One truth ties all world religions together
A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The Lord says that the purpose of all Vedic instruction is to achieve the highest goal of life, to go back to Godhead. The aim of any scripture of any country—not only the Bhagavad-gita, but any scripture—is simply to get us back to Godhead. That is the purpose. Take for example any of the great religious reformers, or acaryas, of any country. In your country, Lord Jesus Christ—or Lord Buddha. Of course, Lord Buddha advented himself in India, but later on his philosophy was broadcast all over Asia. Then Srila Vyasadeva, Muhammad—take any great representative of the Lord—none of them will tell you to make your best plans to live peacefully in this material world. That is a common factor. There may be some little differences in the scriptural injunctions according to the country, climate, and situation, but the main principle is that we are not meant to remain in this material world.
We have our real home in the spiritual world. That is accepted by everyone. Therefore Lord Krsna says, yogi param sthanam upaiti cadyam. For the yogi the chief aim of life is to get into the spiritual kingdom. That is the highest ambition of the yogi, of the transcendentalist.
In the beginning of the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is speaking: sri-bhagavan uvaca. I have several times described what this word bhagavan means. Bhaga means “opulence, and van means “one who possesses.” Bhagavan. Everything has its definition. So in the Vedic scriptures we’ll find the definition of God. We have got some conception of God. But in the Vedic literatures we’ll find the definite description of what is meant by God. What we mean by God is described in one word: bhagavan, or “one who possesses opulence.”
What are the opulences? The Vedic literatures say,
viryasya yasasah sriyah
sannam bhaga itingina
Bhaga: these are the opulences. Aisvaryasya means “wealth.” Viryasya means “strength.” Yasasah means “fame.” Sriyah means “beauty.” Jnana means “knowledge.” And vairagya means “renunciation:” When you find these six opulences presented in a personality in full, He is God. He is God. That is the description of God.
You have many rich men here in your New York City, but nobody can claim that he is the richest of all, that he has got all the riches of the world. Nobody can claim that. But if you find somebody who actually owns all of the riches of the world or the universe, He’s God. He is God.
In the Bhagavad-gita you’ll find:
jnatva mam santim rcchati
Bhoktaram yajna-tapasam: Lord Krsna says that He is the supreme enjoyer of all kinds of activities. Sarva-loka-mahesvaram: He is the proprietor of all planets. Loka means “planets:” We are the proprietor of a certain extent of land here, and we are very much proud. But God says, “I am the proprietor of all the planets:” And suhrdam sarva-bhutanam: He is the friend of all living entities. Jnatva mam santim rcchati: when a person understands that God is the proprietor of everything, that God is the friend of everyone, and that God is the enjoyer of everything—by knowing these three things, one becomes very peaceful. That is the peace formula.
You cannot become peaceful as long as you think, “I am the proprietor.” You are not actually the proprietor. You cannot claim proprietorship. Take, for example, this land of America. Say about four hundred years ago, the red Indians were the proprietors of this country. Now you are the proprietors. And after four hundred years, or a thousand years, somebody else will come. They’ll become the proprietors. So actually we are not the proprietors. The land is here, we come here, and we claim falsely, “I am the proprietor.” Therefore, the Isopanisad states, Isavasyam idam sarvam: “Everything belongs to God:” Everything belongs to God. Nothing belongs to me. Actually, this is the fact. Therefore God is the richest person.
Nowadays you’ll find, especially in India, that there are dozens of “incarnations of God.” But if you ask one of them, “Are you the proprietor of everything?” oh, that is very difficult to answer. These are the checks—how you can understand who is God. God must be the proprietor of everything. And He must be more powerful than anyone. When Krsna was present on this earth, nobody could conquer Him. There is not a single instance in which Krsna was defeated. He belonged to the ksatriya family; He identified Himself as a ksatriya. The ksatriyas are meant for giving protection to the poor, to the weak. So He belonged to the royal family. He fought so many adversaries while He remained on this earth, but in no fight was He defeated. Therefore He was the most powerful. As far as His opulence is concerned, from Bhagavatam we find that He married 16,108 wives, and every wife had a different palace. He expanded Himself into 16,108 to live with each of His wives. These facts are recorded in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therefore all the great acaryas, the great scholars of India, have accepted this fact—that Krsna is God, Bhagavan.
The Bhagavad-gita was written by Srila Vyasadeva, after being spoken by Lord Krsna. What did the Lord say?
idam tu te guhyatamam
yaj jnatva moksyase ‘subhat
“My dear Arjuna, now I shall impart to you the topmost knowledge:” idam tu te guhyatamam. Guhytamam means “most confidential:” There are different grades of knowledge. But here the Lord says, “Just now I’m going to explain that which is the most confidential part of knowledge.”
