The first lesson in spiritual education draws a
clear line between who is and who isn’t.
A lecture in Los Angeles in April 1973
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.13)
Here the Supreme Personality of Godhead states that you are not the body. This is the first instruction for spiritual understanding—to know, “I am not this body.”
The so-called yogis are exercising the body and studying the psychology of the mind according to so many charts and humbug methods. But our philosophy is teaching that since we are not this body, where is the question of exercising the body for spiritual realization? If I am not this body, then how can I realize my self simply by a gymnastic process? This is the yogis’ mistake.
Then there are the karmis—fruitive workers, or materialistic persons—who want bodily comforts. Their only idea is how to get the best comfort for the body, or, in other words, the senses. We have eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, a tongue, hands, genitals. So many senses we have, and as soon as we are in the bodily concept of life, we immediately feel the need for sense gratification.
But Krsna says to Arjuna, “You are not this body.” Therefore my self-interest does not depend on bodily comforts. The materialists do not know this. In the present age, everyone is busy gratifying his senses. In India, where all kinds of philosophies have been cultivated, the atheist philosophy of sense gratification is also present. Carvaka Muni used to be the leader of the atheist class of philosophers. His philosophy is like the Western philosophy of hedonism: “As long’ as you have this body, eat, drink, and be merry.” Carvaka Muni also said that: rnamkrtva ghrtam pibet. “Somehow get ghee [clarified butter] and enjoy nicely cooked foods.” Bodily enjoyment begins with the tongue. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura, following in the footsteps of previous acaryas [spiritual masters], says, “If you want to control your senses, first control your tongue.” Then we can begin to purify our senses so we will one day understand Krsna.
In the Vedic scriptures it is said, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: “With these blunt material senses we cannot understand Krsna.” It is not possible. The senses are so imperfect that you cannot acquire any perfect knowledge, material or spiritual, with them.
Now the scientists are studying the moon. But besides the moon there are millions and trillions of other planets they cannot say anything about because their senses are imperfect. I can see, say, up to one mile. But when there is a question of millions and trillions of miles, how can I use my senses to acquire perfect knowledge?
So, we cannot get even perfect material knowledge by using these senses; then what to speak of spiritual knowledge, knowledge of God? That is beyond your conception. Therefore the scriptures say, atah sri-krsna-namadi, na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: “Krsna cannot be known by our material mind and senses.”
If you try to know God by mental speculation, that is frog philosophy. Dr. Frog tried to calculate the length and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean while sitting in his well. Similarly, trying to understand God with our limited mind and senses is hopeless.
Then how is it possible to understand God? sevonmukhe hi jihvadau, svayam eva sphuraty adah: “If you employ your tongue in the service of the Lord, He’ll reveal Himself to you.” Revelation. Therefore we have to control the tongue. What is the tongue’s business? The tongue’s business is to taste and to vibrate. So vibrate your tongue in the service of the Lord: chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Hare Krsna means, “O my Lord Krsna, O energy of Krsna—Srimati Radharani—both of You kindly engage me in Your service.”
As Narottama dasa Thakura sings, ha ha prabhu nanda-suta, vrsabhanu-suta-juta: “My dear Lord Krsna, You are well known as the son of Nanda Maharaja, and Your eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, is known as the daughter of King Vrsabhanu.” Then, koruna karoho ei-baro: “Now I have come to You. Please, both of You be merciful to me.” Na theliho ranga-pay: “Don’t neglect me or kick me away with Your lotus feet.”
Of course, even if Krsna kicks us and pushes us away, that is still our great fortune. For example, when Krsna was kicking the hoods of the Kaliya serpent, Kaliya’s wives prayed, “My dear Lord, we do not know how this culprit Kaliya became so fortunate that You are now kicking his hoods. All the great, great sages and saintly persons meditate upon Your lotus feet for millions of years, trying to get a glimpse of them, but this Kaliya is being repeatedly kicked by those feet. We do not know what he did in his past life that he’s so fortunate.”
