RTW 1.9

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Go-previous.png Renunciation Through Wisdom, 1. Bhagavāner-kathā - Knowledge of the Supreme
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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


In Praise of the Supreme Lord's Devotees

The pious and saintly Vaiṣṇavas understand the exact meaning of the Bhagavad-gītā. The simple message of the Gītā is self-illuminated like the sun. Its knowledge is not hidden under a gloomy shroud of impersonalism. There is actually no room for extracting some alternative meaning and then giving a so-called esoteric dissertation on it. The devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa alone can fully take to heart the instructions of the Gītā, and by acting accordingly they are liberated from the awesome and eternal enslavement of the cycle of karma. Such persons are not restricted to a particular country, race, or society. The Lord's devotees belong to a class of their own—they form a spiritual society unhindered by geographical conditions. God is not the monopoly of any particular group. Therefore the message of the Gītā, being universal can be followed by anyone and everyone. After all, it is in the Gītā (9.32) that Lord Kṛṣṇa has unconditionally declared,

O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas (merchants), as well as śūdras (workers)—can attain the Supreme destination.

The demons misinterpret the words of Lord Kṛṣṇa concerning caste and social division, and they act capriciously on that basis. But this cannot blemish Lord Kṛṣṇa or His words. In the Bhagavad-gītā (4.13) Lord Kṛṣṇa clearly says,

According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.

The four divisions of society—namely intellectuals, administrators, merchants, and laborers—should be determined not by birth but by merit, just as one becomes a doctor or a judge not by birthright but by merit alone. In this world of the three modes of material nature, social classes have always existed. Therefore a person's birth should never determine his caste or class in society. The four classes were created according to a person's qualifications.

Doctors are available in every country and society; similarly, the four classes of men are also present in every country and society. A son born to a doctor is not necessarily sure to grow up to be a doctor; similarly, the progeny of the four classes of society do not automatically fix their future career according to that of their parents. The scriptures describe in detail the divisions of society, with their inherent characteristics. Therefore we commit a serious mistake when we regard the different classes of men as belonging to particular countries or races. The Indian culture of today is restricted by the hereditary caste system and kept in the custody of narrow-minded people who are like frogs in a well. If instead India had spread the transcendental message of Bhagavad-gītā in the generous manner befitting a noble brāhmaṇa, then peace and tranquillity in this world would not be in such acutely short supply. By the propagation of brahminical culture, the world would have greatly prospered. Instead, the Vedic culture has been seriously maimed by the imposition of the hereditary caste system, and this has had grievously adverse effects on the world. The Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya has opened many avenues to peaceful living by propagating the brahminical culture, which He calls the religion of the soul. Those who are fortunate can emulate His life, follow His divine teachings, and perfect their lives.

Varṇāśrama-dharma, the system of four spiritual orders and four social orders of life, is of two kinds: demoniac and transcendental. They have nothing in common. The divisions of society mentioned in the scriptures are present at all times and in all lands. If one with knowledge of the scriptures scrutinizes the different societies, he can easily discern the four classes. Persons possessing brahminical or priestly qualities in varying degrees are seen in practically every society. In modern terms they are called intellectuals. All the other classes are also present. Therefore it is an established fact that the four divisions of society, according to merit, are, were, and will be present everywhere.

