|The Perfection of Self-realization|
In this concluding chapter, Srila Prabhupada discusses the ultimate goal of the science of self-realization--full realization of the Supreme Self, Krsna. The development of self-realization begins with the understanding that the self is not material--not a physical body--but pure spiritual energy. Next, one realizes that the pure, spiritual self is eternally a part of the Supreme Self, Krsna. Finally one learns how to live fully in that eternal, blissful, transcendental relationship. One who has attained this state has attained life's supreme perfection.
When Krsna was on this earth, all the residents of Vrndavana loved Him. Indeed, they knew nothing but Krsna. They did not know whether Krsna is God or not God, nor were they disturbed by such thoughts as, "I shall love Krsna if He is God." Their attitude was one of pure love, and they thought, "He may or may not be God--it doesn't matter. We love Krsna, that's all." This then is the platform of real, unalloyed love. When one thinks, "If Krsna is God, I shall love Him," it should be known that this is not the platform of pure love but of conditional love. While on earth, Krsna exhibited extraordinary powers, and the vraja-vasis, the residents of Vrndavana, often thought, "Oh, Krsna is such a wonderful child. Maybe He is some demigod." They thought in this way because people were generally under the impression that the demigods were all-powerful. Within the material world the demigods are powerful, but people are not aware that Krsna is above all of them. The highest of the demigods, Brahma, gave his opinion of this matter in the verse isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: "Krsna is the supreme controller, and His body is full of knowledge, bliss, and eternality." Little did the residents of Vrndavana know of Krsna's power as the ultimate controller and master of all the demigods. What is noteworthy is that their love for Him was not subject to such considerations.
As the residents of Vrndavana loved Krsna unconditionally, similarly Krsna loved them unconditionally. Vraja-jana-vallabha, giri-vara-dhari. When the inhabitants of Vrndavana stopped performing sacrifices to Lord Indra, the chief demigod of the heavens, they placed themselves in a very dangerous position. Indra became very angry and sent powerful clouds that rained over Vrndavana incessantly for seven days. The whole area began to flood, and the inhabitants became very disturbed. Although He was only seven years old, Krsna saved the inhabitants of Vrndavana by lifting Govardhana Hill and holding it up as an umbrella to shield the village. Lord Krsna thus taught the demigod Indra that his disturbances could be stopped simply by His little finger. Seeing this, Lord Indra bowed down before Krsna.
Thus Krsna also became known as Gopijana-vallabha, which indicates that His only business is to protect the gopi-jana. This Krsna consciousness movement aims at teaching people how to become gopi-janas, or pure lovers of Krsna. When we reach that stage of pure love of God, the Lord will save us from any danger, even if it means His lifting a hill or a mountain. Krsna did not have to practice some yoga system in order to lift Govardhana Hill. As God, He is all-powerful, even as a child. He played like a child and dealt with others like a child, but when there was need, He manifested Himself as God Almighty. That is the nature of Krsna, or God: He does not have to practice meditation or follow some system of yoga in order to become God. He is not a manufactured type of God, but is God eternally.
Although He is God, He enjoys loving relationships with His devotees, and in order to satisfy His devotees, He often takes roles that appear to be subsidiary. Krsna often likes being the child of a devotee, and thus He became the beloved child of Yasoda, Yasoda-nandana. Because He is God and everyone worships Him, no one chastises Him. However, Krsna enjoys being chastised by His devotee father and mother, and because Krsna takes pleasure in being chastised, the devotees also take up the role, saying, "All right, I shall become Your father and chastise You." Similarly, when Krsna wants to fight, one of His devotees becomes the demon Hiranyakasipu and fights with Him. In this way, all Krsna's activities are carried out in connection with His devotees. If we aspire to become such associates of Krsna, we must develop Krsna consciousness, awareness of Krsna.
Yasoda-nandana vraja-jana-ranjana. Krsna's only business is satisfying the vraja-janas, and their only business is satisfying Krsna. This is the reciprocation of love. Yamuna-tira-vana-cari: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, wanders on the banks of the Yamuna to please the gopis, the cowherd boys, the birds, the bees, and the cows and calves. These are not ordinary birds, bees, cows, calves, or men; they have all reached the summit of self-realization and thus, after many, many lives, have attained a position whereby they can play with Krsna. This Krsna consciousness movement can enable everyone to go to Krsnaloka and become Krsna's associate as a friend, servant, father, or mother. Krsna is agreeable to take any of these positions in relation to His devotee. How He does so is all described in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya. To realize our relationship with Krsna, we have but to follow in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and His chief associates, the six Gosvamis--Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Sri Jiva, Gopala, Raghunatha dasa, and Raghunatha Bhatta. These Gosvamis were always engaged in chanting Hare Krsna and dancing in ecstasy. They taught that when one is merged in krsna-kirtana, or the chanting of the holy names of Krsna, he merges into the ocean of love of Krsna. As soon as the sound of Krsna's name is vibrated, one can immediately merge into the ocean of love. That is the sign of pure devotion. Thus at kirtanas the six Gosvamis would merge immediately into the ocean of love of Godhead.
