By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Los Angeles, May 17, 1973
Spiritual merit, not wealth, distinguishes the most honored persons in Vedic society.
bhagavan api viprarshe
sa tair vyarochata nripah
kuvera iva guhyakaih
“O sage amongst the brahmanas, Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, also followed, seated on a chariot with Arjuna. Thus King Yudhishthira appeared very aristocratic, like Kuvera surrounded by his companions, the Guhyakas.”
Suta Goswami is speaking to an assembly of learned brahmanas at Naimisharanya. The meeting took place at least five thousand years ago. All those assembled were very learned scholars and brahmanas. Therefore they are addressed as viprarshe—vipra and rishi. Not only were theybrahmanas, or vipras, but they were also rishis. Rishi means saintly person. Some were rajarshi—raja, or king, and rishi.
Anyone, even from the ruling class, can become a saintly person, provided he lives like a saintly person. It doesn’t matter whether one is a brahmana or a kshatriya. Kshatriyas are the rulers and soldiers. Generally brahmanas and kshatriyas, the first and second status of human society, can live as good at home as the saintly persons within the forest or the Himalayas.
Earlier in the Bhagavatam these brahmanas were addressed as dvija-shreshthah, “best of the brahmanas.” A brahmana is already the best person, but if he becomes a saintly person, then his qualities become still more magnified.
These brahmanas were addressed, atah pumbhir dvija-shreshtha varnashrama-vibhagashah: “You are all brahmanas, the topmost of human society.” In Vedic civilization there are divisions of human society: first-class men, second-class men, third-class men, and fourth-class men. Not only one class. No. Why? There must be divisions. That I have already explained.
The qualified brahmanas are first-class men, the topmost class. The kshatriyas are the second-class men. And the third-class men are the vaishyas, the mercantile community. They simply think, “Where to get money?” They are third-class men, but at the present moment those who acquire money somehow or other are considered first-class men. It doesn’t matter what their qualification is. If they have acquired some money some way or other, then they are considered first-class men.
This is a symptom of Kali-yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy. In Kali-yuga there is no honor for qualification. There is honor for money only. That’s all.
It is stated in the Bhagavatam that without money in Kali-yuga you cannot even get justice. In the court of justice, everyone is expected to get a proper judgment, but in Kali-yuga it is stated that even in the court of justice, you cannot get justice without money. That’s a fact. If you have no money, then you cannot hire a good lawyer. And sometimes, in some countries, you have to bribe the judge. This is the position now.
In your country so many big, big men have been arrested for their dishonesty. Kali-yuga is so polluted that the minister is dishonest, the judge is dishonest, and what to speak of ordinary men. So you must get money some way or other. Then you can pass as a nice, polished gentleman. You keep yourself always polished, and within you may be full with all dirty things. But if you have your pockets filled up with coins and notes, then you are nice.
Formerly it was not like that. One had to be qualified. Varnashrama-vibhagashah—the Vedic system meant divisions according to qualification. There must be divisions. But people are very eager to make a classless society, without divisions. And that is the Krishna consciousness society. We have no such divisions. Divisions means under the jurisdiction of the three modes of material nature. Brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra—these divisions are calculated when one is under the control of material nature. But if you become a devotee, material nature has no more control over you.
That is the difference between a perfect Krishna conscious person and a perfect mundane person. A Krishna conscious person, a devotee, is no longer under the influence of the three modes of material nature. But ordinarily, everyone is under the control of the three modes.
Devotees are called dvija-shreshthah, the best of the brahmanas. Even a brahmana is under the control of material nature. But the same brahmana, when he becomes a Vaishnava, a devotee, becomes the best of the brahmanas.
Here the word rathena, “on the chariot,” is used. Lord Krishna and Arjuna, being respectable personalities, were not walking in the procession but were riding on a chariot, as were the brahmanas and others.
Krishna is referred to here as Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord. The author could have used Krishna’s name. All others are mentioned by name. Yudhishthira’s name is mentioned. Dhananjaya, Arjuna’s name, is mentioned. Others names are mentioned. But when it comes to Krishna, He is mentioned as Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Bhagavan—this word I have explained many times. Bhaga means opulence, fortune. From bhaga the word bhagya has come. One who is very fortunate is called bhagyavan. So bhaga means opulence, and van means one who possesses. Krishna possesses all the six main opulences: all strength, all beauty, all knowledge, all wealth, all fame, and all renunciation—everything complete.
