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The Matchless Gift–Liberation in Krishna Consciousness

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Liberation in Krishna Consciousness

His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Prabhupada walking with disciples in London, England, 1974.

Srila Prabhupada walking with his disciples in London, England.

If we simply worship the original person (adi-purusa) we need not fear being misled by anyone. Sridhara Svami, the original commentator on Srimad-Bhagavatam, explains that one can reach the perfection of life simply by devotional service (kevalaya bhaktya); one need not be dependent on any other process. Sukadeva Gosvami, the original speaker of the Bhagavatam, says that one can put an end to material life by one stroke (kevalaya). There is no need to first undergo severe penance and austerity, practice celibacy, control the mind and the senses, give charity, perform great sacrifices and become very truthful and clean. Simply by one stroke-by accepting Krishna consciousness-one immediately rises to the highest position. By just taking to Krishna consciousness, one develops all transcendental qualifications. The goldsmith uses a small hammer and taps- the gold many times, but the blacksmith uses a large hammer, and with one stroke his job is finished. This is the blacksmith’s method; we take the big hammer of bhakti-yoga and finish all material life. There is no need to undergo the many lesser disciplines, nor to follow any other process. In actuality, there is no possibility of even following the other Vedic processes to perfection. For instance, the hatha-yoga process would say: “You have to become strictly celibate and sit in the forest with your body at a right angle to the ground, pressing your nose with your finger for six months.” Who could follow such an instruction? Since such a method is not practical in this present age, the goldsmith’s method has to be discarded. The solution is to take the blacksmith’s hammer of Krishna consciousness and finish off all sinful reactions immediately.

The Sun Immediately dissipates mist or fog as well as darkness. We should therefore try to make the sun of Krishna rise within our hearts.

The sun immediately dissipates mist or fog as well as darkness. We should therefore try to make the sun of Krishna rise within our hearts.

By devotional service one has to become vasudeva-parayana, a devotee of Lord Vasudeva, or Lord Krishna. In other words, we have to learn how to become lovers of Vasudeva. If the world takes up this Krishna consciousness, the planet is certain to be peaceful. Now the earth is quickly becoming a hellish planet, and if this Krishna consciousness is not taken up, this hellish condition will progress despite all advances in education and economic development. Therefore those who are thoughtful should take this movement very seriously and try to understand its value. It is not something manufactured by one man or a group of disciples. It is authoritative and age-old, based on the Vedic literatures that date back thousands of years.

Niharam iva bhaskarah. Bhaskara refers to the sun. The sun immediately dissipates mist or fog as well as darkness. We should therefore try to make the sun of Krishna rise within our hearts. In the Caitanya-caritamrta also it is stated that Krishna is like the sun and that maya, the illusory energy, is darkness. Yahan Krishna, tahan nahi mayara adhikara: as soon as the sun of Krishna is present, the darkness of maya immediately disappears. Without following this process, it is very difficult to overcome the ocean of darkness, maya. But if we simply teach people to surrender unto Krishna, God, all the fog and mist of illusion will disappear. The method is very simple:

chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The more one goes on chanting, the more the darkness of many lives is dissipated. Ceto-darpana-marjanam: by chanting, one can cleanse the dust from the mirror of his mind and perceive things very distinctly. Thus one will know what he is, what God is, what this world is, what our relationship with God in this world is, how to live in this world, and what our next life is. Such knowledge is not taught in schools, where one is taught how to manufacture or acquire products for sense gratification.

There is always a hard struggle going on involving man’s attempt to dominate material nature. However, for every convenience he manages to produce, there is an inconvenience accompanying it. For example, recently some engineers designed an airplane that can fly at great speeds without danger. When the plane flies, however, it breaks windows all over the city. Our time is thus being wasted in constructing so many devices to give us temporary and artificial convenience at the price of a proportionate amount of inconvenience. This is all part of the law of karma, the law of action and reaction. For whatever we do, there must be a reaction by which we become entangled. That is stated in Bhagavad-gita:

yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra
loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
mukta-sangah samacara

“Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” (Bg. 3.9)

When one acts for sense gratification, work entangles him, whether the work be good or bad, but if one works for Krishna (yajnarthat karmanah), he will be free, regardless of the possible undesirability of his work.

