by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The position, the special attractions and the opulences of Krishna can be understood only by devotional service (Bhakti). If we wish to gain the favor of a great personality, we must satisfy him by our service. Even in this material world, one cannot understand a great man by speculation alone. If we wish to understand what a great man is, we have to satisfy him with our service, friendship and love, and he will disclose what he has to offer us. Bhakti isa similar process. If we wish to know Krishna, His opulences and His special features, as well as His special attractive qualities, we must understand Him through this process of devotional service called Krishna consciousness. Indeed, in the last chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krishna Himself says:
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter the kingdom of God.” (Bg. 18.55)
In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says:
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kascin mam vetti tattvatah
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Bg. 7.3)
In other words, the vast majority of men are engaged in the animal propensities to eat, sleep, be merry, enjoy and mate a little. Of millions of these, only one will strive to know Krishna as He is, and of millions of these, only one will succeed. Only those who have attained perfection can understand what Krishna actually is. That perfection and understanding can be attained by bhakti, devotion, as indicated also in the Eleventh Chapter:
bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya
aham evam-vidho ‘rjuna
jnatum drastum ca tattvena
pravestum ca parantapa
“My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter the mysteries of My understanding.” (Bg. 11.54)
The Most Charitable Personality
One can enter the abode of Krishna when one understands perfectly what Krishna is. Of course one cannot understand Krishna perfectly, but only insofar as one’s capacity to understand Him. The understanding must be of Krishna as He actually is (tattvatah).Otherwise, there is no entrance into His abode. Lord Caitanya instructed Sanatana Gosvami about Krishna through devotional service, and His instructions are very important. We should understand and note them as much as we do Bhagavad-gita. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna gives instructions directly to Arjuna about fruitive activity, philosophical speculation and the yoga system. Ultimately, however, Krishna instructed Arjuna, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” (Bg. 18.66) Lord Caitanya, however, by His special blessings, gives what even Krishna did not give, what Krishna hesitated to give, for Krishna knew that if He spoke of abandonment of duty (dharma) and total surrender unto Him in the very beginning of Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna would not accept it. Actually it was not necessary to elaborately go through so many phases of instructions in Bhagavad-gita, for the most confidential instruction was that Arjuna give up everything and just surrender unto Him. Although this is the actual instruction of Bhagavad-gita, it was not spoken in the beginning. This is because there are many types of human beings, and the paths of jnana and yoga are required for them. The special mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, is that He directly gives this highest instruction. What Krishna could not give directly on the battlefield is given directly by Lord Krishna Caitanya, Krishna in His incarnation as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore Lord Caitanya is considered the most munificent, the most charitable personality. Indeed, Rupa Gosvami offered his respects to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in this way.
namne gaura-tvise namah
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatara, even Krishna Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given—pure love of Krishna.”
To understand Krishna is very difficult, and many great scholars, philosophers and personalities are frustrated in their attempts, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so merciful and magnanimous that He is directly offering Krishna-prema, love of Krishna.
Blind Faith Rejected
The way of receiving knowledge of Krishna is also indicated by Sanatana Gosvami. He fell at the feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and said, “My dear Lord, I have simply wasted my time by trying to gratify my senses. That is my only qualification. I belong to the lowest class of men, and my associates are also of the lowest type. I have fallen, and I am the lowest of all. These are my qualifications.” In actuality Sanatana Gosvami belonged to a high-caste brahmana family, but because he accepted service in the Moslem government, he did not consider himself a brahmana. Traditionally, brahmanas would never accept service of any type—they would starve first. Because Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami accepted service, they were considered to be outside the brahmana community. Although the social conditions at that time were very strict, Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami.
