Knowledge by Way of the Mahatmas, Great Souls
The presence of Krsna in all aspects of the creation is perceived by the mahatmas, the great souls, who are always engaged in the worship of Krsna. As Krsna Himself states, these great souls are conversant with the confidential knowledge found in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, and they know Krsna to be the source of all things.
“O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” (Bg. 9.13)
The great soul knows without a doubt that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He is the origin of all emanations. The Vedanta-sutra states, athato brahma jijnasa: Human life is meant for inquiring about Brahman. At present we are all engaged in studying temporary, small things. Brahman means the greatest, but instead of concerning ourselves with the greatest, we have become enmeshed in trying to solve the animal problems of eating, sleeping, defending and mating. These small problems are automatically solved. Even the animals are enjoying mating, sleeping, eating and defending. The arrangements are all provided. These demands of the body are not really problems, but we have made them into problems. The Vedanta-sutra enjoins us not to concern ourselves with these problems, for they are satisfied in any form of life. Our problem is to inquire about the source of all these manifestations. The human form of life is not meant for struggling hard to solve the material problems which even a hog, a stool-eater, can solve. The hog is considered to be the lowest among animals, yet he has eating facility, mating facility, sleeping facility, and facilities for defense. Even if we don’t strive for these things, we will have them. Man is meant, rather, to find out the source from which all these things are coming. The Vedanta-sutra states that Brahman is that from which everything is emanating (janmady asya yatah [SB 1.1.1]). Philosophers, scientists, yogis, jnanis and transcendentalists are all trying to find out the ultimate source of everything. This source is given in Brahma-samhita, sarva-karana-karanam: [Bs. 5.1] Krsna is the cause of all causes.
Understanding Krsna to be the primal source of everything, how do the great souls act? Krsna Himself characterizes them in this way:
“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Bg. 9.14)
That glorification is this process of bhakti-yoga, the chanting of Hare Krsna. The great souls, understanding the nature of God, His descent and His mission, glorify Him in so many ways, but there are others who do not accept Him. Krsna also mentions them in the Ninth Chapter:
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and my supreme dominion over all that be.” (Bg. 9.11)
The mudhas, or foolish men, who are lower than the animals, deride Him. Any person who doesn’t believe in God must either be a madman or fool number one. There is no reason not to believe in God, and there is every reason to believe in Him. Man may say that he doesn’t believe in God, but who gives him the power to say this? When death comes, this speaking power ceases—so who is giving the power of speech? Has the speaking power come automatically from stone? As soon as the speaking power is withdrawn by the Supreme Authority, the body is no better than stone. The very power of speech is proof that there is a Supreme Power who is giving us everything. A Krsna conscious person knows that whatever he has is not under his control. If we do not believe in God, we must believe in some power beyond us which is controlling us at every step, call that power God or nature or whatever. There is a controlling power in the universe, and no sane man can deny it.
Krsna was present on this earth and appeared just like a human being with supernatural power. At that time, however, ninety-nine percent of the people could not recognize Him as God. They could not recognize Him because they had no eyes to see (param bhavam ajanantah). How is it possible to recognize God? He can be recognized through supernatural power, by the evidence of authorities, and by scriptural evidence. As far as Krsna is concerned, every Vedic authority has accepted Him as God. When He was present on earth, His activities displayed were superhuman. If one does not believe this, it is to be concluded that he will not believe whatever evidence is given.
One must also have the eyes to see God. God cannot be seen by material senses, therefore the bhakti-yoga process is the process of purifying the senses so that we will be able to understand what and who God is. We have power of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and so on, but if these senses are blunt, we cannot understand God. The process of Krsna consciousness is the process of training these senses through regulated principles, specifically through the chanting of Hare Krsna.
