By Jananibas Dasa Brahmacari
Let me first offer my obeisances to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya 108 Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Gosvami Maharaj Prabhupada, the acarya for this age, who has opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge, having rescued me from the fires of material birth and death. Let me also offer my most humble obeisances unto the lotus feet of Sri Krsna Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any avatara, even Krsna Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given, pure love of Krsna. Let me offer my obeisances to the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krsna, who is the well-wisher for the cows and the brahmanas as well as for all living entities in general. Let me offer my repeated obeisances to Govinda, who is the pleasure reservoir of all the senses.
The Krsna consciousness movement is the absolute necessity for mankind in this age. Krsna consciousness is the only science that is informing us of our true, eternal position as spirit souls, living entities, constitutionally part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, Krsna. It is presenting the problem of our suffering clearly: we have desired to enjoy independently of Krsna, and therefore He has put the eternal spirit soul in the temporary material body where he can enjoy all he likes. Krsna consciousness gives absolute solution to all suffering; through devotional service to the Supreme Lord the soul, conditioned by material energy, can get rid of lustful contamination and then go back to home, back to Godhead, and return to his original, blissful, constitutional position.
Let us examine how we know the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 10, verse 3, Krsna says, “He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginningless, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds he, undeluded among men, is freed from all sins.” In Chapter 10, verse 12, Arjuna says, “You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal Divine Person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty.” So Arjuna accepts Krsna as God. But who is Arjuna who declares this? We learn in Mahabharata, in which Bhagavad-gita appears, that Arjuna is a pure devotee of Lord Krsna. What is a pure devotee? A pure devotee is an individual fully engaged in bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion or of love. This means he renders uninterrupted, unmotivated devotional service to the Lord. For a pure devotee there is not a moment’s lapse in his unqualified loving consideration of the Lord. A devotee is not engaging in bhakti for any selfish reason. He wants nothing for himself and everything for the Supreme Self. And because of the unstinting affection the devotee gives to the Lord, Krsna reveals His personal form, paraphernalia and pastimes to the devotee.
Arjuna, then, has received knowledge by revelation from Krsna Himself that He is the Personality of Godhead. We shall see that an ordinary man cannot sanely make this claim to another man, because he does not possess the required opulences or qualifications of the Personality of Godhead.
We learn in Mahabharata that Arjuna was a pure devotee whose realization of Self was taken away; he was put into gross ignorance during the Battle of Kuruksetra so that Bhagavad-gita could be delivered to him by Krsna, who advented Himself on earth at that time. So in Chapter 10, verse 3, Krsna says that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in verse 12 Arjuna concurs. But this is not simply a private agreement between friends. In verse 13 Arjuna says, “All the great sages such as Narada, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”
The goal of spiritual realization is only one, love of God; the Vedas and all Vedic literature stands as a single comprehensive whole towards this transcendental understanding. All the sacrifices of the Vedas are finally aimed at the Supreme Person, Visnu or Krsna. The essence of the Vedas is presented in the Vedanta-sutra as the complete exposition of the Absolute Truth, and Vedanta is accepted by all classes of transcendental scholars. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, “I am seated in everyone’s heart: I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I know Veda as it is.” The goal of Vedantic study, therefore, is to know the Supreme Lord Krsna, and this is also confirmed by the leading acarya of the impersonal school, Sankaracarya, who wrote in his commentary of theGita: “Narayana [Krsna] is alone above the cosmic manifestation … Krsna, the son of Devaki, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” The sage Parasara declared that the Personality of Godhead can be defined as possessing in full the six opulences of all wealth, all strength, all knowledge, all fame, all beauty and all renunciation, and in the Srimad-Bhagavatam the activities of Krsna reveal that He possesses these opulences in full, and His activities cannot be imitated by any man claiming to be God for gathering the cheap adoration of the public.
We must investigate how Bhagavad-gita is authoritative and who are these sages Arjuna rnentions. The means to understanding this authority is called sampradaya. Sampradaya refers to the chain of disciplic succession. In Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 4, verse 1, it is stated, “The Blessed Lord said, ‘I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of Mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.’ ” Verse 2 continues, “This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” Verse 3 goes on, “That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend: therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”
This science of Bhagavad-gita is coming down to us through sampradaya, through a chain of spiritual masters. The bona fide spiritual master is such that he never deviates from the instructions of the previous acarya. What was first spoken by the supreme authority, that is, the word of God, is being carried down perfectly by the disciplic succession with all care not to adulterate or malinterpret it. In Chapter 4, verse 34 of Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord says, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” There is, then, a succession of spiritual masters, self-realized individuals known asBrahma-madhva-gaudiya sampradaya of which the present acarya (divine representative) is His Divine Grace Tridandi Gosvami Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Gosvami Maharaj Prabhupada. He is known to his many disciples as Prabhupada, meaning the master at whose lotus feet all other masters must pay homage. Srila Prabhupada has seen the truth. He is a pure devotee of Lord Krsna. He renders uninterrupted, unmotivated transcendental loving service to the Supreme Person. The truth that he sees is the same Eternal Truth spoken of by by Arjuna, Narada, Asita, Devala, Vyasadeva and so many other liberated sous, and because he sees the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krsna, he can impart this knowledge to others. The teachings that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada imparts today are the same undistorted teachings of his spiritual master. His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaj Prabhupada, who speaks only the word of his spiritual master, who is speaking only his spiritual master’s, etc., in a line of succession traceable to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Himself.
