By overcoming our material desires
we can understand God and appreciate His love for us.
A lecture given in Vrndavana, India, in 1972
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
When Krsna plays His flute in the transcendental land of Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual world, even the animals, the rivers, and the grass and other nonmoving objects are attracted to the beautiful sound. Krsna invites everyone to return to the spiritual sky and enjoy eternal life with Him.
“The Absolute Truth is realized by the seriously inquisitive student or sage who is well equipped with knowledge and who has become detached by rendering devotional service and hearing the Vedanta-sruti.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.12)
First of all we must know that the purpose of life is to realize the Absolute Truth. This human form of life is not meant for being spoiled by our living like the dogs and hogs. The dogs and hogs are busy day and night laboring very hard to find food and sex. Nature has arranged things in such a way that they have no other business. But human life is not meant for that purpose. Rather it is a chance, given by nature, to realize the Absolute Truth.
According to the Vedic scriptures, we have passed through 8,400,000 forms of life, but only in this human form—and especially in the civilized human form—can we realize the Absolute Truth. Try to understand this example: A high government official is given all facilities—good living conditions, a good apartment, nice salary, many servants. What is the purpose? So that with a cool brain, a satisfied mind, he’ll be able to render valuable service to the state. Similarly, the human being has been given so much facility: plentiful grains, fruits, flowers, and milk, along with the intelligence to construct nice houses, roads, and cities. Why? So he can live peacefully and try to realize the Absolute Truth—not so he can accumulate bodily comforts and enjoy his senses. No.
In the Western world, for example, the people have been endowed with so many facilities for a comfortable life, but because they do not know how to utilize them, there is so much chaos and confusion. The young boys and girls are turning into hippies because they find the so-called comfortable life of their parents hackneyed. The same wine, the same women, the same motorcar, the same road—it has become disgusting to them.
That is nature’s way, because human beings are not meant to live a comfortable life of sense gratification. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.10], human life is meant for tattva-jijnasa, inquiry into the Absolute Truth. Earn money, live comfortably, but utilize the bulk of your time for realizing the Absolute Truth. That is the aim of our life.
Now, since our only business is realizing the Absolute Truth, we must know what that Absolute Truth is. This is stated in the Vedanta-sutra [1.1.2]: janmady asya yatah. “The Absolute Truth, or Brahman, is the original cause of everything, the cause of all causes.” And who is that cause of all causes? The Brahma-samhita states, isvarah paramah krsnah . . . sarva-karana-karanam: “Krsna, the Supreme Controller, is the cause of all causes.”
So, our inquiry into the Absolute Truth begins when we ask, “Why have I come into this material world? Why am I suffering the threefold miseries of life? * [*The threefold miseries are those caused by one’s own body and mind, those caused by other living beings,and those caused by naturaldisturbances.] I do not wish to die, but death is forced upon me. I do not want to become old, but old age is forced upon me. Why?” These are the proper inquiries for a human being.
But unfortunately most people aren’t interested in these questions. They’re simply interested in asking, “Where is money? Where is money? Where is money?” As Sukadeva Gosvami says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.1.3],
nidraya hriyate naktam
vyavayena ca va vayah
diva carthehaya rajan
“People are spoiling their nights simply by sleeping or sex, and during the day they are working very hard to get some money. And if they get money, then they waste their time spending it for relatives, children, and soon.”
We should not spoil our lives in this way. Life’s purpose is different. The problem is that the people of the modern civilization do not know that the purpose of life is to realize Krsna, or Visnu (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum). They are trying to make political adjustments or social adjustments to solve their many problems. The United Nations has been trying to maintain peace in the world for forty years, but still war is going on between many nations, although everyone is busy in politics and diplomacy. This is not the way the problems of life can be solved.
The solution to the problems of life can actually be found in this Krsna consciousness movement. Those who are intelligent should study this movement and try to apply Krsna consciousness in all fields of activity—political, religious, economic, social. This is the real inquiry into the Absolute Truth.
