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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


Lord Kṛṣṇa Is the Supreme Absolute Truth

The famous atheist Kapila propagated the Sāṅkhya philosophy. He concluded that the material world consists of twenty-four material elements, namely, earth, water, fire, air, and ether; form, taste, smell, sound, and touch; eyes, tongue, nose, ears, and skin; mouth, hands, legs, anus, and genitals; mind, intelligence, and false ego; and the unmanifested state of the three modes of nature (pradhāna). When Kapila was unable to perceive the unmanifested soul after analyzing the twenty-four elements, he concluded that God does not exist. Thus the devotee community regards Kapila as an atheist.

Lord Kapila, the son of Devahūti, is a different person altogether from the agnostic Kapila. Lord Kapila is accepted as an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa refutes the atheist Kapila's Sāṅkhya philosophy and its contention that the unmanifested soul is nonexistent. In the Gītā (7.4) Lord Kṛṣṇa also establishes that the material ingredients are all under His control and supervision:

bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight comprise My separated material energies.

Who is Lord Kṛṣṇa, and what is His original form? Unless one knows about His opulence, potencies, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation, one can never enter into the realm of pure devotional service. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi 2.117),

siddhānta baliyā citte nā kara alasa
ihā ha-ite kṛṣṇe lāge sudṛḍha mānasa

A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such philosophical conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one's mind becomes attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

One who is situated in knowledge of Kṛṣṇa and acts accordingly is executing devotional service. In pursuing the process initiated by Kapila man failed to fathom the same for hundreds and thousands of years. The Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa has, in a few words, lifted the shroud of mystery and revealed the truth:

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. Besides these, O might-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature. All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.

Those who cannot understand this truth remain far from the science of devotional service, while those who do understand it are strengthened in their devotional life. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme male. So, when the supreme male is present, automatically material nature, his female counterpart, is there to serve Him. Those who falsely pose as the Supreme Person claim to have the material nature at their disposal and conclude that nature is no longer at Lord Kṛṣṇa's beck and call. Naturally this is absurd, and only fools will make such a claim.

Similarly, those philosophical schools which propound that the Supreme Person is subservient to prakṛti, or nature, are also far from the truth. When one thinks about nature and nothing further, the thought is left incomplete. One has to inquire, "Whose nature is it?" Nature has to belong to someone; she cannot exist on her own. Thus what must be established is the identity of the Supreme Person, or puruṣa—the male factor. Prakṛti is the same as śakti, or energy. Through the energy, an intelligent person will seek out the possessor of the energy. The Upaniṣads and other Vedic scriptures clearly state that Brahman is the Absolute Truth and the possessor and source of multifarious energies. In the Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) this Brahman is said to be the bodily effulgence of Kṛṣṇa (brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham). This is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.40):

yasya prabhā prabhavato jagad-aṇḍa-koṭi-
koṭiṣv aśeṣa-vasudhādi-vibhūti-bhinnam
tad brahma niṣkalam anantam aśeṣa-bhūtaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of the nondifferentiated Brahman mentioned in the Upaniṣads, being differentiated from the infinity of glories of the mundane universe appears as the indivisible, infinite, limitless, truth.

Brahman exists as the all-pervading energy in this phenomenal world. Therefore the Vedas have defined Brahman as formless, impersonal, pure, and so on. But the source of Brahman is an eternal personality who has no material form but who has a transcendental form full of spiritual potencies and all divine qualities. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He possesses all six transcendental opulences to an infinite degree, He performs superexcellent divine pastimes, and He alone is to be searched out and known in all the scriptures. The materialistic, fruitive workers make the mistake of thinking that this supreme transcendental personality is mundane, and thus they become degraded into pseudodevotees. And the dry speculators, having been repulsed by the material phenomena in their search for knowledge of the Absolute, think that the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also repulsive, thus clearly proving that their ascending process of acquiring knowledge is insufficient and inferior. Both these groups are in a pathetic spiritual state. Therefore, to shower His causeless mercy upon them, the Supreme Lord has revealed the truth about Himself and His transcendental potencies in the Bhagavad-gītā.

The above-mentioned eight ingredients make up the material nature, or the Supreme Lord's external potency. These material ingredients—earth, water, fire, air, and so on—are devoid of any free will, and so they are known as the Lord's inferior energy. By contrast, the potency that activates the inferior energy is known as the Lord's superior energy, or spiritual potency. On principle the energy cannot be the enjoyer; nor can one energy enjoy another energy. Energy is the enjoyed, and the energetic is the enjoyer.

