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His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The Living Entities' Real Identity

A man's relationship with his sister's husband is based on his relationship with his sister. The brother-in-law, prior to his marriage with the sister, was a complete stranger to the man. And when their children become the man's nieces and nephews, his relationship with them is also based on his sister. Similar relationships grow up among races and nationalities, centering on the country of birth. Thus we have Indians, Bengalis, Punjabis, Germans, and so on. We also find relationships centering on religious beliefs. Thus there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and so on. But however much we might endeavor to adapt to such partial personalities of the self, and however we try to increase the number of these fractional identities, we will remain infinitesimal and partial. Being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, if we do not aspire to serve Him, then we forgo our actual identity and fall down into nescience. An appropriate parallel is the functioning of the body: If a limb refuses to execute its usual duty, it becomes useless to the body. Similarly, if our activities are not focused on Lord Kṛṣṇa, they are rendered impotent and valueless. The eternal constitutional position of the self is to serve the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. In fact, all our sufferings start from our refusal to act in our original capacity as Lord Kṛṣṇa's eternal servants. Therefore, the prime duty of all living entities is to become re-instated in their original, consitutional position. The first step toward that goal is to perform karma-yoga. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is stated, "The living entity is bound around the neck by the chain of māyā because he has forgotten that he is eternally a servant of Kṛṣṇa."

People in general are ignorant and addicted to fruitive activities. Without disturbing their minds, the karma-yogī can benefit them by explaining the truth about man's eternal position as Lord Kṛṣṇa's servant. Thus in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.26) Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs,

So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness].

It is very difficult to convince those who adhere to fruitive activities that they should render devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The reason is that most fruitive workers are foolish, fallen and impious. Therefore all their activities are whimsical and motivated by evil. Their intelligence and expertise are thus utilized in defiance of the Supreme Lord. They are totally in the grip of the illusory potency, māyā, and so they imagine themselves to be the Supreme Lord Himself, or at least His biggest competitor, like the demon Śiṣupāla. They simply try to enjoy this material world in various ways. In fact, their hopes for enjoying this world are just make—believe, or māyā, and this make-believe yearning leaves them hopelessly cheated. Yet they cannot give up the hope to enjoy. And when they realize that fruitive activities are futile and are more or less forced to renounce them, then such renunciation becomes merely another illusory scheme for a greater enjoyment.

Those who hanker after the fruits of their actions undertake many hardships in executing their work, their imagination wanders like an untethered bull, and all the while their mind dictates to them that they are the actual enjoyers. Therefore, without disrupting the minds of these foolish, perverted karmīs, the intelligent person should engage them in doing what they are expert in and using the fruits in Lord Kṛṣṇa's service. Such a course of action will automatically uncover the fruitive workers' eternal relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa. So, to instruct the people for their benefit, the servant of Kṛṣṇa, who is free from the reactions of fruitive activities, will lead a life seemingly like that of the fruitive workers, but actually he is all along performing karma-yoga.

Had not Lord Kṛṣṇa mercifully instructed the process of karma-yoga to His devotee Śrī Arjuna, the ignorant souls would have suffered miserably for all time. These wretched karmīs have the noose of māyā constantly wrapped around their necks and are living from one distress to another, but because the Lord's deluding potency covers their intelligence, they cannot understand any of this. However much they might pretend to be the controllers, they are being continuously goaded by māyā, who leaves them helpless and impotent. Lord Kṛṣṇa has explained this in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.27), "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

The foolish karmī cannot comprehend that because he has forgotten Lord Kṛṣṇa and is trying to usurp His position, the Lord's external potency, māyā, has tied a noose around his neck with the rope of the three modes of nature and is making him suffer excruciating pains. Although all of his activities are within the grip of the three modes of material nature and orchestrated by māyā, still the grossly foolish karmī believes that he is the master of his situation. Thus he busies himself with trying to make better arrangements for living in the world of duality.

Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs us that the living entities are His separated parts. The duty of the part is to serve the whole. A complete body has different parts and limbs, such as hands, legs, eyes, and ears. The hands and legs work the hardest, but they do not refuse to give food to the stomach, although the stomach does very little. On the other hand, if the hands and legs act contrarily and actually refuse to feed the stomach, then an impossible situation is created. There is no question of the hands and legs trying to enjoy in this situation, because the lack of food in the stomach will cause the hands and legs to become weak and useless. The book Hitopadeśa explains this point in detail in the story "The Belly and the Senses."

