Why God Descends


Without favoring one religion over another,
Lord Krsna appears among us to teach the essence of all religion.

A lecture given in Bombay in 1974
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srjamy aham

The true principles of religion - which transcend all man-made social, racial, national, and religious differences-can be enunciated only by God. When Lord Sri Krsna (center), the original Personality of Godhead, appears within this material world, He establishes the topmost religious principle: full surrender to Him. Although Lord Krsna has many transcendental forms, They are still one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. Counterclockwise from top left are His incarnations as Matsya, the fish; Kurma, the tortoise; Varaha, the boar; Nrsimha, the half man , half lion; Vamana, the dwarf brahmana; Parasurama, the warrior; Rama, the ideal monarch; Krsna and Balarama; Lord Buddha; and Kalki, the annihilator.
The true principles of religion – which transcend all man-made social, racial, national, and religious differences-can be enunciated only by God. When Lord Sri Krsna (center), the original Personality of Godhead, appears within this material world, He establishes the topmost religious principle: full surrender to Him. Although Lord Krsna has many transcendental forms, They are still one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. Counterclockwise from top left are His incarnations as Matsya, the fish; Kurma, the tortoise; Varaha, the boar; Nrsimha, the half man , half lion; Vamana, the dwarf brahmana; Parasurama, the warrior; Rama, the ideal monarch; Krsna and Balarama; Lord Buddha; and Kalki, the annihilator.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I manifest Myself.”

This is a very important verse in the Bhagavad-gita. The Sanskrit word dharma in this verse is usually translated into English as “religion,” and religion is defined in the dictionary as “a particular type of faith.” But actually dharma does not mean a particular type of faith, because while there is one universal dharma, there are many faiths. You may accept one faith, I may accept a different faith, and someone else may accept another faith. And if everyone’s faith were equally satisfactory, then there would be no need for Krsna to descend to this planet.

Many people say, “I may not like your religion and you may not like my religion, but everyone’s religion is right.” But if everyone’s religion is right, what is the use of Krsna’s coming here to rectify adharma, irreligion? Just try to understand. If religion is just a question of liking, then there is no question of irreligion. For example, some people think killing animals is approved by their religion, and others think killing animals is irreligious. Who is right? Only Krsna can decide.

So, you cannot manufacture dharma—it is not something you can concoct at home or some resolution passed in an assembly. In the Western countries, and here in India also, a resolution passed in the government assembly is accepted as dharma, or law. But Krsna is not speaking of that kind of dharma. No. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: dharma means “the orders given by the Supreme Lord, or Supreme Being, God.”

In the state, the laws are given by the government. You cannot manufacture laws at home. That is not possible. For example, in some countries the law for driving is “Keep to the right,” and in others it is “Keep to the left.” Now, which is correct—”Keep to the right” or “Keep to the left”? They are both correct, depending on which government is ruling. If the government says, “Keep to the right,” that is correct, and you have to accept it. And if the government says, “Keep to the left,” then that is correct. We cannot say, “In my country I keep to the left, so why should I keep to the right here?” No. That argument will not be allowed. Similarly, whatever God says—that constitutes the laws of religion, and we must accept them.

In the next verse Krsna says,

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge

“In every age, whenever there are discrepancies in the execution of dharma, I come to protect the devotees and punish the demons.” This is just like the government’s duty of giving protection to the law-abiding citizens and punishing the outlaws. These are the two main duties of the government. And where has this idea come from? From the supreme government, Krsna.

Now, another meaning of dharma is “natural characteristic.” For example, sugar is sweet; so the dharma of sugar is sweetness. A chili is very hot; so the dharma of chilies is hotness. If sugar somehow becomes hot or chilies become sweet, that is adharma. And the dharma, or natural characteristic, of the living entity is to surrender. If you analyze, you will see that every one of us has surrendered to somebody or something—whether it be his wife, his family, his community, his society, his political party, his government, or whatever. Wherever you go, the characteristic of the living being is to surrender. He cannot avoid it.

In my talk with Professor Kotovsky in Moscow, I said to him, “Now, you have your Communist philosophy and we have our Krsna philosophy, but both of us have surrendered to a superior authority. You have surrendered to Marx and Lenin, and we have surrendered to Krsna. That’s all.”

So, everyone has to surrender. If one surrenders to the right person, then things will go nicely. But if one surrenders to the wrong person, there will be so many troubles. Who is the right person? As Caitanya Mahaprabhu* [*Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared in India five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] has explained, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa: “We are all eternally servants of Krsna.” Therefore we should all surrender to Him.

Unfortunately, although we are all surrendering, we are not surrendering to Krsna. This is the disease. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to cure this disease. When people do not surrender to Lord Krsna, they concoct so many “Gods,” so many rascals, to surrender to. That is adharma, irreligion. Dharma means to surrender to Krsna, but instead of surrendering to Krsna, people want to surrender to cats, dogs, this, that—so many things. That is adharma, which Krsna came to rectify five thousand years ago.

