by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
An Introduction to Krishna Consciousness
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for kindly participating in this Krishna consciousness movement. When this society was registered in 1966 in New York, a friend suggested that it be named the Society for God Consciousness. He thought that the name Krishna was sectarian. The dictionary also says that Krishna is a Hindu god’s name. But in actuality if any name can be attributed to God, it is Krishna.
Actually God has no particular name. By saying He has no name, we mean that no one knows how many names He has. Since God is unlimited, His names also must be unlimited. Therefore we cannot settle on one name. For instance, Krishna is sometimes called Yasoda-nandana, the son of mother Yasoda; or Devakinandana, the son of Devaki; or Vasudevanandana, the son of Vasudeva; or Nandanandana, the son of Nanda. Sometimes He is called Partha-sarathi, indicating that He acted as the charioteer of Arjuna, who is sometimes called Partha, the son of Prtha.
God has many dealings with His many devotees, and according to those dealings, He is called certain names. Since He has innumerable devotees and innumerable relations with them, He also has innumerable names. We cannot hit on any one name. But the name Krishna means “all-attractive.” God attracts everyone; that is the definition of God. We have seen many pictures of Krishna, and we see that He attracts the cows, calves, birds, beasts, trees, plants, and even the water in Vrndavana. He is attractive to the cowherd boys, to the gopis, to Nanda Maharaja, to the Pandavas and to all human society. Therefore if any particular name can be given to God, that name is Krishna.
Parasara Muni, a great sage and the father of Vasudeva, who compiled all the Vedic literatures, gave the following definition of God:
Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is thus defined by Parasara Muni as one who is full in six opulences-who has full strength, fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty and renunciation.
Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the proprietor of all riches. There are many rich men in the world, but no one can claim that he possesses all the wealth. Nor can anyone claim that no one is richer than he. We understand from Srimad-Bhagavatam, however, that when Krishna was present on this earth He had 16,108 wives, and each wife lived in a palace made of marble and bedecked with jewels. The rooms were filled with furniture made of ivory and gold, and there was great opulence everywhere. These descriptions are all given vividly in Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the history of human society we cannot find anyone who had 16,000 wives or 16,000 palaces. Nor did Krishna go to one wife one day and another wife another day. No, He was personally present in every palace at the same time. This means that He expanded Himself in 16,108 forms. This is impossible for an ordinary man, but it is not very difficult for God. If God is unlimited, He can expand Himself in unlimited forms, otherwise there is no meaning to the word “unlimited.” God is omnipotent; He can maintain not only 16,000 wives but 16,000,000 and still encounter no difficulty, otherwise there is no meaning to the word “omnipotent.”
These are all attractive features. We experience in this material world that if a man is very rich, he is attractive. In America, Rockefeller and Ford are very attractive because of their riches. They are attractive even though they do not possess all the wealth of the world. How much more attractive, then, is God, who is the possessor of all riches.
Similarly, Krishna has unlimited strength. His strength was present from the moment of His birth. When Krishna was only three months old, the Putana demon attempted to kill Him, but instead she was killed by Krishna. That is God. God is God from the beginning. He does not become God by some meditation or mystic power. Krishna is not that type of God. Krishna was God from the very beginning of His appearance.
Krishna also has unlimited fame. Of course, we are devotees of Krishna and know of Him and glorify Him, but apart from us, many millions in the world are aware of the fame of Bhagavad-gita. In all countries all over the world Bhagavad-gita is read by philosophers, psychologists and religionists. We are also finding very good sales with our Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This is because the commodity is pure gold. There are many editions of Bhagavad-gita, but they are not pure. Ours is selling more because we are presenting Bhagavad-gita as it is. The fame of Bhagavad-gita isKrishna’s fame.
Beauty, another opulence, is possessed unlimitedly by Krishna. Krishna Himself is very beautiful, as are all His associates. Those who were pious in a previous life receive an opportunity in this material world to take birth in good families and good nations. The American people are very rich and beautiful, and these opulences are a result of pious activities. All over the world people are attracted to the Americans because they are advanced in scientific knowledge, riches, beauty and so on. This planet is an insignificant planet within the universe, yet within this planet, one country—America—has so many attractive features. We can just imagine, then, how many attractive features must be possessed by God, who is the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation. How beautiful He must be He who has created all beauty.
A person is attractive not only because of his beauty, but also because of his knowledge. A scientist or philosopher may be attractive because of his knowledge, but what knowledge is more sublime than that given by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita? There is no comparison in the world to such knowledge. At the same time, Krishna possesses full renunciation (vairagya). So many things are working under Krishna’s direction in this material world, but actually Krishna is not present here. A big factory may continue to work, although the owner may not be present. Similarly, Krishna’s potencies are working under the direction of His assistants, the demigods. Thus Krishna Himself is aloof from the material world. This is all described in the revealed scriptures.
God, therefore, has many names according to His activities, but because He possesses so many opulences and because with these opulences He attracts everyone, He is called Krishna. The Vedic literature asserts that God has many names, but Krishna is the principal name.
