Srila Prabhupada’s First Talks in America (New York, October 1966)
How to reach the spiritual realm. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada speaks on Bhagavad-gita, India’s time-honored source book of spiritual science.
avyakto ‘ksara ity uktas
tam ahuh paramam gatim
yam prapya na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama
“My supreme abode is unmanifested and eternal, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there he never comes back [to this material world].” [Bg. 8.21]
In this verse the word avyaktah means “that which is not manifested.” This material world is manifested before us, but the spiritual world is not manifested. Still, although not manifested, the spiritual world is eternal (aksarah). Aksarah means “that which has no annihilation.” In the material world a thing is born, it stays for some time, it develops, it produces some by-products, it dwindles, and then it vanishes. These are the six changes of material things. But the spiritual world, which at present is not manifested before us, is aksarah, or eternal. It is not annihilated.
At the present moment, because we are covered by the material dress of material senses, the spiritual world—or anything spiritual—is not conceivable. But we can feel that there is something spiritual. That is possible. Although we are fully in ignorance of the spiritual reality, still we can feel it. If you analyze yourself silently—”What am I? Am I this finger? Am I this foot? Am I this hair? Am I this body?”—you’ll deny: “No, I’m not this.” So, what is beyond this body—that is spiritual, and that we can feel.
We cannot see the spirit within the body (although it is there), but we can distinguish a dead body from a living body. In a dead body something is lacking. Again, that “something” is spirit. So although we have no eyes to see, the spirit is there. This is the beginning point of Bhagavad-gita. Avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam [Bg. 2.17]: that spiritual existence is eternal, whereas this body is not eternal.
Now, here it is said that the spiritual atmosphere is avyaktah, unmanifested. So how can we have it manifested before us? We have a little feeling of it, but how can it be manifested? Yes, you can have it manifested—by practicing this Krsna consciousness, which we are preaching.
In the Vedic literature it is said, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhavet grahyam indriyaih. Indriyaih means “the senses.” We perceive or we get knowledge through the instruments of different senses—the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. These are our five senses for gathering knowledge. And there are five senses for working—the voice, hands, legs, genital, and anus. So we have ten senses. And these ten senses are being conducted by the mind. Now, sri-krsna-namadi na bhavet grahyam indriyaih: “With these dull material senses and mind we cannot understand Krsna’s name, form, and so forth.” Why? Because Krsna is completely spiritual, and He’s absolute; therefore His name is also spiritual. His form is spiritual. His qualities, His opulences. His paraphernalia—everything is spiritual. But at the present moment, due to our material bondage and conditioning, we cannot understand what is spiritual.
But this ignorance can be removed by this process: chanting Hare Krsna. How is this? I’ll give you an example. When a man is sleeping, how can you awaken him? By the vibration of sound. “Mr. Such-and-such, just get up! Get up! The time is up!” Although he is practically unconscious and cannot see, still that hearing process is so prominent that a sleeping man can be awakened by the vibration of sound. Similarly, although the spirit soul is now overpowered by material bondage and material conditioning, his spiritual consciousness can be revived by this transcendental vibration: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Now, these are Sanskrit words, so some of you may not know the meaning of this Hare Krsna mantra. The meaning of Hare Krsna is, it is simply addressing the Supreme Lord and His energy. Hara is the energy, and Krsna is the Supreme Lord. So we are addressing, “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna”—”O energy of the Lord, O Lord, please accept me.” That’s all—”Please accept me.” We have no other prayer. “Please accept me.” Lord Caitanya taught that we should simply cry for the Lord and that we should simply pray for Him to accept us. That’s all. So this vibration is simply a cry for addressing the Supreme Lord, requesting Him, “Please accept me. Please accept me.”
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
This prayer was offered by Lord Caitanya. He’s praying, “O my dear Krsna, son of Nanda.” Krsna played the part of a foster son of Nanda Maharaja. And Krsna is very delighted when He is connected with some of His devotees’ names. So Lord Caitanya addresses Him, “O Krsna, son of Nanda, somehow or other I have now fallen into this ocean of nescience and ignorance. Please pick me up and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” That’s all. If a man falls into the ocean, his only chance for survival is if someone goes and saves him. If someone picks him up just one inch above the water, he feels immediately relieved. Immediately. So, as soon as we are fixed in Krsna consciousness, we feel immediate relief. There is no question about it. It is such a nice thing.
