Two Paths — Spiritual Path or Material Path?


As eternal spirit souls in this temporary material world,
we are out of our element. But there is a way home.

A lecture in Toronto in June 1976
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness


asraddadhanah purusa
dharmasyasya parantapa
aprapya mam nivartante

“Those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.3)

Here Lord Krsna is instructing us that there are two paths we can follow: One takes us back home, back to Godhead, and the other forces us to remain in this material world, which is full of miseries, especially birth, old age, disease, and death. These are the two paths open to us.

Actually, we living entities are not subjected to birth, old age, disease, and death. We are eternal, part and parcel of Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we are part and parcel of Him, just as a father may have many children, and every child is part and parcel of the father. So Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is the supreme father, and we living entities are all His children, part and parcel of God. Qualitatively we are one with Krsna, just as a small particle of gold is still gold. It is not qualitatively different from a big lump of gold.

Still, although we are small particles of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, somehow we have fallen into this material world. We are like sparks that are no longer in the fire. When a small spark is dancing within the fire, it is brilliant—it is also fire. And if it falls on your clothes, it will immediately begin to burn, or the spark will make a black spot. I have had this experience. Although the spark is small it is still fire, and therefore it burns. Similarly, we are small particles of spirit, part and parcel of God, and therefore we possess His qualities in minute quantity.

Now, when a spark falls out of a fire, there may be three conditions: The spark may fall on the ground, it may fall on the water, or it may fall on some dry grass. If the spark falls on dry grass, the spark may start another fire. If it falls on the ground, the spark may continue as fire for some time and then become extinguished. And if the spark falls on water, it is finished.

Similarly, the material world is composed of three modes of nature—; goodness, passion, and ignorance. If we acquire the quality of goodness, there is a chance of knowledge and enlightenment—the “fire” can again be generated. And if we acquire the mode of passion, our spiritual enlightenment is likely to soon be extinguished. But if we fall down in the water—the mode of ignorance—our consciousness is finished.

In our fallen condition in this material world, the modes of passion and ignorance are very prominent. The symptoms of these modes are unlimited desires and greediness. And the symptom of the mode of goodness is enlightenment. If we cultivate brahminical qualifications, we will rise to the platform of the mode of goodness. Krsna describes the brahminical qualifications in the Bhagavad-gita [18.42]:

samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
brahma-karma svabhava-jam

If we cultivate this kind of life—to be truthful, peaceful, and tolerant, to be men of wisdom, knowledge, and faith in God and the scriptures—then we are brahmanas. To be a brahmana means that one has a chance of understanding Brahman (brahma janatiti brahmanah). Human life is meant for inquiring about Brahman. This is declared in the first aphorism of the Vedanta-sutra: athato brahma-jijnasa.

So, the gist of the whole Vedic literature is given in the Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Therefore the Bhagavad-gita is a very important book. In other scriptures, sometimes the representative or servant of God is speaking. They are also teaching the science of God, but according to time and circumstances they may modify God’s teachings. But here in the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is Himself speaking.

For the Indians who are present here, it is a great fortune that you have taken your birth in the country where Krsna appeared. Such a birth is not an ordinary thing. Why? Because to take birth in India means to automatically be advanced in spiritual knowledge. Therefore, even though India is in such a fallen condition, if you go to any village the people will very easily understand Krsna consciousness. By birthright they have the knowledge.

In Vrndavana, when we walk on the street the cart drivers, the milkmen carrying milk—they all immediately offer respects: “Ah, Swamiji.” The other day we were taking our morning walk and we entered a field. The cultivators came to receive us: “Swamiji, it is our great fortune that you have come to our field.” But in this country, if I would have entered a field perhaps the owner would have brought a charge of trespassing or even shot me. So that is the difference between Indians and others: by birthright the Indian people are Krsna conscious.

My request to you Indians here in a foreign country is, Please don’t forget your heritage. That is my request. Remain an Indian, with Indian culture. Here is the temple of Krsna, and we are distributing Krsna culture all over the world. Don’t miss this opportunity; take advantage of it.

The duty of every Indian is to help the mission of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Especially to the Indians He said,

bharata bhumite haila
manusya-janma jara
janma sarthaka kari’
kara para-upakara

“The duty of one who has taken birth in India is to first of all make his own life successful and then to perform welfare activities for all others.”