Those who think that brāhmaṇas and the other three castes exist only in Indian society are sadly mistaken. The scriptures have declared that in Kali-yuga everyone is born a śūdra, or a menial laborer, a member of the fourth class. Still, India has many persons endowed with high, brahminical characteristics, and without doubt such persons are also seen in every other country. Every country has these four classes of men, determined according merit. As a matter of a fact, even those who are less than śūdras—the caṇḍālas or dog-eaters—are eligible to perform devotional service. If a caṇḍāla becomes an elevated devotee of the Lord, then on the basis of his merit he should be respected by all other classes. There is much scriptural evidence in this regard: The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (10.91) states, "A devotee caṇḍāla achieves the same spiritual success as the devotee brāhmaṇa." And in the Bhāgavatam (7.9.10), Prahlāda Mahārāja says, "A devotee caṇḍāla is many times more elevated than an ordinary ritualistic brāhmaṇa." Indeed, such a devotee caṇḍāla can be the guru of the brāhmaṇas; this has been shown throughout history by many spiritual preceptors who were born in a low caste but who initiated persons of higher castes. So, the castes are classified according to merit and activity, but a pure devotee of the Lord is beyond all these classifications. He is transcendental to everything material. How can a person who is elevated beyond all castes, a saint, be adequately worshiped if he is worshiped only as a brāhmaṇa? Therefore one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the recipient of all good fortune in all countries and at all times. The Bhagavad-gītā mentions this in several places.

Whatever part of this world a person belongs to, if he follows the instructions of the Supreme Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā, then he attains the transcendental platform and can become even more elevated than a brāhmaṇa. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā (4.24),

A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.

This verse explains how one can attain spiritual knowledge by performing activities that please the Supreme Lord.

Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya propounded the impersonal theory, citing phrases like sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: "By nature everything is Brahman, spirit." Śaṅkarācārya's theory has caused great confusion about established scriptural conclusions, but this phrase clearly supports the Gītā verse quoted above.

At this point it is urgent that we discuss how one can perform devotional service for the Supreme Lord's pleasure. In this regard it is also noteworthy how saintly leaders like King Janaka executed karma-yoga, or devotional service, by performing sacrifice. The aim of all sacrifices should be to please the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. Contact with matter is unavoidable in our present conditioned state, because while performing activities to sustain the body and to accomplish other purposes, we become intimate with material nature. But if we can spiritualize these activities by performing every one of them as a service to Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, then these activities become yajña, or sacrifice. When the Vedic phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma is interpreted in this way, it is acceptable. In other words, when one invokes the spiritual or transcendental or absolute in everything, then matter loses its mundaneness, and then only can one realize the perfect meaning of the phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. The Vaiṣṇavas say that anything connected with the Lord in devotional service is transcendental. In other words, it is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord Himself, Mādhava. Just as iron in long and constant touch with fire loses the characteristics of iron and becomes fiery, so everything offered in sacrifice to the Absolute, or the Transcendence, becomes absolute, or transcendental.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness." This verse unequivocally declares that Brahman is Lord Kṛṣṇa's bodily effulgence. Since Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of Brahman, devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa establishes the true meaning of sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A sacrifice is properly performed only when all the sacrificial ingredients—the offerings, the fire, the ghee, and so on—become spiritualized, or reach the stage of Brahman, by their contact with Lord Kṛṣṇa. And since the performance of sacrifice culminates in the manifestation of real love for Lord Viṣṇu, loving devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu is the very best form of sacrifice. Such a stage can be also described as total absorption in Brahman.

Persons who act in this way become progressively detached from matter and attached to Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotional service. Thus they are able to purify the mirror of their hearts, extinguish the forest fire of material existence, and become situated in their original, spiritual position. They exist at a level of realization far above the impersonal realization of the Absolute, for they are free from the contamination of vainly trying to merge with the Supreme and usurping His Absolute position. They never fall from this stage of consciousness. Fully absorbed in their own transcendental identity, they are the complete masters of their senses. They are the perfect persons to rule this universe, if they so desire, and they alone bring good fortune to everyone. The conditioned souls, however, are unable to benefit the world in any way. The purified, rare souls continuously perform karma-yoga and are always in a liberated state. In the Bhagavad-gītā (5.7) it is stated,

One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.