Now, this verse of the Bhagavatam describes how one can become interested in taking advantage of the real value of human life. The value of human life is that we can inquire into the Absolute Truth, but how can one develop the inclination to inquire in this way? Normally, this inclination is there in everyone’s heart, but now it has been covered by artificial propensities. Lord Caitanya says, nitya-siddha krsna-prema sadhya kabhu naya: “Love for Krsna is eternally within everyone’s heart; it is not an artificial imposition on the mind.” Naturally, every sane man has the tendency to ask, “What am I? What is God? What is my relationship with Him? Why am I suffering?” There are so many questions one should ask.
So, here it is suggested that if you are actually serious about tattva-jijnasa, inquiring into the Absolute Truth, you must have some preliminary faith (sraddha). The first thing is faith (adau sraddha). That is the beginning of Krsna conscious life. Srila Rupa Gosvami* [*Srila Rupa Gosvami is an exalted devotee of Krsna who lived in the sixteenth century and wrote many books in Sanskrit delineating the science of Krsna consciousness.] confirms this; he has given a formula for attaining the perfectional stage of life, love of God,and he says it begins with faith.
We should always remember that this Krsna consciousness movement is teaching people how to love God. This is the sum and substance of our movement. Unfortunately, people have no idea of who God is, or of what His form is—what to speak of loving Him. Generally they think God has no form. If anyone has advanced a little in spiritual life, he comes to the point of nirakara, or nirvisesa-brahman, the formless conception of the Absolute Truth. That is the first step in God realization. But beyond that they don’t want to proceed; they think the Brahman stage is final. But it is not final. You have to advance further and realize Paramatma, the Supersoul in the heart. And finally you have to advance to the point of realizing Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord.
So, we are teaching people how to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That means one who has surpassed the realm of Brahman and Paramatma—he can understand the process for loving God. But if you have no idea of God, how can you love Him? You cannot love the air or the sky. You must love a person, with form. But in the beginning we have no idea of what the form of God is. Therefore the sastra says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: “The supreme controller is Krsna, and He has an eternal form of bliss and knowledge.” We have to have faith in these descriptions.
Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore says, adau sraddha: “In the beginning one must have a little faith.” We must have the firm conviction that if we love Krsna, or God, this is the perfection of our lives. We must be firmly convinced that if we simply surrender unto the lotus feet of Krsna, He will save us from all suffering. He assures us of this in the Bhagavad-gita [18.66]: aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami. “Do not worry. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions.”
People suffer on account of sinful activities. The miseries we are suffering now are the reactions of our past sinful activities, and by performing sinful activities in this life we are preparing to enter another body for more suffering. Everyone within this material world has a material body, and it is to be understood that this body is due to our past sinful activities. Therefore, the Bhagavatam [5.5.4] says, we should not commit any more sins: na sadhu manye yata atmano ‘yam asann api klesada asa dehah. Because we have these bodies, we are suffering the threefold miseries, so why should we act in such a way that we will have to take another body and continue our term of suffering? And we may not get a human body in our next life. Suppose we get the body of a tree. Then we’ll have to stand for hundreds of years, suffering scorching heat, shivering cold, and blasting wind.
The problem is that people have no knowledge that the spirit soul is eternal, that it is transmigrating through different types of bodies and suffering different types of miserable conditions. Out of ignorance people think, “I now have a very nice body. I am eating nicely, sleeping nicely, mating nicely.” But this is the business of the hogs and dogs; it is not the business of a human being. A human being must be serious about understanding the value of life and prepare himself for the next life.
In the next life you should go back to Krsna. He says in the Bhagavad-gita [15.6], yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama: “Those who return to My supreme abode never have to return to this miserable material world.” Krsna comes here to this world. He incarnates here, to canvass, “My dear sons, please come back home. Why are you suffering here? Why have you created so much rascaldom—politics and economics, this and that? So many things are encumbering you. Just please come to Me; you’ll be happy.” This is the whole instruction of the Bhagavad-gita.
When Krsna comes He shows us His Vrndavana pastimes and invites us: “You can dance with Me also. You can play with Me just like the cowherd boys. And I shall give you protection. There are so many demons coming to attack us, but I’ll protect you.” Jolly life—anandamayo ‘bhyasat. This is Krsna consciousness.
