This article is a continuation of “Krsna Consciousness, the Absolute Necessity for Mankind in This Age,” which appeared in BTG No. 34.
What is devotional service? In Chapter Five of Bhagavad-gita, verse 23, Lord Krsna says, “Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is a yogi and is happy in this world.” Then in Chapter Six, verse 2, He says, “What is called renunciation is the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, for no one can become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.” Then in verses 10-12, the Lord says, “A transcendentalist should always try to concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and possessiveness. To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point.”
The purport here reads as follows: ” ‘sacred place’ refers to places of pilgrimage. In India, the yogis, the transcendentalists or the devotees all leave home and reside in sacred places such as Prayag, Mathura, Vrndavana, Hardwar and practice yoga there. A sacred place is where the sacred rivers like the Yamuna and the Ganges flow. Any bank on the rivers Ganges or Yamuna naturally has to be sacred. One should select a place which is secluded and undisturbed. The so-called yoga societies in big cities may be successful in earning material benefit but these are not at all suitable for the actual practices of yoga. One who is not self-controlled and whose mind is not undisturbed cannot practice meditation. Therefore in the Brhan-Naradiya Purana it is said that in the Kali-yuga (the present age), when people in general are short-living, slow in spiritual realization and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is to chant the holy name of the Lord. In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is to chant the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way to success.”
The chanting of the holy names of Krsna is the recommended authoritative method for attaining God realization in this age. Performing devotional service under the expert guidance of a bona fide spiritual master who is in the disciplic succession is the highest yoga practice and is recommended for this age.
The Supreme Lord continues His description of the yoga process in verses 13-15. “One should hold one’s body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life. By meditating in this manner, always controlling the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist attains to peace, the supreme nirvana which abides in Me.”
We can clearly see that the yoga process is one of renunciation of material activity. It is a spiritual process and must be followed per prescription if one is to reach the goal. The prescription is given in Bhagavad-gita. Nowadays, many are taking to the yoga process seeking improvement in their health or a stronger body. They are simply wasting their valuable time because they still must grow old, get sick and die. No living entity in the material universes escapes birth, death, old age and diseases. Even the demigods who administer these universes according to Krsna’s supervision and energy must die. It is obvious fact that the great majority of time we have in this life is spent suffering. If I do not investigate the cause of this cosmic manifestation and the reason for this suffering and devote all my time to self-realization to transcend this material platform of existence, then I have wasted my life.
When we are sick with a 107 degree fever, the process of cure is not to reduce this to 104 degrees, or to 101 degrees, or to 99 degrees. The cure is to be 98.6 degrees all the time. So one should find this out. We are all sick in material existence. Our nature is pure consciousness, pure spirit soul, blissful and full of knowledge, but we are preoccupied, mind and body, with lustful contamination, bondage to material energy. And the more we are bound to bodily attachment, the more there is pain. It is as though we are drowning under the huge waves of the ocean. Now those who are practicing the yoga exercises are only temporarily relieving the heavy deluge. They think they are enjoying themselves, but this is not true, for they are still in the middle of the ocean, stranded, and the waves are pounding a little less hard, that’s all. This is not enjoyment, for they are still bound by their condition. So in the next lifetime, or the next, or whenever, this will catch up with them, and they will have to work off more and more sinful reaction.
Where is the sin? The sin is that the yoga process is given by Krsna for realizing Him. It should be executed properly. He tells us that a yogi must renounce sense gratification. But the yogis of today are practicing it primarily to sharpen their senses for enjoyment. The materially contaminated senses of the gross body form the network that will bring the soul farther and farther into misery, farther down the evolutionary ladder in his later lifetimes. Forgetfulness of Krsna is sinful activity.
Therefore, everyone is urged to overcome the desire for personal sense gratification by working in transcendental devotional service to Krsna. Such a state is always blissful. The more we want merely to gratify this body and mind (subtle body), then the more we are becoming contaminated with lust, which is like an itch, and the more we scratch, the more we itch. It is insatiable. One day we will realize the corrupt nature of the material consciousness, and we will endeavor to come out of that sick state.
After Krsna describes the sankhya-yoga system of renunciation and control of the mind through solitary meditation upon Him, Arjuna says, “O Madhusudana, the system of yoga which Youhave summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.” (Gita 6.33) His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada points out here that Arjuna, although favorably endowed in many ways, “belonged to the royal family and was highly elevated in terms of numerous qualities. He was a great warrior, he had great longevity, and above all he was the most intimate friend of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Arjuna had much better facilities than we do, yet he refused this system of yoga.”