There are those who live and act in a manner exactly opposite to that of the pure souls, who are constantly acting in karma-yoga. Such fruitive workers have no connection with the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, they cannot cleanse their heart of material contamination. They are slaves of their sensual urges, spending their time in gratifying their senses according to their whims. Yet they shamelessly say that all their actions are prompted by the Supreme Lord. Being cheaters and atheists, they speak like this so that their impious acts may be acceptable, and thus they inflict untold misfortunes and calamities on the world. By contrast, the pure, self-realized souls are constantly absorbed in serving Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet with their body, mind, and words. They never associate with atheistic people. These saintly persons know that although the spirit soul is infinitesimal, it is nevertheless endowed with minute free will at all times. The Supreme Lord is absolutely independent and can exercise absolute free will over all; because the spirit soul is qualitatively the same as the Supreme Lord, the Lord does not annul his minute free will.

The spirit soul unfortunately misuses this God-given minute free will and falls into the dark well of nescience and illusion. Once the spirit soul takes shelter of māyā, the illusory material energy, he develops the material qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. The spirit soul loses his original characteristics and develops a new nature, which is controlled by the three modes of material nature, and this continues until such time as he transcends them. His actions are prompted accordingly. If it happened in any other way, then material variegatedness would not be visible in this phenomenal world. So if a person fails to inform himself about the very subtle laws and workings of material nature, and at the same time he argues that all activities are sanctioned and inspired by the Supreme Lord, then he is reducing the Supreme Lord's position and making Him out to be partial and unjust. The Lord never favors one and discriminates against another. Factually, He advises everyone to give up all material activities, which are by nature unstable and temporary. Because of forgetfulness of God, a man becomes an eternal victim of ignorance, which then colours all his actions. The Bhagavad-gītā (5.14) says,

The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.

Therefore all activities except those performed as a sacrifice to Lord Viṣṇu are whimsical actions done of one's own volition. They are not performed under the Supreme Lord's direction or sanction. Since such activities stem from the material modes of nature, they are automatically under nature's total control. The Supreme Lord is merely an impartial and silent witness to such activities.

The actions of the karma-yogī, or devotee, are always connected with the Absolute Truth. Hence the devotee remains situated on the transcendental platform, far beyond the mundane sphere. In such a realized position, he does not see this material creation as separate from the Supreme Lord but as a transformation of His energy. Such perceptions are unhindered by the material modes of nature. Indeed, the karma-yogī's realization of everything's inherent connection with Lord Kṛṣṇa is equipoised and transcendental. The Gītā (5.18) states, "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]." The brāhmaṇa endowed with such learning is primarily in the material mode of goodness. Among the animals, the cow is also in the mode of goodness; elephants, lions, and so on, are situated primarily in the mode of passion; dogs and some humans (such as the caṇḍālas and other outcastes) are in the mode of ignorance. The karma-yogīs, who are always meditating on the Supreme, never see these outer coverings of the soul, but rather the pure soul proper. This is true equal vision in relation to the Supreme. The karma-yogīs perceive that all elements and objects in this world are materials for the Supreme Lord's worship and that all living entities are eternal servitors of Lord Kṛṣṇa. One attains the purest stage of equal vision when one ceases to take into consideration the outer covering of the soul, the body, but rather is established in the soul's innate nature of serving the Lord. In this stage one engages all things in devotional service to the Supreme Lord by using them as ingredients for sacrifice to please Lord Viṣṇu.

The karma-yogī knows that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the only enjoyer and exploiter of all material objects and that He is the only Lord and master of all living entities. Forgetful of this relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa, the living entity falls into the clutches of māyā, or illusion. Under the influence of māyā, he tries in vain to act the part of an enjoyer or a renouncer—but this is all a mere fantasy. In fact, the real affliction of the living entity is the pretense he is the enjoyer or renouncer. All types of good and pious activities—like yoga, the cultivation of knowledge, austerity, and renunciation—are misapplied labor if they cannot kindle in the heart the flame of loving attraction for topics relating to the Supreme Lord. As Lord Kṛṣṇa declares in the Bhagavad-gītā (5.29),

A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.

