A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The recommended yoga for this age: chanting the holy names of God. City living affords little facility for the strict practice of physical yoga. Chanting Hare Krsna, however, is the foundation of the highest yoga yet can be executed anywhere. any time . Left. devotees from the New York City temple bring the Hare Krsna mantra to Broadway.
“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded, sacred place, lay kusa grass on the ground, and then cover the grass with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low. The yogi should then sit on the seat very firmly and practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart, and fixing the mind on one point.” [Bhagavad-gita 6.11-12]
These are Krsna’s practical instructions on how to execute mystic yoga. In the United States yoga is very popular, and there are many so-called yoga societies that follow various teachings. But here the Supreme Lord Himself is giving instructions on how to practice yoga. The first instruction concerns how to sit and where to sit. Fist one has to select a place where he can sit down and practice yoga. Krsna says it should be in a “sacred place,” which refers to a place of pilgrimage. In India the transcendentalists (the yogis and devotees) all leave home and reside in sacred places-such as Prayag, Mathura, Vrndavana, Hrsikesa, or Hardwar-and they practice yoga there. But in this age how many people are prepared to search out a sacred place? For their livelihood they have to live in a congested city. What is the question of finding a sacred place? But if one can’t find a sacred place, then how can he practice yoga, since that is the first instruction?
The answer is found in bhakti-yoga. In the bhakti-yoga system the sacred place is the Lord’s temple. A temple is nirguna, or transcendental. The Vedic injunction is that the city is the place of passion, the forest is the place of goodness, and the Lord’s temple is transcendental. If one lives in a city or a town, he is living in a passionate place. And if he doesn’t want to live in a passionate place, he can go to a forest-that is a place of goodness. But God’s temple is above passion and goodness. Therefore a temple is the only secluded place in this age. We cannot go to a secluded place in a forest; it is impossible. And if one makes a show of yoga practice in a so-called class and indulges in all kinds of nonsensical things, that is not real yoga. Here are the genuine instructions on how to practice yoga.
Concerning the actual process of meditation, the Brhan-naradiya Purana says that in the Kali-yuga (the present yuga, or age), when people in general are short-lived, slow in spiritual realization, and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is to chant the holy name of the Lord:
harer nama harer nama
harer nama eva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way. ” This chanting of Hare Krsna, which is the essence of the bhakti-yoga process, is universal, and it is so nice that even a child can take part in it. But other processes will not be feasible.
Two of these processes are astanga-yoga and jnana-yoga. The sitting postures and meditation comprise astanga-yoga, and jnana-yoga is an analytical and philosophical process by which one tries to understand what is Brahman and what is not Brahman (neti neti). Part of jnana-yoga consists of studying the Vedanta-sutra, which begins with these words: Janmady asya yatah. This aphorism gives us the hint that the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth, is that from which everything has emanated. Then we must try to understand what that Absolute Truth is. The nature of the Absolute Truth is explained in the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam: janmady asya yato ‘anvayad itaratas ca arthesu abhijnah svarat.
Now, if the Absolute Truth is the supreme cause of all emanations, then what are His symptoms? The Bhagavatam says that He must be cognizant. He’s not dead. And what kind of cognizance does He have? Anvayad itaratas carthesu: “He is directly and indirectly cognizant of all manifestations.” I am cognizant, as is every living being, but I do not know how many hairs there are on my body. And if I ask anyone else, “Do you know how many hairs you have on your, body?” he will not be able to answer. Another example of cognizance: I know I am eating, but I do not know how my internal processes are working—how the food is being transformed, how it is entering my bloodstream, how the blood is going through the arteries and veins. I do not know any of this. So, this kind of knowledge is not real knowledge.
But the Supreme, says the Bhagavatam, knows everything, directly and indirectly. God must know everything—He must know what is going on in every corner of His creation. In other words, the Supreme Truth, from whom everything has emanated, must be supremely cognizant (abhijnah). Now, one may say, “If God is so powerful, wise and cognizant, then He must have learned His knowledge from someone similar.” No. If a person has learned His knowledge from someone else, then he is not God. God is svarat, or independent. He knows everything automatically.
So, this is jnana-yoga: to investigate by philosophical inquiry the nature of the Supreme, from whom everything is emanating. And because the Supreme is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Bhagavatam teaches the supreme jnana-yoga and bhakti-yoga combined. In bhakti-yoga the target is the same as in the other yogas. The jnana-yoga tries to reach the supreme, ultimate, goal by philosophical analysis, the astanga-yogi tries to concentrate his mind on the Supreme, and the bhakti-yogi simply engages himself in serving the Supreme Lord so that he reveals Himself. The jnanis and mystic yogis try to understand the Lord by the ascending process of knowledge, and the bhaktas understand Him by the descending process.
For example, if we are in the darkness of night and we try to understand what the sun is by the ascending process, by shining our very powerful searchlight, we cannot see the sun. But if we use the descending process, then when the sun rises we understand it immediately. The ascending process is the process of induction—using our own endeavor to gain knowledge-and the descending process is deduction. Another example: Suppose I am trying to know whether man is mortal. If I go to my father and he says that man is mortal, and if I accept it, then I have understood the truth by the deductive process. But if I want to use the inductive process to learn whether man is mortal, then I have to study many thousands of men and see whether they are immortal or mortal. This will take so much time, and my knowledge will never be complete. But if I take the knowledge that man is mortal from a superior authority, then my knowledge is complete. Thus, in Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.14.29] it is said,
athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-
prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi
janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimno
na canya eko ‘pi ciram vicinvan
“My dear Lord, a person who has received a little favor from You can understand You very quickly. But those who are trying to understand You by the ascending process may go on speculating for millions of years, yet they will never understand You.”
The speculators come to the point of frustration and confusion. “God is zero,” they say. If God is zero, then how have so many forms come into being? God is not zero. The Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah: “Everything is generated from the Supreme.” Now, we have to study how it is generated. That is also explained in the Vedanta-sutra. Veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “ultimate.” So Vedanta means “the ultimate knowledge.” The ultimate knowledge is realization of the Supreme Lord.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, you said that we cannot comprehend the form of Krsna with our mind and senses. Then how are we to understand the form of Krsna that we see in the pictures and the murtis [statues]?
Srila Prabhupada: You should simply serve Him; then He will reveal Himself. You cannot understand Krsna by the ascending process. You have to serve Krsna, and Krsna will reveal Himself to you. This is stated in Bhagavad-gita [10.11]:
“Just as a special favor to those who always engage in My service, I vanquish all kinds of darkness and ignorance with the light of knowledge.” Krsna is within you, and when you are sincerely searching after Krsna by the devotional process, He reveals Himself to you. As Krsna says in the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, bhaktya mam abhijanati: “One can understand Me only by bhakti, the devotional process.” And what is bhakti? Bhakti is this: sravanam kirtanam visnoh, simply hearing and chanting about Visnu. This is the beginning of bhakti. So, if you simply hear talks on Krsna sincerely and submissively, then you will understand Krsna. Krsna will reveal Himself to you. Now we are hearing about Krsna from Bhagavad-gita and chanting His glories: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the beginning—sravanam kirtanam visnoh. Everything is done in relation to Visnu. The meditation is on Visnu, the bhakti is for Visnu—nothing is without Visnu. And Krsna is the original form of Visnu (Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam), the original form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So, if we follow this process of bhakti-yoga, then we’ll be able to understand the form of Krsna, without any doubt.
“One should hold one’s body, neck, and head in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” [Bg. 6.13-14]
The goal of life is to know Krsna, who is situated within the heart of every living being as Paramatma, the four-handed Visnu form. The astanga-yoga process is practiced in order to discover and see this localized form of Visnu, and not for any other purpose. One who has no program to realize this Visnu-murti is uselessly engaged in mock-yoga practice and is certainly wasting his time. Krsna is the ultimate goal of life, and the Visnu-murti situated in one’s heart is the object of astanga-yoga practice. As mentioned in the previous verses, to begin the astanga-yoga process one must first of all select a solitary place, where he can execute yoga alone. It is not that one can go to a yoga class, pay some fee, do some gymnastics, and then come back home and do all kinds of nonsense. We shouldn’t be entrapped by all these ridiculous “yoga societies.” Such societies, I can declare, are simply societies of the cheaters and the cheated. Here in Bhagavad-gita is the real yoga process, taught by the supreme authority, Krsna. Can there possibly be any person who is a better yogi than Krsna? No. And here is His authoritative statement on yoga. So, first of all one has to select a secluded, holy place and prepare a special seat. Then one has to sit down upon the seat in an erect posture: “One should hold one’s body, neck, and head in a straight line.” These things help to concentrate the mind, that’s all. But the real purpose of yoga is to keep Krsna always within oneself. Here it is stated, “One should hold one’s body, neck, and head in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose.” And if one closes his eyes during meditation, he’ll sleep. I have seen this. In these “yoga classes” so many so-called meditators are simply sleeping, because as soon as one closes his eyes, it is natural that he’ll feel sleepy. So the eyes must be half-closed, and one has to see the tip of his nose. This process will help the mind to be fixed.
