A devotee of Krsna sees that people
have fallen into a life of suffering.
His only thought is how to deliver them.
A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Today Ishall speak to you about being saved from the laws of nature. This was discussed between Maharaja Pariksit and Sukadeva Gosvami in the Sixth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The universal planetary systems are very nicely explained in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Within the universe there are some planets that are hellish. Actually, not only the Bhagavatam but all religious scriptures contain descriptions of hell and heaven. In Srimad-Bhagavatam you can find out where those hellish planets are and how distant they are from this planet, just as you can obtain information from modern astronomy. Astronomers have calculated how far the moon is from here and what the distance is between this planet and the sun; similarly, the Srimad-Bhagavatam contains descriptions of the hellish planets. We have experience of different atmospheric conditions even on this planet. In the Western countries near the North Pole, the climate is different than in India, which is near the equator. Just as there are differences in atmosphere and living conditions on this planet, similarly there are many planets that have different atmospheres and conditions of life.
After hearing a description of the hellish planets from Sukadeva Gosvami, Pariksit Maharaja said,
yathaiva narakan narah
tan me vyakhyatum arhasi
“Sir, I have heard from you about the hellish planets. Men who are sinful are sent to those planets” [Bhag.6.1.6]. Pariksit Maharaja is a Vaisnava [devotee], and a Vaisnava always feels compassion for the distress of others. He is afflicted by others’ miseries. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, was greatly afflicted by the miserable conditions of the people. Regardless of which country or sect they belong to, all Vaisnavas, or devotees—any people who are God conscious, or Krsna conscious—are thus compassionate.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu has explained that the living entities are rotating in different species of life, in different planetary systems all over the universe. A living entity can go anywhere—to hell or heaven—as he likes and as he prepares himself. There are many heavenly planets, many hellish planets, and many species of life. There are 8,400,000 species of life. The living entity is rotating, wandering through these species and creating bodies according to his mentality in the present life. As you sow, so shall you reap.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that out of all these numberless living entities who are traveling in the material world, one is fortunate, not everyone. If everyone were fortunate, they would all have taken to Krsna consciousness. It is being distributed everywhere. But why are people not taking it? Because they are unfortunate. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that only those who are fortunate take to this Krsna consciousness, and they get a hopeful life, a pleasant life, a blissful life, a life of knowledge.
A Vaisnava thinks, “How can these people be delivered from their hellish life?” That was Pariksit Maharaja’s inquiry. “Sir,” he said, “you have described that on account of one’s sinful activities one is put into a hellish condition of life or in a hellish planetary system. Now, what are the countermethods by which such persons can be saved?” This is the question. When a Vaisnava comes, when God Him-self comes, or when God’s son or His very confidential devotees come, their only mission is to save the sinful men who are suffering. They have knowledge of how to do this.
The Vaisnava knows that as soon as one surrenders to Krsna, one’s path is clear. This is a simple method. All you have to do is bow down before Krsna with faith and say, “My Lord Krsna , I was forgetful of You for so long, for so many lives. Now please accept me.” That’s all. If one simply learns this technique and sincerely surrenders himself to the Lord, his path is immediately open. These are the philosophical thoughts of a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava is always thinking about how the fallen conditioned souls can be delivered. He is always involved in making plans in that way, just like the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, Lord Caitanya’s direct disciples. They very scrutinizingly studied the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings.
With this same Vaisnava compassion, Pariksit Maharaja says to Sukadeva Gosvami: “You have described the different types of hellish conditions of life. Now tell me how those who are suffering can be delivered. Kindly explain this to me. How can they be delivered from their fierce miseries and horrible pains?” That is a Vaisnava heart. He says, “Somehow or other they have fallen down to this hellish life. But that does not mean that they should remain in that condition. There must be some means by which they can be delivered, so kindly explain that.”
Sukadeva Gosvami replied:
na ced ihaivapacitim yathamhasah
krtasya kuryan mana-ukta-panibhih
dhruvam sa vai pretya narakan upaiti
ye kirtita me bhavatas tigma-yatanah
“Yes, if before one’s death one’s impious acts in this life are not counteracted through atonement, one has to enter the hellish planets ” [Bhag. 6.1.7].