Earlier in this book we discussed the need for performing work as sacrifice, and now from this verse the truth that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Person, the enjoyer of all sacrifices, comes out with clarity. It must be understood that the results of sacrifice performed by the karma-yogīs, as well as the austerities of the knowledge-seekers, are all meant to be enjoyed by Lord Kṛṣṇa alone. The object of the yogīs' meditation, the Supersoul within the heart, is actually a partial expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa. We will discuss this subject matter in detail later in this book.

Lord Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher of the followers of all the different disciplines—karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, aṣṭānga-yoga (meditation), and bhakti-yoga. And because Lord Kṛṣṇa is the well-wisher of everyone, He sends His close associates to the world to establish proper religious teachings in every millennium. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme master of all the planets, the original Lord, and the cause of all causes. The only path to peace is the path of gradual elevation in karma-yoga, leading to realization of the Absolute Truth, Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Those who are already executing their work for the satisfaction of Lord Kṛṣṇa are not required to separately perform sacrifices, austerities, or meditation, that are not on the platform of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Previously we explained that a pure karma-yogī is automatically a brāhmaṇa, sannyāsī, and a yogī. Like a karmī, or fruitive worker, he is expert in performing sacrifices and executing his duties; like a jñānī, or seeker of knowledge, he is renounced and austere; and like a yogī, he is also detached from the fruits of his work and has brought his senses under control. One who is completely detached from all fruitive work and has become attracted to the Supreme Lord and His loving devotional service is simultaneously ornamented with all good qualities. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.1),

One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.

Since the karma-yogī knows that the ultimate enjoyer of the fruits of all his activities is Lord Kṛṣṇa, he does not hanker after those fruits and is fully detached from them. He always thinks of doing everything for Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such an unattached karma-yogī never thinks that action in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant for enjoying sense pleasure or avoiding pain. The sannyāsī renounces everything, including activities prescribed by the scriptures, in favor of cultivating knowledge of the Absolute. The yogī retires from active service and, desiring to see the Supersoul within his heart, spends his days in meditation with half-closed eyes. But he whose work is a sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Supreme makes no endeavors for his physical requirements. Since he is engaged in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, he is not required to execute the ritualistic activities recommended in the scriptures. Such a detached karma-yogī is superior to one who is merely unattached to the fruits of his work. The karma-yogī is automatically accomplished in the knowledge of the Absolute that the sannyāsī seeks and the eight mystic perfections that the meditating yogī aspires for.

The real karma-yogīs are in fact devotees of the Supreme Lord. Since they have attained perfection, they do not hanker for profit, adoration, or distinction. In their state of perfection, all knowledge and mystic powers automatically embellish them. With everything desirable available to them, why should they need anything else?

Following the eightfold path of Patañjali, the meditative yogīs gradually elevate themselves, mastering the different stages until they reach samādhi, or the state of absorption in the Supersoul. In their desire to reach perfection, they tolerate all sorts of adversities and sufferings and remain fixed on their goal. Ultimately they attain a state of consciousness that cannot be compared to anything in this material world. In this state of mystic perfection, no suffering—not even death—seems formidable. Lord Kṛṣṇa's comment about such yogīs has been recorded in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.22),

Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty."

In his purport to this verse, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that when one detaches himself from the sensual world and becomes situated in samādhi, complete absorption in the Absolute Truth, one perceives the pure spiritual self and is rewarded with intense bliss. Such a yogī never deviates his concentration from the Absolute Truth, the object of his meditation. The eight mystic perfections—aṇimā, laghimā, prāpti, prākāmya, and so on—which the yogī acquires during his discipline, are by-products of his yoga practice. In samādhi the yogī regards all these mystic perfections as insignificant. Many yogīs, after mastering a few of these mystic perfections, pretend to have mastered them all, and because of a restless mind they deviate from the goal of permanent samādhi. On the other hand, for the karma-yogī, the devotee of the Lord, there is no such possibility: his heart and concentration remain fixed on his goal because he always works for the pleasure of Lord Kṛṣṇa. He is always in samādhi, the yogī's ultimate destination. In the Lord's devotional service, the devotee experiences ever-fresh emotions, and his perfections become more mature, the transcendental bliss he relishes is inexplicable and inconceivable to mundane mercenaries.

