Even the animals enjoy sense pleasure.
What is the extra dimension for human beings?
A lecture in Tittenhurst, England, in September 1969
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Long ago, the Supreme Personality of Godhead descended as Maharaja Rasbhadeva, who ruled the earth as an ideal emperor. Once, in the presence of many enlightened brahmanas in the place known as Brahmavarta, He instructed His one hundred sons in the most essential knowledge for human beings.
nayam deho deha-bhajam nr-loke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam
“My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one’s heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.” -Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1
This is a verse spoken by King Rsabhadeva to His sons. King Rsabhadeva was an incarnation of Krsna who lived long, long ago. He was the emperor of the whole world. So, here He instructs His one hundred sons. All of His sons had assembled together, and the King, before His retirement, was instructing them.
Now, why was the King retiring? That is the Vedic system. Whether one is a king or an ordinary human being, at a certain age he must retire and search out Krsna. It is not that if you are a king and have ample, opportunities for sense enjoyment you sould indulge in sense enjoyment up to the point of death, without retiring from family life. No.
The aim of the Vedic system is to elevate oneself to the perfection of Krsna consciousness. In Bhagavad-gita [15.15], Krsna says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: “The whole Vedic system is designed to enable one to know Me.” So, if you follow the Vedic system, the ultimate objective of your life should be to know Krsna. That is corroborated by Lord Krsna Himself, the original compiler of the Vedas.
Unfortunately, in the modern so-called civilization, neither the leaders nor family men retire and search out Krsna. Even a poor man living with his family in great difficulty will not retire if you ask him to. He’ll not be agreeable. He’s suffering, he’s not happy living with his family members, but if I ask, “Why are you taking so much trouble with the family? Why not come and live with us in the Krsna consciousness society?” he’ll not agree because he has no Vedic training. Up to the end of his life, he’ll stick to his family.
In our country we have seen many old politicians—seventy-five years old, eighty years old—refuse to retire. And in your country, England, Mr. Churchill would not give up politics until he was forced to by death. Our Gandhi was killed by a rival political group; then he was forced to retire. When India attained independence, I wrote Gandhi a letter: “Mahatma Gandhi, you started your struggle with the Britishers, demanding that they should go and that the Indians should have their independence. Now you have attained independence, and the Britishers are gone. So now preach the Bhagavad-gita. You have some influence. You are known throughout the whole world as a very saintly person, and you also present yourself as a great scholar of Bhagavad-gita. Why don’t you take up the Bhagavad-gita and preach?”
There was no reply. He was still busy with politics, so much so that his own assistants became disgusted. Just see the intoxication of the materialistic way of life! He was considered a mahatma, a great personality, and he got his svaraj [independence]. Still, he would not give up politics until he was forced to. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru refused to retire.
So, nobody will retire until he is killed by somebody or killed by the laws of nature. This is the disease: no one can give up his position, family members, and opulence. daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya: “The material energy is very powerful, and no one can overcome it.” Maya [illusion] is so strong that even an old man advertising himself as very pious cannot give up politics. He thinks, “If I leave the political field, my countrymen will suffer and so many disasters will happen.” But actually, things will go on very nicely without him. In your country many great politicians have come and gone, but the people are still living, and things are going on. Similarly, in India, many Gandhis have come and gone, but things are going on.
How things are going on is explained in the Bhagavad-gita [3.27]:
On retiring from His duties as emperor, Lord Rsabhadeva accepted the feature of avadhuta, a great saintly person without material cares, and He passed through human society like a blind, deaf, and dumb man. He was always being threatened and abused, yet He remained equipoised, understanding that the body is meant for such an end. He completely understood that matter and spirit are separate and that the spiritual self is eternal.
Everything is being done by the laws of nature, under God’s supervision, and you cannot change anything. There is a plan—God’s plan—and it will be carried out. You don’t have to bother yourself, thinking that without you everything will be topsy-turvied. No. You cannot do anything. You are falsely thinking that your leadership is very much needed. No.
I was also thinking in that way. When I was a householder, several times my Guru Maharaja gave me an indication that I should give up my family life and become a sannyasi [renunciant] and spread this Krsna consciousness movement. But I was thinking, “If I go away, my wife and my children—they will suffer.” But actually, although I left my family in 1954, fifteen years ago, they are still living and I am still living. They are not dying in my absence, and I am not suffering without being with my family. On the other hand, by Krsna’s grace, I now have better family members. I have got many children in a foreign country, and they are taking such nice care of me. I could not expect such care from my own children.
