by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Vedanta means the ultimate goal of knowledge. Formerly there was only one Vedic literature, known as the Atharva-veda. In the Atharva-veda Krsna’s name is mentioned, and He is described as the son of Devaki. Srila Jiva Gosvami has quoted from Atharva-veda in his commentary on Brahma-samhita. Atharva-veda is the original Veda.
Kali-yuga is considered to be very contaminated, for three fourths of the population is impious in this age, and officially only one fourth is pious, and that is also dwindling due to the strong influence of Kali; so before the beginning of this age, as a favor to the people, Vyasadeva divided the original Atharva-veda into four parts, Atharva-veda, Rg-veda, Sama-veda and Yajur-veda. Then he explained the Vedas by eighteen Puranas. Then he summarized the purpose of the Vedas in a historical form, the Mahabharata, taking advantage of the Battle of Kuruksetra, and gave it to the less intelligent human beings, to stri-sudra-dvijabandhu. Stri means woman, sudra means the working class of man, and dvijabandhu refers to those who are born in a high family like brahmana, ksatriya and vaisyas, but who are not actually qualified for their high position. For instance, in India there are many so-called brahmanas and ksatriyas. But today if one reads the Mahabharata he will find that it is difficult even for the greatest scholar of this age.
For instance, Bhagavad-gita is set up in the Mahabharata, and originally it was meant for the less intelligent. So one can just try to imagine what class of men existed in those days. Bhagavad-gita is such a lofty philosophical spiritual treatise, but it was taught to Arjuna in the battlefield. How much time can a person spare in a battlefield? And at the time he was about to fight and was deliberating, “Oh, why should I fight?” So some instruction was given by Krsna in half an hour, or at most one hour. And Arjuna understood the whole Bhagavad-gita. So what kind of man was Arjuna? This is the very Bhagavad-gita that even great scholars of this age cannot understand, and Arjuna understood it within half an hour. We can hardly imagine what class of men was present at that time. Arjuna was not even a brahmana. He was a military man, and a military man is not expected to be very scholarly, though he knows his own work.
In this way the Vedas were distributed in several forms and divisions so that people could take advantage of them. Formerly the Vedas were not in written language, being what is called sruti. Sruti refers to that knowledge which is learned simply by hearing. There was no need of noting down or cramming; they were so intelligent. The brahmacari system was so nice that students became very fertile in the brain and very receptive. For instance, even recently Lord Caitanya produced a hundred slokas immediately after hearing them from Kesava Kasmiri. Although Kesava Kasmiri was a very learned scholar and Lord Caitanya was only a sixteen-year-old boy, Lord Caitanya told Kesava Kasmiri, “I have heard that you are a great scholar, so please compose some nice verses in praise of Mother Ganges.” So he immediately composed a hundred verses, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard them and said, “Will you explain the sixty-fourth verse? Why have you said bhavani-bhartah?” Bhavani means the wife of Lord Siva, and bharta means husband. Caitanya Mahaprabhu pointed out that since bhavani means Lord Siva’s wife, it was redundant to mention bharta, husband. That means that she has another husband. This was a poetical fault. So he was astonished that a sixteen-year-old boy, a grammar student, could point out his mistake, and he felt defeated. Formerly, two scholars would argue, and if one were defeated he would accept the other as spiritual master and become his disciple. That was the challenge. It was not like nowadays, for now we go on talking for hours, and although someone is defeated he’ll never accept it.
The Highest Technology
Vedic literature is a vast literature, and it is complete. Every religion, every human society accepts God, or at least appreciates Him and says God is great, but no one knows how great God is. That information is available in the Vedas. In school, children may use a pocket dictionary, which gives brief definitions, but if they use a big dictionary, just like the International Dictionary or the Complete Oxford English Dictionary of many volumes, they will see that the descriptions are more complete and vivid for any given word. So those who are actually interested in the science of God will find ample opportunity in this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not that we are decrying any other religion. No. This is a postgraduate study of higher consciousness or God consciousness. Therefore there is no objection to any religious group coming to Krsna consciousness. Many students from India come to America for higher study in technology, so we are offering the higher study of learning how to love God. That is our program. Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje.
