by Kundali dasa
Impersonalists are essentially of two types: the classic and the wishy-washy.
Once, at the hermitage of a venerated guru, a disciple became enlightened after years of penance and instruction at his master’s feet. “O master,” he said, “I realise what you have been saying all along: God and I are one. Only by the power of illusion have I have been making a distinction between myself and God. By your kindness I am awakened. I am in union with the formless, limitless, ineffable, and eternal Supreme.” When the guru indicated that the disciple had understood rightly, the disciple asked his master’s blessing to go alone on a pilgrimage.
On his way, he walked down the middle of the streets, pondering the implications of his recent enlightenment. After some time he heard an elephant driver shouting from atop his elephant, “Make way for the elephant! Move out of the road!” He saw pedestrians fearfully scurrying out of the elephant’s path.
“If I am God,” our hero reasoned, “why should I move out of the road for an elephant? That would betray my convictions. The elephant should stand aside for me.”
Before long, he and the came face to face. “Make way for the elephant,” the mahout shrieked in panic, but the ascetic stood his ground. The elephant then lumbered up to him, grabbed him around the waist, and tossed him out of the way. The ascetic sustained a broken arm and some ugly bruises.
Early the next day he hobbled into his spiritual master’s presence, where he related the incident. “O master,” he cried at the conclusion, “just yesterday I thought I’d completely understood your teachings, but look what happened when I applied them. How could such misfortune happen to me, and on the very day I realised your instructions?”
With a slight hint of annoyance, the benign master chided, “Did you not hear God on top of the elephant telling you to move out of the way?”
This little story demonstrates one of the severe flaws in the philosophy of monism, which states that there is absolute spiritual oneness—without differentiation—among all beings, including God. As the story shows, if everyone is elevated to the status of God, only calamity can result from the confusion as to who should have the right of way when a conflict of interest arises. Since we have that problem already, monism achieves nothing except to shift the burden from the mundane to the spiritual realm.
The philosophy of monism, or impersonalism, espouses the idea that on the spiritual platform there is no variety and no individuality. There is no duality—no good and bad, hot and cold, happiness and distress—no differentiation of any kind. Hence souls attaining salvation retain no individual, personal traits whatsoever. They simply merge into an amorphous entity of pure consciousness. That is the grandest moment in the impersonalist’s scheme: when he merges into this ocean of spirit.
Another way of phrasing this is to say the impersonalist’s goal is to become an eternal nobody, for self-annihilation is indeed the ramification of his idea. He never puts it that way, of course, but having analysed that being somebody in this material world is to endure an existence fraught with duality and suffering, he reasons that becoming a perpetual nobody is a nifty alternative to the problems of repeated birth, disease, old age, death, wars, in- laws, taxes, sexism, racism, and any other miseries we encounter here. What could be a better solution to speeding tickets, heating and cooling bills, or jilted love affairs?
As you may have guessed, we adherents to the philosophy of Krishna consciousness disagree with the conclusions of the impersonalists, although Krishna conscious devotees and impersonalists do hold some things in common. We both say, for example, that living beings are not their bodies but are spirit souls encased in material bodies. In the Bhagavad- gita Lord Krishna likens this situation to that of a driver in a vehicle. A driver might identify himself with his car, but at the end of his journey he gets out of the car, because the two identities are actually distinct. Impersonalists and devotees also agree that by nature the soul, like God, is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge.
All this, a dedicated impersonalist will say, adds up to the soul being God. You are God. I am God. Idi Amin is God. Adolph Hitler is God. Stalin is God, too. God in a severe state of illusion, to be sure, but God nonetheless.
And they don’t stop there. Cats and dogs are also God. And butterflies, cockroaches, fleas, clams, lobsters—“Because the one spirit that moves in you and me is the same in all of them, the same chord of joy that moves all the creation.” Impersonalists like to talk like that; they think it sounds supramundane.
They also like to bandy about terms like “brahman,” “atman,” and “om,” and to quote from the Vedanta and the Upanishads. But they don’t always hail from India and use Sanskrit terms. Christian impersonalists, for example, like to talk about “the Christ” within us and the “Godself” and the “I Am” and being in “the here and now” and other similar “spiritual” nomenclature. Often when they hold forth on the virtues of oneness—which some can do with wit and much apparent wisdom—they exude an aura of realisation and brilliance that can dazzle anyone not able to see through their mystique.
Impersonalists also believe that the kingdom of God is a myth. Inexplicably, they find the idea of merging into one homogeneous spiritual being—like a drop of water merging into the ocean—more attractive and far more plausible than a spiritual world of spiritual forms and unlimited variety, where the Lord and His pure devotees revel in endless pastimes and loving exchanges, as described in the Srimad- Bhagavatam and the Brahma-samhita and hinted at in all the worlds great scriptures.
The impersonalist’s spiritual reality is a sort of suspended animation, where you live eternally, and maybe you are a little happy at first to get away from the tax man and the grim reaper, but nothing ever happens there. It’s like an enormous wind tunnel—but with no wind.
Not even the simplest mind, living in the drabbest of worlds (in the remotest regions of the gulag, say), could imagine a more dreadful, more humdrum existence. As a friend once put it, “If that’s spiritual reality, I prefer to stay here. Giving up egoism is one thing, but who wants to become an eternal nonfunctional being? That’s like asking me to become an eternal bat and hang from an eternal rafter forever.” Yet impersonalists will tell you with unabashed candor that their gruesome proposal is the goal of life.
There are essentially two types of impersonalists, the classic and the wishy-washy. Classic impersonalists hold that spiritual life means to culture enlightenment by philosophical study, austerity, and renunciation. These help to dismantle the false ego and to sever the knot of material attachment within the heart, so that at the time of death one can leave the material world once and for all and merge into God’s existence.
Wishy-washy impersonalists say they believe the same, but they have little inclination for philosophy, penance, and renunciation. They’ll openly express conviction about the soul’s existence and speak with ardent longing about the day of their deliverance. In the meantime they try to live it up as best they can—with detachment, of course.
In the West, a true classic impersonalist is rare. Wishy- washies, on the other hand, proliferate. They tend to attract celebrities to their fold, which attracts the media, which attracts the public—which is not a bad cycle from the celebrity’s accountant’s point of view, as it confers tidy sums on the celebrity from instant bestsellerdom, television specials, speaking tours, and so forth. All of which, from a wishy-washy’s perspective, is proof that he or she is on the right track spiritually. Otherwise, why all the wonderful bounty?
Impersonalism first gained a toehold in the West in the last century with Emerson and Thoreau. That became a foothold in this century, when, in the sixties and seventies, it became fashionable to take an Eastern philosophy and modify it to suit one’s preferences, as part of the prevailing hippie ideology. While the sentimental hippie ideal of universal brotherhood and free sex didn’t survive, the wily notion of absolute oneness did, and today it’s going strong as a main pillar in the New Age ideology.
Actually, impersonalism is much older than Emerson and hippies and the New Age. We don’t know when exactly it came into being, but in India, Sankara (A.D. 788-820) was the first philosopher of note to advocate it. His ideas caught on, and his doctrine of monism replaced Buddhism, which had been the prevailing religion of India since the conversion of Emperor Ashok some centuries earlier.
