From Back to Godhead
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Lecture given in Vrindavan, India on October 26, 1972
Any contact with Krishna purifies our consciousness and gradually qualifies us for eternal loving exchanges with Him.
Pradyumna Dasa, Srila Prabhupada’s Sanskrit editor, begins reading The Nectar of Devotion, Introduction: “Invoking auspiciousness: Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, the reservoir of all rasas, or relationships, which are called neutrality, or passive adoration, servitorship, friendship, parenthood, conjugal love, comedy, compassion, fear, chivalry, ghastliness, wonder, and devastation. He is the supreme attractive form, and by His universal and transcendental attractive features, He has captivated all the gopis, headed by Taraka, Palika, Syama, Lalita, and ultimately, Srimati Radharani. Let His Lordship’s grace be on us so that there may not be any hindrance in the execution of this duty of writing The Nectar of Devotion, impelled by His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada.”
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna is described as akhila-rasamrita-sindhu, “the ocean of rasas.” There are five primary rasas. Rasa means the mellow or the taste we enjoy in every activity. Everything is done with some taste. Whatever you do, you must enjoy some taste out of it. There are twelve rasas, out of which five are primary and seven are secondary. They are described in this book.
For example, we can consider Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas. During the Battle of Kurukshetra, he fought on the side of Duryodhana, against the Pandavas.
Duryodhana criticized Bhishma: “My dear grandfather, you are not fighting with full strength against Arjuna because he and the other Pandavas are your grandsons and you have natural affection for them. I think you are not fighting according to your strength. Otherwise, they would have been finished by this time.”
Bhishma could understand his criticism, so he promised immediately, “Tomorrow I shall finish all these five brothers. Will that make you happy? I have kept five arrows to be used tomorrow to kill these five brothers.”
Duryodhana was doubtful, so he requested, “My dear grandfather, may I keep the five arrows with me? You can take them from me tomorrow and use them.”
“All right, you keep them.”
Krishna could understand. “Bhishma has promised to kill the Pandavas tomorrow, and he has selected five arrows for them.”
Krishna has to protect His devotees, so He told Arjuna, “Duryodhana once promised to give you a benediction. Now is the opportunity to accept it. Go to Duryodhana. He has kept five arrows very carefully; take them from him.”
Arjuna went to Duryodhana because after fighting, in the evening, they were friends. There was no enmity. One man could go to the other’s camp as a friend, a brother. When Arjuna arrived, Duryodhana received him well. That is the Vedic etiquette.
“Arjuna, why have you come? Ask something from me. I am ready to give you anything. If you want the kingdom without fighting – if you have come for that purpose – I’ll give it to you.”
Arjuna said, “No, my dear brother, I’ve not come for that purpose. But remember that you wanted to give me a benediction? I have come for that.”
“Yes, I am prepared to give it.”
“Give me those five arrows.”
Duryodhana immediately delivered the arrows to Arjuna.
The next morning, Bhishmadeva asked Duryodhana, “Where are those five arrows? Give them to me.”
Duryodhana said, “Sir, this is the story. They have been taken away by Arjuna.”
Bhishma could understand it was Krishna’s trick, and immediately, out of devotion, he became angry. Devotional service can be executed in anger, not simply by offering flowers. A devotee can serve Krishna by becoming angry.
Bhishma then promised, “Today Krishna has to break His promise.”
Krishna had promised Arjuna, “Although I shall be on the battlefield, I shall simply drive your chariot, but I shall not fight.”
Now Bhishma said, “Krishna has broken my promise. So I shall fight in such a way today that either Krishna will have to break His own promise or His friend Arjuna will be killed.”
When Bhishma was fighting very fiercely, severely, Arjuna’s chariot broke and he fell down. At that time Krishna took one of the wheels of the chariot and approached Bhishma, who was piercing Krishna’s body with arrows. Krishna accepted the arrows as more lovable than an offering of flowers. This is an example of the dealings between Krishna and His devotee Bhishma. It is a ghastly rasa. It appears very severe that Krishna was being pierced by Bhishma’s arrows, but Krishna was feeling pleasure.
Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura has explained this exchange very nicely. He has given the example of kissing. Sometimes there is hard pressure of the teeth, but still it is pleasurable. Although Krishna was being pierced by the arrows of Bhishmadeva, still Krishna felt very pleased. And when Bhishmadeva was on his deathbed, he wanted to see the form Krishna displayed when He was very angry and was approaching Bhishma to kill him on the battlefield.
We can enjoy Krishna’s loving service in many ways. The gopis enjoy serving Krishna by embracing Him, and Bhishma enjoys serving Him by piercing His body with arrows. Therefore Krishna is akhila-rasamrita-sindhu.
