by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
at the Hare Krsna center in Montreal.
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
Lord Krsna is explaining here how one can very easily enter into the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. The simple formula is that anyone who perfectly understands the transcendental appearance and activities of the Lord can enterinto the spiritual kingdom after death.
It is not possible to understand the Lord with our present senses, because our senses are now covered by matter. Originally, our senses are spiritual, but they have become covered by material contamination. Therefore, the process of understanding God, or the Absolute Truth, is to purify our senses of their material coverings. And this is possible simply by adopting a service attitude toward the Lord. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: “When we surrender to the Lord and engage our senses in His service, beginning with the tongue, the Lord gradually reveals Himself to us.”
So, how can we understand the birth of the Lord? Actually, there is no question of birth for either the Lord or the living entities, because both the Lord and the living entities are eternal. A good analogy is the sunrise. Actually, there is no sunrise: it is simply an adjustment of our own position. Similarly, there is actually no birth of either God or ourselves. We are all eternal. We simply use the word birth when the body appears.
But there is a difference between God’s birth and our birth. We appear in different bodies that are forced upon us by the material nature, according to our karma, or past selfish activities. But God always appears by His own sweet will, in His own original body. That is the difference. And because God appears in His original body, He is not forgetful of His past appearances. On the other hand, because we appear in different material bodies, we do forget our past lives.
Now, in this verse from the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna specifically uses the word divyam to describe His birth and activities. Divyam means “divine,” “spiritual,” “transcendental.” Our birth is not divine or spiritual—it’s full of suffering. This is another difference between our appearance and the Lord’s.
If one wants to return to the spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God, one has to learn of Krsna’s appearance and activities. And how can they be understood? Simply by serving the Lord. We cannot learn this transcendental subject matter by challenge. If we are submissive, if we engage in His service, then by His divine grace He will reveal Himself. Understanding of the Lord comes by revelation, not by the experimental process. We cannot understand God in that way.
Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: Because our senses are now materially contaminated, we cannot understand God’s appearance, name, or activities with them. It is not possible. So we have to accept the process of purifying the senses. And the first step is to free ourselves from all artificial designations (sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat paratvena nirmalam). We are now acting under various designations. Every one of us is thinking, “I am my body, and this body has been produced in a certain family, in a certain society, a certain country. Therefore I have so many designations.” But we have to become free of all these designations. That is the first qualification for understanding the science of God.
How can one become free of designations? By taking up Krsna consciousness. A Krsna conscious person thinks, “I am not Indian, I am not American, I am not white, I am not black. I am not Christian, Hindu, or Mohammedan. I am a servant of Krsna.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu* [*Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Lord Krsna Himself in the form of His own devotee. He appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] described Himself like that. He said, “I am not a brahmana [intellectual], I am not a ksatriya [political leader], I am not a vaisya [merchant] or a sudra [laborer]. I am not a brahmacari [student], I am not a grhastha [householder], I am not a vanaprastha [retired person] or a sannyasi [renunciant].” Then what are you? Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna.” This should be our identification. This is a very good identification.
In Krsna consciousness we address our Godbrothers as “prabhu.” Prabhu means “master.” The idea is that I recognize that you are my master and that I am your servant—just the opposite of material consciousness. In the material world everyone wants to place himself as the master. “I am your master; you are my servant.” That is the mentality of material existence. But spiritual existence means thinking, “I am your servant; you are my master.”
By the force of maya, or illusion, we adopt so many identifications: “I am a rich man,” “I am the prime minister,” “I am this,” “I am that.” And when we become frustrated with all these designations, we try to become God. This is the last snare of maya.
But the philosophy of Krsna consciousness teaches us to think in just the opposite way. Instead of thinking yourself God, you have to think of yourself as the servant of the servant of the servant of God. So in one sense Krsna consciousness is very difficult, because you must become very humble. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructs, trnad api sunicena: You have to think that you’re lower than the straw in the street. Very humble. And taror iva sahisnuna: more tolerant than the tree. The trees are very tolerant. They give you shelter, they give you shade, they give you fruits, flowers, and wood. But the trees do not protest. They stand silently. So the perfect example of tolerance is the tree.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then says, amanina manadena: “One must refuse all kinds of respect for oneself and offer all respect to others.” In other words, you must completely refuse to take part in the usual dealings of this material world. Suppose somebody insults you: “You rascal! You such-and-such!” If you know that you are not your body, that you have nothing to do with your body, then whether you are called “rascal” or “your lordship,” it is the same to you. You know these are only designations of the body.
Today many people are anxious to get an M.A. or a Ph.D. But what is this M.A., this Ph.D.? They are simply designations of the body. As soon as your body is finished, all your M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s are finished. Then you will have to accept another body. And you do not know what kind of body you will have to accept—what kind of body is going to be forced upon you by nature.
Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: “Everything is happening by the force of nature, or prakrti.” So, prakrti is forcing you to accept body after body. Prakrti is Krsna’s government. You cannot avoid its control. There are 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies, and which kind of body you will get in your next life is determined by your activities in this life. According to your mentality at the last moment of your present life, you will get a certain kind of body in your next. The mind is your subtle body, and at the time of death it will carry you to a suitable womb of a mother, where you will get another gross body. Then you will develop that body, come out from the mother’s womb, and begin to work according to the facilities of your body. This is the process of birth, which is full of suffering.
So in order to avoid taking birth again, we have to learn the science of Krsna consciousness very carefully. If we simply try to understand God and our relationship with Him, we become qualified to enter the spiritual kingdom. And when we enter the spiritual kingdom after giving up our present body, we are assured of never again having to take birth in this material world (tyaktva dehah punar janma naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna). In another place in Bhagavad-gita [8.15], Krsna states the same thing:
“One who goes back home, back to Godhead, never comes again to this miserable, conditioned life in the material world.”
