Yoga is a word becoming increasingly familiar to people all over the world. Many are asking, “What is yoga? What does the yoga practitioner seek to achieve? And what is the ultimate goal of yoga?”
A Bhagavata Dharma Discourse—an address on the science of understanding God, delivered in Delhi, India.
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This Krishna consciousness movement is the topmost yoga system. You have perhaps read in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, wherein Arjuna declined to accept the hatha-yoga system, the following words of Krishna:
yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
“And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all” (Bg. 6.47)
Krishna is known as Yogesvara, the master of all yogis, and if one takes Krishna within his heart, he becomes the topmost yogi.
There are different kinds of yogis, and there are different yoga-siddhis, or yogic perfections—anima, laghima, mahima, prapti, prakamya, isita vasita. The perfect yogis can act wonderfully. They can become smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest. A yogi can create planets and can become lighter than a feather. He can also fly in the air without the aid of a machine. These are all called siddhis. There is actually a planet within this universe called Siddhaloka, and the residents of that planet can fly from one planet to another without any kind of spaceship. We receive this information from Vedic literature.
Nonetheless, Krishna still says that a person who is always praising Him within himself with faith and love is the highest yogi of all. The purpose of all yoga systems is to get to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who always resides within the heart. That linking with Krishna or that union is called samadhi. Bhagavad-gita verifies that the Lord is indeed sitting in everyone’s heart:
hrd-dese ‘rjuna tisthati
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Bg. 18.61
Actually, everyone is carrying the Supreme Lord within his heart, but one who is conscious of carrying the Lord is Krishna conscious. Therefore the purpose of our movement is to make everyone Krishna conscious, or to make everyone a perfect yogi. Anyone who is conscious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart is to be considered a most elevated yogi. It is not that one has to study all the Vedic literatures very hard or undergo some yogic practices like dhyana, dharana, asana and prana. That is very difficult business and not to be taken lightly. Five thousand years ago, when advised to take up this yoga system, Arjuna declined, saying, “Krishna, it is not possible.” Arjuna came from a very great royal family, and he was so elevated that he could talk to Krishna personally as a friend. Despite all his great qualifications, Arjuna declined to accept the yoga system, that is, the hatha–yoga system, claiming himself unfit for this practice.
In this age no one can practice the hatha-yoga system systematically, for it is very difficult. First of all one has to leave home, select a very secluded place and sit down there alone. You cannot attend some transcendental yoga society in a big city. In America there are many transcendental yoga societies, but people are simply being misled. However, this bhakti-yoga system, as recommended by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is the easiest process and can be practiced even by a child. When you chant the Hare Krishna mantra and dance in ecstasy, you can feel actual advancement. Even small children can take to this process. While I was chanting in Tompkins Square in New York, alone, these boys and girls used to come and chant and dance. Such a nice system.
We must practice this system by chanting the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. This system is very scientific in that Krishna and Krishna’s name, Krishna’s form, Krishna’s qualities, Krishna’s entourage and everything belonging to Krishna or in relationship with Krishna are all absolute.
nama cintamanih Krishnas
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
This is the version of Vedic literature. The word caitanya means living force. God is not dead but is actually a living force.
isvarah paramah Krishnah
anadir adir govindah
“There are many personalities possessing the qualities of God, but Krishna is the Supreme because none can excel Him. He is the Supreme Person, and His body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He is the primeval Lord Govinda and the cause of all causes.” (Brahma-samhita 5.1)
Therefore Krishna is also sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah, full of being, knowledge and bliss and possessing a form. We must try to understand absolute knowledge in this way. Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam (Bhag. 1.2.11). The Absolute Truth is advayam, free from duality. Here, in this dream world, which we call the relative world, everything is separated. If we are thirsty and want water, we may chant, “Water, water, water.” But we will not be satisfied. We require the substance water because the substance and the name water are different. They are not on the absolute platform. But as far as Krishna is concerned, Krishna and Krishna’s name are nondifferent. They are identical, or purnam, complete. Just as Krishna is complete, His name and form are also complete, That is why we are here worshiping the form of Krishna. It is complete. No one should think that Krishna is separate from this form. If He were separate, there would be no meaning to the words Absolute Truth. Therefore in the Vedic scriptures one is forbidden to enter the temple and, upon seeing the transcendental form of the Lord, think that it is made of metal, stone or iron. No We should know for certain that according to the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures, Krishna is present. Such a realization may require advancement in spiritual knowledge, but actually there is no difference between Krishna and His form. This form has descended and is called arca-vigraha. The word vigraha means form, and arca means worship. If we are sincere in wanting to worship Krishna, Krishna, by His omnipotence, presents Himself in this form we can see. At the present moment we cannot see God with our gross senses. Our present ears cannot even hear about the transcendental name of Krishna, but Krishna is so kind that He descends as arca-vigraha. This is Krishna’s special mercy. We should not think Krishna is formless; He is actually existing eternally in His transcendental form.
