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King Parīkṣit inquired from Śukadeva Gosvāmī about a very important topic in understanding transcendental subject matter. His question was, “Since Vedic knowledge generally deals with the subject matter of the three qualities of the material world, how then can it approach the subject matter of transcendence, which is beyond the approach of the three material modes? Since the mind is material and the vibration of words is a material sound, how can the Vedic knowledge, expressing by material sound the thoughts of the material mind, approach transcendence? Description of a subject matter necessitates describing its source of emanation, its qualities and its activities. Such description can be possible only by thinking with the material mind and by vibrating material words. Brahman, or the Absolute Truth, has no material qualities, but our power of speaking does not go beyond the material qualities. How then can Brahman, the Absolute Truth, be described by your words? I do not see how it is possible to understand transcendence from such expressions of material sound.”
The purpose of King Parīkṣit’s inquiry was to ascertain from Śukadeva Gosvāmī whether the Vedas ultimately describe the Absolute Truth as impersonal or as personal. Understanding of the Absolute Truth progresses in three features—impersonal Brahman, Paramātmā localized in everyone’s heart, and, at last, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.
The Vedas deal with three departments of activities. One is called karma-kāṇḍa, or activities under Vedic injunction, which gradually purify one to understand his real position; the next is jñāna-kāṇḍa, the process of understanding the Absolute Truth by speculative methods; and the third is upāsanā-kāṇḍa, or worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and sometimes of the demigods also. The worship of the demigods recommended in the Vedas is ordered with the understanding of the demigods’ relationship to the Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has many parts and parcels; some are called svāṁśas, or His personal expansions, and some are called vibhinnāṁśas, the living entities. All such expansions, both svāṁśas and vibhinnāṁśas, are emanations from the original Personality of Godhead. Svāṁśa expansions are called viṣṇu-tattva, whereas the vibhinnāṁśa expansions are called jīva-tattva. The different demigods are jīva-tattva. The conditioned souls are generally put into the activities of the material world for sense gratification; therefore, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, to regulate those who are very much addicted to different kinds of sense gratification, the worship of demigods is sometimes recommended. For example, for persons very much addicted to meat-eating, the Vedic injunction recommends that after worshiping the form of goddess Kālī and sacrificing a goat (not any other animal) under karma-kāṇḍa regulation, the worshipers may be allowed to eat meat. The idea is not to encourage one to eat meat but to allow one who insists on eating meat to eat it under certain restricted conditions. Therefore, worship of the demigods is not worship of the Absolute Truth, but by worshiping the demigods one gradually comes to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an indirect way. This indirect acceptance is described in the Bhagavad-gītā as avidhi. Avidhi means “not bona fide.” Since demigod worship is not bona fide, the impersonalists stress concentration on the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. King Parīkṣit’s question was, Which is the ultimate target of Vedic knowledge—this concentration on the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth or concentration on the personal feature? After all, both the impersonal and the personal feature of the Supreme Lord are beyond our material conception. The impersonal feature of the Absolute, the Brahman effulgence, is but the rays of the personal body of Kṛṣṇa. These rays of the personal body of Kṛṣṇa are cast all over the creation of the Lord, and the portion of the effulgence which is covered by the material cloud is called the created cosmos of the three material qualities—sattva, rajas and tamas. How can persons who are within this clouded portion, called the material world, conceive of the Absolute Truth by the speculative method?
In answering King Parīkṣit’s question, Śukadeva Gosvāmī replied that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has created the mind, senses and living force of the living entity for the purpose of sense gratification and transmigration from one kind of body to another, as well as for the purpose of allowing liberation from the material conditions. In other words, one can utilize the senses, mind and living force for sense gratification and transmigration from one body to another or for the matter of liberation. The Vedic injunctions are there just to give the conditioned souls the chance for sense gratification under regulative principles, and thereby also to give them the chance for promotion to higher conditions of life; ultimately, if the consciousness is purified, one comes to his original position and goes back home, back to Godhead.
The living entity is intelligent. One therefore has to utilize his intelligence over the mind and the senses. When the mind and senses are purified by the proper use of intelligence, then the conditioned soul is liberated; otherwise, if the intelligence is not properly utilized in controlling the senses and mind, the conditioned soul continues to transmigrate from one kind of body to another simply for sense gratification. Another point clearly stated in the answer of Śukadeva Gosvāmī is that it is the mind, senses and intelligence of the individual living entity that the Lord created. It is not stated that the living entities themselves were ever created. Just as the shining particles of the sun’s rays always exist with the sun, the living entities exist eternally as parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But just as the sun rays are sometimes covered by a cloud, which is created by the sun, so the conditioned souls, although eternally existing as parts of the Supreme Lord, are sometimes put within the cloud of the material concept of life, in the darkness of ignorance. The whole Vedic process is to alleviate that darkened condition. Ultimately, when the senses and mind of the conditioned being are fully purified, he comes to his original position, called Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that is liberation.
In the Vedānta-sūtra, the first sūtra, or code, questions about the Absolute Truth. Athāto brahma jijñāsā: What is the nature of the Absolute Truth? The next sūtra answers that the nature of the Absolute Truth is that He is the origin of everything. Whatever we experience, even in this material condition of life, is but an emanation from Him. The Absolute Truth created the mind, senses and intelligence. This means that the Absolute Truth is not without mind, intelligence and senses. In other words, He is not impersonal. The very word created means that He has transcendental intelligence. For example, when a father begets a child, the child has senses because the father also has senses. The child is born with hands and legs because the father also has hands and legs. Sometimes it is said that man is made after the image of God. The Absolute Truth is therefore the Supreme Personality, with transcendental mind, senses and intelligence. When one’s mind, intelligence and senses are purified of material contamination, one can understand the original feature of the Absolute Truth as a person.
The Vedic process is to promote the conditioned soul gradually from the mode of ignorance to the mode of passion, and from the mode of passion to the mode of goodness. In the mode of goodness there is sufficient light for understanding things as they are. For example, from earth a tree grows, and from the wood of the tree, fire is ignited. In that igniting process we first of all find smoke, and the next stage is heat, and then fire. When there is actually fire, we can utilize it for various purposes; therefore, fire is the ultimate goal. Similarly, in the gross material stage of life the quality of ignorance is very prominent. Dissipation of this ignorance takes place in the gradual progress of civilization from the barbarian stage to civilized life, and when one comes to the stage of civilized life he is said to be in the mode of passion. In the barbarian stage, or in the mode of ignorance, the senses are gratified in a very crude way, whereas in the mode of passion, or in civilized life, the senses are gratified in a polished manner. But when one is promoted to the mode of goodness, one can understand that the senses and the mind are engaged in material activities only due to being covered by perverted consciousness. When this perverted consciousness is gradually transformed into Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then the path of liberation is opened. So it is not that one is unable to approach the Absolute Truth by the senses and the mind. The conclusion is, rather, that the senses, mind and intelligence in the gross stage of contamination cannot appreciate the nature of the Absolute Truth, but when purified, the senses, mind and intelligence can understand what the Absolute Truth is. The purifying process is called devotional service, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly stated that the purpose of Vedic knowledge is to understand Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is understood by devotional service, beginning with the process of surrender. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, one has to think of Kṛṣṇa always, one has to render loving service to Kṛṣṇa always, and one always has to worship and bow down before Kṛṣṇa. By this process only can one enter into the kingdom of God, without any doubt.
One who is enlightened in the mode of goodness by the process of devotional service is freed from the modes of ignorance and passion. In answering King Parīkṣit’s question, Śukadeva Gosvāmī used the word ātmane, which indicates the stage of brahminical qualification in which one is allowed to study the Vedic scriptures known as the Upaniṣads. The Upaniṣads describe in different ways the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord. The Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord, is called nirguṇa. That does not mean He has no qualities. It is only because He has qualities that the conditioned living entities can have qualities. The purpose of studying the Upaniṣads is to understand the transcendental qualities of the Absolute Truth, as opposed to the material qualities of ignorance, passion and goodness. That is the way of Vedic understanding. Great sages like the four Kumāras, headed by Sanaka, followed these principles of Vedic knowledge and came gradually from impersonal understanding to the platform of personal worship of the Supreme Lord. It is therefore recommended that we must follow the great personalities. Śukadeva Gosvāmī is also one of the great personalities, and his answer to the inquiry of Mahārāja Parīkṣit is authorized. One who follows in the footsteps of such great personalities surely walks very easily on the path of liberation and ultimately goes back home, back to Godhead. That is the way of perfecting this human form of life.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued to speak to Parīkṣit Mahārāja. “My dear King,” he said, “in this regard I shall narrate a nice story. This story is important because it is in connection with Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This narration is a conversation between Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi and the great sage Nārada.” Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi still resides in Badarīkāśrama and is accepted as an incarnation of Nārāyaṇa. Badarīkāśrama is situated in the northernmost part of the Himalayan Mountains and is always covered with snow. Religious Indians still go to visit this place during the summer season, when the snowfall is not very severe.
Once when Nārada, the great devotee and ascetic amongst the demigods, was traveling among different planets, he desired to meet the ascetic Nārāyaṇa personally in Badarīkāśrama and offer Him respects. This great sage incarnation of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, has been undergoing great penances and austerities from the very beginning of the creation to teach the inhabitants of Bhārata-varṣa how to attain the highest perfectional stage of going back to Godhead. His austerities and penances are exemplary practices for the human being. The incarnation of God Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi was sitting amongst many devotees in the village known as Kalāpa-grāma. Of course, these were not ordinary sages sitting with Him, and the great sage Nārada also appeared there. After offering his respects to Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, Nārada asked Him exactly the same question King Parīkṣit asked Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Then the Ṛṣi answered by following in the footsteps of His predecessors. He narrated a story of how the same question had been discussed on the planet known as Janaloka, which is above the Svargaloka planets, such as the moon and Venus. On this planet, great sages and saintly persons live, and they once discussed the same point regarding the understanding of Brahman and His real identity.
The great sage Nārāyaṇa began to speak. “My dear Nārada,” He said, “I shall tell you a story which took place long, long ago. There was a great meeting of the denizens of the heavenly planets, and almost all the important brahmacārīs, such as the four Kumāras—Sanandana, Sanaka, Sanātana and Sanat-kumāra—attended. Their discussion was on the subject matter of understanding the Absolute Truth, Brahman. You were not present at that meeting because you had gone to see My expansion Aniruddha, who lives on the island of Śvetadvīpa. In this meeting, all the great sages and brahmacārīs very elaborately discussed the point about which you have asked Me, and their discussion was very interesting. It was so delicate that even the Vedas were unable to answer the intricate questions raised.”
Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi told Nāradajī that the same question Nāradajī had raised had been discussed in that meeting on Janaloka. This is the way of understanding through the paramparā, or disciplic succession. Mahārāja Parīkṣit questioned Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī referred the matter to Nārada, who had in the same way questioned Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, who had put the matter to still higher authorities on the planet of Janaloka, where it was discussed among the great Kumāras—Sanātana, Sanaka, Sanandana and Sanat-kumāra. These four brahmacārīs, the Kumāras, are recognized scholars in the Vedas and other śāstras. Their unlimited volumes of knowledge, backed by austerities and penances, are exhibited by their sublime, ideal character. They are very amiable and gentle in behavior, and for them there is no distinction between friends, well-wishers and enemies. Being transcendentally situated, such personalities as the Kumāras are above all material considerations and are always neutral in respect to material dualities. In the discussions held among the four brothers, one of them, namely Sanandana, was selected to speak, and the other brothers became the audience to hear him.
Sanandana said, “After the dissolution of the whole cosmic manifestation, the entire energy and the whole creation in its nucleus form enter into the body of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. The Lord at that time remains asleep for a long, long time, and when there is again necessity of creation, the Vedas personified assemble around the Lord and begin to glorify Him, describing His wonderful transcendental pastimes, exactly like servants of a king: when the king is asleep in the morning, the appointed reciters come around his bedroom and begin to sing of his chivalrous activities, and while hearing of his glorious activities, the king gradually awakens.
“The Vedic reciters, or the personified Vedas, sing thus: ‘O unconquerable Lord, You are the Supreme Personality. No one is equal to You or greater than You. No one can be more glorious in his activities. All glories unto You! All glories unto You! By Your own transcendental nature You fully possess all six opulences. As such, You are able to deliver all conditioned souls from the clutches of māyā. O Lord, we fervently pray that You kindly do so. All the living entities, being Your parts and parcels, are naturally joyful, eternal and full of knowledge, but due to their own faults they imitate You by trying to become the supreme enjoyer. Thus they disobey Your supremacy and become offenders. And because of their offenses, Your material energy has taken charge of them. Thus their transcendental qualities of joyfulness, bliss and wisdom have been covered by the clouds of the three material qualities. This cosmic manifestation, made of the three material qualities, is just like a prison house for the conditioned souls. The conditioned souls are struggling very hard to escape from material bondage, and according to their different conditions of life they have been given different types of engagement. But since all engagements are based on knowledge supplied by You, the conditioned souls can execute pious activities only when You mercifully inspire them to do so. Therefore, without taking shelter at Your lotus feet one cannot surpass the influence of material energy. Actually, we, as personified Vedic knowledge, are always engaged in Your service by helping the conditioned souls understand You.’ ”
This prayer of the Vedas personified illustrates that the Vedas are meant for helping the conditioned souls to understand Kṛṣṇa. All the śrutis, or personified Vedas, offered glories to the Lord again and again, singing, “Jaya! Jaya!” This indicates that the Lord is the most glorious. Of all His glories, the most important is His causeless mercy upon the conditioned souls in reclaiming them from the clutches of māyā.
There are unlimited numbers of living entities in different varieties of bodies, some moving and some standing in one place, and the conditioned life of these living entities is due only to their forgetfulness of their eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When the living entity wants to lord it over the material energy by imitating the position of Kṛṣṇa, he is immediately captured by the material energy and, according to his desire, is offered one variety of the 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies. Although undergoing the threefold miseries of material existence, the illusioned living entity falsely thinks himself the master of all he surveys. Under the spell of the material energy, represented by the threefold material qualities, the living entity is so entangled that he is not at all able to become free unless he is graced by the Supreme Lord. The living entity cannot conquer the influence of the material modes of nature by his own endeavor, but because material nature is working under the control of the Supreme Lord, the Lord is beyond its jurisdiction. Except for Him, all living entities, from Brahmā down to the ant, are conquered by the contact of material nature.
Because the Lord possesses in full the six opulences of wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation, He alone is beyond the spell of material nature. Unless the living entity is situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he cannot approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yet the Lord, by His omnipotency, can dictate from within as the Supersoul how a living entity can gradually come to Him even while performing his ordinary work. As the Lord advises in the Bhagavad-gītā, “Whatever you do, do it for Me; whatever you eat, first offer it to Me; whatever charity you want to give, first give it to Me; and whatever austerities and penances you want to perform, perform them for Me.” In this way the karmīs are directed gradually to develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa directs the philosophers to approach Him gradually by discriminating between Brahman and māyā, for at last, when one is mature in knowledge, he surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “After many, many births, the wise philosopher surrenders unto Me.” The yogīs are also directed to concentrate their meditation upon Kṛṣṇa within the heart, and by such a continued process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness they can also become free from the clutches of the material energy. The devotees, however, are engaged in devotional service with love and affection from the very beginning, and therefore the Lord personally directs them so that they can approach Him without difficulty or deviation. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Only by the grace of the Lord can the living entity understand the exact position of Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
The statements of the personified Vedas give clear evidence that the Vedic literature is presented only for understanding Kṛṣṇa. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms that through all the Vedas it is Kṛṣṇa alone who has to be understood. Kṛṣṇa is always enjoying, either in the material world or in the spiritual world; because He is the supreme enjoyer, for Him there is no distinction between the material and spiritual worlds. The material world is an impediment for the ordinary living entities because they are under its control, but Kṛṣṇa, being the controller of the material world, has nothing to do with the impediments it offers. Therefore, in different parts of the Upaniṣads, the Vedas declare, “The Supreme Brahman is eternal, full of all knowledge and all bliss. That one Supreme Personality of Godhead exists in the heart of every living entity.” Because of His all-pervasiveness, He is able to enter not only into the hearts of the living entities, but even into the atoms also. As the Supersoul, He is the controller of all activities of the living entities. He lives within all of them and witnesses their actions, allowing them to act according to their desires and also giving them the results of their different activities. He is the living force of all things, but He is transcendental to the material qualities. He is omnipotent; He is expert in manufacturing everything, and on account of His superior, natural knowledge, He can bring everyone under His control. As such, He is everyone’s master. He is sometimes manifest on the surface of the globe, but He is simultaneously within all matter. Desiring to expand Himself in multiforms, He glanced over the material energy, and thus innumerable living entities became manifest. Everything is created by His superior energy, and everything in His creation appears to be perfectly done, without deficiency. Those who aspire for liberation from this material world must therefore worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate cause of all causes. He is just like the total mass of earth, from which varieties of earthly pots are manufactured: the pots are made of earthly clay, they rest on the earth, the original cause of all varieties of manifestation.
