From Back to Godhead
Sri Brahma-samhita is one of the oldest Vedic scriptures, and it is accepted by Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu (an incarnation of Krsna Himself who appeared 484 years ago) as the essence of Vaisnava (Krsna conscious) philosophy. The first verse of the Fifth Chapter of Sri Brahma-samhita reads: “Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the Prime Cause of all causes.” And in the thirty-eighth verse of the same chapter: “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krsna 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.”
“Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami.” Our program in Krsna consciousness is to worship the Supreme Lord, Govinda, Sri Krsna. Those who are serious about yoga or spiritual life must necessarily go to the yogaauthorities for genuine spiritual knowledge. Just as, if one wants to be a doctor, one must study with a doctor, similarly, to have spiritual realization one must associate with those who are accepted as mahatmas, great souls. The qualifications of such great souls are described by Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Nine, verse 14, to quote one of many verses which confirm the same principle: “They are always engaged in chanting My glories. Endeavoring with great determination, offering homage unto Me, they worship Me with devotion.” In the Western world there is one such mahatma, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. My preceptor, Srila Prabhupada, is all that I know, and hence all that I can relate to you is simply what I have heard from his pure lips.
In the material world, whether one is American or Australian, communist or capitalist, Christian or Jew, black or white, there is one common platform: everyone wants to be happy. From the Vedas we learn that there are two processes to gain happiness: the material and the spiritual. It is self-evident that material life cannot give us happiness. There is no use arguing that a materialistic man can be happy, at least according to the definition of true happiness given in the Vedic texts. According to the Vedic definition, true happiness must be eternal; it must have a permanent basis. It cannot be limited in any way. Happiness in the material world, however is always limited by unavoidable material miseries. These miseries are of three kinds: adhyatmic, adhibhautic, andadhidaivic. Adhyatmic miseries pertain to the body and mind For example, sometimes our metabolism is upset, or there is sometimes fear, bodily pain, etc. Sometimes we suffer great losses, and this results in mental distress.Adhibhauticsuffering is due to other living entities. For example there are miseries caused by germs, mosquitos, bedbugs, and human enemies also. This is called adhibhautic suffering. Adhidaivic suffering is due to the laws of providence or material nature. For example there are calamities caused by earthquakes, storms, hurricanes, volcanoes, etc. Sometimes there is too much heat, and sometimes there is too much cold. These are calledadhidaivic miseries.
We are all trying to adjust to these problems of life. The whole social structure of human civilization is meant for getting relief from these three types of miseries. And every day one will hear so many prescriptions for relief: “Take Anacin and get fast, fast, fast relief!” “Things go better with Coca-Cola.” The merchants have their prescriptions, the philosophers give their advice for relief, the politicians promise cessation of troubles, and even the atheists have some opinion on how to get relief, from material complexity.
Sometimes mere freedom from problems and miseries is taken to be happiness; that is, one may say, “If I can just get rid of my toothache, then I will be happy,” or “If I can just pay the debts for my car, then I will be happy,” and so on. This sort of happiness is likened to that of a man tied to a dunking stool. In colonial America a public offender would sometimes be punished by being tied to a dunking stool, dunked in a tank of water until his lungs almost burst, and then raised up again for a breath of air. The pleasure derived from this gasp of air is likened to the pleasure available in the material world. The person is thinking, “Ah, at last air! How nice!” But no sooner does he swallow the air than down again he goes for another turn; and likewise our insignificant pleasures are quickly forgotten as we, time and again, are plunged into the ocean of incessant material complexities. True happiness, true freedom, is to be free from this punishment altogether.
There are those who will say, “Ah! These Hare Krsna people are just escapists. They cannot face up to life.” And our reply is simply, “Yes, we are escapists. You stay here; we will leave!” And as for facing up to life: My friends, is this life? In this world there is death at every step. Every time a day goes by we are not one day older, but one day closer to death. The whole world is struggling hard to live off one another. This is a proven fact. So, according to Krsna consciousness, all one needs to do to get out of this illusory suffering is to change one’s consciousness. That is all. All suffering is due to a lack of knowledge. And, as stated before, knowledge can be achieved by associating with authorities.