That impersonalism should replace Buddhism is amusing in itself, since the difference between the two is negligible. Impersonalism is sometimes referred to as veiled Buddhism, for while the Buddhists postulate that the Absolute is shunya, or void, the impersonalists say the Absolute is nirvishesha, devoid of all attributes. But to say the Absolute is something without any attributes is just a roundabout way of saying “void.”
At any rate, since Sankara’s time many stalwart preachers of Krishna consciousness, using the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, Himself—as recorded in the Bhagavad-gita—and strong logic, have refuted the conclusions of Sankara time and again. Yet monism is so alluring that it gets more attention than the far superior personalism of Krishna consciousness. And so, although it’s a doctrine riddled with contradictions and supported by no direct interpretation of any scripture, and although Sankara ultimately rejected it, impersonalism continues spreading around the globe.
One of the leading champions of personalism was Madhva (A.D. 1239-1319) a powerful scholar, Krishna conscious saint, and mistic. In his Mayavada-shata-dushani he offers one hundred scriptural arguments that shred the monistic conclusions and remove all doubt about the untenable notion of absolute oneness. In public debates also, Madhva defeated the leading Sankarites of his time.
Similarly, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1534) refuted the impersonalistic conclusions in numerous encounters with leading scholars of that school, most notably Vasudeva Sarvabhauma of Jagannatha Puri, who became His disciple. Unfortunately, one rarely hears about these historical episodes.
All the same, one does not have to be a scholar of Madhva’s or Sri Caitanya’s caliber to peg impersonalism for what it is. Just knowing a few basic precepts of Bhagavad-gita, ones even the impersonalists agree upon, is sufficient to turn the tide of monism’s bad logic.
For instance, impersonalists agree with Krishna’s description of the soul in the Bhagavad-gita, where He says it cannot be cut or injured by any weapon. Yet they cannot explain how we became cleaved or separated from the Absolute One into individuals in the first place, or at least how one immense, uncleavable spiritual entity fell into illusion of being many.
Indeed, impersonalists are at a loss to explain how God could fall into illusion at all, which is a serious matter, considering that this makes illusion superior to God.
At the same time, it would be unfair not to credit them for the kernel of truth in their doctrine: the oneness of God and the individual soul. Lord Caitanya taught that God and the individual souls are spiritual and eternal; hence there is qualitative oneness. He pointed out, however, that there is a quantitative difference as well. Individual souls are minute, or infinitesimal, whereas the Personality of Godhead is infinite. That’s why minute souls can sometimes be overwhelmed and fall under the spell of the illusory energy. But the Lord Himself, who is the energetic source of everything, including the illusory energy, never falls under its influence. Impersonalists stress the oneness and ignore the difference.
Lord Caitanya’s teaching of simultaneous oneness and difference between God and the individual souls is called in Sanskrit acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. He and His followers have given examples to illustrate this truth. One example is that of the gold nugget and the gold mine. Under chemical analysis, gold nuggets are been to be qualitatively one with a whole mine of gold, but the quantitative difference is unquestionable. If one were given the choice between the two, it’s inconceivable that one would choose the nugget.
Another example is that of a spark and a fire. Though both have the quality of giving off heat and light, the quantities of the energies they emit are vastly different.
Probably the most graphic example of simultaneous oneness and difference is that of sunlight and the sun. Like the Lord, the sun is the energetic source of unlimited energy. Its rays are comparable to the unlimited souls emanating from the Lord. The rays are simultaneously one with the sun and yet different from it. We may welcome a few sunrays into our room through the window, but we would never extend the same invitation to the sun itself.
The conclusion is that although God and the living soul are qualitatively one, still God is the Supreme Soul, and the infinitesimal individual souls are constitutionally different from Him, being His eternal loving servants. Unfortunately, lacking authorised knowledge about the true nature of the soul and its relationship to God, and lacking knowledge about the spiritual world, innocent people are easily victimised by impersonalism’s flattering conclusion—that we’re all God.
Today, it is no doubt true that systematic atheism, aided by certain theories in science, philosophy, and psychology, presents a great threat to theism. Nevertheless, it is of little or no consolation that impersonalism, with its veneer of spirituality, is on the rise. Indeed, one might argue that it is a more insidious form of atheism, since the impersonalist acknowledges and denies God in the same breath. Monism is a convenient idea for those who want the recognition of being spiritual or religious and yet still shun their obligation to surrender to the Lord and render Him service. The Krishna consciousness movement, on the other hand, is for those who want to go beyond such a counterfeit of spiritual life.
by Ravi Gomatam
NOTHING, says a letter to the Bhaktivedanta Institute. EVERYTHING, Ravi Gomatam replies. Puzzling Inconsistencies.
The letter to the Institute
The brochure you sent me states,“Our in-house research uses paradigms for consciousness from the Bhagavata tradition of Vedanta.” This statement is a source of confusion for me.
It is well known that the Vedas are divided into two sections, the first being the karma-kanda section and the last the jnana-kanda section. The jnana- kanda section is also called Vedanta (or “end of the Veda”).
The word “bhagavata” means “one who is devoted to Bhagavata (the Lord).” The material relating to the “Bhagavata tradition” and “bhakti” (devotion) is covered in the karma- kanda section of the Vedas and is not the subject of Vedanta.
Bhakti assumes a dualistic relationship between the devotee and the Lord whereas Vedanta is “advaita,” or nondualistic.
Therefore, I am confused by the name of your institute, “Bhaktivedanta,” since according to my understanding the words “bhakti” and “Vedanta” refer to separate teachings, with fundamental differences, that employ different methodologies.
My confusion is further augmented by the fact that there was a well-known swami, Swami Prabhupada (who also went by the name A.C. Bhaktivedanta), who founded the Hare Krishna movement. As you no doubt know, the Hare Krishna society is a modern religious movement totally unrelated to traditional Vedanta.
When one studies traditional Vedanta, one learns that there is a clear distinction made between absolute reality (paramarthika) and empirical reality (vyavaharika). In this context, science is the study of empirical reality.
Traditional Vedanta teaches that the fundamental nature of everything (absolute reality) is consciousness (or awareness). Further, empirical reality is dependent on consciousness (absolute reality).
So if one subscribes to the teachings of traditional Vedanta it logically follows that science (the study of dependent reality) is subsumed by consciousness. Another way of saying this is that “science” is the “object” of the “subject” which is consciousness.
I am impressed that you have a highly competent staff, and I am puzzled by the philosophical inconsistencies that appear in the material you sent me.
I would very much appreciate your response to this letter.
Sincerely, Lee Kaplan Santa Barbara, California
The Purpose Of Vedanta
Ravi Gomatam, international secretary of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, responds
THE WORD Bhaktivedanta is not at all incongruous, popular understanding of bhakti and Vedanta notwithstanding.
There are two traditions of Vedanta—the impersonalist and the Vaishnava. Both have existed since time immemorial. Sripada Adi Sankaracarya is the best-known modern acarya (teacher) of the impersonalist school, and Sripada Ramanujacarya, Sripada Madhvacarya, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are the best known modern acaryas of the Vaishnava school.
