Vedic literature describes the various levels of enjoyment.
Life’s goal is to find the highest level.
A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Devotee[Reads from The Nectar of Devotion]: “There are three kinds of happiness: material, spiritual, and devotional. Devotional service and the happiness due to its execution are not possible as long as one is materially affected. The desire for material enjoyment and the desire for becoming one with the Supreme are both considered material concepts.”
Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit the three kinds of happiness are called bhoga, tyaga, and seva. The ordinary fruitive workers are after bhoga, the happiness of sense enjoyment. And the jnanis, the seekers of knowledge, are after the happiness that comes from negating sense enjoyment. One who is fed up with sense enjoyment will sometimes give it up and feel relief. For example, in America young boys are fed up with the kinds of sense enjoyment experienced by their fathers and grandfathers. So in the name of tyaga, renunciation, many of them have left home and become hippies. But because they cannot give up enjoyment entirely, they have taken to other kinds of sense enjoyment—intoxication and unrestricted sex.
So, beyond bhoga and tyaga is real enjoyment—seva, or the happiness of devotional service to Krsna. Here is a practical example: Suppose all of a sudden you see a one-hundred-rupee note lying on the street. If you pick it up and keep it, your conscience will beat you, because you know the money does not belong to you. You’ll always think, “I have taken somebody else’s money. I’m doing something sinful.” In this way your mind will disturb you. So, that is bhoga. And if you don’t take the money—if you leave it lying in the street—you’ll also be disturbed. You’ll think, “Somebody left that money there. I did not pick it up, but somebody else will find it and take it away. That is not good. “This is tyaga. But the best thing is that you pick up the hundred-rupee note and return it to the person who lost it. Then your mind will be happy and at peace. This is seva, devotion.
Everything belongs to Krsna. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita [5.29], bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: “I am the maha-isvara, the supreme proprietor.” Everyone is an isvara to some extent, but nobody except Krsna is the supreme proprietor. Unfortunately, this is unknown to the nondevotees. They think that the resources of the world have been given by nature for our enjoyment. This is the modern theory of economic development. Someone is thinking, “By the gift of nature we have a gold mine, so let us take the gold and enjoy.” This is the view of the fruitive workers.
And when one nation has a large quantity of gold, every other nation is hankering to take it. Why is there struggle in this world? Because when one nation becomes wealthy, the people in the other nations think, “How can I take the wealth?” or “How can my nation take the wealth?” This is nationalism, which is simply expanded selfishness. That’s all. People are fond of nationalism, but it’s simply collective selfishness. In our country, Mahatma Gandhi is known as the father of nationalism. But what is that nationalism? Mahatma Gandhi thought, “The Britishers must go so my countrymen can enjoy.” This is simply extended selfishness.
The basic principle of material life is “I want to enjoy.” Then, even if I extend my enjoyment familywise, communitywise, or nationwise, that does not change the quality of selfishness. Big leaders are glorified in the name of nationalism, but actually neither the nation nor the community nor the person is the proprietor of anything. Krsna is the proprietor of everything (isavasyam idam sarvam [Iso mantra 1]). Therefore, whether on the individual level, the community level, or the national level, anyone who uses Krsna’s property selfishly is a thief, just as a pickpocket, a gang, and an organization of gangsters are all thieves.
Once there was a conversation between Alexander the Great and a thief. Alexander had arrested him and was going to punish him. So, the thief protested, “Why are you punishing me? You are a great conqueror and I am only an ordinary thief, but actually you are simply a greater thief. That’s all.” Alexander the Great was very intelligent, and he immediately released the thief. “Yes,” he said, “you are right. I am also a thief. Why should I punish you?”
So, everyone in this material world who is not Krsna conscious is a thief and a rogue. For example, the Americans occupied the land of America by killing the red Indians, and now they claim proprietorship. The immigration department declares, “Nobody can come here. It is our land.” In this connection, there is another story about a group of thieves who stole some things and then divided them up. One of the thieves said, “Kindly divide everything honestly.” The things were taken dishonestly, and he wanted them to be divided honestly. This is going on throughout the whole world. Everything has been stolen from Krsna dishonestly, and when there is conflict or a question of division, the United Nations tries to settle it “honestly.” All the nations are full of plunderers, rogues, thieves—yet they have made an association called the United Nations to approve their rascaldom. You see? As soon as there is an opportunity, they’ll commit all kinds of criminal activities. This we are actually seeing.