As soon as our original consciousness becomes polluted by material enjoyment, i.e., as soon as we desire to “lord it over” matter, then our troubles begin. Everyone from the smallest ant to Brahma, the engineer of this particular universe, is trying to become the lord or controller. For example, in the United States there is regular competition for the presidential position. The various candidates promise solutions to problems in return for votes, but actually what they really want is position, power. This ismaya, illusion.
Krsna consciousness is the opposite. In Krsna consciousness, under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada, our spiritual master, we are trying to become the servants of the servant of the servant one hundred times the servant of the servant of Krsna. Modern thinking might dictate that this is slave mentality. But no, it is not slave mentality; it is our constitutional position. Whether I am Christian, Jew or atheist, still I must serve. I serve my country or my family or my pets, or when I am hungry I serve my stomach; and ultimately I must serve the stringent laws of material nature birth, death, disease and old age. So we are always servants. But under the illusion of being masters of this world, we have become servants of our senses. What a nasty position!
One should just agree to become a servant of Sri Krsna because, as stated above, servants we all must be. We are serving our lust, avarice, anger, greed, etc., and in the higher stages we are servants of humanity or the state or our country. But underneath the desire to serve one’s country, society or whatever, the actual purpose is to become the master. This is maya, illusion, again.
There is absolutely no doubt. No one can say that he is free, that he is master. If one thinks like that, then that ismaya. Just serving the senses does not solve our miseries. The intoxications of wine, women, drugs, cinemas, novels, etc., are all artificial; there must always be “comedowns”; and “I am servant” always remains.
Why all this trouble? We are forced to serve something or someone that we don’t want to serve, but still we are reluctant to serve Krsna. I remember once in our Seattle center one boy asked Srila Prabhupada, “How come I don’t feel like bowing down to you or to Krsna?” Srila Prabhupada answered, “That is your disease. You are thinking that you are better than everyone or at least that no one is better than you, and so you will not bend. That is your skin disease.” There is a disease called yellow jaundice, and in India that disease is so dangerous that sometimes people die from it. But the cure is simple: sugar. A patient suffering from jaundice takes sugar as his medicine. One symptom of jaundice, however, is that to a person afflicted with this disease, sugar tastes so bitter that he wants to spit it out. But if he just goes on taking his medicine, then he becomes cured and again tastes this sugar medicine as sweet. Krsna consciousness is sometimes like that for those of us who are suffering from the “skin disease” of thinking ourselves to be Australian, American, etc., or in other words of identifying with the material body. Afflicted by such a spiritual sickness, we really can’t appreciate genuine spiritual pleasure. “I have tried chanting Hare Krsna,” a person might say, “and of course it doesn’t do anything for me.” But if that person would just use his intelligence enough to take the spiritual medicine (the chanting of Hare Krsna) and eat the prescribed diet (prasadam, food offered to Krsna), then very shortly he would taste his medicine to be as sweet as nectar.
How should we use our intelligence? An example may be given. We might pass a store and see sweetmeats we like. Our mind says, “Ah, candy! Go purchase some,” and our body obeys. But if we are suffering from an illness, then even though the mind might want some candy, our intelligence tells us no. If we indulge, then the illness will be prolonged or worsened, and so we abstain. Similarly, in the everyday situation of material consciousness, we must use our intelligence to regulate our indulgence in habits of sense gratification. By indulging in intoxication and unrestricted sex life, one may derive some pleasure, but this pleasure is temporary and impure. Although it appears nectarean, it will soon turn to poison. Material consciousness is a disease which is merely worsened by unrestricted sense gratification. The process of treatment recommended by authorities is Krsna consciousness, and although to some this process is not appealing at first, anyone who accepts it will quickly find it sweet. InBhagavad-gita we find that although Krsna is the Supreme Lord, He agreed to serve Arjuna as his chariot driver. This is the sublime relationship between Krsna and His devotees. If, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, one just becomes a pure lover of Krsna, then Krsna will become his servant. This is a very elevated realization.