The test of first-class religion is whether or not the followers are developing love of God. It doesn’t matter what that religion is. It may be Christian, Hindu or Mohammedan. If one is developing love of God, then his system of religion is first class. Of course every system of religion is nice, but as mentioned before, some are more complete. Desa-kala-parta. Desa means country, and kala means time, and parta means the receiver or the student. The Christian religion was taught in a different time. Now people are more advanced in education. And it was preached in a desert; the people were not very prosperous at that time. So they have some description of God. But Vedanta was compiled under different circumstances for a different audience and with a different view. Vedanta means to know God. Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah. Veda means Knowledge, Ultimate Knowledge, which is to know God or Krsna. That is perfection of knowledge. Bahunam janmanam ante. After many, many births and cultivation of knowledge, when one comes to the point of understanding God or Krsna, that is perfection. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mamprapadyate. God is full of joyfulness, pleasure; He is the reservoir of pleasure. We are hankering after pleasure, but somehow or other we are already connected with the supreme pleasure. Everyone is connected. I am sitting here and you are sitting here, but without being connected with God we cannot sit even for a moment. God’s energies are working at all moments, otherwise the whole material world would be vanquished. So it is by the mercy of God. I am now speaking to you, but within a twinkling of the eye the whole body may be paralyzed immediately. Factually we are living at the present moment by the mercy of God. I am speaking to you by the mercy of God, and you are hearing by the mercy of God. The mercy of God is there. The prisoner is living at the cost of the government, even though he is in prison. Similarly, although we are in this conditional stage of life, we are living by the mercy of God. God’s mercy is there even if we are against Him, so how much more will His mercy be bestowed upon us when we are His devotees.
Therefore we should read this Vedic literature, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Teachings of Lord Caitanya—there are volumes and volumes. One cannot even finish reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his whole life. These literatures are meant for human society, for advanced human society. One should therefore take advantage and make his life sublime. Labdhva su-durlabham idam bahu sambhavante. This life is obtained after many, many millions of births. That we do not know. Modern education, university education, is lacking here. They are simply after technology. Technology is good, for technology has produced this microphone, but don’t forget the real technology of life, how to understand God, how to love God. That is real technology. This other technology will be finished as soon as this body is finished. And if, by chance, my next life is something other than human life, then I will have no concern with technology.
Cleansing The Heart
Those who are intelligent should therefore try to know themselves, what is God, what is man, what is man’s relationship to God, what is this world, how it is working, what is this time, what are our activities. These are subjects for real knowledge, and these things can be learned in our Krsna consciousness movement. And by chanting this Hare Krsna mantra one can become fit to receive this knowledge because it will cleanse the heart of all contaminated dust and garbage. Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. By hearing of Krsna and His words, His message, the garbage of the heart will be cleansed and one will be able to see the situation of everything in true perspective. And then if one cultivates this knowledge of Krsna consciousness, his life will be successful and sublime.
I have come to America with a mission, and I think my mission will be successful. I thought that in India it would not be possible, but now, whenever I go to some American university, the Indian students take this as a trifle because they have rejected it. They want to imitate. Overnight they want to be technicians like Americans. So when they see that I have brought the Hare Krsna mantra to America, and that the American boys are chanting and dancing, they not only become surprised, but sorry that what they have rejected is being introduced and accepted here. So India’s position is not very nice because they are imitating. They are neither this way or that way. They are suffering. If a person tries to step on two boards at a time, he will drown. Indians are trying to imitate the Western technological, economic developments, but the people are not fit for that purpose. They are by nature Krsna conscious, and the modern leaders and government are trying to cut them down. So they are perplexed.