Employing this analogy of Brahman with earth, the impersonalists especially stress the Vedic statement sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: “Everything is Brahman.” The impersonalists do not take into account the varieties of manifestation emanating from the supreme cause, Brahman. They simply consider that everything emanates from Brahman and after destruction merges into Brahman and that the intermediate stage of manifestation is also Brahman. But although the Māyāvādīs believe that prior to its manifestation the cosmos was in Brahman, after creation it remains in Brahman, and after destruction it merges into Brahman, they do not know what Brahman is. The Brahma-saṁhitā, however, clearly describes Brahman: “The living entities, space, time and the material elements like fire, earth, sky, water and mind constitute the total cosmic manifestation, known as Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ and Svaḥ, which is manifested by Govinda. It flourishes on the strength of Govinda and after annihilation enters into and is conserved in Govinda.” Lord Brahma therefore says, “I worship Lord Govinda, the original personality, the cause of all causes.”
The word “Brahman” indicates the greatest of all and the maintainer of everything. The impersonalists are attracted by the greatness of the sky, but because of their poor fund of knowledge they are not attracted by the greatness of Kṛṣṇa. In our practical life, however, we are attracted by the greatness of a person and not by the greatness of a big mountain. Thus the term “Brahman” actually applies to Kṛṣṇa only; therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna admitted that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Parabrahman, or the supreme resting place of everything.
Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Brahman because of His unlimited knowledge, unlimited potencies, unlimited strength, unlimited influence, unlimited beauty and unlimited renunciation. Ultimately, therefore, the word “Brahman” can be applied to Kṛṣṇa only. Arjuna affirms that because the impersonal Brahman is the effulgence emanating as rays of Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental body, Kṛṣṇa is the Parabrahman. Everything rests on Brahman, but Brahman itself rests on Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate Brahman, or Parabrahman. The material elements are accepted as the inferior energy of Kṛṣṇa. By their interaction the cosmic manifestation takes place, rests on Kṛṣṇa, and after dissolution again enters into the body of Kṛṣṇa as His subtle energy. Kṛṣṇa is therefore the cause of both manifestation and dissolution.
Sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma means that everything is Lord Kṛṣṇa in the sense that everything is His energy. That is the vision of the mahā-bhāgavatas. They see everything in relation to Kṛṣṇa. The impersonalists argue that Kṛṣṇa Himself has been transformed into many and that therefore everything is Kṛṣṇa and worship of anything is worship of Him. This false argument is answered by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā: although everything is a transformation of the energy of Kṛṣṇa, He is not present everywhere. He is simultaneously present and not present. By His energy He is present everywhere, but as the energetic He is not present everywhere. This simultaneous presence and nonpresence is inconceivable to our present senses. But a clear explanation is given in the beginning of the Īśopaniṣad, in which it is stated that the Supreme Lord is so complete that although unlimited energies and their transformations emanate from Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s personality is not in the least bit transformed. Therefore, since Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes, intelligent persons should take shelter of His lotus feet.
Kṛṣṇa advises everyone just to surrender unto Him alone, and that is the way of Vedic instruction. Since Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes, He is worshiped by all kinds of sages and saints through observance of the regulative principles. As far as meditation is concerned, great personalities meditate on the transcendental form of Kṛṣṇa within the heart. In this way the minds of great personalities are always engaged in Kṛṣṇa. With their minds engaged in Kṛṣṇa, naturally the captivated devotees simply talk of Kṛṣṇa.
Talking of Kṛṣṇa or singing of Kṛṣṇa is called kīrtana. Lord Caitanya recommends, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ (CC Ādi 17.31), which means always thinking and talking of Kṛṣṇa and nothing else. That is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so sublime that anyone who takes to this process is elevated to the highest perfection of life—far, far beyond the concept of liberation. In the Bhagavad-gītā, therefore, Kṛṣṇa advises everyone always to think of Him, render devotional service to Him, worship Him and offer obeisances to Him. In this way a devotee becomes fully Kṛṣṇa-ized and, being always situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, ultimately goes back to Kṛṣṇa.
Although the Vedas have recommended worship of different demigods as different parts and parcels of Kṛṣṇa, it is to be understood that such instructions are meant for less intelligent men who are still attracted by material sense enjoyment. But the person who actually wants perfect fulfillment of the mission of human life should simply worship Lord Kṛṣṇa, and that will simplify the matter and completely guarantee the success of his human life. Although the sky, the water and the land are all part of the material world, when one stands on the solid land his position is more secure than when he stands in the sky or the water. An intelligent person, therefore, does not stand under the protection of different demigods, although they are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. Rather, he stands on the solid ground of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That makes his position sound and secure.
Impersonalists sometimes give the example that if one stands on a stone or a piece of wood one certainly stands on the surface of the land, because the stone and wood both rest on the surface of the earth. But it may be replied that if one stands directly on the surface of the earth he is more secure than if he stands on the wood or stone, which rest on the earth. In other words, taking shelter of Paramātmā or taking shelter of impersonal Brahman is not as secure a course as taking direct shelter of Kṛṣṇa in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The position of the jñānīs and yogīs is therefore not as secure as the position of the devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa has therefore advised in the Bhagavad-gītā that only a person who has lost his sense takes to the worship of demigods. And regarding persons attached to the impersonal Brahman, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, “My dear Lord, those who think of themselves as liberated by mental speculation are not yet purified of the contamination of material nature because of their inability to find the shelter of Your lotus feet. Although they rise to the transcendental situation of existence in impersonal Brahman, they certainly fall from that exalted position because they deride Your lotus feet.” Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore advises that the worshipers of the demigods are not very intelligent persons because they derive only temporary, exhaustible results. Their endeavors are those of less intelligent men. On the other hand, the Lord assures that His devotee has no fear of falling.
The personified Vedas continued to pray, “Dear Lord, considering all points of view, if a person has to worship someone superior to himself, then just out of good behavior he should stick to the worship of Your lotus feet because You are the ultimate controller of creation, maintenance and dissolution. You are the controller of the three worlds, Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ and Svaḥ; You are the controller of the fourteen upper and lower worlds; and You are the controller of the three material qualities. Demigods and persons advanced in spiritual knowledge always hear and chant about Your transcendental pastimes because this process has the specific potency of nullifying the accumulated results of sinful life. Intelligent persons factually dip into the ocean of Your nectarean activities and very patiently hear about them. Thus they are immediately freed from the contamination of the material qualities; they do not have to undergo severe penances and austerities for advancement in spiritual life. This chanting and hearing of Your transcendental pastimes is the easiest process for self-realization. Simply by submissive aural reception of the transcendental message, one’s heart is cleansed of all dirty things. Thus Kṛṣṇa consciousness becomes fixed in the heart of a devotee.” The great authority Bhīṣmadeva has also given the opinion that this process of chanting and hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the highest religious process. And the Taittirīya Upaniṣad says that worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the essence of all Vedic ritualistic performances.
“Dear Lord,” the personified Vedas continued, “the devotee who wants to elevate himself simply by the process of devotional activities, especially by hearing and chanting, very soon comes out of the clutches of the dualities of material existence. By this simple process of penance and austerity, the Supersoul within the devotee’s heart is very much pleased and gives the devotee directions so that he may go back home, back to Godhead.” It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that one who engages all his activities and senses in the devotional service of the Lord becomes completely peaceful because the Supersoul is satisfied with him; thus the devotee becomes transcendental to all dualities, such as heat and cold, honor and dishonor. Being freed from all dualities, he feels transcendental bliss, and he no longer suffers cares and anxieties due to material existence. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms that the devotee always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has no anxieties for his maintenance or protection. Being constantly absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he ultimately achieves the highest perfection. While in material existence, he lives very peacefully and blissfully, without cares and anxieties, and after quitting this body he goes back home, back to Godhead. The Lord confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā, “My supreme abode is a transcendental place from which, having gone, one never returns to this material world. Anyone who attains the supreme perfection, being engaged in My personal devotional service in the eternal abode, reaches the highest perfection of human life and does not have to come back to the miserable material world.”
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, it is imperative that the living entities be engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, always rendering devotional service by such prescribed methods as hearing and chanting and executing Your orders. If a person is not engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service, it is useless for him to exhibit the symptoms of life. Generally if a person is breathing he is accepted to be alive. But a person without Kṛṣṇa consciousness may be compared to a bellows in a blacksmith’s shop. The big bellows is a bag of skin which exhales and inhales air, and a human being who simply lives within the bag of skin and bones without taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and loving devotional service is no better than the bellows. Similarly, a nondevotee’s long duration of life is compared to the long existence of a tree, his voracious eating capacity is compared to the eating of dogs and hogs, and his enjoyment in sex life is compared to that of hogs and goats.”
The cosmic manifestation has been made possible because of the entrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Mahā-Viṣṇu within this material world. The total material energy is agitated by the glance of Mahā-Viṣṇu, and only then does the interaction of the three material qualities begin. Therefore it should be concluded that whatever material facilities we are trying to enjoy are available only due to the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Within the body there are five different departments of existence, known as anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya, vijñāna-maya and, at last, ānanda-maya. In the beginning of life, every living entity is food conscious. A child or an animal is satisfied only by getting nice food. This stage of consciousness, in which the goal is to eat sumptuously, is called anna-maya. Anna means “food.” After this one lives in the consciousness of being alive. If one can continue his life without being attacked or destroyed, one thinks himself happy. This stage is called prāṇa-maya, or consciousness of one’s existence. After this stage, when one is situated on the mental platform, his consciousness is called mano-maya. The materialistic civilization is primarily situated in these three stages, anna-maya, prāṇa-maya and mano-maya. The first concern of civilized persons is economic development, the next concern is defense against being annihilated, and the next consciousness is mental speculation, the philosophical approach to the values of life.
If by the evolutionary process of philosophical life one happens to reach the platform of intellectual life and understands that he is not this material body but a spiritual soul, he is situated in the vijñāna-maya stage. Then, by evolution in spiritual life, he comes to the understanding of the Supreme Lord, or the Supreme Soul. When one develops his relationship with Him and executes devotional service, that stage of life is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the ānanda-maya stage. Ānanda-maya is the blissful life of knowledge and eternity. As it is said in the Vedānta-sūtra, ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt. The Supreme Brahman and the subordinate Brahman, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities, are both joyful by nature. As long as the living entities are situated in the lower four stages of life— anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya and vijñāna-maya—they are considered to be in the material condition of life, but as soon as one reaches the stage of ānanda-maya, he is a liberated soul. This ānanda-maya stage is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā as the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) stage. There it is said that in the brahma-bhūta stage of life there is no anxiety and no hankering. This stage begins when one is equally disposed toward all living entities, and it then expands to the stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in which one always hankers to render service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This hankering for advancement in devotional service is not the same as hankering for sense gratification in material existence. In other words, hankering remains in spiritual life, but it becomes purified. Similarly, when our senses are purified, they are freed from all material stages, namely anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya and vijñāna-maya, and they become situated in the highest stage—ānanda-maya, or blissful life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Māyāvādī philosophers consider ānanda-maya to be the state of being merged in the Supreme. To them, ānanda-maya means that the Supersoul and the individual soul become one. But the real fact is that oneness does not mean merging into the Supreme and losing one’s own individual existence. Merging into the spiritual existence is the living entity’s realization of qualitative oneness with the Supreme Lord in His aspects of eternity and knowledge. But the actual ānanda-maya (blissful) stage is attained when one is engaged in devotional service. That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām (BG 18.54). Here Lord Kṛṣṇa states that the brahma-bhūta ānanda-maya stage is complete only when there is an exchange of love between the Supreme and the subordinate living entities. Unless one comes to this ānanda-maya stage, his breathing is like the breathing of a bellows in a blacksmith’s shop, his duration of life is like that of a tree, and he is no better than the lower animals like the camels, hogs and dogs.
Undoubtedly the eternal living entity cannot be annihilated at any point. But the lower species of life exist in a miserable condition, whereas one who is engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord is situated in the pleasurable, or ānanda-maya, status of life. The different stages described above are all in relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although in all circumstances there exist both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities, the difference is that the Supreme Personality of Godhead always exists in the ānanda-maya stage, whereas the subordinate living entities, because of their minute position as fragmental portions of the Supreme Lord, are prone to fall to the other stages of life. Although in all the stages both the Supreme Lord and the living entities exist, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always transcendental to our concept of life, whether we are in bondage or in liberation. The whole cosmic manifestation becomes possible by the grace of the Supreme Lord, it exists by the grace of the Supreme Lord, and when annihilated it merges into the existence of the Supreme Lord. As such, the Supreme Lord is the supreme existence, the cause of all causes. Therefore the conclusion is that without development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness one’s life is simply a waste of time.
For those who are very materialistic and cannot understand the situation of the spiritual world, the abode of Kṛṣṇa, great sages have recommended the yogic process whereby one gradually rises from meditation on the abdomen, which is called mūlādhāra or maṇipūraka meditation. Mūlādhāra and maṇipūraka are technical terms which refer to the intestines within the abdomen. Grossly materialistic persons think that economic development is of foremost importance because they are under the impression that a living entity exists only by eating. Such grossly materialistic persons forget that although we may eat as much as we like, if the food is not digested it produces the troubles of indigestion and acidity. Therefore, eating is not in itself the cause of the vital energy of life. For digestion of eatables we have to take shelter of another, superior energy, which is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā as vaiśvānara. Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā that He helps the digestion in the form of vaiśvānara. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is all-pervasive; therefore, His presence in the stomach as vaiśvānara is not extraordinary.
Kṛṣṇa is actually present everywhere. The Vaiṣṇava, therefore, marks his body with temples of Viṣṇu: he first marks a tilaka temple on the abdomen, then on the chest, then between the collarbones, then on the forehead, and gradually he marks the top of the head, the brahma-randhra. The thirteen temples of tilaka marked on the body of a Vaiṣṇava are known as follows: On the forehead is the temple of Lord Keśava, on the belly is the temple of Lord Nārāyaṇa, on the chest is the temple of Lord Mādhava, and on the throat, between the two collarbones, is the temple of Lord Govinda. On the right side of the waist is the temple of Lord Viṣṇu, on the right arm the temple of Lord Madhusūdana, and on the right side of the collarbone the temple of Lord Trivikrama. Similarly, on the left side of the waist is the temple of Lord Vāmanadeva, on the left arm the temple of Śrīdhara, on the left side of the collarbone the temple of Hṛṣīkeśa, on the upper back the temple called Padmanābha, and on the lower back the temple called Dāmodara. On the top of the head is the temple called Vāsudeva. This is the process of meditation on the Lord’s situation in the different parts of the body, but for those who are not Vaiṣṇavas, great sages recommend meditation on the bodily concept of life—meditation on the intestines, on the heart, on the throat, on the eyebrows, on the forehead and then on the top of the head. Some of the sages in the disciplic succession from the great saint Aruṇa meditate on the heart, because the Supersoul stays within the heart along with the living entity. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fifteenth Chapter, wherein the Lord states, “I am situated in everyone’s heart.”
As part of devotional service, Vaiṣṇavas protect the body for the service of the Lord, but those who are gross materialists accept the body as the self. They worship the body by the yogic process of meditation on the different bodily parts, such as maṇipūraka, dahara and hṛdaya, gradually rising to the brahma-randhra, on the top of the head. The first-class yogī who has attained perfection in the practice of the yoga system ultimately passes through the brahma-randhra to any one of the planets in either the material or spiritual worlds. How a yogī can transfer himself to another planet is vividly described in the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
In this regard, Śukadeva Gosvāmī has recommended that the beginners worship the virāṭ-puruṣa, the gigantic universal form of the Lord. One who cannot believe that the Lord can be worshiped with equal success in the Deity, or arcā form, or who cannot concentrate on this form is advised to worship the universal form of the Lord. The lower part of the universe is considered the feet and legs of the Lord’s universal form, the middle part of the universe is considered the navel or abdomen of the Lord, the upper planetary systems such as Janaloka and Maharloka are the heart of the Lord, and the topmost planetary system, Brahmaloka, is considered the top of the Lord’s head. There are different processes recommended by great sages according to the position of the worshiper, but the ultimate aim of all meditational yogic processes is to go back home, back to Godhead. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, anyone who reaches the highest planet, the abode of Kṛṣṇa, or even the Vaikuṇṭha planets, never has to come down again to this miserable material condition of life.
The Vedic recommendation, therefore, is that one make the lotus feet of Viṣṇu the target of all one’s efforts. Tad viṣṇoḥ paramaṁ padam: the Viṣṇu planets, or Viṣṇuloka, are situated above all the material planets. These Vaikuṇṭha planets are known as sanātana-dhāma, and they are eternal. They are never annihilated, not even by the annihilation of this material world. The conclusion is that if a human being does not fulfill the mission of his life by worshiping the Supreme Lord and does not go back home, back to Godhead, it is to be understood that he is breathing just like a blacksmith’s bellows, living just like a tree, eating just like a camel and having sex just like the dogs and hogs. Thus he has been frustrated in fulfilling the specific purpose of human life.
