Who are you?... Are you
your body? Or your mind? Or are you something higher? Do you know who you are,
or do you merely think you know? And does it really matter? Our materialistic
society, with its unenlightened leadership, has made it virtually taboo to inquire
into our real, higher self. Instead we use our valuable time maintaining, decorating,
and pampering the body for its own sake. Might there be an alternative?
very important Krishna consciousness movement is meant to save human society from
spiritual death. At present human society is being misled by leaders who are blind,
for they do not know the aim and objective of human life, which is self-realization
and the reestablishment of our lost relationship with the Supreme Personality
of Godhead. That is the missing point. The Krishna consciousness movement is trying
to enlighten human society in this important matter.
According to Vedic civilization,
the perfection of life is to realize one's relationship with Krishna, or God. In
the Bhagavad-gita, which is accepted by all authorities in transcendental science
as the basis of all Vedic knowledge, we understand that not only human beings
but all living entities are parts and parcels of God. The parts are meant for
serving the whole, just as the legs, hands, fingers, and ears are meant for serving
the total body. We living entities, being parts and parcels of God, are duty-bound
to serve Him.
Actually our position is
that we are always rendering service to someone, either to our family, country,
or society. If we have no one to serve, sometimes we keep a pet cat or dog and
render service to it. All these factors prove that we are constitutionally meant
to render service, yet in spite of serving to the best of our ability, we are
not satisfied. Nor is the person to whom we are rendering that service satisfied.
On the material platform, everyone is frustrated. The reason for this is that
the service being rendered is not properly directed. For example, if we want to
render service to a tree, we must water the root. If we pour water on the leaves,
branches, and twigs, there is little benefit. If the Supreme Personality of Godhead
is served, all other parts and parcels will be automatically satisfied. Consequently
all welfare activities as well as service to society, family, and nation are realized
by serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is the duty of every
human being to understand his constitutional position with God and to act accordingly.
If this is possible, then our lives become successful. Sometimes, however, we
feel challenging and say, "There is no God," or "I am God," or even, "I don't
care for God." But in actuality this challenging spirit will not save us. God
is there, and we can see Him at every moment. If we refuse to see God in our life,
then He will be present before us as cruel death. If we do not choose to see Him
in one feature, we will see Him in another. There are different features of the
Supreme Personality of Godhead because He is the original root of the entire cosmic
manifestation. In one sense, it is not possible for us to escape Him.
This Krishna consciousness
movement is not blind religious fanaticism, nor is it a revolt by some recent
upstart; rather, it is an authorized, scientific approach to the matter of our
eternal necessity in relation with the Absolute Personality of Godhead, the Supreme
Enjoyer. Krishna consciousness simply deals with our eternal relationship with Him
and the process of discharging our relative duties to Him. Thus, Krishna consciousness
enables us to achieve the highest perfection of life attainable in the present
human form of existence.
We must always remember
that this particular form of human life is attained after an evolution of many
millions of years in the cycle of transmigration of the spirit soul. In this particular
form of life, the economic question is more easily solved than in the lower, animal
forms. There are swine, dogs, camels, asses, and so on, whose economic necessities
are just as important as ours, but the economic questions of these animals and
others are solved under primitive conditions, whereas the human being is given
all the facilities for leading a comfortable life by the laws of nature.
Why is a man given a better
chance to live than swine or other animals? Why is a highly posted government
officer given better facilities for a comfortable life than an ordinary clerk?
The answer is very simple: the important officer has to discharge duties of a
more responsible nature than those of an ordinary clerk. Similarly, the human
being has to discharge higher duties than the animals, who are always busy with
filling their hungry stomachs. But by the laws of nature, the modern animalistic
standard of civilization has only increased the problems of filling the stomach.
When we approach some of these polished animals for spiritual life, they say that
they only want to work for the satisfaction of their stomachs and that there is
no necessity of inquiring about the Godhead. Yet despite their eagerness to work
hard, there is always the question of unemployment and so many other impediments
incurred by the laws of nature. Despite this, they still denounce the necessity
of acknowledging the Godhead.
We are given this human
form of life not just to work hard like the swine or dog, but to attain the highest
perfection of life. If we do not want that perfection, then we will have to work
very hard, for we will be forced to by the laws of nature. In the closing days
of Kali-yuga (this present age) men will have to work hard like asses for only
a scrap of bread. This process has already begun, and every year the necessity
for harder work for lesser wages will increase. Yet human beings are not meant
to work hard like animals, and if a man fails to discharge his duties as a human
being, he is forced to transmigrate to the lower species of life by the laws of
nature. The Bhagavad-gita very vividly describes how a spirit soul, by the laws
of nature, takes his birth and gets a suitable body and sense organs for enjoying
matter in the material world.
