by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
at the Society’s center in Los Angeles.
Chanting the holy names of God in congregation raises us to the state of pure spiritual consciousness-a state of joyful awareness of God that transcends all petty prejudices and material distinctions. Wrote Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, a great Krsna conscious teacher of the last century: “The principle of [congregational chanting] as the future church of the world invites all classes of men, without distinction of caste or clan, to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church … will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches, which exclude outsiders from the precincts of the mosque, church, or temple.” By the efforts of His Divine G race A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his followers,this predict ion is coming to pass.
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
“One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything; he is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he achieves pure devotional service unto Me [Krsna]” (Bhagavad-gita 18.54).
Krsna consciousness is simply full of bliss, because it is the stage one reaches after attaining liberation from all material miseries. This is called the brahma-bhuta stage. One feels just like a person who has been suffering in prison for many years and is suddenly given his freedom. How much delight he feels! Similarly, one who attains the brahma-bhuta stage immediately becomes joyful.
And what is the nature of that joyfulness? Na socati: even if one suffers great loss, one does not lament. And na kanksati: one feels no hankering for big profit. Also, in that stage one sees all living entities on the same platform of spiritual identity. In another place Bhagavad-gita says, panditah sama-darsinah: “When a person is learned he sees everyone on the same level of spiritual identity.” At this stage, Krsna consciousness actually begins (mad-bhaktim labhate param). So Krsna consciousness is the activity of the living entity in the liberated stage.
Everyone is trying to get liberation from material pangs. Those who follow Buddhist philosophy are trying to get liberation from material miseries by reaching nirvana. Nirvana means “the stage when everything is extinguished.” The Buddhists want to make everything void; they want to make all material varieties zero. That is the sum and substance of Buddhist philosophy. And mayavada [impersonalistic] philosophy is more or less similar. It is a second edition of Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhists want to make everything zero without life, and the mayavadi philosophers say, “Yes, we should make the material varieties zero, but keep life.” That is their mistake. Where there is life, there must be variety; life without variety is not possible. This is the defect of mayavada philosophy.
Suppose a patient is very much disturbed and he asks his physician, “Please stop my disturbance! Kill me! Kill me!” Sometimes people who are suffering speak like that. “Give me some poison! Kill me! I cannot tolerate the pain.”
The physician says, “There is no need to kill you. I shall give you a good, healthy life.”
But the diseased man is so impatient: “No, I cannot tolerate. Please kill me!”
So Buddhist and mayavadi philosophers are like this. They think, “I want to die; I want to become zero, void.” They are feeling so much frustration, so much disturbance from the material miseries, that they want to make their life zero.
Krsna consciousness is not like that. Krsna consciousness brings you to real life—a life of devotional activity in the liberated stage.
But it is often difficult to understand the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Why? That is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.30]: matir na krsne paratah svato va mitho ‘bhipadyeta grha-vratanam. Grha means “house,” and vrata means “vow.” So the Bhagavatam says, “One who is too interested in maintaining a comfortable family life cannot understand the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.” Everywhere the common man is interested in attaining bodily comforts, a nice wife, a nice apartment, a nice bank balance. These things are his aspirations, and nothing more.
First of all a person is interested in his body. Grha means “house” or “living place.” I am a soul, a living being, and my body is my first living place. The body is also a grha. But I am not the body. I may live in an apartment, but I am not the apartment. Similarly, I am living in a body, but I am not the body. This understanding is the beginning of spiritual education. Unless a person understands that he is not his body—that he is a spirit soul living in his body—there is no question of spiritual education, because such a person does not know how to distinguish what is spiritual from what is material.
So it is a misunderstanding to think, “I am my body. I belong to my apartment. I belong to my society. I belong to my nation. I belong to my world. I belong to my universe.” You may expand the idea of grha, but it is all a misunderstanding, whether you are a big leader who says, “My life is for my nation,” or some ordinary, common man who says, “My life is for my family,” or some childlike person who says, “I am interested only in my body.” People very much appreciate it when we expand our conception of self-interest from bodily welfare to family welfare, or from family welfare to community welfare, or from community welfare to national welfare, or from national welfare to the idea of universal brotherhood. But these are all bogus ideas, misconceptions.
However you may expand the grha, the defect will remain. For example, the so-called nationalists in America are packed up within the boundary of human beings: they do not expand their affection to other living entities. They believe that the human beings living in America should be given protection but that the animals need no protection. Why? The cows and other animals in America are also nationals; they should also be protected. But the nationalists have no such idea, because nationalism and all such ideas are defective and limited.