The quality of man has degenerated so much since then that but for one of two great, great souls, no one should seek spiritual advancement through such yoga processes, for he will simply be wasting his valuable time which could be much better spent in Krsna consciousness. Five thousand years ago, 700,000,000 men fought on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Arjuna was one of the greatest generals. The leaders of each side mastered armies of 300,000,000 and 400,000,000 men. They were stationing each man, and the positions of all these men were contained in their minds. We must often strain to remember what we did one hour ago, we could never consider positioning such massive armies. The reason men are becoming so corrupt in this age is due to the features of the Kali age. Material energy is becoming more and more attractive. It is an age of rapid spiritual decline. What is the binding force in Kali-yuga?
In the Third Chapter of Bhagavad-gita the Lord says, “It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.
“As a fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly the living entity is covered by different degrees of lust.
“Thus, a man’s pure consciousness is covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.
“The senses, the mind, and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust, which veils the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.”
So the lust is veiling the real knowledge (cit) of the soul, which is pure and knows Krsna in full Krsna consciousness. If the mind is too caught up in this lust, it is bewildered. But by transcending the material platform of consciousness, one can burn lust away. Then the true, eternal reality, in all its bliss and knowledge, will shine throughout. How can this transcendence be achieved? Become a perfect yogi.
Who is the perfect yogi? In Chapter Six, the Supreme Lord says, “And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.”
Prabhupada writes in his purport that this verse clearly indicates the bhakta or devotee. The bhakti-yogi is higher than all the other yogis, including those who work without fruitive result for themselves (karma-yogis), those who engage the mind in philosophical speculation (jnana-yogis), those who meditate on the om syllable (raja-yogis), and those who meditate on the Supersoul expansion of Krsna, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, within the heart and who are following the eightfold system of classic yoga (astanga-yogis). The bhakta is not only in a more ecstatic state of trance, but he is also a more highly realized yogi. This is because he understands his eternal position of rendering transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
The Devotee As Yogi
The astanga-yogi can meditate for hours and days at length. He can create a planet. He can die at will and can move astrally anywhere in the material universe. But he cannot approach the tip of the toe of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. The neophyte bhakta is more purely realized because the astangi is still tainted. He is still wanting to be God. Lust, anger and greed. If I open slaughterhouses or I want to be a pseudo yogi, what is the difference? I still am trying to exercise my powers over others in a perverted godlike fashion. For this I must only build up sinful reactions which will follow my soul through all the ensuing bodies I take until they are cleansed away. How can I cleanse reactions? By working in Krsna consciousness.
In Chapter Three, Lord Krsna tell us, “All men are forced to act helplessly, according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore, no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” And Prabhupada’s purport reads: “This is not a question of embodied life; it is the nature of the soul itself to be always active. The proof is that without the presence of the spirit soul there is no movement of the material body. The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, and therefore it is to be understood that the soul is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krsna consciousness; otherwise it will be engaged in the occupations dictated by the illusory energy.” This last sentence is very important. We understand that our nature is spirit soul full of bliss, eternity and knowledge, and that the soul is always active and eternally part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. And now we see that as such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krsna consciousness; otherwise it will be engaged in the occupations dictated by the illusory energy.”
Illusory energy—this is called maya. In Chapter Seven the Blessed Lord tells Arjuna, “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” False ego is due to identification with the body with the mind.
In the following verse He says, “Besides this inferior nature, O Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine which contains all living entities who are struggling with material nature and which sustains the universe.” So earth, air, water, fire, mind, ether, intelligence and false ego are the inferior potency of the Lord. The superior potency of the Lord is the spiritual potency, the souls. Here we can clearly see that our bodies and minds are composed of the inferior energies, namely earth, air, water, fire, mind, intelligence, ether and false ego. And what is supplying these dead things with life is the living entity situated within, the individual soul or jiva.
In the material conception of life, we are identifying ourselves with these inferior forms which are not actually even alive. This is known as maya, or lust. The way to escape from this predicament is to realize that the soul within is eternal and that its real relationship is with Krsna and to know that due to our eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the soul always remains transcendental to the eight manifestations of material energy. Yet if we confuse the soul’s energy with false ego, then we think that we are a temporary manifestation, this body (actually dead), and then lustful situations develop. Then we want to enjoy independently of Krsna, but constitutionally, we cannot. Therefore, we must engage in devotional service to the Supreme Lord in full Krsna consciousness in order to transcend this mundane affair.
Krsna says in Chapter Two: “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls again into the material pool.”
Therefore we must always live transcendental to this material ocean of birth and death, lust, old age and disease. It is clearly understood that the living entity is eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God. We also have established that this soul is foreign to the material body in which it is lodged. Although a fish is taken out of water and made to live on land and given all the things he would need to be happy on land, he cannot live free of pain. Similarly we are spirit soul but are conditioned in the material universe by a temporary body. The object, then, is to return to spiritual life. This can be done best through the bhakti-yoga process.