Pravaksyamy anasuyave. Anasuvave: this very word is used. Anasuvave means “one who does not envy.” Does not envy. For instance, when the Lord says, “I am the proprietor of all planets,” somebody may say, “Oh, Krsna is claiming the proprietorship of everything. How is that?” This is because in the material world we are always envious. If somebody is in some way greater than us, we are envious. “Oh, how has he progressed so much?” This is the disease of the material world—envy. So we are envious of God, also. When God says, “I am the proprietor,” we disbelieve it. That is why this word is used—anasuyave. Arjuna is hearing from Lord Krsna without any enviousness. He’s accepting exactly what Krsna says. This is the way of understanding. We cannot understand who God is by our mental speculation. We simply have to hear from authoritative sources and accept. Otherwise, there is no way to understand God. So God says, “Because you are not envious, I shall speak to you about the most confidential part of knowledge:” Jnanam vijnana-sahitam. Vijnana-sahitam means this knowledge is not theoretical, but is scientific. We should not think that whatever knowledge we get from Bhagavad-gita is sentimentalism or fanaticism. No; it is all vijnana, science. Yaj jnatva: if you become well versed in this most confidential part of the knowledge, then the result will be moksyase ‘subhat. Asubha means “inauspicious:” Our existence in this material world is asubha—inauspicious, always miserable. But moksyase: you shall be liberated from this miserable life of material existence if you understand this knowledge.
So let us carefully understand what the Lord says to Arjuna about this knowledge. He says,
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” [Bg. 9.2] This process of knowledge and purified activity which we are trying to propagate is Krsna consciousness. “Topmost knowledge” means Krsna consciousness, according to Bhagavad-gita, because in the Bhagavad-gita you’ll find that the symptom of a person who is learned—who is actually in knowledge—will be that he has surrendered unto God. As long as we go on speculating about God but do not surrender, we will not achieve the perfection of knowledge.
The perfection of knowledge is jnanavan mam prapadyate: after many, many births of mental and philosophical speculation, when one actually understands God’s position, one at once surrenders. As long as we do not surrender, we cannot understand God in truth. Bahunam janmanam ante: the Lord says that one achieves real knowledge only after many, many births. Not all of a sudden. Of course, if we accept “God is great; let me surrender,” then we can come to the platform of knowledge in a second. But our present position is to become envious of God. “Why shall I surrender unto God? I am independent. I shall work independently.” Therefore, to rectify these misgivings we have to spend many lifetimes.
If there is any perfect name of God, that is “Krsna.” Why?
krsir bhu-vacakah sabdo
nas ca nirvrti-vacakah
tayor aikyam param brahma
krsna ity abhidhiyate
Krs means “repetition of birth;” and na means “one who ends.” The one who ends our repetition of birth is called Krsna. Our repetition of birth can be ended only by God. Otherwise it is not possible. Harim vina naiva srtim taranti: one cannot stop one’s repetition of birth and death without having the causeless mercy of God. Therefore, Krsna is a scientific name of God. Of course, God has many names. For example, Vasudeva means “all-pervading:” So vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: if after many, many births, one understands that Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is everything, he has reached the perfection of knowledge, and at that time he surrenders. The whole Bhagavad-gita teaches this science.
Pratyaksavagamam dharmyam. Dharmyam means the religious principles. Susukham kartum avyayam Susukham means that it is very joyful to execute. The devotional service you perform will never cease to exist. It is permanent. We do many things which have no permanent effect. For instance, suppose we work in this material world for some perfection in education or perfection in business. We may amass a vast amount of money, but that is not avyayam, eternal. As soon as your body is finished, everything is finished—your education is finished, your M.A. degree is finished, your bank balance is finished, your family is finished. Everything is finished. Now begin a new life. Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya: “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” [Bg. 2.22] Therefore, whatever you are doing in this material world is not avyayam, not eternal. It is all temporary. But transcendental knowledge is not like that.
Svalpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat. Krsna conscious knowledge is so perfect that even if you learn one percent of it, then it can help to protect you from the greatest danger. Suppose in this life I perform work in Krsna consciousness, say, twenty-five percent of the time—I am not perfect. Then in my next life I will begin from the twenty-sixth point. So whatever realization I have acquired in this life is not lost. These are the formulas we get from authoritative scripture. But because material achievement pertains to this body, this temporary designation, it is finished with the finish of this designation.
In this body we’re thinking, “I am American,” “I am Indian.” All of these are simply our designations. Yet the designation will finish, and there is no certainty what sort of body we will have in our next life. But devotional service to the Lord—knowledge and action in Krsna consciousness—will be permanent, whatever you do. If you can do it perfectly in this very life, then you get entrance into the kingdom of God. But even if you are not able to execute it perfectly, whatever you do will go with you, because you are a spirit soul. So your spiritual activities will be with you. But because the material body will remain in this material world, any work or assessment of this material body will also remain in this material world. This is natural.
Now we can actually understand how Krsna consciousness, devotional service, is joyfully performed. Take, for example, what we are doing here. We are singing, we are dancing, we are taking nice prasada [spiritual food offered to Krsna with love and devotion], and we are discussing the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita. These are the processes. We are not meant for any artificial austerities or gymnastics or breath control—so many things that are now being advertised and performed by so many different yoga societies. Here it is very easily and happily done. Everyone wants to dance, everyone wants to sing, everyone wants to eat nice foodstuffs. Through this formula—dancing, singing, eating Krsna prasada, and hearing philosophical discussion (transcendental topics from Bhagavad-gita)—don’t you think it is very joyful? And whatever knowledge you acquire, that is permanent. That is not going to be finished with the finish of your body.
Krsna consciousness is such a nice thing; therefore we are trying to impart this philosophy in your country, and we invite your cooperation. Vijnanam: it is scientific. It is not sentimentality or fanaticism. It is scientific. So try to understand this philosophy of Krsna consciousness from Bhagavad-gita, and help yourself, help your countrymen, help the world. Then there will be peace and prosperity.