The next prayer of the personified Vedas to the Lord concerns His entering into different species of life. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fourteenth Chapter, that in every species and form of life the spiritual part and parcel of the Supreme Lord is present. The Lord Himself claims in the Gītā that He is the seed-giving father of all forms and species, who therefore must all be considered sons of the Lord. The entrance of the Supreme Lord into everyone’s heart as Paramātmā sometimes bewilders the impersonalists into equating the living entities with the Supreme Lord. They think, “Both the Supreme Lord and the individual soul enter into the various bodies; so where is the distinction? Why should individual souls worship the Paramātmā, or Supersoul?” According to them, the Supersoul and the individual soul are on the same level; they are one, without any difference between them. There is a difference, however, between the Supersoul and the individual soul, and this is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fifteenth Chapter, wherein the Lord says that although He is situated with the living entity in the same body, He is superior. He is dictating or giving intelligence to the individual soul from within. It is clearly stated in the Gītā that the Lord gives intelligence to the individual soul and that both memory and forgetfulness are due to the influence of the Supersoul. No one can act independently of the sanction of the Supersoul. The individual soul acts according to his past karma, reminded by the Lord. The nature of the individual soul is forgetfulness, but the presence of the Lord within the heart reminds him of what he wanted to do in his past life. The intelligence of the individual soul is exhibited like fire in wood. Although fire is always fire, it is exhibited in a size proportionate to the size of the wood. Similarly, although the individual soul is qualitatively one with the Supreme Lord, he exhibits himself according to the limitations of his present body. But the Supreme Lord, or the Supersoul, is unlimited. He is said to be eka-rasa. Eka means “one,” and rasa means “mellow.” The transcendental position of the Supreme Lord is that of eternity, bliss and full knowledge. His position of eka-rasa does not change in the slightest when He becomes a witness and advisor to the individual soul in each individual body.
But the individual soul, from Lord Brahmā down to the ant, exhibits his spiritual potency according to his present body. The demigods are in the same category with the individual souls in the bodies of human beings or in the bodies of lower animals. Intelligent persons, therefore, do not worship different demigods, who are simply infinitesimal representatives of Kṛṣṇa manifest in conditioned bodies. The individual soul can exhibit his power only in proportion to the shape and constitution of the body. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, can exhibit His full potencies in any shape or form without any change. The Māyāvādī philosophers’ thesis that God and the individual soul are one and the same cannot be accepted because the individual soul has to develop his power according to the development of different types of bodies. The individual soul in the body of a baby cannot show the full power of a grown man, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, even when lying on the lap of His mother as a baby, could exhibit His full power by killing Pūtanā and other demons who attacked Him. Thus the spiritual potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is said to be eka-rasa, or without change. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, therefore, is the only worshipable object, and this is perfectly known to persons who are uncontaminated by the modes of material nature. In other words, only the liberated souls can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Less intelligent Māyāvādīs take to the worship of the demigods, thinking that the demigods and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are on the same level.
The personified Vedas continued to offer their obeisances. “Dear Lord,” they prayed, “after many, many births, those who have actually become wise take to the worship of Your lotus feet in complete knowledge.” This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, wherein the Lord says that after many, many births, a great soul, or mahātmā, surrenders unto the Lord, knowing well that Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, is the cause of all causes. The Vedas continued: “As already explained, since the mind, intelligence and senses have been given to us by God, when these instruments are actually purified there is no alternative but to engage them all in the devotional service of the Lord. A living entity’s entrapment in different species of life is due to the misapplication of his mind, intelligence and senses in material activities. Various kinds of bodies are awarded as the result of a living entity’s actions, and they are created by the material nature according to the living entity’s desire. Because a living entity desires and deserves a particular kind of body, it is given to him by the material nature, under the order of the Supreme Lord.”
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Third Canto, it is explained that under the control of superior authority a living entity is put within the semen of a male and injected into the womb of a particular female in order to develop a particular type of body. A living entity utilizes his senses, intelligence, mind and so on in a specific way of his own choosing and thus develops a particular type of body, within which he becomes encaged. In this way the living entity becomes situated in different species of life, either in a demigod, human or animal body, according to different situations and circumstances.
It is explained in the Vedic literature that the living entities entrapped in different species of life are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. The Māyāvādī philosophers mistake the living entity for the Paramātmā, who is actually sitting with the living entity as a friend. Because the Paramātmā (the localized aspect of the Supreme Personality of Godhead) and the individual living entity are both within the body, a misunderstanding sometimes takes place that there is no difference between the two. But there is a definite difference between the individual soul and the Supersoul, and it is explained in the Varāha Purāṇa as follows. The Supreme Lord has two kinds of parts and parcels: the living entity is called vibhinnāṁśa, and the Paramātmā, or the plenary expansion of the Supreme Lord, is called svāṁśa. The svāṁśa plenary expansion of the Supreme Personality is as powerful as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. There is not even the slightest difference between the potency of the Supreme Person and that of His plenary expansion as Paramātmā. But the vibhinnāṁśa parts and parcels possess only a minute portion of the potencies of the Lord. The Nārada Pañcarātra states that the living entities, who are the marginal potency of the Supreme Lord, are undoubtedly of the same quality of spiritual existence as the Lord Himself, but they are prone to be tinged with the material qualities. Because the minute living entity is prone to be subjected to the influence of material qualities, he is called jīva, and sometimes the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also known as Śiva, the all-auspicious one. So the difference between Śiva and jīva is that the all-auspicious Personality of Godhead is never affected by the material qualities, whereas the minute portions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are prone to be affected by the qualities of material nature.
The Supersoul within the body of a particular living entity, being a plenary portion of the Lord, is worshipable by the individual living entity. Great sages have therefore concluded that the process of meditation is designed so that the individual living entity may concentrate his attention on the lotus feet of the Supersoul form (Viṣṇu). That is the real form of samādhi. The living entity cannot be liberated from material entanglement by his own effort. He must therefore take to the devotional service of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, or the Supersoul within himself. Śrīdhara Svāmī, the great commentator on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, has composed a nice verse in this regard, the meaning of which is as follows: “My dear Lord, I am eternally a part of You, but I have been entrapped by the material potencies, which are also an emanation from You. As the cause of all causes, You have entered my body as the Supersoul, and I have the prerogative of enjoying the supreme blissful life of knowledge along with You. Therefore, my dear Lord, please order me to render You loving service so that I can again be brought to my original position of transcendental bliss.”
Great personalities understand that a living entity entangled in this material world cannot be freed by his own efforts. With firm faith and devotion, such great personalities engage themselves in rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord. That is the verdict of the personified Vedas.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, it is very difficult to achieve perfect knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Your Lordship is so kind to the fallen souls that You appear in different incarnations and execute different activities. You appear even as a historical personality of this material world, and Your pastimes are very nicely described in the Vedic literature. Such pastimes are as attractive as the ocean of transcendental bliss. People in general have a natural inclination to read narrations in which ordinary jīvas are glorified, but when they become attracted by the Vedic scriptures which delineate Your eternal pastimes, they actually dip into the ocean of transcendental bliss. As a fatigued man feels refreshed by dipping into a reservoir of water, so the conditioned soul who is very much disgusted with material activities becomes refreshed and forgets all the fatigue of material activities simply by dipping into the transcendental ocean of Your pastimes. And eventually he merges into the ocean of transcendental bliss. The most intelligent devotees, therefore, do not take to any means of self-realization except devotional service and constant engagement in the nine different processes of devotional life, especially hearing and chanting. When hearing and chanting about Your transcendental pastimes, Your devotees do not care even for the transcendental bliss derived from liberation or from merging into the existence of the Supreme. Such devotees are not interested even in so-called liberation, and they certainly have no interest in material activities for elevation to the heavenly planets for sense gratification. Pure devotees seek only the association of paramahaṁsas, or great liberated devotees, so that they can continuously hear and chant about Your glories. For this purpose the pure devotees are prepared to sacrifice all comforts of life, even giving up the material comforts of family life and so-called society, friendship and love. Those who have tasted the nectar of devotion by relishing the transcendental vibration of chanting Your glories—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare / Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—do not care for any other spiritual bliss or for material comforts, which appear to the pure devotee as less important than the straw in the street.” The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, when a person is able to purify his mind, senses and intelligence by engaging himself in devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, his mind becomes his friend. Otherwise, his mind is always his enemy. When the mind is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, it becomes the intimate friend of the living entity because the mind can then think of the Supreme Lord always. Your Lordship is eternally dear to the living entity, so when the mind is engaged in thought of You one immediately feels the great satisfaction for which he has been hankering life after life. When one’s mind is thus fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one does not take to any kind of inferior worship or inferior process of self-realization. By attempting to worship a demigod or by taking to any other process of self-realization, the living entity becomes a victim of the cycle of birth and death, and no one can estimate how much the living entity is degraded by entering abominable species of life such as cats and dogs.”
Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has sung that persons who do not take to the devotional service of the Lord but are attracted to the process of philosophical speculation and fruitive activities drink the poisonous results of such actions. Such persons eat all kinds of obnoxious things, such as meat, and take pleasure in alcohol and other intoxicants, and after death they are forced to take birth in lower species of life. Materialistic persons generally worship the transient material body and forget the welfare of the spirit soul within the body. Some take shelter of materialistic science to improve bodily comforts, and some take to the worship of demigods to be promoted to the heavenly planets. Their goal in life is to make the material body comfortable, but they forget the interest of the spirit soul. Such persons are described in the Vedic literature as suicidal, because attachment for the material body and its comforts forces the living entity to wander through the process of birth and death perpetually and suffer the material pangs as a matter of course. The human form of life is a chance for one to understand his position. Therefore the most intelligent person takes to devotional service just to engage his mind, senses and body in the service of the Lord without deviation.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, there are many mystic yogīs who are very learned and deliberate in achieving the highest perfection of life. They engage themselves in the yogic process of controlling the life-air within the body. Concentrating the mind upon the form of Viṣṇu and controlling the senses very rigidly, they practice the yoga system, but even after much laborious austerity, penance and regulation, they achieve the same destination as persons inimical toward You. In other words, both the yogīs and the great, wise philosophical speculators ultimately attain the impersonal Brahman effulgence, which is automatically attained by the demons who are regular enemies of the Lord. Demons like Kaṁsa, Śiśupāla and Dantavakra also attain the Brahman effulgence because they constantly meditate upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead out of enmity. The real point is to concentrate the mind on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Women such as the gopīs were attached to Kṛṣṇa, being captivated by His beauty, and their mental concentration on Kṛṣṇa was provoked by lust. They wanted to be embraced by the arms of Kṛṣṇa, which resemble the beautiful round shape of a snake. Similarly, we, the Vedic hymns, simply concentrate our minds on the lotus feet of Your Lordship. Women like the gopīs concentrate upon You under the dictation of lust, and we concentrate upon Your lotus feet to go back home, back to Godhead. Your enemies also concentrate upon You, thinking always of how to kill You, and yogīs undertake great penances and austerities just to attain Your impersonal effulgence. All these different persons, although concentrating their minds in different ways, achieve spiritual perfection according to their different perspectives because You, O Lord, are equal to all Your devotees.”
Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard: “My dear Lord, to be engaged always in thinking of Your lotus feet is very difficult. It is possible for great devotees who have already achieved love for You and are engaged in transcendental loving service. My dear Lord, I wish that my mind may also be fixed somehow or other on Your lotus feet, at least for some time.”
The attainment of spiritual perfection by different spiritualists is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā, wherein the Lord says that He grants the perfection the devotee desires in proportion to the devotee’s surrender unto Him. The impersonalists, yogīs and enemies of the Lord enter into the Lord’s transcendental effulgence, but the personalists who follow in the footsteps of the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana or strictly follow the path of devotional service are elevated to the personal abode of Kṛṣṇa, Goloka Vṛndāvana, or to the Vaikuṇṭha planets. Both the impersonalists and the personalists enter the spiritual realm, the spiritual sky, but the impersonalists are given their place in the impersonal Brahman effulgence, whereas the personalists are given a position in the Vaikuṇṭha planets or in the Vṛndāvana planet, according to their desire to serve the Lord in different mellows.
The personified Vedas stated that persons born after the creation of this material world cannot understand the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by manipulating their material knowledge. Just as a person born in a particular family cannot understand the position of his great-grandfather, who lived before the birth of the recent generation, we are unable to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, who exists eternally in the spiritual world. In the Eighth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly said that the Supreme Person, who lives eternally in the spiritual kingdom of God (sanātana-dhāma), can be approached only by devotional service.
As for the material creation, Brahmā is the first created person. Before Brahmā there was no living creature within this material world; it was void and dark until Brahmā was born on the lotus flower that sprouted from the abdomen of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is an expansion of Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is an expansion of Saṅkarṣaṇa, and Saṅkarṣaṇa is an expansion of Balarāma, who is an immediate expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa. After the creation of Brahmā, the two kinds of demigods were born: demigods like the four brothers Sanaka, Sanātana, Sanandana and Sanat-kumāra, who are representatives of renunciation of the world, and demigods like Marīci and their descendants, who are meant to enjoy this material world. From these two kinds of demigods were gradually manifested all other living entities, including the human beings. Thus all living creatures within this material world, including Brahmā, all the demigods and all the Rākṣasas, are to be considered modern. This means that they were all born recently. Therefore, just as a person born recently in a family cannot understand the situation of his distant forefather, no one within this material world can understand the position of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world, because the material world has only recently been created. Although they have a long duration of existence, all the manifestations of the material world—namely the time element, the living entities, the Vedas and the gross and subtle material elements—are created at some point. Thus any process manufactured within this created situation as a means for understanding the original source of creation is to be considered modern.
Therefore by the process of self-realization or God realization through fruitive activities, philosophical speculation or mystic yoga, one cannot actually approach the supreme source of everything. When the creation is completely terminated—when there is no existence of the Vedas, no existence of material time, and no existence of the gross and subtle material elements, and when all the living entities are in the nonmanifested stage, resting within Nārāyaṇa—then all these manufactured processes become null and void and cannot act. Devotional service, however, is eternally going on in the eternal spiritual world. Therefore the only factual process of self-realization or God realization is devotional service, and one who takes to this process takes to the real process of God realization.
In this regard, Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a verse which conveys the idea that the supreme source of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is so great and unlimited that it is not possible for the living entity to understand Him by any material acquisition. One should therefore pray to the Lord to be engaged in His devotional service eternally, so that by the grace of the Lord one can understand the supreme source of creation. The supreme source of creation, the Supreme Lord, reveals Himself only to the devotees. In the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says to Arjuna, “My dear Arjuna, because you are My devotee and because you are My intimate friend, I shall reveal to you the process of understanding Me.” In other words, the supreme source of creation, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot be understood by our own endeavor. We have to please Him with devotional service, and then He will reveal Himself to us. Then we can understand Him to some extent.
There are different kinds of philosophers who have tried to understand the supreme source by their mental speculation. There are generally six kinds of mental speculators, whose speculations are called ṣaḍ-darśana. All these philosophers are impersonalists and are known as Māyāvādīs. Every one of them has tried to establish his own opinion, although they all have later compromised and stated that all opinions lead to the same goal and that every opinion is therefore valid. According to the prayers of the personified Vedas, however, none of them is valid because their process of knowledge is created within the temporary material world. They have all missed the real point: the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or the Absolute Truth, can be understood only by devotional service.
One class of philosophers, known as Mīmāṁsakas, represented by sages such as Jaimini, have concluded that everyone should engage in pious activities or prescribed duties and that such activities will lead one to the highest perfection. But this is contradicted in the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, where Lord Kṛṣṇa says that by pious activities one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, but that as soon as one’s accumulation of pious activities is used up, one has to leave the enjoyment of a higher standard of material prosperity in the heavenly planets and immediately come down again to these lower planets, where the duration of life is very short and where the standard of material happiness is of a lower grade. The exact words used in the Bhagavad-gītā are kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti (BG 9.21). Therefore the conclusion of the Mīmāṁsaka philosophers that pious activities will lead one to the Absolute Truth is not valid. Although a pure devotee is by nature inclined to perform pious activities, no one can attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by pious activities alone. Pious activities may purify one of the contamination caused by ignorance and passion, but this purification is automatically attained by a devotee constantly engaged in hearing the transcendental message of Godhead in the form of the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or similar scriptures. From the Bhagavad-gītā we understand that even a person who is not up to the standard of pious activities but who is absolutely engaged in devotional service is to be considered well situated on the path of spiritual perfection. It is also said in the Bhagavad-gītā that a person who is engaged in devotional service with love and faith is guided from within by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord Himself as Paramātmā, or the spiritual master sitting within one’s heart, gives the devotee exact directions by which he can gradually go back to Godhead. The conclusion of the Mīmāṁsaka philosophers is not actually the truth which can lead one to real understanding.
Similarly, there are Sāṅkhya philosophers, metaphysicians or materialistic scientists who study this cosmic manifestation by their invented scientific method and do not recognize the supreme authority of God as the creator of the cosmic manifestation. They wrongly conclude that the reactions of the material elements are the original cause of creation. The Bhagavad-gītā, however, does not accept this theory. It is clearly said therein that behind the cosmic activities is the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This fact is corroborated by the Vedic injunction sad vā saumyedam agra āsīt, which means that the origin of the creation existed before the cosmic manifestation. Therefore, the material elements cannot be the cause of the material creation. Although the material elements are accepted as immediate causes, the ultimate cause is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. The Bhagavad-gītā says, therefore, that material nature works under the direction of Kṛṣṇa.