How can this be done? Sinful activities are committed in various ways. We can commit sins, or we can make a plan, thinking, “I shall kill that man.” Either way, it is sinful. When the mind is thinking, feeling, and willing, then there is action.
The other day I was reading in a book that if someone’s dog barks at you when you are passing on the road, then that is an offense on the part of the dog-owner, according to law. No one should have to be scared by dogs barking, so one should take care of his dog. I read this. It is a law in your country. The dog is simply barking, but it is sinful. The dog is not responsible, because it is an animal, but because the owner of the animal has made the dog his best friend, he is responsible by law. If an outside dog enters your house, it may not be killed, but the owner of the dog may be prosecuted.
Just as the barking of the dog is unlawful, so when you speak something offensive to others, that is also sinful. That is just like barking. Therefore sinful activities are committed in so many ways. We may think of sinful activities, or speak something sinful, or actually commit a sinful act, but they are all considered sinful activities. Dhruvam sa vai pretya narakan upaiti. One has to suffer punishment for such sinful activities.
People do not believe in a next life because they want to avoid this botheration. But we cannot avoid it. We must act according to the law, or we will be punished. Similarly, I cannot avoid God’s law. That is not possible. I can cheat others, commit theft, and hide myself, thereby saving myself from the punishment of the state law, but I cannot save myself from the superior law, the law of nature. It is very difficult. There are so many witnesses. The daylight is a witness, the moonlight is a witness, and Krsna is the supreme witness. You cannot say, “I am committing this sin, but no one can see me.”
Krsna is the supreme witness, and He is sitting within your heart. He notes down what you are thinking and what you are doing. He also gives facility. If you want to do something to satisfy your senses, Krsna gives the facility for that action. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita. Sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah: “I am Sitting in everyone’s heart.” Mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca: “From Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness.”
In this way Krsna gives us a chance. If you want Krsna, then He will give you a chance to have Him, and if you don’t want Krsna, then He will give you a chance to forget Him. If you want to enjoy life forgetting Krsna, forgetting God, then Krsna will give you all facility so that you can forget, and if you want to enjoy life with Krsna consciousness, then Krsna will give you the chance to make progress in Krsna consciousness. That is up to you.
If you think that you can be happy without Krsna consciousness, Krsna does not object to that. Yathecchasi tatha kuru. After advising Arjuna, He simply said, “Now I have explained everything to you. Whatever you desire you can do.” Arjuna replied immediately, karisye vacanam tava: “Now I shall execute Your order.” That is Krsna consciousness.
God does not interfere with your little independence. If you want to act according to the order of God, then God will help you. Even if you fall down sometimes, if you become sincere—”From this time on I shall remain Krsna conscious and execute His orders”—then Krsna will help you. In all respects, even if you fall down, He will excuse you and give you more intelligence. This intelligence will say “Don’t do this. Now go on with your duty.” But if you want to forget Krsna, if you want to become happy without Krsna, He will give you so many chances that you will forget Krsna life after life.
Pariksit Maharaja says here, “It is not that if I say there is no God then there will be no God or I will not be responsible for what I do.” That is the atheistic theory. Atheists do not want God because they are always sinful—if they thought that there is a God, then they would be forced to shudder at the thought of punishment. Therefore they deny the existence of God. That is their process. They think that if they do not accept God then there is no punishment and they can do whatever they like.
When rabbits are being attacked by bigger animals, they close their eyes and think, “I am not going to be killed.” But they are killed anyway. Similarly, we may deny the existence of God and the law of God, but still God and His law are there. In the high court you may say, “I don’t care for the law of the government,” but you will be put into prison and have to suffer. Similarly, you may foolishly decry the existence of God—”There is no God” or “I am God”—but nevertheless you are responsible for all your actions, both good and bad.
