Elevation to the Pure Life


His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke
kastan kamanarhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

Maharaja Rsabhadeva, an incarnation of Krsna who many years ago was emperor of the whole world, instructed this verse to his sons. In former ages there was only one king on this planet. In every planet, not only on this planet but on all others also, there is a predominating personality, who is commonly called a king or emperor, or in some cases a predominating deity.

For instance, on the moon the predominating personality is called Candra, and on the sun the predominating deity or emperor at the present moment is called Vivasvan. The predominating deities or emperors in each and every important planet are mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This indicates that the author of the Srimad-Bhagavatam has complete knowledge, not only of this universe but also of the spiritual sky which lies beyond this universe. In the spiritual sky there are many planets, and in those planets the predominating deity is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. In the material universe the predominating personalities are human beings, as in our own planetary system, and their features are exactly like ours—two hands, two legs, one head, etc.—but they are very pious and God conscious.

On the various planets in the material universe there are different gradations of human beings. On this planet, for example, in some sections of the world there are slaves and uncivilized persons, and in some portions of the world there are civilized, God conscious and intelligent persons. Just as there are different types of human beings on this planet, so there are different living beings on other planets. The higher and lower statuses of the living entities are calculated in terms of Krsna consciousness. Of course consciousness is everywhere; every living entity, including the animals, has some form of consciousness, but that consciousness which is not Krsna consciousness is of a lower grade. When one is completely conscious of Krsna, his consciousness is considered to be in the highest position.

Instructions To His Sons

Maharaja Rsabhadeva was giving these instructions to his sons before his retirement. Maharaja Rsabhadeva had one hundred sons, and all of them assembled together so that their father, the king, could give them instruction. According to the Vedic system, it was the duty of the father to instruct his sons before his retirement. The Vedic system dictates that whether one is a king or an ordinary human being, at a certain age he must retire. The Vedic system does not recommend that just because one is a king and has ample opportunity for sense enjoyment he should indulge in sense gratification until the moment of death. The Vedic system is concerned with elevating oneself to the perfection of Krsna consciousness. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Sri Krsna says, “I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. From all the Vedas I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I know the Veda as it is.” (Bg. 15.15) Thus the whole Vedic system is designed to enable the living entity to know Krsna, who is the author of the Vedas.

For one who follows the Vedic system, his ultimate objective is Krsna consciousness, knowledge of Lord Sri Krsna. This is the Vedic version corroborated by Lord Sri Krsna Himself. Because Lord Sri Krsna is the actual compiler of the Vedas, His words should be accepted. The very purpose of studying the Vedas is to come to know Krsna—that is all. Of course Maharaja Rsabhadeva did not have to instruct his sons in this way. He could have remained on the throne and enjoyed his kingdom. At the present moment a king or a family man does not retire, even though he may be struggling with great difficulty. There are many old men who are suffering, who are not happy with their family members, but who are working arduously until their death. They will not agree to join the Krsna consciousness society or to take up Vedic training. No, they will stick to family life until the very end. It is not uncommon to see politicians seventy-five and eighty years old continuing in the political arena until they are forced to vacate by death. Gandhi, for instance, was forced to retire when he was killed by a political opponent. When Gandhi attained independence, I wrote him a letter requesting, “Mr. Gandhi, now you have succeeded in your struggle with the British, and now India has attained its independence. Now we deserve to learn something about God. You have a great deal of influence, so now you should preach Bhagavad-gita. You are known throughout the whole world as a very saintly person, and you also claim to be a great scholar of Bhagavad-gita, so why don’t you take up Bhagavad-gita and preach?” He did not reply but continued to meddle with politics until his assistants became disgusted and his assassination followed. Although he was considered a mahatma, still the intoxication of materialistic life caught him up. Although he got his desire, although the Britishers left India, still he would not give up politics. That is the way of material life. Men refuse to retire until they are killed by the laws of material nature. This is a disease. Maya is so strong that even an old man who advertises himself to be very pious cannot give up politics because he is thinking that if he leaves the political field his country will suffer, so many disasters will ensue, etc. He does not realize that things will go on without him.

The World Goes On

Many great politicians come and go, and the people are still living, and the world is still going on. Hitlers come and go, and Gandhis come and go, but still things are going on. This is explained in Bhagavad-gita: everything is being carried out by the laws of nature, and no one can change this process. “Nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments of this world.” (Bg. 13.20) “This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all the moving and unmoving beings, and by its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Bg. 9.10) Thus no one can change the laws of material nature, for they are following a plan, God’s plan. It is vain conceit to think that without oneself everything will be topsy-turvy. Actually no one can do anything. We are always thinking that our leadership is very much needed, but this is conceit. For instance, when I was a householder my Guru Maharaj gave indications several times that I should give up my family life and become a sannyasi and preach this Krsna consciousness movement. Although in several ways there were hints from my spiritual master, still I was not willing, for I was thinking that if I went away my family, my sons and daughters, would suffer. Finally I left my family connections in 1954, and now I have found that in the past twenty years they are living and I am also living. They are neither dying nor suffering in my absence, and I am not suffering in their absence. Indeed, by Krsna’s grace I now have better family members, such nice children in a foreign country who are taking such good care of me that I could never expect such good care from my own children. This is God’s grace. We should always depend on Krsna. If Krsna is pleased, wherever we go everyone will be pleased, and everyone will be kind. But if Krsna is displeased, then one will be uncomfortable even in his family life. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, at a certain age one should retire from family life.