The conclusion of the atheistic Sāṅkhya philosophy is that because the effects—the phenomena of this material world—are temporary, or illusory, the cause is therefore also illusory. The Sāṅkhya philosophers are in favor of voidism, but the actual fact is that the original cause is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that this cosmic manifestation is the temporary manifestation of His material energy. When this temporary manifestation is annihilated, its cause, the eternal existence of the spiritual world, continues as it is, and therefore the spiritual world is called sanātana-dhāma, the eternal abode. The conclusion of the Sāṅkhya philosophers is therefore invalid.
Then there are the philosophers headed by Gautama and Kaṇāda. They have minutely studied the cause and effect of the material elements and have ultimately come to the conclusion that atomic combination is the original cause of creation. At present the materialistic scientists follow in the footsteps of Gautama and Kaṇāda, who propounded this theory, called Paramāṇuvāda. This theory, however, cannot be supported, for the original cause of everything is not inert atoms. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, as well as in the Vedas, wherein it is stated, eko nārāyaṇa āsīt: “Only Nārāyaṇa existed before the creation.” Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the Vedānta-sūtra also say that the original cause is sentient and both indirectly and directly cognizant of everything within this creation. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavaḥ (BG 10.8), “I am the original cause of everything,” and mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate, “From Me everything comes into existence.” Therefore, atoms may form the basic combinations of material existence, but these atoms are generated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus the philosophy of Gautama and Kaṇāda cannot be supported.
Similarly, impersonalists headed by Aṣṭāvakra and later by Śaṅkarācārya accept the impersonal Brahman effulgence as the cause of everything. According to their theory, the material manifestation is temporary and unreal, whereas the impersonal Brahman effulgence is reality. But this theory cannot be supported either, because the Lord Himself says in the Bhagavad-gītā that the Brahman effulgence rests on His personality. It is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā that the Brahman effulgence is the personal bodily rays of Kṛṣṇa. As such, impersonal Brahman cannot be the original cause of the cosmic manifestation. The original cause is the all-perfect, sentient Personality of Godhead, Govinda.
The most dangerous theory of the impersonalists is that when God comes as an incarnation He accepts a material body created by the three modes of material nature. This Māyāvāda theory has been condemned by Lord Caitanya as most offensive. He has said that anyone who accepts the transcendental body of the Personality of Godhead to be made of material nature commits the greatest offense at the lotus feet of Viṣṇu. Similarly, the Bhagavad-gītā also states that when the Personality of Godhead descends in a human form, only fools and rascals deride Him. This actually occurred when Lord Kṛṣṇa, Lord Rāma and Lord Caitanya moved within human society as human beings.
The personified Vedas condemn the impersonal conception as a gross misrepresentation. In the Brahma-saṁhitā, the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is described as ānanda-cinmaya-rasa. The Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses a spiritual body, not a material body. He can enjoy anything through any part of His body, and therefore He is omnipotent. The limbs of a material body can perform only a particular function; for example, the hands can hold but cannot see or hear. But because the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is made of ānanda-cinmaya-rasa and is thus sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (BS 5.1), He can enjoy anything and do everything with any of His limbs. Acceptance of the spiritual body of the Lord as material is dictated by the tendency to equate the Supreme Personality of Godhead with the conditioned soul. The conditioned soul has a material body. Therefore, if God also has a material body, then the impersonalistic theory that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities are one and the same can be very easily propagated.
Factually, when the Supreme Personality of Godhead comes He exhibits a nonmaterial body, and thus there is no difference between His childish body when He is lying on the lap of His mother Yaśodā and His so-called grown-up body fighting with the demons. In His childhood body He also fought with demons, such as Pūtanā, Tṛṇāvarta and Aghāsura, with strength equal to that with which He fought in His youth against demons like Dantavakra and Śiśupāla. In material life, as soon as a conditioned soul changes his body he forgets everything of his past body, but from the Bhagavad-gītā we understand that because Kṛṣṇa has a sac-cid-ānanda body, He did not forget instructing the sun-god about the Bhagavad-gītā millions of years ago. The Lord is therefore known as Puruṣottama because He is transcendental to both material and spiritual existence. That He is the cause of all causes means that He is the cause of the spiritual world and of the material world as well. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is omnipotent and omniscient. Therefore, because a material body can be neither omnipotent nor omniscient, the Lord’s body is surely not material. The Māyāvāda theory that the Personality of Godhead comes within this material world with a material body cannot be supported by any means.
It can be concluded that all the theories of the materialistic philosophers are generated from temporary illusory existence, like the conclusions in a dream. Such conclusions certainly cannot lead us to the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth can be realized only through devotional service. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: (BG 18.55) “Only by devotional service can one understand Me.” Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard, which states, “My dear Lord, let others engage in false argument and dry speculation, theorizing upon great philosophical theses. Let them loiter in the darkness of ignorance and illusion, falsely enjoying as if very learned scholars, although they are without knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As far as I am concerned, I wish to be liberated simply by chanting the holy names of the all-beautiful Supreme Personality of Godhead—Mādhava, Vāmana, Trinayana, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Śrīpati and Govinda. Simply by chanting Your transcendental names, O Lord Madhupati, let me become free from the contamination of this material existence.”
In this way the personified Vedas said, “Dear Lord, when a living entity, by Your grace only, comes to the right conclusion about Your exalted transcendental position, he no longer bothers with the different theories manufactured by the mental speculators or so-called philosophers.” This is a reference to the speculative theories of Gautama, Kaṇāda, Patañjali and Kapila (nirīśvara). There are actually two Kapilas: one Kapila, the son of Kardama Muni, is an incarnation of God, and the other is an atheist of the modern age. The atheistic Kapila is often misrepresented to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Kapila the incarnation of Godhead appeared as the son of Kardama Muni long, long ago, during the time of Svāyambhuva Manu; the modern age is the age of Vaivasvata Manu.
According to Māyāvāda philosophy, this manifested world, or material world, is mithyā or māyā, false. The Māyāvādī preaching principle is brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā: “Only the Brahman effulgence is true, and the cosmic manifestation is illusory, or false.” But according to Vaiṣṇava, philosophy this cosmic manifestation is true because it is caused by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that He enters within this material world by one of His plenary portions and thus the creation takes place. From the Vedas also we can understand that this asat, or temporary cosmic manifestation, is an emanation from the supreme sat, or fact. From the Vedānta-sūtra also it is understood that everything has emanated from the Supreme Brahman. As such, the Vaiṣṇavas do not take this cosmic manifestation to be false. Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead has entered this cosmic manifestation in the form of His plenary expansion and caused the creation, the Vaiṣṇava philosophers see everything in this material world in relationship with the Supreme Lord.
This conception of the material world is very nicely explained by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, who says that when persons renounce the material world as illusory or false without knowing that the material world is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord, their renunciation is of no value. The Vaiṣṇavas, however, are free of attachment to this world because although the material world is generally accepted as an object of sense gratification, the Vaiṣṇavas are not in favor of sense gratification and are therefore not attached to material activities. The Vaiṣṇava accepts this material world according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions and works without attachment. Since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the original cause of everything, the Vaiṣṇava sees everything in relationship with Kṛṣṇa, even in this material world. By such advanced knowledge, everything becomes spiritualized. In other words, everything in the material world is already spiritual, but due to our lack of knowledge we see things as material.
The personified Vedas presented the example that those seeking gold do not reject gold earrings, gold bangles or anything else made of gold simply because they are shaped differently from the original gold. All living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and are qualitatively one, but they are now differently shaped in 8,400,000 species of life, just like many different ornaments manufactured from the same source of gold. As one who is interested in gold accepts all the differently shaped gold ornaments, so a Vaiṣṇava, knowing well that all living entities are of the same quality as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, accepts all living entities as eternal servants of God. As a Vaiṣṇava, then, one has ample opportunity to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead simply by reclaiming these conditioned, misled living entities, training them in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and leading them back home, back to Godhead. The fact is that the minds of the living entities are now agitated by the three material qualities, and the living entities are therefore transmigrating, as if in dreams, from one body to another. When their consciousness is changed into Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, they immediately fix Kṛṣṇa within their hearts, and thus their path for liberation becomes clear.
In all the Vedas the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entities are stated to be of the same quality—cetana, or spiritual. This is confirmed in the Padma Purāṇa, wherein it is said that there are two kinds of spiritual entities: one is called the jīva, and the other is called the Supreme Lord. From Lord Brahmā down to the ant, all living entities are jīvas, whereas the Lord is the supreme four-handed Viṣṇu, or Janārdana. Strictly speaking, the word ātmā can be applied only to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but because the living entities are His parts and parcels, sometimes the word ātmā is applied to them also. The living entities are therefore called jīvātmā, and the Supreme Lord is called Paramātmā. Both the Paramātmā and the jīvātmā are within this material world, and therefore this material world has a purpose other than sense gratification. The conception of a life of sense gratification is illusion, but the conception of service by the jīvātmā to the Paramātmā, even in this material world, is not at all illusory. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is fully aware of this fact, and thus he does not take this material world to be false but acts in the reality of transcendental service. The devotee therefore sees everything in this material world as an opportunity to serve the Lord. He does not reject anything as material but dovetails everything in the service of the Lord. Thus a devotee is always in the transcendental position, and everything he uses becomes spiritually purified by being used in the Lord’s service.
Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard: “I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always manifested as reality even within this material world, which is considered by some to be false.” The conception of the falsity of this material world is due to a lack of knowledge, but a person advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead in everything. This is actual realization of the Vedic aphorism sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: “Everything is Brahman.”
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, less intelligent men take to other ways of self-realization, but actually there is no chance of becoming purified from material contamination or of stopping the repeated cycle of birth and death unless one is a thoroughly pure devotee. Dear Lord, everything rests on Your different potencies, and everyone is supported by You, as stated in the Vedas: eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān. Therefore Your Lordship is the supporter and maintainer of all living entities—demigods, human beings and animals. Everyone is supported by You, and You are also situated in everyone’s heart. In other words, You are the root of the whole creation. Therefore those who engage in Your devotional service without deviation, who always worship You, actually pour water on the root of the universal tree. By devotional service, therefore, one satisfies not only the Personality of Godhead but also all others, because everyone is maintained and supported by Him. Because a devotee understands the all-pervasive feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is the most practical philanthropist and altruist. Such pure devotees, thoroughly engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, very easily overcome the cycle of birth and death, and they as much as jump over the head of death.”
A devotee is never afraid of death or of changing his body; his consciousness is transformed into Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and even if he does not go back to Godhead, even if he transmigrates to another material body, he has nothing to fear. A vivid example is Bharata Mahārāja. Although in his next life he became a deer, in the life after that he became completely free from all material contamination and was elevated to the kingdom of God. The Bhagavad-gītā affirms, therefore, that a devotee is never vanquished. A devotee’s path to the spiritual kingdom, back home, back to Godhead, is guaranteed. Even though a devotee slips in one birth, the continuation of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness elevates him further and further, until he goes back to Godhead. Not only does a pure devotee purify his own personal existence, but whoever becomes his disciple also becomes purified and is ultimately able to enter the kingdom of God without difficulty. In other words, not only can a pure devotee easily surpass death, but by his grace his followers can also do so without difficulty. The power of devotional service is so great that a pure devotee can electrify another person by his transcendental instruction on crossing over the ocean of nescience.
The instructions of a pure devotee to his disciple are also very simple. No one feels any difficulty in following in the footsteps of a pure devotee of the Lord. Anyone who follows in the footsteps of recognized devotees, such as Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the Kumāras, Manu, Kapila, King Prahlāda, King Janaka, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Yamarāja and their followers in disciplic succession, very easily finds the door of liberation open. On the other hand, those who are not devotees but are engaged in uncertain processes of self-realization, such as jñāna, yoga and karma, are understood to be still contaminated. Such contaminated persons, although apparently advanced in self-realization, cannot even liberate themselves, what to speak of those who follow them. Such nondevotees are compared to chained animals, for they are not able to go beyond the jurisdiction of the formalities of a certain type of faith. In the Bhagavad-gītā they are condemned as veda-vāda-rata. They cannot understand that the Vedas deal with activities of the material modes of nature—goodness, passion and ignorance. But as Lord Kṛṣṇa advised Arjuna, one has to go beyond the jurisdiction of the duties prescribed in the Vedas and take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service. The Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā, nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna: “My dear Arjuna, just try to become transcendental to the Vedic rituals.” This transcendental position beyond the Vedic ritualistic performances is devotional service. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord clearly says that persons who are engaged in His devotional service without adulteration are situated in Brahman. Actual Brahman realization means Kṛṣṇa consciousness and engagement in devotional service. The devotees are therefore real brahmacārīs because their activities are always in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement therefore issues a supreme call to all kinds of religionists, asking them with great authority to join this movement, by which one can learn how to love God and thus surpass all formulas and formalities of scriptural injunction. A person who cannot overcome the jurisdiction of stereotyped religious principles is compared to an animal chained up by his master. The purpose of all religion is to understand God and develop one’s dormant love of Godhead. If one simply sticks to the religious formulas and formalities but does not become elevated to the position of love of God, he is considered to be a chained animal. In other words, if one is not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is not eligible for liberation from the contamination of material existence.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard: “Let others engage in severe austerities, let others fall to the land from the tops of hills and give up their lives, let others travel to many holy places of pilgrimage for salvation, or let them engage in deep study of philosophy and Vedic literature. Let the mystic yogīs engage in their meditational service, and let the different sects engage in unnecessary arguing as to which is the best. But it is a fact that unless one is Kṛṣṇa conscious, unless one is engaged in devotional service, and unless one has the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he cannot cross over this material ocean.” An intelligent person, therefore, gives up all stereotyped ideas and joins the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement for factual liberation.
The personified Vedas continued their prayers: “Dear Lord, Your impersonal feature is explained in the Vedas. You have no hands, but You can accept all sacrifices offered to You. You have no legs, but You can walk more swiftly than anyone else. Although You have no eyes, You can see whatever happens in the past, present and future. Although You have no ears, You can hear everything that is said. Although You have no mind, You know everyone and everyone’s activities, past, present and future, and yet no one knows who You are. You know everyone, but no one knows You; therefore, You are the oldest and supreme personality.”
Similarly, in another part of the Vedas it is said, “You have nothing to do. You are so perfect in Your knowledge and potency that everything becomes manifest simply by Your will. There is no one equal to or greater than You, and everyone acts as Your eternal servant.” Thus the Vedic statements describe that the Absolute has no legs, no hands, no eyes, no ears and no mind, and yet He can act through His potencies and fulfill the needs of all living entities. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, His hands and legs are everywhere, for He is all-pervasive. The hands, legs, ears and eyes of all living entities are acting and moving by the direction of the Supersoul sitting within the living entity’s heart. Unless the Supersoul is present, it is not possible for the hands and legs to be active. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is so great, independent and perfect that even without having any eyes, legs and ears, He is not dependent on others for His activities. On the contrary, others are dependent on Him for the activities of their different sense organs. Unless the living entity is inspired and directed by the Supersoul, he cannot act.
The fact is that ultimately the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person. But because He acts through His different potencies, which are impossible for the gross materialists to see, the materialists accept Him as impersonal. For example, one can observe the personal artistic work in a painting of a flower, and one can understand that the color adjustment, the shape and so on have demanded the minute attention of an artist. The artist’s work is clearly exhibited in a painting of different blooming flowers. But the gross materialist, without seeing the hand of God in such artistic manifestations as the actual flowers blooming in nature, concludes that the Absolute Truth is impersonal. Actually, the Absolute is personal, but He is independent. He does not require to personally take a brush and colors to paint the flowers, for His potencies act so wonderfully that it appears as if flowers have come into being without the aid of an artist. The impersonal view of the Absolute Truth is accepted by less intelligent men, because unless one is engaged in the service of the Lord one cannot understand how the Supreme is acting—one cannot even know the Lord’s name. Everything about the Lord’s activities and personal features is revealed to the devotee only through his loving service attitude.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly said, bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasām: (BG 5.29) “The Lord is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and of the results of all austerities.” Then again the Lord says, sarva-loka-maheśvaram: “I am the proprietor of all planets.” So that is the position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. While He is present in Goloka Vṛndāvana enjoying transcendental pleasure in the company of His eternal associates—the gopīs and the cowherd boys—all over the creation His potencies are acting under His direction, without disturbing His eternal pastimes.
Only through devotional service can one understand how the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His inconceivable potencies, simultaneously acts impersonally and as a person. He acts just like the supreme emperor, and many thousands of kings and chiefs work under Him. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme independent controlling person, and all the demigods, including Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Indra (the King of heaven), the king of the moon planet and the king of the sun planet, work under His direction. The Vedas confirm that it is out of fear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and fire is distributing heat. The material nature produces all kinds of movable and immovable objects within the material world, but none of them can independently act or create without the direction of the Supreme Lord. All of them act as His tributaries, just like subordinate kings who offer their annual taxes to the emperor.