So, happiness that comes from material possessions is the happiness of rogues and thieves. And one who renounces everything, declaring, brahma satyam jagan mithya—“Only Brahman is real; this world is false”—he is a fool. What can you renounce? If you possess something, you can renounce it. But if you don’t possess anything, what’s the question of renunciation?
The jnanis, or impersonalists, are fed up with so-called material happiness, so in the name of brahmananda, so-called spiritual happiness, they say, “This world is false; I renounce it.” The grapes are sour. You know the story of the jackal and the grapes? He wanted to get the grapes from a high place, so he was jumping, jumping, jumping. When he couldn’t get them, he said, “Oh, the grapes are sour. I have no need for these grapes.” Similarly, these rascal impersonalists renounce the world. This is also wrong, because what do they actually have to renounce?
Real happiness comes from seva, devotional service to Krsna. When one knows, “Everything is Krsna’s and must be used for His purpose,” that is real happiness. Not this false renunciation—jagan mithya. Srila Rupa Gosvami says,
Those who are after liberation from birth and death give up this world and become Mayavadi sannyasis [impersonalistic renunciants]. But Rupa Gosvami says this is phalgu-vairagya, incomplete renunciation. The word phalgu means “incomplete,” and it also refers to the river Phalgu, near Gaya. This river is called “Phalgu” because if you come to it you’ll find only a riverbed of sand. But if you push your hand within the sand, you’ll find water. Similarly, the Mayavadi sannyasis have taken the dress of the renounced order, but within their hearts they have all kinds of desires to fulfill. If you “push your hand” within their hearts, you’ll find unlimited desires for material enjoyment. They give up this world, but at heart they think, “I shall become God.” Just see! An ordinary fruitive worker may try to become a king or a president, but the Mayavadis are trying to become God. How much greater desire they have, although outwardly they appear renounced.
But a devotee’s happiness is different. As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said,
nadhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
“O my Lord, O Lord of the Universe, I do not want wealth, I do not want many followers, I do not want a nice wife. All I want, birth after birth, is to engage in Your unalloyed devotional service.”
A devotee of Krsna does not desire even liberation, what to speak of wealth, followers, and so on. He simply wants to serve Krsna. That is real renunciation. And that is also perfect happiness and peace. As said in the Caitanya-caritamrta, bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami sakali asanta:
“Those who are after sense enjoyment, liberation, or mystic perfectioncan neverenjoy real peace.”
The fruitive workers undergo great struggle to possess wealth. So they’re never peaceful. And those who are after liberation generally want to become God or to become one with God. They must perform severe austerities and penances—very troublesome. So where is santi, peace? Then the yogis—they must also perform difficult practices: asanas [sitting postures], pranayama [breath control], dharana [concentration], dhyana [meditation], and so on. Where is santi? The yogi has to keep his head down for so long in sirsasana [the headstand]. That is one asana. Then he has to show some magic; otherwise he’ll not be recognized as advanced in yoga practice. Sometimes the yogis will produce a piece of candy by magic. These are all troublesome things.
So, neither the fruitive worker, the impersonalist, nor the yogi is peaceful. But krsna-bhakta niskama ataeva santa: “Because a devotee of Krsna does not need to possess anything or renounce anything or show some magic power, he is perfectly peaceful.”
Therefore, one should concentrate upon devotional service. Everything is included. A devotee of Krsna does not renounce anything of this world or accept anything of this world outside of Krsna’s service. If he accepts something, it is for Krsna, and if he rejects something, that is also for Krsna. For example, in our society we advise, “Give up illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat-eating.” So, this is tyaga, renunciation. Why? For Krsna.
Our business is to accept that by which Krsna is pleased and to reject that by which Krsna is displeased. Our central point is Krsna’s pleasure. In everything we do, we have to see whether Krsna or His representative is pleased. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: “By the mercy of the representative of Krsna, one gets the mercy of Krsna.” If we live in this way, we shall be happy; we shall enjoy the happiness of devotional service. Go on reading.
