By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
notpadayed yadi ratim
srama eva hi kevalam
“Duties [dharma] executed by men, regardless of occupation, are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.8)
In human society there is always some kind of religious institution. One’s religion is called dharma, faith. Dharma, precisely, is one’s constitutional and functional duty. The essence of real religion is the rendering of service to God. However, we have manufactured many different religions in society according to the countries and circumstances. It is stated in this verse, therefore, that one may execute any type of religious principle, but the result should be that one achieves perfection. Now, one may say that he is perfectly executing the principles of his religion as found in the Bible or Koran, and that is all very good, but what is the result? The result should be that one increases his desire or tendency to hear about God.
Such a desire does not occur, however, if one’s religion is impersonal. Generally people believe that God has no form. But if He has no form, how can one hear about His activities? Simply formless, formless, formless. How long can one go on thinking like that? If God is formless, our hearing about Him is finished. God is not formless. He has His form, and He is a person. He also has His activities. As the Supreme Lord - Himself says in Bhagavad-gita:
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode.” (Bg. 4.9)
Although janma, birth or appearance, is mentioned here, neither God nor the living entity actually takes birth. They are both ajah, unborn. As stated in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gita:
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato ‘yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bg. 2.20)
What, then, are death and birth as we know them? These words simply refer to the changes of the body. In fact, every night we die. The gross body remains inactive on the bed while the subtle body takes us away to dreamland. This is proof that we have two types of body - a gross and a subtle body. The subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence and ego. A foolish person cannot see or accept the subtle body, but the subtle body is there. Everyone accepts the presence of mind, intelligence and ego, so in that sense everyone accepts the subtle body. We work with them daily, but we cannot see them. Death involves the leaving of the gross body by the subtle body, which carries the individual away. Thus the living entity leaves one body and takes on another. The soul transmigrates from one gross body to another gross body, keeping the subtle body intact, and the subtle body is given up when one is liberated. When one gives up the subtle body also, he is promoted to the spiritual kingdom and attains a spiritual body. Therefore while living in the gross body, we have to educate the subtle body in such a way that it becomes completely spiritualized.
Overcoming False Ego.
The subtle body, as stated, is composed of mind, intelligence and ego. We should therefore always think of Krsna in our minds, and we should also employ our intelligence in working for Krsna. We should also change our false ego. Ego means “I am,” and false ego means “I am American, I am European, I am Indian, I am a human being, and so on.” This false “I am” has to be changed to “I am an eternal servant of Krsna.” If one can thus educate or transfer the activities of the subtle body - mind, intelligence and ego- one can give up the material subtle body at the time of death. One can then attain a spiritual body and go back home, back to Godhead. This is the process of Krsna consciousness. At death one automatically gives up the gross body; now we should practice giving up the subtle body. To give up the subtle body, one has to develop love of God.
In the beginning of this process one must have some faith or respect. For instance, you have come to this temple out of faith and respect. We do not discuss politics, sociology or anything else here. Our business is simply to talk about God. Those who discuss God are called santas, saintly persons. There are two types of men in the world - materialists and transcendentalists. Those who are interested in spiritual life talk of self-realization, and those who are materialistic talk about the body and things that pertain to the body- politics, sociology, welfare activities and so on. A materialistic person will read the newspaper, but a transcendentalist will read authorized books of Vedic wisdom like Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami who told Pariksit Maharaja: “My dear King, there are many hundreds and thousands of topics for the materialistic person.” This is a fact, as we can easily observe. There are so many novels, magazines, newspapers, so-called philosophies, cinemas and so on. Because materialists have no information about the soul, they are always talking about the body, or, at most, they philosophically discuss the mind. One philosopher theorizes one thing, and another philosopher theorizes something completely different. Thus a great deal of literature is generated, but it is all nonsense because it is mental speculation. I may speculate in one way, and you will speculate in another; you will refute me, and I will refute you. Therefore there are so many various points of view about the body and mind. Why do people engage in all this talk? Sukadeva Gosvami says that it is because they have no vision of the soul.
Those who are interested simply in maintaining the body are called grhamedhi, Generally atheistic men have no interest in God. Atheists were present, of course, many thousands of years ago. In fact, two classes of men are always living in this world -atheists and theists, or asuras and devas. One should not think that atheism is some sudden new development. The number of atheists may be increased at the present moment, but they were also present thousands of years ago. For instance, there was Carvaka Muni. The word muni refers to a mental speculator or thoughtful person. Carvaka Muni also presented his philosophy of atheism: “As long as you live,” he said, “live very joyfully and enjoy your senses.” This is the atheistic principle. In India, sense enjoyment is based on ghee, clarified butter. If one has butter, he can prepare many nice foodstuffs. If one goes to India, he can see that many asramas offer sweets and good foodstuffs prepared from grain, fruit, sugar and butter. This is part of the basic principle of materialistic life - eating, sleeping, defending and mating. Thus Carvaka Muni advises that we eat very nicely and enjoy our senses. This is atheistic philosophy.