The Vedic injunctions state that every living entity lives by eating the remnants of food offered to the Personality of Godhead. In great sacrifices the injunction is that Nārāyaṇa should be present as the supreme predominating Deity of the sacrifice and that after the sacrifice is performed the remnants of food should be distributed amongst the demigods. This is called yajña-bhāga. Every demigod has an allotment of yajña-bhāga, which he accepts as prasādam. The conclusion is that the demigods are not independently powerful: they are posted as different executives under the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they eat prasādam, or the remnants of sacrifices. They execute the order of the Supreme Lord exactly according to His plan. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is in the background, and because His orders are carried out by others, it appears that He is impersonal. In our grossly materialistic way, we cannot conceive how the Supreme Person is above the impersonal activities of material nature. Therefore the Lord explains in the Bhagavad-gītā that there is nothing superior to Him and that the impersonal Brahman is subordinately situated as a manifestation of His personal rays. Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard: “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has no material senses but through whose direction and will all the material senses are working. He is the supreme potency of all material senses or sense organs. He is omnipotent, and He is the supreme performer of everything. Therefore He is worshipable by everyone. Unto that Supreme Person do I offer my respectful obeisances.”
Kṛṣṇa Himself declares in the Bhagavad-gītā that because He is transcendental to all sentient and insentient beings, He is known as Puruṣottama, which means the Supreme Personality. (Puruṣa means “person,” and uttama means “supreme” or “transcendental.”) In another place the Lord says that as the air is situated in the all-pervading sky, everyone is situated in Him, and everyone is acting under His direction.
The Vedas personified continued. “Dear Lord,” they prayed, “You are equal to all, with no partiality toward a particular type of living entity. It is due to their own material desires that all living entities enjoy or suffer in different conditions of life. As Your parts and parcels, they are just like the sparks of a fire. Just as sparks dance in a blazing fire, all living entities are dancing on Your support. You are providing them with everything they desire, and yet You are not responsible for their position of enjoyment or suffering. There are different types of living entities—demigods, human beings, animals, trees, birds, beasts, germs, worms, insects and aquatics—and all enjoy or suffer in life while resting on You.”
The living entities are of two kinds: one class is called nitya-mukta, ever liberated, and the other is called nitya-baddha, ever conditioned. The nitya-mukta living entities are in the spiritual kingdom, and the nitya-baddhas are in the material world. In the spiritual world both the living entities and the Lord are manifest in their original status, like live sparks in a blazing fire. But in the material world, although the Lord is all-pervasive in His impersonal feature, the living entities have forgotten their Kṛṣṇa consciousness to a greater or lesser degree, just as sparks sometimes fall from a blazing fire and lose their original brilliant condition. The sparks fall into different conditions and retain more or less of their original brilliance. Some sparks fall onto dry grass and thus ignite another big fire. This is a reference to the pure devotees who take compassion on the poor and innocent living entities. The pure devotee ignites Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the hearts of the conditioned souls, and thus the blazing fire of the spiritual world becomes manifest even within this material world. Some sparks fall onto water; they immediately lose their original brilliance and become extinct. They are comparable to the living entities who take their birth in the midst of gross materialists, in which case their original Kṛṣṇa consciousness becomes extinct. Some sparks fall to the ground and remain midway between the blazing and extinct conditions. Thus some living entities are without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, some are between having and not having Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and some are actually situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The demigods in the higher planets—Lord Brahmā, Indra, Candra, the sun-god and various other demigods—are all Kṛṣṇa conscious. Human society is between the demigods and the animals, and thus some are more or less Kṛṣṇa conscious, and some are completely forgetful of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The third-grade living entities, namely the animals, beasts, plants, trees and aquatics, have completely forgotten Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This example stated in the Vedas regarding the sparks of a blazing fire is very appropriate for understanding the condition of different types of living entities. But above all other living entities is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, or Puruṣottama, who is always liberated from all material conditions.
The question may be raised as to why the living entities have fallen by chance into different conditions of life. To answer this question, we first have to understand that there cannot be any influence of chance for the living entities; chance is for nonliving entities. According to the Vedic literature, living entities have knowledge, and thus they are called cetana, which means “in knowledge.” Their situation in different conditions of life, therefore, is not accidental. It is by their choice, because they have knowledge. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says, “Give up everything and just surrender unto Me.” This process of realizing the Supreme Personality of Godhead is open for everyone, but still it is the choice of the particular living entity whether to accept or reject this proposal. In the last portion of the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa very plainly says to Arjuna, “My dear Arjuna, now I have spoken everything to you. Now you may choose to accept it or not.” Similarly, the living entities who have come down to this material world have made their own choice to enjoy this material world. It is not that Kṛṣṇa sent them into this world. The material world was created for the enjoyment of living entities who wanted to give up the eternal service of the Lord to become the supreme enjoyer themselves. According to Vaiṣṇava philosophy, when a living entity desires to gratify his senses and forgets the service of the Lord, he is given a place in the material world to act freely according to his desire, and therefore he creates a condition of life in which he either enjoys or suffers. We should definitely know that both the Lord and the living entities are eternally cognizant. There is no birth and death for either the Lord or the living entities. When creation takes place, this does not mean that the living entities are created. The Lord creates the material world to give the conditioned souls a chance to elevate themselves to the higher platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If a conditioned soul does not take advantage of this opportunity, after the dissolution of this material world he enters into the body of Nārāyaṇa and remains there in deep sleep until the time of another creation.
In this connection the example of the rainy season is very appropriate. Seasonal rainfall may be taken as the agent for creation because after the rainfall the wet fields are favorable for growing different types of vegetation. Similarly, as soon as there is creation by the Lord’s glancing over the material nature, immediately the living entities spring up in their different living conditions, just as different types of vegetation grow after a rainfall. The rainfall is one, but the creation of the different plants is varied. The rain falls equally on the whole field, but the different plants sprout up in different shapes and forms according to the seeds planted. Similarly, the seeds of our desires are varied. Every living entity has a different type of desire, and that desire is the seed which causes his growth in a certain type of body. This is explained by Rūpa Gosvāmī by the word pāpa-bīja. Pāpa means “sinful.” All our material desires are to be taken as pāpa-bīja, or the seeds of sinful desires. The Bhagavad-gītā explains that our sinful desire is that we do not surrender unto the Supreme Lord. The Lord therefore says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “I shall give you protection from the reactions of sinful desires.” These sinful desires are manifested in different types of bodies; therefore, no one can accuse the Supreme Lord of partiality in giving one type of body to a certain type of living entity and another type of body to another living entity. All the bodies of the 8,400,000 species are created according to the mental condition of the individual living entities. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Puruṣottama, only gives them a chance to act according to their desires. Therefore, the living entities act by taking advantage of the facility given by the Lord.
At the same time, the living entities are born from the transcendental body of the Lord. This relationship between the Lord and the living entities is explained in the Vedic literature, wherein it is said that the Supreme Lord maintains all His children, giving them whatever they want. Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says, “I am the seed-giving father of all living entities.” It is very simple to understand that the father gives birth to the children but the children act according to their own desires. Therefore the father is never responsible for the different futures of his children. Each child can take advantage of the father’s property and instruction, but even though the inheritance and instruction may be the same for all the children, out of their different desires each child creates a different life and thereby suffers or enjoys.
Similarly, the Bhagavad-gītā’s instructions are equal for everyone: everyone should surrender unto the Supreme Lord, and He will take charge of one and protect one from sinful reactions. The facilities of living in the creation of the Lord are equally offered to all living entities. Whatever there is, either on the land, in the water or in the sky, is equally given to all living entities. Since all living beings are sons of the Supreme Lord, everyone can enjoy the material facilities given by the Lord, but unfortunate living entities create unfavorable conditions of life by fighting among themselves. The responsibility for this fighting and creating favorable and unfavorable situations lies with the living entities, not with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, if the living entities take advantage of the Lord’s instructions as given in the Bhagavad-gītā and develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then their lives become sublime, and they can go back to Godhead.
One may argue that because this material world is created by the Lord, He is therefore responsible for its condition. Certainly He is indirectly responsible for the creation and maintenance of this material world, but He is never responsible for the different conditions of the living entities. The Lord’s creation of this material world is compared to a cloud’s creation of vegetation. In the rainy season the cloud creates different varieties of vegetation. The cloud pours water on the surface of the earth, but it never touches the earth directly. Similarly, the Lord creates this material world simply by glancing over the material energy. This is confirmed in the Vedas: “He threw His glance over the material nature, and thus there was creation.” In the Bhagavad-gītā it is also confirmed that simply by His transcendental glance over the material nature, He creates different varieties of entities, both movable and immovable, living and dead.
The creation of the material world can therefore be taken as one of the pastimes of the Lord; it is called one of the Lord’s pastimes because He creates this material world whenever He desires. This desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also extreme mercy on His part because it gives the conditioned souls another chance to develop their original consciousness and thus go back to Godhead. Therefore no one can blame the Supreme Lord for creating this material world.
From the subject matter under discussion, we can gain a clear understanding of the difference between the impersonalists and the personalists. The impersonal conception recommends merging into the existence of the Supreme, and the voidist philosophy recommends making all material varieties void. Both these philosophies are known as Māyāvāda. Certainly the cosmic manifestation comes to a close and becomes void when the living entities merge into the body of Nārāyaṇa to rest until another creation, and this may be called an impersonal condition, but these conditions are never eternal. The cessation of the variegatedness of the material world and the merging of the living entities into the body of the Supreme are not permanent because the creation will take place again, and the living entities who merged into the body of the Supreme without having developed their Kṛṣṇa consciousness will again appear in this material world when there is another creation. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms the fact that this material world is created and annihilated perpetually and that conditioned souls without Kṛṣṇa consciousness come back again and again, whenever the material creation is manifest. If such conditioned souls take advantage of this opportunity and develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness under the direct instruction of the Lord, then they are transferred to the spiritual world and do not have to come back to the material creation. It is said, therefore, that the voidists and the impersonalists are not very intelligent because they do not take shelter under the lotus feet of the Lord. Because they are less intelligent, these voidists and impersonalists take to different types of austerities, either to attain the stage of nirvāṇa, which means finishing the material conditions of life, or to attain oneness by merging into the body of the Lord. All of them again fall down because they neglect the lotus feet of the Lord.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, the author, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, after studying all the Vedic literature and hearing from all authorities, has given his opinion that Kṛṣṇa is the only supreme master and that all living entities are His eternal servants. His statement is confirmed in the prayers by the personified Vedas. The conclusion is, therefore, that everyone is under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everyone is serving under the supreme direction of the Lord, and everyone is afraid of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is out of fear of Him that activities are rightly executed. Everyone’s position is to be subordinate to the Supreme Lord, yet the Lord has no partiality in His view of the living entities. He is just like the unlimited sky; as the sparks of a fire dance in the fire, similarly, all living entities are like birds flying in the unlimited sky of the Supreme Lord. Some of them are flying very high, some are flying at a lower altitude, and some are flying at a still lower altitude. The different birds are flying in different positions according to their respective abilities, but the sky has nothing to do with this ability. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord confirms that He awards different positions to different living entities in proportion to their surrender. This proportionate reward by the Personality of Godhead to the living entities is not partiality. Therefore, in spite of the living entities’ always being under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in their different positions, spheres and species of life, He is never responsible for their different living conditions. It is foolish and artificial, therefore, to think oneself equal to the Supreme Lord, and it is still more foolish to think that one has not seen God. Everyone is seeing God according to his capacity; the only difference is that the theist sees God as the Supreme Personality, the most beloved, Kṛṣṇa, and the atheist sees the Absolute Truth as ultimate death.
The personified Vedas continued to pray. “Dear Lord,” they said, “from all Vedic information it is understood that You are the supreme controller and all living entities are controlled. Both the Lord and the living entities are called nitya, eternal, and so are qualitatively one, yet the singular nitya, or the Supreme Lord, is the controller, whereas the plural nityas are controlled. The individual controlled living entity resides within the body, and the supreme controller, as Supersoul, is also present there, but the Supersoul controls the individual soul. That is the verdict of the Vedas. If the individual soul were not controlled by the Supersoul, then how could one explain the Vedic version that a living entity transmigrates from one body to another and enjoys or suffers the effects of his past deeds, sometimes being promoted to a higher standard of life and sometimes being degraded to a lower standard? Thus the conditioned souls are not only under the control of the Supreme Lord but are also conditioned by the control of the material nature. This relationship of the living entities with the Supreme Lord as the controlled and the controller definitely proves that although the Supersoul is all-pervasive, the individual living entities are never all-pervasive. If the individual souls were all-pervasive, there would be no question of their being controlled. The theory that the Supersoul and the individual soul are equal is therefore a polluted conclusion, and no sensible person accepts it; rather, one should try to understand the distinctions between the supreme eternal and the subordinate eternals.”
The personified Vedas therefore concluded, “O Lord, You are the unlimited eternal (dhruva), and the living entities are the limited eternals.” The form of the unlimited eternal is sometimes conceived as the universal form, and in the Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads the form of the limited eternal is vividly described. It is said therein that the original, spiritual form of the living entity is one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. It is also stated that spirit is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. The individual living entities, who are eternally part and parcel of God, are smaller than the smallest. With our material senses we can perceive neither the Supreme, who is greater than the greatest, nor the individual soul, who is smaller than the smallest. We have to understand both Him who is greater than the greatest and him who is smaller than the smallest from the authoritative sources of Vedic literature. The Vedic literature states that the Supersoul is sitting within the heart of every living entity’s body and is as big as a thumb. Therefore the argument may be put forward, How can something the size of a thumb be accommodated within the heart of an ant? The answer is that this thumb measurement of the Supersoul is imagined in proportion to the body of the living entity. In no circumstance, therefore, can the Supersoul and the individual living entity be taken as one, although both of them enter within the material body of a living entity. The Supersoul lives within the heart to direct or control the individual living entity. Although both are dhruva, or eternal, the living entity is always under the direction of the Supreme.
It may be argued that because the living entities are born of the material nature they are all equal and independent. In the Vedic literature, however, it is said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead impregnates the material nature with the living entities and then they come out. Therefore, the appearance of the individual living entities is not factually due to material nature alone, just as a child produced by a woman is not her independent production. A woman is first impregnated by a man, and then a child is produced. As such, the child produced by the woman is part and parcel of the man. Similarly, the living entities are apparently produced by the material nature, but not independently. It is due to the impregnation of the material nature by the supreme father that the living entities are present. Therefore the argument that the individual living entities are not parts and parcels of the Supreme cannot stand. For example, the different parts of the body cannot be taken as equal to the whole; rather, the whole body is the controller of the different limbs. Similarly, the parts and parcels of the supreme whole are always dependent and are always controlled by the source of the parts and parcels. It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā that the living entities are parts and parcels of Kṛṣṇa: mamaivāṁśaḥ. No sane man, therefore, will accept the theory that the Supersoul and the individual soul are of the same category. They are equal in quality, but quantitatively the Supersoul is always the Supreme, and the individual soul is always subordinate to the Supersoul. That is the conclusion of the Vedas.
The significant word used in this connection is yan-maya, or cin-maya. In Sanskrit grammar, the word mayaṭ is used in the sense of “transformation,” and also in the sense of “sufficiency.” The Māyāvādī philosophers interpret that the word yan-maya, or cin-maya, indicates that the living entity is always equal to the Supreme. But one has to consider whether this affix, mayaṭ, is used for “sufficiency” or for “transformation.” The living entity never possesses anything exactly in the same proportion as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, this mayaṭ affix cannot be used to mean that the individual living entity is sufficient. The individual living entity never has sufficient knowledge; otherwise, how could he have come under the control of māyā, or the material energy? The word “sufficient” can be accepted, therefore, only in proportion to the magnitude of the living entity. The spiritual oneness of the Supreme Lord and the living entities is never to be accepted as homogeneity. Each and every living entity is individual. If homogeneous oneness is accepted, then by the liberation of one individual soul, all other individual souls would have been liberated immediately. But the fact is that every individual soul is differently enjoying and suffering in the material world.
As mentioned above, the word mayaṭ is also used in the sense of “transformation”; sometimes it is also used to mean “by-product.” The impersonalist theory is that Brahman Himself has accepted different types of bodies and that this is His līlā, or pastime. There are, however, many hundreds and thousands of species of life in different standards of living conditions, such as human beings, demigods, animals, birds and beasts, and if all of them were plenary expansions of the Supreme Absolute Truth, then there would be no question of liberation, because Brahman would already be liberated. Another interpretation put forward by the Māyāvādīs is that in every millennium different types of bodies are manifest, and when the millennium is closed all the different bodies or expansions of Brahman automatically become one, ending all different manifestations. Then in the next millennium, according to this theory, Brahman again expands in different bodily forms. If we accept this theory, then Brahman becomes subject to change. But this cannot be accepted. From the Vedānta-sūtra we understand that Brahman is by nature joyful. He cannot, therefore, change Himself into a body which is subject to so many painful conditions. Actually, the living entities are infinitesimal parts and parcels of Brahman, and as such they are prone to be covered by the illusory energy. As explained before, the particles of Brahman are like sparks blissfully dancing within a fire, but there is a chance of their falling from the fire to smoke, although smoke is another condition of fire. This material world is just like smoke, and the spiritual world is like a blazing fire. The innumerable living entities are prone to fall down to the material world from the spiritual world when influenced by the illusory energy, and it is also possible for the living entity to be liberated again when by cultivation of real knowledge he becomes completely freed from the contamination of the material world.