The History Of The Gita
But America is not poverty-stricken; it is rich; there is enough land and enough production, so everyone should be very satisfied and begin to make progress in Krsna consciousness. Americans have no economic problem, and yet they are searching after something. Somehow or other they are not satisfied with the Christian religion. On one hand, no one follows the principles, and on the other, it is not a complete science for modern America. But Krsna consciousness is complete. Bhagavad-gita is a complete science delivered by Krsna 5,000 years ago on this earth, and before that to the sun-god, as is stated at the beginning of the Fourth Chapter: The Blessed Lord said: “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of Mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.” Herein we find the history of the Bhagavad-gita traced from a remote time, when it was delivered to the kings of all planets. The royal order is especially dedicated to the protection of the inhabitants, and thus its members should also understand the science of the Bhagavad-gita, in order to rule the citizens and protect them from the onslaught of the material bondage to lust. Human life is meant for cultivation of spiritual knowledge, in eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the executive heads of all states and all planets are obliged to impart this lesson to the citizens, by education, culture, and devotion.
Therefore this science of Bhagavad-gita is not a new presentation. Just from these words we can understand that it was instructed to the sun-god Vivasvan. Just as this country’s executive head is called the President, similarly, there is a President or chief executive head also in the sun, and the present President’s name is Vivasvan. So everything is in full detail. This is called Vedic literature. Vedic literature is not concerned only with this planet; it deals with all the universal planets. For instance, Krsna says that in the beginning He explained this science of Bhagavad-gita to the predominating deity of the sun, whose name is Vivasvan. So do you think that Krsna is playing a joke or lying? No, that is not possible. He actually spoke to the god of the sun. Rascals and fools may think of Krsna as an ordinary man, but in India the great acaryas, like Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, acaryas who are guiding the whole destiny of the Hindu world, all accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So whatever Krsna is speaking is right. Now, if Krsna told this science to the sun-god, and the sun-god told it to his son Manu, then just imagine how old the science of Bhagavad-gita is. Apart from the sun-god’s duration of age, if we simply take the present age of the Vaivasvata Manu, which is 71 multiplied by 4,300,000 years, or three hundred and five million, three hundred thousand years, we will see that it is a very long duration of life. Now at the present moment the age of the Vaivasvata Manu is half finished. That means 152,650,000 years since Bhagavad-gita was spoken to Vivasvan.
So Bhagavad-gita is not a new thing; it is not a new adventure. And obviously the Person who spoke Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god did not leave a work which is to be distorted and interpreted by mundane man. He did not leave something that would require their interpolations for understanding. Must such a great Personality, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, tell something which has to be understood through the interpretations of a mundane scholar? Is this reasonable? No. Whatever He spoke is complete and clear. There is no question of interpreting it in a different way. For instance, the Blessed Lord said: “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god Vivasvan.” What is the difficulty there? Is there any word which we cannot understand? Is there anyone who cannot understand these lines? It is clear. The Blessed Lord said: “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god Vivasvan.” Everyone can understand that Krsna instructed this science of Bhagavad-gita or the yoga of Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god, whose name is Vivasvan. It is clear. How can we interpret this? But if I think that Krsna is an ordinary man and therefore would have difficulty speaking to the sun-god Vivasvan, then an interpretation is required. But that sort of thinking is not bona fide; if one wants to study Bhagavad-gita he has to take the words of Bhagavad-gita. “The Blessed Lord.” He is Lord. He can speak to the sun-god. The Lord is not like an ordinary man. Do we think that just because we cannot speak to the sun-god, Krsna cannot? That is our foolishness. Why should we calculate Krsna’s activities with our activities? Therefore, all the commentators who think that Krsna is an ordinary man are null and void. Their commentaries should not be accepted. All the commentaries in the market are simply presentations of the particular commentator’s personal view. That is not Bhagavad-gita. If one wants to understand Bhagavad-gita, then he should understand it as it was spoken and not interpret it in his own way.