There are two kinds of activities—good and bad. If you act nicely and perform pious activities, then you get good fortune, and if you act sinfully, then you have to suffer. Thus Sukadeva Gosvami says:
There are different kinds of atonement. If you commit some sin and counteract it by something else, that is atonement. There are examples of this in the Christian Bible. Here Sukadeva Gosvami says, “You should know that you are responsible, and according to the gravity of sinful life, you should accept some type of atonement as described in the sastras, the scriptures.”
Actually, just as when one is diseased he must go to a doctor and pay doctor bills as a form of atonement, according to the Vedic way of life there is a class of brahmanas to whom one should go for the prescribed atonement according to the sins one commits.
Sukadeva Gosvami says that one has to execute the prescribed atonement according to the gravity of one’s sinful life. He continues the example: dosasya drstva guru-laghavam yatha bhisak cikitseta rujam nidanavit. When you consult a physician, he prescribes an inexpensive medicine or a costly medicine according to the gravity of the disease. If you simply have a headache, he may prescribe aspirin, but if you have something very severe, he immediately prescribes a surgical operation that will cost a thousand dollars. Similarly, sinful life is a diseased condition, so one must take the prescribed cure to become healthy.
Acceptance of the chain of birth and death is a diseased condition of the soul. Because the soul is spirit, it has no birth and death and no disease. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita- [2.20]: na jayate, the soul has no birth, and na mriyate, it has no death. Nityah sasvato yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire. The soul is eternal and everlasting. It is not lost with the dissolution of the body. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. Na hanyate means that it is not killed or destroyed, even after the destruction of the body.
The missing point of modern civilization is that there is no educational system to instruct people on what happens after death. Thus we have the most defective education, because without this knowledge of what happens after death, one dies like an animal. The animal does not know that he is going to have another body; he has no such knowledge.
Human life is not meant for becoming an animal. One should not simply be interested in eating, sleeping, sex, and defense. You may have a very nice arrangement for eating, or many nice buildings for sleeping, or a very good arrangement for sex, or a very good defense force to protect you, but that does not mean that you are a human being. That type of civilization is animal life. Animals are also interested in eating, sleeping, and sex, and according to their own methods they defend also. Where, then, is the distinction between human life and animal life if you simply engage in these four principles of bodily nature?
The distinction is made when a human being is inquisitive—”Why have I been put into this miserable condition? Is there any remedy for it? Is there any perpetual, eternal life? I do not want to die. I want to live very happily and peacefully. Is there a chance of this? What is that method? What is that science?” When these inquiries are there and steps are taken to answer these questions, that is human civilization; otherwise it is doggish civilization, animal civilization.
Animals are satisfied if they can eat, sleep, have some sex, and have some defense. Actually there is no defense because no one can protect himself from the hands of cruel death. So-called scientists are now saying that we shall stop death by scientific methods. This is another crazy utterance. That is not possible. You may make great advancement in scientific knowledge, but there is no scientific solution to these four problems—birth, death, old age and disease.
One who is intelligent will be eager to solve these four prime problems No one wants to die. But there is no remedy. I have to die. Everyone is very anxious to stop the increase of population by employing so many contraceptive methods, but still, birth is going on. So there is no stoppage of birth. You may invent up-to-date medicines by your scientific methods, but you cannot stop disease. It is not possible just to take a tablet to put an end to disease.
In Bhagavad-gita it is said, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: “Where is the solution to these four problems of birth, death, old age and disease? That solution is the process of Krsna consciousness.”
Krsna also says in the same book [4.9],
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naitimam eti so ‘rjuna
Every one of us is giving up our body at every moment. The last phase of giving up this body is called death. But Krsna says, “If anyone understands My appearance and disappearance and My activities—not superficially but in truth—after giving up this body he never again accepts a material body.”
What happens to such a person? Mam eti—he returns to Krsna. If you are to go to Krsna, then you have to prepare your spiritual body. That is Krsna consciousness. If you keep yourself in Krsna consciousness, then gradually you prepare your next body, a spiritual body, which will carry you immediately to Krsnaloka, and you will become happy. You will live a perpetual life of and bliss and knowledge.