Krishna Responds to His Devotees
There are twelve rasas, five primary and seven secondary. Krishna is ready to respond to any rasa you want in dealing with Him. That is Krishna’s position. Putana wanted to kill baby Krishna by offering Him her breast smeared with poison. That was her purpose. But Krishna killed her by sucking out her life along with the breast milk, and she was given the position of Krishna’s mother. Krishna took the bright side. He thought, “Whatever her intention may be, she came to Me just like a mother, and I sucked her breast. Therefore she is My mother.” She came as an enemy, but Krishna did not consider the inimical side of her action; He considered only the motherly side.
Similarly, the gopis came to Krishna out of lust, but by that lust they became purified. Krishna is like the sun. The sun soaks up water even from a urinal, but the sun is not polluted, and the urinal becomes sterilized. So try to approach Krishna some way or other. Then your life is successful.
As soon as you divert your attention to Krishna, that is love, although it may be perverted. Kamsa was always thinking of Krishna. He was Krishna conscious, but he was thinking in terms of killing Krishna. He was thinking of Krishna as an enemy. That is not bhakti. This is not anukula, or favorable service; it is pratikula, unfavorable. But still, Krishna is so kind that Kamsa was given liberation. That is the special kindness of Krishna.
The Senses Follow the Mind
Srila Rupa Goswami writes, yena tena prakarena manah krishne niveshayet: “Some way or other, fix your mind upon Krishna.” Then your life is successful. Some way or other. Yena tena.
If your mind is always fixed on Krishna, then your senses will also be engaged in Krishna’s service, because mind is the center of all activities of the senses.
Ambarisha Maharaja first of all engaged his mind in Krishna: sa vai manah krishna-padaravindayoh (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.4.18). By first fixing his mind upon Krishna, he could then engage all the other senses in Krishna, beginning with the tongue.
Bhakti begins with the tongue. That is the statement in the shastras, the Vedic scriptures:
“Material senses cannot appreciate Krishna’s holy name, form, qualities, and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Krishna consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Krishna really is.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.234). Our present blunt, materially covered senses cannot taste Krishna’s name, Krishna’s form, Krishna’s qualities, Krishna’s pastimes, or Krishna’s paraphernalia. A person suffering from liver disease or jaundice cannot taste sugar candy. The sugar candy is sweet, but to a jaundiced patient it will taste bitter. Similarly, our senses being covered with material consciousness, we cannot at the present moment taste Krishna’s form, Krishna’s name, Krishna’s qualities, Krishna’s pastimes, Krishna’s paraphernalia, and so many things. It is not possible.
Our senses are materially contaminated. Therefore we cannot directly perceive Krishna by using our present senses. They have to be purified. When your eyes are suffering from cataracts, you cannot see properly. But if the cataracts are removed by a surgical operation, then the eyes become purified and you can see. Similarly, the Brahma-samhita (5.38) states:
santah sadaiva hridayeshu vilokayanti
yam shyamasundaram achintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krishna Himself, with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.” Premanjana-chchurita: you have to collect the ointment of love for Krishna. And if you apply that ointment to your eyes, you’ll see Krishna. This is the process.
You also have to free yourself from upadhis, designations. The sum and substance of designations is the material body. “I am this body.” “I am Hindu.” “I am Muslim.” “I am American.” “I am Indian.” All these are designations of the body. One has to become free from the contamination of the bodily concept of life. That is called sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam. When our spiritual body becomes revealed, the material body – that contamination – is washed off, nirmalam.
At that time the senses remain. Our senses are now covered by the material energies. The living entity is not nirakara, formless. The living entity has spiritual hands, legs – everything. For example, my body is covered by this shirt, and because I have arms, the shirt has arms. Unless the spirit soul has hands and legs, how have we got these material hands and legs?
The conclusion is that the spirit soul has form. As Krishna has a form of sac-chid-ananda, or eternity, knowledge, and bliss, so the spirit soul, jivatma, being part and parcel of Krishna, also has form. That form is also described in the shastra.
“If we divide the tip of a hair into one hundred parts and then take one part and divide this into another one hundred parts, that ten-thousandth part is the dimension of the living entity. This is the verdict of the chief Vedic mantras.” (Svetashvatara Upanishad 5.9) A rough idea of the form of the living entity has thus been given. Now, perhaps we have no instrument to measure one ten-thousandth of the tip of the hair. But this information is given in the shastra.
We get information from the Bhagavad-gita (2.22) that the material body is like a garment: vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya. As we give up an old garment, when this body becomes useless we give up this body and accept a new body. Navani ghrinati.
