kinds of people who try to relieve the sufferings caused by the material body. But the actual solution is to remain in your spiritual body and meet the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face and live with Him in an eternal, blissful life of knowledge. This is the goal of Krsna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga.

Most people are trying to enjoy bliss by gratifying their senses, and therefore they are becoming implicated in sinful activity, which produces suffering. For example, certain foods are prescribed for human beings—vegetables, rice, wheat, milk, sugar, and so on. These are the foods allotted by the Lord to the human being. But if one doesn’t restrict his foods to those allotted to him by the Lord, he acts sinfully and must suffer. The Supreme Lord is supplying food to everyone, but the dog’s food and hog’s food are not the same as the human being’s. No. Tena tyaktena bhunjithah: “You should enjoy only those foods allotted to you by the Supreme Lord.” And if we transgress this law, we commit sin.

We are anatomically fit to eat fruits, vegetables, rice, wheat, milk, milk products, and so on. But if we imitate the cats and dogs and eat anything and everything, without discrimination, then our next body may be a hog’s body or a dog’s body or a cat’s body. This is nature’s law. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita: karanam guna-sango ‘sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu: Depending on how you associate with the various modes of nature, you get your next body accordingly.

Therefore, on the whole, whether your body is a human body or a demigod’s body or a cat’s body or a dog’s body or a tree’s body or a plant’s body, it is unnecessary. We are all eternal spirit souls, but we have accepted a material body as ourself. And since the body is constantly changing, we think that we are changing.

People are such fools and rascals that they never ask, “If I am eternal, why do I have to change my body?” This is intelligence—to ask why we are subjected to the suffering caused by the body. This inquiry is called brahma-jijnasa, inquiry into the Absolute Truth. Only by making this inquiry can one mitigate the suffering caused by the material body. Unfortunately, people are not interested in the Absolute Truth. If you ask anybody in this world, “What is the cause of your suffering, and how can you mitigate it?” they cannot answer. They do not know how to mitigate their suffering.

Therefore, Srila Vyasadeva, who has full knowledge, wrote this satvata-samhita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Samhita means “book of Vedic knowledge,” and satvata means “completely pure” or “for the perfect spiritualists.”

How then can we utilize the Srimad-Bhagavatam? That is explained in the next verse:

yasyam vai sruyamanayam
krsne parama-puruse
bhaktir utpadyate pumsah
soka-moha-bhayapaha

“Just by hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam, one immediately comes to the platform of rendering devotional service unto Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then one becomes free of lamentation, illusion, and fear.”

Soka, moha, and bhaya—these are our constant companions. Soka means “lamentation,” moha means “illusion,” and bhaya means “fear.” We are always embarrassed by these things. Sometimes we lament, “Oh, I have lost my business, I have lost my son, I have lost so many things.” After all, life in this material world is a losing business. Ultimately, there will be no profit. Therefore, whatever we are working for in this material world, however we are searching after happiness, if we are not performing devotional service we are simply working for nothing (srama eva hi kevalam). Our gain is only the labor itself.

Yet although people are suffering in this way, they do not know that they are suffering. They are taking the suffering as enjoyment. And that is illusion, or moha. We are always lamenting, out of illusion we are accepting a life of lamentation as enjoyable, and the result is that we are always fearful: “What will happen next? What will happen next?”

So, all these conditions are anarthas, unnecessary things imposed on us. Actually, we are part and parcel of Krsna, who is sac-cid-ananda—eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. This is our life—not the life of eating, sleeping, mating, and fearing. These things are imposed on us only when we identify ourselves with the material body. So when our thoughts are absorbed in the material body, we suffer.

If we want to get relief from suffering, we should regularly hear the Srimad-Bhagavatam (yasyam vai sruyamanayam). What will the effect be? Krsne parama-puruse bhaktir utpadyate: our devotional service unto Krsna, the Supreme Person, will be awakened. And ultimately we will understand Krsna in truth.

Krsna is described as adhoksaja, “He who is beyond material experience.” You cannot understand Krsna by material knowledge. The so-called scholars study Krsna with material knowledge. But it is not possible to know Him in this way. That is said by Krsna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita: naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah: “I am not exposed to everyone, because My potency of illusion is covering their eyes.” In another place Krsna says, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam: “Because I have come to this world in the form of a human being, the rascals deride Me.” The fools think that Krsna is one of them.

So, Krsna is adhoksaja, beyond material vision. If you try to sec Krsna by your material investigation, you will never be able to see Him. But one may say, “I can see Krsna by my pious activities. “No, that is also not possible. “I can see Krsna by my philosophical speculation.” No, that is also not possible. “I can see Krsna by practicing mystic yoga.” That is also not possible. Then how is it possible to see Krsna? Krsna says, bhaktya mam abhijanati: “I can be known only by pure devotional service.” If you want to see God, you have to adopt this particular process—bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. The more you engage in the service of the Lord, the more you realize Krsna. Otherwise it is not possible to know Him. This is the message of the Bhagavad-gita.

Now, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is a further explanation of the knowledge given in the Bhagavad-gita. We should hear the Bhagavatam every day (nityam bhagavata-sevaya). The temples of the Krsna consciousness movement are meant for hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam daily. You have to hear the Bhagavatam daily, regularly, and then all your anarthas will be cleansed away. Then you will come to know that Krsna is parama-purusa, the Supreme Person.

The Supreme Person is Krsna, and Krsna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita: mattah parataram nanyat: “There is no authority superior to Me.” Unfortunately, because we are envious we don’t accept Krsna as the Supreme Person. We say, “Why should Krsna be the Supreme Person? Someone else may be the Supreme.” That is envy. We begin by being envious of Krsna, and then we expand our envy in so many ways. In ordinary life we are envious of our friends, our father, even our son, what to speak of others—businessmen, teachers, and so on. We think, “Why should anyone go ahead of me?” This is material consciousness.

But when one understands Krsna, when one becomes Krsna conscious, he becomes nonenvious. He becomes the friend of everyone, and because people are suffering due to a lack of Krsna consciousness, he wants to help them. That is why we are going door to door, village to village, town to town, city to city. We are simply trying to spread Krsna consciousness. And by the grace of Krsna, we are having some success.

The nature of the devotee is that he is para-duhkha-duhkhi: he becomes very unhappy to see others in a miserable condition. Everyone is suffering for want of Krsna consciousness. So our only business is to awaken them to Krsna consciousness; then the whole world will be happy.

Thank you very much.

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