The theory of the asuras is that the living entities are born of material nature, or prakṛti, in touch with the puruṣa. This theory also cannot be accepted, because both the material nature and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are eternally existing. Neither the material nature nor the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be born. The Supreme Lord is known as aja, or unborn. Similarly, the material nature is called ajā. Both these terms, aja and ajā, mean “unborn.” Because both the material nature and the Supreme Lord are unborn, it is not possible that they can beget the living entities. But it is accepted in the Vedic literature that as water in contact with air sometimes presents innumerable bubbles, so a combination of the material nature and the Supreme Person causes the appearance of the living entities within this material world. As bubbles in the water appear in different shapes, the living entities also appear in the material world in different shapes and conditions, influenced by the modes of material nature. As such, it is not improper to conclude that the living entities appearing within this material world in different shapes, such as human beings, demigods, animals, birds and beasts, all get their respective bodies due to different desires. No one can say when such desires were awakened in them, and therefore it is said, anādi-karma: the cause of such material existence is untraceable. No one knows when material life began, but it is a fact that it does have a point of beginning because originally every living entity is a spiritual spark. As a spark’s falling onto the ground from a fire has a beginning, so a living entity’s coming to this material world has a beginning, but no one can say when. Even though during the time of dissolution all the conditioned living entities remain merged within the spiritual existence of the Lord, as if in deep sleep, their original desires to lord it over the material nature do not subside. Again, when there is cosmic manifestation, they come out to fulfill the same desires, and therefore they appear in different species of life.
The living entities merged into the Supreme at the time of dissolution are compared to honey. In the honeycomb, the tastes of different flowers are conserved. When one drinks honey, one cannot distinguish what sort of honey has been collected from what sort of flower, but the palatable taste of the honey presupposes that the honey is not homogeneous but is a combination of different tastes. Another example is that although different rivers ultimately mix with the water of the sea, this does not mean that the individual identities of the rivers are thereby lost. Although the water of the Ganges and the water of the Yamunā mix with the water of the sea, the river Ganges and river Yamunā still continue to exist independently. The merging of different living entities into Brahman at the time of dissolution involves the dissolution of different types of bodies, but the living entities, along with their different tastes, remain individually submerged in Brahman until another manifestation of the material world. As the salty taste of seawater and the sweet taste of Ganges water are different and this difference continuously exists, so the difference between the Supreme Lord and the living entities continuously exists, even though at the time of dissolution they appear to merge. The conclusion is, therefore, that even when the living entities become free from all contamination of material conditions and merge into the spiritual kingdom, their individual tastes in relationship with the Supreme Lord continue to exist.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, it is therefore our conclusion that all living entities are attracted by Your material energy, and only due to their mistakenly identifying themselves as products of the material nature are they transmigrating from one kind of body to another in forgetfulness of their eternal relationship with You. Because of ignorance, these living entities misidentify themselves in different species of life, and especially when elevated to the human form of life, they identify with a particular class of men, or a particular nation or race or so-called religion, forgetting their real identity as eternal servants of Your Lordship. Due to this faulty conception of life, they are undergoing repeated birth and death. Out of many millions of them, if one becomes intelligent enough by associating with pure devotees, he comes to the understanding of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and comes out of the jurisdiction of the material misconception.”
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is confirmed by Lord Caitanya that the living entities are wandering within this universe in different species of life, but that if one of them becomes intelligent enough, by the mercy of the spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, then he begins his devotional life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is said, hariṁ vinā na mṛtiṁ taranti: without the help of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot get out of the clutches of repeated birth and death. In other words, only the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, can relieve the conditioned souls from the cycle of repeated birth and death.
The personified Vedas continued: “The influence of time—past, present and future—and the material miseries, such as excessive heat, excessive cold, birth, death, old age and disease, are all simply the movements of Your eyebrows. Everything is working under Your direction.” It is said in the Bhagavad-gītā that all material activity is going on under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. The Vedas continued: “All the conditions of material existence are opposing elements for persons who are not surrendered unto You. But for those who are surrendered souls and are in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, these things cannot be a source of fear.” When Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva appeared, Prahlāda Mahārāja was never afraid of Him, whereas his atheist father was immediately faced with death personified and was killed. Therefore, although Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva appears as death for an atheist like Hiraṇyakaśipu, He is always kind and is the reservoir of all pleasure for the devotees like Prahlāda. A pure devotee is not, therefore, afraid of birth, death, old age and disease.
Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard, the meaning of which is as follows: “My dear Lord, I am a living entity perpetually disturbed by the conditions of material existence. I have been cracked to pieces by the smashing wheel of material existence, and because of my various sinful activities while existing in this material world, I am burning in the blazing fire of material reactions. Somehow or other, my dear Lord, I have come to take shelter under Your lotus feet. Please accept me and give me protection.” Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, also, prays like this: “My dear Lord, O son of Nanda Mahārāja, associated with the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu, I have come to take shelter under Your lotus feet after suffering greatly in the material condition of life, and I pray that You please be merciful upon me. Please do not kick me away, for I have no other shelter than You.”
The conclusion is that any process of self-realization or God realization other than bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is extremely difficult. Taking shelter of devotional service to the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness is therefore the only way to become free from the contamination of material, conditioned life, especially in this age. Those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are simply wasting their time, and they have no tangible proof of spiritual life.
It is said by Lord Rāmacandra, “I always give confidence and security to anyone who surrenders unto Me and decides definitely that He is My eternal servant, for that is My natural inclination.” Similarly, Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “The influence of the material nature is insurmountable, but anyone who surrenders unto Me can verily overcome the influence of material nature.” The devotees are not at all interested in arguing with the nondevotees to nullify their theories. Rather than wasting time, they always engage themselves in the transcendental loving service of the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, although great mystic yogīs may have full control over the elephant of the mind and the hurricane of the senses, unless they take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master they fall victim to the material influence and are never successful in their attempts at self-realization. Such unguided persons are compared to merchants going to sea on a ship without a captain.” By one’s personal attempts, therefore, one cannot get free from the clutches of material nature. One has to accept a bona fide spiritual master and work according to his direction. Then it is possible to cross over the nescience of material conditions. Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this connection, in which he says, “O all-merciful spiritual master, representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, when my mind will be completely surrendered unto your lotus feet, at that time, only by your mercy, I shall be able to get relief from all obstacles to spiritual life, and I shall be situated in blissful life.”
Actually, ecstatic samādhi, or absorption in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can be achieved by constant engagement in His service, and this constant engagement in devotional service can be performed only when one works under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. The Vedas therefore instruct that in order to know the science of devotional service one has to submit himself unto the bona fide spiritual master. The bona fide spiritual master is he who knows the science of devotional service in disciplic succession. This disciplic succession is called śrotriya. The prime symptom of one who has become a spiritual master in disciplic succession is that he is one hundred percent fixed in bhakti-yoga. Sometimes people neglect to accept a spiritual master, and instead they endeavor for self-realization by mystic yoga practice, but there are many instances of failure, even by great yogīs like Viśvāmitra. Arjuna said in the Bhagavad-gītā that controlling the mind is as impractical as stopping the blowing of a hurricane. Sometimes the mind is compared to a maddened elephant. Without following the direction of a spiritual master one cannot control the mind and the senses. In other words, if one practices yoga mysticism and does not accept a bona fide spiritual master, he will surely fail. He will simply waste his valuable time. The Vedic injunction is that no one can have full knowledge without being under the guidance of an ācārya. Ācāryavān puruṣo veda: one who has accepted an ācārya knows what is what. The Absolute Truth cannot be understood by arguments. One who has attained the perfect brahminical stage naturally becomes renounced; he does not strive for material gain because by spiritual knowledge he has come to the conclusion that in this world there is no insufficiency. Everything is sufficiently provided by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A real brāhmaṇa, therefore, does not endeavor for material perfection; rather, he approaches a bona fide spiritual master to accept orders from him. A spiritual master’s qualification is that he is brahma-niṣṭha, which means that he has given up all other activities and has dedicated his life to working only for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. When a bona fide student approaches a bona fide spiritual master, he submissively prays to the spiritual master, “My dear lord, kindly accept me as your student and train me in such a way that I will be able to give up all other processes of self-realization and simply engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, devotional service.”
The devotee engaged by the direction of the spiritual master in the transcendental loving service of the Lord contemplates as follows: “My dear Lord, You are the reservoir of pleasure. Since You are present, what is the use of the transient pleasure derived from society, friendship and love? Persons unaware of the supreme reservoir of pleasure falsely engage in deriving pleasure from sense gratification, but this is transient and illusory.” In this connection, Vidyāpati, a great Vaiṣṇava devotee and poet, says, “My dear Lord, undoubtedly there is some pleasure in the midst of society, friendship and love, although it is materially conceived, but such pleasure cannot satisfy my heart, which is like a desert.” In a desert there is need of an ocean of water. But if only a drop of water is poured on the desert, what is the value of such water? Similarly, our material hearts are full of multidesires, which cannot be fulfilled by materialistic society, friendship and love. When our hearts begin to derive pleasure from the supreme reservoir of pleasure, then we can be satisfied. That transcendental satisfaction is possible only in devotional service, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, You are sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (BS 5.1), the ever-blissful form of knowledge, and because the living entities are parts and parcels of Your personality, their natural state of existence is to be fully conscious of You. In this material world, anyone who has developed such Kṛṣṇa consciousness is no longer interested in the materialistic way of life. A Kṛṣṇa conscious being becomes uninterested in family life, where there is some concession for sense enjoyment. In other words, he is no longer interested in sense gratification. The perfection of human life is based on knowledge and renunciation, but it is very difficult to attempt to reach the stage of knowledge and renunciation while in family life. Kṛṣṇa conscious persons therefore take shelter of the association of devotees or sanctified places of pilgrimage. Such persons are aware of the relationship between the Supersoul and the individual living entities, and they are never in the bodily concept of life. Because they always carry You in full consciousness within their hearts, they are so purified that any place they go becomes a holy place of pilgrimage, and the water which washes their feet is able to deliver many sinful persons loitering within this material world.”
When Prahlāda Mahārāja was asked by his atheistic father to describe something very good which he had learned, he replied to his father, “For a materialistic person who is always full of anxieties due to being engaged in temporary and relative truths, the best course is to give up the blind well of family life and go to the forest to take shelter of the Supreme Lord.” Those who are actually pure devotees are celebrated as mahātmās, or great sages, personalities perfect in knowledge. They always think of the Supreme Lord and His lotus feet, and thus they automatically become liberated. Devotees who are always situated in that position become electrified by the inconceivable potencies of the Lord, and thus they themselves become the source of liberation for their followers and devotees. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is fully electrified spiritually, and therefore anyone who touches or takes shelter of such a pure devotee becomes similarly electrified with spiritual potencies. Such devotees are never puffed up with material opulences. Generally, the material opulences are good parentage, education, beauty and riches, but although a devotee of the Lord may possess all four of these material opulences, he is never carried away by the pride of possessing such distinctions. Great devotees of the Lord travel all over the world from one place of pilgrimage to another, and on their way they meet many conditioned souls and deliver them by their association and distribution of transcendental knowledge. They generally reside in places like Vṛndāvana, Mathurā, Dvārakā, Jagannātha Purī and Navadvīpa because only devotees assemble in such places. In this way they give saintly association to one another and thus advance. So that every living entity can take advantage of the association of Kṛṣṇa conscious persons, such great devotees open temples and āśramas where Kṛṣṇa’s devotees assemble. By such association, people can develop more and more in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such advancement is not possible in ordinary household life, which is devoid of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, there are two classes of transcendentalists, the impersonalists and the personalists. The opinion of the impersonalists is that this material manifestation is false and that only the Absolute Truth is factual. The view of the personalists, however, is that the material world, although very temporary, is nevertheless not false but factual. Such transcendentalists have different arguments to establish the validity of their philosophies. Factually, the material world is simultaneously both truth and untruth. It is truth because everything is an expansion of the Supreme Absolute Truth, and it is untruth because the existence of the material world is temporary: it is created, and it is annihilated. Because of its different conditions of existence, the cosmic manifestation has no fixed position.” Those who advocate acceptance of this material world as false are generally known by the maxim brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā. They put forward the argument that everything in the material world is prepared from matter. For example, there are many things made of clay, such as earthen pots, dishes and bowls. After their annihilation, these things may be transformed into many other material objects, but in all cases their existence as clay continues. An earthen water jug, after being broken, may be transformed into a bowl or dish, but either as a dish, bowl or water jug, the earth itself continues to exist. Therefore, the forms of a water jug, bowl or dish are false, but their existence as earth is real. This is the impersonalists’ version. This cosmic manifestation is certainly produced from the Absolute Truth, but because its existence is temporary, it is false; the impersonalists’ understanding is that the Absolute Truth, which is always present, is the only truth. In the opinion of other transcendentalists, however, this material world, being produced of the Absolute Truth, is also truth. The impersonalists argue that this is fallacious because it is sometimes found that matter is produced from spirit soul and sometimes that spirit soul is produced from matter. Such philosophers push forward the argument that although cow dung is dead matter, sometimes it is found that scorpions come out of cow dung. Similarly, dead matter like nails and hair comes out of the living body. Therefore, things produced of a certain thing are not always of the same quality as that thing. On the strength of this argument, Māyāvādī philosophers try to establish that although this cosmic manifestation is certainly an emanation from the Absolute Truth, the cosmic manifestation does not necessarily have truth in it. According to this view, the Absolute Truth, Brahman, should therefore be accepted as truth, whereas the cosmic manifestation, although a product of the Absolute Truth, cannot be taken as truth.
The view of the Māyāvādī philosopher, however, is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā to be the view of the asuras, or demons. The Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā, asatyam apratiṣṭhaṁ te jagad āhur anīśvaram / aparaspara-sambhūtaṁ kim anyat kāma-haitukam: (BG 16.8) “The asuras’ view of this cosmic manifestation is that the whole creation is false. The asuras think that the mere interaction of matter is the source of the creation and that there is no controller or God.” But actually this is not the fact. From the Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā we understand that the five gross elements—earth, water, fire, air and sky—plus the subtle elements—mind, intelligence and false ego—are the eight separated energies of the Supreme Lord. Beyond this inferior, material energy is a spiritual energy, known as the living entities. The living entities are accepted as the superior energy of the Lord. The whole cosmic manifestation is a combination of the inferior and superior energies, and the source of the energies is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has many different types of energies. This is confirmed in the Vedas: parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate (CC Madhya 13.65, purport). “The transcendental energies of the Lord are variegated.” And because such varieties of energies have emanated from the Supreme Lord, they cannot be false. The Lord is ever-existing, and the energies are ever-existing. Some of the energy is temporary—sometimes manifested and sometimes unmanifested—but this does not mean that it is false. The example may be given that when a person is angry he does things which are different from his normal condition of life, but the fact that the mood of anger appears and disappears does not mean that the energy of anger is false. As such, the argument of the Māyāvādī philosophers that this world is false is not accepted by the Vaiṣṇava philosophers. The Lord Himself confirms that the view that there is no supreme cause of this material manifestation, that there is no God, and that everything is only the creation of the interaction of matter is a view of the asuras. The Māyāvādī philosopher sometimes puts forward the argument of the snake and the rope. In the dark of evening, a curled-up rope is sometimes, due to ignorance, taken for a snake. But mistaking the rope for a snake does not mean that the rope or the snake is false, and therefore this example, used by the Māyāvādīs to illustrate the falsity of the material world, is not valid. When a thing is taken as fact but actually has no existence at all, it is called false. But if something is mistaken for something else that exists, that does not mean it is false. The Vaiṣṇava philosophers use a very appropriate example, comparing this material world to an earthen pot. When we see an earthen pot, it does not at once disappear and turn into something else. It may be temporary, but the earthen pot is taken into use for bringing water, and we continue to see it as an earthen pot. Therefore, although the earthen pot is temporary and different from the original earth, we cannot say that it is false. We should therefore conclude that the earthen pot and the entire earth are both truths because one is the product of the other. We understand from the Bhagavad-gītā that after the dissolution of this cosmic manifestation, the material energy enters into the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is ever-existing with His varied energies. Because the material creation is an emanation from Him, we cannot say that this cosmic manifestation is a product of something void. Kṛṣṇa is not void. Whenever we speak of Kṛṣṇa, He is present with His form, qualities, name, entourage and paraphernalia. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa is not impersonal. The original cause of everything is neither void nor impersonal but is the Supreme Person. Demons may say that this material creation is anīśvara, without a controller or God, but such arguments ultimately cannot stand.
The example given by the Māyāvādī philosophers that inanimate matter like nails and hair comes from the living body is not a very sound argument. Nails and hair are undoubtedly inanimate, but they come not from the animate living being but from the inanimate material body. Similarly, the argument that the scorpion comes from cow dung, meaning that a living entity comes from matter, is also unsound. The scorpion which comes out of the cow dung is certainly a living entity, but the living entity does not come out of the cow dung. Only the living entity’s material body, or the body of the scorpion, comes out of the cow dung. The sparks of the living entities, as we understand from the Bhagavad-gītā, are injected into material nature, and then they come out. The body of the living entity in different forms is supplied by material nature, but the living entity himself is supplied by the Supreme Lord. The father and mother give the body necessary for the living entity under certain conditions. The living entity transmigrates from one body to another according to his different desires, which in the subtle form of intelligence, mind and false ego accompany him from body to body. By superior arrangement a living entity is put into the womb of a certain type of material body, and then he develops a similar body. Therefore, the spirit soul is not produced from matter; it takes on a particular type of body under superior arrangement. According to our present experience, this material world is a combination of matter and spirit. The spirit is moving the matter. The spirit soul (the living entity) and matter are different energies of the Supreme Lord, and since both the energies are products of the Supreme Eternal, or the Supreme Truth, they are factual, not false. Because the living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme, he exists eternally. Therefore, for him there cannot be any question of birth or death. So-called birth and death occur because of the material body. The Vedic version sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma means that since both the energies have emanated from the Supreme Brahman, everything we experience is nondifferent from Brahman.
