Ultimate Goal of Life

“People Must Know the Aim of Life”


Allen Ginsberg: Your Divine Grace, I’m trying to imagine ways by which this spiritual movement of yours can become more and more widespread and more and more acceptable to people. I don’t know how. It’s difficult for me to conceive that everybody in America will …

Srila Prabhupada: Nothing is accepted by everybody.

Allen Ginsberg: I mean, it’s hard to imagine a vast number of modern Americans living a life based on ancient Sanskrit yoga scriptures, totally vegetarian food offered to the Lord, and celibacy except for procreation. And many of us have been thinking, What form of religious practice, what form of simple meditation exercises, could be set forth in America that could be adopted by a great, great, great, great many people on a large scale? We haven’t solved the problem.

One thing I’ve noticed is that your Krishna temples have spread quite a bit and are firmly rooted and solidly based. There are a number of them now. So that really is a very solid root. And I think that will continue.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Allen Ginsberg: But I’m wondering, What future is there? What’s the future of a religious observance so technical as this, so complicated as this? For instance, your movement requires so much sophistication in terms of diet. I mean, no flesh-eating, plus Ekadashi, your fast twice a month from grains. And so much sophistication in terms of daily ritual, like arati, where you offer the Lord food and flowers and so on. The whole thing that you’ve been teaching—how far can that spread by its very complexity?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. These practices are a little complex. The whole idea is to keep the devotees always engaged in Krishna consciousness. That is the program. Gradually, we shall introduce more and more of this Krishna culture, so that the devotees feel the richness and no need to go outside Krishna consciousness.

First of all, you have to understand that we are trying to make people Krishna conscious. So how can a person remain Krishna conscious twenty-four hours a day? That is the program.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the orthodox Jews have a very heavy, complicated, moment-by-moment ritual daily existence for that same purpose. It is to keep them conscious of their religious nature. And that has maintained a small group of Jews over the centuries as an integral unit, but has tended to disappear in the later generations now, because modern life does not allow that much Krishna consciousness or Jewish consciousness or religious consciousness and attention, act by act throughout the day. So my question is, How far can total Krishna devotion—act by act, all day—spread? How many people can that encompass in a place like America? Or are you intending only to get a few devotees, like several hundred or a thousand who will be solid and permanent?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. That is my program, because Krishna consciousness is not possible for everyone. In the Bhagavad-gita we learn, bahunam janmanam ante: Only after many, many births can a person come to this full understanding. So at any one point in time, it is not possible that a mass of people, a large number of people, will be able to fully grasp it. You see? Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: “After many births, one who is at last in knowledge surrenders unto Me.” Elsewhere in Bhagavad-gita we find manushyanam sahasreshu: Out of millions of men, just one may be inquiring how to liberate himself from this material world. And out of millions of such liberated persons, just one may actually understand Krishna.

So ordinarily, understanding Krishna is not a very easy thing. That is why, when Krishna came as Lord Caitanya, five hundred years ago, He was so munificent that He gave us an easy process, the chanting of His holy names. Otherwise, Krishna consciousness is not easy, because insofar as the Absolute Truth is concerned, Krishna is the last word, and generally, people are just like animals, absorbed in this temporary material world.

Out of many such materially illusioned persons, one becomes interested in the scriptures. Now, most persons—if they’re at all attracted to the scriptures—are attracted to the ritualistic ceremonies recommended there for improving their economic condition. You see? People take up religion, or dharma, with the motive of artha—improving their economic position. Artha means money.

Why artha? Why do you want money? For kama, your futile attempt to satisfy these temporary, illusory senses. And when you become frustrated in sense gratification, then you seek moksha, or liberation, supposedly merging with the Absolute. These four are going on. Dharma, artha, kama, moksha.

But the scriptures, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam, say that dharma is not meant for acquiring money, and that money is not meant for satisfying the senses, and that sense gratification should be accepted simply to maintain the body. That’s all.