When the impersonalists speak of Vedanta, they generally refer to the Sariraka-Bhashya of Sripada Adi Sankaracarya. But this is not the only bhashya (commentary) on Vedanta-sutra. There are outstanding commentaries by Vaishnava acaryas, such as the Sri Bhashya of Ramanujacarya, Govinda Bhashya of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, and Tatparya Nirnayas of Madhvacarya.
The presence of the Vaishnava commentaries refutes the popular notion that only one tradition studies Vedanta, while the other, called bhakti, has nothing to do with it. Bhakti, supposedly, is for the less intelligent (“people of the heart” is the usual cliche) while impersonalist jnana is for the highly intellectual (and, by implication, more advanced).
But the truth is that every bona fide Vedic tradition is directly based on Vedanta. The two schools, therefore, are not jnana and bhakti, as you mention, but Mayavada (impersonalist) and Vaishnava (personalist).
It is therefore untrue that those who perform bhakti are devoid of knowledge. Rather, knowledge at its highest level culminates in devotion. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, which gives the essence of the Upanishads, which in turn form the basis of jnana- kanda. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: After many births and deaths, the real jnani surrenders to Vasudeva, Lord Sri Krishna (Bg. 7.19).
In the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna asks which path is better, the impersonal or the personal. Lord Krishna answers unambiguously that the personal path is better.
The personalist and impersonalist schools both follow practices of bhakti and of jnana. Indeed, jnana and bhakti are eternal characteristics of the conscious spirit soul. In the material world they are directed to the wrong objects, but in the spiritual world they are present in their pure form.
When we speak of Bhaktivedanta, therefore, we refer to the Vaishnava (personalist) Vedanta tradition. We use the term deliberately, since Vedanta alone has come by usage to refer to the impersonalist school.
The first Bhaktivedanta commentary on Vedanta- sutra was Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by the compiler of Vedanta-sutra himself, Srila Vyasadeva. Later Vaishnava acaryas further elaborated on the meaning of Vedanta by following in Srila Vyasadeva’s footsteps.
Beyond Devotion to Demigods
Now, some of your objections are not just a matter of philosophical difference but are factually incorrect. For example, you say, “Bhakti is covered in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas and is not the subject of Vedanta.” Nowhere in the scriptures is this substantiated. The karma-kanda section of the Vedas concerns fruitive activities—that is, religious rituals performed for material rewards. These are technically called trai-gunya-vishaya veda, or affairs of the three modes of material nature.
But bhakti is transcendental to the three modes and to fruitive mentalities. The beginning and fundamental tenet of bhakti is to serve the Supreme Lord without expectation of material rewards. How then can bhakti be a sub-ject of the karma-kanda section? What you might be confusing it with is the worship of the demigods—Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, Indra, Mother Parvati, Candra, etc.—which is indeed part of the karma- kanda section.
Such worship, however, is not properly called bhakti. It is simply worship within the three modes to obtain material benedictions. Worshipers of demigods are described in the Bhagavad-gita as less intelligent (alpa-medhasam), and the fruits they receive are limited and temporary.
Bhakti is often thought to be a mere sentiment cultivated in relation to any object of worship (ishta- devata). According to this idea, it is only a means to come to the higher platform of jnana. Yet the scriptures do not support this definition of bhakti.
Bhakti properly refers only to service to God, not to any demigods. Therefore, bhakti is not an affair of the karma-kanda section.
You say,“Bhakti assumes a dualistic relationship, whereas Vedanta means advaita, or nondualistic.” This, however, is not stated anywhere in the Vedic scriptures. Vedanta is simply the study of the Supreme Brahman. That Supreme can be studied by either the monists or the Vaishnavas. Otherwise, how is it that great Vaishnava acaryas have written commentaries on the Vedanta-sutra?
You also assert that bhakti is not the subject of Vedanta. But in Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Lord Himself declares, vedaish ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: “By all the Vedas [and this naturally includes Vedanta], I am to be known.” The same truth is indicated in the beginning of the Vedanta-sutra: athato brahma jijnasa. The very purpose of Vedanta is to inquire into the Supreme Braman. And inquiring into the Supreme Brahman ultimately leads to bhakti, or serving the Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead.
The Hare Krishna movement, you say, is a “modern movement totally unrelated to traditional Vedanta.” Here you are wrong on two counts.
First, the Hare Krishna movement is not a modern movement, but is in the Vaishnava tradition. It may be new, and hence modern, to Westerners, but not to us Indians. I was born a Vaishnava, and I know that this is the ancient tradition and culture of India. Not only that, but the modern form of the Hare Krishna movement as it is known in the West was inaugurated by Sri Caitanya five hundred years ago in Bengal. So it can hardly be called modern in the sense of having a recent origin (though it may be called modern for being relevant to contemporary life).
Second, and more serious, you say that the Hare Krishna movement is not at all connected to traditional Vedanta. I take it that you mean monistic Vedanta. The Hare Krishna movement has nothing to do with monistic Vedanta but everything to do with traditional Vaishnava Vedanta.
Science and Consciousness
The term Bhaktivedanta in our institute’s name refers to the Bhagavata, or Vaishnava, tradition of Vedanta. The Bhaktivedanta Institute is an autonomous institute dedicated to examining the relevance of the Bhagavata concepts of consciousness to modern science.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, inspired the formation of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. The word Bhaktivedanta in his name is a title awarded him in the 1930’s for presenting the Vaishnava tradition of Vedanta authoritatively and clearly.
The institute, though autonomous, draws from the same spiritual tradition as the Krishna consciousness movement, which was also founded by Srila Prabhupada. The institute’s programs, however, are specifically in the realm of science and consciousness.
As for your final point concerning the nature of empiric reality and absolute reality—this touches the core of our scientific work. I would like to talk with you more about it once we clear this stage of our discussion.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: Independence means you can do whatever you like. That is stated in the Bhagavad- gita: yathecchasi tatha kuru.
[Turning to a disciple:] Find this verse in the Eighteenth Chapter.
That independence is there. After speaking the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, Krishna gave him independence—“Now whatever you like you can do.” Krishna never forced him to accept the teachings of Bhagavad-gita. He gave him independence. “Now whatever you like you can do.”
And Arjuna agreed. “Yes. Now my illusion is over. I shall act as You say.”
In Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna had the same independence that we have.
[To the disciple, now ready with the requested verse:] Yes.
iti te jnanam akhyatam
guhyad guhyataram maya
yathecchasi tatha kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Now, if you say, “Why should the soul become so foolish?” that is his misuse of his independence. An intelligent father has got an intelligent son, but sometimes the son becomes a fool. So what is the reason? He is part and parcel of the father—he should have become exactly like the father. But he does not.
I have seen. In Allahabad there was a big lawyer or barrister, Mr. Bannerjee. His eldest son was also a barrister. But his youngest son—on account of bad association, he became an ekala wala. In India there is a carriage drawn by one horse. So he liked to be an ekala wala. That means he fell in love with a low-class woman, and by her association, he became an ekala. There are many instances. Take Ajamila. He was a brahmana, but then he fell down very low. So this freedom to misuse our independence is always there.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, here in this material world, in our materially contaminated state, when we behave foolishly or madly, we know that tamas, the mode of ignorance, is acting upon us. But in the spiritual sky—when the living entity is in his pure state of consciousness—what acts upon him? Does something act upon him to make him illusioned at that point, also?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take, for instance, the gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya. They committed an offense. They did not allow the four Kumaras to enter the spiritual world. That was their fault. And the Kumaras became very sorry. Then they cursed Jaya and Vijaya: “You are not fit to remain in this place.”