The idea is that since India is enriched with Vedic knowledge, those who are bom in India should take advantage of this facility and then spread that knowledge. Especially those who are in the higher ranks should do this—the brahmanas [intellectuals], ksatriyas [adminstrators], and vaisyas [businessmen]. Learn the art of Krsna consciousness, make your life perfect, and then distribute the knowledge all over the world. This is your duty, and this is the order of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Lord Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago, but it was not broadly preached. It was spoken on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, so Arjuna knew it, and some of his friends. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is also Lord Krsna, took the role of a devotee of Krsna and distributed Krsna consciousness freely. He wanted every Indian to seriously take up Krsna consciousness, make his life perfect, and then distribute the knowledge. This is every Indian’s duty.

Now, in this ninth chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna is speaking plainly about bhakti, devotional service to the Supreme Lord. He calls this knowledge raja-guhyam, “most confidential.” In the previous verse He said, raja-vidya raja-guhyam: “Krsna consciousness is the king of education, and it is very confidential.” Therefore Krsna consciousness cannot be understood by an ordinary man. Suppose you go to a bank. A few persons in the bank—the manager or the cashier or the accountant—may know everything confidential about the bank’s dealings. But the clerks and customers don’t know. Similarly, the knowledge Krsna speaks in Bhagavad-gita is very confidential (guhyam guhyatamam). In other words, it is very, very important and not easily understood by the common man.

Therefore, Krsna says, “I am personally speaking this confidential knowledge to enlighten people like you, Arjuna, not for the people in general.” Arjuna was not an ordinary person. He was born in a royal family, and he was so exalted that he could speak with Krsna face to face. So this confidential knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita is not for ordinary persons.

But still, as Krsna says, the process of Krsna consciousness is susukham kartum avyayam: It is so easy to perform that everyone can do it. These American and Canadian boys—what are they doing here in this temple? Chanting Hare Krsna, dancing, and eating prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. What is the difficulty? Chant Hare Krsna in ecstasy, dance nicely, and when you become hungry and tired, take nice prasadam. Simply by this process you will become advanced in Krsna consciousness, and then you will be able to understand Bhagavad-gita. What is the difficulty?

There is no need of discussing philosophy or becoming a mystic magician or juggler or bluffer or cheater. No. Simply accept this simple process. Come here and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and automatically you’ll become ecstatic, because this Hare Krsna maha-mantra is not an ordinary sound. It is a spiritual sound. As Narottama dasa Thakura has sung, golokera prema-dhana harinama sankirtana. Just as we receive sound from distant places via radio, we receive the chanting of Hare Krsna from the spiritual world. This sound is not produced in this material world; it is brought from the spiritual world.

In the spiritual world there are eternally liberated devotees who are ecstatically enjoying so much—simply by chanting Hare Krsna and dancing. And the scriptures describe that in the spiritual world there is no sex. Just imagine! Here in this material world, sex is considered the highest pleasure. But in the spiritual world, although men and women are very beautiful, there is no sex because everyone is enjoying the higher pleasure of Krsna consciousness.

Also, in the spiritual world no one ever becomes old, because in that place there is no birth, old age, disease, or death. Old age is due to the material body. Otherwise, the spirit soul is everlastingly young. Actually, we are hampered on account of the material bodily encagement.

So, as I have already explained, if you like you can become free from the bondage of this material body, or if you like you can continue your material way of life, changing from one material body to another, perpetually. In the present verse Krsna describes this process as mrtyu-samsara-vartmani, “the path of repeated death in the material world.” Why? Because if you are encaged in a material body—whether a cat’s body or a dog’s body or a human being’s body or a demigod’s body or even Brahma’s body—you have to die. There is no escape. Krsna further says, aprapya mam, “You don’t get Me.” So you have two alternatives: either you get Krsna and go back home, back to Godhead, or you remain in this material world and repeatedly get a body and die again, struggling through the cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death.

Now, because Krsna is our supreme father, or supreme friend, He is helping us by speaking the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita. So we should be very eager to accept His instructions. If we do not, then, Krsna says, mrtyu-samsara-vartmani: We will “travel on the path of repeated birth and death in this material world.”

That is the result if one is not interested in performing his occupational duty, or dharma. What is this dharma? At the end of the Bhagavad-gita Krsna clearly says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Just give up all other duties and surrender unto Me.” This is real dharma. And anything except this is bogus dharma, cheating. In another place in the Bhagavad-gita [4.8] Krsna says, dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge:

“To reestablish the real religious system, I appear age after age.” Krsna comes here, or He sends His representative—his son or devotee or servant. In this way Krsna tries to enlighten the whole human society.