Then Krsna says one should have an “unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear.” Generally, a yogi practices in a jungle. But if he’s thinking, “Is some tiger or snake coming? What is that?” his mind will be agitated. After all, he has to sit down alone in a jungle. There are so many animals-tigers, lions, snakes. Therefore it is especially stated here that the yogi must be “devoid of fear.” The skin of a deer is especially used in yoga-asana because it has some chemical property that repels snakes. If one sits down on that particular skin, the snakes and other reptiles will not come. That is the purpose of the deerskin: one will not be disturbed. But one can be truly fearless only when one is fully in Krsna consciousness. A conditioned soul is fearful due to his perverted memory, his forgetfulness of his eternal relationship with Krsna. Srimad-Bhagavatam says, bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad isad apetasya viparyayo ‘smrtih. Krsna consciousness is the only basis for fearlessness. Therefore perfect yoga practice is possible only for a person who is Krsna conscious. The next qualification for the yogi is that he must be “completely free from sex life.” If one indulges in sex, he cannot fix his mind on anything. A steady mind is the effect of brahmacarya, or celibacy. If one remains a brahmacari, or without sex life, then he can be determined. A practical example is Mahatma Gandhi, of India. Now, he started his movement of non-violent non-cooperation against the powerful British Empire. Just see! He declared, “I shall fight with the Britishers nonviolently, without any weapon.” Besides, India was dependent, so there were no weapons. And the few times armed revolutions were attempted, the Britishers, being more powerful, cut them down. So Gandhi invented the method of non-violent non-cooperation. “I shall fight with the Britishers,” he declared, “and even if they become violent, I shall not become violent. In this way I shall get world sympathy.” This was his plan. He was a great statesman, but more important, his determination was very fixed because he was a brahmacari. At the age of thirty-six he gave up sex life. He was a young family man-he had children, he had a wife-but from the age of thirty-six on he gave up sex with his wife. That made him so determined to drive away the Britishers from the land of India that he actually did it. Therefore, refraining from sex makes one very powerful. Even if one doesn’t do anything else, if he simply refrains from sex he becomes a very powerful man. People do not know the secret: if one wants to do anything with determination, one has to stop sex.
Therefore in no Vedic process—neither the yoga process nor the bhakti process nor the jnana process—is unrestricted sex indulgence allowed. No. Sex indulgence is allowed only in family life, just to beget very nice children, that’s all. Sex is not for sense enjoyment, although there is enjoyment by nature’s arrangement. Unless there were enjoyment, why would anyone take responsibility for family life? That pleasure is nature’s gift, but we should not take advantage of it. These are the secrets of life.
So yoga practice is such a nice thing, but if one simultaneously indulges in sex life, it is simply nonsense. It is simply nonsense if anyone says that one can go on with his sex life as much as he likes and at the same time become a yogi. The so-called yoga teachers advertise, “Simply pay my fees, and I will give you a miracle mantra.” These things are all nonsense. But we accept them because we want to be cheated. We want to get something sublime very cheaply. That means we want to be cheated. If I want a very fine thing, I must pay for it. Suppose I go to a store and say to the proprietor, “Sir, I can pay you ten cents. Please give me the best thing in your store.” How can I expect the best thing for ten cents? If I want to purchase gold, then I have to pay for it. Similarly, if we want perfection in yoga practice, then we have to pay for it by giving up sex. That is the instruction of Bhagavad-gita. We shouldn’t try to make yoga a childish affair. If we try to make it a childish affair, then we’ll be cheated. And there are so many cheaters waiting to cheat us, take our money, and go away. Here is the authoritative statement: “Free from sex life.”
Next Krsna says, “One should meditate upon Me. Ultimately, what is the object of meditation? Not the void, but the form of Visnu. This is sankhya-yoga, which was first practiced by Kapiladeva, an incarnation of Krsna, or God. So the secret of yoga is that one should absorb the mind in Krsna. The process of sitting straight and seeing the tip of one’s nose helps one to concentrate the mind on the Visnu form, or Krsna. “One should meditate upon Me,” says Krsna. Thus meditation in sankhya-yoga means meditation on Krsna.
Now, in the Krsna consciousness movement the meditation is directly on Krsna and nothing else. Therefore no one is a better meditator than my disciples. They are concentrating simply on Krsna, and all their activities are centered on Krsna. When they’re working in the garden, digging the earth, they’re thinking, “A nice rose will grow, and we shall offer it to Krsna.” This is meditation—practical meditation: “I shall grow a rose, and it will be offered to Krsna.” Even in the digging there is meditation. And when they are preparing nice food, they think, “It will be eaten by Krsna.” So, in cooking there is meditation. And what to speak of chanting Hare Krsna and dancing.
Therefore, because they are meditating twenty-four hours a day on Krsna, my disciples are perfect yogis. Let anyone come and challenge them. We are teaching the perfect yoga system, but not whimsically: on the authority of Bhagavad-gita. We have not manufactured anything by concoction. Here is Krsna’s statement that one should simply concentrate one’s mind on Him, and my disciples’ activities have been so moulded that they cannot think of anything but Krsna. So they are the highest meditators. Krsna says, “Think of Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” Krsna is the ultimate goal of life, and my disciples are preparing themselves for being transferred to Krsna’s planet (Krisnaloka). Krsna consciousness, therefore, is the perfect yoga.