Veda means knowledge. The Vedas are understood to have been revealed by Krsna to the heart of Brahma, the demigod empowered with the ability to create this material universe. Lord Brahma gave this Vedic knowledge to Narada Muni. Approximately 5,000 years ago, Narada Muni gave this Vedic knowledge to Vyasadeva. Srila Vyasadeva is an incarnation of Krsna. This incarnation of God played the part of a disciple and became instructed in Veda. We must understand that Srila Vyasadeva, as God, already knew this Vedic knowledge. Still he came to earth and learned it. Why is this? This is part of the Lord’s pastimes. In Chapter 9, verse 11 of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, “The foolish mock at Me, at My descending like a human being. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” In Chapter 4, verse 7, the Lord says, “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise in irreligion at that time I descend My Self.”
Although the Lord descends to this material world and plays with us as a human being, He is still the Supreme Lord. Srila Vyasadeva is an incarnation of Krsna who was given Vedic knowledge on the earth planet by Narada Muni. He descended at a time when men were degenerating. Their minds and memories were becoming more and more deficient, their lifetimes shorter, etc. However, before this time the Vedas were given orally and remembered word for word by the farther-reaching minds of men who had highly developed memories. Due to the degeneration of man’s memory, Srila Vyasadeva divided the Veda into four Vedas and put them in book form: the Ak, Sama, Yajus and Atharva Vedas. He also compiled the Mahabharata, in whichBhagavad-gita appears, and in the mature stage of his realization he compiled the Srimad-Bhagavatam containing the direct pastimes of Sri Krsna and His devotees. Vyasadeva is recognized as an incarnation of the Lord by all the great realized souls as well as by scripture. The word that he set down 5,000 years ago is recognized as the supreme authority on all matters, and it has come to us through the chain of disciplic succession culminating today in His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is the acarya for this age. His Divine Grace speaks only according to the scriptural authority, and the teaching he gives is identical with that of every other acarya in the chain going back to Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of the Lord. That is the basis for authoritative knowledge of Absolute Truth.
In Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 18, verse 64, Krsna tells Arjuna, “Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit.” And in Chapter 11, verse 54, the Lord says, “My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you; and I can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.” Arjuna, engaged in undivided devotional service to Krsna, His very dear friend, is a pure devotee of the Lord. And by dint of such qualification he is viewing the Supreme Absolute Truth. This Supreme Truth can only be understood by devotional service. And the pure devotee, the acarya in the disciplic succession, is the representative devotee for teaching this word of Krsna. Therefore we must understand this word only as it comes from the acarya and none other.
There are many, many individuals translating Bhagavad-gita from Sanskrit into English, but only one is a pure devotee. All the others are academicians, impersonalists, puffed-up scholars, etc. Only one person is following the Gita perfectly. This is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Because he is practicing Krsna’s word perfectly and is a realized soul of the highest degree, his word is as good as the Lord’s word.
In the Second Chapter of Gita the Lord tells the preliminary understanding of all spiritual life, as He introduces knowledge of the eternal individual self and its relationship to the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord says, “That which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (2.17) In his purport to this sloka, Srila Prabhupada says, “This verse more clearly explains the real nature of the soul, which is spread all over the body. Anyone can understand what is spread all over the body. It is consciousness. Everyone is conscious about the pains and pleasures of the body in part. This spreading of consciousness is limited within one’s own body. The pains and pleasures of one body are unknown to another. Therefore, each and every body contains an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness.”