The real business of human life is tattva-jijnasa, understanding the Absolute Truth. Jivasya tattva-jijnasa nartho yash ceha karmabhih. Kamasya nendriya-pritir labho jiveta yavata. Kamasya, sense gratification, does not mean you have to increase the volume of sense gratification. No. Jiveta yavata: You have to accept sense gratification only insofar as you need it for living nicely. The real business of human life is jivasya tattva- jijnasa. Every human being should be inquisitive about the Absolute Truth. But you won’t find the mass of people trying to come to this point. It is not possible. Don’t expect it.

Allen Ginsberg: Your plan in America, then, is to set up centers so that those who are that concerned can pursue their studies and practice a ritual?

Srila Prabhupada: Personally, I have no ambition. But it is the mission of human life to come to this point. So there must at least be some center or institution that gives people this idea.

Of course, it is not that everyone will come. For instance, during my studies, at the University of Calcutta a professor’s salary was thirteen or fourteen hundred dollars a month. And yet there were comparatively few students, and the fees collected from each student were at most thirty-six dollars per month. You see? But still, the classes had to be maintained, because the ideal must be there.

So our mission is, the intelligent persons of the world must know that the aim of human life is not simply seeking after sense gratification. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, jivasya tattva-jijnasa: Human life is meant for inquiring about the ultimate truth. That is the same thing that Vedanta had said before, because the Srimad- Bhagavatam is nothing but the explanation of Vedanta. So Vedanta says, athato brahma-jijnasa: This human form of life is meant for inquiring about Brahman, the Supreme Spirit. Atha means “now,” and atha means “after,” signifying that now, after passing through untold lower species of life, when the soul at last rises to the level of civilized human life, at that time his business is to inquire about the Absolute Truth. What is the Absolute Truth? That is the whole Vedanta philosophy: What is the Absolute Truth? And as I have said, this same thing is explained in the Bhagavatam. Jivasya tattva-jijnasa. Jivasya means that for all living entities, the main business is to inquire about the Absolute Truth.

Yet nowadays, thanks to so-called educators and leaders, people are being misled. Instead of taking people to the highest, topmost stage—to the platform of inquiring about the Absolute—these misleaders are merely giving facilities for how you can satisfy your senses nicely.

Allen Ginsberg: OK. But now in America there is a feeling of spiritual bankruptcy, due to our overemphasis of sense satisfaction. Everyone agrees.

Srila Prabhupada: That feeling must be there. Must be there.

Allen Ginsberg: Everyone agrees that our civilization has come to the end of its possibilities materially. So everyone understands that. It’s in New York Times editorials as well as in the editorials of ISKCON journals. So everyone, then, is looking for an alternative to material extension.

Srila Prabhupada: They should inquire about the Absolute Truth.

Home Where We Belong

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from Back To Godhead Magazine, #34-04, 2000

The other day I caught myself feeling sad for a moment that I wouldn’t be around for a future technological breakthrough I read about: personal jet-packs. Wouldn’t they be great? Strap one on, push a button, and zoom between home and office in no time.

Then I thought, “Do I really want to stay around for that?”


When I explain the philosophy of Krishna consciousness to people, I naturally tell them that the goal of life should be to return to our original home in the spiritual world. Sometimes I sense that the idea strikes people as odd. Their faces show an uneasiness at the thought of having to leave this world to go somewhere else. That other place sounds great, but how can I leave behind everything and everyone I know? That’s just too big a price to pay. I have too much invested here.

Because we mistakenly identify ourselves with our bodies, we’re attached to our present life. Most of us feel no emotional ties with our eternal home. To think we belong in some other world is difficult. Many of us can’t even imagine living in a foreign country, what to speak of a seemingly foreign planet. Goloka Vrindavana? You might as well invite us to move to Mars.

Our reluctance to leave familiar surroundings for the spiritual world shows we’re forgetting we’re going to have to leave our present situations anyway. How long can I stay in this American body? I’ll be kicked out of this body and into a new one, whether I like it or not.

The Vedic literature guides us toward doing the intelligent thing: preparing for the inevitable. The sage Chanakya said that we’ll lose everything at death, so we’d be wise to use what we now have for our permanent benefit.