The common yogi cannot be ultimately successful, and his liberation is only temporary. Because he is not fully realized in love of Godhead, he can merge in the brahmajyoti, that is, the effulgence of Lord Krsna, but he cannot remain there for more than some few millennia. Then he must return to some planet like the earth where he will take an advanced birth in a brahmana family so that he can become a bhakta or a devotee. Only the devotee can be ultimately liberated and attain to the spiritual kingdom of which Krsna says in Chapter Eight: “That supreme status is called unmanifested and infallible and is the highest destination. Going there, no one ever returns from that, My supreme abode.”
His Pious Deeds Exhausted
Now that abode is not to be thought of as heaven. “Heaven” refers to the higher, more subtle planets of this material world. In heaven the living entities are all very pious and the enjoyment very fine, but still they are subject to the desire to enjoy for themselves, so they also return to the lower earth-like planets, when their reactions for pious deeds must expire. These souls are travelling always about the universe where there are planets and civilizations established through each of the eight material elements, earth, air, water, fire, ether, etc. The earth, for example is a water planet where most of the planet’s surface is water, the bodies are mostly water, etc. But the supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as the cintamani-dhama. “That abode of Lord Krsna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There the trees are called desire-trees, and the cows are called surabhi. The Lord is being served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune—He whose name is Govinda, the Primal Lord and the cause of all causes. There the Lord plays His flute; His eyes are like lotus petals and the color of His body like a beautiful cloud. On His head there is a peacock feather. He is so attractive that He excels thousands of cupids.”
Here something of the infinitely beautiful form of the Lord has been described. It is not a fanciful creation of the imagination formed after visualizing the beautiful things of this world. This is the all-attractive blissful body of Lord Krsna as He is eternally. In another place in Bhagavad-gita, at the conclusion of Chapter Six, Prabhupada’s purport condludes, “The ideal yogi concentrates his attention on Krsna, who is called Syamasundara and is beautifully colored like a cloud. His lotus-like face is as effulgent as the sun, and His dress is brilliant. He wears earrings, and His body is flower-garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in so many different forms, such as Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha, and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; and He descends like a human being, as the son of mother Yasoda; and He is known as Krsna, Govinda and Vasudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities.”
The form of the Lord which has been described is, again, no imagined concoction. Rather, this is how the Personality of Godhead is eternally manifest. We are well acquainted with this form because we all know Him as our living, eternal father. The soul has this knowledge, but due to our lust we have been bound in this material world for millions of births in different bodies. Some births have been on low, hellish planets. Many have been on earth-like middle planets. Still all have been material, temporary, unreal. The unreality is due to our false ego’s attachment to bodily lust. This lust causes us t become bewildered. Bewilderment results in delusion and loss of memory. Thus we have forgotten the all-blissful Personality of Godhead due to our wanting personal selfish sense gratification. That’s all.
In the real, eternal world, spiritual abode, which is located beyond the reach of the material senses, everything is full of knowledge. Everything is always blissful. Everything is conscious. The Lord is present there, and He is surrounded by so many individual living entities who are serving Him in love. In this material world where we are exercising our lustful potential in different capacities, we are serving our senses and are deluded by these senses, this body, to act as God. We demand service from everything surrounding us, and we are totally out of contact with the real, eternally existing truth. So this world is the antithesis of the spiritual sky. Here is pain. There is pleasure. Here is temporality. There is eternity. Here, misery. There—bliss. Here God is not manifest to our senses. There, God is directly manifest to the transcendental senses of the spiritual body. The material world is but a perverted reflection of that spiritual sky. It is as if there were a river reflecting a tree on the bank. This world is all illusory energy, just like the illusory tree. The form is there, but it is temporary. If we try to hold it, we cannot be satisfied with it because its nature is ultimately mutable. When there is no sunlight, there is no more tree.
Many people, notable impersonalists, say that God has no form, but clearly we can see the fault is not with form but the nature of the form. Forms are healthy, alive, blissful, eternal, real, etc., or sick, temporary, ultimately dead, endlessly mutable, etc. That is the trouble. The impersonalists just have a poor fund of knowledge. But there are so many revealed scriptures and eternally realized spiritual masters who are completely illumined by the mercy of the Lord, and these realized souls are associating with Him in blissful pastimes. So they can teach others this knowledge. And they state that the Absolute is ultimately a person.
So far, the situation, that we are eternal spirit soul living entities, part and parcel of Krsna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, has been explained. And the problem, that we are in a contaminated atmosphere of material illusion where lust is God, completely alien to our real, eternal life of knowledge, and bliss, has been made apparent. The solution which Krsna consciousness teaches is Krsna consciousness itself. It is giving direction how to return home, back to Godhead.