Krsna did not come to establish the so-called Hindu religion. Real religion means surrendering to the supreme person, Krsna. Now we do not know where to surrender. That is the difficulty. And because the surrender is misplaced, the whole world is in a chaotic condition.

We change from one object of surrender to another: “No more Congress party; now Communist party.” This party, that party… What is the use of changing parties? Whether you surrender to this party or that party, you are not surrendering to Krsna, and unless you come to the point of surrendering to Krsna, you cannot have any peace. That is the point. Simply changing from the frying pan to the fire will not save you.

Therefore, Krsna’s last instruction in the Bhagavad-gita is,

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

“Just give up all this nonsense and surrender to Me. I will protect you; do not fear.” This is the perfection of dharma. Also, as stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6], sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: “First-class, or superior, dharma is to surrender to Adhoksaja.” The name Adhoksaja means “the Supreme Transcendence,” or Krsna. Then the Bhagavatam says this surrender must be ahaituki and apratihata. Ahaituki means “without any personal motivation.” We shouldn’t think, “If Krsna will give me such-and-such, I will surrender.” No, our surrender must be unmotivated. And then, apratihata—our surrender must also be undeviating. It cannot be checked. If you actually want to surrender to Krsna, there can be no hindrance. You can do it in any condition. Then, yenatma suprasidati: “If you surrender to Krsna in this way, your soul, your mind, and your body will become satisfied.” This is Krsna consciousness.

Unfortunately, instead of surrendering to Krsna for His satisfaction, we are surrendering to many others for our own satisfaction. We join some political party so we can get the opportunity to become a minister or to capture some power. This is our real aim—not to serve our country. Maybe one or two have this idea. But usually our purpose is to get some power and position. So we are not serving the party; we are serving our ambition.

As one learned scholar has said, kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesah. Our so-called service is service to kamadinam—lust, anger, greed, illusion, intoxication, and envy. All these things are our masters. Somebody is serving his lust, another is serving his anger, another is serving his greediness, and so on. In this way, we are serving our senses, not any particular person. When we go to the office, we supposedly serve the proprietor. But actually we serve not the proprietor but the money he pays us. As soon as he says, “From tomorrow I cannot pay you,” we say, “Good-bye.” So we are serving the money. And why do we serve the money? Because money will help us satisfy our senses. Therefore, ultimately we are serving our senses.

Everyone is serving his senses, and this is what Krsna here calls dharmasya glanih, irreligion. When we serve our senses, that is irreligion, adharma, and as soon as we agree to serve Krsna’s senses, that is dharma, religion. This is Krsna’s instruction in the Bhagavad-gita.

At the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna was trying to justify serving his senses: “My dear Krsna, if I kill my relatives and my guru, Dronacarya, I’ll be entangled in sinful activities. I’ll go to hell.” So he concluded, “I shall not fight.” But Arjuna was trying to satisfy his own senses. He thought, “By killing the other party, I’ll be very much aggrieved.” That means he was serving his own senses.

So, Krsna instructed him, “You are a ksatriya [warrior]. It is your duty to fight. You should not consider whether you have to kill your relatives or your grandfather or your guru. When there is an opponent, you must fight.” This is how they were talking.

Krsna wanted Arjuna to satisfy His senses, and Arjuna wanted to satisfy his own senses. This was the argument. But since Krsna is the Supreme Lord, His senses should be satisfied. This is the whole purport of the Bhagavad-gita. At first, Arjuna refused to serve Krsna. Then Krsna told him, “This Kuruksetra War has been arranged by Me. You simply be My instrument [nimitta-matram bhava savyasacin].” Krsna’s purpose was paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam—to protect the devotees and annihilate the demons. Krsna wanted to install dharma personified, Maharaja Yudhisthira, on the throne, and He wanted to kill adharma personified, Duryodhana and company. That was Krsna’s plan. Therefore Krsna arranged the Kuruksetra War, and He wanted Arjuna’s help, because Arjuna was His friend and devotee.

Krsna wanted Arjuna to get the credit for the victory. Just as the devotee wants to glorify Krsna, Krsna wants His devotee to be glorified. This is the relationship between the Lord and His devotee. Krsna could have done everything Himself; He was fully competent. But He wanted to give Arjuna the credit. That was His plan.