Not only does Sukadeva Gosvami recommend unalloyed devotional service, but he further says that by devotional service one’s sinful activities will be negated. Every one of us is more or less sinful, for if we were not sinful we would not have been put into material bodies. As soon as one is free from sinful life, he is liberated and transferred to the spiritual world in a spiritual body. The whole process is to cleanse oneself from the contamination of sinful or material life.

Sukadeva Gosvami said, “My dear king, those who are sinful can become purified from contamination by tapa-adibhih, practicing austerity.” Sukadeva also said, however, that no one can become completely purified by executing this process of austerity. There are many examples of yogis who practiced austerities but did not emerge completely pure. Visvamitra Muni, for example, was a ksatriyas who wanted to become a brahmana and therefore began to practice austerity. Later on, however, he became a victim of Menaka, a society girl of the heavenly planets. Because Visvamitra was not pure, he became entangled with her and begot a child. Therefore it is said that even if one performs austerities and penances, worldly circumstances are so implicating that somehow or other they will involve one again and again in the material modes of nature. There are many examples of sannyasis who give up the world, renouncing it as false, saying, “Let me turn to Brahman [spirit] ” but they again become entangled in the work of the world when they set up hospitals and perform philanthropic work and welfare activities. If the world is false, why are they attracted to welfare activities? The philosophy of Krishna consciousness maintains that this world S is not false but that it is temporary. God created this world, and He is true, so how can His creation be false? Because this is the creation of God, and God is the Absolute Truth, this creation is also true. We simply see it otherwise due to illusion. The world is a fact, but it is a temporary fact.

A person may claim something within this world to be his property, but that is a false claim. It is a fact that it is someone’s property, but it is God’s property (isavasyam idam sarvam). This does not mean, however, that the property is false. What is false is the claim to the property, which is based upon a puffed-up false consciousness that the individual is the proprietor, the master, or God. Everyone desires to be master or proprietor of something, then minister, then president, and then God. When everything else fails, the living entity wants to become God. The tendency is there to want to become the greatest of all, but the fact remains that God is the greatest and the living entity is small compared to Him. The smallest is not false, and the greatest is not false, but when the small thinks that he is great, that is false.

We understand from Vedic literature that Brahman, or the spirit, is anor aniyamsam, smaller than an atom, and mahato mahiyamsam, greater than the greatest. As far as we can conceive, the space that contains the universe is the greatest, but Krishna has shown millions of universes in His mouth. The greatness of God cannot be comprehended by the living entities, who are part and parcel of God. As living entities, we are very minute, infinitesimal, and God is infinite. Indeed, the magnitude of the individual spirit soul is so microscopic that it cannot be seen. One cannot even imagine it with his material senses. Therefore it is said that the spirit soul is smaller than an atom (anor aniyamsam).

Since the living entities and Krishna, the Supreme Lord, are both spirit, they are qualitatively one. Quantitatively, however, the Lord is great and the living entities are small. This fact can be accepted immediately on the basis of Vedic information. In Brahma-samhita it is stated, yasyaika-nisvasita-kalam athavalambya jivanti loma-vilaja jagad-anda-nathah: many millions of universes come out of God’s body when He exhales, and they again disappear when He inhales. Simply by His breathing, millions of universes are created and dissolved. If this is the case, then how can the living entities claim proprietorship over anything? One’s position is safe only insofar as he does not falsely declare himself God or proprietor. It has become fashionable to claim to be God, and fools accept such claims, but from the Vedic literatures we understand that God is not so cheap.

As long as we are not making puffed-up ego-centered claims, we are already liberated. There is actually no need to seek liberation. But as long as one thinks, “I am this body,” he is not liberated. Liberation means knowing perfectly well that one’s self is separate from the body. Therefore Sukadeva Gosvami said, prayascittam vimarsanam: “Develop your knowledge; that will give you relief.” Our knowledge is perfect when we come to know that we are very small particles of spiritual sparks, and that God, the Supreme, the greatest spiritual identity, supplies all our necessities (eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman). By knowing ourselves as minute particles, part and parcel of God, we can understand that our duty is to serve God. God is the center of all creation, of the whole universal body; He is the enjoyer, and we are His servitors. As this conception becomes clear, we become liberated.