So the Bhagavatam says that as long as a person is interested in keeping himself within the boundary of some limited conception of life, he cannot understand Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness. Matir na krsne paratah svato va. Svatah means “by one’s personal mental speculation.” Many philosophers are thinking they will reach the Absolute Truth by mental speculation. And paratah. Paratah means “from authorities”—from the spiritual master, the scriptures, or other authoritative sources of knowledge. Our principle is to receive knowledge from the spiritual master. But suppose somebody thinks, “I am American. Why should I hear from a spiritual master who is Hindu?” Such a person will not be able to understand the teachings of Krsna consciousness. So those who are grha-vratanam, determined to remain within a limited conception of life, cannot understand Krsna consciousness—neither by their own mental efforts nor by taking help from authorities.
Next the Bhagavatam uses the word mithah, which means “taking part in a great assembly.” A good example is the United Nations. The United Nations has been trying to bring world peace for the last twenty, twenty-five years. So why has it not been possible? Because the representatives at the United Nations have a limited conception of life. They think, “I am my body, which was born in such-and-such a nation.” The basic principle is wrong, the conception of life is wrong, and therefore the United Nations has failed to bring peace in the world.
Now, why are people limited by a poor conception of life? The Bhagavatam says, adanta-gobhih. The limited conception of life is caused by unbridled senses. Everyone wants to satisfy his senses, or the senses of his countrymen. So although a man may go to the assembly of the United Nations, he keeps his identity as American or German or Russian or Indian, and he thinks, “My nation shall be happy in such-and-such a way.” The Indian is thinking like this, the American is thinking like this, the Russian is thinking like this. But if they keep themselves in that limited conception of life, what benefit will they derive? They will simply talk and waste time. That’s all. Only when one goes outside these limited conceptions of life and reaches the brahma-bhuta stage can one have real peace.
Next the Bhagavatam describes the position of someone with uncontrolled senses: punah punas carvita-carvananam. Carvita-carvana means “chewing the chewed.” Suppose something is chewed and then thrown away in the street. If somebody comes and again chews that thrown-away article, he cannot get any juice out of it. Similarly, we may try repeatedly to enjoy our senses in this material world, but all our efforts must end in frustration.
We may make so many plans, but because all our plans are on the platform of sense gratification, our whole existence is limited to the four activities of animal life: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. That’s all. Animals and men have these four activities in common. The only extra qualification of man is that he can come to understand Krsna, or God. That is his special qualification. But because people keep themselves within the limits of sense gratification, they come again and again to the same platform of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Therefore they remain without Krsna consciousness.
So, the secret of how to become Krsna conscious is that we should not limit ourselves to a narrow conception of life. How is that possible? We must understand, “I am an eternal servant of Krsna, or God.” That is Krsna consciousness.
Now, one may ask, “If understanding Krsna is the goal of life, why do people keep themselves within the limit of sense gratification?” That question is answered in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.31]: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah. This is a very important verse. It says that foolish persons do not know that Visnu, or Krsna, is the ultimate goal of their life because they are entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material nature. Everyone is eager to look after his self-interest, but foolish people do not know what their real self-interest is. They are thinking, “Working hard in the material way of life will give me ultimate pleasure, ultimate satisfaction. That is my ultimate goal.” The scientist, the politician—everyone is making his own plan to reach ultimate satisfaction. And how will they fulfill that plan? By manipulating nature, Krsna’s external energy (bahir-artha-maninah).
We are preaching Krsna consciousness, but most people are not interested. Had I been an expert in a new kind of technology, or in teaching an improvement in electronics, thousands of people would be coming to hear me. Because I would have been dealing with the ingredients of the external energy, people would have thought, “This technological knowledge will give me happiness.” That is durasaya, a useless hope. The Bhagavatam says this kind of material advancement is useless. It will not give you any happiness. But people are foolishly hoping it will.
Now the Bhagavatam says, andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. This means that those people who are hoping for happiness through material advancement are spiritually blind. They do not know the goal of life, and their leaders also do not know the goal of life. People are thinking that with the change of some politician something new will be done and they will be happy. Now there is an advertisement:
“America needs Nixon now.” People are thinking, “When Nixon will be president instead of Johnson, we shall be happy.” [Laughter.] But from which stock are this Johnson and Nixon coming? The source of supply is the same. If the source of supply is the same, what is the use of replacing Johnson with Nixon or Nixon with Johnson?
The leaders are spiritually blind: they do not know the ultimate goal of life. If the people are blind and their leaders are also blind, what will be the result? If a blind man leads one hundred other blind men across the street, certainly there will be some accident. But if the leader can see, he can lead hundreds and thousands of men safely.
Now the Bhagavatam explains, te ‘pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah: “Both the blind leaders and their blind followers are very tightly bound by the strong ropes of material nature.” The leaders promise, “My dear citizens, my dear countrymen, the country needs me at the present moment. If you give me your vote, I shall give you all comforts, all solutions.” But all these leaders are tightly bound up by the laws of God, the laws of nature. You see? If your hands and legs are tightly bound, how can you work? The leaders do not know that they are under the stringent control of the laws of nature. Suppose there is a heavy earthquake, or suppose the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean mix together? (There is some suggestion like that from the scientists.) Then how can you check the laws of nature? Your hands and legs are tightly bound by nature’s laws. You cannot check them. So how can blind leaders, who are so tightly bound up by the laws of nature, lead people to the ultimate goal of life? The ultimate goal of life is God, or Krsna, but the leaders are enamored by the glitter of this material nature. So they cannot lead us to Krsna.