We should not think, however, that Sanatana Gosvami’s position was unique. Nor should we consider ourselves as belonging to this community or that community, for in any case we have all fallen from our eternal position. When approaching a spiritual master, one should not be puffed up by his so-called qualifications. One should forget whatever nonsense he has learned and approach the spiritual master as a blind slave. This is the qualification. One must set aside his conceptions of “I believe,” and “I think,” and “I cannot.” Thus Sanatana Gosvami is indicating that because he is simply absorbed with the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, because he has fallen from his eternal position, because he is ostracized and his association is low, and because he has wasted his time, he does not know what is actually beneficial to him. This is his statement, although he was very aristocratic and was a learned Sanskrit scholar.
This is not a case of false humility, for Sanatana Gosvami was a devotee,. and unless he actually felt something to be so, he would not say it. Although Sanatana Gosvami was called a pandita, a learned man, he did not feel that he deserved this title, because he did not know the goal of life. Our nature is that although we may be fool number one, if someone addresses us as a learned person, we accept it. This is our illusion: we never accept ourselves as a fool, but think, “Who can be greater than me? I can think for myself. What is the need of a spiritual master? I can become a religious leader, I can become such and such.” This is our mentality, but this mentality should be sacrificed before approaching a spiritual master. First one must select a spiritual master, and this requires some knowledge, and then when one is sure that the spiritual master is bona fide, he should offer himself submissively. When Sanatana Gosvami first met Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he did not surrender himself, but after hearing Him he realized the greatness of His message and then submitted himself. This then is the process. There is no question of blind faith.
Knowledge Through Devotion
Throughout Bhagavad-gita Krishna emphasizes the importance of understanding Him in truth, and it is Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu who bestows this knowledge of Krishna through the process of love and devotion. Simply understanding that there is God is not sufficient; we must understand God in fact. Nor is it sufficient to consider God our order supplier. Krishna must be known in truth (tattvena), and it is Lord Caitanya who explains Him in truth. As mentioned before, it is not possible to understand God to the fullest extent, but to the extent of our human capabilities. Krishna has explained about Himself in Bhagavad-gita, and that is sufficient, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu offers even more information. Of all of the activities of the living entity, Krishna is both the enjoyer and the master, but those who are not aware of this fall down from their true relationship with Him:
aham hi sarva-yajnanam
bhokta ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mam abhijananti
tattvenatas cyavanti te
“I am the only enjoyer and the only object of sacrifice. Those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.” (Bg. 9.24)
Throughout Bhagavad-gita we find that Krishna says, “Just surrender to Me, and I will give you all protection.” Lord Caitanya, as Krishna Himself in the role of a devotee, goes further in His explanation. He advises surrender, but in addition He explains the activities following surrender. Following surrender, there is worship, and the proper process for worship is described by Lord Caitanya and His immediate followers, especially Rupa Gosvami.
The impersonalists, or Mayavadis, contend that God has no form, that He is impersonal, and that therefore it is necessary to imagine a form of the Godhead in order to render worship or to meditate upon Him. However, this is refuted by Krishna. We should not think of God as void or impersonal, nor should we simply imagine a form of Him, nor should we worship demigods or spirits. All of this is discouraged in Bhagavad–gita:
yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino ‘pi mam
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Bg. 9.25)
Beyond The Material Universe
We have freedom of action, and God rewards us the results—whatever we want. If we worship material things, then we attain them. In other words, we remain on the material platform life after life. If we worship highly elevated living entities (the demigods) then we go to the worlds of these beings. Similarly, if we worship our ancestors, we will go to their worlds also. And if we wish to go to the planet where Krishna resides, known as Goloka Vrndavana, we have to worship Krishna. This is certainly not unreasonable; if we wish to attain a particular destination, we must purchase a ticket for that destination and not another. Bhagavad-gita explains that the planet of Krishna is different from others, for when one attains it he has no longer to return to this material world.