So, we cannot perceive the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord—His name. His fame, and so forth—with our materially conditioned senses and mind. By speculating about what the name of God is, you cannot understand what the name of God is. By speculating about what the form of God is, you cannot possibly understand His form. But as soon as you become situated in Krsna consciousness—sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: if you engage yourself in Krsna consciousness, then gradually God will reveal Himself before you. Oh, you cannot see God by your own endeavor. But if you qualify yourself, God will reveal Himself and you’ll see. This is the process. You cannot order, “O God, please come before me and dance before me.” No. He is not an order supplier. You have to act in such a way that He’ll be pleased to reveal Himself before you, and then you’ll see Him fully.
So here in this verse it is said, avyaktah, aksarah—there is a transcendental world. Because it is spoken in the Bhagavad-gita, and because the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself is speaking, there is no cause for doubting. There is no cause for doubting this information. The only thing is how to feel it, how to understand it. That understanding will gradually be developed—and it will be shown, it will be revealed to you—if you take up this chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama,Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This is a simple process, a very simple process. Even children can take part in it. Even a child of six months took part in it. Perhaps in the last meeting you have seen: there was a small child sitting on the lap of his father, and he was also joining in. [Claps his hands in imitation of the child.] You see? Because it is automatic—a dog will dance, a cat will dance, a child will dance. There is no necessity of preliminary qualifications for understanding the Hare Krsna mantra, because it is from the spiritual platform. It is from the spiritual platform. So this simple process will reveal before you what the spiritual kingdom is, what God is, what you are, what this material world is, why you are conditioned, what the remedy is—everything will be revealed gradually, step by step, step by step.
Avyakto ‘ksara ity uktah: in the Vedic literature it is said that the spiritual world is unmanifested. But still it is eternal. We have to see through the books of knowledge. We have to believe. And it will be revealed, if you follow the process. For example, suppose you purchase a ticket for India from Air India or Pan American Airlines. Why do you purchase? You can disbelieve: “What is the evidence that I shall go to India by purchasing the ticket?” But when you see that other people are going to India, the company’s running, and so forth—under these circumstances you develop some faith: “Yes, the plane will take me to India.” And actually, when you purchase the ticket and sit down on the plane, the next morning you arrive in India. Now, why did you have faith? Because Pan American is a company which is authorized, which is recognized. Therefore you are developing faith.
Faith you must have. Without faith you cannot go a step forward, even in your ordinary life. But faith in what? Ah, the belief and faith should be in the authorized thing. That is the process. You must have faith, for without faith you cannot make progress. But not blind faith. Rather, you should accept something which is recognized. So Bhagavad-gita is recognized. As far as India is concerned, Bhagavad-gita is recognized cent per cent. It doesn’t matter whether they are theists or atheists—all classes of men in India accept Bhagavad-gita. And outside India all scholars, all religionists, all philosophers have accepted Bhagavad-gita as authority. So there is no doubt about Bhagavad-gita’s being authority. Even Professor Einstein regularly read Bhagavad-gita—such a great scientist. And there is much more evidence.
So you should believe that there is a spiritual atmosphere, and that it is the kingdom of God. And here it is stated, yam prapya na nivartante: if somehow or other you can reach that spiritual atmosphere, then the result is na nivartante: you’ll never have to take another material body. So tad dhama paramam mama: you’ll become quietly and happily situated in your eternal life. Don’t you think so? Now, suppose you are placed in some country where you can understand, “I’ll have no more death, no more miseries, no more old age, no more disease.” Will you not be happy? Suppose you are transferred to a country where these things are available…. “Yes, I shall, I must be happy! If I can go to some place where I’ll not have to die again or become old or have any diseases—oh! Certainly I shall accept it. That is my desire, my heart’s desire. I want that.”
Why do you want that? Because you have the right to it. It is your prerogative. You are eternal, you are blissful, you are full of knowledge. But you are now covered by this material entanglement, so you have forgotten your self.
So here Krsna is giving you the chance to revive your original status of life. Here it is clearly said, yam prapya na nivartante: if you somehow or other can approach that spiritual atmosphere, then you haven’t got to return to this land of miseries. Now we are trying to become happy by transferring ourselves to the moon planet. We are thinking that if we can transfer ourselves to the moon we shall be happy. But this is useless. Bhagavad-gita has already informed you, abrahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino ‘rjuna: even if you go to the highest planet (of course you cannot go there, but suppose you could go by your sputnik or by aeronautic means), still you could not avoid the four principles of material miseries—namely birth, death, old age, and disease. So you should not desire a place anywhere within this material world. Either in this country or that country or this planet or that planet—you’ll never be happy.