Liberation entails freedom from all false conceptions. It is not that upon liberation one acquires ten hands. In Srimad-Bhagavatam liberation (mukti) is defined as hitvanyatha rupam. Hitva means “giving up,” and anyatha rupam denotes a false conception of life. This is to say that when one is situated in his original constitutional position, having given up all false notions, he is liberated. It is also said in Srimad-Bhagavatam that by the acquisition of knowledge, one becomes liberated immediately. That knowledge can be very easily acquired, for it is simple: God is great, and I am very small; He is the supreme proprietor supplying all necessities, and I am His servant. Who can challenge this? It is a fact. We are simply under the false impression that we are this or that, and this leads us to the ultimate false impression that we are God. Yet we do not consider what manner of God we are. A small bodily disorder will send us to the physician. One who claims to be the Supreme, therefore, should be understood to have fallen to the last snare of maya. One who is thus fallen cannot even be liberated, for he is bound by false impressions.

Only when one has attained proper knowledge can he actually be liberated. The stage of liberation is also called the brahma-bhuta stage, or the stage of spiritual realization. One who has attained this stage is characterized by Sri Krishna in Bhagavad-gita in this way:

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman [spirit]. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg. 18.54)

The joy that follows realization arises from understanding, “I was illusioned by false notions for so long. What a fool I was! I was thinking that I was God, but now I can understand that I am God’s eternal servant.” Upon gaming such realization, one attains liberation and becomes prasannatma, or jolly, for this is the constitutional position of the living entity.

There is no lamentation when one is in pure consciousness, for he knows that he is a small part, a spiritual spark protected by the Supreme Lord. Where then is the scope for lamentation? A small child feels free as long as he knows that his father is there. He thinks, “My father is standing by me, so I am free. No one can harm me.” Similarly, when one surrenders to Krishna, he has complete faith that he is not in danger because Krishna is protecting him. One who is thus surrendered to Krishna is not subject to lamentation or desire, whereas one who is not God conscious simply hankers and laments. He hankers for that which he does not possess, and he laments for that which he did possess but has lost. A God conscious person is not subject to such misery. If something is lost, he knows that it is God’s wish, and he thinks, “God desired this, so it is all right.” He does not desire anything, for he knows that all his necessities are being provided by Krishna, the supreme father.

As soon as one understands his relationship to God, he realizes universal brotherhood, for he understands that all men and animals-indeed, all life itself -are all parts of the supreme whole and are therefore all equal. Seeing this, one does not envy, exploit or trouble another living entity. Thus a devotee of Krishna automatically develops all good qualities, for he is in the proper consciousness. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih. One who has developed Krishna consciousness will manifest all the good qualities of the demigods. Indeed, it is stated, Vancha-kalpa-tarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca: a Vaisnava, or devotee of Krishna, is an ocean of mercy to others. He gives the greatest gift to society, for society is in dire need of God consciousness. A Vaisnava bestows the priceless gift of the maha-mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Simply by chanting this mantra, one can remain in a liberated state.

One should not think, however, that this state is simply a state of trance whereby one remains seated in lotus position in a corner for days on end. No, liberation means serving. One cannot simply say, “Now I have dedicated my life to Krishna. Let me remain seated in trance.” The standard of surrender must be maintained nisevaya, by serving. As one serves the Supreme Lord, the Lord reveals Himself within the heart. The program of devotional service to the Lord is executed from morning to night. Indeed, Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita that one must engage in devotional service to Him twenty-four hours a day. It is not that we should meditate for fifteen minutes and then engage in all kinds of nonsense. The more we serve, the more dedicated to Krishna we become; therefore a person should utilize whatever talents he has for Krishna. There are nine process of devotional service-hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving the Lord as friend, and sacrificing everything for Him—and one should always keep engaged in at least one of these nine processes. One who is always engaged in Krishna’s service never becomes disgusted (bhajatam priti-purvakam). Service must be rendered with love, but in the beginning this may be difficult, and so one may become disgusted. As one makes progress in Krishna’s service, however, he will find it pleasing. This is indicated by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita;

yat tad agre visam iva
pariname ‘mrtopamam
tat sukham sattvikam proktam
atma-buddhi-prasada-jam

“That which in the beginning may be just like poison, but at the end is like nectar, and which awakens one to self-realization, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Bg. 18.37)

Once one has attained the spiritual platform, it is material service that actually becomes disgusting. For example, if one chants Hare Krishna throughout his life, he will not grow tired of the names, but if one chants a material name over and over, he will soon become disgusted. The more one chants the names of Krishna, the more he becomes attached. Thus service by sravanam and kirtanam, hearing and chanting about Krishna, is the beginning. The next process is smaranam-always remembering Krishna. When one is perfect in chanting and hearing, he will always remember Krishna. In this third stage, he becomes the greatest yogi.