The purpose of this Krishna consciousness movement is to propagate God’s name, God’s glories, God’s activities, God’s beauty and God’s love. There are many things within this material world, and all of them are within Krishna. The most prominent feature of this material world is sex, and that also is present in Krishna. We are worshiping Radha and Krishna, and attraction exists between them, but material attraction and spiritual attraction are not the same. In Krishna, sex is real, but here in the material world it is unreal. Everything we deal with here is present in the spiritual world, but here it has no real value. It is only a reflection. In store windows we see many mannequins, but no one cares about them because everyone knows that they are false. A mannequin may be very beautiful, but still it is false. When people see a beautiful woman, however, they are attracted because they think she is real. In actuality, the so-called living are also dead because this body is simply a lump of matter, and as soon as the soul leaves the body, no one would care to see the socalled beautiful body of the woman. The real factor, the real attracting force, is the spiritual soul. In the material world everything is made of dead matter; therefore it is simply an imitation. The reality of things exists in the spiritual world. Those who have read Bhagavad-gita can understand what the spiritual world is like, for there it is described.
paras tasmat tu bhavo ‘nyo
‘vyakto ‘vyaktat sanatanah
yah sa sarvesu bhutesu
nasyatsu na vinasyati
“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Bg. 8.20)
Scientists are attempting to calculate the length and breadth of this material world, but they cannot begin. It will take them thousands of years simply to travel to the nearest star. And what to speak of the spiritual world? Since we cannot know the material world, how can we know what is beyond it? The point is that we must know from authoritative sources.
The most authoritative source is Krishna, for He is the reservoir of all knowledge. No one is wiser or more knowledgeable than Krishna. informs us that beyond this material world is a spiritual sky, which is filled with innumerable planets. That sky is far, far greater than material space, which constitutes only one fourth of the entire creation. Similarly, the living entities within the material world are but a small portion of the living entities throughout the creation. This material world is compared to a prison, and just as prisoners represent only a small percentage of the total population, so the living entities within the material world constitute but a fragmental portion of all living entities.
Those who have revolted against God-who are criminal-are placed in this material world. Sometimes criminals say that they don’t care for the government, but nonetheless they are arrested and punished. Similarly, living entities who declare their defiance of God are placed in the material world.
Originally the living entities are all part and parcel of God and are related to Him just as sons are related to their father. Christians also consider God the supreme father. Christians go to church and pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” The conception of God as father is also in Bhagavad-gita.
“It should be understood that all the species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Bg. 14.4)
There are 8,400,000 species of life-including aquatics, plants, birds, beasts, insects and human beings. Of the human species, most are uncivilized, and out of the few civilized species only a small number of human beings take to religious life. Out of many so-called religionists, most identify themselves by designations, claiming, “I am Hindu, I am Moslem, I am Christian, and so on.” Some engage in philanthropic work, some give to the poor and open schools and hospitals. This altruistic process is called karma-kanda. Out of millions of these karma-kandis, there may be one jnani, a term meaning “one who knows.” Out of millions of jnanis, one may be liberated, and out of billions of liberated souls, one may be able to understand Krishna. This, then, is the position of Krishna. As Krishna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita:
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)
Understanding Krishna, then, is very difficult. Although the understanding of God is a difficult subject, God explains Himself in Bhagavad-gita. He says, “I am like this, and I am like this. The material nature is like this, and the spiritual nature is like that. The living entities are like this, and the Supreme Soul is like that.” Thus everything is completely described in Bhagavad-gita. Although understanding God is very difficult, it is not difficult when God Himself gives us His own knowledge. Actually that is the only process by which we can understand God. Tc understand God by our own speculation is not possible, for God is unlimited and we are limited. Our knowledge and perception are both very limited, so how can we understand the unlimited? If we simply accept the version of the unlimited, we can come to understand Him. That understanding is our perfection.
Speculative knowledge of God will lead us nowhere. If a boy wants to know who his father is, the simple process is to ask his mother. The mother will then say, “This is your father.” This is the way of perfect knowledge. Of course, one may speculate about his father, wondering if this is the man or if that is the man, and one may wander over the whole city, asking, “Are you my father? Are you my father?” The knowledge derived from such a process, however, will always remain imperfect. Indeed, one will never find his father in this way. The simple process is to take the knowledge from an authority-in this case, the mother. She simply says, “My dear boy, here is your father.” In this way our knowledge is perfect. Transcendental knowledge is similar. I was just previously speaking of a spiritual world. This spiritual world is not subject to our speculation. God says, “There is a spiritual world, and that is My headquarters.” In this way we receive knowledge from Krishna, the best authority. We may not be perfect, but our knowledge is perfect because it is received from the perfect source.
This Krishna consciousness movement is meant to give perfect knowledge to human society. By such knowledge one can understand who he is, who God is, what the material world is, why we have come here, why we must undergo so much tribulation and misery, and why we have to die. Of course, no one wants to die, but death will come. No one wants to become an old man, but still old age comes. No one wants to suffer from disease, but surely enough disease comes. These are the real problems of human life, and they are yet to be solved. Civilization attempts to improve eating, sleeping, mating and defense, but these are not the real problems. A man sleeps, and a dog sleeps. A man is not more advanced simply because he has a nice apartment. In both cases, the business is the same-sleeping. Man has discovered atomic weapons for defense, but the dog also has teeth and claws and can also defend himself. In both cases, defense is there. Man cannot say that because he has the atomic bomb he can conquer the entire world or the entire universe. That is not possible. Man may possess an elaborate method for defense, or a gorgeous method for eating, sleeping or mating, but that does not make him advanced. We may call his advancement polished animalism and that is all.
Real advancement means knowing God. If we are lacking knowledge of God, we are not actually advanced. Many rascals deny the existence of God because if there is no God, they can continue their sinful activities. It may be very nice for them to think that there is no God, but God will not die simply because we deny Him. God is there, and His administration is there. By His orders the sun is rising, the moon is rising, the water flows, and the ocean abides by the tide. Thus everything functions under His order. Since everything is going on very nicely, how can one realistically think that God is dead? If there is mismanagement, we may say that there is no government, but if there is good management, how can we say that there is no government? Just because people do not know God, they say that God is dead, that there is no God, or that God has no form. But we are firmly convinced that there is God and that Krishna is God. Therefore we are worshiping Him. That is the process of Krishna consciousness. Try to understand it.