This is the transmigration of the soul. The soul is transmigrating from one body to another by means of the subtle body. That is a fact. But the gross materialists cannot see the subtle body. They simply see the gross body. Therefore they say, “When this body is finished, everything is finished.” No, that is not the fact. Within the gross body is the subtle body, made of mind, intelligence, and ego. Every day we have experience of this. The gross body is lying on the bed, but the subtle body goes out of the bed, out of the room, and to the top of a hill or somewhere else. That is our practical experience. Similarly, when this gross body is finished, no longer usable, the subtle body carries the soul to the womb of another mother. Through the semen of the father, the living entity is injected within the womb of the mother. The two secretions emulsify and become just like a small pea. Within that pea is the soul, and it develops. That is the process of transmigration of the soul from one body to another.
Nirakara: No Material Form
The soul has form; it is not formless. Similarly, Krishna has form, but that form is different from our material form. In the shastras it is sometimes said that the soul and the Supersoul are nirakara. According to the Sanskrit dictionary, nirakara meansnirakrita akara: “This akara, this form, is being nullified.” Nirakara does not mean there is no akara, or form. Nirakara means that the Supersoul or the soul has no akara as we generally see – material form. We are seeing some dog or some cat or some hog, some tree, some plants – 8,400,000 forms. But nirakara means that the soul has a different form.
We cannot see the soul at the present moment. I am not seeing you, and you are not seeing me. When a boy’s father dies, the boy cries, “Oh, my father is gone, my father is gone.”
“Where has your father gone? He is lying on the bed. Why do you say your father is gone?”
“No, he’s gone. He’s no more.”
That means the boy has never seen the thing that has gone. He has simply seen the outward body, the dress. This is called ignorance. I am not seeing you; still, I am saying that I see you. If I cannot see you, the part and parcel of God, how can I see God with these eyes? Therefore shastra says,
You cannot see God, Krishna, with your blunt senses. You must purify your senses, and that purification begins with the tongue. With the tongue we can do two things. We can taste foodstuff and we can vibrate sound. If you engage your tongue in vibrating this transcendental sound – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – and do not eat anything except the prasada of Krishna, then your spiritual life immediately begins. Then gradually, as you advance in spiritual life, Krishna reveals Himself to you: “Here I am.” You cannot see Krishna, but being satisfied with your service, Krishna sees you. You cannot see the sun at night, but when the sun sees you, you can see the sun and yourself. Similarly, when Krishna sees you, being satisfied with your service, then you can see Krishna, you can see yourself, and you can see the whole world.
Whatever we are seeing now is all illusion. We are not seeing, because our senses are too blunt to see things as they are. In the Bhagavad-gita (5.18) it is said,
“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste].” One who has the eyes to see does not think, “Here is a learned brahmana, and here is a dog.” He sees the learned brahmana and the dog with equal vision. He does not see the dress. He sees the spirit soul within the brahmana and within the dog. That is called brahma-darshana. When one has that transcendental vision, then devotional service begins. With blunt eyes and senses one cannot serve God in devotional service.
The Need for Purified Senses
When our senses are purified, then they can engage in the service of the Lord. Because Krishna is spirit, the Supersoul, He cannot be served by matter. He has to be served with spirit.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26),
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” Bhakti is spiritual activity. Krishna says, bhaktya prayacchati: “offers with devotion.” If you offer something without devotion – “Krishna, I have brought a very palatable dish; take it” – oh, Krishna will not take it. Naham prakashah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavritah (Bhagavad-gita 7.25). He’s not exposed to everyone. You cannot serve Krishna if you are not a devotee. Therefore Krishna says, yo me bhaktya prayacchati. That is the real thing – bhaktya, with devotion. Not that “I have brought a nice plate of food and Krishna will accept it.” Not like that.
But Krishna can accept whatever you offer with devotion. It doesn’t matter what it is. It may be a simple flower, a fruit, a small piece of leaf, or a little water. For worshiping Krishna there is no impediment. If you want to worship demigods, so many things are required. But for worshiping Krishna, the poorest man in any part of the world can offer his love.
Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, by Rupa Goswami, which we have translated under the name The Nectar of Devotion, the Complete Science of Bhakti-yoga, is a very important book. Its real purpose is to understand how to become purified in devotional service, how to approach Krishna, how to satisfy Krishna. These things are described very nicely. Krishna, being the Supreme, is the Supersoul. We cannot approach Him with our material consciousness. The consciousness has to be changed. Then we can approach Krishna. That is the purpose of the Krishna consciousness movement.
Without being fire, you cannot enter fire. The shastra says that without being Brahman, you cannot approach Brahman. Similarly, without being purified of all material contamination, you cannot approach Krishna. The senses are to be purified. If you simply see Krishna with your eyes, then your eyes will be purified and spiritualized. If you keep yourself always in touch with fire, you become warmer, warmer, warmer, warmer. If you put an iron rod into the fire, it becomes warmer, warmer, warmer, and at last it becomes red hot. When it is red hot, it is fire. It is not longer an iron rod. Touch that red-hot iron anywhere, and it will burn. Similarly, if you keep always in touch with Krishna, you become Krishna-ized, and you can appreciate Krishna.
Thank you very much.