A lecture given in October 1968
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
At the University of Washington, in Seattle.
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.”
Everyone in this material world is born into ignorance, or darkness. Actually, the nature of this material world is that it is dark. It may be lighted with sunlight, moonlight, fire, or electricity, but its nature is dark. That is a scientific fact. So everyone born in this material world—from Brahma, the chief personality in the topmost planet of this universe, down to the ant—is born into the darkness of ignorance.
Now, the Vedic injunction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: “Don’t remain in darkness: come to the light.” And for this, a spiritual master is needed.It is the duty of the spiritual master to open the eyes of the person in darkness with the torch of knowledge, and one should offer one’s respectful obeisances unto such a spiritual master.
People should not he kepi in darkness; they should he brought into the light. Therefore, in every human society there is a religious institution of some sort. What is the purpose of Hinduism, Mohammedanism. Christianity, or Buddhism? The purpose is to bring people to the light. That is the purpose of religion.
And what is that light? That light is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: “The codes of religion are directly given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” In the state there are laws that you must follow. The head of the state gives some laws, and if you are a good citizen you obey those laws and live peacefully. These laws may be different according to time. circumstances, or people—the state laws of India may not agree cent percent with the laws of the United Slates—but in every state there are laws that you must obey. One has to abide by the law. Otherwise one is considered the lowest in society, a criminal, and is subject to punishment. That is the general principle.
Similarly, religion means to obey the laws of God. That’s all. And if a human being does not obey the laws of God, he is no better than an animal. All scriptures, all religious principles are meant to elevate man from the animal platform to the human platform. Therefore, a person without religious principles, without God consciousness, is no better than an animal. That is the verdict of the Vedic literature:
samanyam etat pasubhir naranam
dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso
dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah
Eating, sleeping, sex, and defense—these four principles are common to both human beings and animals. The distinction between human life and animal life is that a man can search after God but an animal cannot. That is the difference. Therefore a man without that urge for searching after God is no better than an animal.
Unfortunately, at the present moment in every state and every society people are trying to forget God. Some people publicly say there is no God; others say that if there is a God, He is dead; and so on. They have built such a so-called advanced civilization, with so many skyscraper buildings, but they are forgetting that all of their advancement is dependent on God, on Krsna. This is a very precarious condition for the human society.
There is a very nice story that describes what happens to a society that forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Once a rat was being troubled by a cat. So the rat went to a saintly person who had mystic powers and said, “My dear sir, I am very much troubled.”
“What is the difficulty?”
The rat said, “A cat always chases me, so I have no peace of mind.”
“Then what do you want?”
“Please make me into a cat.”
“All right, become a cat.”
After a few days, the cat came to the saintly person and said, “My dear sir, again I am in trouble.”
“What is that trouble?”
“The dogs are chasing me.”
“Then what do you want?”
“Make me a dog.”
“All right, become a dog.”
Then after a few days the dog came and said, “Sir, again I am in trouble.”
“What is the trouble?”
“The foxes are chasing me.”
“Then, what do you want?”
“To become a fox.”
“All right, become a fox.”
Then the fox came and said, “Oh, tigers are chasing me.”
“Then, what do you want?”
“I want to become a tiger.”
“All right, become a tiger.”
Now the tiger began to stare at the saintly person. “I shall eat you,” the tiger said.
“Oh, you shall eat me? I have made you a tiger, and you want to eat me!”
“Yes. I am a tiger, and now I shall eat you.”
Then the saintly person cursed him, “Again become a rat!”
And the tiger became a rat.
So, our human civilization is like this. The other day I was reading the World Almanac. It said that within the next hundred years people will be living underground—like rats. Scientific advancement has created the atomic bomb to kill men, and when it will be used people will have to go underground and become like rats. From tiger to rat. That is going to happen; it is nature’s law.
If you defy the laws of your state, you will be put into difficulty. Similarly, if you continue to defy the authority, the supremacy of the Supreme Lord, you will suffer. Again you will become rats. As soon as the atomic bombs explode, all civilization on the surface of the globe will be finished. You may not like to think of these things—they may be very unpalatable—but these are the facts.
