To find the lasting happiness we’re looking for,
we must break free of the bonds of gross and subtle matter.
A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for kindly participating in this Krsna consciousness movement, which is spreading bhagavata-dharma. Bhagavata-dharma means “the activities performed in relationship with the Supreme Lord.” The Lord is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the devotee is bhagavata, one who acts in relationship with Bhagavan.
Actually, everyone is related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as a son is always related to his father. That relationship cannot be broken at any stage. But sometimes it happens that the son, out of independence, goes out of his home and forgets his affectionate relationship with his father. In your country it is not a very extraordinary thing; at the present moment many sons are going out of their fathers’ affectionate homes.
Similarly, we are all sons of God, but out of independence some of us have left the spiritual world and are trying to forget our affectionate relationship with Him. Of course, we are not fully independent, but we do have minute independence. Because God is fully independent and we are born of God, we have the quality of independence in minute degree. Therefore we have the freedom to remember our relationship with God or to forget it.
So, although we living entities are part and parcel of God, when we want to live independently of Him we begin our conditioned stage of existence. We must accept a material body, which is conditioned in so many ways. One conditioning is that the body must undergo six changes. The body is born at a certain date, it grows, it remains for some time, it produces some by-products, it dwindles, and at last it vanishes. These are the six changes of the body. Another conditioning is that the body is subject to so many tribulations, called the threefold miseries: miseries caused by the body and mind, miseries inflicted on us by other living entities, and miseries caused by natural disturbances. And above all, our whole conditioning is summarized into four principles—birth, old age, disease, and death. These are the conditions of material life.
So, in order to get out of these conditions placed on us, we must revive our original consciousness—Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness. (When we speak of Krsna, we mean the Supreme Lord.) It is natural for us to revive our Krsna consciousness, because Krsna is our Supreme Father. Every one of us can say, “I am the son of such-and-such gentleman; such-and-such gentleman is my father.” So it is natural to remember our father and our relationship with him.
Unfortunately, sometimes we forget our Supreme Father, Krsna, and we want to live independently; we want to enjoy life according to our whims. But by such independence we are never satisfied. In search of illusory happiness, we must transmigrate from one body to another to find facilities for sense enjoyment. But in every body, in every species of life, we must suffer birth, old age, disease, and death, as well as the other miseries of conditioned life.
The human form of life is an opportunity to revive our original relationship with the Supreme Father, Krsna, and get free of this miserable conditioned life. Then we will exist in our spiritual body, without being covered by this material body. We have a spiritual body within this material body, and that is our real identity. Now we are covered by two kinds of material bodies: the subtle body and the gross body. The subtle body is made of mind, intelligence, and ego—false ego. And the gross body is a mixture of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These two kinds of bodies are always changing, but our spiritual body remains unchanged.
Generally, we can see the gross body but not the subtle body. I know that you have a mind and intelligence, and you know I have a mind and intelligence. But I cannot see your mind, your intelligence, or your determination. I cannot see your thoughts—your thinking, feeling, willing. Similarly, you cannot see my subtle body. You can see only my gross body made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and I can see your gross body.
When the gross body breaks down, we are carried away by the subtle body, and that process is called death. If our father dies, we may say, “Oh, my father has gone away.” Why do we say that our father has gone away? The body is still lying there. But actually our father has gone away, because the spirit soul has been carried away by the subtle body. Similarly, at night while we are sleeping in our nice apartment, our subtle body may take us away to the top of a mountain. We may dream we have come to the top of a very high mountain and that we are falling down, but actually our gross body is sleeping in a comfortable apartment. The subtle body has carried us to the mountain.
So, death means a change of gross body. The gross body and subtle body are like our coat and shirt. Generally, when you enter your home you remove your coat but keep your shirt on. Similarly, at death we give up our gross body but keep our subtle body. That is death. And then, by the laws of nature, we are carried by our subtle body into the womb of a mother, where we develop another gross body with materials supplied by her. When the body is ready, we come out from the womb of the mother and begin working again with the subtle and gross bodies.
By practicing Krsna consciousness, we can transcend both the gross body and the subtle body and come to the spiritual world. And as soon as we are free of the gross and subtle bodies, we attain our real body, our spiritual body. So, Krsna consciousness is the highest benediction for human society, because it allows one to transcend the gross and subtle material bodies and come to the platform of one’s spiritual body. That is the highest perfection.
Human life is meant for transcending the bodily concept of life. This age is called Kali-yuga. It is not a very good time: simply disagreement, fighting, quarreling, misunderstanding. This age is full of all these things. Therefore, to come to the spiritual platform by meditation or mystic yoga is very difficult in this age. Formerly it was not so difficult; people were easily trained up by the Vedic process. But now people are generally not interested in spiritual matters. They are simply interested in the gross body or, if one is a little advanced, the subtle body. Although there has been advancement in education, there is no education concerning the spiritual body. Therefore people are simply concerned with the gross and subtle material bodies.
As expressed in a song by Narottama dasa Thakura, one of our predecessor acaryas, or teachers: hari hari viphale janama gonainu. He says, “My dear Lord, I am simply wasting my valuable human life.” Countless living entities have taken birth as human beings, but most of them do not know how to utilize their life. They utilize it just like the animals—simply making arrangements for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. That’s all. The animal eats his natural food, and we make arrangements for eating unnaturally—that is our advancement. In the animal kingdom every animal has a particular type of food. Take the tiger, for example. A tiger eats flesh and blood. If-you give a tiger nice oranges or grapes, he’ll not touch them, because they are not his food. Similarly, a hog eats stool. If you give a hog nice halava [buttery-sweet toasted farina], he’ll not touch it.
Just as every animal has a particular type of food, we human beings also have our particular type of food. What is that food? Fruit, milk, grains, vegetables. Consider our teeth. If you eat a fruit, you can easily cut it into pieces with your teeth. But if you eat a piece of flesh, it will be difficult to cut with your teeth. But a tiger has the particular type of teeth that can immediately cut flesh into pieces.
So, we are advancing in education, but we do not even study our teeth. We simply go to the dentist. This is our advancement of civilization. The tiger never goes to the dentist, yet its teeth are so strong that they can immediately cut flesh into pieces. He doesn’t require a dentist, because he doesn’t eat anything that is unnatural for him. But because we eat any damn thing, we require the help of a dentist.
The human being has a particular purpose in his life—to study and discuss bhagavata-dharma and thus try to understand Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is very easy. How can we do it? We simply have to hear about Krsna. Krsna is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we are part and parcel of Krsna. Suppose I had left my home a long time ago and forgot my father. Then somebody reminded me: “Do you know such-and-such gentleman? He is your father. Long ago you played in such-and-such a way, and your father helped you.” In this way, if you simply talked of my father, I would remember him and my home.
Similarly, we have all forgotten our relationship with our Supreme Father, Krsna, but if we simply hear about Him from authorized sources, we will begin to remember Him. It is a simple process:
srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam
“Krsna is our best friend, and He is dwelling within our heart as the Supersoul. When we submissively hear about Him, He cleanses away all the dirty things in our heart, such as lust and greed.”
We should simply hear about Krsna. We have forgotten Krsna, our Supreme Father, on account of material contamination, but if we hear about Him attentively we will begin to remember Him. You have kindly come here to listen to talks about Krsna, so this is a very good opportunity for you. You are all young boys and girls, and you are very fortunate. Your fathers and grandfathers have not come here, but you have come. So just continue hearing about Krsna and your life will be successful. You haven’t got to do anything else. You don’t have to acquire an M.A. or a Ph.D. No. God has given you two ears, and if you kindly hear about Krsna from a realized source, your life will be successful. Thank you very much.