In the Bhagavad-gita, for our benefit Arjuna plays the role of the common man. Actually, Arjuna knew, “Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead; it is my duty to serve Him.” Arjuna was a bhakta, a devotee. In other words, he had dedicated his life to serving Krsna. And at the end of the Bhagavad-gita, he accepts Krsna’s instruction: “Yes,” says Arjuna, “I will give up all my false designations and fight.” This is real bhakti, devotion.

tat-paratvena nirmalam
hrsikena hrsikesa-
sevanam bhaktir ucyate

“Bhakti means to serve Krsna with our senses, giving up all false designations.” One must become free of all false designations—”I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am a brahmana,” “I am a ksatriya,” and so on. One has to become free of all these designations, because they all pertain to the body. We must know, “I’m not the body; I’m a spirit soul [aham brahmasmi}.” And when one understands, “I am not this body; I am a spirit soul’, part and parcel of the Supreme,” that is self-realization. As long as one is in the bodily conception, he is no better than the animals. For animals there is no question of religion. Therefore, as long as we are in the bodily conception of life, we are in ignorance of our real religion, and whatever we do has no benefit either for us or for anyone else.

So, at the present moment practically everyone in the whole world is laboring under this bodily concept of life, adopting false designations—”I am Indian,” “I am American,” “I am this,” “I am that.” And on the basis of these false designations they create so many “dharmas.” But these dharmas are not real dharma. Therefore, at the end of the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Just give up all these nonsense dharmas and surrender to Me.”

The religion of the Bhagavad-gita is not Hindu religion or Christian religion or Muhammadan religion. It is the essence of religion—the reciprocation, the exchange of dealings, between God and the soul, the Supreme and the subordinate living entity. To accept Krsna as our Lord, to surrender to the lotus feet of Krsna—this is bhakti, or real religion.

When this religion is forgotten in human society, people become averse to God, or Krsna. They become godless and think they can enjoy like God. That is dharmasya glanih, perverted religion. Naturally, every one of us has come to this material world to enjoy. But material enjoyment is not real enjoyment. Real enjoyment is spiritual enjoyment, which comes from surrendering to Krsna. When there is dharmasya glanih, a discrepancy in the understanding of our spiritual identity, people forget this real enjoyment, and Krsna comes to revive it.

The beginning of Krsna’s teachings in the Bhagavad-gita is “I am not this body but rather a spirit soul.” This is the spiritual understanding. When one understands this, his devotional service begins and he becomes joyful (brahma-bhutah prasannatma). Because we are in darkness, we are not joyful; we are always morose. Although we are serving our family, our community, our government, and so forth, we are not happy, because that is not our real religion. When we direct this same service attitude toward the lotus feet of Krsna, we’ll be satisfied.

You cannot satisfy anyone by material service. Mahatma Gandhi served India to his best ability. Still, he could not satisfy everyone: somebody killed him. So, as long as we engage in materialistic service—whether to the society or family or community or whatever—we’ll never be able to satisfy anyone. No one will ever say, “Now I am completely satisfied.”

But if we try to serve Krsna, He is so kind that just a little service will make our life successful. I’ll give you an example. When Krsna was a child, the Putana demoness wanted to kill Him. (That is the plan of the demons—to kill God somehow or other.) Putana thought, “I will smear some poison on my breast, and when I allow Krsna to suck it He’ll die.” That was her plan. But when she took Krsna on her lap and offered Him her breast, Krsna sucked out Putana’s life along with the poison. This was Krsna’s kindness. Krsna thought, “This demoness has come to kill Me, but after all, I have sucked her breast. Therefore she is My mother, and she must get the position of My mother in the spiritual world.” Krsna is so kind. If you try to serve Him somehow or other, even if you do it with a bad purpose, He will accept your service. So why should we serve so many others?

Also, if you serve Krsna, you automatically perform all other services—services to the society, to the family, to the country, and so on. Why? Because Krsna is the root of everything. If you pour water on the root of a tree, the entire tree will be nourished (yatha taror mula-niscanena trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah). And similarly, because Krsna is the root of everything (aham sarvasya prabhavah), if you serve Him, everyone else will automatically be served.

The purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement is to serve Krsna—that is our only aim—yet automatically we are giving social service. How? Because as soon as one becomes Krsna conscious, he gives up all kinds of intoxication, all kinds of illicit sex, all kinds of meat-eating, and all kinds of gambling. Is that not social service? It is the best social service. In America the government is appreciating our movement. There are so many young people addicted to LSD, and the government is seeing that as soon as one of them comes to Krsna consciousness, he gives up all this nonsense. Although the government is spending millions of dollars, they cannot stop this intoxication. But we can stop it simply by giving young people Krsna consciousness.

So, it is a fact that if you accept this dharma—surrendering to Krsna—then all the problems of the world will be solved. Therefore Krsna consciousness is so much needed. And to give this education, to teach the people, Krsna comes (yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata). Krsna and Krsna’s instructions are identical. Don’t think that Krsna is no longer present. He is present by His words, the Bhagavad-gita. Take His instructions, apply them in your life, and you will be happy. This is Krsna consciousness.

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