Krsna comes personally to invite us back home, but we are so stubborn that we do not take to this Krsna consciousness. In the Bhagavad-gita [7.15], Krsna says, na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. These are the classes of men who do not surrender unto Krsna. Who are they? First, duskrtis, those who are always engaged in sinful activities. Then, mudhas, rascals without any knowledge. Next, naradhamas, the lowest of mankind. This human form of life is meant for understanding Krsna and surrendering unto Him, but they’ll not do that. They’re busy doing so much rascaldom, but they’ll not surrender to Krsna. This is the business of the naradhamas.
Now, you may say, “Oh, there are so many educated persons—B.A.’s, M.A.’s, Ph.D.’s—who do not take to Krsna consciousness. Are they all naradhamas, the lowest of mankind?” Yes. The immediate answer is yes. “After passing such big, big examinations they have become naradhamas?” Yes. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura confirms it: jada-vidya jato mayara vaibhava. “Materialistic education is simply an expansion of maya, illusion.” The advancement of materialistic education is making people more and more attached to this material world. Human life should be used to attain jnana-vairagya, knowledge and detachment. We should try to acquire knowledge about the value of life, and when we have actually attained to that platform of knowledge we should be detached from this material world. That is required. But what is happening? There is no knowledge of the value of life, and people are simply becoming more and more attached to this material world. Therefore Krsna says that the advancement of materialistic education means mayayapahrta-jnana: “The illusory energy has plundered the real purpose of knowledge.” The conclusion is that the big materialistic scholars are all naradhamas, the lowest of human beings.
Now, why is this happening to so many people? Asuram bhavam asritah: because they have taken shelter of the philosophy of atheism. “There is no God,” they say. “Why are you going to the temple? There is no God.” Or else they say, “Everyone is God. I am God. You are God. God is everywhere—except in the temple.” They actually preach this philosophy: “God is everywhere, so why are you going to the temple?” That means they think that God must be everywhere except in the temple. So, this nonsense is going on, and therefore these big, big atheistic scholars are all naradhamas, the lowest of mankind.
Don’t follow these naradhamas. Be faithful. Try to understand God from those who are actually followers of God (evam parampara-praptam). If you try to learn about the Absolute Truth from those in the disciplic succession coming from Krsna, you can understand your relationship with God and how you can get out of the miserable conditions of material life. This is possible.
So, everything begins with faith (sraddha). For example, the people here have come with a little faith. That faith is like a spark. Now you have to fan it so that it becomes a blazing fire. How? Srila Rupa Gosvami has given us the formula. If you have a little faith in the Absolute Truth, Bhagavan, then the next step is association with sadhus (sadhu-sanga). Who is a sadhu? Sadhu means “devotee of Krsna.” It is not that a sadhu is one who has a big beard and a moustache and orange clothes but he is without any sense of Krsna. He’s not a sadhu. A sadhu is one who is fully engaged in the service of Krsna. He has no other business than to love Krsna. This is the symptom of a sadhu.
Then, the next step is bhajana-kriya, taking up the process of Krsna consciousness a little seriously. For example, first of all these boys and girls came to one of our centers out of inquisitiveness, and they associated with the devotees. Then gradually their faith increased and they began chanting Hare Krsna and trying to understand our philosophy. Then they came forward: “Swamiji, please give me initiation.” This is the effect of sadhu-sanga, association with the devotees.
This Krsna consciousness movement is meant for giving everyone the opportunity to associate with devotees of Krsna.By associating with devotees, one will also become a devotee. If you associate with drunkards, you gradually become a drunkard, but if you associate with devotees, you gradually become a devotee. This is a natural sequence.
Now, the next stage is anartha-nivrtti—being cleansed of all sinful activities. Actually, unless you are free from all sinful activities you cannot engage yourself in devotional service. Krsna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28]: yesam tv anta-gatam papam . . . bhajante main drdha-vratah. “One can become firmly fixed in devotional service when one is freed from anarthas—unwanted things, or sinful activities.”
So, these are the different steps in the process of attaining love of God. First you must have a little preliminary faith, then you must associate with devotees, then take up the process, and then come to the stage of freedom from all unwanted habits. When all your unwanted habits are vanquished, you’ll have firm faith, nistha, and be able to continue steadily up to prema, love of God.