Our most valuable possession is our human body, which lets us think about higher things. The Vedas tell us we’ve had bodies in millions of species before getting a human body. So we’d better make the best of it. Our human emotions may bind us to our temporary life here on earth, but we should rise above them and understand that everything we’re searching for here—in the lives we’ve tried to build for ourselves—can be found only in our eternal home. No need for jet-packs there. In liberated spiritual bodies we can go anywhere in an instant.

We’re travelers who have been away from home so long we’ve forgotten our real family and friends, especially our dearest friend, Lord Krishna. What misfortune! But Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee in full consciousness of his relationship with Krishna, has given us spiritual practices to awaken our memory of Krishna and our eternal relationship with Him. When we wake up to the glory of that relationship, we’ll be happy to leave this world of misery to return to the world of Krishna’s abundant love. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, we’ll feel like a traveler who has returned home after a troubled journey.

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.

Smart Quote of the Day, October 4, 2015

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"There are so many departments of knowledge all over the world and many huge universities, but there is, unfortunately, no university or educational institution where the science of the spirit soul is instructed. Yet the soul is the most important part of the body; without the presence of the soul, the body has no value."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the purport to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.2:

TRANSLATION

This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.

PURPORT (excerpt):

. . . Generally, people are not educated in this confidential knowledge; they are educated in external knowledge. As far as ordinary education is concerned, people are involved with so many departments: politics, sociology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, engineering, etc. There are so many departments of knowledge all over the world and many huge universities, but there is, unfortunately, no university or educational institution where the science of the spirit soul is instructed. Yet the soul is the most important part of the body; without the presence of the soul, the body has no value. Still people are placing great stress on the bodily necessities of life, not caring for the vital soul.

Smart Quote of the Day, November 19, 2015

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"Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection . . ."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter Six, in the section entitled, "Spiritual Communism."
In 1971, during his historic visit to the Soviet Union, Srila Prabhupada was introduced to Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky, head of the India Department at the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and chairman of the Indian studies department at the University of Moscow. As they sat informally in Dr. Kotovsky's office, the spiritual leader and the communist scholar vigorously discussed topics of mutual concern, and Srila Prabhupada proposed a radical reformation within modern communism.

Prof. Kotovsky: The only difficulty is that we cannot half surrender to a government or a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, to a person, or to the society.

Srila Prabhupada: No, that is only a change of color. But the principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection, just as Krishna says (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]). No one can say, "No, I am not surrendered to anyone." Not a single person. The difference is where he surrenders. The ultimate surrendering object is Krishna. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (7.19) Krishna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After surrendering to so many things birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me." Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: "Such a mahatma is very rare."

Smart Quote of the Day, November 23, 2015

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"Just as a young boy awakens his natural attraction for a young girl in her association, similarly, if one hears about Krishna in the association of devotees, he awakens his dormant Krishna consciousness."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter One, in the section entitled, "What is Krishna Consciousness?"

Krishna means God. We are all intimately connected with Him because He is our original father. But we have forgotten this connection. When we become interested in knowing, "What is my connection with God? What is the aim of life?" then we are called Krishna conscious . . . Krishna consciousness is dormant in everyone's heart, and when one comes in contact with devotees, it is awakened. Krishna consciousness is not artificial. Just as a young boy awakens his natural attraction for a young girl in her association, similarly, if one hears about Krishna in the association of devotees, he awakens his dormant Krishna consciousness.