Not to speak of karma-yoga, even in the lesser discipline of eightfold yoga, whatever progress the yogī makes on the path toward the goal of samādhi does not go in vain, although he may not reach the ultimate goal in one lifetime. In his next life he will continue his progress. By contrast, when the fruitive worker dies, whatever wealth and education he has acquired, along with the endeavor that went into acquiring them, all become null and void. As for the pure karma-yogī, or devotee, his devotional activities are all beyond the level of mind and body. They are related to the soul and the Supreme Soul, and hence his activities become the wealth of his pure, eternal soul. Just as the soul is never destroyed with the disintegration of the body, so this wealth of devotional service is never devalued. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā says that the karma-yogī always works for the benefit and elevation of his soul, and that this endeavor and its results remain permanent spiritual assets in this life and the next. These spiritual assets are never liquidated. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.40),

Son of Pṛthā, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction, either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.

Human beings are divided into two categories: the law-abiders and the law-breakers. Those who care only about satisfying their senses and do not submit to discipline and law are like animals, completely uncontrolled. Whether such an uncontrolled person is cultured or uncultured, educated or uneducated, weak or strong, his actions are always bestial. Their can never benefit anyone.

The law-abiding human beings are further divided into three groups: the karmīs, or fruitive workers, the jñānīs, or knowledge-seekers, and the bhaktas, or devotees. The karmīs are divided into two sections: the sakāma-karmīs, or fruitive workers who want to enjoy the results of their labor, and the naiṣkāma-karmīs, who renounce the fruits of action. The sakāma-karmīs are greedy after insignificant, transient happiness. They make progress in their mundane activities and enjoy the heavenly planets in the life hereafter, but all that enjoyment is temporary. Therefore the soul's real benefit evades them.

To attain true, eternal happiness, which comes only after the dissipation of material bondage, is the real benefit for the soul. Thus any path that does not lead the soul to strive for this supreme goal—eternal transcendental bliss—is considered useless. When eternal bliss is the goal of ritualistic activities (karma-kāṇḍa), then they are transformed into karma-yoga. Through the practice of karma-yoga, the heart is purified of material contamination and one gains knowledge of the Absolute. Thereafter one becomes situated in meditation on the Absolute, and finally one attains bhakti, pure devotional service. In the process of karma-kāṇḍa, it is recommended that one renounce physical pleasures for a time; so a karmī may sometimes be called an ascetic. Yet however much penance a karmī may perform, ultimately this penance is another form of sensual enjoyment, since that is its ultimate goal. The demons also perform penance to increase their powers, but it is all simply to enjoy their senses. Once the living entity can transcend the stage of hankering after sensual pleasures, he comes easily to the stage of karma-yoga, which is in all respects good. Only such a person can benefit society.

The spiritual progress the karma-yogī makes in this lifetime remains intact, and he continues in his next life from that point. In the Bhagavad-gītā (6.43), Lord Kṛṣṇa comments, "On taking such a birth, he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru." In his next life the unsuccessful yogī may be born in the family of a pious brāhmaṇa or wealthy merchant. When we talk of failure in yoga, we refer karma-yogīs, dhyāna-yogīs, and jñāna-yogīs. Among the followers of these paths, the karma-yogī is closest to becoming a pure devotee, since he has dedicated his activities to the Supreme Lord's service. Gradually, acting in this manner, he becomes a bhakta-yogī. Such a yogī is in the highest order, and he is fit to instruct all other yogīs.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (6.47) Lord Kṛṣṇa says,

And of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.