God Is Not Cheap
Now, because an ordinary man might doubt that Krsna could speak to the sun-god, the next verse gives a fuller explanation. Because Arjuna is taking instructions from Krsna, he knows who Krsna is, otherwise he would not have accepted Him as his spiritual master. But because others would doubt that Krsna spoke to the sun-god, Arjuna said, “The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?” Arjuna is taking our position. People are thinking of Krsna as an ordinary person; therefore Arjuna is trying to clear up that point and show that Krsna is not an ordinary person but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The sun-god, Vivasvan, is the father of Manu, and Manu’s age we cannot calculate. So how is it possible for an ordinary man to speak to Vivasvan? That point is being cleared. So what is Krsna’s reply? The Blessed Lord said, “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot.” That is the difference between God and man. We cannot even remember what we did at this time yesterday. That is our nature: to commit mistakes, to forget, to be illusioned, to be cheated, and to have imperfect senses. These are our qualifications. Whoever is in this material world is subjected to be illusioned, and he has a cheating propensity. For instance, a mundane scholar, whom I do not wish to name, admits in his introduction that it is very difficult to interpret Bhagavad-gita in one’s own way because it is so tightly composed. Actually, it is so. Unless one contradicts himself, he cannot interpret Bhagavad-gita according to his own whims.
Arjuna, therefore, clears up the misconception that Krsna, the speaker of Bhagavad-gita, is an ordinary man. It is also in the Fourth Chapter that Krsna tells him: yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham. “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a predominant rise of irreligion, at that time I descend Myself.” (Bg. 4.7) Krsna appears and we also appear, but our appearance and Krsna’s appearance are different. We have appeared in this world forced by our karma, according to our past deeds. For instance, every one of us has different bodily features. Why? The body is made according to karma; that is the explanation of the difference. Although we cannot know, we can understand that our mentalities differ. We all act in different ways Therefore we are forced to accept certain types of bodies according to our own karma. But this is not the case with Krsna. Krsna does not change His body, but we change our bodies; forgetfulness means change of body. We had some types of bodies in our previous lives, but we have forgotten them. Not to speak of our last birth, we cannot even remember our childhood when we were three or four years old. We did so many things, but do we remember them? No, because we have changed our bodies—that child body is gone; therefore we have forgotten. We are changing bodies every second, every minute, and therefore we are forgetting every minute. But Krsna does not forget, and this means that He does not change bodies; His body is eternal. This is pure understanding of Krsna. Krsna says, “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them.” Ah, many, many thousands and thousands of times Krsna has appeared in this world, and He remembers everything, but I cannot even remember my childhood. So, how can I become one with Krsna? These mayavadi philosophers are declaring that they are God, but what is their qualification that they can become God? God is not such a cheap thing. People have assumed that everyone can become God. That every one of us is God is another illusion, another maya concocted because we do not know what God is. Here is God. He says, “Many, many millions of years ago I spoke to the sun-god. I remember it.” This is God; the simple truth.
The Symptoms Of God
In the Brahma-samhita we have information of many, many incarnations of the Lord. It is stated there: “I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], who is the original person—absolute, infallible, without beginning, although expanded into unlimited forms, still the same original, the oldest—and the person always appearing as a fresh youth. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing forms of the Lord are usually understood by the best Vedic scholars, but they are always manifest to pure, unalloyed devotees.” Krsna can expand Himself. That is God. Suppose a man is away and is wanted by some relative at home. If someone inquires whether Mr. Such and Such is at home, he is told, “No, he is not at home.” Krsna is not like that: Krsna, Goloka eva nivasati akhilatma-bhutah. He is present everywhere. It is not that because Krsna was speaking with Arjuna in the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, He was not present in Goloka or in Vaikuntha. He is not only in Goloka, Vaikuntha—He is everywhere, as is stated in the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna is also here. Now, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese ‘rjuna tisthati. Krsna is in everyone’s heart. Therefore advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam. Ananta means unlimited. But one, advaita. There is no difference. As a crude example, unlimited factories are running on electricity, and different types of work are utilizing electric energy, but the electricity is one. Similarly, God is one, but He can expand. That is His potency.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Thirteenth Chapter, Krsna says idam sariram kaunteyaksetram ity abhidhiyate etad yo vetti tam prahuh ksetrajna iti tad-vidah. (Bg. 13.3) “The living entity is the proprietor or the knower of the particular body.” But He says again, ksetrajnam capi mamviddhi. “I am also the knower of this particular body.” Sarva-ksetresu bharata: “I am the knower in all bodies.” So He is in every body, in every atom. That is Krsna. Now I am living in my body, and if there is pain here, I can understand that here is a pain, but if there is some pain in another’s body, I cannot understand it. Therefore, I am different from others. But Krsna can understand what is pain and pleasure in my body and what is pain and pleasure in everyone else’s body as well. That is Krsna. Sarva-ksetre, ah, that is God! Not that simply by thinking that I am God, I become God. How can anyone become God? Can a self-proclaimed God tell me what another person is thinking? No. Then what kind of God is he? Don’t accept a cheap God; know the symptoms of God.
Our Dormant Relationship
Advaitam acyutam ananta-rupam. He is an ananta, unlimited. In the Vedas it is stated, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. There are unlimited living entities, unlimited eternals, but there is one Supreme cetana, one supreme eternal, supreme entity. And what is the difference between the singular entity and the plural entities? That is also answered: eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. That singular entity is supplying all necessities to all the plural entities. Can’t we see how God is supplying all the necessities of life to the birds, beasts and everyone? But because we are civilized we do not acknowledge this. The birds and animals also do not acknowledge this, but should we become just like animals, denying the existence of God, the authority of God? We are taking advantage. If Krsna does not supply us this sunlight, we will die. But He gives it, and He does not charge anything. And because we arehuman beings, we should try to repay. “Oh, Krsna is giving me so much facility. Let me render some service unto Him.” This is Krsna consciousness, acknowledging. “O God, You are so kind. You are giving us so many things, so I am offering this fruit. It is Your fruit, I know, but still, please accept.” If one can do this, then one becomes a great Krsna conscious personality, and Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. (Bg. 9.20)
Krsna does not want anything from anyone; Krsna is complete in Himself. He can produce countless nice things. He is not begging, but still He is expecting something because He is supplying so many things. Isn’t something expected? “Ah, I give so many things to my friend, but he does not offer me anything.” Krsna is complete in Himself, but He says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. “Anyone who offers Me a little fruit, a little water and a little leaf, I accept it because he has brought it with devotional love.” If Krsna accepts our offering, then our life becomes sublime. That is Krsna consciousness; we simply have to acknowledge. We are getting so many facilities from Krsna. He is sitting in our heart and supplying all necessities giving sunlight, moonlight, giving seasonal rains, food, flowers, grains. And we are so ungrateful that we do not acknowledge. And when Christians go to church, they say, “Oh, God, give us our daily bread.” That is all right; Krsna is supplying bread, otherwise wherefrom are we getting bread? We cannot manufacture bread in the factory. Or wheat, or rice. We can manufacture some iron tools, that’s all. Not eatables. That is not possible. Grains and good eatables are supplied by Krsna. So we must try to understand Krsna consciousness, God consciousness, in this way, and then our dormant relationship with God will be revived.
The Central Point
Ceto-darpana-marjanam. Lord Caitanya has said that by revival of Krsna consciousness the dirty things accumulated in our heart will be dissipated immediately. Then we shall see—”Oh, this ismy position! I am Krsna’s, and Krsna is mine.” So although Krsna is present everywhere, as it is stated here, Krsna is the original father. Anadi means the original personality. We find in the Bhagavad-gita: sarva-yonisu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah tasam brahma mahad-yonir aham bija-pradah pita. (Bg. 14.4) “In every species of life, in all types of forms of life, the mother is this material nature, and I am the seed-giving father ” The father is the seed-giving agent, and the mother gives the body.