The six Gosvamis were dear not only to the other devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu but to the nondevotees as well. A pure devotee's position is that he has no enemy because he is not envious. A pure devotee is always open to everyone, and he does not discriminate that this person can be allowed to chant Hare Krsna and that person should not be allowed. On the material platform, which is a platform of dualism, there are differences between high and low, man and woman, and this or that, but on the spiritual platform there are no such distinctions. The pure devotee, seeing everything with an equal mind, is therefore nonenvious. Because he is nonenvious, he is worshipable. Indeed, it may even be said that a person is worshipable simply if he is nonenvious, for it is only possible to be nonenvious on the spiritual platform. This is also the verdict of the Bhagavad-gita (5.18-19):
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva svapake ca
ihaiva tair jitah sargo
yesam samye sthitam manah
nirdosam hi samam brahma
tasmad brahmani te sthitah
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater. Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman."
Such a position can be obtained by one who has acquired the mercy of Lord Caitanya. Upon obtaining His mercy, a person can deliver suffering humanity from material contamination. Because the six Gosvamis were such devotees, we offer our respectful obeisances unto them with the mantra: vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau. The six Gosvamis were expert in scrutinizingly studying all the scriptures with the aim to establish real religion in the world. They left many books to guide us, the most famous of which is Sri Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion), which gives the neophyte devotee initial direction. The Gosvamis always worked very hard, day and night, and their business was simply writing books, chanting, and dancing. Indeed, they were practically released from the bodily necessities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending themselves out of fear. There was no question of mating at all, nor was there any question of fearing or defending, for they were totally absorbed in Krsna. At most they used to sleep one and a half hours daily, and they ate practically nothing. Whenever they felt hungry, they would simply go to a householder's home and beg one or two pieces of bread.
The mission of such saintly persons is but to make suffering humanity happy by elevating everyone to spiritual consciousness. In the material world, everyone is trying to exploit one another--one nation is trying to exploit another nation, one society is trying to exploit another, one businessman is trying to exploit another, etc. This is called the struggle for existence, and out of it the people who are struggling have invented a law called "Might is right," but we can actually see that even the most powerful must struggle, just as in the current world situation. There is a great struggle going on between Russia, America, and China. Because of such struggle, everyone is suffering. Indeed, the very struggle for existence means suffering. The pure devotees of Krsna, however, are interested not in exploiting others but in helping people become happy, and therefore they are worshiped on all planets. Canakya Pandita even said that a rich man and a learned man cannot be compared, for a rich man may be honored in his own country or on his own planet, but a learned man, a devotee of God, is honored wherever he goes.
Nor for a devotee is there a distinction between heaven and hell, because Krsna is with him in both places. Where there is Krsna, there is no question of hell; every place is Vaikuntha. Haridasa Thakura, for instance, did not enter the Jagannatha temple at Puri, for he was born in a Muhammadan family, and the Hindus opposed the Muhammadans' entering the temple. Haridasa Thakura did not let this disturb him, however. He thought, "Oh, why should I go and disturb them? I shall chant here." Consequently Lord Caitanya, who is Lord Jagannatha Himself, came daily to see Haridasa. This is the power of a pure devotee: he doesn't have to go to Jagannatha; Jagannatha comes to him. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to go see Haridasa Thakura daily when the Lord was going to bathe in the sea. The Lord would enter Haridasa's cottage and ask, "Haridasa, what are you doing?" and Haridasa would reply, "Please come in, my Lord." This then is the actual position of a devotee. Therefore Krsna says that worship of His devotee is even more valuable than worship of Himself. The devotee is actually able to deliver Krsna, for he knows the science of Krsna consciousness, the science of hearing Krsna's words, eating krsna-prasadam, and enjoying Krsna. The impersonalists and voidists may preach dry philosophical treatises on aham brahmasmi-- "I am spirit"--but ultimately who will be attracted? What is the difference between someone who thinks, "I am a stone," and someone who thinks, "I am void"? Why should we become stone, wood, or void? Our actual position should be in reciprocating loving affairs with Krsna.