In the Bhagavad-gita it
is also stated that those who attempt but do not complete the path of approaching
God-in other words, those who have failed to achieve complete success in Krishna
consciousness-are given the chance to appear in the families of the spiritually
advanced or in financially well-to-do mercantile families. If the unsuccessful
spiritual aspirants are offered such chances of noble parentage, what of those
who have actually attained the required success? Therefore an attempt to go back
to Godhead, even if half finished, guarantees a good birth in the next life. Both
the spiritual and the financially well-to-do families are beneficial for spiritual
progress because in both families one can get a good chance to make further progress
from the point where he stopped in his previous birth. In spiritual realization
the atmosphere generated by a good family is favorable for the cultivation of
spiritual knowledge. The Bhagavad-gita reminds such fortunate well-born persons
that their good fortune is due to their past devotional activities. Unfortunately,
the children of these families do not consult the Bhagavad-gita, being misguided
by maya (illusion).
Birth in a well-to-do family
solves the problem of having to find sufficient food from the beginning of life,
and later a comparatively easier and more comfortable way of life can be led.
Being so situated, one has a good chance to make progress in spiritual realization,
but as ill luck would have it, due to the influence of the present iron age (which
is full of machines and mechanical people) the sons of the wealthy are misguided
for sense enjoyment, and they forget the good chance they have for spiritual enlightenment.
Therefore nature, by her laws, is setting fires in these golden homes. It was
the golden city of Laìka, under the regime of the demoniac Ravana, that was burned
to ashes. That is the law of nature.
The Bhagavad-gita is the
preliminary study of the transcendental science of Krishna consciousness, and it
is the duty of all responsible heads of state to chalk out their economic and
other programs by referring to the Bhagavad-gita. We are not meant to solve economic
questions of life by balancing on a tottering platform; rather, we are meant to
solve the ultimate problems of life which arise due to the laws of nature. Civilization
is static unless there is spiritual movement. The soul moves the body, and the
living body moves the world. We are concerned about the body, but we have no knowledge
of the spirit that is moving that body. Without the spirit, the body is motionless,
The human body is an excellent
vehicle by which we can reach eternal life. It is a rare and very important boat
for crossing over the ocean of nescience which is material existence. On this
boat there is the service of an expert boatman, the spiritual master. By divine
grace, the boat plies the water in a favorable wind. With all these auspicious
factors, who would not take the opportunity to cross over the ocean of nescience?
If one neglects this good chance, it should be known that he is simply committing
There is certainly a great
deal of comfort in the first-class coach of a train, but if the train does not
move toward its destination, what is the benefit of an air-conditioned compartment?
Contemporary civilization is much too concerned with making the material body
comfortable. No one has information of the real destination of life, which is
to go back to Godhead. We must not just remain seated in a comfortable compartment;
we should see whether or not our vehicle is moving toward its real destination.
There is no ultimate benefit in making the material body comfortable at the expense
of forgetting the prime necessity of life, which is to regain our lost spiritual
identity. The boat of human life is constructed in such a way that it must move
toward a spiritual destination. Unfortunately this body is anchored to mundane
consciousness by five strong chains, which are: (1) attachment to the material
body due to ignorance of spiritual facts, (2) attachment to kinsmen due to bodily
relations, (3) attachment to the land of birth and to material possessions such
as house, furniture, estates, property, business papers, etc., (4) attachment
to material science, which always remains mysterious for want of spiritual light,
and (5) attachment to religious forms and holy rituals without knowing the Personality
of Godhead or His devotees, who make them holy. These attachments, which anchor
the boat of the human body, are explained in detail in the Fifteenth Chapter of
the Bhagavad-gita. There they are compared to a deeply rooted banyan tree which
is ever increasing its hold on the earth. It is very difficult to uproot such
a strong banyan tree, but the Lord recommends the following process: "The real
form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where
it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one
must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment. So doing, one must seek
that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender
to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and in whom
everything is abiding since time immemorial." (Bg. 15.3-4)
Neither the scientists
nor speculative philosophers have yet arrived at any conclusion concerning the
cosmic situation. All they have done is posit different theories about it. Some
of them say that the material world is real, others say that it is a dream, and
yet others say that it is ever existing. In this way different views are held
by mundane scholars, but the fact is that no mundane scientist or speculative
philosopher has ever discovered the beginning of the cosmos or its limitations.