This material world is duhkhalayam, a place of misery. But we are thinking we are happy. This is maya, “what is not.” We are thinking that we are making progress, that we are happy, that we are civilized, that we are advanced. No, you are not advanced, you are not civilized, you are not happy. And you are not wise, because you do not know what you are. You are thinking that you are the body. Therefore, whatever else you are thinking is all null and void, maya.
Maya is very strong. It is very difficult to overcome maya. But Krsna gives us the formula in the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita [7.14],
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This illusory energy of Mine is very difficult to surpass, but if you surrender to Me, Krsna, you can easily overcome it.”
It is not easy to overcome maya, because she is capturing you in so many ways. For example, even if you are very wise and you understand your spiritual position—“Aham brahmasmi: I am not matter; I am Brahman, a spirit soul”—even at this stage maya may act. What is that action? When you realize “I am Brahman,” you may think, “I am the Supreme Brahman, God.” This means that you are still in ignorance, because you are not God.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains the actual meaning of aham brahmasmi. First He says, brahma-bhutah prasannatma: When you are actually Brahman-realized, when you have realized that you are not matter but spirit, the first symptom is that you become joyful (prasannatma). You have no more anxiety. Then, na socati na kanksati: You stop lamenting and hankering.
And, samah sarvesu bhutesu: Because you have spiritual vision, you see every living entity on an equal level. You do not see the body: you see the spirit. When you see a dog, you think, “There is a spirit soul.” And when you see a brahmana, you think, “There is another spirit soul.” You do not see an American: you see the spirit soul. You do not see an Indian: you see the spirit soul. This is real Brahman realization. Brahman realization does not mean that I think, “My brother is Brahman and I am Brahman, but all others are not Brahman.” This is not Brahman realization. Brahman realization means to see the spiritual existence of all living entities.
But seeing the oneness of all living entities is still not sufficient. You have to go further and engage yourself in the activities of Brahman. That is perfection. Therefore, Krsna finally says, mad-bhaktim labhate param: “After Brahman realization, actual devotional service begins.” Brahman realization ultimately means to understand, “I am a spirit soul, and the Lord is the Supreme Spirit. Therefore I should serve Him.”
In the Vedas it is said, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: “Of the innumerable living entities, one is supreme.” The living entities are innumerable, but God is one. And eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman:
“One living entity (God) is supplying all the necessities of the innumerable other living entities.” In the Christian religion this idea is very prominent. That is why Christians pray in church, “O God, please give us our daily bread. Please excuse our faults.” Because God is the Supreme, He can supply all your necessities. You require sunlight, so God has created sunlight for you. You require water, so God has created immense quantities of water for you. You require air, so God provides an immense amount of air for you. He is providing practical help for you at every step.
And He is also helping those who are not human beings. The birds, the beasts, the worms, the trees—they have no economic problems. In India I have seen the sparrows chirping and dancing and eating, and here I have also seen the sparrows chirping and dancing and eating. Whether in India or in Canada, the sparrows have no economic problems, because they are depending completely on nature’s laws. But because we violate nature’s laws, we have big economic problems. We have made our own economic problems.
Lord Krsna has created the sun. He has created the moon. He has created everything. Then how do we claim that this planet, earth, belongs to us? It is loaned to us for our livelihood, that’s all. A rich man’s son has the right to enjoy his father’s property, but if he disobeys his father he is put into trouble. Similarly, because we are all sons of God, we have a right to enjoy His property, but because we have disobeyed the orders of God, there are so many economic problems.
The Isopanisad very nicely explains,
isavasyam idam sarvam
yat kinca jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitha ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam
“Everything you see belongs to God. Don’t claim for yourself more than you need.” Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-loka-mahesvaram: “I am the proprietor of all planets.”
So, this particular planet, earth, is also God’s property. We come and go, but God’s property remains. It is a simple thing to understand. And when we accept that God is the ultimate proprietor of everything and that all living entities are His sons, there is peace. This is spiritual communism.
Everyone has a right to live at the expense of God, but nobody should encroach upon the property of others. This is the system for perfect social harmony. Just try to enjoy what is allotted to you, and be satisfied with that. God has given you a certain portion of land, so be happy with it. Don’t encroach upon others’ land. This is Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness is nothing mysterious. You simply have to think of everything in relation to Krsna and use everything in His service (nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate). In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu [a sixteenth-century devotional classic], Srila Rupa Gosvami says that when you dovetail everything in Krsna’s service, you are free of birth and death. This is what we’re doing in the Krsna consciousness society. For example, every day we use a dictating machine. How are we using it? We’re recording words about Krsna. Similarly, this apartment is being used for Krsna, and this body is being used for Krsna. And we are preparing foodstuffs for Krsna.
In this way, you should develop your Krsna consciousness by using everything for Him. Krsna consciousness is nothing artificial—some bogus meditation: “I am the Supreme Lord. I am moving the sun, I am moving the moon.” These nonsensical things are going on in the name of “meditation.” Simply a waste of time.
Just try to understand that you are an eternal servant of God. Then you will be perfect. You can enjoy God’s property very nicely, and there will be no distress at all. The lower animals—the birds and beasts—are enjoying God’s property, and you cannot enjoy it? Why are you fighting with each other? Is that advancement? Is that civilization?
So please try to understand the science of Krsna consciousness. Your life will be perfect. You will live peacefully and happily in this life, and after leaving your present body you will never again take birth in this miserable material world. Then where will you go? Krsna says, mam eti: “You will come to Me.” So it is very easy to finish all problems in this lifetime. Simply try to understand Krsna.