So we sometimes commit a mistake. That is also misuse of our independence. In general, we are prone to fall down, because we are small. Just like a small fragment of fire—although it is fire, it is prone to be extinguished. The big fire does not become extinguished. So Krishna is the big fire, and we are part and parcel of the big fire—sparks, very small. So within the fire there are sparks—fft, fft—there are so many. But if the sparks fall down, then they are extinguished.
Coming to this material world is like that. Fall-down means coming to this material world. There are three different grades: tamo-guna, or the mode of darkness; rajo- guna, or the mode of passion; and sattva-guna, or the mode of goodness.
For instance, when a spark falls down, if it falls upon dry grass the grass becomes ablaze—so the fiery quality is still maintained, even though the spark has fallen down. On account of the atmosphere of the dry grass, the spark makes another fire, and its fiery quality maintains. That is sattva-guna. And if the spark falls down on green grass, then it is extinguished—yet when the green grass becomes dry, there is a chance that the spark will again come to the stage of blazing. But if the spark falls onto water, then it is very difficult.
Similarly, when the soul comes into the material world, there are three gunas, or modes. So if he comes into contact with tamo-guna—with darkness, laziness, and delusion—then he is in the most abominable condition. If he falls down and associates with rajo- guna, the mode of passion, then there is a little activity; for instance, most people are working. And if he falls down into the sattva-guna, then he at least keeps himself in the knowledge that “I am fire—I do not belong to this dull matter.”
So we have to bring the soul again to the sattva- guna, the mode of goodness—brahminical qualification—so that he can understand, aham brahmasmi: “I am spirit soul. I am not this matter.” Then his spiritual activity begins. Coming to the platform of sattva-guna means giving up the business of rajo-guna and tamo-guna—no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, so many nos—to protect the soul from the influence of material qualities. Then, once he is situated in the sattva-guna and remains on this platform of goodness, the base qualities of passion and ignorance cannot disturb him. So tada rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayash ca ye: we want to see that one is free from at least these base qualities, namely kama, or lusty desires, and greediness.
In the material world, generally, people are under these base qualities, meaning they are always filled up with lusty desires and are not satisfied—greedy. So when we conquer over these base qualities, then we become happy. Tada rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayash ca ye, ceta etair anaviddham. When one’s consciousness is not influenced by these base qualities and when—sthitam sattve prasidati—he is situated on the platform of sattva-guna, then he feels happy.
That is the beginning of spiritual life. So long as the mind is disturbed by lusty desires and greediness, there is no question of spiritual life. Therefore, the first business is how to control the mind, so that it may not be influenced by the base qualities, lusty desires and greediness. We have seen in Paris that even an old man, seventy-five years old—he is going to a night club. Why? Because lusty desires are there. He pays fifty dollars for entering the club, and then he pays further for other things. So even though he is seventy- five years old, lusty desires are there.
Professor Mize: Did all the souls that were in the spiritual sky fall out of the spiritual sky at once or at different times? Or are there any souls that are always good? They’re not foolish—they don’t fall down?
Srila Prabhupada: No, not all the souls have fallen out of the spiritual sky. The majority—in fact, ninety percent—are always good. They never fall down.
Professor Mize: So we’re among the ten percent.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Or less than that. In the whole material world, all the living entities are as if in a prison house. In a prison house there are some people, but they are not the majority. The majority of the population—they are outside the prison house. Similarly, the majority of living entities—being part and parcel of God, they are in the spiritual world. Only a few fall down.
Professor Mize: Does Krishna know ahead of time that a soul is going to be foolish and fall?
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna? Yes, Krishna may know, because He is omniscient.
Professor Mize: Are more souls falling all the time?
Srila Prabhupada: Not all the time. But there is the tendency of fall-down. Not that all fall down, but there is independence. Of course, not everyone likes to misuse his independence. The same example: a government constructing a city also constructs a prison house—because the government knows that some persons will be criminals, so their shelter must also be constructed. It is very easy to understand. Not that cent percent of the population will be criminals, but the government knows that some of them will be. Otherwise, why do they construct the prison house? One may say, “You are constructing a prison house, but where are the criminals?” The government knows—there will be criminals. So if the ordinary government can know, why can’t God know? Because there is the tendency.
Professor Mize: What is the origin of that tendency? From where does that tendency come?
Srila Prabhupada: “Tendency” means independence. Everyone can know that independence means one can use it properly or one can misuse it. That is independence. If you make it one way only—that you cannot become fallen down—that is not independence. That is force. Therefore, Krishna says, yathecchasi tatha kuru: “Now you do whatever you like.”
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: By following any guru or any principle, if you actually develop your love of God, then it is nice. Otherwise it is a useless waste of time. That is the test. But as far as I know these yogis say they are themselves God. They say that everyone is God. And then who is dog? So I think their idea is not very congenial. How can everyone be God? Then what is the meaning of God?
Guest 1: I want to love everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: That is bogus. You cannot love everybody. If you love God, then you can love everybody. Because God is everything.
Guest 1: If God is everything, then why don’t you love all beings one by one?
Srila Prabhupada: If you love a tree, then you have to pour water on the root—not every leaf. If you want to maintain your body, then you have to supply foodstuff to the stomach. Not to your eyes. Not to your ears. When you get a nice cake, you don’t put it here [indicates the ears]. You put it here [indicates the mouth]. Why? That is the process. There are nine holes in your body. Why do you put it in this hole?
Guest 1: Yes, but…
Srila Prabhupada: First of all answer this.
Guest 1: Well, I agree with you, but…
Srila Prabhupada: You have to follow the real process; then you’ll get it. That is love.
Guest 1: You have to go to the root, but in the meantime you don’t ignore everything else. I mean…
Srila Prabhupada: If you ignore the root and you take the leaf, you simply spoil your time.
Guest 1: No, but what I wanted to say is, Why can’t love of God and love of matter go and rise up to…?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you love God, you love matter and God. Because matter is the energy of God.
Guest 1: But you said that you will know that a technique is succeeding when your love for God will increase and your love for matter will decrease.
Srila Prabhupada: What is matter? Matter is another manifestation of God’s energy. If you love your body, then naturally you love your finger, the part of the body. So God is the supreme whole. Therefore if you love God, then you can understand that you have to love everybody.
Guest 2: What is God?
Srila Prabhupada: What is God? Can you define God?
Guest 2: No. Is God supposed to be the energy or is God supposed to be…
Srila Prabhupada: Energy is God’s energy, just as sunshine is the energy of the sun. Just try to understand. The energy—sunshine—and the sun are not different. But if you are satisfied with just the sunshine, it is not the sun.
Guest 2: Are you saying that energy is God? God is energy?
Srila Prabhupada: Energy, being nondifferent from God, is in one sense God. But at the same time energy is not God. Sunshine is the energy of the sun. But if when the sunshine enters your room you think, “The sun has entered my room,” that is wrong. But sunshine is not different from the sun.
Guest 2: It would appear that to claim that you can reach eternal bliss just by chanting is too easy.
Srila Prabhupada: That is one process of self-realization. There are different processes of self- realization. For this age, when people are less intelligent, this process is right.
Guest 1: What you are doing by chanting is kind of…
Srila Prabhupada: You chant and you will understand. If you have no child, then how can you understand the labor of producing a child?
Guest 2: But that is like saying that if you haven’t ever leaped into a well, you don’t know what will happen to you if you leap into a well.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, you do not know your self. The first sign of ignorance is that you are identifying your self with this body, which you are not. First of all try to understand your self, then you will understand what is God. You do not know your self.
Guest 2: But I am God, right? I am God. You are God too.
Srila Prabhupada: You are dog.
Guest 2: But you are me and I am you. We are both God. Right?
Srila Prabhupada: No, no.
Guest 2: Why not?
Srila Prabhupada: You do not know what is the meaning of God. What do you mean by God? First of all define.
Guest 2: Everything is God.
Srila Prabhupada: If you apply that definition, then you are God. First of all define what is God.
Guest 2: God is everything. God is it.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not the definition. God is not everything.
Guest 2: And it is God. It is all it.
Srila Prabhupada: I say everything is God’s energy. Not everything is God.
Guest 2: Not everything is God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The sunshine and the sun are one but at the same time different, simultaneously. You cannot accept the sunshine as the sun. Suppose you are in the sunshine, you cannot say that you are on the sun planet.
“Across the nation last week,” Time noted recently, “surgery offices were under siege by callers who had seen the results of a notable example of cosmetic surgery, evident in before-and-after pictures of the former First Lady in the Sunday newspapers.... There is a growing national tendency to regard cosmetic surgery as a badge of sophistication rather than of vanity.”
Yet we can’t help being reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” We are also struck that Americans are so willing to undergo great hardships for temporary, material happiness. A materialist may argue, “If a face-lift makes someone happy, then what’s the objection?” Here’s the objection—no one can find real happiness in a face- lift.
Both the materialist and the Krishna devotee claim that their goal is happiness. But they disagree totally on how to obtain it. For the devotee, face-lifting is an utter waste of time. “But,” the materialist points out, “it works!” “The woman looks absolutely spectacular!” said newsmen who saw Betty Ford after her operation. Yet they admitted, “If all goes well, the face-lift will last from four to eight years.” That means her “absolutely spectacular” face is an illusion. The wrinkles will reappear; the chin and neck will sag again. Time waits for no plastic surgeon. Before-and-after photos may convince fools to get face-lifts, but it’s only sleight of hand, an illusion.
Besides, even normal, nonsurgically-simulated youth is temporary, another deception. Does youth really give people happiness? It doesn’t seem so. Happiness lies much deeper than skin-deep. It means much more than becoming “youth-oriented.” In fact, people who run after temporary solutions are indirectly admitting that material life is not a natural state of happiness. But if they can just hold off this ever-present feeling of frustration, at least momentarily-either by surgery or by drugs, alcohol, music, clothes, travel, anything—thenthey look upon this temporary holding action as happiness.
So? Where is the proof that happiness has ever been anything but temporary? That proof is available for whoever will sincerely inquire. Since time immemorial, whoever has taken the authorized path of self-realization has found the bliss that the spirit soul enjoys in relation to Krishna. Unfortunately, though, many people never take up the path of self-realization; without any serious examination, they discount the importance of the soul.
The reason people don’t inquire into spiritual life is that they have already taken a vow to pursue the path of material sense gratification. Thousands of years ago the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja analyzed the situation: “Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.30)
Although champions of cosmetic surgery would like to ignore the laws of nature and the Supreme, they have inadvertently reached some of the same conclusions. For example, Lord Krishna declares, “As a person puts on new garmets, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Bhagavad- gita 2.22)And there is a similar meaning in Betty Ford’s statement, “I’m sixty years old and I wanted a nice new face to go with my beautiful new life.” Both Lord Krishna and Betty Ford understand that although the body is changing, the self remains the same. The assumption in plastic surgery is that the body should be treated just like clothing: if your clothing wears out, there’s nothing wrong with replacing it. But the surgeons don’t have the knowledge or power to bring their clients any lasting bodily improvement.
As Krishna goes on to explain, not just the face but the entire body will be lifted at the time of death, by a delicate operation which is ultimately in His hands. “As the embodied soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bg. 2.13)Those who are flocking to the surgeons seem to have some small awareness that their real self is different from their body. They seem to know that however they may change their face, their inner identity will remain. But precisely because cosmetic surgery is no more than a superficial meddling, it brings no real happiness to the permanent inner self. A prominent plastic surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Robbins, has admitted, “We can’t change what they are.”
At the time of death, karma—nature’s reactions to the actions we perform in this body—will carry the inner self to another body. This is transmigration, the ultimate face-lift. And just as the plastic surgeons admit “some faces are changed for the worse,” so by nature’s way if we misuse our present body, our next one may be a change for the worse. We all want to be happy and youthful, but if we go counter to the codes of God, especially by neglecting self-realization and committing sinful acts, then the law of karma will force us to take our next body in a lower species.
A plastic surgeon named Dr. Peter McKinney partially recognized this fact when he warned that face-lifting has its risks: “If you buy a bum toaster, you can take it back. You can’t take your face back.” He might have added that if you waste your human body (with its refined facial features), in your next life you may have to make do with the face of a dog or a mouse, with no chance of going to the plastic surgeon. A person who has gotten himself into an animal body has to live millions of lives in lower species, until he can fully evolve again to the human form of life. So the human form of life is not meant to be wasted in vanities. It has a relatively short duration, and it’s intended for developing self-realization, culminating in love of God. If someone fails to achieve love of God in his human lifetime, this is the greatest tragedy.
Behind the fad of face-lifting is the inner desire to be permanently happy and youthful. This is the soul’s constitutional nature, and it’s quite normal for us to want these things, but people are going about it in the wrong way. We have to investigate how we can revive our spiritual knowledge. The Krishna conscious process of chanting the holy names of God (the Hare Krishna maha-mantra) involves no loss or risk. Saintly persons and scriptures have recommended this treatment for thousands of years. By chanting the names of God we can purify our hearts and attain to the eternally youthful and blissful spiritual existence.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: People are trying simply for sense gratification. They do not even know the purpose of life. So our mission is to eradicate this ignorance. They are living under a wrong conception of life. Not a spiritual conception, but a material one.
Devotee: In Kathmandu I was asking people, “What kind of enjoyment is this from smoking cigarettes? You are coughing. Intoxication—toxin—means poison. So you are actually giving yourself poison. This is sanity? This is human life?” So these people usually told me, “Well, I’ll give up cigarettes later.”
Srila Prabhupada: At least they admit the fault. Do they not?
Devotee: Yes, some people do. I reminded all these people about karma. You know: “According to your activity in this life, you’re preparing your next life. If you live a spiritual life, you’ll go to the spiritual world. If you live a materialistic life—animalistic—you’ll stay in the material world and become an animal.” And they all admitted. “Yes. I know about the law of karma.” But when I said. “Why don’t you serve Krishna?” they said, “Later. Later.”
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krishna.
Devotee: So, Srila Prabhupada, can your instructions in the Srimad-Bhagavatam stop these people’s lust? Or do we have to hope that somehow they will be frustrated in their attempts to enjoy sense gratification?
Srila Prabhupada: They are being frustrated. Who is successful in the material world? Can you name any instance in which someone has been really successful” [Laughs. A brief pause.] Then?
Devotee: Everywhere in this material world, people are miserable. In America, Amy Vanderbilt, the famous etiquette expert, jumped out of her window.
Srila Prabhupada: There are many.
Devotee: Oh, yes. In San Diego and also in San Francisco, they have these fences so that when people jump off the bridges, thev are caught by the fences.
Srila Prabhupada: And I think in Berkeley they had to enclose the top of the clock tower with glass?
Devotee: Oh, yes, at the University of California—to keep the students from jumping off.
Srila Prabhupada: These are signs of how desperate people are, how disappointed with their life of materialism. They are always ready to commit suicide. Some thirty years ago, a man was sitting near me in a railway car—and all of a sudden, he jumped through the window. All of a sudden. He had been sitting nicely. What he was thinking I do not know. But he took the opportunity of the open window and jumped. I saw it.
Devotee: A kind of insanity overpowered him.
Srila Prabhupada: Insanity. Everyone is overpowered by insanity. Everyone who is trying to be happy in this material world—everyone is overpowered by insanity. They do not know the only solution is, as Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja: “Just surrender to Me.” (Bg. 18.66) But that they’ll not do. Anything but surrender to Krishna.
Devotee: I was telling these Indian people that in America the big thing is they want to “raise the standard of living,” but even those people who have raised the standard of living—they are also killing themselves. But many times these Indian people don’t want to listen. “Our goal is economic development,” they say. “That is the top priority.”
Srila Prabhupada: Obstinacy. Dog’s obstinacy. Now they are busy manufacturing various types of religious systems so that one may not have to surrender to Krishna. This is going on. Big, big swamis are saying, “Yes, whatever you manufacture, it is all right.” Yatha mata tatha patha: “Whatever you concoct, that is all right.” So people are content. If somebody said, “You surrender unto me,” that would not be very palatable. When somebody says, “No, you can surrender to anyone,” that is very palatable.
Devotee: Because that means no surrender. To surrender to anyone …
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: … means no surrender.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: Sometimes people say, “When Krishna wills it that I surrender to Him, then I will do it.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Such rascaldom. You think that Krishna is not willing it, rascal, when He says in the Bhagavad-gita, “You must do this—you must surrender to Me”?
Devotee: Sometimes people say, “When Krishna makes my heart open to Him, then I will surrender.”
Srila Prabhupada: But you have no heart. You have simply stone. In the words of one devotional song: “My heart is harder than a stone. I know that chanting Hare Krishna can melt even a stone, but it does not melt my heart. Therefore I think my heart must be harder than a stone.”
Devotee: Some of these religious systems even say that it is offensive to say the name of God.
Srila Prabhupada: What can I do? If these rascals say something like that, what can I do?
Devotee: Even when they write the word God, they don’t write “G-o-d.” They write “G, dash, d,”—so that they’ve indicated God, but they haven’t said “God.” It’s too holy to pronounce. That’s what they say.
Srila Prabhupada: They might as well say, “G-zero-d.” [Laughter.] That would nicely convey their idea of God.
Devotee: Zero signifies their love for Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Zero is controlling both sides, G and d. If you multiply something by zero, what does it become?
Srila Prabhupada: That’s all. This kind of thinking is shunyavadi, voidist. It is successful suicide. But we know life is not void, because God is not zero.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: Adanta-gobhir vishatam tamisram punah punash carvita- carvananam. Life after life, people are simply trying to enjoy their senses. Life after life, the same thing over and over again. The same eating, the same sleeping, the same sexual intercourse, and the same defending, either as man or as dog. Punah punash carvita-carvananam: again and again, chewing the chewed. Whether you become a demigod or a dog, in the material world everyone is given the facilities for these four things: eating, sleeping, having sexual intercourse, and defending.
Actually, if some danger were to come now, we humans might be victims, but a bird would immediately fly away. So the bird has better facility for defense. Is it not? Suppose all of a sudden a car came directly at us. We would be killed. We could not do anything, but even the smallest bird—“Hut! I’m leaving!” He can do that. Is it not? So his defensive measures are better than ours.
Similarly, if we wanted to have sex, we would have to arrange for that. Find out some mate and a suitable time and place. But the female bird is always around the male bird, at any time. Take the sparrows, or the pigeons. Have you seen it? Immediately they are ready for sex. And what does the bird do about eating? “Oh, there is some fruit.” Immediately the bird can eat. And sleeping is also easy and convenient.
So these facilities—don’t think that they are available only in your skyscrapers. They are available for the birds and the beasts. It is not that unless you have got a very nice apartment in the skyscraper, you cannot have all these facilities of eating, sleeping, defending, and having sex, You can have them in any material body, in any species: Vishayah khalu sarvatah syat. Vishayah means the facilities for material sense enjoyment. Our process is vishaya chadiya se rase majiya. One has to give up this unsatisfying material enjoyment and relish transcendental bliss, the taste of spiritual enjoyment. It is enjoyment on a different platform.
But today people are so befooled by the bodily concept of life that their only enjoyment is this material, so-called enjoyment.
So the scriptures advise, “This temporary, inferior enjoyment is available in any form of material life-either as man or as bird or as beast. Why are you repeatedly going after this same unsatisfying enjoyment in all these different species of life? Punah punash carvita-carvananam: In all these different forms, again and again, you are doing the same stupid, unsatisfying thing.”
But matir na krishne parato svato va: those who are befooled by material sensual enjoyment cannot become Krishna conscious, by their own endeavor or even by instruction from a spiritual master. And mitho ’bhipadyeta: these foolish people may hold many conferences and meetings to inquire, “What are the problems of life?”—but still, they cannot take to the process of Krishna consciousness.
Why? Griha-vratanam: as long as they have got this determination—“We shall be happy in this material world”—they cannot take to Krishna consciousness. Griha means “home” and also “body.” Those who are trying to be happy within this material body—they cannot take to Krishna consciousness, because adanta-gobhih: their senses are so uncontrolled. Therefore these people must repeatedly undergo the ordeal of chewing the chewed. Again and again, the same sensual enjoyment: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
Devotee: So our task is to convince people that they can’t be happy in the material world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And they have already got very convincing experience. Daily they are founding so many parties, manufacturing so many means and plans and this and that, but still they are not happy. And yet they are such great fools that in spite of being repeatedly baffled, still, they are chewing what they have already chewed—the same thing all over again, in somewhat different forms.
What is the difference between the communists and capitalists? After all, both groups are simply looking after how they can make things into a better arrangement for their own sensual enjoyment. The two groups are fighting, but everyone’s aim is griha-vratanam: “We shall remain within this material world and be happy here.”
Devotee: The idea is, if we can get enough food and sex, we will be happy.
