How to See and Know God


1982-04-03A talk given in October 1968 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, at the Hare Krsna center in Seattle.

We are worshiping Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original person. And this song we were just singing—govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami—is reaching Him. He’s hearing it. You cannot say He’s not hearing it. Especially in this scientific age, when radio messages are broadcast thousands and thousands of miles so you can hear them, it is easy to understand how Govinda, Krsna, can hear your sincere prayer.

Similarly, just as you can see a television picture transmitted from thousands and thousands of miles away, you can always see Govinda in your heart if you prepare yourself properly. This is stated in Brahma-samhita [5.38]: premanjana-cchurita bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti. There is a television within your heart; it is not that you have to purchase the television set—it is there in your heart. And God is also there. You can see Him, you can hear Him, you can talk with Him, provided you repair the machine. And this repairing process is Krsna consciousness.

Now, to repair a television an expert technician is required. Similarly, you require the help of someone expert in the science of Krsna consciousness. Then the machine in your heart will work and you will be able to see Krsna. This is the perfection of yoga.

In the scriptures we hear how one can come to this perfection: sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya cittete kariya aikya. Spiritual realization can be perfected by following three parallel lines: sadhu (saintly persons who are realized souls), sastra (authoritative Vedic scriptures), and guru (the spiritual master). In the railway yard you see two parallel tracks, and if they’re in order the railway carriages go very smoothly to their destination. In Krsna consciousness there are three parallel lines: association with saintly persons (sadhu), faith in the scriptures (sastra), and acceptance of a bona fide spiritual master (guru). If you place your vehicle on these three parallel lines, it will go directly to Krsna, without any disturbance.

Now, here in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is explaining Himself. But suppose you say, “How can I believe that Krsna said these words? Somebody may have written them in the name of Krsna.” No. Because the Bhagavad-gita is accepted by saintly persons, we should also accept it. Beginning from Vyasadeva and Narada, down to many acaryas [spiritual exemplars] like Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnu-svami, and Lord Caitanya, all have accepted Bhagavad-gita: “Yes, it is spoken by God, Krsna.” So this is the proof that Bhagavad-gita is authentic. Saintly persons, sadhus, have accepted Bhagavad-gita as scripture; therefore it is scripture. That is the test.

This is a common-sense affair. If lawyers accept some book as a lawbook, then we should understand that it is an authoritative lawbook. You cannot say, “Why should I accept this lawbook?” The evidence is that the lawyers have accepted it. Similarly, if the medical practitioners accept a book as authoritative, then we should know that it is an authoritative medical book. In the same way, since saintly persons accept Bhagavad-gita as scripture, you cannot deny that it is scripture. So these are the two lines of sadhu and sastra, saintly persons and scripture.

And who is a guru, a spiritual master? He who follows and explains the scripture. The sadhu confirms the scripture, and the spiritual master follows and explains the scripture. So sadhu, sastra, and guru are always in agreement. What is spoken in the scripture is accepted by saintly persons, and what is spoken in the scripture is followed and explained by the spiritual master, and he explains only that. The via media is the scripture, just as in the law court the via media is the lawbook. So the saintly persons, the scriptures, and the spiritual master: when you follow these three parallel lines your life is successful.

Now, here in the beginning of the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna is speaking about yoga. In the first six chapters He has explained the constitutional position of the living entity. Until that is understood, your activities in yoga, in relation to Krsna, cannot actually begin. Suppose you are working in an office. If your post is not settled up—if you don’t know what duties you have to execute—you cannot do anything very nicely. The typist, the clerk, the errand boy—they are executing their work very nicely because they understand their duties. Therefore, to practice yoga one first has to understand the constitutional position of the living entity, and that is explained in the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita.

So yoga means to understand one’s constitutional position and to act in that position. The first step is controlling the senses (yogam indriya-samyamah). Now everyone is busy gratifying the senses. When you stand on the street, you see that everybody is very busy. The storekeeper is busy, the motorcar driver is busy—everyone is very busy. How are they busy? If you minutely study their business, you will find that their only business is sense gratification. That’s all. Everyone is busy trying to gratify his senses. This is material life. And spiritual life, or yoga, means to control the senses and understand our constitutional position as spirit souls.

One’s spiritual life begins when one asks, What am I? Why have I come here? Why am I put into so many miserable conditions? Is there any remedy? When these questions arise, our spiritual life begins. And human life is meant for answering these questions. Animals do not know anything except sense gratification. They have no power of understanding; their consciousness is not developed. For example, in Green Lake Park there are many ducks. As soon as somebody goes there with a little food, they gather: “Kaa, kaa, kaa, kaa.” And after eating, they enjoy sex. That’s all. The life of cats and dogs is like that also, and human life is also like that if one never asks. What am I? If one is simply directed by the urges of the senses, one is no better than the ducks and dogs.

So in the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that the living entity is a spiritual spark. It is very difficult to find out where the spark is because it is so minute. No microscope can find it out. But it is there in your body. Because it is in your body, you are moving, you are talking, you are planning—you are doing so many things simply by the influence of that spiritual spark.