Nor is progress in Krishna consciousness ever lost. In the material world, if one begins to construct a factory but does not complete it, the factory is useless for all intents and purposes, if the construction is stopped and the building half finished, whatever money is invested is lost. This is not the case with Krishna consciousness, for even if one does not come to the perfectional point, whatever work he does is his permanent asset, and he can begin from that point in his next life. Krishna also confirms in Bhagavad-gita that one begins Krishna consciousness cannot lose anything:

nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti
pratyavayo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trayate mahato bhayat

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Bg. 2.40)

In the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, when Arjuna asks about the fate of the unsuccessful yogi, Sri Krishna replied:

partha naiveha namutra
vinasas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyana-krt kascid
durgatim tata gacchati

“Son of Prtha, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.” (Bg. 6.40)

The Lord then indicates that the unsuccessful yogi takes up his practice of Krishna consciousness in the next life, beginning from the point where he left off. In other words, if one has finished fifty percent of the process in one life, in the next life he begins at fifty-one percent. Whatever material assets we accumulate in our life, however, are all annihilated at death, for we cannot take material opulence with us.

But one should not think that he will do well to wait for the next life to attain Krishna consciousness. We should try to fulfill the mission of Krishna consciousness in this life. Krishna promises us that one who becomes His devotee will come to Him without fail:

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ‘si me

“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are my very dear friend.” (Bg. 18.65)

When we think of coming to Krishna, we should not think that we will be standing before a void or an impersonal bright light. Krishna, God, is a person, just as we are persons. Materially we can understand that our father is a person, and that his father is also a person, and that his father’s father is a person and so on back to the supreme father, who must also be a person. This is not very difficult to understand, and it is noteworthy that God is called the supreme father not only in the Vedas but in the Bible, Koran, and other scriptures. The Vedanta-sutra also confirms that the Absolute Truth is the original father from whom everything has taken birth or emanated. This is also confirmed in the Vedas:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam
eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

The Lord is the supreme eternal amongst all living entities. He is maintaining all others.” The desires and life symptoms displayed by all living entities are simply reflections of the desires and life symptoms of the supreme father. In other words, our desires are born because He has desires. Because we are part and parcel of God, we have all the instincts of God in minute quantity. The sex play and sex life we see in the material world is but the perverted reflection of the love found in the spiritual world. This world is material because God is forgotten here, but once He is remembered the world immediately becomes spiritual. In other words, the spiritual world is that place where Krishna is not forgotten. That is also the definition of the spiritual world given by Vedic literatures. We must therefore plan our lives in such a way that it will not be possible for us to forget Krishna for a moment. In this way, by engaging in the service of Krishna, we will therefore always live in Vaikuntha or Vrndavana, the abode of Krishna.

At present, because of our polluted consciousness, we are turning the world into a materialistic and hellish place, and because we are ignorant of our constitutional position, we have created innumerable problems, just as in dreams we create so many problems. But in actuality there are no problems. I may dream that I am in a great storm, or that I am being pursued, or that someone is taking my money, or that I am being devoured by a tiger, but actually these are all creations of my mind. Asango hy ayam purusa iti sruteh. The Vedas say that the purusa (the atma, or the soul) has no connection with all its dreamlike material activities. Therefore we must engage in this Krishna consciousness process to awaken from this dreaming condition.

Above all the fruitive laborers, speculators and mystic yogis are the bhaktas, or devotees of Krishna. A bhakta can be perfectly peaceful, whereas the others cannot because everyone but the bhakta, one who has pure love, has desire. A suddha-bhakta, pure devotee, is desireless because he is simply happy serving Krishna. He does not know or even care whether Krishna is God or not; he just wants to love Krishna. Nor is he concerned with the fact that Krishna is omnipotent or that He is all-pervasive. In Vrndavana, the cowherd boys and the gopis did not know whether Krishna was God or not, but they simply loved Him. Although the gopis were not Vedantists, yogis or karmis, they were happy because they were simple village girls and boys who wanted to see Krishna. This is a very highly elevated position called sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam, or the stage of purity in which one is liberated from all material designations.