We must transfer our service attitude so that by our service we can satisfy everyone. This can be easily accomplished by developing our Krsna consciousness. If one waters the root of a tree, then all the leaves will be nourished automatically. Similarly, if we just try to love Krsna and serve the bona fide spiritual master, then, because Krsna is the root of everything and we are like leaves, we will be satisfied, everyone else will be satisfied, and it is then that we can truly have universal brotherhood. Sentimental peace moratoriums will never be a solution. They simply waste time. We clamor for brotherhood, but we are not willing to serve the Father. Before there can be peace on earth there must be peace in the heart. No number of committee meetings or United Nations assemblies will bring about the peace for which we are all anxious. Krsna is peace eternal, and if one just makes the connection with Him through a bona fide spiritual master such as His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, then one will have peace and will be able to transmit that peace to others.
There is a prayer that says: “So long have I served my senses. Even what I should not have done I have done by the dictation of lust.” When one is a slave to lust, then he is forced to do things he would not ordinarily do. Someone might say, “You have served your senses. That is all right. Go on enjoy your senses.” But the prayer continues: “I have served so much, but I find that my senses are still not satisfied. My senses are not satisfied, I am not satisfied, nor will my senses give me relief from their service.” An example of this is a recent headline in an Australian newspaper: “Man 80 Years Old Married 75 Times.” The senses are not satisfied, even at the point of death. That is the real problem of life.
Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that we have been servants of our senses in life after life, transmigrating through 8,400,000 species. Now we should just surrender unto Him, and He will take care of us. By the dictation of the senses we commit so many sinful activities. According to one’s activities or work, one gets a particular type of body. There are different bodies due to different types of sense gratification. The hog, for example, making no distinction between mother, sister, etc., simply has sex with anyone; and the senses in all species are so strong that this goes on even in human society. The threefold miseries from which we are trying to free ourselves are due to love of the senses of the material body, but Krsna is the real object of love. Just transfer your love to Krsna. Give up trying to satisfy the bodily senses, and just try to satisfy Krsna. As soon as you change, gradually Krsna will reveal Himself to you and will exchange service with you. Then you will be fully satisfied.
Please, my friends, try to understand this sublime benediction. Chant Hare Krsna and gradually develop love for Krsna All your troubles will be gone. Krsna is beyond the senses and the mind, but if you chant sincerely, then He will reveal Himself to you. It is not a question of belief. God exists! It is just a matter of having eyes to see Him. Under the expert guidance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, our beloved spiritual master, we are developing those eyes. Krsna consciousness is not a blind sentiment: we have a vast philosophical background.
Krsna consciousness is not a tower of Babel to Krsna. There are two processes in spiritual life, the ascending and the descending. Through the ascending process one tries to construct a ladder up to Krsna by processes of yoga,meditation, word jugglery, logic, dry philosophy, etc. However sincere, Krsna is acyuta, unapproachable, that process will never be successful But if the unapproachable Krsna wants to come to us, then nothing can stop Him. That is called the descending process, Krsna consciousness. Krsna is presenting Himself to you and I through the authorized disciplic chain of Vedic teachers. This is the oldest family tree in the universe. Knowledge of Krsna (which is non-different from Krsna Himself) is coming down to us without any tinge of contamination through this unbroken disciplic succession, and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the contemporary representative of this line.
Please do not dismiss Krsna consciousness as foreign or esoteric. Try to scrutinizingly study this movement, and, more than anything chant chant Hare Krsna! As the yoga authorities confirm in the Brhan-naradiya Purana: harer nama harer nama harer nama eva kevalam/kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha: In this age of Kali (quarrel and hypocrisy) the best means of God realization is the chanting of the holy name of God, and there is no other alternative.