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows, fulfilling all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems and surrounded by millions of wish-fulfilling trees. He is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis, or goddesses of fortune.” (Bs. 5.29)
Sometimes the members of the Mayavada school of philosophy say that Krishna is imaginary, but this is not so. Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth, as stated in Bhagavad-gita:
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
“O conquerer of wealth [Arjuna], no truth is superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Bg. 7.7)
How, then, can Krishna be formless? He has His transcendental form. This is also described in Brahma-samhita:
venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose eyes are blooming like lotus petals and whose head is bedecked with peacock feathers, whose figure is the form of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds and whose unique loveliness charms millions of cupids.” (Bs. 5.30)
These are statements made by Lord Brahma in the Brahma-samhita. It is not that Krishna is a painting drawn up by some artist’s imagination. We are not following or worshiping some artist’s imagination. We are following the sastras, or Vedic scriptures. The facts therefore have to be learned from these sastras. In fact, we should see the world through the sastras, just as we see the world by the light of the sun. It is not possible to see the world with these blunt eyes. We can only see under certain conditions, and this is true of all the senses. They function only under certain conditions. It is not possible to see Krishna by these senses, but if we follow the sastras, it will be possible to see Him. How? We must engage in devotional service and surrender unto Krishna. In the words of Krishna:
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Bg. 10.10)
If you do not develop that love of Krishna, then you cannot see Krishna. But when you are fully developed in Krishna’s love, you will see Krishna at every moment.
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krishna Himself, with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.” (Bs. 5.38)
This Krishna consciousness movement is very scientific. No one should think that it is a sentimental movement. By the grace of Lord Caitanya, Lord Krishna will show special mercy to the fallen conditioned souls of the world in this age. The mercy of Lord Caitanya has made Krishna consciousness very easily available. Therefore Rupa Gosvami praised Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the most munificent incarnation: namo maha-vadanyaya Krishna-prema-pradaya te. The word vadanya refers to one who gives charity, and the word maha means great. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is addressed as maha-vadanya because He distributes Krishna-prema (love of Krishna) generously to everyone. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s special mercy. Just at the right moment, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to claim the fallen conditioned souls. All my disciples were on the platform of the reprobates Jagai and Madhai, but simply by chanting this Hare Krishna mantra, they have changed. Now they are chanting and dancing in pure love of Krishna. So what was possible five thousand years ago and five hundred years ago is still possible today if we but take to this chanting of Hare Krishna.
We must also take care to cleanse the impurities from the mirror of the mind, or, in the words of Lord Caitanya, ceto-darpana-marjanam. All the problems of the world are due to an impure condition of the heart resulting from contamination by the modes of material nature; otherwise every man, every living entity, is as good as Krishna because everyone is part and parcel of Krishna. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna claims all living entities as His parts and parcels:
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Because of conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Bg. 15.7)
Thus if Krishna is sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah, we are also sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. However, we are now covered by these material bodies and minds, and we have to cleanse them. That is not impossible. It is made possible by the chanting of the names of Krishna. The name of Krishna and Krishna, the Supreme Person, are nondifferent. Lord Caitanya has also confirmed this.