Smart Quote of the Day, January 21, 2016

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". . . the soul is so small that it is smaller than an atom. That small particle is within you, within me, within the elephant, within gigantic animals, in all men, in the ant, in the tree, everywhere. However, scientific knowledge cannot estimate the dimensions of the soul, nor can a doctor locate the soul within the body. Consequently material scientists conclude that there is no soul, but that is not a fact."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter Seven, in the section entitled, "Build Your Nation on the Spiritual Platform"

"There are innumerable particles of spiritual atoms, which are measured as one ten-thousandth of the upper portion of a hair." Because we have no instrument to measure the dimensions of the spirit soul, the small particle of spirit soul is measured in this way. In other words, the soul is so small that it is smaller than an atom. That small particle is within you, within me, within the elephant, within gigantic animals, in all men, in the ant, in the tree, everywhere. However, scientific knowledge cannot estimate the dimensions of the soul, nor can a doctor locate the soul within the body. Consequently material scientists conclude that there is no soul, but that is not a fact. There is a soul. The presence of the soul makes a difference between a living body and a dead body. As soon as the soul departs from the body, the body dies. It has no value. However great a scientist or a philosopher one may be, he must admit that as soon as the soul departs from the body, the body dies. It then has no value and has to be thrown away. We should try to understand this; the soul is valuable, not the body.

Smart Quote of the Day, March 14, 2016

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". . . the devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord. Consequently they undertake all kinds of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try to engage them in the acts of Krishna consciousness, which are absolutely necessary for the human being."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the purport to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 3.29:

TRANSLATION

Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers' lack of knowledge.

PURPORT (excerpt):

Persons who are unknowledgeable falsely identify with gross material consciousness and are full of material designations. This body is a gift of the material nature, and one who is too much attached to the bodily consciousness is called manda, or a lazy person without understanding of spirit soul. Ignorant men think of the body as the self; they accept bodily connections with others as kinsmanship, the land in which the body is obtained is their object of worship, and they consider the formalities of religious rituals to be ends in themselves. Social work, nationalism and altruism are some of the activities for such materially designated persons. Under the spell of such designations, they are always busy in the material field; for them spiritual realization is a myth, and so they are not interested. Those who are enlightened in spiritual life, however, should not try to agitate such materially engrossed persons. Better to prosecute one's own spiritual activities silently. Such bewildered persons may be engaged in such primary moral principles of life as nonviolence and similar materially benevolent work.

Men who are ignorant cannot appreciate activities in Krishna consciousness, and therefore Lord Krishna advises us not to disturb them and simply waste valuable time. But the devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord. Consequently they undertake all kinds of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try to engage them in the acts of Krishna consciousness, which are absolutely necessary for the human being.

Smart Quote of the Day, March 19, 2016

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" . . . Is there any science that gives us the knowledge by which we may become immortal? Yes, we may become immortal, but not in the material sense. We cannot receive this knowledge in so-called universities. However, there is knowledge contained in the Vedic scriptures by which we may become immortal."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter Two, in the section entitled, "Choosing a Spiritual Master"

Is there any science that gives us the knowledge by which we may become immortal? Yes, we may become immortal, but not in the material sense. We cannot receive this knowledge in so-called universities. However, there is knowledge contained in the Vedic scriptures by which we may become immortal. That immortality is our better position. No more birth, no more death, no more old age, no more disease. Thus the guru takes on a very great responsibility. He must guide his disciple and enable him to become an eligible candidate for the perfect position—immortality. The guru must be competent to lead his disciple back home, back to Godhead.

Smart Quote of the Day, March 29, 2016

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" . . This material world is just like a prison house; it is a punishing place meant to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted, surrendering at last to Krishna, and going back to our original nature of eternal life in bliss and complete knowledge. ."

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Today's Smart Quote is from the Science of Self Realization, Chapter Seven, in the section entitled, "Protecting Oneself from Illusion"

"After many births and deaths, he who is actually wise 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) Again Krishna uses that word mahatma, great soul. Therefore our devotees that you have met are not ordinary boys and girls. No. They are to be considered actually wise, great souls because they have experienced in many births the miserable disease of material life and have become disgusted. Therefore they are seeking higher knowledge—they are seeking something better—and when they find Krishna and surrender unto Him, they become mahatmas, who are actually situated in knowledge. This material world is just like a prison house; it is a punishing place meant to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted, surrendering at last to Krishna, and going back to our original nature of eternal life in bliss and complete knowledge. Therefore it is to the credit of these devotees that they have done what is sudurlabhah, very rare among all men in human society.