Running the Risk of Death.
Such a so-called philosopher has no vision of the soul, which is transmigrating in the 8,400,000 species of life. But the atheists do not care about such transmigrations. Even if they are informed that if they act in such a way they will become trees in their next life, they say, “It doesn’t matter. Let me enjoy.” Or they say, “If I become a tree, what is the harm? I will forget.” People have become so hardened that they have lost their self-interest. One may tell a child, “You are always playing and not receiving any education. For this you will suffer. You will have no position in society.” But the child will say, “I do not care.” This child may speak in this way out of his ignorance, but the risk is still there. Similarly, one may deny the transmigration of the soul, but the materialistic way one is acting will assure one a body in the lower species - animal, aquatic or reptile.
By ignoring such facts, people do not show very good intelligence. One can easily understand that the transmigration of the soul is a natural fact. At this stage in our lives we accept past, present and future. One has had his past as a child or a boy, and now he may be a young man, and in the future old age is waiting. There is past, present and future in all stages of life. Just because one is an old man, one should not think that there is no future. We have experienced the past, and we are experiencing the present, so there must be a future also. For an old man or for anyone, actually - there must be a future, and that future means taking another body, the body of either an animal, a man, or a demigod. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, one can prepare himself for the next body. The ultimate goal, however, is to attain a body in the kingdom of God.
karma-jam buddhi-yukta hi
phalam tyaktva manisinah
padam gacchanty anamayam
“The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.” (Bg. 2.51)
Leaving the Material World.
One may attain a body in a wealthy family, or one may attain the body of a king or a cat, and all this depends on one’s work. Just as this is possible, one can attain a body that will enable one to associate with God, Krsna. As Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita:
anta-kale ca mam eva
smaran muktva kalevaram
yah prayati sa mad-bhavam
yati nasty atra samsayah
“And, whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bg. 8.5)
Devotees of Krsna go to Him at the time of death. And what is the advantage of going to Krsna? Mam upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate: “One who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Bg. 8.16) One who attains Krsna never has to return again to the material world, which is temporary and full of misery. Abrahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino ‘rjuna: “From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place.” (Bg. 8.16). One may think that he may make adjustments and rid himself of the material miseries, but even if he succeeds in doing this, nature will not allow him to live in the material world permanently. One may think, “I am an American. I have enough land, money and resources. I shall simply live as an American.” But one may live as an American only for seventy years or one hundred at the utmost. No one is allowed to live permanently as an American, European, Indian or whatever. Even Brahma, the topmost living entity in the material world, cannot remain as Brahma. Although one day of Brahma contains millions of earth years, Brahma cannot remain indefinitely. Nor can an ant, cat, elephant or man. There is no demigod who is allowed to live forever. Of course, Hiranyakasipu underwent severe penances in an attempt to live forever and become immortal in his material body, but it was not possible. Scientists in the present age may claim that by scientific endeavor man may become immortal, but this is lunacy. There was never such an incident in the past, nor is such an incident observable in the present, so how can we expect it in the future? It is not possible.
An intelligent person should therefore try to attain the ultimate transmigration back home, back to Godhead. This should be the actual aim of life. Unfortunately, people do not know this; therefore we are trying to render our humble service to human society by imparting this information. People are trying to become happy in so many ways, but instead of becoming happy, they are becoming “hippie.” Srimad-Bhagavatam therefore has an important message for everyone.
Developing A Taste.
Srimad-Bhagavatam herein states that the way to become actually happy is to develop the propensity to hear about topics that relate to God. One may execute his religious functions very dutifully, but attraction for messages about the Supreme Lord is absolutely essential. For instance, we have this temple and are worshiping Radha-Krsna Deities. That is fine, but at the same time we must develop our desire to hear about Krsna; otherwise the worship will dwindle after a few days. The process is sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, arcanam hearing and chanting about Krsna, remembering Him and serving Him. As soon as people lose their propensity to hear about the pastimes of God, all these churches, temples and mosques will become empty. In the Christian world—not only Christian, but others also—this is happening. They are having to close up churches because no one is attending. Going to church officially on Sunday without enlightenment, without understanding God, will not last long. People will become uninterested and stop going. In Los Angeles, for instance, we have purchased one church. Even when that church was open, no one was attending, but since we have purchased it, hundreds of people are coming every day. This is because the words of Krsna are present. People are actually hearing about Krsna. Religion may have its churches, temples and mosques, but if so-called religious people do not develop a desire to hear about God, it will all go in vain, for religious activities are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Lord.