Devotee: “Because the impersonalists cannot appreciate the devotional happiness produced by the exchange of loving affairs with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their ultimate goal is to become one with the Lord.”
Srila Prabhupada: The impersonalists have no conception of the Personality of Godhead, so they say the Supreme is nirakara, without form. How can there be loving affairs with nirakara? I cannot love the air. Love can exist only for a person. Krsna has form and personality, so we can love Him. But we cannot love the sky. Therefore, because the impersonalists have no conception of God as a person, their “love of God” is all fictitious.
The impersonalists will pray, tvam eva mata tvam eva pita: “You are my mother, You are my father.” But who is that mother, who is that father? That they do not know. We say, “Here is your mother and father—Krsna.” Krsna is a tangible fact, not some fictitious, impersonal void.
Go on reading.
Devotee: “Their ultimate goal is to become one with the Lord. This concept is simply an extension of the material idea.”
Srila Prabhupada: Our concept is also to become one with God—but one in interest, not in identity. Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all other activities and just surrender unto Me.” To become one with Krsna means that we agree, “Yes, Sir. For so long I acted foolishly. Now I surrender unto You.” As Srila Bhaktivinoda sings, manasa deha geha yo kichu mora arpilum tua pade nanda-kisora: “O my dear Lord, whatever I possess—my mind, my body, my home—I surrender unto Your lotus feet.” This is oneness. Marabi rakhabi jo iccha tohara: “You may kill me or protect me—whatever You like.” But nitya-dasa prati tua adhikara: “I will remain Your eternal servant.” This is oneness.
I keep my individuality, but I amso surrendered to Krsna that I have no disagreement with Him. Not that I mix myself up with Him and lose my individuality. I have individuality now, so my individuality must go on. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [2.12]: “These kings, you, and I—all of us existed in the past, we are existing now, and in the future we shall also exist.” There is no question of intermingling one’s individuality with Krsna. Individuality is sacrificed only in the sense of being in full agreement with Him. That is oneness.
For example, in our Society I am the head. So, everyone is in agreement with me. But it is not that my disciples, my students, have lost their individuality. They’re using their individuality to propagate the Krsna consciousness movement, as sanctioned by me. So, by our devotional service, by the varieties of work we do, we must see whether or not Krsna is satisfied. That’s all. Sv-anusthitasya dharmasya samsiddher hari-tosanam: “The perfection of all activity is to please Krsna.” This is our philosophy.
Whatever we do must satisfy Krsna or His representative. In an office, the clerks work for the superintendent. If he’s pleased, the proprietor is pleased. The clerks do not have to engage in a separate endeavor to please the proprietor. If the man in charge is pleased, the proprietor is pleased.
Similarly, we have to please our spiritual master. And if he’s pleased, Krsna is pleased and my life is successful. Others may be displeased or pleased; it doesn’t matter. We should simply see that Krsna is pleased. Then what we are doing is all right. That is oneness—not losing our individuality. Continue.
Devotee: “In the material world, everyone is trying to be the topmost head man amongst all his fellow men or neighbors. Whether communally, socially, or nationally, everyone is competing to be greater than all others in the material concept of life. This competition can extend to the unlimited, so that one actually wants to become one with the greatest of all, the Supreme Lord. This is also a material idea, although maybe a little more advanced.”
Srila Prabhupada: This kind of conception—”I shall become God”—is a material conception, not a spiritual one. Nobody can become God, because God already is. But one who has no actual knowledge of God may think that he has become God (vimukta-mani). He thinks, “I have become liberated; I have become God.” Then he advertises himself as God, and some foolish people adore him: “Oh, here is God—here is an incarnation of God,”
We do not accept such a cheap God. At the age of seven, Krsna lifted Govardhana Hill. So, if you are actually God, then show me that you can lift a hill. Then I will accept you. Go on reading.
Devotee: “However, the perfect spiritual concept of life is complete knowledge of one’s constitutional position, in which one knows enough to dovetail himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is the sum and substance of Krsna consciousness. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.