Satyam grhyat priyam grhyan ma priyah satyam apriyam. It is a social convention that if you want to speak the truth you should speak it very palatably. But we are not meant for social convention. We are preachers, servants of God, and we must speak the real truth, whether you like it or not.
A godless civilization cannot be happy. That is a fact. So we have started the Krsna consciousness movement to awaken this godless civilization. Just try to love God; this is our simple request. You have love within you—you want to love somebody. A young boy tries to love a young girl; a young girl tries to love a young boy. This is natural, because the loving propensity is within everybody. But we have created circumstances in which our love is being frustrated. Everyone is frustrated—husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly. Why? Because we have forgotten to love the Supreme Person. That is our disease.
So the purpose of religion is to train people how to love God. That is the purpose of all religion. Whether your religion is Christianity or Hinduism or Mohammedanism, the purpose of your religion is to train you how to love God, because that is your constitutional position.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6] it is said, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. Now, in English dictionaries this word dharma is generally translated as “religion,” a kind of faith, but the actual meaning of dharma is “essential characteristic.” For example, sugar’s dharma, or essential characteristic, is sweetness. If you are given some white powder and you find that it is not sweet, you will at once say, “Oh, this is not sugar; it is something else.” So sweetness is the dharma of sugar. Similarly, a salty taste is the essential characteristic of salt, and pungency is the essential characteristic of chili.
Now, what is your essential characteristic? You are a living entity, and you have to understand your essental characteristic. That characteristic is your dharma, or religion—not the Christian religion, the Hindu religion, this religion, that religion. Your eternal, essential characteristic—that is your religion.
And what is that characteristic? Your essential characteristic is that you want to love somebody, and therefore you want to serve him. That is your essential characteristic. You love your family, you love your society, you love your community, you love your country. And because you love them, you want to serve them. That tendency to engage in loving service is your essential characteristic, your dharma. Whether you are a Christian, a Mohammedan, or a Hindu, this characteristic will remain. Suppose today you are a Christian. Tomorrow you may become a Hindu, but your serving mood, that loving spirit, will stay with you. Therefore, the tendency to love and serve others is your dharma, or your religion. This is the universal form of religion.
Now, you have to apply your loving service in such a way that you will be completely satisfied. Because your loving spirit is now misplaced, you are not happy. You are frustrated and confused. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us how to apply our spirit of loving devotion perfectly:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
That religion is first class which trains you to love God. And by this religion you will become completely satisfied.
If you develop your love of God to the fullest extent, you will become a perfect person. You will feel perfection within yourself. You are hankering after satisfaction, full satisfaction, but that full satisfaction can be obtained only when you love God. Loving God is the natural function of every living entity. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan. Just try to develop your love of God. Then your religion is very nice. Otherwise it is simply a waste of time (srama eva hi kevalam). If after executing rituals in a particular type of religion throughout your whole life you have no love for God, then you have simply wasted your time.
The Krsna consciousness movement is the postgraduate movement of all kinds of religion. We are inviting all Christians, Muslims, and Hindus—everyone—to please come associate with us and try to love God. And the method is very simple: just chant His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
All my students are Americans, and they have come from either Christian or Jewish families. None of them have come from Hindu families. So the process I have given them—the process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—is universal. It is not Hindu, or Indian.
The Sanskrit word mantra is a combination of two syllables, man and tra. Man means “mind,” and tra means “deliverance.” Therefore a mantra is that which delivers you from mental concoction, from hovering on the mental plane. So if you chant this mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—very soon you’ll find that you are coming from the darkness to the light.
I do not wish to take much of your time, but I simply want to impress upon you the importance of chanting Hare Krsna. Try an experiment: Chant Hare Krsna for one week, and see how much spiritual progress you make. We don’t charge anything, so there is no loss. But there is great profit; that is guaranteed. Therefore please chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.