Thus if we do not develop the propensity to hear about God, we have wasted our time. Going and coming simply become labor. Therefore in churches or temples there must be regular recitations about the pastimes, activities and nature of God. if this is not there, people will lose interest, and the temples will have to close. Talks of God are here in Krsna consciousness because our God is not impersonal or void. Krsna is the Supreme Person, and we can actually see how He stands and how He enjoys Himself with His eternal consort and lover, Srimati Radharani.
The Supreme Lover.
Here, then, is God. God is not engaged in punishing someone, at least not the original God. God is engaged in enjoying Himself with His eternal consort. Srimati Radharani is enchanting Krsna, and Krsna is enchanting Radharani. This is the only business of God. In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is said that when Krsna comes before Radharani, she becomes so engladdened upon seeing the beauty of Krsna that She actually becomes more beautiful, and as soon as Radharani becomes more beautiful, Krsna becomes engladdened and becomes more beautiful. Thus unlimitedly there is competition between Them to become more and more beautiful. In the spiritual world everything is unlimited; therefore both Radha and Krsna are becoming unlimitedly beautiful, and both of Them are enjoying unlimitedly. This is Krsna consciousness. Similarly, if we develop our propensity to hear about God and His activities with His cowherd boy friends and girl friends, with His mother, father and teacher, we will be acting for our greatest self-interest.
This material world is but a perverted reflection of that spiritual life, and here also we find that we have girl friends, boy friends, mothers and fathers and teachers, but here everything is an imitation. The relationships there are also found here and vice versa. But because the relationships here between father and son, lover and beloved, friend and friend, master and servant and so on are material, they do not stand. I may be a person’s servant, but if he does not pay me a salary, I will not stay. I may be someone’s friend, but if my interest is not fulfilled, I give up that friendship. My love with a boy or girl may be there, but as soon as there is some discrepancy, there is separation or divorce. Thus everything here is perverted by false ideas: All these relationships, however, are present in the kingdom of God in our relationship with God. There all these relationships are eternal. Becoming servants of God, we enjoy with Him eternally as our master. By becoming friends of God, we enjoy eternal friendship. By becoming father or mother of God, we can enjoy parental affection between father and son or mother and son. And by becoming lovers of God, we become eternally happy.
Unless we hear about this, how can our desire to return to God become intensified? Only when a person hears of a foreign country and learns something about it does he desire to go there. So, to desire to return to Godhead, we first have to hear about the kingdom of God. To give us this information, Krsna comes and manifests His pastimes in Vrndavana. There He shows us how He deals with His friends and servants, with His mother and father, and with His lovers. This is God’s mercy by which we may become inclined to go back to God. The purpose of our religious duties should therefore be to develop our propensity to hear about God.
Notpadayed yadi ratim. The word ratim means attraction, or, actually, the word rati means sexual appetite. The Gosvamis explain rati in this way: when a young boy and girl meet, their sexual desire immediately becomes agitated. This does not have to be taught to them. It is natural. This is called rati, spontaneous attraction. So, as soon as there is spontaneous attraction to hear about God, we should know that perfection is being attained. If we are attending some hackneyed program in a church or mosque but not developing such attraction to hear about God, then all attendance is useless.
To develop such attraction, one should associate with a sadhu, that is, one who is acting on behalf of Krsna. One who acts for Krsna is automatically pious or sadhu. God is pure, and those who are acting for God are pious. Each and every activity in our Krsna consciousness temples is a pious activity. As soon as one associates with pious devotees, one will be inclined to act like them. This is actually taking place in our program, for our students are chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, dressing in such a way, worshiping in such a way, reading these Vedic literatures, and so on. One should therefore first attend the temple, associate with the devotees and gradually increase his desire to become like the devotees. Then one may approach the spiritual master for initiation. In this way one can take to devotional service, and as soon as one does, all anarthas, unwanted things, are finished. What are these unwanted things? Illicit sex. Why illicit? If sex is wanted, then we get married. Meat-eating. Why eat such rotten things as dead animals, which are kept in refrigerators for years? We have sweetmeats and halavah, nice fruits and vegetables—so many things. Intoxication. Why drink or smoke? It has already been established that these things are injurious to one’s health. Gambling. Why throw away all of our money? We can utilize it properly in the service of Krsna. So all of these are unwanted things, and we have become habituated to them through practice. However, if we become devotees and render service to Krsna under the direction of the spiritual master, these things will automatically vanish. In this way our faith becomes established. And what is the result of this?
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Bg. 18.55)
In the execution of religious principles we must observe so many formulas, but the ultimate end should be that we develop spontaneous attraction for hearing about God. This is actually wanted. We should not become showbottles of religious life. We should actually try to understand what is religion and what is God and in this way make our lives successful.