Bhagavan means one who has the six opulences in full. So many rascals come as “incarnations” of God, Bhagavan, but you have to test whether they possess all the opulences in full. The first test is riches. Only if one has all the riches can he be Bhagavan. And nobody can say, “I have all the riches.” I may have more riches than you, but I cannot say I have all the riches. So if you find somebody who possesses all the riches, all strength, all influence, all knowledge, all beauty—then He is Bhagavan. That is Krishna.
There is no comparing Krishna’s opulences. I have several times given this example. In human society there is marriage. So Krishna married 16,108 wives. And for each wife, He provided a marble palace bedecked with jewels. The furniture was made of ivory and gold, and the bedding and curtains were all made of silk. There were also beautiful gardens and flowering trees, including the celestial parijata flower. The parijata flower is not visible in this world, but Krishna brought the parijata to earth from heaven.
When Krishna and His wife Satyabhama went to the heavenly planet, she requested her husband, “Krishna, I want this flower.”
So He gave her one flower.
Then He told her, “Why just one flower? I shall take the tree so that you’ll get flowers daily.”
When He was taking the tree, Indra came. Indra is the king of the heavenly planet.
“No, sir, you cannot do that,” Indra told Krishna. “You cannot take this tree to a lower planet. I cannot allow that.”
And so Krishna said, “No, My wife wants it. I must.”
That is Krishna. He is complete. He even acts just like a henpecked husband to satisfy His wife in every respect. When He plays the part of a child before mother Yashoda, He plays everything perfectly. He doesn’t require any wife or mother. He is supreme. But when He plays the part of a husband, He plays it perfectly. His wife may think, “How much my husband is attached to me!” So she remains very much satisfied. Krishna is not attached to anyone, but His ability to satisfy everyone is Krishna’s super-excellence. Although He had to satisfy 16,108 wives, every one of them was satisfied and every one was thinking, “Krishna is much more attached to me than to His other wives.” That is Krishna’s play.
Therefore Bhagavan is full, in every respect, in any field: fighting, opulence, household life, renounced life. If you study the life of Krishna, you will find everything in full—beauty, knowledge, and so on.
Now, Krishna gave us a little knowledge, which is known as Bhagavad-gita, five thousand years ago, but it is still going on, all over the world. In our movement we sell our Bhagavad-gita As It Is everywhere and in large numbers, because it is full knowledge, not partial. Everything is complete. Can you show any book in the world that sells so widely and is so perfect? There is no such book. Because we are Krishna devotees we are eulogizing like that, but any scholar, any philosopher, any scientist will say like that: “Oh, there is no comparison to this book.”
So that is the test of knowledge, Krishna’s knowledge. Therefore He is Bhagavan. Just try to understand Bhagavan. Bhagavan is not so cheap that any rascal can come and say, “I am Bhagavan. Worship me.” And another rascal comes and says the same thing. Not like that. Don’t take it cheaply. Bhagavan is not an ordinary thing. He must be complete in everything.
Therefore Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is mentioned here: bhagavan api. Why api? In Sanskrit composition each word has meaning. Api means “although.” And here it implies, “Although He is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, still He was going to see Bhishmadeva.”
Just consider the position of Bhishmadeva. He was lying on his deathbed. The Pandavas were his grandsons, so it was their duty to be there. But why should Krishna go there? Therefore it is said bhagavan api: “In spite of His being the Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead…” He was also going to show respect.
How great Bhishmadeva was you can just imagine. The list of great personalities who were present will be given—all the great sages and brahmanas. Bhishma was such a great personality. He was not an ordinary man. Today, when a big person dies, all the selected persons of the city come to offer their homage. Bhishma was not dead, but he was going to die. He had received the blessing that he would not die until he desired, “Now let me die.” Then he would die, otherwise not. So he was lying on the deathbed but was expecting to see Krishna at the last stage. He was so great that even Krishna was going to see him.
Now you can chant Hare Krishna. Thank you very much.