punar avartino ‘rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Bg. 8.16)
Regardless of where we go in this material world—even to the highest planets—we have to return, sometimes to a higher position, and sometimes to a lower. Just as the soul transmigrates from one body to another, it also transmigrates from one planet to another. We should attempt to go to that realm from which we do not have to return, and that is known as the realm of Vaikuntha, the spiritual sky, which is beyond the material universe. If we remain always in Krishna consciousness, our transfer to that planet of Krishna is guaranteed. It is a question of practice, for the mental condition that prevails at the time of death determines the form of body one acquires in the next life. Just as we have to prepare for examinations in an ordinary school, we also have to prepare for the examination known as death. If we at all want to transfer ourselves to that planet known as Krishnaloka, cintamani-dhama, then we have to practice. The human life is specifically meant for the practice of Krishna consciousness. Those who are even apprentices in this realm are already considered liberated, just as a sincere student who is preparing himself for his examinations may already be considered to have passed them. In other words, he prepares himself so thoroughly that his passing of the examination is guaranteed.
The method of preparing for the examination of death, the method of Krishna consciousness, is outlined by Krishna in this way:
yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Bg. 9.27)
The Loving Exchange
As stated before, we have to make friendship with Krishna. It is not possible to claim any favor of the Supreme, but if we approach Him with love it is said that He can actually be conquered. There are six principles of love by which one can understand that another person loves him. The first is dadati—when we love someone, we must give him something. The second is that we must take something from him. Next, we must give him something to eat and also accept what he gives to eat. One must also disclose his mind, and if the beloved is in difficulty, one must also hear him disclose his. We have to relate to God in this way. The beginning, therefore, is offering something. As stated before, this is not very difficult, for it is facilitated to such an extent in Bhagavad-gita that any poor man from any part of the world can make an offering that Krishna will accept.
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it:’ (Bg. 9.26)
These four items can be offered universally. No one is so poor that he cannot offer a leaf, or a flower, or a piece of fruit, or a little water. Indeed, it is not possible even to live without water; so there is no excuse for any living being not to make an offering due to having no offerable object. It is not the gift that is important, but the love with which it is offered. Love is the principal ingredient. Because the gifts are brought with love, Krishna accepts them.
God is full, but He accepts our devotional love. Love means that we should offer Krishna the most dear, the choicest, the best thing. It is not that we should keep sumptuous foods for ourselves and offer Krishna only a leaf and a little water. That is known as cheating, and of course it is not possible to conceal this cheating from Krishna. Since everything belongs to Krishna, it is really not possible to offer Him anything; therefore the only thing we are actually offering is our love. All goods and resources in the universe are supplied by Krishna; the same objects may be there, but if we utilize them to gratify our senses, we go to the darkest regions of the universe, and if we offer them to Krishna with love, these very objects become spiritualized and become a means for liberation.
The Consciousness for Peace
Simply by changing our consciousness we can spiritualize the whole world. The world is anxious for peace, and this is the actual method—change of consciousness. If we encroach upon God’s property and try to utilize it for our own purposes, then there is no possibility of peace. Everything in the world belongs to God—nay, everything in the creation—and it is necessary for us to acknowledge this. If we steal something from someone else, we cannot expect peace. Nor can we ever really expect to enjoy that stolen property, because we will always be anxious about being caught. Similarly, by stealing from God we become subject to apprehension by His police force, which is known as material nature. As soon as we use the property of God to gratify our own senses, nature will inflict miseries upon us. This is the law of nature and is clearly stated in Bhagavad-gita:
daivi hy esa gunamayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Bg. 7.14)
It is not in our power to surpass the stringent laws of material nature. Gunamayi refers to the three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Regardless of how strong we may think we are, the three qualities of material nature are stronger and will hold us under their sway. To extricate ourselves, we should not attempt to dominate nature by utilizing her resources for our own personal gratification but should offer whatever resources are there to the Supreme Lord and then partake of them. This is Krishna consciousness. The Lord is supplying us with everything, and all we need do is acknowledge it. If we offer things to God and God accepts them, He becomes our friend, and if God is our friend, we will not want anything. We will find ourselves totally fulfilled and will find that we have everything. There will be no anxiety, for once we know that Krishna is our friend and protector, we will become peaceful automatically.
A senior member of the Hare Krishna movement tells how Krishna consciousness has gone from East to West and back again.