The spark of love for Krsna is struck by the spiritual master, the pure devotee. As for myself, my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, ordered me to take up the responsibility of spreading Krsna consciousness in the Western world. His Divine Grace had a great desire to preach Lord Caitanya's message in the West, and my success is both his grace and pleasure. When I first met my spiritual master, I was a very young man in India, a nationalist, engaged in a very responsible office. But although I did not want to go, one of my friends, who is still living in Calcutta, forcibly took me to His Divine Grace. I was reluctant to see him because in our home our father used to receive many sannyasis and I was not very satisfied with their dealings. I thought that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja might be a similar man, and if he were, what business would I have in seeing him? But my friend took me forcibly. "Why not see him?" he asked. I finally relented and went with him, and I profited.
On my first visit, His Divine Grace said that it was necessary for educated boys like me to go to foreign countries and preach the gospel of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I replied that India was a foreign-dominated nation and that no one would hear our messages. Actually, at the time foreigners considered Indians very insignificant because in the face of so many independent nations India was still dependent, being dominated by Britain. At the time there was one Bengali poet who actually lamented that even uncivilized nations were independent, whereas India was dependent on the British. His Divine Grace convinced me that dependence and independence are simply temporary conditions, and he pointed out that because we are concerned with the eternal benefit of humanity, we should take up this challenge of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This meeting with His Divine Grace, my Guru Maharaja, took place in 1922, half a century ago.
I was officially initiated in 1933, just three years before the passing of Guru Maharaja from this mortal world. At the last moment, just a fortnight before his passing away, he wrote me a letter repeating his instructions. He specifically said that I should try to preach this gospel among English-speaking people. After receiving this letter, I sometimes dreamed that Guru Maharaja was calling me and that I was leaving home and following him. I was dreaming in this way and thinking, "I have to give up my home. My Guru Maharaja wants me to give up my home and take sannyasa." At the same time I thought, "This is horrible. How can I leave my home? My wife? My children?" This is called maya. Actually I did not want to give up my home life, but Guru Maharaja made me give it up. Following his orders, I left my home, including a few children, but now Guru Maharaja has given me many nice children all over the world. Thus by serving Krsna no one becomes a loser, and this is an example from my own practical experience.
When I left India alone in 1965, I feared that I would have a great deal of trouble. The Indian government would not allow me to take any money out of the country, so I came with only a few books and forty rupees. I arrived in New York City in such a condition, but it was all by the grace of Guru Maharaja and Krsna. Everything happens by the combined mercy of Krsna and the spiritual master. In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is stated that the mercy of Krsna and guru are combined. This is the secret of the success of this Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna is always within us, and consequently He knows everything about our purposes, and He gives us the opportunity to work as we decide. If we decide to enjoy this material world, Krsna gives us the intelligence to become a very shrewd businessman or a popular politician or a cunning man so that we can earn money and enjoy ourselves. According to the standards of material life, many people are becoming great. They begin as very poor men and soon, by good fortune, become millionaires. We Should not think, however, that they are attaining such success by their own puny endeavors. Without intelligence, no one can improve, and that intelligence is given by Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna states that He is seated in everyone's heart as the Supersoul and that by His will a man can remember, and by His will a man can forget. Krsna supplies forgetfulness and remembrance according to the living entity's desire. If we want to forget Krsna and enjoy the material world, He will give us the necessary intelligence so that we can forget Him for good.
Many people are thinking, "I can enjoy this material world very nicely. Everyone is having such a good time. There is no reason I can't enjoy myself as much as they." This idea is illusion because there is no real enjoyment in the material world. We may rise to a very high position like President Kennedy. We may be very good-looking, very famous, very intelligent, and well educated, very wealthy and very powerful, and we may have a very beautiful wife and children and hold the highest position in the country--but at any moment we are subject to be shot down. This is the nature of the material world: we have to face danger at every step. There is no question of having pleasure without impediments. Even when the pleasures are earned, they are earned after a great deal of struggle and sacrifice, and whatever pleasure may be acquired is temporary, for in the material world there is no pleasure that can give us constant and unending enjoyment. Only Krsna can give us that.
Therefore Krsna instructs in the Bhagavad-gita that it is the welfare of every living entity to give up this nonsensical material activity and just surrender unto Him. Unfortunately, in this age people are so attracted by the glitter of material nature, to illusion, or maya, that they are not very interested. Krsna even declares that if one surrenders unto Him, He will give all protection from all sinful reactions, but still people are so attached that they cannot do it. People always fear that by surrendering to Krsna they will lose something, just as I feared losing my family by going to the Western world and preaching. But Krsna is so kind that if He takes anything away, He will reward us a thousandfold.