Srila Prabhupada: That’s all. And then people become impotent. And they beg the doctor, “Give me some sex medicine.” You see? Punah punash carvita-carvananam. Chewing the same old tired thing. And when they feel disgusted with sex at home: “Let us go to the prostitute. Let us go to the naked dance.” They have no other ideas. So this class of men cannot take to Krishna consciousness. First of all, one must be in knowledge—“I am not anything of this material world. I am spirit soul. My happiness is in the spiritual world.” Then he is a real human being and he can make spiritual advancement. So the next question is, “How can one become interested in the spirit soul or Krishna consciousness?” How? This is the question. Animals—and people like animals—cannot become interested.
naisham matis tavad urukramanghrim
sprishaty anarthapagamo yad- arthah
nishkincananam na vrinita yavat
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.32] says, “The consciousness of these rascals and fools cannot be turned toward the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna, who acts wonderfully, until they touch their heads to the lotus feet of a devotee of the Lord who is nishkincana, who has nothing to gain in this material world and is simply interested in Krishna.”
If you get the opportunity of touching your head to the lotus feet or even the dust of the lotus feet of such a great devotee, your spiritual advancement is possible. Otherwise, it is not. The dust of the lotus feet of a great devotee can help you.
(continued in next issue)
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: If people do not want to approach the Lord’s devotees for spiritual enlightenment, what can be done? Just see this sparrow. Sex is always available to him. At any time sex is ready for him. The pigeons, so. Any time they want sex, sex is ready. Vishayah khalu sarvatah syat: our only attachment for this material world is visaya, material sense gratification. The whole world over, people are fighting simply to gratify their bodily senses. “I must have nice eating, I must have nice sleeping, I must have very good sex, and I should be defended by a big bank balance, by military soldiers, by a powerful police force, by atomic weapons.” This is going on all over the world. Take defense: the rascal does not understand, “In spite of all these defensive measures, at the end of this lifetime I will have to change bodies and go on suffering. The same sense gratification will be available again, in a different way—and also the same suffering.”
Take the tiny ants. They are very fond of intoxication. Did you know that? As soon as they get information, “At the top of this skyscraper, there is a grain of sugar, they will go. [Laughter.] Wine is made from sugar, molasses. So sugar has the potency for intoxication, and if you keep a grain of sugar out in this room, soon there will be thousands of ants. An ants’ gold rush.
So study. Can you see any real difference between this so- called human civilization and the ant civilization, the dog civilization? No difference. It is only a matter of outward configuration.
Devotee: Yes. At the Sunday Feast we usually make sweetballs, and there’s some sugar water left over. And the next day we find many drowned ants, because they went so wild for the sugar that they jumped into it and killed themselves.
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic literatures advise, “My dear human being, please note: You have attained this human form of life after many, many births. You had to go through the various forms of the aquatic life, 900,000 species; and you had to go through the various forms of birds and trees and plants, two million species. Consider how much time you have spent in this slow, painstaking evolution. Now you have come to the human form of life. And although it, too, is temporary, nonetheless you can achieve the highest perfection. You can evolve from life in this temporary world of misery to life in the eternal world of bliss. So before your next death in this world, become a very adept student of spiritual perfection—and achieve it.”
Devotee: But people will say, “Then what about my sense enjoyment?”
Srila Prabhupada: Don’t worry. Vishayah khalu sarvatah syat: Your sense enjoyment will be available in any species of life. But this human form of life—you spend it for this higher purpose. Don’t waste it simply for sense enjoyment. This sense enjoyment you will get even if you become a cat or a dog. But in the cat’s or dog’s body, you have no opportunity to get out of this material existence.
Modern rascals are getting no education to understand this special chance they have in human life. Therefore we must give this education. We must induce them to read these transcendental books in their schools and colleges. Otherwise, these rascals have no books to read about this transcendental realization. They have only Freud’s sex philosophy and Darwin’s monkey theory. All rascaldom, simply rascaldom. So let them read these transcendental books.
Devotee: Ordinary people are accepting theories that promise them better enjoyment. People like to hear someone promising, “You’ll get better sense gratification.”
Srila Prabhupada: Politicians are promising, “You take this -ism or that - ism.” But nobody knows what is actually happiness. na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum durashaya ye bahir- artha-maninah: people are trying to be happy by sense enjoyment, the material body’s enjoyment. But durashaya: it is simply a hope that will never be fulfilled. Asaya means “hope,” and dur means “very difficult.” It is not going to happen.
Krishna consciousness is giving you everything in the right way, so that you can save your time, so that you do not waste your time dallying with material enjoyment and you can advance in spiritual consciousness. That is required. We don’t say, “Stop eating.” You eat. Take a little krishna-prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krishna]. We don’t say, “Don’t sleep.” No, you sleep, but you must rise early in the morning and chant Hare Krishna. This is our philosophy. Surely, we give proper place to eating, sleeping, and sex. We don’t say, “No sex life.” Yes, you have sex. Get yourself a bona fide wife and live peacefully. And defense, also, we have. We never say, “You forego all these things.” No, this is not our philosophy. But at the same time, take only as much material enjoyment as you absolutely require, not more than that. The balance of your time—save it for spiritual advancement.
Unfortunately, today people are engaged simply for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. They have no time for Krishna consciousness, no time for spiritual consciousness. This condemned civilization must be stopped. It is a killing civilization—a killing civilization. Human beings have the option of getting out of this material bondage—chewing the chewed again and again—but they are not being given the chance to exercise this special human option. Instead, they are being engaged more and more for the animal life of sense gratification. This killing civilization is sending human beings down into repeated births and deaths in the animal species. But by the process of Krishna consciousness-by renunciation and spiritual knowledge—many people have become purified and have gone back home, back to Godhead, the spiritual world.
All this information is available. But people are not educated. Therefore the Krishna consciousness movement is meant for educating them. That’s all.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Reporter 1: Your Divine Grace, often when people pursue what you term “spiritual life,” they seem to forget about pursuing the things of this world—making this world comfortable.
Srila Prabhupada: Making this world “comfortable”? That will never be possible. Do you understand this? Let us say you take a fish out of-the water and put him on the land. Now, you may give the fish a lovely velvet cushion and everything nice. But will the fish be comfortable?
Reporter 1: No. He’d be out of his element.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, we living entities are spirit soul. So being in this material body in this material world—this means we are out of our element.
But unfortunately, our system of education is so dull that the authorities do not know that we are not this body—we are spirit soul. They are presenting themselves as big, big philosophers and big, big statesmen and big, big social planners. Yet they are forgetting the real thing: that we are not this body but spirit soul. Today even the leader is accepting this material body as his real self. And he is thinking, ‘These bodily comforts will make me happy.” But that cannot be. Because the body and its comforts are made of matter—and we are spirit soul.
Consider the same example: if you take the fish from his natural environment, the water, and put him on the land, he'll never be happy. Similarly, as long as you continue to have this material body, you cannot enjoy real, eternal happiness. And you will have so many problems. The main problems are birth, death, old age, and disease. And these problems are due simply to having this material body.
Therefore, an intelligent man should know that “I am not this body; I am spirit soul. My natural field of activities is on the spiritual platform. If I can somehow return to the spiritual platform, then I will be happy.” So the sum and substance of this Krishna consciousness movement is to educate people in how to be situated on the spiritual platform, how to be happy.
Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, do you think that chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is the only way to achieve this liberation from matter? Is chanting the only way to be “situated on the spiritual platform”?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra means chanting the holy names of Krishna, the Supreme Lord, and Radha, or Mother Hara, the Lord’s personified spiritual energy. So chanting Hare Krishna means you come into direct association with the Lord by taking shelter of His spiritual energy. Hare Krishna: “O Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service. O devotional, spiritual energy of the Lord, please let me take shelter of You.” Being situated on the spiritual platform means you take shelter of the Lord’s spiritual energy.
For instance, when you approach a heater, you are taking shelter of the heater’s heating energy. Similarly, when you approach Krishna, you are taking shelter of His spiritual energy.
Or take the example of the sun, the great fiery planet. When you approach the sun, you are taking shelter of the sun’s heating and lighting energy. Is it not? When you are in the sunshine, in one sense you are in the sun. Of course, in another sense you are not actually in the sun—because the sun’s fiery temperature is so high that had you been actually in the sun, you would have been immediately blown up, burned into ashes. But still, when you take shelter of the sunshine, you take shelter of the sun.
So Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is situated as the supreme fire. Whatever we are experiencing is a spark of His energy. And just as we can enter into the sun’s all-pervasive fiery energy, even though the sun itself is ninety-three million miles away, so similarly, even though the Lord is very far away, we can take shelter of the Lord’s all- pervasive spiritual energy simply by chanting His holy name—because Krishna, being absolute, is not different from His name. Therefore, if you chant the Hare Krishna mantra without offense, then you directly associate with Krishna. This is liberation from matter. Spiritual liberation, situation on the spiritual platform.
Reporter 2: In all the scriptures that I have read, it’s said that the disciple must remember God’s name constantly. So you say that the Hare Krishna mantra contains God’s name. How do we know this?
Srila Prabhupada: How do you know your name?
Reporter 2: My parents gave it to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You relied on your mother and father, on parental authority. Similarly, you have to learn the Lord’s name by relying on spiritual authority.
Reporter 2: From the scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Srila Prabhupada, what about other religions, like Christianity and . . .
Srila Prabhupada: There is no second religion. There is only one. That is the right idea; that is genuine God consciousness.
Now, as soon as you designate “Christian,” “Hindu,” “Muslim,” that is upadhi—it falls short of the genuine spiritual conception. Just as God is one person, so genuine religion is one thing. Designated religion—conceiving of “our Christian God” or “our Hindu God”—falls short.
For example, now you are in a black coat. Tomorrow you may be in a white coat. So I could designate you as “black Mr. Such-and-such” or “white Mr. Such- and-such.” But there is no need, because you are not actually that black or white coat. That black or white coat is not you, but simply a circumstance.
Similarly, due to our so-called sophisticated mind, we say “Christian religion,” “Hindu religion.” To describe some particular historical circumstance we may use these designations. But religion is one thing. It means to glorify God’s holy name and abide by His laws. That is the spiritual platform
(To be continued.)
by Drutakarma dasa
When you’re out of your element, nothing seems to satisfy.
For years, Frederick J. Fish lived a very ordinary life beneath the waves of the blue Pacific Ocean off Malibu. But one day he noticed that up on the beach there were finless creatures who appeared to be having more fun. So he rode in on a wave and hopped up on the sundrenched sand. Soon he was all fixed up to enjoy himself—beach chair, FM radio, a cold drink, sunglasses. But something was wrong. Gradually Fred’s feeling of discomfort turned to panic. Finally, gasping for breath, he realized, “I’m out of my element!”
According to the sages of ancient India, we’re all out of our element. Originally, we all lived blissfully in the spiritual world, rendering transcendental loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Since this material world is not our real home, no amount of material gratification can satisfy us.
People often ask. If we were so blissful, why would we choose to leave the spiritual world? The answer is that we mistakenly thought we could enjoy greater happiness away from the Supreme Lord. In the spiritual world, God is the center of everyone’s attention. Everyone cooperates to serve Him. When a living being attempts to assume the position of God, he is forced to enter the material universe, where he can live out his fantasies of being the supreme enjoyer.
In the material world, a person tries to enjoy himself by becoming friends with the best sort of people, by picking the most attractive sex partner, by doing everything possible to guarantee a good future for himself and his family members. He dresses as sharp as he can, drives the most expensive car he can afford, takes vacations in posh resorts, buys a house in a good neighborhood. He gets a color television, a personal computer, a second home in the country. He eats at the best restaurants, savors his favorite intoxicants, and goes out to see first-run movies. But these material things can never completely satisfy the yearnings of the soul.
In a recent interview, Alfred Ford (Ambarisha dasa), great- grandson of Henry Ford and now a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, spoke of the hopelessness of trying to buy happiness: “At a very early age, perhaps because I was born and raised in a very opulent situation, I began to notice that wealth alone can’t make people happy, and that everything in the world, even the ‘good things,’ are temporary.”
Sometimes people think that because devotees of Krishna reject material happiness they must lead extremely dull lives. Actually, transcendentalists are the most discriminating connoisseurs of pleasure.
A person serious about enjoying himself will naturally reject inferior pleasures and concentrate upon superior ones. In fact, he should be interested in finding the highest pleasure possible. Logically, a pleasure that never ends is superior to a pleasure that does. Also, pure pleasure is superior to pleasure mixed with some kind of unpleasantness. Finally, a pleasure that constantly increases is superior to one that is static, or that diminishes after a time.
Using this standard, we can see that any kind of pleasure derived from a material object is inferior to the spiritual pleasure obtainable from serving Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose very name means “the reservoir of all pleasure.” Any person or object we try to enjoy in this material world will eventually be destroyed by the force of time, and the body with which we try to enjoy the material objects will also be destroyed. But the pleasure that comes from serving Krishna is eternal, because both the Lord and the soul are eternal.
Furthermore, pleasures derived from material objects and relationships are always mixed with pain. For example, there is some pleasure in sexual relationships between a man and a woman, but that is always followed by the burdens and difficulties of marriage, divorce, jealousy, envy, pregnancy, abortion, venereal disease, unfaithfulness, and so on. But the pure spiritual relationship of the soul with Krishna is purely blissful. The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of a devotional classic called Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, describes the condition of one who has achieved love of God: “At that time one’s heart becomes illuminated like the sun, and from his pure heart there is a diffusion of ecstatic love more glorious than the sunshine.”
Finally, attempts to enjoy a material situation inevitably yield diminishing returns. The first ice-cream cone may taste delicious. The second may be just as good. But the third will be hard to eat, and the fourth may make you sick. At the very sight of the fifth, you’ll feel nauseous. But love for Krishna is like an ever-expanding ocean of transcendental bliss, and devotees pray to remain always immersed in its waves.
The Vedic literatures recommend a very simple process by which anyone can enter into this ocean of bliss: the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This mantra is composed of Sanskrit names of God. Being Absolute, God’s name is nondifferent from God Himself and possesses all His transcendental energies. Five centuries ago Krishna appeared as Lord Caitanya and taught His followers: “The chanting of the holy name of God expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life.” That’s where we really belong, not washed up on the beach of material existence.