satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrt-karna-rasayanah kathah
taj josanad asv apavarga-vartmani
sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati
bhaktya puman jata-viraga aindriyad
cittasya yatto grahane yoga-yukto
yatisyate rjubhir yoga-margaih
In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.
Thus consciously engaged in devotional service in the association of devotees, a person gains distaste for sense gratification, both in this world and in the next, by constantly thinking about the activities of the Lord. This process of Krsna consciousness is the easiest process of mystic power; when one is actually situated on that path of devotional service, he is able to control the mind.
The process of advancing in Krsna consciousness and devotional service is described here. The first point is that one must seek the association of persons who are Krsna conscious and who engage in devotional service. Without such association one cannot advance. Simply by theoretical knowledge or study one cannot make any appreciable advancement. One must give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of devotees because without such association one cannot understand the activities of the Lord. Generally, people are convinced of the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. Because they do not associate with devotees, they cannot understand that the Absolute Truth can be a person and have personal activities. This is a very difficult subject matter, and unless one has personal understanding of the Absolute Truth, there is no meaning to devotion. Service or devotion cannot be offered to anything impersonal. Service must be offered to a person. Nondevotees cannot appreciate Krsna consciousness by reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam or any other Vedic literature wherein the activities of the Lord are described; they think that these activities are fictional, because spiritual life is not explained to them in the proper mood. To understand the personal activities of the Lord, one has to seek the association of devotees, and by such association, when one contemplates and tries to understand the transcendental activities of the Lord, the path to liberation is open, and he is freed. One who has firm faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes fixed, and his attraction for association with the Lord and the devotees increases. Association with devotees means association with the Lord. The devotee who makes this association develops the consciousness for rendering service to the Lord, and then, being situated in the transcendental position of devotional service, he gradually becomes perfect.
In all scriptures people are encouraged to act in a pious way so that they can enjoy sense gratification not only in this life but also in the next. For example, one is promised promotion to the heavenly kingdom of higher planets by pious fruitive activities. But a devotee in the association of devotees prefers to contemplate the activities of the Lord—how He has created this universe, how He is maintaining it, how the creation dissolves, and how in the spiritual kingdom the Lord’s pastimes are enacted. There are full literatures describing these activities, especially Bhagavad-gita, Brahma-samhita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. The sincere devotee who associates with devotees gets the opportunity to hear and contemplate these subjects, and the result is that he feels distaste for so-called happiness in this or that world, in heaven or on other planets. The devotees are simply interested in being transferred to the personal association of the Lord; they are no longer attracted to temporary so-called happiness. That is the position of one who is yoga-yukta. One who is fixed in mystic power is not disturbed by the allurement of this world or that world; he is interested in spiritual understanding. This is very easily attained by the easiest process, bhakti-yoga. Rjubhir yoga-margaih. A very suitable word used here is rjubhih, or “very easy.” There are different processes of yoga-marga, attaining yoga perfection, but this process, devotional service to the Lord, is the easiest. Not only is it the easiest process, but the result is sublime. Everyone, therefore, should try this process of Krsna consciousness and reach the highest perfection.
Sat means “existence,” and asat means “that which does not exist,” that which is temporary. The material world is asat; therefore the Vedas enjoin: asato ma sad gama: “Do not remain within this material world.” Those who are interested in materialistic life are also called asat. When asked how a Vaisnava behaves, Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, asat-sanga-tyaga—ei vaisnava-acara: “A devotee first of all avoids the company of asat, those who are materially interested.” (Cc. Madhya 22.87) We have established this Krsna consciousness movement in order to avoid asat-sanga, association with those who are interested in material things. Because we are associating with Krsna, we do not wish to talk about anything but Krsna. Everyone is interested in this business or that, and we are exclusively interested in our Krsna consciousness business. Those who are asat are very much attached to sense gratification, and the culmination of sense gratification is sex.
In addition, Sri Sanatana Gosvami in his Hari-bhakti-vilasa recommends that one should not hear Bhagavad-gita, the puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam or any hari-katha from anyone who is not a Vaisnava in his actions. That means that we should not hear these Vedic literatures from the Mayavadis, who actually do not accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How can one not accept Krsna as the Supreme Lord and yet dare to speak on Bhagavad-gita? We will never derive any benefit from listening to the commentaries of such people. Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam should be heard from the devotees. We can hear Bhagavad-gita from Mayavadis for hundreds of years and yet never understand Krsna. It is therefore forbidden for Vaisnavas to hear talks given by Mayavadis.