The spiritual master is also kind in that he begs from door to door, country to country, town to town: "My dear ladies and gentlemen, my dear boys and girls, please take to Krsna consciousness." In this way he renders very confidential service to Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Lord who gives the orders, and the spiritual master executes those orders; therefore the spiritual master is very dear to Krsna. Whether Krsna sends him to heaven or to hell makes no difference to him. For the spiritual master, a pure devotee, heaven and hell are both the same if there is no Krsna consciousness. In hell people are suffering in so many ways, and in heaven they are enjoying their senses in so many ways, but a devotee of the Lord can live any place where there is Krsna consciousness, and since he brings this consciousness with him, he is always self-satisfied. If he is sent to hell, he will be satisfied simply chanting Hare Krsna. In fact, he does not believe in hell but in Krsna. Similarly, if he were put in heaven, where there are so many opportunities for sense gratification, he would also remain aloof, for his senses are satisfied by Krsna Himself. Thus for the service of the Lord a devotee is prepared to go anywhere, and for this reason he is very dear to Krsna.
Renounced impersonalist philosophers say that this world is false and that the impersonal Brahman is truth. But if they are asked to go out into society where material sense gratification predominates, they will refuse for fear of being affected by those conditions. For a Krsna conscious person, however, there is no such difficulty. Because he is controlled and has taken shelter of Krsna, he is not afraid of going anywhere.
Consequently, when devotees meet in a place where there is no Krsna consciousness, there is no harm, for they take the opportunity to chant Hare Krsna and infuse the place with Krsna consciousness. This opportunity should always be taken. It is not that one should close himself up in a room and chant alone. The great sage Narada is a spaceman who travels all over the universe. Although he can dwell in the most elevated planets, he sometimes goes to hell and preaches there. That is the beauty of a servant of God--he is always acting out of love for Krsna and His parts and parcels.
The underlying principle of devotional service is unalloyed love for Krsna. Regardless of the position of a particular devotee--as friend, servant, parent, or lover of Krsna--his service is unconditional, for Krsna consciousness is not dependent on any material condition. It is transcendental and has nothing to do with the modes of material nature. A devotee is not afraid to go anywhere, and because of this he sees all material conditions as equal. In the world we may say that this is a good place to be and that is a bad place, but, as pointed out before, the devotee is not subject to these mental concoctions. For him the basic principle of material existence is bad, for material existence means forgetfulness of Krsna.
In the neutral stage of devotion one may give more importance to the impersonal effulgence of the Lord and to the Supersoul within the heart, but Krsna consciousness actually develops when one thinks, "Krsna is my very intimate master of intimate relationships." In the beginning, of course, impersonal realization and realization of the Supersoul are part of Krsna consciousness. The partial realization of God in His impersonal aspect or in His aspect as Supersoul enables one to develop veneration for the Lord, but when one has an intimate relationship with Krsna as a friend, master, son, or lover, then the veneration disappears.
This platform of personal relationship is certainly higher than the impersonal platform or the platform of Supersoul, or Paramatma, realization. In the neutral conception, one simply realizes that he and the Absolute Truth are one in quality, or he realizes that he is part and parcel of the Supreme. That is certainly knowledge, for when one develops a personal relationship with Krsna as servant, he begins to appreciate the full opulence of the Supreme Lord. One who realizes that God is full in six opulences actually begins rendering service. As soon as one becomes aware of the greatness of Krsna and understands Krsna's superiority, his service begins. The awareness of God's greatness increases when transcendental service is rendered. A person who serves the Lord in order to satisfy the senses of the Lord becomes satisfied, because Krsna is the Supersoul and the individual living entity is His part and parcel. If He is satisfied, then the living entity is satisfied. If the stomach is satisfied, then all the parts of the body are satisfied, for they receive nourishment through the stomach. When one of my Godbrothers began to fan my Guru Maharaja on a very hot day, Guru Maharaja asked, "Why are you fanning me all of a sudden?" The boy replied, "Because if you are satisfied, we are all satisfied." This is the formula--we should not try to satisfy our senses separately, but should try to satisfy Krsna's senses. Then naturally we will become satisfied.