So, we cannot understand Krsna by our mental speculation, our limited senses. That is not possible. We have to engage in His service. How? sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: “Beginning with the tongue.” The tongue is our greatest enemy, and it is also our greatest friend. If you allow your tongue to do whatever it likes—smoking, drinking, eating meat—then it is your greatest enemy. But if you can control the tongue, then you can control all the other senses automatically.
The tongue should always be used for glorifying the Supreme Lord. That is our business with the tongue. And the tongue should not be allowed to eat anything except krsna-prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krsna]. Then you become liberated, simply by controlling the tongue. But if you allow the tongue to do anything and everything, then it is very difficult to make any spiritual advancement.
Spiritual education begins when I understand, “I am not this body, and therefore satisfying the senses is not my business.” If I am not this body, why should I bother myself to satisfy the bodily senses? This is Lord Krsna’s very first instruction in the Bhagavad-gita.
The karmis [fruitive workers], jnanis [mental speculators], and yogis are all trying to satisfy the demands of the body. The karmis are directly doing that: “Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy.” That is their philosophy. And the goal of the jnanis is simply to understand that they are not this body (neti neti). And the yogis are all trying to come to the point of controlling the senses by bodily exercises, hatha-yoga. So their center of activity is also the body.
But our philosophy begins with the understanding that you are not the body. You see? When the karmis, jnanis, and yogis pass their B.A. examination in studying this body, then they may be able to understand their real function as spirit souls. But our philosophy begins with Krsna’s instruction that “You are not this body.” So Krsna consciousness is a postgraduate study of spiritual philosophy.
We have seen so many big, big politicians and scholars in India who write commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, but what they write is based on the bodily conception of life. The great leader Mahatma Gandhi had his photograph taken with the Bhagavad-gita. But throughout his whole life he worked under the bodily conception: “I am Indian,” “I am American,” “I am Canadian.” But if we are not this body, where is the question of being Indian, American, or Canadian?
Yet even though these commentators are absorbed in the bodily concept of life, they still preach from the Bhagavad-gita. What can they understand of the Bhagavad-gita? If one feels, “I belong to this nation, I belong to this family, I belong to this community, I belong to this race, I belong to this religion,” then he is deeply in the bodily concept of life. But in the very beginning the Bhagavad-gita teaches that you are not this body.
So, the yogis are trying to understand the self by bodily exercise, the jnanis are trying to understand fully that they are not the body, and the karmis, like animals, cannot understand that they are not the body. So, factually, the karmis, jnanis, and yogis are only a little bit elevated above the animals. That’s all.
Here is an example. In India people pass stool in the open field, and at the end of the day, because there is so much sunshine, the upper side of the stool becomes dry. The lower side is still moist. So somebody may say, “This upper side is very good because it is dry.” But after all, it is all stool, whether this side or that side. Similarly, these rascals who are in the bodily concept of life are thinking, “I am a nationalist,” “I am a yogi,” “I am this,” “I am that.” But as long as you are in the bodily concept of life, you are no better than an animal.
Our physical self, the body , is always changing-from childhood to youth to old age, from lifetime to lifetime, and even from species to species. Yet our spiritual self-the consciousness, or inner spark-is always the same. Our actions and desires determine whether we will be transferred to a material body or a spiritual body in the next life .
That is the exact statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.84.13]: yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke sva-dhih kalatradisu . . . sa eva go-kharah. Go-kharah means “a cow or an ass.” Animals. Who is an animal? Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke means “a bag of mucus, bile, and air.” So one is an animal if he thinks, “I am this body, this bag full of mucus, bile, and air.” And one is also an animal if he thinks, “I have my family, society, children, wife, and country. They are all mine.”