So this material nature is our mother. According to the Vedic conception, there are seven kinds of mother, not just one 1) Adau mata—the real mother from whom I have taken birth. 2) Guror patni—the wife of the spiritual master. 3) brahmani—the wife of a brahmana, learned scholar, who is also a guru because from a learned scholar we learn so many things. 4) rajapatnika—the queen. Now there is no king and queen, but formerly there were. The queen is also a mother because the king is father since he gives protection to the citizens. 5) dhenu—the cow is our mother. Why? It supplies milk. Yet cows are being butchered.That’s not good—killing mother. 6) dhatr—material nature is also mother because by the material nature we get these bodies, and 7) the earth, for the earth gives us all our resources.
So if we study Vedic literature very nicely and try to understand it, then our life will be sublime. This Krsna consciousness movement is giving all the authoritative information from Vedic literature. We are not manufacturing anything. We are not empiric philosophers presenting some mental concoction. Therefore we have presented Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This is our business, just like a postman’s business is to deliver it as it is. Similarly, our business is to present Krsna’s message as it is. This is the duty of the spiritual master. A spiritual master is not grown like a tree; he is carrying the message from higher authorities, as Krsna states: “I told this message to Vivasvan, the sun-god. He told it to his son Iksvaku.” So there is no difficulty in administering this Vedic message to the world provided we simply carry the same message as it was delivered by Krsna unto Arjuna. That’s not very difficult. Anyone can do it. Simply try to understand Bhagavad-gita As It Is and distribute it. “Krsna says this—that’s all.” We don’t have to comment or add anything. Of course to present it we can speak something, but the central point should not be missed. Then people will be benefited, for they will receive the message as it is.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, Amarajnaya guru haiya tarasarva-des. “Every one of you become a spiritual master.” Not one or two, but everyone. Is being a spiritual master a very difficult job? No. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says Amar ajnaya. “Just try to carry out My order, that’s all. Then you become spiritual master.” But if we interpolate, if we add some rubbish to show off our education, then it will be immediately spoiled. And if we present it as it is, then it’s pure.
Ancient Science, Always New
Avaisnava mukhodgirna puta hari-kathamrta sravanam na kartavyam sarpocchista payah yatha. This message of Bhagavad-gita is Hari-katha. Hari means the Supreme Lord, His word. One is warned not to try to hear this message of Hari or the Supreme Lord from rascal nondevotees. Why? Milk is a very nutritious food, but if a little milk is touched by the tongue of a serpent, it is all spoiled. Therefore this parampara system: evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh. “The Blessed Lord told it to Vivasvan, Vivasvan told Manu, etc.” Rajarsayah. Formerly the kings were given the instruction because they were responsible for the citizens’ spiritual life, not only for material prosperity. That is the verdict of Vedic literature. The father is responsible, the teacher is responsible, the king is responsible, and the husband is responsible for the development of the spiritual life of their dependents. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that if you cannot develop the spiritual life of your dependent, then don’t become a spiritual master, don’t become a teacher, don’t become a father, don’t become a husband. These things are restricted.
Try to understand this Vedic science. Bhagavad-gita is the essence of Vedic knowledge, and it is being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Krsna. If we try to understand it as it is, then our lives become sublime and we will feel joyful always, anandamayo ‘bhyasat. By nature we are joyful, but what is that nature? That’s spiritual nature, not material nature. Manah sasthani indriyani prakrti-sthani karsati. If we remain in material nature, then our struggle for existence will continue. It will never stop. But if we take to this spiritual nature, Brahman nature, then we will immediately become joyful. Everyone is hankering after joy and happiness. This is the way, this Vedic knowledge which is Krsna consciousness. It is an ancient science which is eternally new. Modern America has reached a stage of civilization where it is ready to ask important questions. This science, as always, is ready with the answers.