Then what is the solution to our problem? If it is not possible to attain Krsna consciousness by speculation, by assembly meetings, or by deriving knowledge from authoritative sources, then how is it to be attained? How can the goal of life be reached?
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.32] answers this question:
One cannot fix his mind on the lotus feet of Krsna unless one has the opportunity of touching the dust of the lotus feet of a person who has given up all material hankerings (niskincananam) and who has dedicated his life cent percent to Krsna (mahiyasam). When one comes in touch with such a person, by his grace one can attain Krsna consciousness—not by any other method. One must approach a bona fide spiritual master and by his mercy, by his grace, receive Krsna consciousness. And as soon as a person receives initiation into Krsna consciousness, he feels spiritual satisfaction, and his liberation from material entanglement begins. Then, as he makes further and further progress, his life becomes sublime.
The first benefit of Krsna consciousness is that as soon as a person comes in touch with Krsna, he immediately gives up all the unwholesome activities of material existence . In fact, we can test if someone is in contact with Krsna by seeing how free he is from sinful activity. For example (not a very gigantic example—a very small one), take our students. As soon as they are initiated into Krsna consciousness, they immediately give up so many sinful activities. The basic activities of sinful life are illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. It is very difficult for people to give up all these habits, especially in the Western countries. But my students are giving them up very easily.
In 1935 one of my Godbrothers went to London and met the Marquis of Zetland, a man from Scotland. He was very interested in Indian philosophy. (He had previously been the governor of Bengal, and in my youth I had met him; he had come to my college.) So the marquis inquired from my Godbrother, Goswami Bannerjee: “Bannerjee, can you make me a brahmana?”
Bannerjee said, “Why not? Yes, we can make you a brahmana, but you have to follow four rules. You must give up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Then you can become a brahmana.”
“Oh, that is impossible.”
You see? The Marquis of Zetland was such a big personality—he was interested in philosophy, he held a high government position, he was a responsible man—yet he flatly denied that he could give up these four sinful habits. But our students, hundreds of boys and girls who are coming to Krsna consciousness, are giving up these habits very easily. And they don’t feel any inconvenience. This is the first benefit of Krsna consciousness: In the very beginning one is finished with all sinful activity.
How can our students give up these things? Because they are feeling spiritual satisfaction in Krsna consciousness; Our students can sit down before the Deity and chant Hare Krsna for twenty-four hours. Bring any student of any other yoga society and ask him to sit down for five hours. He’ll fail; he’ll be so restless. These so-called yoga societies simply teach their students some official meditation: fifteen minutes to a half hour of closing the eyes and murmuring something. But our students are engaged in Krsna consciousness twenty-four hours a day. Anyone may come and ask them how they are feeling. Unless they feel some spiritual satisfaction, how can they give up everything and simply serve Krsna?
Now, one may ask, “Suppose a person takes up Krsna consciousness out of sentiment but he cannot complete the process. What is his position?” This question is also answered in Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.5.17]:
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer
bhajann apakvo ‘tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim
ko vartha apto ‘bhajatam sva-dharmatah
The word sva-dharma means “specific duty.” Everyone has some specific duty or occupation. So somebody may give up his specific duty and begin practicing Krsna consciousness. All of my students were engaged in something else, but all of a sudden they gave it up and joined the Krsna consciousness movement. So, anyone may do this. After hearing some lectures on Krsna consciousness, someone may decide, “Now I shall begin Krsna consciousness.” So he gives up his occupation and begins chanting Hare Krsna and following the other devotional principles. But all of a sudden he gives them up. For some reason, because of some unfortunate circumstances, he cannot prosecute Krsna consciousness nicely and he gives it up. So the Bhagavatam says that even if one gives up Krsna consciousness because of immaturity, still there is no loss, because he will take it up again in the next life.
But then the Bhagavatam says, ko vartha apto ‘bhajatam sva-dharmatah: “What profit is there for someone who very steadily engages in his occupational duty but is without any Krsna consciousness?” He is simply a loser, because he does not know the aim of his life. But if a person takes to Krsna consciousness even for a few days, if he gets the injection of Krsna consciousness, in his next life he’ll take it up again. So he’s not a loser. That one injection will someday make him perfect in Krsna consciousness, and he’s sure to go back to Godhead.
So go on executing Krsna consciousness, and try to spread Krsna consciousness as far as possible. Rest assured, your efforts will not go in vain. They will not go in vain. Krsna will reward you abundantly.