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Beyond Religion

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I was surprised when Mr. Gupta told me that although he’d read some of Prabhupada’s writings, he still wasn’t sure what the goal of life was. After we’d talked a little, though, I understood that Mr. Gupta’s confusion wasn’t quite what I’d thought at first. His doubt went something like this:

“I think I live a religious life. I work to support my family, and every day I take time to chant mantras and worship God. This would seem to be enough, but I sense that Prabhupada wants more. Am I missing something?”

Mr. Gupta’s question came after a talk I’d given on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. I had ended by encouraging the audience to take advantage of the many things Prabhupada gave us for our spiritual progress: his books, his Society, his disciples, his prescribed daily spiritual program, the chanting of the maha-mantra, and so on. So Mr. Gupta may have been thinking, “I’m already Krishna conscious. I worship the Lord. Why are you asking me to do more?”

Mr. Gupta’s question goes to the heart of what Krishna consciousness is all about. Krishna consciousness is more than performing our daily mantras, rituals, and meditations. Krishna consciousness is self-realization and God-realization. It’s above prayers for material rewards. It’s pure, exclusive love for Krishna. To be truly Krishna consciousness means to live in transcendence.

Krishna consciousness is above ordinary religion, in which the followers tend to identify the body as the self: “I’m a Hindu” or “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Muslim.” A Krishna conscious person thinks, “Whether in the body of a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, or whatever, each of us is a spirit soul, an eternal servant of Krishna.”

Religious designations don’t exist in the spiritual world. There everyone is simply the servant of the Lord.

Krishna consciousness entails changing our consciousness. Material illusion, beginning with the mistake of identifying with the body, now grips our consciousness. Prabhupada prescribed spiritual practices that remove the material illusion and lift us to the platform of the soul.

Like most followers of any religion, Mr. Gupta thought that performing the rituals and following the rules of his faith are all that’s needed for salvation. But Lord Krishna teaches that for salvation we must awaken our natural pure love for Him. Otherwise, we’ll be reborn into this world after death, even if we’ve performed all our religious duties.

Besides, the goal of life is not salvation but pure love for Krishna. That’s a rare achievement, and we don’t get it by rituals. Krishna is a person, and He decides who gets love for Him, especially by seeing who satisfies His servants. They are His pure representatives in this world, and we must take guidance from them in how to love Him.

A study of Srila Prabhupada’s life and teachings shows that He was Krishna’s pure representative. Mr. Gupta’s sense that Prabhupada was nudging him to do more was correct. Prabhupada was an extraordinary preacher who inspired thousands of people to rise above religious dogmas to pursue spiritual perfection. Human life is meant for spiritual progress. At the end, we should know clearly our identity as eternal servants of the Lord.