So, you should take advantage of Krsna’s instructions. If you don’t, if you have no faith in them, no interest, then you will suffer. This human form of life is a chance to accept the system of religion offered by God Himself. And it is our duty to accept it. But if one is not interested, then the result, says Krsna, is that “One cannot get Me.” And if we don’t get Krsna, what is the wrong there? It is very, very wrong. As Krsna says, nivartante mrtyu-samsara-vartmani: “One remains in the cycle of birth and death.”

That cycle is not very pleasing. We are working so hard to make nice roads, nice cars, nice skyscrapers, and other nice facilities. Why? To become happy. But when we are called by death, we will cry, “Oh, I am attempting to build this, and now I am dying!” This is very painful.

That is the way of nature. You may try to become happy in this material world, but nature will kick you out. She will not allow you to stay here. Krsna describes this world as duhkhalayam asasvatam: temporary and full of miseries. It is very troublesome to get money and make nice material arrangements. And after you’ve undergone severe hardship and gotten some money and built big, big buildings or purchased a car, you have to work so hard just to keep it all intact. That is also very difficult.

And ultimately there is no guarantee that you will be able to enjoy your material facilities. Today you may be the proprietor of a big house and a big motorcar, but after death you may have to accept the body of a cockroach in the house or the car. Your future situation is not in your hands; it is determined by the laws of nature. If you have worked in such a way that you have no right to possess a car anymore, and if you have great attachment for your car when you are dying, then you may have to accept the body of a cockroach in the same car. No one knows about these laws of nature. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [3.27],

prakrteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate

“The rascals do not know how material nature works. Although they are under the control of nature, they think, ‘I am independent; I am doing everything.'”

So, after death we have to accept another body. Just as we have given up our childhood body and accepted a boyhood body, and given up our boyhood body and accepted an adult body, we will have to accept another body at the time of death. And that body will be created by nature according to our karma. Then we begin another chapter. Whether you become a demigod or a dog or a cockroach or a human being, from the date of your next birth you will begin another chapter. Again the miseries of growing up, changing bodies, adjusting things according to the circumstances. This is mrtyu-samsara-vartmani, the cycle of repeated birth and death.

If you want to avoid this botheration, listen to what Krsna says. Then your life will be successful. But if you don’t accept Krsna’s words, which are very plainly spoken in Bhagavad-gita, then you have to remain in this mrtyu-samsara-vartmani. This is the plain truth. There is no doubt about it. You may be very proud of your strong body or your social or political position, but after death your fate is not under your control. It is under the control of the material nature. So don’t be falsely proud. Don’t be fooled by false egotism into thinking, “I am free. I can do whatever I like.” Then you’ll suffer and remain on the path of repeated birth and death.

There are 8,400,000 species. We have obtained this human form only after having gone through many, many births in the evolutionary process. Now is the time to understand our position. What is that position? That we are eternally part and parcel of God. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [15.7],

mamaivamso jiva-loke
jiva-bhutah sanatanah
prakrti-sthani karsati

“The living entities are eternally part and parcel of Me. But the foolish rascals are creating mental concoctions and speculations to become happy in this material world.”

According to one’s mentality, one gets a certain type of body, which is composed of senses. The pig has a tongue and we also have a tongue, but the pig likes to taste stool with his tongue, while we don’t. Because our bodies are different, our tongues prefer to enjoy different tastes.

During our present life we create a certain type of mentality. If we live like dogs or hogs, that mentality will give us the senses and body of a dog or hog in our next life, and we will acquire a dog’s or hog’s sense of taste. Similarly, we can acquire a demigod’s sense of taste. But the principle of tasting remains the same.

So, in this way things are going on, and Krsna describes them very widely and expressively in the Bhagavad-gita. Every human being is expected to receive this knowledge directly from Krsna. Don’t interpret it according to your whims. Take it as it is and be benefited.

This Krsna consciousness movement is trying to enlighten people in the principles of Bhagavad-gita. These principles are universal; there is no restriction. It is not that if you are not a brahmana or an Indian or a Sanskrit scholar, you cannot take up Krsna consciousness. No. Krsna says, mam hi partha vyapasritya ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah: “Never mind whether one is an Indian or a brahmana or this or that. Even if one is born in the lowest social position, if he surrenders to Me he can achieve perfection.” So Krsna consciousness is universal, and it is easy and happy to perform. Take advantage of it and be happy. That is my request.

Hare Krsna. Thank you very much.

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