But here Krsna gives us valuable information. Avyakto ‘ksara ity uktas tam ahuh paramam gatim: if you can reach the highest perfectional stage—if you can reach Krsna’s supreme abode—then only will you no longer be required to come back again to this nonsensical material world. This is the information you get from the Bhagavad-gita. And what shall you do there? Some philosophers think that that spiritual atmosphere must be impersonal. Impersonal, void—some philosophers think like that. The impersonalist Sankarites and the Buddhists believe that there is voidness in the spiritual atmosphere. But the Bhagavad-gita does not disappoint you in that way.
That voidness philosophy has created atheism. Just try to understand clearly: I am a spiritual being, so I want enjoyment. That is my life. I want enjoyment. But as soon as I see that my spiritual future is void, I must feel inclined to enjoy this material life. Therefore the impersonalists simply discuss this voidness and impersonalism, but as much as possible, they enjoy material life. Simply armchair philosophical discussion. As soon as we look at their behavior, we see that they’re too much attached to material enjoyment. So they may enjoy some speculation, that’s all. But there is no benefit.
But really, if one has any spiritual sense he’ll at once cease all this nonsensical enjoyment. That is the symptom of any real idea of spirituality. Bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra ca. The test is… if you have developed your Krsna consciousness, if you have developed your devotional spirit, your spiritual realization, the result will be that you’ll be at once detached from all kinds of material enjoyment. How is this? It is just like when a hungry man is given nice food. As soon as he eats and feels satisfaction, he says, “No, I don’t want any more. I am satisfied.” Svamin krtartho ‘smi varam na yace. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gita [18.54]. You’ll find,
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
“One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. 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 [Krsna].”
Oh. One who is spiritually realized—his symptom will be full satisfaction. He’ll no longer be hankering after this nonsensical material enjoyment. That is spiritual realization. It is very clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gita—rasa-varjam raso ‘py asya param drstva nivartate: “When one experiences a higher taste, he ceases sense enjoyment.” For example, a doctor will forbid a diseased man: “Don’t eat. Don’t have sex life….” So many don’ts. The patient is forced to accept those don’ts, but inside he feels, “Oh, if I could eat I’d be happy.” Inside he wants the forbidden things. But a spiritualist—he has inner strength. He’s not impotent, but he doesn’t like sexual intercourse. He doesn’t like it. He hates it. That is spiritual life: inner strength. He can marry thrice, but he has detachment. That is spiritual life. Param drstva nivartate: if you get something superior, naturally you give up all inferior things.
So we want enjoyment. But this atheism, this voidness, and this impersonal-ism have created an atmosphere in which we are simply speculating but we remain addicted to this material enjoyment. This is not the process. The next verse in Bhagavad-gita [8.22] says, purusah sa parah partha bhaktya labhyas tv ananyaya: if you accept this principle of Krsna consciousness, the devotional path, and if you worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then you can have spiritual realization and become detached from material enjoyment. Then your life becomes sublime. Oh, that is the process of Krsna consciousness.
Here it is clearly said, purusa—the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Purusah sa parah partha: parah means supreme, and partha means Arjuna. So Krsna says, “O My dear Arjuna, in the spiritual atmosphere is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” He’s a person just like you and me. Just as we are talking face to face, so when you reach the spiritual atmosphere you’ll talk face to face with God. You’ll play with Him, you’ll eat with Him—everything.
How can you attain that state? Bhaktya: by devotion. Not by speculating, but by devotion. You have to submit. You have to render transcendental loving service to the Lord. That is the way. Bhaktyas tv ananyaya. Tv ananyaya means without any adulteration. What is that adulteration? “I love God for some material benefit.” That is adulteration. “I love God to become one with Him.” That is adulteration. This adulteration in devotional service will not help you. Unadulterated: tv ananyaya.
Yasyantah-sthani bhutani yena sarvam idam tatam. That Supreme Personality, although He’s a person just like you and me, is still so widespread that everything is within Him and He’s within everything. He’s outside and inside. That is the full conception of God. God is everywhere, but still He has His kingdom. His abode, His associates, everything. Just like the sun. The sun’s energy spreads all over the universe, but still the sun has his own planet, his own residence.
So God, or Krsna, is in the spiritual atmosphere. If we approach Him, then our life will be successful, our aims will be fulfilled, and we’ll be happy and prosperous eternally. Not temporarily, but eternally. Thank you very much.