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah
“O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.” (Siksastaka 2)
We do not arbitrarily say that everyone should chant Krishna, but we chant Krishna because Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted Hare Krishna. However, if one has any other names for God, one can chant them also. Caitanya Mahaprabhu verified that God has many names (namnam akari bahudha). However, no one should just make up a name of God. The name must be real, not imaginary. Krishna’s name, for instance, has been chanted from time immemorial. The name Krishna is found in Bhagavad-gita and in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam was written five thousand years ago, so Krishna’s name is not some new invention. In the Atharva Veda Krishna’s name is also there. We are not inventing a name by chanting Krishna. It is the real name of God. That is indicated by all the sastras. Krishnas tu bhagavan svayam (Bhag. 1.3.28). Nor should we think that Krishna is a Hindu Krishna or an Indian Krishna. Krishna is neither Indian nor Hindu. He does not belong to any particular religion. He is the father of all living entities, as stated in Bhagavad-gita:
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita
“It should be understood that all 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, trees, plants, insects, birds, bees and uncivilized men. Krishna claims all of these as His sons; therefore Krishna is not for any particular country or religion. Why does there have to be a particular religion? Religion is one. There cannot be two religions. If there are two, one of them must be false. There is only one religion, and that religion is surrender unto God. There cannot be any other. Where there is no surrender unto God, and where there is no process of developing love for God, there is no religion. Many people execute some dharma, or religious system, but do not know whether they are making progress or not. But this Krishna consciousness can be directly perceived because it is real religion. If we are hungry and eat something, we do not require a certificate from others to tell whether we are satisfied. We receive satisfaction simply by eating. The devotees who have taken to this real religion, Krishna consciousness, are feeling progress; otherwise why are they coming with me? What is this country of India in comparison with their countries? It is poverty-stricken. These Americans and Europeans are all rich men’s sons, and I have not bribed them. They have followed me here to India because they are feeling progress in Krishna consciousness. They are understanding the real meaning of religion and are executing the orders of Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, wherein Krishna says:
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
“Engage your mind always in thinking of me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Bg. 9.34)
Unfortunately many people read Bhagavad-gita but are misled by so-called commentators. Many so-called learned scholars who comment on Bhagavad-gita are actually envious of Krishna. Krishna mentions such envious people in the very text of Bhagavad-gita:
tan aham dvisatah kruran
ksipamy ajasram asubhan
asurisv eva yonisu
”Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Bg. 16.19)
As stated in the Seventh Chapter, one who does not surrender to Krishna is naradhama, lowest among men. Why? Because the human form of life is meant for developing Krishna consciousness. The animals cannot develop Krishna consciousness, and similarly if a human being does not develop Krishna consciousness, he is low on the scale of living entities. As the Vedanta-sutra enjoins, this life is meant for inquiring about Brahman, about God.
This Krishna consciousness movement is therefore important, for we are giving every living entity the chance to make his life successful. As Krishna states:
mam upetya punar janma
samsiddhim paramam gatah
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Bg. 8.15)
This is the highest perfection of life—to understand and approach Krishna. Our humble request is that everyone take to this Krishna consciousness. It does not matter what position a person may be in. Krishna says:
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te ‘pi yanti param gatim
“O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they may be of lower birth, can approach the supreme destination.” (Bg. 9.32)
One can therefore approach Krishna regardless of birth or situation. That is the verdict of all the scriptures and all the Vedas. If we just try to understand Krishna, our lives will be successful.
Krishna can be understood by two processes, and one is this process of bhakti-yoga. One can also try to understand Krishna by the process of philosophical speculation, or jnana. But if one takes to bhakti-yoga, Krishna consciousness, his knowledge will actually be perfect.
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Bg. 7.19)
In this verse the word mahatma, “great soul,” refers to an unflinching devotee of Krishna. One who has unflinching faith in Krishna has to be accepted as a sadhu, a holy man, even though his behavior may not be in order.
api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Bg. 9.30)
We must develop love of God. That is the actual test. At the present moment we cannot perceive Krishna; we have to purify our senses. Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. That religion by which we develop love for the Supreme Lord, who is beyond sense perception, is the supreme religion. The process of worship is very simple, and Krishna gives it in Bhagavad-gita:
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Bg. 9.26)
Of course Krishna’s process of eating is different from ours. If we offer Krishna a plate of food in the temple, after He eats we will see that the food is still there. That is the nature of Krishna’s eating. We do not know how it is that Krishna eats, but because He says He eats, we have to understand that He does.
Our request therefore is that everyone chant this Hare Krishna mantra. One’s heart will be cleansed gradually, and one will approach Krishna. I did not tell these boys and girls from America and Europe to become my disciples, but when they began chanting the Hare Krishna mantra they automatically did. I also requested that they not take meat, fish or eggs, that they not have illicit connection with women, that they not take any form of intoxication including tea, coffee or smoking, and that they not gamble. If you believe in these conditions, and if you can accept them, then I will accept you. Our acceptance of disciples is not a bluff. If I would have told them to do whatever they liked and become my disciples, then millions would have come, but because of these restrictions, only a few of them have come. But numbers do not matter. I am not after disciples; I only want to see that one man has understood Krishna. That is my mission, and that is not very difficult. Please, then, try to understand Krishna. That is my request. The process is so simple that if you chant this Hare Krishna mantra, your heart will be cleansed. Then you will understand Krishna. And if you are curious to know Krishna, Krishna will give you the intelligence. The opportunity is there. Don’t misuse this human form of life and forget Krishna. Try to understand, develop your Krishna consciousness and be happy.
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-these are the eight inferior energies of Krishna that make up the material world.
But beyond these material energies is Krishna’s superior energy, consisting of the living beings who are struggling with material nature and who are sustaining the universe.
There is more to a person than just the outward material body. And then, too, there is even more than the mind and intellect. Within the body and mind is that intangible “something;’ that spiritual force that gives life to this material universe. But what is that spiritual energy within us? Where does it come from? Where is it going? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, you’ll find this book uniquely valuable.