Hari-katha, talks about Sri Hari, or Krsna, are amrta, nectar. If one hears them from the right source, he attains amrta (so ’mrtatvaya kalpate). Mrta means “birth and death,” and amrta means “the cessation of birth and death.” Spiritual life means putting an end to birth, old age, disease and death. Getting amrta, nectar, means getting relief from birth and death, and that is the real aim of spiritual life. Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (7.16) that spiritual life begins when one is pious:
“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.”
If we actually want to become pious and develop our devotional life, we have to associate unflinchingly with a sadhu. Then we can acquire some taste for Krsna. When we discuss Krsna with a sadhu, the discussion becomes very pleasing, and we develop some taste, which is called rasa, or mellow. Rasa is the enjoyment we derive from drinking something very nice when we are thirsty. Krsna has instructed us to think of Him when drinking water. This is not very difficult. Krsna also tells us to think of Him when we see sunlight in the morning. Why do we say, “Can you show me God?” God is showing us Himself. Why do we close our eyes to try to see Him? He says, “I am this, and I am that.” It is not that suddenly we can expect to see God, but we can become qualified to see God through the association of a sadhu. Presently many people are interested in receiving degrees from big universities, but education without God consciousness is simply an expansion of maya’s influence. Because knowledge is taken away by illusion, the universities are simply presenting impediments on the path of God consciousness. The living entity is already illusioned when he comes into the material world, and so-called advanced education simply increases his illusion. Trying to become happy in this temporary, material life, the living entity has forgotten that he is the eternal servant of Krsna. Even if one becomes happy in this temporary life, his happiness is an illusion because no one is allowed to stay and enjoy his happiness. These points have to be understood in the association of devotees. A devotee knows everything because he has seen the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krsna.
What is the goal of vedanta-darsana? Veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “ultimate.” What is that ultimate knowledge? In Bhagavad-gita (15.15) Sri Krsna says:
“By all the Vedas, I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”
If we listen to Krsna and understand what and who He is, we can actually understand Vedanta. If we do not understand Krsna but advertise ourselves as Vedantists, we are just being illusioned. Without understanding Krsna, one is actually a mudha, a fool. People do not know it, but actually anyone in the material world is more or less a mudha. We are all mudhas, for unless we are mudhas, we do not come into the material world. From Brahma down to the smallest ant, we are all mudhas of different degrees. In order to become really learned, we have to associate with devotees. Then we can actually relish krsna-katha. When discussed among devotees, krsna-katha is pleasing to the heart and ear. This requires a little training, and this training is given by the devotees. We should follow the devotees in their practical daily life, in their routine work and behavior. Cultivation means practice, and the great acaryas have given a routine we can cultivate. For instance, The Nectar of Devotion by Srila Rupa Gosvami deals with the cultivation of devotional service, and this book, which we have translated, has been very well received in European and American universities. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, The Nectar of Devotion, is the actual science of bhakti. Bhakti is not sentiment; it is a great science, and we have to learn it scientifically. lt is not that we have to wait for another life to cultivate devotional service. We can read The Nectar of Devotion, live with devotees, rise early in the morning to attend mangala-arati, study Vedic literature, take prasada and preach Krsna consciousness.
Maya is very strong, and to begin devotional service is to declare war against maya. Some of the devotees in this Krsna consciousness movement may fall down, but whatever is done sincerely is to their permanent credit. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita. If one renders a little devotional service, he does not fall down into the lower species but again attains a human form. There are 8,400,000 species, but the fallen devotee is guaranteed a human life. If one becomes Krsna conscious, he is assured of a good birth in the next life. However, if one completes his Krsna consciousness in this life, he will not take birth again but will go to Krsna. This is what is actually wanted. Why take the chance of being born into a rich family or a brahmana family? Actually, such a birth is quite risky because there is really no guarantee. Generally, those who are rich don’t care at all for Krsna consciousness, and those who are born in brahmana families generally become puffed-up, thinking, “I am a brahmana. I am born in a very high family.” Thinking this brings about their falldown. It is said that pride precedes a fall. A Vaisnava is by nature very humble.