This is God’s grace. We should depend on Krsna. If Krsna is pleased with us, wherever we go everyone will be pleased, everyone will be kind. And if Krsna is displeased with us, even in our family life we’ll not be comfortable.
So, King Rsabhadeva was retiring. He had one hundred obedient sons, He was the emperor of the whole world, He was an incarnation of God, everything was at His command—still He was retiring. That is the Vedic system. There are many similar instances. King Rsabhadeva’s son Bharata Maharaja also retired. So did Pariksit Maharaja and his grandfather, Yudhisthira. They all voluntarily retired.
In the Vedic social system, at a very young age, whether you are the son of a king or the son of an ordinary man, you must go to the asrama of a spiritual master and live there as his servant. That is called brahmacarya. A brahmacari’s life is to serve the spiritual master as a menial servant. Whatever the spiritual master asks, the brahmacari willdo. It is very strict. Whatever the brahmacari collects, he gives to the spiritual master; it is the spiritual master’s property, not his own. And if the spiritual master forgets to call a disciple for lunch—”My dear son, come and take your prasadam”—then the disciple should not take prasadam. He should fast. Of course, the spiritual master does not forget, but these are some of the many injunctions. Brahmacarya is the beginning of life, and these injunctions must be followed even if one is the son of a king, or even if one is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Krsna also underwent this discipline for some time when He was a brahmacari.
Then, after brahmacari life, one may marry and live with his wife and children, but for at most twenty-five years. Then one should retire. The husband and wife travel from one place of pilgrimage to another. Their minds are peaceful because their children are grown up and can take care of themselves. And when the husband is completely free from all family attachment, he takes sannyasa, complete renunciation. This is the process: brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa.
Now, before retirement, it is the duty of the father to instruct his sons how to look after the family affairs, their personal affairs, their spiritual advancement—everything. So here Rsabhadeva is instructing, “My dear sons, do not think that this human body is equal to the body of the cats and dogs and hogs.” He particularly mentions vid-bhujam, “the stool-eaters,” or hogs. As in the human society the dogeater is considered the lowest, so in the animal society the stool-eating hog is considered the lowest. Like human beings, animals are of different gradations according to their eating process. As it is said, “You are what you eat.”
So, eating is very important. If you eat like cats and dogs, you’ll become cats and dogs, even in the human form of life. If you behave like cats and dogs, you become cats and dogs, even in the human form of life. Similarly, if you work very hard like cats and dogs or hogs, then what is the value of your human life? Human life should be very sober, peaceful, full of knowledge, full of bliss, devoted to Krsna. These are the signs of purity. Simply working hard like an animal and eating like an animal—no.
Rsabhadeva instructed His sons, “My dear sons, this human form of life is not meant for living like the hogs.” Everyone has a body, but the human body is special. A human being should not live like the hogs. The whole day and night the hogs are searching after stool and sex. If a human being spends his whole day and night searching after food and sex, then he’s missing the opportunity of human life.
Human life should be regulated. You should eat in a certain way, you should have sex in a certain way, you should sleep in a certain way, you should act in a certain way, you should think in a certain way. You cannot act unrestrictedly. The lawbooks are meant for human society, not for animal society. If the human society does not abide by any laws, then it is not human society; it is animal society.
So, if we should not spoil this human form of life by acting like the hogs, then what is human life meant for? King Rsabhadeva says, tapo divyam: austerity and penance. You should voluntarily accept some regulative principles, even if they are not very much to your liking. For example, from the very beginning of their lives, our students have been accustomed to certain habits, but we say, “You cannot do this,” and they are following our instruction. This is tapasya, austerity. Suppose one is habituated to smoking and the spiritual master says, “You cannot smoke.” So, if the student gives up smoking he may feel some inconvenience, some discomfort, but because the spiritual master has ordered him, he gives it up. This is tapasya.
To accept a spiritual master means to voluntarily agree to abide by the rules and regulations given by a great personality. This is what being a disciple means—to voluntarily agree, “Yes, sir. Whatever you say, I accept.” The Sanskrit word sisya means “one who abides by the rules,” and in English there is the word disciple, which is related to the word discipline. So a disciple becomes disciplined by the spiritual master. “Even at the inconvenience of my personal comfort, I must abide by the orders of my spiritual master.” This is how a disciple thinks.