The Stages Of Life

Although Maharaja Rsabhadeva had a hundred obedient sons and although he was the emperor and everything was at his command, he still chose to follow the Vedic system and retire. There are other instances of great kings’ retiring. After Maharaja Pariksit retired, the Srimad-Bhagavatam was recited to him. Similarly his grandfather, Maharaja Yudhisthira, also voluntarily retired. The Vedic system is very specific in regards to the particular courses one should take at various stages of life. At an early age, for instance, whether one is the son of a king or the son or an ordinary man, one must go to the asrama of a spiritual master and live there as a servant. This is called brahmacari life. A brahmacari’s life is dedicated to serving the spiritual master as a menial servant. Whatever the spiritual master asks, the brahmacari will do. This is such a strict system that whatever the brahmacari collects in alms, he gives to the spiritual master, for he considers everything to be the spiritual master’s property, not his. And if the spiritual master forgets to call his disciple, “My dear son, come and take your prasadam,” then the brahmacari will not eat a morsel. He will starve. Of course the spiritual master does not forget, but these are the injunctions of scriptures which one has to follow at the beginning of life whether one is the son of a king or even the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Lord Sri Krsna Himself underwent this discipline when He was a brahmacari for some time. After brahmacari life, usually at the age of twenty-five, one marries and lives with his wife and children for twenty-five years at the most, and then one retires. After retirement, the husband and wife go on pilgrimages together, and when the husband is completely free from all family attachment, he takes sannyasa. This is the process—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa.

Don’t Live Like Hogs

Thus, looking to the spiritual advancement as well as the personal affairs of his sons, Maharaja Rsabhadeva instructed, “O my dear sons, do not think that this particular body, this human body, is the same as those bodies of the cats, dogs and hogs. Please do not think like that.” Maharaja Rsabhadeva particularly mentions the word vid-bhujam which means a stool-eater. As in the human society the dog-eater is considered to be the lowest human, in the animal society those animals which eat stool are considered to be the lowest. The gradations of human beings and animals are also calculated according to their eating processes. Indeed, George Bernard Shaw has written one book entitled, “You Are What You Eat.” So the eating process is very important. If one eats like the cats and dogs, then he’ll become like a cat and dog, even in the human form of life. Similarly, if one works very hard like the animals, then what is the value of human life? Human life should be very sober, peaceful, full of knowledge and bliss. The devotee has a good sense of the real purpose of human life. One should not simply work hard like an animal and then eat like an animal.

Thus Maharaja Rsabhadeva is instructing, “My dear sons, everyone has a different body, but the body of the human being is to be considered different. It is not like the hog body. Day and night the hog is simply eating stool for sense gratification. Similarly, if all day and night the human being is simply eating and gratifying his senses, then he is missing the real opportunity of human life.” This is the instruction: Human life should be regulated. One should eat only specified foods, should have sex in such and such a way, should sleep for just so long, should act in this way, think in this way, etc. There are so many regulations. One should not simply act in an unrestricted way. In human society there are books of regulations, but this is not the case in animal society. Some people claim that human society becomes free when man somehow or other manages to abolish law and custom, but this only means that human society will become like animal society, for the animal society has no law book. For this reason Maharaja Rsabhadeva instructs his sons that they should not live like the hogs, for they have a human body, and the human form of life is specifically meant for austerity and penance. One should voluntarily accept some regulative principles, even though they may not be to one’s liking. For example, the students in the Krsna consciousness movement were accustomed to certain habits from the beginning of life, but now they are living under certain regulations and are accepting them. This is called tapasya. Tapasya means penance. For example, one may be habituated to smoking, and the spiritual master tells the student that he cannot smoke. When one tries to give up smoking, he feels some inconvenience and is put in an uncomfortable position. Nonetheless he gives up smoking because of the spiritual master’s order. This is called tapasya. Despite inconveniences, one abides by the regulative principles set down by the spiritual master.

