Among the selected books of Vedic literature His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translated and wrote commentaries on, the trilogy known as Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unique. Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna books directly tell us what God is like in His original, personal form and what He and His liberated associates are doing in the eternal, spiritual world. In our temporary world of manifold miseries, one who properly understands Krsna’s transcendental activities can attain the transcendental platform of eternal existence in full bliss and knowledge. So the Krsna books provide much more than fascinating stories: they provide invaluable spiritual knowledge.
Upon first seeing the Krsna books, however, many people express doubts: “Isn’t this mythology? I can’t take this literally.” They conclude that Krsna is just as imaginary as popular heroes like Superman or the mythological gods of ancient lore. To such people I would say. Rather than reject Krsna as imaginary and the Krsna books as mythology, you should understand who Krsna is. Krsna is far more than a popular hero or cultural myth. He is the Absolute Truth, and His pastimes described in the Krsna books are transcendental. The Krsna books deal exclusively with the highest philosophical understanding of the cause of all causes.
Now one may ask, “How can the ultimate truth be a person?” And the answer is that Krsna’s personality is not limited or material. The Vedic sages address Him as Bhagavan, “He who possesses to an infinite degree the opulences of wealth, fame, beauty, knowledge, strength, and renunciation.” The Sanskrit word Krsna literally means “all-attractive” and is therefore the perfect name for the Supreme Being.
Because we have all had bitter experience that persons are always imperfect and mortal, we are prone to conclude that the Absolute Truth can have no personal form or activities. But Jiva Gosvami, the great sixteenth-century philosopher of Krsna consciousness, informs us that unless we accept the Absolute Truth as inconceivable we can never even begin to understand Him. In other words, Krsna is a person, but He is not a person like us—limited, frail, and mortal.
Still, there is another pressing objection to taking Krsna consciousness seriously: “Granted that there is a formidable and convincing philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and granted that the concept of God as the Supreme Person is valid. But how is all this relevant to us today? The people of the world are faced with the practical and urgent problems of economic and class struggles, and there is the imminent threat of nuclear war. So even if Krsna is God and is enjoying a life of eternal bliss with His devotees in the spiritual world, how does that help us here in our day-to-day predicaments?”
The answer is that unless we know the Absolute Truth, we can never solve problems arising from the immediate, relative truths. An expert physician knows that certain symptoms indicate a specific disease and that by curing the disease he can cure all the symptoms. Similarly, the world’s problems of conflict, scarcity, oppression, disease, and so on are merely symptoms of our ignorance of life’s real purpose: to know, serve, and love God. Unless our leaders themselves become enlightened in God consciousness and attack the root cause of social ills—widespread spiritual ignorance—no palliative measures can ever succeed in curing the body politic.
The human propensity for love has to be satisfied in terms of the real self and its spiritual needs, not just in terms of immediate physical, familial, or social needs. Our ultimate need is to understand our intimate loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. So Krsna is not irrelevant; rather, attempting to solve our problems without Him is irrelevant. Forgetting the Supreme Personality of Godhead and disobeying His codes of universal religion are the causes of all suffering. Careful study of the Krsna books, therefore, is not a waste of time but an activity of the utmost importance.
For those of us not interested in reading lengthy treatises on transcendental philosophy, Srila Prabhupada has presented the Krsna books in the attractive form of short stories comprising ninety chapters. The Krsna books are actually a summary study of the Tenth Canto of the Sanskrit scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describes Lord Krsna’s all-attractive pastimes. In the Krsna books Srila Prabhupada has made the essence of this most sublime Vedic literature accessible to modern readers all over the world.
The relevance of the Krsna books to our modern difficulties becomes even clearer when we consider the setting of the original narration of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The scene was a sacred forest in India five thousand years ago. The sage Sukadeva Gosvami narrated the pastimes of Lord Krsna to the emperor Pariksit, who had been cursed to die within seven days. By their practical example, these two exalted persons teach us that life’s ultimate purpose is to hear about, glorify, and remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead. King Pariksit was especially intent on hearing about Krsna, because he knew he would die in a matter of hours. He was confident that by hearing about Krsna during his last moments, he would attain the eternal, spiritual world and thus escape the cycle of birth and death.
Not only King Pariksit but every one of us should be aware of death at every moment. And since the purpose of life is to become fully Krsna conscious before death, hearing or reading about Krsna is our prime need. Thanks to Srila Prabhupada, his Krsna books let us fulfill this need in a most pleasurable way.—SDG