Although the yogis and jnanis are trying to understand God, they are not aware of their illusory condition. Maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan: they are fools because they are working hard for illusory happiness. There is no question of peace for them. The jnanis, or speculators, wanting to get relief from the hard work of this material world, reject this material world (brahma satyam jagan-mithya). Their position is a little higher than that of the karmis because the karmis have taken this material world as everything. They say, “Here we shall be happy,” and their dharma, or religion, consists of trying to make a peaceful atmosphere within this material world. The fools do not know that this has been tried for millions of years but has never happened and never will happen. How can peace in the material world be possible when Krishna, the creator Himself, says that this place is meant for trouble and miseries?

a-brahma-bhuvanal lokah
punar avartino ‘rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Bg. 8.16)

Duhkhalayam asasvatam: not only is this world full of suffering, but it is also temporary. One cannot simply agree to go ahead suffering the threefold miseries and stay here. Even that will not be allowed. In this world, not only will he be punished while staying here, but he will also be kicked out at the end. One may accumulate a large bank balance or an expensive home, a wife, children, and so many amenities, and he may think, “I am living very peacefully,” but at any day he may be told, “Please get out.”

“Why?” he will ask. “It is my house, and it is paid for. I have money and a job and responsibilities. Why should I get out?”

“Just get out. Don’t talk. Get out.”

On that day a man sees God. “Oh, I did not believe in God,” he may think. “But now here is God finishing off everything.” Thus it is said that the demoniac recognize Krishna as death, for at that time He takes everything away from them.

Why do we want to see God as death?

When the demon Hiranyakasipu saw Krishna, he saw Him as death personified, but the devotee Prahlada saw Him in His personal form as his beloved Lord. Those who challenge God will see Him in His ghastly aspect, but those who are devoted to Him will see Him in His personal form. In any case, everyone will ultimately see God.

An honest person can always see Krishna everywhere. Krishna says, “Try to understand Me. Try to see Me everywhere.” By way of facilitating this method, the Lord says, raso ‘ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of water.” When we are thirsty and need a glass of water, we can drink it and feel happy, understanding that the power of water to quench our thirst is Krishna. Similarly, as soon as there is sunrise or moonshine, we can see Krishna, for He says, prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh: “I am the light of the sun and moon.” At a further stage we can see Krishna as the life force within everything, as He indicates in Bhagavad-gita:

punyo gandhah prthivyam ca
tejas casmi vibhavasau
jivanam sarva-bhutesu
tapas casmi tapasvisu

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the light in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Bg. 7.9)

Once we understand that all things are dependent upon Krishna for their existence, there is no possibility of His ever becoming lost to us. In Bhagavad-gita the Lord indicates that all things abide in Him both in their beginning and in their end and also in the interim state:

etad-yonini bhutani
sarvanity upadharaya
aham krtsnasya jagatah
prabhavah pralayas tatha

mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva

“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls on a thread.” (Bg. 7.6-7)

Krishna is easily visible, but He is only visible to those who are devoted to Him. For those who are envious, foolish or unintelligent, He obscures Himself with His veil of yoga-maya:

naham prakasah sarvasya
yoga-maya-samavrtah
mudho ‘yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them 1 am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya}; thus the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Bg. 7.25)

This eternal creative potency, or yoga-maya, which obscures Krishna to the unintelligent, is dissolved by love. This is the verdict of Brahma-samhita:

premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti

Those who thus see Krishna are not anxious because they know where they are going at death. One who has taken the gift of Krishna consciousness knows that he will not have to return to this material world to take another body but will go to Krishna. It is not possible to go to Krishna unless one attains a body like Krishna’s, a sac-cid-ananda-vigraha body, a body full of eternity, knowledge and bliss. One cannot enter into fire and not perish unless he himself becomes fire, and similarly one cannot enter into the spiritual realm in a body that is not spiritual. In a spiritual body one can dance with Krishna in the rasa dance like the gopis. This is not an ordinary dance, but the dance of eternity, in the association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only those who have become purified in their love for Krishna can participate in it. One therefore should not take this process of Krishna consciousness as something cheap, but as a matchless gift bestowed upon suffering humanity by the Lord Himself. Simply by engaging in this process, all the anxieties and fears of one’s life, which in actuality revolve about the fear of death, are allayed.

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