Accept A Spiritual Master

When one accepts a spiritual master, it is to be understood that one is voluntarily accepting a great personality whose rules and regulations must be obeyed. The attitude of the disciple should be “Whatever you say, I will accept.” One with such an attitude is called sisya. In English this is called disciplined. In English the words discipline and disciple are related, so in both English and Sanskrit languages a disciple is one who accepts the discipline of the spiritual master. It is not that the spiritual master whimsically manufactures his own rules and regulations for the disciples. He always refers to the sastras, scriptures. Therefore, Narottama Dasa Thakur says sadhu sastra guru, etc.: If one wants to know who is a spiritual master and who is a saintly person, then one should corroborate them with the sastra to see if they are abiding by or following the sastra. If the spiritual master says something that is not in the sastra, that is not good. Similarly, a saintly person also, a mahatma, cannot disregard the regulative principles of scripture. “Anyone, therefore, who acts whimsically, not caring for the regulations of the scriptures, can never have perfection in his life, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination. One should understand what is duty and what is not duty by the regulations of the scriptures. Knowing such rules and regulations, one should act so that he may gradually be elevated.” (Bg. 16.23-24) Nor can one be happy in this life if one disregards the injunctions of the scriptures. “But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures go to ruin and perish. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor the next.” (Bg. 4.40) And what to speak of liberation? Thus tapasya means voluntarily accepting the rulings of the scriptures, the spiritual master and saintly persons and molding one’s life in that way.

Regulations Which Purify

Maharaja Rsabhadeva therefore instructed his sons not to waste their lives living like animals but to utilize their lives for tapasya, voluntarily accepting the regulations of sastra, the spiritual master and saintly persons. One may question why one should not live like an animal and why it is necessary to live by regulative principles. Maharaja Rsabhadeva answers that if one accepts these principles of life, then his existence will become purified. At the present moment living entities in the material universe are contaminated by the modes of material nature, mainly the modes of ignorance and passion. By abiding by the rules of tapasya, the living entity can purify his existence. If one further questions “What is the use of purification?” the answer to this is also given. When the living entity’s condition is purified, he will then be situated on the platform of transcendental, blissful life.

Everyone is hankering after happiness and pleasure, and when one’s existence is purified he will be placed on the transcendental platform and will be able to enjoy eternal happiness. Admittedly, we are all searching after happiness. Why are we struggling so hard in this material existence? For happiness. Why are we after sense gratification? For happiness. Why do we want to possess so many things? For happiness. Why do we want to become beautiful or rich or famous or powerful or knowledgeable? For happiness. Why do we want to eat so many things? For happiness. Thus we are working so hard for happiness, which is our ultimate goal. Unfortunately the happiness we are now deriving from the sources which we have manufactured is temporary. If one tries to become happy by indulging in sex, how long does that happiness last? That also is only for a few minutes, a few seconds. The fact is that if one wants eternal continued happiness, then one has to purify his position. He has to place himself in the transcendental position, and then he will feel that happiness.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that the yogis are also enjoying sense gratification. But where? Ananta—with the Supreme. Their senses are being gratified by Hrsikesa, Krsna, the master of the senses. Everyone wants to enjoy the senses. Ramana means enjoyer. Krsna is sometimes called Radha-ramana, meaning He who enjoys Srimati Radharani. Lord Sri Krsna’s sense gratification is with Radharani, so sense enjoyment is there also in the spiritual world. Ilere in the material world sense gratification is a perverted reflection of the real spiritual sense gratification. Actually the whole devotional line of service is dedicated to the sense gratification of the master of the senses. Hrsikesa hrsikena sevanam. Hrsika means senses, and Hrsikesa means the master of the senses. The master of the senses is Krsna, and when one’s senses are applied for his own gratification, that is material. That is the real difference. When one is situated on the transcendental platform, when one’s conditions are purified bv tapasya, voluntarily accepting austerities and penances under the guidance of a spiritual master, sastra, and saintly persons, at that time it will be possible for one to satisfy the senses of Krsna and become fully satisfied. How is this? In this connection the example of the body is often given. The different parts of the body cannot enjoy the senses or satisfy them independently. The parts depend upon the welfare of the whole body. One can pick up a piece of cake with the fingers, but the fingers alone cannot enjoy the cake. The fingers must put the cake into the mouth, and from thence the cake goes to the stomach and the stomach acts on it, and in this way the whole body receives nourishment. When the nourishment from the cake is transmitted to the various parts of the body, immediately the fingers and all other parts are benefited. This is the process. The identification of the senses is there, but it is through Krsna. One can then go ahead and enjoy and completely gratify the senses perfectly just as the gopis, the transcendental associates of Lord Sri Krsna, gratified their senses perfectly by unalloyed devotion to the Supreme. This then is the process of human life indicated in the instruction of Maharaja Rsabhadeva. We must purify our present condition by voluntarily accepting the regulative principles given by the spiritual master and scriptures. Then our senses can be employed in the service of the Supreme, and in that way we can come to actually enjoy our senses in the perfectional state.

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