These are the chances one takes when one becomes a human being. Krsna is personally advising us to take up the opportunities offered by the Krsna consciousness movement. We should take them and not run the risk of committing spiritual suicide.
This is the process for understanding the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, the Supreme Being. In the Absolute, there are no contradictions. Krsna’s name, form, activities, paraphernalia and attributes are identical with Krsna. This is the meaning of absolute. There is no difference between Krsna’s form and Krsna. Krsna’s hands and Krsna’s legs are nondifferent. In the material world, there is a difference between our left hand and our right hand, between the nose and the ear, but these dualities do not exist in Krsna. This is the meaning of absolute. As stated in Brahma-samhita (5.32):
angani yasya sakalendriya-vrttimanti
pasyanti panti kalayanti ciram jaganti
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental form is full of bliss, truth and substantiality, and is thus full of the most dazzling splendor. Each of the limbs of that transcendental figure possesses, in Himself, the full-fledged functions of all the organs, and eternally sees, maintains and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and mundane.” The different parts of our bodies serve different purposes, but any limb of Krsna’s body can serve any purpose. Krsna can eat through His eyes, or Krsna can go somewhere simply by thinking. The Absolute is advaita. There is no duality in the Absolute. Everything is one.
Our material disease lies in wanting to satisfy our senses. We have stated before that advancement of civilization means advancement of sense gratification, but bhakti means just the opposite. As long as we are interested in sense gratification, there is no question of bhakti. We have to reduce our tendency for sense gratification and increase our devotional activities. We have also stated that material bondage means accepting one body and creating another. Krsna, through nature, will give us full facility to enjoy our senses. Presently in the Western countries it has become fashionable to run around naked. Therefore nature will give these people an opportunity to stand naked like trees for many years. Why are we receiving different bodies? Because we have different tendencies for sense gratification. We actually have to come to detest sense gratification before our spiritual life begins. This is made possible through bhakti. Although Krsna is beyond our vision, He has agreed to be seen by us through the arca-vigraha, the Deity. We should not think that the Deity is made of stone. Even if it is stone, we should think that Krsna has made Himself visible before us like a stone because we cannot see beyond stone. That is Krsna’s mercy. Because our eyes and other senses are imperfect, we cannot see Krsna present everywhere in His original spiritual form. Because we are imperfect, we see the difference between things spiritual and material, but Krsna, being absolute, knows no such distinctions. He can become spiritual or material, however He likes, and it does not make any difference to Him. Being almighty and omnipotent, Krsna can change matter into spirit and spirit into matter. Therefore we should not think, as the atheists do, that we are worshiping idols. Even if it is an idol, it is still Krsna. That is the absolute nature of Krsna. Even if we think that the Deity is a stone, or a piece of metal or some wood, He is still Krsna. The understanding of this requires bhakti on our part. If we are a little thoughtful and philosophical, and if we are at all inclined toward bhakti, we can understand that Krsna is present in stone.
Actually, nothing is different from Krsna because everything is Krsna’s energy. The Mayavadi philosophers say that since everything is God, the personality of Krsna is finished. But actually Krsna is Krsna, and at the same time He is everything. We can understand this by bhakti, but not by any other process. When a bhakta sees a tree, he sees Krsna. As explained in Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 8.274):
The advanced devotee does not see living entities as moving and not moving. He sees Krsna. This is also stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.38):
Because his eyes are always smeared with the ointment of devotion, the devotee always sees Krsna and nothing else. He sees Krsna and Krsna’s energy everywhere. For instance, if you love your child, when you see your child’s shoe, you immediately see your child. Or if you see your child’s toy, you immediately see your child and hear his voice. Similarly, if we have actually developed love of Krsna, nothing exists but Krsna. When our love for Krsna is actually developed, whatever we see, we will see Krsna.
Unless one is advanced in krsna-prema, love of Krsna, he cannot see or understand. By the blunt material senses, we cannot even understand the name of Krsna. People are always asking, “Why are these people chanting Hare Krsna?” They cannot understand, although Krsna realization begins with the name. The name of Krsna and Krsna are nondifferent, but we cannot realize this intellectually. We have to practice chanting Hare Krsna to realize it. When we actually advance in devotional service and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra offenselessly, we will realize that Krsna and His name are nondifferent. Thus krsna-bhakti begins with the tongue, for we can utilize the tongue to chant, and to taste krsna-prasada. In this way we can become a Krsna bhakta.
When we see the Deity of Krsna in the temple, we should think that the Deity is Krsna. In this way Krsna has agreed to be seen by us and even dressed by us. However, if we think of Krsna’s virat-rupa, His universal form, what can we do? How can we dress the virat-rupa? His many heads cover the sky, and we cannot even conceive of Him. Krsna can become bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. Therefore this verse states: bhaktya puman jata-viraga aindriyat. The more we serve Krsna, give Him things to eat and dress Him nicely, the less we become interested in our own bodies. In the material world everyone is very busy dressing himself very nicely in order to be sexually attractive, but if we try to dress Krsna nicely, we will forget our own material dress. If we feed Krsna nice food, we will forget to satisfy our own tongue by going to this or that restaurant.
Krsna was teaching Bhagavad-gita, and Arjuna was seeing Him face to face, but seeing Krsna and reading Bhagavad-gita are the same. Some people say that Arjuna was fortunate to have seen Krsna face to face and take instructions from Him, but Krsna can be seen immediately, provided one has the eyes to see. There is the example in Caitanya-caritamrta of a brahmana in South India who was reading Bhagavad-gita, although he was illiterate. The people in the neighborhood knew that he was illiterate, and they made jokes, asking him, “Well, how is it you are reading Bhagavad-gita?” One day Caitanya Mahaprabhu happened to be in a temple nearby, and He could understand that this man was a devotee. He therefore approached him and asked, “My dear brahmana, what are you reading?” The brahmana replied, “I am reading Bhagavad-gita, or, rather, I am trying to read Bhagavad-gita. I happen to be illiterate, but my guru-maharaja has said that I must read the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad-gita daily. I am simply trying to carry out his order, and therefore I am opening and closing the pages.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu then said, “I see that you are crying sometimes. Why is this?” The brahmana replied, “Yes, I am crying because when I take up this book, I see a picture of Krsna driving Arjuna’s chariot. Sri Krsna is so kind that He has accepted the position of a servant to His devotee. Therefore when I see this picture, I weep.” Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu then immediately embraced the brahmana and said, “You have actually read Bhagavad-gita.”
It is not that a wealth of education is required. One does not even have to understand the language. The only ingredient needed is bhakti, love. If one becomes a pure bhakta, he will forget all material sense enjoyment. Being a bhakta doesn’t simply mean wearing tilaka and robes. One is not a bhakta if he has a taste for material sense enjoyment. A true bhakta wants to satisfy not his senses but the senses of Krsna. That is the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, Vrndavana, everyone—mother Yasoda, Nanda Maharaja, Srimati Radharani, the gopis, the cowherd boys, Sridama, Sudama, the land, the water, the trees, the birds—all are trying to satisfy Krsna. That is the real meaning of Vrndavana. When Krsna left Vrndavana for Mathura, everyone in Vrndavana fell dead out of separation from Him. Similarly, we can always live in Vrndavana, in Vaikuntha, if we are mad after Krsna. This is the teaching of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and He illustrated this by His very life. When He was in Jagannatha Puri, He was always mad after Krsna day and night. The last twelve years of His life were passed in madness. Sometimes He threw Himself into the ocean, and He wandered about like a madman. Of course, this is not possible for ordinary living entities. However, if we become bhaktas, we will find intelligence behind everything in the creation. If we take a flower and see its constitution, how it is made and how its colors are displayed and how it comes into existence, we can see Krsna. We can see how Krsna has created such a beautiful thing so intelligently. We should not consider like rascals that such a thing has come into being automatically. Fools cannot see, but those who are intelligent can see that the hand of the Supreme Lord is in everything within the creation. Isavasyam idam sarvam.
Actually, nothing comes about automatically. Everything comes about through the intelligence of Krsna, through His fine and accurate powers. If we paint a picture of a flower, we have to arrange many facets, and still the picture will not be absolutely perfect. Yet the flower created by Krsna has come out perfectly. What rascal can say that there is no brain behind it? Krsna specifically says that we should not think that prakrti, nature, is working automatically. He says, “Nature is working under My direction.” One simply has to develop the eyes to see how these things are going on. This is possible if we engage the senses in the service of Krsna. We first of all must engage the tongue in chanting Hare Krsna and in eating bhagavat-prasada. Nothing else is required. Therefore the Krsna consciousness movement is distributing prasada and engaging people in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.
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