Now in the 7th Chapter, 5th verse, the Lord says, “Besides this inferior nature, O mighty Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine which are all living entities who are struggling with material Nature and which sustains the universe.” Srila Prabhupada’s purport to this verse reads, “Here it is clearly mentioned that living entities belong to the superior nature (or energy) of the Supreme Lord. The inferior energy is manifested in different elements, namely earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, intelligenee, and false ego. Both forms of material Nature, namely gross (earth, etc.) and subtle (mind, etc.), are products of the inferior energy. The living entities, who are exploiting these inferior energies for different purposes, are the superior energy of the Supreme Lord. Energies are always controlled by the Lord; they have no independent existence. They are never equally powerful, as men with a poor fund of knowledge think. The difference between the living entities and the Lord is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as follows: ‘O Thou Supreme Eternal! If the embodied living entities were eternally all-pervading like You, then they would not be under Your control. But if the living entities are accepted as minute energies of Your Lordship, then they are at once subjected to Your supreme control. Therefore real liberation entails surrender by the living entities to Your control, and that surrender will make them happy. In that constitutional position only can they be controllers. Therefore, men with limited knowledge who advocate the monistic theory that God and the living entities are equal in all respects are actually misleading themselves and others.’ ”
We understand the living entity, then, to be soul, consciousness, reincarnated in many bodies through many different births. The soul is of a superior nature to the body. Its nature is that it is spirit. Everyone can see that the gross physical body is good for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. And that is all. Subtler still is the spirit soul which is situated within the body, pervades it with consciousness, and leaves it to enter a new body at death. The spirit soul is entirely under the control of Krsna, and the distinction is always there in transcendental life. Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, is the whole, the individual living beings are His parts and parcels, and the impersonal aspect of spirit, Brahman, is also subordinate to His personality.
The Bhagavad-gita is given by Krsna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, just before the great battle between the Kurus and the Pandavas 5,000 years ago. The Pandavas are sons of Pandu, and their cousins and brothers are known as Kurus, whose father, Dhrtarastra, challenged the Vedic scriptural injunction and denied the Pandavas a share in his inheritance. The Supreme Lord, Krsna, was present on earth in His original form during those years, and He tried to prevent a war. But since the living beings wanted to fight, the all-merciful Lord gave them their opportunity. So on this battlefield, Arjuna, a Pandava, was put into ignorance so that Krsna, his friend, could speak to him the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna had been an archer of great reputation, but when he observed the soldiers lined up to fight, he saw his relatives, teachers and friends on the opposite side, and in ignorance, he grew terribly fearful that he would have to fight against his endeared ones. When the Lord saw this, He said, “My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.” That is the 2nd verse of the 2nd Chapter, and the Lord goes on to re-enlighten Arjuna of his true, eternal nature.
In Chapter 2, verse 20, the Lord says, “For the soul there is neither 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.” Then in sloka 21: “O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal, and immutable kill anyone, or cause anyone to kill?” Now the question should arise, “How is the soul situated, and what does it do?”
In sloka 25 of Chapter 2, the Lord describes the soul as invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Srila Prabhupada’s purport says, “As described above, the magnitude of the soul is such that, for our material calculation, he cannot be detected even by the most powerful microscope; therefore, he is invisible. As far as his existence is concerned, no one can establish his stability beyond the proof of sruti, or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth because there is no other source for understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception. There are many things we have to accept solely on grounds of superior authority. No one can deny the existence of the father, based upon the authority of his mother; there is no other source of understanding the identity of the father, except on the authority of the mother. Similarly, there is no other source of understanding the existence of the soul except by studying the Vedas. In other words, the soul is inconceivable to human experimental knowledge. Unlike the bodily changes, there is no change for the soul. As eternally unchangeable, he remains atomic always in comparison to the infinite Supreme Soul. The Supreme Soul is infinite, and the atomic soul is infinitesimal.”
In Chapter 15 of the Gita, verse 7, the Supreme Lord says, “The living entities in this conditional world are My living fragmental parts, and they are eternal. But due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” Here it is stated by the Supreme Person Himself that the living entity is eternally fragmented. He is not the same as God, as the monistic theory holds. He is His fragmental part and parcel eternally. Then in sloka number 8, the Lord says, “The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life, as the air carries aromas. Thus does he take one kind of body and again quits it to take another.” The purport states, “Here the living entity is described as isvara, the controller of his own body. If he likes, he can change his body to a higher grade, and if he likes he can move to a lower class. Minute independence is there. The change of his body depends on him. The process is that, at the time of death, the consciousness he has created will carry him on to the next type of body. If he has made his consciousness cat-like or dog-like, he is sure to change from his human body to a cat’s or a dog’s body. And if he has fixed his consciousness to godly qualities, he will change his body into the form of a demigod. And if he changes his consciousness into Krsna consciousness, he will be transferred to the Krsnaloka (the planet of Krsna) in the spiritual world.” Then in verse 9, “The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a particular type of ear, sense of touch, tongue, and nose, centered about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” Srila Prabhupada’s purport says, “Consciousness is originally pure, like water. But if we mix water with a certain color, it changes. Similarly, consciousness is pure, for the spirit soul is pure. But consciousness is changed according to the association of the material qualities. Real consciousness is Krsna consciousness. When, therefore, one is situated in Krsna consciousness, that is his pure life. Otherwise, if his consciousness is adulterated with some type of mentality, in the next life he gets a corresponding body.” Therefore, in answer to the question of what the atomic soul is to do, the answer is that as part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, he is to serve the whole, and in serving, his own pleasure is also derived.