Through the wife we beget children. We expand. The Sanskrit word is stri, “expansion.” I am one, but as soon as I get a wife I become two, then three, then four, then five. But extending these material expansions, these bodily expansions, means to deepen our illusion. Janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti. Our illusion is to think, “I am this body, and everything in relation to this body is mine.” So as long as we remain in the bodily concept of life, our illusion will increase. It will never decrease. Therefore Krsna’s first instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita is, “You are not this body.” Arjuna was in illusion, thinking, “I am this body, and those on the other side-my brothers, my nephews, my grandfather-they are all my relations. How can I kill them?” This is illusion. To dissipate this illusion, this darkness, Krsna says in the first lesson, “You are not this body.” The Lord says, dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir: “You’ll have to change this body, as you have already changed it. You were once a baby. Then you changed your body to a child’s body, then to boyhood, and then to youthhood. And you’ll change your body to an old man’s body. As you have already changed it so many times, there will be another change at death. Then you’ll have to take another body.” Very simple logic. And in the following verses Krsna says, “So don’t fear that your nephews or grandfather or guru will die. They’ll not die; they will simply change their bodies. That’s all.”
Krsna also says, dhiras tatra na muhyati. Dhira means “one who is sober, whose brain is nice and cool.” Such a person will not be bewildered when there is a change of body at death. He will think, “What kind of body am I going to get next?” That is the real problem.
But these rascals in the colleges and universities do not know about the next life. Still they are proud of their intelligence. They do not know how they have come to their present body or what kind of body they’re going to get next. No intelligence. Sometimes they even say, “Suppose I get a dog’s body in my next life. What is the harm?” Yes. In a university in Hawaii a student said that. Supposedly he’s being educated, but he does not care if he’s going to become a dog in his next life. This is the education. And in Moscow, Professor Kotovsky said to me, “Swamiji, after this body is finished, everything is finished.” Just see! This is the position of the so-called professors and students in the universities. All rascals. This is our challenge. They are all rascals because they are in the bodily concept of life. They are directly seeing that the body is changing in this life, but still they’ll not believe that after this body is finished, they’ll get another body.
It is very logical. Dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir. Exactly in the same way as we have changed our body so many times, we’ll have to change it again at death. Therefore one who is intelligent should try to understand what kind of body he is going to get next. That is intelligence.
Now, what kind of body you can get is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25]:
yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino ‘pi mam
If you want to, you can go to the higher planetary system, where the demigods live for hundreds and thousands and millions of years. There you will have thousands and thousands of times better facilities for sense gratification. Otherwise, why would people want to go to the heavenly planets? Krsna says that if you try to go to the higher planetary system, you can go. There is a process. For example, to go to the moon planet one must be expert in karma-kanda, pious fruitive activities. Then by the result of pious activities you can be promoted to the moon. That is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. But you cannot enter the moon by force, with your rocket ships. That’s not possible. Suppose I’ve got a nice motorcar in America. If I want to enter another country forcibly, is it possible? No. I must get a passport or visa. I must get the sanction of the government; then I can enter. It is not that because I have a very good car I’ll be allowed in.
So, the scientists’ attempt to go to the moon is foolish and childish. They cannot go. Therefore nowadays they’ve stopped going. They do not speak of their moon trips anymore. They are realizing their failure. But there is a possibility of going to the moon. You can go if you adopt the real process. Similarly, you can go to the Pitrloka, the planet of the ancestors, by offering sraddha and pinda to the forefathers. Or you can remain on this earthly planet by worshiping ghosts and spirits (bhutas). Similarly, you can go back home, back to Godhead, by worshiping Krsna. Now, one may ask, What is the benefit of going back home, back to Godhead? Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [8.15]: mam upetya punar janma duhkhalayam asasvatam napnuvanti: “If you come to Me, you won’t have to again accept a material body, which is full of miserable conditions. You will remain in your spiritual body.”
So, our Krsna consciousness movement is meant for elevating all living entities to Krsna’s spiritual kingdom. Anyone who follows the principles of Krsna consciousness will surely go back home, back to Godhead. That is certain. Of course, if you deviate, if you become attracted by maya [illusion], that is your business. But we are. giving you all the information you need.
The process is simple. Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, become purified, always remain liberated from the material clutches, and try to understand Krsna. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti: “If you simply try to understand Me, then after quitting this body you’ll come to Me.” This is our philosophy. It is very simple, and everything is explained by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. Try to realize this philosophy and preach it for the benefit of the whole world. Then everyone will be happy.