Lord Kṛṣṇa is like the life air and the soul of the massive body of the entire cosmos. In several places in the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa makes this point—that He is the origin and cause of everything. Especially notable are 7.7, "There is no truth superior to Me," and 9.24, "I am the only enjoyer and master of all sacrifices." Therefore, how can there still be any doubt that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord and that the living beings are His eternal servitors? We have forgotten this simple truth, and thus instead of using our mind and senses in the Supreme Lord's service, we ourselves are posing as little Supreme Lords and utilizing our mind and senses to enjoy this material world. This is māyā.

Nowadays, different societies are shooting up like mushrooms. One such society that has made its presence felt claims to have started a movement for establishing the ideal kingdom of Lord Rāmacandra. But the kingdom of Rāma it is propagating seems to be without Lord Rāma. Lord Rāma's biggest competitor was a demon named Rāvaṇa, and present-day descendants of Rāvaṇa are also busy trying to kill Lord Rāma. So, where is the question of wanting to usher in the golden age of Lord Rāma? If one is sincere about establishing the ideal kingdom of Lord Rāma, then everything in the world should be engaged in Lord Rāma's service. But the attempt to reduce the position and prestige of Lord Rāma is in fact an attempt to establish the tyrannical rule of Rāvaṇa, the demon king. And if such a mistake is committed, then Hanumān, the valiant and invincible servant of Lord Rāma, will have to come and rectify the situation by destroying the entire race of demons. In order to avoid this mistake at the outset, we must follow the path of karma-yoga taught by Lord Kṛṣṇa.

The karmīs are foolish and ignorant, whereas the karma-yogīs are wise and learned. These wise men know that the nature of the material modes and material activities is exactly opposite to that of the soul. For this reason the karma-yogīs never engage in material activities under the modes of material nature, as the karmīs do, but rather perform karma-yoga, which is meant to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu. Such wise men always keep themselves aloof from close association with this phenomenal world, for they aspire to elevate the soul to its original spiritual position. They understand that the soul has come into contact with matter only by a freak arrangement. Therefore, although their ears, eyes, and other senses are involved in this phenomenal world, the sages refrain from material activities. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.28),

One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed one, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results.

Then in Chapter 3.30-31, Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the means for achieving such a liberated state,

Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight. Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions.

Identifying the self with the material body and mind, or thinking that the soul is material, or thinking that everything in relation to the body belongs to oneself—such illusions keep a person ignorant and bereft of self-realization. Therefore Lord Kṛṣṇa advises us to be situated in knowledge of the self. When we become spiritually aware, we can understand that the "I," the self, is not the body or mind; we can realize that we are products of the superior, spiritual energy of the Supreme Lord and hence fully spiritual and eternal. With realization of these transcendental truths comes knowledge of the actual nature of the material energy in its pure form. And when these spiritual realizations gradually mature, one achieves a natural distance from the dualities of material nature. At this stage of spiritual development, the false ego is destroyed, all false identification and titles are removed, and we are liberated from the shackles of the illusory, material energy on the strength of our spiritual association with the Transcendence. No longer does māyā entangle us in material activities.

There are sufficient scriptural proofs to substantiate that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth. Even scriptures like the Bible or the Koran, declare that the Absolute Truth is the all-powerful, all knowing Supreme Person. Throughout the Vedic literature, that Supreme Person is declared to be Lord Kṛṣṇa. And in the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself says that He is the Absolute Truth. Thus simply by associating somehow with Lord Kṛṣṇa, we can become illuminated about the divine Self. When the sun rises in the morning, everything again becomes visible in the sunlight. Similarly, when the sun of Lord Kṛṣṇa rises on the horizon of the transcendental spiritual sky of our realization, the darkness of illusion is immediately extirpated. Then only does one become purified and radiant with pristine beauty.

These facts may sound exaggerated or mythical to a foolish man, but these are not fairy tales for little boys: they are the reality and the truth. Those who have taken shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa or His devotee can appreciate and fathom this subject matter. The only ones who will not accept this truth are those who are inimical toward Lord Kṛṣṇa and who want to be the Supreme Lord themselves because of a perverted mind. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.11), "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form." Such men are envious of the Lord. The truth about Lord Kṛṣṇa and His transcendental position can never enter such confused and deluded brains.