There are many arguments about the existence of this material world, but the Vaiṣṇava philosophical conclusion is the best. The example of the earthen pot is very suitable: the form of the earthen pot may be temporary, but it has a specific purpose. The purpose of the earthen pot is to carry water from one place to another. Similarly, this material body, although temporary, has a special use. The living entity is given a chance from the beginning of the creation to evolve different kinds of material bodies according to the reserve desires he has accumulated from time immemorial. The human form of body is a special chance in which the developed form of consciousness can be utilized.
Sometimes the Māyāvādī philosophers push forward the argument that if this material world is truth, then why are householders advised to give up their connection with this material world and take sannyāsa? But the Vaiṣṇava philosopher’s view of sannyāsa is not that because the world is false one must therefore give up material activities. The purpose of Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa is to utilize things as they are intended to be utilized. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given transcendentalists two formulas for dealing with this material world. When a Vaiṣṇava renounces the materialistic way of life and takes to sannyāsa, it is not on the conception of the falsity of the material world but to devote himself fully to engaging everything in the service of the Lord. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī therefore gives this formula: “One should be unattached to the material world because material attachment is meaningless. The entire material world, the entire cosmic manifestation, belongs to God, Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, everything should be utilized for Kṛṣṇa, and the devotee should remain unattached to material things.” This is the purpose of Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa. A materialist sticks to the world for sense gratification, but a Vaiṣṇava sannyāsī, although not accepting anything for his personal sense gratification, knows the art of utilizing everything for the service of the Lord. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has therefore criticized the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs with his second formula: “Because the Māyāvādīs do not know that everything has a utilization for the service of the Lord, they take the world to be false and falsely think they are liberated from the contamination of the material world.” Since everything is an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Lord, the expansions are as real as the Supreme Lord is.
That the cosmic world is only temporarily manifested does not mean that it is false or that the source of its manifestation is false. Since the source of its manifestation is truth, the manifestation is also truth, but one must know how to utilize it. The example of the earthen pot may be cited again: the earthen pot produced from the whole earth is temporary, but when used for a proper purpose the earthen pot is not false. The Vaiṣṇava philosophers know how to utilize the temporary construction of this material world, just as a sane man knows how to utilize the temporary construction of the earthen pot. When the earthen pot is used for a wrong purpose, that is false. Similarly, the human body or the material world, when used for sense gratification, is false. But if the human body and the material creation are used for the service of the Supreme Lord, their activities are never false. It is therefore confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā that even slightly using the body and the material world for the service of the Lord can deliver a person from the gravest danger. When properly utilized, neither the superior nor inferior energies emanating from the Supreme Personality of Godhead are false.
As far as fruitive activities are concerned, they are mainly based on the platform of sense gratification. Therefore an advanced Kṛṣṇa conscious person does not take to them. The result of fruitive activities can elevate one to the higher planetary system, but as it is said in the Bhagavad-gītā, foolish persons, after exhausting the results of their pious activities in the heavenly kingdom, come back again to this lower planetary system and then again try to go to the higher planetary system. Their only profit is to take the trouble of going and coming back, just as at present many material scientists are spoiling their time by trying to go to the moon planet and again coming back. Those who are engaged in fruitive activities are described by the Vedas personified as andha-paramparā, or blind followers of the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. Although such ceremonies are certainly mentioned in the Vedas, they are not meant for the intelligent class of men. Men who are too much attached to material enjoyment are captivated by the prospect of being elevated to the higher planetary system, and so they take to such ritualistic activities. But persons who are intelligent, who have taken shelter of a bona fide spiritual master to see things as they are, do not take to fruitive activities but engage themselves in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
Persons who are not devotees take to the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies for materialistic reasons, and then they are bewildered. A vivid example may be given: an intelligent person possessing one million dollars in currency notes does not hold the money without using it, even though he knows perfectly well that the currency notes in themselves are nothing but paper. When one has one million dollars in currency notes, he is actually holding only a huge bunch of papers, but if he utilizes it for a purpose, then he benefits. Similarly, although this material world may be false, just like the paper, it has its proper beneficial utilization. Because the currency notes, although paper, are issued by the government, they have full value. Similarly, this material world may be false or temporary, but because it is an emanation from the Supreme Lord, it has its full value. The Vaiṣṇava philosopher acknowledges the full value of this material world and knows how to utilize it properly, whereas the Māyāvādī philosopher fails to do so, just as those who mistake a currency note for ordinary paper discard it and cannot utilize the money. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī therefore declares that if one rejects this material world as false, not considering the importance of this material world as a means to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, such renunciation has very little value. A person who knows the intrinsic value of this material world for the service of the Lord, who is not attached to the material world, and who renounces the material world by not accepting it for sense gratification is situated in real renunciation. This material world is an expansion of the material energy of the Lord. Therefore it is real. It is not false, as sometimes concluded from the example of the snake and the rope.
The personified Vedas continued: “The cosmic manifestation, because of the flickering nature of its impermanent existence, appears to less intelligent men to be false.” The Māyāvādī philosophers take advantage of the flickering nature of this cosmic manifestation to try to prove their thesis that this world is false. According to the Vedic version, before the creation this world had no existence, and after dissolution the world will no longer be manifested. Voidists also take advantage of this Vedic version and conclude that the cause of this material world is void. But the Vedic injunctions do not say that it is void. The Vedic injunctions define the source of creation and dissolution as yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante, “He from whom this cosmic manifestation has emanated and in whom, after annihilation, everything will merge.” The same is explained in the Vedānta-sūtra and in the first verse of the First Chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by the words janmādy asya yataḥ (SB 1.1.1), “He from whom all things emanate.” All these Vedic injunctions indicate that the cosmic manifestation is due to the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead and that when it is dissolved it merges into Him. The same principle is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: “The cosmic manifestation comes into existence and again dissolves, and after dissolution it merges into the existence of the Supreme Lord.” This statement definitely confirms that the particular energy known as bahir-aṅgā-māyā, or the external energy, although of flickering nature, is the energy of the Supreme Lord, and as such it cannot be false. It simply appears false. The Māyāvādī philosophers conclude that because the material nature has no existence in the beginning and is nonexistent after dissolution, it is false. But by the example of the earthen pots and dishes the Vedic version is presented: although the existence of the particular by-products of the Absolute Truth is temporary, the energy of the Supreme Lord is permanent. The earthen pot or water jug may be broken or transformed into another shape, such as that of a dish or bowl, but the ingredient, or the material basis, namely the earth, continues to be the same. The basic principle of the cosmic manifestation is always the same: Brahman, or the Absolute Truth; therefore, the Māyāvādī philosophers’ theory that it is false is certainly only a mental concoction. That the cosmic manifestation is flickering and temporary does not mean that it is false. The definition of falsity is “that which never had any existence but which exists only in name.” For instance, the eggs of a horse or the horn of a rabbit or the flower in the sky are phenomena which exist only in name. There are no horse’s eggs, there is no rabbit’s horn, and there are no flowers growing in the sky. There are many things which exist in name or imagination but actually have no factual manifestation. Such things may be called false. But the Vaiṣṇava cannot take this material world to be false simply because of its temporary nature, its manifesting and again dissolving.
The personified Vedas continued by saying that the Supersoul and the individual soul, or Paramātmā and jīvātmā, cannot be equal in any circumstance, although both of them sit within the same body, like two birds sitting in the same tree. As declared in the Vedas, these two birds, although sitting as friends, are not equal. One is simply a witness. This bird is Paramātmā, or the Supersoul. And the other bird is eating the fruit of the tree. That is the jīvātmā. When there is cosmic manifestation, the jīvātmā, or the individual soul, appears in the creation in different forms, according to his previous fruitive activities, and due to his long forgetfulness of real existence, he identifies himself with a particular form awarded to him by the laws of material nature. After assuming a material form, he is subjected to the three material modes of nature and acts accordingly to continue his existence in the material world. While he is enwrapped in such ignorance, his natural opulences become almost extinct. The opulences of the Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, are not diminished, although He appears within this material world. He maintains all opulences and perfections in full while keeping Himself apart from all the tribulations of this material world. The conditioned soul becomes enwrapped in the material world, whereas the Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, leaves it without being affected, just as a snake sheds his skin. The distinction between the Supersoul and the conditioned individual soul is that the Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, maintains His natural opulences, known as ṣaḍ-aiśvarya, aṣṭa-siddhi and aṣṭa-guṇa.
Because of their poor fund of knowledge, the Māyāvādī philosophers forget the fact that Kṛṣṇa is always full with six opulences, eight transcendental qualities and eight kinds of perfection. The six opulences are wealth, strength, beauty, fame, knowledge and renunciation. No one is greater than or equal to Kṛṣṇa in these six opulences. The first of Kṛṣṇa’s eight transcendental qualities is that He is always untouched by the contamination of material existence. This is mentioned in the Īśopaniṣad: apāpa-viddham. Just as the sun is never polluted by any contamination, the Supreme Lord is never polluted by any sinful activity. Although Kṛṣṇa’s actions may sometimes seem impious, He is never polluted by such actions. The second transcendental quality is that Kṛṣṇa never dies. In the Bhagavad-gītā, Fourth Chapter, He informs Arjuna that both He and Arjuna had many appearances in this material world, but that He alone remembers all such activities—past, present and future. This means that He never dies. Forgetfulness is due to death. As we die, we change our bodies and forget. Kṛṣṇa, however, is never forgetful. He can remember everything that has happened in the past. Otherwise, how could He remember that He first taught the yoga system of the Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god, Vivasvān? Therefore, He never dies. Nor does He ever become an old man. Although Kṛṣṇa was a great-grandfather when He appeared on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, He did not appear like an old man. Kṛṣṇa cannot be polluted by any sinful activity, Kṛṣṇa never dies, Kṛṣṇa never becomes old, Kṛṣṇa is never subject to lamentation, Kṛṣṇa is never hungry, and He is never thirsty. Whatever He desires is perfectly lawful, and whatever He decides cannot be changed by anyone. These are the eight transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa. Besides that, Kṛṣṇa is known as Yogeśvara. He has all the opulences or facilities of mystic powers, such as aṇimā-siddhi, the power to become smaller than the smallest. It is stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā that Kṛṣṇa has entered even within the atom (aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham (BS 5.35)). Similarly, Kṛṣṇa, as Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, is within the gigantic universe, and He is lying in the Causal Ocean as Mahā-Viṣṇu, in a body so gigantic that when He exhales, millions and trillions of universes emanate from His body. This is called mahimā-siddhi. Kṛṣṇa also has the perfection of laghimā: He can become the lightest. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that it is because Kṛṣṇa enters within this universe and within the atoms that all the planets are floating in the air. That is the explanation of weightlessness. Kṛṣṇa also has the perfection of prāpti: He can get whatever He likes. Similarly, He has the facility of īśitā, controlling power. He is called the supreme controller, Parameśvara. In addition, Kṛṣṇa can bring anyone under His influence. This is called vaśitā.
In this way, Kṛṣṇa is endowed with all opulences, transcendental qualities and mystic powers. No ordinary living being can compare to Him. Therefore, the Māyāvādīs’ theory that the Supersoul and the individual soul are equal is only a misconception. The conclusion is, therefore, that Kṛṣṇa is worshipable and that all other living entities are simply His servants. This understanding is called self-realization. Any other realization of one’s self beyond this relationship of eternal servitorship to Kṛṣṇa is impelled by māyā. It is said that the last snare of māyā is to dictate to the living entity to try to become equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Māyāvādī philosopher claims to be equal to God, but he cannot reply to the question of why he has fallen into material entanglement. If he is the Supreme God, then how is it that he has been overtaken by impious activities and thereby subjected to the tribulations of the law of karma? When the Māyāvādīs are asked about this, they cannot properly answer. The speculation that one is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is another symptom of sinful life. One cannot take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness unless one is completely freed from all sinful activities. The very fact that the Māyāvādī claims to be one with the Supreme Lord means that he is not yet freed from the reactions of sinful activities. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says that such persons are aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ (SB 10.2.32), which means that because they falsely think themselves liberated and at the same time think themselves equal with the Absolute Truth, their intelligence is not purified. The personified Vedas said that if the yogīs and the jñānīs do not free themselves from sinful desires, then their particular process of self-realization will never be successful.
“Dear Lord,” the personified Vedas continued, “if saintly persons do not take care to eradicate completely the roots of sinful desires, they cannot experience the Supersoul, although He is sitting side by side with the individual soul. Samādhi, or meditation, means that one has to find the Supersoul within himself. One who is not free from sinful reactions cannot see the Supersoul. If a person has a jeweled locket in his necklace but forgets the jewel, it is almost as though he does not possess it. Similarly, if an individual soul meditates but does not actually perceive the presence of the Supersoul within himself, his meditation is useless.” Persons who have taken to the path of self-realization must therefore be very careful to avoid contamination by the influence of māyā. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that a devotee should be completely free from all sorts of material desires. A devotee should not be affected by the results of karma and jñāna. One has to simply understand Kṛṣṇa and carry out His desires. That is the pure devotional stage. The personified Vedas continued: “Mystic yogīs who still have contaminated desires for sense gratification are never successful in their attempt, nor can they realize the Supersoul within the individual self. As such, the so-called yogīs and jñānīs who are simply wasting their time in different types of sense gratification, either by mental speculation or by exhibition of limited mystic powers, will never be liberated from conditioned life and will continue to go through repeated births and deaths. For such persons, both this life and the next life are sources of tribulation. Such sinful persons are already suffering tribulation in this life, and because they are not perfect in self-realization they will be plagued with further tribulation in the next life. Despite all endeavors to attain perfection, such yogīs, contaminated by desires for sense gratification, will continue to suffer in this life and the next.”
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura remarks in this connection that if sannyāsīs (persons in the renounced order of life, who have left their homes for self-realization) do not engage themselves in the devotional service of the Lord but become attracted by philanthropic work, such as opening educational institutions, hospitals or even monasteries, churches or temples of demigods, they find only trouble from such engagements, not only in this life but in the next. Sannyāsīs who do not take advantage of this life to realize Kṛṣṇa simply waste their time and energy in activities outside the jurisdiction of the renounced order. A devotee’s attempt to engage his energies in such activities as constructing a Viṣṇu temple, however, is never wasted. Such engagements are called kṛṣṇārthe akhila-ceṣṭā, variegated activities performed to please Kṛṣṇa. A philanthropist’s opening a school building and a devotee’s constructing a temple are not on the same level. Although a philanthropist’s opening an educational institution may be pious activity, it comes under the laws of karma, whereas constructing a temple for Viṣṇu is devotional service.
Devotional service is never within the jurisdiction of the law of karma. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate: (BG 14.26) “Devotees of the Personality of Godhead transcend all the reactions of the three modes of material nature and are situated on the transcendental platform of Brahman realization.” The devotees are liberated in both this life and the next. Any work done in this material world for Yajña (Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa) is considered to be liberated work, but without connection with Acyuta, the infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no possibility of stopping the resultant actions of the law of karma. The life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the life of liberation. The conclusion is that a devotee, by the grace of the Lord, is liberated in both this life and the next, whereas karmīs, jñānīs and yogīs are never liberated, either in this life or in the next.
The personified Vedas continued: “Dear Lord, anyone who by Your grace has understood the glories of Your lotus feet is callous to material happiness and distress.” The material pangs are inevitable as long as we exist within the material world, but a devotee does not divert his attention to such actions and reactions, which are the results of pious and impious activities. Nor is a devotee very much disturbed or pleased by praise or condemnation from people in general. A devotee is sometimes greatly praised because of his transcendental activities, and sometimes he is criticized, even though there is no reason for adverse criticism. The pure devotee, however, is always callous to praise or condemnation by ordinary people. Actually, the devotee’s activities are on the transcendental plane. He is not interested in the praise or condemnation of people engaged in material activities. If the devotee can thus maintain his transcendental position, his liberation in this life and the next is guaranteed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
A devotee’s transcendental position within this material world is maintained in the association of pure devotees, simply by hearing the glorious activities enacted by the Lord in different ages and in different incarnations. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is based on this principle. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has sung, “My dear Lord, let me be engaged in Your transcendental loving service, as indicated by the previous ācāryas, and let me live in the association of pure devotees. That is my desire, life after life.” In other words, a devotee does not much care whether or not he is liberated; he is eager only for devotional service. Devotional service means that one does not do anything independently of the sanction of the ācāryas. The actions of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are directed by the previous ācāryas, headed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī; in the association of devotees following these principles, a devotee is able to perfectly maintain his transcendental position.