A Krsna conscious person is always trying to give satisfaction to Krsna, and this is the beginning of Krsna consciousness. Because in the impersonal conception there is no form of God, there is no opportunity to satisfy His senses. However, one who sees Krsna as master can render service. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna is referred to as Hrsikesa, master of the senses. When it is understood that the Absolute Truth is the master of the senses, that our senses are products of His senses, and that they should therefore be utilized for the satisfaction of His senses, Krsna consciousness, which is dormant within everyone, begins to awaken. Once Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, "What is the difference between the neutral position in relation to Krsna and the relationship of master and servant?" In both cases one can understand that Krsna is great, but in the neutral position there is no inclination for service. Therefore the master-servant relationship between Krsna and the living entity is more elevated. Then when one attains friendship with Krsna, another transcendental quality is added. There is the conception that God is great and that service must be rendered unto Him, but there is also an extra feeling: "Krsna is my friend. Therefore I must treat Him in such a way that He will be happy." With a friend we are not simply content with rendering service but in making him actually happy and satisfied. There is also equality in such a relationship, for Krsna and the devotee relate on equal terms. Thus devotees in this position actually forget Krsna's superiority. When Krsna's boyfriends used to ride on Krsna's shoulders playing games, they did not think that they were greater than Him. There is no question of sense gratification or self-glorification, for the relationship is based on pure love. The devotee's only desire is to give pleasure to Krsna, and Krsna also takes His friends on His shoulders to derive pleasure from them. Sometimes a person simply accepts the fact that his friend will slap his face--but there is no question of inferiority in such an action. When friendship and mutual pleasure are the basis of the relationship, there is no question of insult or inferiority.
The whole basis of Krsna consciousness and a relationship with Krsna is the pleasure potency of Krsna Himself. Srimati Radharani, the damsels of Vraja, and Krsna's cowherd boyfriends are all expansions of Krsna's pleasure potency. We all have a tendency toward pleasure, because the source from which we emanate is fully potent in pleasure. Impersonalists cannot think in these terms, for they deny the pleasure potency; therefore the impersonalist philosophy is incomplete and inferior. Those who are in Krsna consciousness recognize the pleasure potency in Krsna and in all His paraphernalia--His friends, servants, father, mother, and consort. All relationships with Krsna that aim at satisfying Krsna's senses are manifestations of Krsna's pleasure potency.
As far as the individual soul is concerned, it is originally a part and parcel of this pleasure potency, of the reservoir of pleasure Himself. However, due to contact with material nature, the soul has forgotten its actual position and has become trapped in the evolutionary process of transmigration from one body to another. Thus one struggles hard for existence. Now we must extricate ourselves from the sufferings of the struggle, from the countless transmigrations that force us to suffer the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death, and come to the point of our eternal life in Krsna consciousness. That eternal life is possible. If one tries his best in this human form of life, in his next life he will get a spiritual body. The spiritual body is already within the gross material body, but it will develop only as soon as one becomes free from the contamination of this material existence. That is the aim of human life and the actual self-interest of all people. Self-interest is actually realizing, "I am part and parcel of God. I have to return to the kingdom of God and join with Him." Just as we have a social life here, God has a social life in the spiritual kingdom, and we can join Him there. It is not that after finishing this body we become void. In the Bhagavad-gita (2.12) Krsna told Arjuna, "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Our existence is therefore eternal, and the changes of birth and death are simply the changes of the temporary material bodies.
The actual process for achieving eternal life is not at all difficult. This process of Krsna consciousness is based on knowledge received from Krsna, the most perfect being. Knowledge received from others is defective because the conditioned soul is certain to commit mistakes, certain to be illusioned, certain to cheat, and certain to have imperfect senses. The knowledge received from Krsna, however, actually enables us to see Krsna. Someone may challenge, "Can you show me God?" and our answer is, "Yes. God can be seen at every moment." Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of water." We drink water every day, and the taste of water is there, so if we think of this taste as Krsna, we will have begun realizing God every day. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna further says, prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh: "I am the light of the sun and the moon." Every day we receive sunlight, and in the evening there is moonshine, so if we think of the source of these emanations, we will ultimately become God conscious. There are so many similar instances given in the Bhagavad-gita, for Krsna is the beginning, middle, and end of all manifestations. If we want to become God conscious and realize our own essence, it is not very difficult. We only have to understand God in truth--how He appears, how He disappears, and what His functions are--then we can become eligible to enter into the kingdom of God. After quitting this material body, a person who understands God, Krsna, does not return again to earth to accept another material body. Where does he go? Krsna says, mam eti: "He comes to Me." That should be the aim of any intelligent human being.