No one can say when it began or how it floats in space. They theoretically propose
some laws, like the law of gravitation, but actually they cannot put this law
to practical use. For want of actual knowledge of the truth, everyone is anxious
to promote his own theory to gain certain fame, but the actual fact is that this
material world is full of miseries and that no one can overcome them simply by
promoting some theories about the subject. The Personality of Godhead, who is
fully cognizant of everything in His creation, informs us that it is in our best
interest that we desire to get out of this miserable existence. We must detach
ourselves from everything material. To make the best use of a bad bargain, our
material existence must be one-hundred-percent spiritualized. Iron is not fire,
but it can be turned into fire by constant association with fire. Similarly, detachment
from material activities can be effected by spiritual activities, not by material
inertia. Material inertia is the negative side of material action, but spiritual
activity is not only the negation of material action but the activation of our
real life. We must be anxious to search out eternal life, or spiritual existence
in Brahman, the Absolute. The eternal kingdom of Brahman is described in the Bhagavad-gita
as that eternal country from which no one returns. That is the kingdom of God.
The beginning of our present
material life cannot be traced, nor is it necessary for us to know how we became
conditioned in material existence. We have to be satisfied with the understanding
that somehow or other this material life has been going on since time immemorial
and now our duty is to surrender unto the Supreme Lord, who is the original cause
of all causes. The preliminary qualification for going back to Godhead is given
in the Bhagavad-gita (15.5): "One who is free from illusion, false prestige, and
false association, who understands the eternal, who is done with material lust
and is free from the duality of happiness and distress, and who knows how to surrender
unto the Supreme Person attains that eternal kingdom."
One who is convinced of
his spiritual identity and is freed from the material conception of existence,
who is free from illusion and is transcendental to the modes of material nature,
who constantly engages in understanding spiritual knowledge and who has completely
severed himself from sense enjoyment can go back to Godhead. Such a person is
called amüòha, as distinguished from müòha, or the foolish and ignorant, for he
is freed from the duality of happiness and distress.
And what is the nature
of the kingdom of God? It is described in the Bhagavad-gita (15.6) as follows:
"That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One
who reaches it never returns to this material world."
Although every place in
the creation is within the kingdom of God because the Lord is the supreme proprietor
of all planets, there is still the Lord's personal abode, which is completely
different from the universe in which we are now living. And this abode is called
paramam, or the supreme abode. Even on this earth there are countries where the
standard of living is high and countries where the standard of living is low.
Besides this earth, there are innumerable other planets distributed all over the
universe, and some are considered superior places and some inferior places. In
any case, all planets within the jurisdiction of the external energy, material
nature, require the rays of a sun or the light of fire for their existence, because
the material universe is a region of darkness. Beyond this region, however, is
a spiritual realm, which is described as functioning under the superior nature
of God. That realm is described in the Upanisads thus: "There is no need of sun,
moon, or stars, nor is that abode illumined by electricity or any form of fire.
All these material universes are illumined by a reflection of that spiritual light,
and because that superior nature is always self-luminous, we can experience a
glow of light even in the densest darkness of night."
In the Hari-vamsa the spiritual
nature is explained by the Supreme Lord Himself as follows: "The glaring effulgence
of the impersonal Brahman [the impersonal Absolute] illuminates all existences,
both material and spiritual. But, O Bharata, you must understand that this Brahman
illumination is the effulgence of My body." In the Brahma-samhita this conclusion
is also confirmed. We should not think that we can attain that abode by any material
means such as spaceships, but we should know for certain that one who can attain
that spiritual abode of Krishna can enjoy eternal, spiritual bliss without interruption.
As fallible living entities, we have two phases of existence. One is called material
existence, which is full of the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease,
and the other is called spiritual existence, in which there is an incessant spiritual
life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. In material existence we are ruled by
the material conception of the body and the mind, but in spiritual existence we
can always relish the happy, transcendental contact of the Personality of Godhead.
In spiritual existence, the Lord is never lost to us.
The Krishna consciousness
movement is trying to bring that spiritual existence to humanity at large. In
our present material consciousness, we are attached to the sensual material conception
of life, but this conception can be removed at once by devotional service to Krishna,
or Krishna consciousness. If we adopt the principles of devotional service, we
can become transcendental to the material conceptions of life and be liberated
from the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, even in the midst of various
material engagements. Everyone who is engaged in material affairs can derive the
highest benefit from the pages of Back to Godhead and the other literatures of
this Krishna consciousness movement. These literatures help all people sever the
roots of the indefatigable banyan tree of material existence. These literatures
are authorized to train us to renounce everything related to the material conception
of life and to relish spiritual nectar in every object. This stage is obtainable
only by devotional service and nothing else. By rendering such service, one can
at once get liberation (mukti) even during this present life. Most spiritual endeavours
are tinged with the colors of materialism, but pure devotional service is transcendental
to all material pollution. Those who desire to go back to Godhead need only adopt
the principles of this Krishna consciousness movement and simply aim their consciousness
at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Krishna.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami