Srila Prabhupada’s First Talks in America (New York, July 26,1966)
“I cannot be satisfied by serving something that is not me; I can be satisfied only by serving me. But that ‘me’ I do not know….”
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This chanting of Hare Krsna is the process of ceto-darpana-marjanam—tocleanse the material dust from the mirror of our mind. The whole process is to dust out the dirty things which we have accumulated by our material association, and thereby to revive our spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. From Bhagavad-gita we are studying about the process of life by which we can revive our Krsna consciousness. There is no need of external help for reviving Krsna consciousness. You have Krsna consciousness dormant in your self. In fact, it is the quality of the self. So, we simply need to invoke it by this process of chanting.
Nitya-siddha krsna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya: this Krsna consciousness is an eternal fact. It is not that by this ISKCON organization we are imposing something extra upon you. No. Krsna consciousness is within you. It is within every living entity—every living entity, never mind whether he’s a human being or an animal. Once, when Lord Caitanya was passing through a jungle, He was singing Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and the tigers, the elephants, the stags, and other forest animals joined in. They joined in. This chanting is such an attractive thing. Of course, this attraction depends on pure-hearted chanting. As we become advanced in this chanting method, our heart becomes freed from all the dirty things of material contact. Then even the animals can be captivated by this chanting—what to speak of human beings.
So, in Bhagavad-gita [4.19] Krsna advises us how to invoke this Krsna consciousness in our practical life. He says,
yasya sarve samarambhah
tam ahuh panditam budhah
“One whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification is said to be in full knowledge. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.”
Yasya sarve samarambhah. You are not forbidden to execute your duties. We are not for stopping the general process of material activities. That is not our mission. The whole thing is that we have to do everything in Krsna consciousness. It is very easy to understand. We all have some vocation in our life. But what is our consciousness Our consciousness is … “I am engaged in this business because I have to maintain my family,” or “I have to maintain myself,” or “I have to satisfy the government,” or “I have to satisfy somebody else.” This is our consciousness. And nobody is free from such consciousness. So, we simply need to change the consciousness only. Now we are doing everything with the idea that “I want to satisfy myself,” or “I want to satisfy somebody else.” This consciousness has to be changed into Krsna consciousness, so that I think, “I want to satisfy Krsna.” That’s all.
Therefore, Lord Krsna says, yasya sarve samarambhah: “Whatever activities you may be doing, continue to do them, but kama-sankalpa-varjitah—don’t be carried away by kama.” Kama means desire for our own satisfaction. The Sanskrit word kama is used to mean “lust” or “desire for sense satisfaction.” So, Lord Krsna recommends, “Don’t act for the satisfaction of your senses, for the satisfaction of your lust, or for the satisfaction of your desires.” That is the whole thing. The whole teaching of Bhagavad-gita is based on this principle. Arjuna wanted to satisfy his senses by not fighting with the opposite party, who were composed of his relatives-brothers and brothers-in-law and fathers-in-law and so many other relatives. Arjuna did not want to fight, and therefore he needed Krsna’s instruction of Bhagavad-gita.
Now, materially it appears very nice that Arjuna wanted to satisfy his relatives by giving up his claim to the kingdom. “Oh, he’s a very good man,” we might think. But Krsna did not approve it. Why? Because the basic principle was that Arjuna decided to satisfy his own senses. Externally, it appears very nice. But anything which is done for the satisfaction of one’s own senses—that is kama, lust, desire. Here in this verse of Bhagavad-gita it is prescribed that you can do anything. There is no harm. Whatever business, vocation, or occupation you are engaged in, that does not have to be changed. Simply your consciousness has to be changed. That’s all.
Now, how can that consciousness be changed? Jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam. Transferring our present self-interested consciousness to Krsna consciousness requires knowledge. And what is that knowledge? That knowledge is knowing, “I am part and parcel of Krsna. I’m not different from Krsna. I am the superior energy of Krsna.” This is knowledge. Real knowledge does not mean to understand how this tape recorder is manufactured. This kind of technical knowledge is not real knowledge. Of course, to execute our occupation we must have some technical knowledge, but that knowledge is temporary knowledge. Real knowledge comes when one understands, when one is convinced, that he is part and parcel of Krsna, or God. (When we say “Krsna,” you should understand that we mean the Supreme Lord, the Absolute Truth. Krsna is a technical word which is meant to indicate “the Absolute Truth,” “the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” “the whole,” “the whole pleasure,” “the whole attraction.” These are the meanings of Krsna.)
The self: the sparkllke soul within. A person who sees the Supreme Self sees his own self also-and his actual self-interest
So, we are all part and parcel of the supreme pleasure—Krsna. And because I am part and parcel of Krsna, my pleasure, my happiness, is dependent on serving Krsna. It is just like my hand and my body. Now, my hand can take pleasure when it is attached to my body. My hand can take pleasure when it serves my body. It does not take pleasure by serving your body. My senses are satisfied when they are used for my purpose, not for your purpose. This is the whole philosophy: I cannot be satisfied by serving something that is not me; I can be satisfied only by serving me. But that “me” I do not know. That “me” is Krsna. That is Krsna—because we are part and parcel of Krsna. Always remember: we are part and parcel of Krsna. Mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. In the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, you’ll find that Krsna says, “All these living entities—they are My eternal parts and parcels. Now, by material contact, they are detached from Me.” [Bg. 15.7]
So, the whole purpose of Krsna consciousness is to attach ourselves again to Krsna. Now we are detached, so we have to attach ourselves again. That is Krsna consciousness. And that Krsna consciousness is within you, because you are originally, eternally, part and parcel of the Supreme. Artificially, we are trying to forget this; we are trying to live independently. But that is not possible. We are not independent. If we try to live independently of Krsna, that means we voluntarily become dependent on the influence of material nature. That’s all.
For example, if I think that I am independent of government regulations, then I become dependent on the police force. My dependence is either in this way or that way. So, this is our mistake: everyone is trying to become independent. And this is called maya, or illusion. Nobody can be independent—individually, community-wise, society-wise, or nation-wise. Even universe-wise, nobody can be independent. We are all dependent. And when you come to know, “I am dependent; I am not independent,” this is called knowledge.
In another place in Bhagavad-gita [5.29], you’ll find that Krsna says,
jnatva mam santim rcchati
“Knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, the sages attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” People are planning for peace in the world, but they do not know the peace formula. The United Nations has been trying for the last twenty years or more for peace, but there is no actual peace in the world, The Vietnam War is going on because they do not know the peace formula in the Bhagavad-gita.
Krsna says, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: “I am the proprietor of everything. Whatever you are doing, I am the ultimate beneficiary. I take the result.” For example, a laborer may work in a factory, but who is the proprietor? The ultimate proprietor is the owner of the factory. Now we are thinking, “I am working, so I am the proprietor of this thing.” That is a misconception. When we understand that whatever we are doing, the ultimate proprietor is Krsna, that is Krsna consciousness. That is the fire of perfect knowledge.
Or, take the example of many people working in an office. Hundreds of people may be working there, but everyone is conscious that whatever profit they are making belongs to the proprietor. Then there is peace. But as soon as the cashier thinks, “Oh, I have so much money; I am the proprietor,” then the trouble begins. Similarly, if we think, “I am a very rich man. I have such a big bank balance, and I can use it for my sense gratification,” that is kama, lust. But if I understand that whatever I have, it belongs to Krsna, then I am a liberated person, You’ll have the same money under your custody. It doesn’t matter. But as soon as you think, “I am the proprietor of this wealth,” you are under the influence of maya. And as soon as you think, “Krsna is the proprietor of all these things,” you are free. So, kama-sankalpa-varjitah/ jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam tam ahuh panditam budhah: one who knows that Krsna is the proprietor of everything, who is situated in that consciousness, is panditam—he is learned, he’s actually a man of knowledge. This is the whole process.
Now, this consciousness has to be invoked not only individually, but also community-wide, society-wide, nationwide, all over the world. Then there will be peace. If you want real peace, you have to follow Krsna’s instructions in Bhagavad-gita [see previous reference for English translation]:
jnatva mam santim rcchati
Now we are trying to become the friend of our countrymen, of our society, of our family. But that is a wrong conception. The real friend is Krsna, and you should work on His behalf.
How? If you actually want to do something good for your family, then try to make all the members of your family Krsna conscious. Then your life will be successful. If you want to help them otherwise, without Krsna consciousness, then you will not be serving them; you will be rendering them a disservice. Why? Because no amount of material knowledge will help your wife or children. No amount of material knowledge will solve their real problem. What is their real problem? That is what we do not know. The real problem is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—birth, death, old age, and disease. The Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.18] says, pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat/ na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum: “One should not become a father, nor should one become a mother, unless one is able to save one’s children from the grip of material nature.” How? By Krsna consciousness. If you are a responsible father, and if you are completely in knowledge of Krsna consciousness, then your duty will be to think, “For these innocent creatures who are now playing in my home as my children, as my boys, this life should be the last installment of their transmigration from one body to another. I shall train these boys in such a way that after this life, they’ll no more have to go into the cycle of birth and death.” This is Krsna consciousness.
And this means you have to make yourself expert. Then you can help your children, also. Then you can help your nation, also. Then you can help your society, also. If you yourself are ignorant, then andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/ te ‘pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah [Bhag. 7.5.31]: if a person is tightly bound up, hands and feet, how can he free others? Suppose we are sitting here—some twenty-five gentlemen and ladies—and all our hands are tightly bound up by some ropes. Now, although I may want to make you free, if my hands are also tightly bound up, how is it possible? It is not possible. My hands must be free. Then I can untie your bindings. So, unless one is a free man, he cannot free others. And what is that freedom? One who is Krsna conscious—he is a free man. Nobody else is a free man.