And how does the spiritual master know which orders to give? He does not concoct any rules and regulations. He refers to the sastra [scriptures]. Therefore Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, hrdaya kariya aikya: “Make the words of the saintly persons, the sastra, and the spiritual master one with your heart.” If you want to know if someone is a spiritual master, then you should check his words against those of the scriptures and the saintly persons. These three—guru, sastra, and sadhu—should corroborate one another. If the spiritual master says something that is not in the sastra, that is not good. Similarly, a saintly person, a sadhu, also does not disregard the regulative principles of sastra. In the Bhagavad-gita [16.23] Krsna says, yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya, “A person who gives up obedience to the rules of the scriptures,” vartatekama-karatah, “and acts in his own way, according to his whims,” na sa siddhim avapnoti, “he cannot attain perfection,” na sukham na param gatim, “nor can he be happy, what to speak of attaining liberation.”
So tapasya means to voluntarily obey the rules of the scriptures, the spiritual master, and saintly persons and to mold your life in that way. Rsabhadeva is thus instructing His sons: “My dear sons, don’t spoil your valuable human life by living like cats and dogs and hogs. Utilize your life by voluntarily accepting the rules of the sastra, the spiritual master, and saintly persons.”
Then the question may be raised, “Why this injunction? Why shall I not live like an animal? Why do I have to live under the regulative principles of the scriptures and saintly persons and the spiritual master?”
Rsabhadeva answers, yena sattvam suddhyed: “If you accept these principles of life, then your existential condition will become purified.” At the present moment, we are contaminated by the modes of material nature, mostly ignorance and passion. So Rsabhadeva is advising His sons that if they abide by the rules of the sastra, guru, and sadhu, they will be purified of these modes.
Then the question may be raised, “What is the need of purification?” The answer: yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam. “When your existential condition becomes purified, you will be situated on the transcendental platform of blissful life.” You are hankering after happiness, pleasure. So, when your existence becomes purified and you are placed on the transcendental platform, you will enjoy eternal happiness.
Everyone is searching after happiness. Why are you struggling so hard in this material existence? For happiness. Why are you after sense gratification? For happiness. Why do you want to possess so many things? For happiness. Why do you want to become beautiful? For happiness. Why do you want to eat so many things? For happiness. In everything, happiness is your ultimate goal.
But the happiness you are now deriving—that is temporary. You may become happy by intoxication, but for how long? That happiness is temporary. You may become happy by sex indulgence, but for how long? That happiness lasts for a few seconds or a few minutes only. But if you want eternal, continuous happiness, you have to purify your existential condition and place yourself in the transcendental position. Then you will feel eternal happiness.
The Vedic literature says, ramante yogino ‘nante. The yogis enjoy sense gratification. But where? Anante—withthe Supreme. The word ramante means “to enjoy sense gratification.” For example, one of Lord Krsna’s name is Radharamana. This means He enjoys sense gratification with Srimati Radharani. But His sense gratification is not the same as ours. We should not think it is. Material sense gratification is a perverted reflection of spiritual sense gratification.
The whole process of devotional service is aimed at gratifying Lord Krsna’s senses (hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam). Hrsikena means “with the senses,” and hrsikesa-sevanam means “serving the master of the senses.” The master of the senses is Krsna. So, when you apply your senses in the service of Krsna’s sense gratification, that is transcendental. And when you employ your senses for your own sense gratification, that is material. That is the difference.
When you are situated on the transcendental platform, when your existential condition is purified by tapasya, by voluntarily accepting austerity and penance under the guidance of the spiritual master, the scriptures, and saintly persons—at that time it will be possible for you to satisfy the senses of Krsna, and then you will be fully satisfied. How? Here is an example: the different parts of your body cannot enjoy independently of the whole body. Your fingers can pick up a nice piece of cake, but they cannot enjoy it. But if the fingers pick up the piece of cake and put it into the mouth, it goes to the stomach; then there is some secretion from the stomach and it turns into blood; then the blood is spread to different parts of the body, and your finger is nourished. This is the process for satisfying the various parts of the body.
Similarly, we can enjoy sense gratification—but through Krsna. If you satisfy Krsna’s senses, you feel complete sense gratification. The gopis [the cowherd girls in Krsna’s spiritual abode] are the perfect example. Of all the devotees, the gopis are the supreme.
So, this is the process of human life: We have to purify our present existential condition by voluntarily accepting the regulative principles given by the spiritual master, the scriptures, and saintly persons. Then we become purified. At that time we engage our senses in the service of Lord Krsna, and then we actually enjoy transcendental sense gratification.