Sri Krsna further characterizes the mudhas:
“Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demonic and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities, and their culture of knowledge are all defeated.” (Bg. 9.12)
The word moghasa indicates that the aspirations of the atheists will be baffled. The karmis, or fruitive laborers, are always hoping for something better to gratify their senses. There is no limit to where they will stop. They are trying to increase their bank balance and are hoping to be happy at a certain point, but that point never comes because they do not know the ultimate point of satiation. Those who are enamored by the attractions of illusory energy cannot understand the ultimate aim of life. The word mogha-karmanah indicates that they are laboring very hard but that in the end they will only meet with frustration. Unless we are established in Krsna consciousness, all of our activities will be baffled at the end.
This is not the verdict of an ordinary man, but of Sri Krsna Himself. If we are searching for knowledge, we should conduct research to find out whether Krsna is not God. Without any objective, what is the point of thousands of years of speculation? The Supreme Lord is so vast that one cannot reach Him by mental speculation. If we travel at the speed of mind and wind for millions of years, it is not possible to reach the Supreme by speculation. There is not one single instance in which one has arrived at the Supreme Absolute Truth by means of his own mental speculation. Therefore the word mogha-jnanah indicates that the process of mundane knowledge is bewildering. Through our own endeavor it is not possible to see the sun after it has set. We have to wait until the sun reveals itself in the morning at sunrise. If it is not possible with our limited senses to perceive a material thing like the sun, how is it possible to perceive the nonmaterial? We cannot find out or understand Krsna by our own endeavor. We have to qualify ourselves through Krsna consciousness and wait for Him to reveal Himself.
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Bg. 10.10)
Krsna is within, but due to our material conditioning, we do not realize it. Those who are of the nature of fiends and demons (raksasim asurim) think that this material life is all and that it is the purpose of human life to squeeze out as much pleasure from matter as possible. They try squeezing, but they are constantly baffled. Squeezing material nature is not the process for finding out real pleasure. If we are searching for real pleasure, we have to take to Krsna consciousness. All happiness in the material world has a beginning and an end, but happiness in Krsna is unlimited, and there is no end. In order to get this happiness we simply have to sacrifice a little time and chant Hare Krsna. In former ages, the great sages and demigods used to sacrifice their whole lives for realizing the Supreme, and still they would not attain success. For this age Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given an easy process for God realization. All that is necessary is careful listening. We have to listen to Bhagavad-gita, and we have to chant the names of Krsna and listen to them carefully. We should not be puffed up, falsely thinking that our knowledge is great or that we are very learned. We need only become a little gentle and submissive to hear the messages from Krsna.
At present, this world is being managed by the raksasas. The raksasas are man-eaters who eat their own sons for the satisfaction of their senses. Now great regimes have been created to smash so many people for the satisfaction of the raksasas senses, but they do not realize that their senses will never be satisfied in this way. Nonetheless, the raksasas are prepared to sacrifice everything to satisfy their whimsical desires. It is very difficult for them to understand the real situation because they are overly enamored with material civilization. Who then can understand? Those who are mahatmas, whose hearts have become magnified, understand that “everything belongs to God, and I also belong to God.”
Such mahatmas are not under the control of material nature (mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah [Bg. 9.13]). God is great and the mahatma’s heart also becomes great by serving the great. Mahatma is not a stamp for a political leader. One cannot be stamped mahatma by votes. The standard for mahatma is given in Bhagavad-gita: the mahatma is he who has taken shelter of the superior energy of the Lord. Of course all energies are His, and He does not make distinctions between spiritual energy and material energy, but for the conditioned soul who is situated marginally between material energy and spiritual energy, there is a distinction. The mahatmas see this distinction and so take shelter under the spiritual energy (daivim prakrtim).
By serving the great, the mahatmas also become great through identifying with the superior energy: (aham brahmasmi) “I am Brahman—spirit.” It is not that they become puffed up and think that they are God. Rather, if one becomes Brahman, he must show his activities in Brahman. Spirit is active, and to become Brahman is not to become inactive. Brahman is spirit, and these material bodies are active only because Brahman is within them. If we are active despite our contact with material nature, do we cease to be active when we purify ourselves of the material contamination and establish ourselves in our proper identity as pure Brahman? Realizing “I am Brahman” means engagement in spiritual activity because we are spirit, and our activities are exhibited even though we are contaminated by matter. To become Brahman does not mean to become void but to establish ourselves in the superior nature, which means superior energy and superior activities. To become Brahman means to be completely engaged in rendering devotional service to the Lord. Thus the mahatma understands that if service is to be rendered, it is to be to Krsna and no one else. We have so long served our senses; now we should serve Krsna.
There is no question of stopping service, for we are meant for service. Is there anyone who does not serve? If we ask the President, “Who are you serving?” he will tell us that he is serving the country. No one is devoid of service. Service we cannot stop, but we do have to redirect our service from the illusion to the reality. When this is done, we become mahatma.
This process of kirtana (kirtayantah), always chanting the glories of the Lord, is the beginning of mahatma. That process is simplified by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu who imparted to mankind this chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There are nine different processes of devotional service, of which sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are the most important. Kirtanam actually means “describing.” We can describe with music, words, pictures, etc. Sravanam goes hand in hand with kirtanam, for unless we hear, we cannot describe. We don’t need any material qualifications in order to attain the Supreme. All we have to do is hear from authoritative sources and repeat accurately what we hear.
Formerly, the Vedas were heard by the student from the spiritual master, and thus the Vedas became known as sruti, meaning “that which is heard.” In Bhagavad-gita, for example, we see that Arjuna is listening to Krsna on the battlefield. He is not engaged in the study of Vedanta philosophy. We can hear from the Supreme Authority in any place, even in the battlefield. The knowledge is received, not manufactured. Some people think, “Why should I listen to Him? I can think for myself. I can manufacture something new.” This is not the Vedic process of descending knowledge. By ascending knowledge, one tries to elevate himself by his own effort, but by descending knowledge one receives the knowledge from a superior source. In the Vedic tradition, knowledge is imparted to the student from the spiritual master, as in Bhagavad-gita (evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh [Bg. 4.2]). Submissive hearing is so powerful that simply by hearing from authoritative sources we can become completely perfect. In becoming submissive, we become aware of our own imperfections. As long as we are conditioned, we are subject to four kinds of imperfections: we are sure to commit mistakes, to become illusioned, to have imperfect senses and to cheat. Therefore our attempt to understand the Absolute Truth by our faulty senses and experience is futile. We must hear from a representative of Krsna who is a devotee of Krsna’s. Krsna made Arjuna His representative because Arjuna was His devotee: bhakto ’si me sakha ceti. (Bg. 4.3)
No one can become a representative of God without being a devotee of God’s. One who thinks, “I am God,” cannot be a representative. Because we are part and parcel of God, our qualities are the same as His, and therefore if we study these qualities in ourselves, we come to learn something of God. This does not mean that we understand the quantity of God. This self-realization process is one way of understanding God, but in no case can we preach, “I am God.” We cannot claim to be God without being able to display the powers of God. As far as Krsna is concerned, He proved that He was God by displaying so much power and by revealing His universal form to Arjuna. Krsna showed this awesome form in order to discourage people who would claim to be God. We should not be fooled by one who claims to be God; following in the footsteps of Arjuna, we should request to see the universal form before accepting anyone as God. Only a fool would accept another fool as God.
No one can be equal to God, and no one can be above Him. Even Lord Brahma and Siva, the most exalted demigods, are subservient to Him and pay their respectful obeisances. Instead of trying to become God by some meditational process or other, we had better hear about God submissively and try to understand Him and our relationship to Him. The representative of God or the incarnation of God never claims to be God but the servant of God. This is the sign of the bona fide representative.
Whatever we learn of God from authoritative sources can be described, and that will help us make spiritual progress. This description is called kirtana. If we try to repeat what we hear, we become established in knowledge. By the process of sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, we can become free from material conditioning and attain to the kingdom of God. In this age it is impossible to practice sacrifice, speculation or yoga. There is no way open to us but the way of hearing submissively from authoritative sources. This is the way the mahatmas received the most confidential knowledge. It is the way Arjuna received it from Krsna, and it is the way we must receive it from the disciplic succession stemming from Arjuna.
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