In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita [7.14], Krsna says,
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” Everyone is under the spell of the material influence, maya. Nobody’s free. But maya has nothing lo do with one who has surrendered unto Krsna, with one who has taken to Krsna consciousness. Maya cannot touch him. Maya is like darkness, but there is no question of darkness if you place yourself in the sunlight. (Not this artificial light; this artificial light may be extinguished at any time. But sunlight is not like that.) So Krsna is just like sunlight. As soon as you come in front of the sun, there is no darkness. And as soon as you become Krsna conscious, there is no ignorance, there is no maya, no illusion.
So, jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam tam ahuh panditam budhah. We have 10 become budha, or learned. And you’ll find in the Tenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita [10.8] what Lord Krsna says are the symptoms of a man who is budha:
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise, who know this perfectly, engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”
Budhah: this very word is used again, So, one who is learned, one who actually has some sense, who is not nonsensical—he’s called budha. And what are his symptoms? The symptoms of a man who is budha are that he knows that Krsna is the fountainhead of all emanations, of everything we see (aham sarvasya prabhavah). Take, for example, this material world. The most prominent thing here is the attraction between man and woman. Now, one may inquire, “Wherefrom has this attraction between male and female come?” Not only in the human society, but also in the animal society, the bird society—in any society, every living being has this attraction for the opposite sex. This is a fact. And where does this attraction come from? It comes from Krsna. So, somebody who does not actually understand Krsna may criticize, “Krsna had so many girlfriends.” But unless the tendency is in Krsna, where do we get this idea of having girlfriends? You can have nothing here in this material world unless it is also in Krsna (janmady asya yatah). But here sex is perverted; it is polluted. In Krsna’s world it is in pure consciousness, purely spiritual. That is the difference.
So, these things have to be studied very scientifically from books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. And when one is perfectly learned, then his symptom is that he becomes a pure devotee of Krsna. Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: “I am the source, the fountainhead,” Krsna says. “I am the source and fountainhead of everything. One who understands this scientifically takes to Krsna consciousness.” How? Budhah bhava-samanvitah—with full knowledge. He becomes a pure devotee of Krsna.
Krsna similarly describes a mahatma in Bhagavad-gita (mahatma means “great soul”):
mahatmanas tu mam partha
daivim prakrtim asritah
jnatva bhutadim avyayam
“O Arjuna, son of Prtha, the great souls are those who are not deluded by My illusory, material energy. They are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service, because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” [Bg. 9.14]
Who is a mahatma?Who is a great soul? A great soul is he who is under the influence of the superior nature. There are two kinds of nature: the superior nature and the inferior nature. Now we are under the influence of the inferior, material nature. But by practicing Krsna consciousness we shall be transferred to the superior nature. Just try to understand by an example: one person is in prison, another person is outside the prison. The government’s influence is present in both places—outside the prison and inside the prison. Outside the prison, the government’s rules and regulations are considered superior. Inside, they are considered inferior. But in either case, the government’s influence is there. Similarly, wherever you are—either in the material world or in the spiritual world—you are under Krsna’s influence. Your position is marginal. You can remain under the influence of Krsna’s inferior nature, or you can transfer yourself into the influence of His superior nature. Because Krsna is fully independent, and because you are part and parcel of Krsna, you have the quality of independence. You can make your choice; whether to be under the influence of His inferior nature, or to come under the influence of His superior nature. But because we do not know what that superior nature is, we have no other alternative than to remain in this inferior nature. This is the whole problem.
Many philosophies inform us that there is no other nature but this material nature, which we are now experiencing and which is so troublesome. “Make an end of it and become void,” they say. But you cannot be void, because you are an eternal living entity. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: the end of your body does not mean that you are finished. No. You are continuing. Vasarmsi jirnani: that I change my dress does not mean that I am finished. So, I am eternal. And if I want to finish my suffering, if I want to get out of the influence of material nature, then I have to seek my place in the superior, spiritual nature. But if we do not know of the superior nature, then we say, “All right, however bad it may be, let me remain here and rot.” So, Bhagavad-gita [15.6] gives you information of the superior nature:
na tad bhasayate suryo
na sasanko na pavakah
yad gatva na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama
“My abode is not illumined by the sun or moon, or by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.”
So, we have to become Krsna conscious by scrutinizingly studying this authoritative book, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, without creating a fashionable interpretation. We have to hear it as it is. What Krsna says, He says for all time. It does not change. Take the verse which we are just now discussing. He says that it does not matter what occupation you are in; you simply have to change your consciousness. You are now guided by the consciousness of self-interest, of sense gratification, Not exactly self-interest, because we do not know what our self-interest is. Rather, sense interest—not self-interest, but sense interest. Whatever we are doing we are doing to satisfy our senses. This consciousness has to change. We have to satisfy Krsna. If this Krsna consciousness is invoked, then our life will be successful. Thank you very much.