We are very minute sparks of the Supreme Spirit, just like particles of sunshine. The sun’s rays are made up of shining particles, and when these shining particles mix together they form sunshine. Similarly, we are minute particles of God, and because we are part and parcel of God we have the same propensities as God: thinking, feeling, willing, creating—everything. Whatever you see in yourself is there in God also. Therefore, since we are all persons God cannot be impersonal. I have so many propensities in a very minute quantity, and the same propensities are there in Krsna, or God, in an unlimited quantity. This is the science of Krsna consciousness.

We are small, infinitesimal, yet we still have so many propensities, so many desires, so many activities, so much brainwork. Just imagine how much greater are God’s desires and activities and brainwork! So qualitatively God and the living entity are one, but quantitatively we are different. He is great, we are small. He is infinite, we are infinitesimal.

Now, when sparks are in the fire they glow very nicely, but when they are out of the fire they are extinguished. Similarly, since we are sparks of Krsna, when we associate with Him our illuminating quality is manifested. Otherwise, we are practically extinguished, or covered. The living spark cannot be extinguished. If it were extinguished, how are we manifesting our living condition? No, it is not extinguished; it is covered. When a fire is covered you can feel heat on the cover, but you cannot see the fire directly. Similarly, when the spiritual spark is covered by the material dress, the body, you can see the effects of the spark—your activities of life—but you cannot see the spark directly. To see the spiritual spark directly, to uncover your original spiritual nature, you must practice yoga.

In the first verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains the yoga process: mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah. You have to constantly engage your mind in thoughts of Krsna. That is the yoga process we are presenting as Krsna consciousness. And it is not very difficult. Krsna is beautiful, all-attractive, and He has many activities. The Vedic literature is full of Krsna’s activities. And the Bhagavad-gita is full of Krsna’s teachings. Simply understanding that God is great is a neutral state of understanding. You have to elevate yourself more and more by understanding how great He is. Of course, it is not possible to fully understand how great He is, because our senses are always imperfect, but as far as possible we should try. You can hear about the activities of God, about the position of God, and you can put your argument and make your judgment. Then you will understand without any doubt what God is.

So real yoga is mayy asakta-manah, always thinking of Krsna. At the end of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that one who is constantly absorbed in thoughts of Him is a first-class yogi. In your country yoga is very popular, but you do not know who is a first-class yogi. Krsna says, yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantaratmana. “Out of many thousands of yogis, he who is always seeing the form of Krsna within his heart is first class.”

So you have to practice that first-class yoga system, which Krsna describes as mayy asakta-manah: “Make your mind attached to Me.” The mind is the vehicle for attachment, and generally we become attached to a person—a boy, a girl, and so on. Impersonal attachment is bogus. So yoga begins by attaching the mind to Krsna, by always thinking of Krsna, and culminates in love of Krsna. For example [Pointing to a picture], here is a picture of Srimati Radharani loving Krsna and offering a garland to Him as He plays on His flute. So you can always think of this picture; then you will constantly be in samadhi [yogic trance]. Why try to think of something impersonal, some void? If you try to think of the void, you will start thinking of some light, some color—so many things will come into your mind. The mind must think of some form. How can we avoid form? It is not possible. Therefore, why not concentrate your mind on the supreme form, Krsna?

Isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Controller, is Krsna, and He has a body. What sort of body? Sac-cid-ananda: an eternal body, full of bliss and full of knowledge. Not a body like ours. Our body is full of ignorance, full of miseries, and not eternal—just the opposite of Krsna’s. His body is eternal, my body is not eternal. His body is full of bliss, my body is full of miseries. There is always something troubling us: headache, toothache, this ache, that ache. Somebody is giving us personal trouble, we are feeling severe heat, severe cold—so many things. But Krsna’s form, Krsna’s body, is eternally full of bliss and knowledge.

So Krsna consciousness means always thinking of Krsna’s form, name, pastimes, and so on. How can we practice this yoga system, Krsna consciousness? Mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah. Mad-asrayah means “taking shelter of somebody who is in touch with Me.” As soon as you think of Krsna you are in direct touch with Him. But unless you take shelter of a spiritual master who knows about Him, you cannot concentrate for a long time; your concentration will be temporary. Therefore, if you want to concentrate on Krsna continuously, you have to hear from a person who knows about Krsna, and you have to act according to his directions. Your life should be molded according to the directions of the spiritual master. Then you can practice yoga perfectly.

As mentioned before, Krsna explains the perfection of yoga in the last verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantaratmana: “One who is always thinking of Me is a first-class yogi.” So we have to place Krsna in our mind; we have to always think of Him. How? Krsna explains (Bg. 7.1],

mayy asakta-manah partha
yogam yunjan mad-asrayah
asamsayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tac chrnu

“Under My protection, under the protection of My representative, always think of Me. Then you will understand Me perfectly well, without doubt, and your life will be successful.” Asamsayam means “without any doubt.” If you doubt that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just put forward your questions and try to understand. It is undoubtedly a fact that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if you have some doubt, you can clear it up by placing questions before the spiritual master.

So if you practice Krsna consciousness, the topmost of all yoga systems, in this way, then without any doubt you’ll understand Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, perfectly well. And your life will be successful.

Thank you very much.

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