In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that a devotee who knows Him perfectly is very dear to Him. Four kinds of pious men take to devotional service. If a pious man is in distress, he approaches the Lord for mitigation of his distress. If a pious man is in need of material help, he prays to the Lord for such help. If a pious man is actually inquisitive about the science of God, he approaches the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, a pious man who is simply eager to know the science of Kṛṣṇa also approaches the Supreme Lord. Out of these four classes of men, the last is praised by Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā. A person who tries to understand Kṛṣṇa with full knowledge and devotion by following in the footsteps of previous ācāryas conversant with scientific knowledge of the Supreme Lord is praiseworthy. Such a devotee can understand that all conditions of life, favorable and unfavorable, are created by the supreme will of the Lord. And when he has fully surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, he does not care whether his condition of life is favorable or unfavorable. A devotee takes even an unfavorable condition to be the special favor of the Personality of Godhead. Actually, there are no unfavorable conditions for a devotee. Knowing that everything is coming by the will of the Lord, he sees every condition as favorable, and in any condition of life he is simply enthusiastic to discharge his devotional service. This devotional attitude is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā: a devotee is never distressed in reverse conditions of life, nor is he overjoyed in favorable conditions. In the higher stages of devotional service, a devotee is not even concerned with the list of do’s and do not’s. Such a position can be maintained only by following in the footsteps of the ācāryas. Because a pure devotee follows in the footsteps of the ācāryas, any action he performs to discharge devotional service should be understood to be on the transcendental platform. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore instructs us that an ācārya is above criticism. A neophyte devotee should not consider himself to be on the same plane as the ācārya. It should be accepted that the ācāryas are on the same platform as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such neither Kṛṣṇa nor His representative ācārya should be subjected to any adverse criticism by the neophyte devotees.
The personified Vedas thus worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead in different ways. Offering worship to the Supreme Lord by praying means remembering His transcendental qualities, pastimes and activities. But the Lord’s pastimes and qualities are unlimited. It is not possible for us to remember all the qualities of the Lord. Therefore, the personified Vedas worshiped to the best of their ability, and at the end they spoke as follows.
“Dear Lord, although Lord Brahmā, the predominating deity of the highest planet, Brahmaloka, and King Indra, the predominating demigod of the heavenly planets, as well as the predominating deities of such planets as the sun and the moon, are all very confidential directors of this material world, they have very little knowledge about You. Then what can ordinary human beings and mental speculators know of You? It is not possible for anyone to enumerate the unlimited transcendental qualities of Your Lordship. No one, not even the mental speculators and the demigods in higher planetary systems, is actually able to estimate the length and breadth of Your form and characteristics. We think that even Your Lordship does not have complete knowledge of Your transcendental qualities. The reason is that You are unlimited. Although it is not befitting to say that You do not know Yourself, it is practical to understand that because You have unlimited qualities and energies and because Your knowledge is also unlimited, there is unlimited competition between Your knowledge and Your expansion of energies.”
The idea is that because God and His knowledge are both unlimited, as soon as God is cognizant of some of His energies, He perceives that He has still more energies. In this way, both His energies and His knowledge increase. Because both of them are unlimited, there is no end to the energies and no end to the knowledge with which to understand the energies. God is undoubtedly omniscient, but the personified Vedas say that even God Himself does not know the full extent of His energies. This does not mean that God is not omniscient. When an actual fact is unknown to a certain person, this is called ignorance or lack of knowledge. This is not applicable to God, however, because He knows Himself perfectly. But still, as His energies and activities increase, He also increases His knowledge to understand them. Both are increasing unlimitedly, and there is no end to it. In that sense it can be said that even God Himself does not know the limit of His energies and qualities.
How God is unlimited in His expansion of energies and activities can be roughly calculated by any sane and sober living entity. It is said in the Vedic literature that innumerable universes issue forth when Mahā-Viṣṇu exhales in His yoga-nidrā and that innumerable universes enter His body when He inhales. We have to imagine that these universes, which according to our limited knowledge are expanded unlimitedly, are so great that the gross and subtle ingredients—the five elements of the cosmic manifestation, namely earth, water, fire, air and sky, along with the total material energy and false ego—are not only within the universe but cover the universe in seven layers, each layer ten times bigger than the previous one. In this way, each and every universe is very securely packed, and there are numberless universes. All these universes float within the innumerable pores of the transcendental body of Mahā-Viṣṇu. It is stated that just as the atoms and particles of dust are floating within the air along with the birds and their number cannot be calculated, so innumerable universes are floating within the pores of the transcendental body of the Lord. For this reason, the Vedas say that God is beyond the grasp of our knowledge. Avāṅ-mānasa-gocara: to understand the length and breadth of God is beyond the jurisdiction of our mental speculation. Therefore, a person who is actually learned and sane does not claim to be God but tries to understand God, making distinctions between spirit and matter. By such careful discrimination, one can clearly understand that the Supreme Soul is transcendental to both the superior and inferior energies, although He has a direct connection with both. In the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa explains that although everything is resting on His energy, He is different or separate from the energy.
Nature and the living entities are sometimes designated as prakṛti and puruṣa respectively. The whole cosmic manifestation is an amalgamation of prakṛti and puruṣa. Nature is the ingredient cause, and the living entities are the effective cause. These two causes combine together, and the effect is this cosmic manifestation. When one is fortunate enough to come to the right conclusion about this cosmic manifestation and everything going on within it, he knows it to be caused directly and indirectly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. It is concluded in the Brahma-saṁhitā, therefore, īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ / anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam (BS 5.1). After much deliberation and consideration, when one has attained the perfection of knowledge, one comes to the conclusion that Kṛṣṇa, or God, is the original cause of all causes. Instead of speculating about the measurement of God—whether He is so long or so wide—or falsely philosophizing, one should come to the conclusion of the Brahma-saṁhitā: “Kṛṣṇa, or God, is sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam (BS 5.1), the cause of all causes.” That is the perfection of knowledge. Thus the Veda-stuti, or the prayers offered by the personified Vedas to Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, were first narrated in disciplic succession by Sanandana to his brothers, all of whom were born of Brahmā at the beginning of the universe. The four Kumāras were the first-born sons of Brahmā; therefore they are known as pūrva-jāta. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that the paramparā system, or the disciplic succession, begins with Kṛṣṇa Himself. Similarly, here, in the prayers of the personified Vedas, it is to be understood that the paramparā system begins with the Personality of Godhead Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi. We should remember that this Veda-stuti is narrated by Kumāra Sanandana, and the narration is repeated by Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi in Badarīkāśrama. Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi is the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa for showing us the path of self-realization by undergoing severe austerities. In this age Lord Caitanya demonstrated the path of pure devotional service by putting Himself in the role of a pure devotee. Similarly, in the past Lord Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi was an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa who performed severe austerities in the Himalayan ranges. Śrī Nārada Muni was hearing from Him. So in the statement given by Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi to Nārada Muni, as narrated by Kumāra Sanandana in the form of the Veda-stuti, it is understood that God is the one supreme and that all others are His servants.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is stated, ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa: (CC Ādi 5.142) “Kṛṣṇa is the only Supreme God.” Āra saba bhṛtya: “All others are His servants.” Yāre yaiche nācāya, se taiche kare nṛtya: “The Supreme Lord, as He desires, is engaging all the living entities in different activities, and thus they exhibit their different talents and tendencies.” This Veda-stuti is thus the original instruction regarding the relationship existing between the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The highest platform of realization for the living entity is the attainment of devotional life. One cannot be engaged in devotional life, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, unless one is fully free from material contamination. Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi informed Nārada Muni that the essence of all the Vedas and Vedic scriptures (namely, the four Vedas, the Upaniṣads, the Purāṇas and the Vedānta-sūtra) is to render transcendental loving service to the Lord. In this connection Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi has used one particular word—rasa. In devotional service this rasa is the via medium or the basic principle for the exchange of dealings between the Lord and the living entity. Rasa is also described in the Vedas: raso vai saḥ. “The Supreme Lord is the reservoir of all pleasure.” All the Vedic scriptures, including the Purāṇas, the Vedas, the Upaniṣads and the Vedānta-sūtra, teach the living entities how to attain the stage of rasa. The Bhāgavatam also says that the statements in the Mahā-Purāṇa (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam) constitute the essence (rasa) of all Vedic literature. Nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalam: (SB 1.1.3) the Bhāgavatam is the essence of the ripened fruit of the tree of the Vedic literature.
We understand that with the breathing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead there issued forth the four Vedas, namely the Ṛg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sāma Veda and the Atharva Veda, and also the histories like the Mahābhārata and all the Purāṇas, which are considered to be the history of the world. The Vedic histories like the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata are called the fifth Veda.
The twenty-eight verses of the Veda-stuti are to be considered the essence of all Vedic knowledge. The four Kumāras and all other authorized sages know perfectly that devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the essence of all Vedic literature, and they preach this on different planets, traveling in outer space. It is stated herein that such sages, including Nārada Muni, hardly ever travel on land; they perpetually travel in space.
Sages like Nārada and the Kumāras travel throughout the universe to educate the conditioned souls that their business in the world is not that of sense gratification but of reinstating themselves in their original position of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is stated in several places that the living entities are like sparks of the fire and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is like the fire itself. If the sparks somehow or other fall out of the fire, they lose their natural illumination; thus it is ascertained that the living entities come into this material world exactly as sparks fall from a great fire. The living entity wants to imitate Kṛṣṇa and tries to lord it over material nature in order to enjoy sense gratification; thus he forgets his original position, and his illuminating power, his spiritual identity, is extinguished. However, if a living entity takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is reinstated in his original position. To preach this process of devotional service, sages and saints like Nārada and the Kumāras travel all over the universe educating people and increasing their disciples. Their aim is that all the conditioned souls may be educated to revive their original consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and thus gain relief from the miserable conditions of material life.
Śrī Nārada Muni is a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī. There are four types of brahmacārīs. The first is called sāvitra, which refers to a brahmacārī who, after initiation and the sacred thread ceremony, must observe at least three days of celibacy. The next is called prājāpatya, which refers to a brahmacārī who strictly observes celibacy for at least one year after initiation. The next is called brāhma-brahmacārī, which refers to a brahmacārī who observes celibacy from the time of initiation up to the time of the completion of his study of the Vedic literature. The next stage is called naiṣṭhika, which refers to a brahmacārī who is celibate throughout his whole life. Out of these, the first three are upakurvāṇa, which means that the brahmacārī can marry later, after the brahmacārī period is over. The naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī, however, is completely reluctant to have any sex life; therefore the Kumāras and Nārada are known as naiṣṭhika-brahmacārīs. Such brahmacārīs are called vīra-vrata because their vow of celibacy is as heroic as the vows of the kṣatriyas. The brahmacārī system of life is especially advantageous in that it increases the power of memory and determination. It is specifically mentioned in this connection that because Nārada was a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī he could remember whatever he heard from his spiritual master and would never forget it. One who can remember everything perpetually is called a śruti-dhara. A śruti-dhara brahmacārī can repeat verbatim all that he has heard, without notes and without reference to books. The great sage Nārada has this qualification, and therefore, having taken instructions from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, he is engaged in propagating the philosophy of devotional service all over the world. Because such great sages can remember everything, they are thoughtful, self-realized and completely fixed in the service of the Lord.
Thus the great sage Nārada, after hearing from his spiritual master Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, became completely realized. He became established in the truth, and he became so happy that he offered prayers to Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi. Nārada Muni addressed Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi as an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa and specifically addressed Him as the supreme well-wisher of the conditioned souls. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that Lord Kṛṣṇa descends in every millennium just to give protection to His devotees and to annihilate the nondevotees. Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, being an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, is also addressed as the well-wisher of the conditioned souls. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, everyone should know that there is no well-wisher like Kṛṣṇa. Everyone should understand that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme well-wisher of everyone and should take shelter of Him. In this way one can become completely confident and satisfied, knowing that he has someone who is able to give him all protection. Kṛṣṇa Himself, His incarnations and His plenary expansions are all supreme well-wishers of the conditioned souls, but Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher even of the demons, for He gave salvation to all the demons who came to kill Him in Vṛndāvana; therefore Kṛṣṇa’s welfare activities are absolute, for whether He annihilates a demon or gives protection to a devotee, the result of His activities is one and the same. It is said that the demon Pūtanā was elevated to the same position as that of Kṛṣṇa’s mother. When Kṛṣṇa kills a demon, the demon is supremely benefited, as much as a pure devotee is benefited by always being protected by the Lord.
Nārada Muni, after offering respects to Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, went to the āśrama of Vyāsadeva, his disciple. Being properly received by Vyāsadeva in his āśrama and seated very comfortably, Nārada Muni narrated the entire story of what he had heard from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi. In this way Śukadeva Gosvāmī informed Mahārāja Parīkṣit of the answers to his questions regarding the essence of Vedic knowledge and what is considered to be the ultimate goal in the Vedas. The supreme goal of life is to achieve the transcendental blessings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus become engaged in the loving service of the Lord. One should follow in the footsteps of Śukadeva Gosvāmī and all the other Vaiṣṇavas in the disciplic succession and should pay respectful obeisances unto Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari. The four sects of Vaiṣṇava disciplic succession, namely the Madhva-sampradāya, the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, the Viṣṇu-svāmi-sampradāya and the Nimbārka-sampradāya, in pursuance of all Vedic conclusions, agree that one should surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Vedic literature is divided into two parts: the śrutis and the smṛtis. The śrutis are the four Vedas—Ṛg, Sāma, Atharva and Yajur—and the Upaniṣads, and the smṛtis are the Purāṇas and the Itihāsas like the Mahābhārata, which includes the Bhagavad-gītā. The conclusion of all these is that one should know Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Parama-puruṣa, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, under whose superintendence material nature works. For creation, maintenance and annihilation, the Supreme Lord incarnates into three—Lord Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu and Lord Śiva—after manifesting the material cosmos. All of these take charge of the three modes of material nature, but the ultimate direction is in the hand of Lord Viṣṇu. The complete activities of material nature under the three modes are conducted under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (mayādhyakṣeṇa (BG 9.10)) and in the Vedas (sa aikṣata).
The atheistic Sāṅkhyaite philosophers will of course offer their arguments that the material cosmic manifestation is due to prakṛti and puruṣa—material nature and the living entity, or the material cause and the effective cause. But Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes. He is the cause of both the material and the effective causes. Prakṛti and puruṣa are not the ultimate cause. Superficially it appears that a child is born due to the combination of the father and mother, but the ultimate cause of both the father and the mother is Kṛṣṇa. He is therefore the original cause, or the cause of all causes, as confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā.
Both the Supreme Lord and the living entities enter into the material nature. The Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, by one of His plenary expansions, manifests as Kāraṇodakaśāyī, Mahā-Viṣṇu, the gigantic Viṣṇu form lying in the Causal Ocean. Then from that gigantic form of Mahā-Viṣṇu, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu expands and enters into every universe. From Him, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva expand. Viṣṇu as Kṣīrodakaśāyī enters into the hearts of all living entities, as well as into all material elements, including the atom. The Brahma-saṁhitā says, aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham: (BS 5.35) “The Lord is within this universe and also within every atom.”
The living entity has a small material body taken in various species and forms, and similarly the whole universe is but the material body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This body is described in the śāstras as virāṭ-rūpa. As the individual living entity maintains his particular body, the Supreme Personality of Godhead maintains the whole cosmic creation, entering within it. As soon as the individual living entity leaves the material body, the body is immediately annihilated, and similarly as soon as Lord Viṣṇu leaves the cosmic manifestation, everything is annihilated. Therefore only when the individual living entity surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is his liberation from material existence possible. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā: mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te (BG 7.14). Surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and nothing else, is therefore the cause of liberation. How the living entity becomes liberated from the modes of material nature after surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is illustrated by the example of a sleeping man within a room. When a man is sleeping, everyone sees that he is present within the room, but actually the man himself is not within that body, for while sleeping a man forgets his bodily existence, although others may see that his body is present. Similarly, a liberated person engaged in devotional service to the Lord may be seen by others to be engaged in the household duties of the material world, but since his consciousness is fixed in Kṛṣṇa, he does not live within this world. His engagements are different, exactly as the sleeping man’s engagements are different from his bodily engagements. It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee engaged full time in the transcendental loving service of the Lord has already surpassed the influence of the three modes of material nature. He is already situated on the Brahman platform and is in the transcendental realm, although he appears to be living within the body or within the material world.
In this connection, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī states in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that the person whose only desire is to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead may be situated in any condition in the material world, but he is to be understood as jīvan-mukta; that is to say, he is to be considered liberated while living within the body or the material world. The conclusion, therefore, is that a person fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a liberated person. Such a person actually has nothing to do with his material body or the material world. Those who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are called karmīs and jñānīs, and they hover on the bodily and mental platforms and thus are not liberated. This situation is called kaivalya-nirasta-yoni. But a person situated on the transcendental platform is freed from the repetition of birth and death. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, Fourth Chapter: “Simply by knowing the transcendental nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, one becomes free from the chains of the repetition of birth and death, and after quitting his present body he goes back home, back to Godhead.” This is the conclusion of all the Vedas. Thus after understanding the prayers offered by the personified Vedas, one should surrender unto the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Eighty-seventh Chapter of Kṛṣṇa, "Prayers by the Personified Vedas."