The fruitive workers cannot be counted among the yogīs. The actual yogīs are the karma-yogīs, the jñāna-yogīs, the aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, and the bhakti-yogīs. Factually they are the same, although named differently. The yogic process is like a ladder one ascends gradually toward the final goal of the Absolute Truth. Niṣkāma-karma, or renunciation of the fruits of one's labor, is the first step on this ladder. When knowledge and austerity are added to it, it becomes jñāna-yoga, the second step in this ladder. And when meditation on the Supreme is added to jñāna-yoga, the third step is reached, namely aṣṭāṅga-yoga. Finally, when loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord is practiced along with aṣṭāṅga-yoga, it is transformed into bhakti-yoga. This entire successive process is yoga. For an exact and clear delineation of the subject of yoga, all four steps need to be explained separately. Those who desire the best for humanity take to the path of yoga. The process for progressing in yoga requires, first, determination and strict execution of discipline at each stage. When a person is firmly situated at one stage, he then has to relinquish attachment and adherence to the practices of that stage in order to elevate himself to the next higher stage. Those who cannot reach the top for some reason and get stuck at any one of the four stages acquire the designation of that particular stage. Thus there are karma-yogīs, jñāna-yogīs, aṣṭāṅga-yogīs, and bhakta-yogīs. Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna that one who renders loving devotional service to Him, the Supreme Lord, is the highest among all yogīs, and that Arjuna should thus strive to become such a bhakti-yogī.

The successive, step-by-step spiritual path is not the same as step-by-step progress in the material world. In the mundane process the rules of progress are strict and cannot be transgressed. If one wants to acquire a doctorate at a university, he has to begin from the elementary school level and gradually work upwards. It is impossible to go directly to the university without prior schooling. In spiritual life, however, although there are strict regulations, by the Supreme Lord's grace one can bypass many intermediary stages and reach the top, or "doctorate" level. One can attain this divine grace by intimate and constant association with the Supreme Lord. And such intimate association with the Lord comes about through confidential exchanges with a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord. Everyone of us is intimately and eternally related to the Supreme Lord, but due to the bad influence of māyā we have forgotten our relationship with Him.

The living entities are like sons of the Lord, and as such they are rightful heirs to the great wealth of their rich father. But because of the reactions to sins committed in previous lives, they are roaming about without a home, suffering acute poverty. That the living entities are suffering is quite clear to all. But they do not know who their wealthy father is or where they can go to reclaim their valuable inheritance. Without proper knowledge, they are trying in vain to escape from their poverty while aimlessly roaming about like poor beggars. They meet many who promise to help them, but in the end such helpers turn out to be beggars themselves. A few among these strangers seem rich and prosperous, but the directions they give do not lead to the father's house, and so the living entities' poverty knows no end. The wealthy strangers suggest many paths, such as karma, jñāna, or dhyāna, but the problem of poverty remains unsolved. The living entities can escape their poverty only by learning and practicing the science of devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the source of all incarnations, explained the science of devotional service to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Prayāga (Allahabad). These instructions are the crest jewel of teachings for all humanity. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.151), the Lord says,

According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down to the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Lord Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.

By the mercy of Lord Kṛṣṇa, this seed of devotion is available in the Bhagavad-gītā. Only one who is able to receive this devotional seed can understand the purport of the Bhagavad-gītā. Otherwise, simply repeatedly reading the Bhagavad-gītā and discussing its teachings will not produce any results.

In the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself reveals the truth about Himself. When an ordinary mortal writes an autobiography, he receives many accolades, but when the Supreme Lord writes about Himself, we unfortunately do not fully believe in His words. Furthermore, we overlook the cardinal issues in His writings and quibble over lesser subjects, trying to magnify them by giving them concocted connotations and meanings. This practice is stretched to such absurdity that the original meaning is lost and the lop-sided conclusions attract only ridicule from readers. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa unequivocally declares that He is the Supreme Absolute Truth and that it is the duty of everyone to render Him loving devotional service. The Bhagavad-gītā was revealed for the sole purpose of explaining these two principal points. One who understands them is eligible to begin spiritual life as a neophyte devotee. Śraddhā, or faith, is the first prerequisite in spiritual life and is described as synonymous with neophyte devotion. Thus Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.62) says,

By rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called śraddhā.


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