The living entities are a product of the Lord's superior, spiritual energy, and so they are superior to earth, water, fire, and so on, which are always devoid of volition. But that does not mean the living entities are on the same platform as the Supreme Lord, who is the absolute controlling principle. It is easy to discern the superiority of spirit over inert matter. The jīva principle is setting into motion and sustaining everything in this material world. And if the jīvas did not try to lord it over the material nature, then there would be no variegatedness in this phenomenal world. The material elements would have remained unchanged if the jīvas had not been inclined to control and enjoy them. Only through the material energies' connection with the conscious living entity can such substances as earth, wood, stone, and iron be orchestrated so as to give rise to huge, opulent buildings, factories, and cities. Matter cannot organize itself.

From the foregoing one can understand that this massive cosmic creation, with its innumerable planetary systems and heavenly bodies, has come about only through the interference of some superior and powerful consciousness. It is beyond doubt that matter is inert, incapable of voluntary action, and that consciousness has activated the twenty-four material ingredients so as to exhibit variegatedness in material nature. All this goes to prove the inherent insufficiency and imperfections in material nature. Thus transcendental happiness is possible only in spiritual variegatedness. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.5) Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms that the jīvas belong to His superior energy:

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parāṁ
jīva-bhūtaṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

Besides these material energies, O might-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.

Because the spirit soul (jīva) is born of the Lord's superior, spiritual energy, it has little in common with the material energy, just as the aquatics have no affinity for the land and the land beasts are out of place in the water. The apparent close connection between the material energy and the spiritual energy is in fact illusory. The jīvas, being a product of the spiritual energy, try to exploit the material energy, but ultimately such attempts fail, because it is impossible for one energy to always exploit and lord it over another energy. The jīvas can, however, eternally serve the Supreme Energetic, Lord Kṛṣṇa. When the jīva exploits the material energy in his endeavor to serve the Lord, that activity is transcendental—the performance of sacrifice. Any other kind of activity amounts to nothing but materialistic, fruitive work.

In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61) one reads about the three kinds of energy:

viṣṇu-śaktiḥ parā proktā
kṣetra jñākhyā tathā parā
avidyā-karma-saṁjñānyā
tṛtīyā śaktir iṣyate
(CC Madhya 6.154)

The potency of Lord Viṣṇu is summarized in three categories—namely, the spiritual potency, the living entities, and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities.

Thus all phenomena in this material world are simply interactions of the Supreme Lord's superior, spiritual energy with His inferior, material energy. The material energy is known as the kṣetra, or field of activity, and the spiritual energy is known as the kṣetra-jña, or the knower of the field of activity. All the different species of living entities, with their varied characteristics, are produced by the interaction of the kṣetra and the kṣetra-jña. The energetic principle, the controller of both these energies, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. He must be recognized as the ultimate cause of the creation, maintenance, and annihilation of this cosmic manifestation. As He says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.6-7),

etad yonīni bhūtāni
sarvāṇīty upadhāraya
ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ
prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā
mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva

All created beings have their source in these two natures [the inferior and the superior energies of the Lord]. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution. O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.

The various quotations we hear from the Vedas concerning Brahman—ekam evādvitīyaṁ brahama: "Brahman is one without a second"; neha nānāsti kiñcana: "Besides this, nothing exists"; sarvaṁ khalv idam brahma: "Everything and everywhere is Brahman"; ahaṁ brahmāsmi: "I am by nature Brahman," and so on—find their conclusion in the verses from the Bhagavad-gītā quoted above. The Supreme Lord, endowed with the six transcendental opulences to the absolute degree, is the highest governing principle. Thus no other personality is equal to or greater than He. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this point by saying "There is no truth superior to Me," and then explaining how He is present everywhere and intimately connected with everything through His all-pervasive energies.

The material nature is the result of the transformation of the Lord's energies. Both the energies and the energetic are inconceivable, and they are simultaneously one and different. Hence the phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma, ("Everything is Brahman") in fact declares that everything consists of transformations of the Supreme Lord's material and spiritual energies. The transformation of His energies neither increases nor decreases the Supreme Absolute Truth; hence Brahman is described as changeless. And the inferior energy, being only the reflection of Brahman, is nirākāra, impersonal.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu propagated the philosophy of the simultaneous oneness and difference of the Lord and His energies. The highest esoteric truth is that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth and that both the living entities and the material world are His subordinate energies. Those who fail to understand this principle are materialists, while those who do understand it and are trying to reestablish their relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa are liberated souls, devotees of the Lord. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains this in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.13-14):

tribhir guṇa-mayair bhāvair
ebhiḥ sarvam idaṁ jagat
mohitaṁ nābhijānāti
mām ebhyaḥ param avyayam
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te

Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion, and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me, who am above the modes and inexhaustible. This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.

The dualities of like and dislike, good and bad, are all due to the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance. These modes hold all conditioned living entities under their sway. Therefore it is difficult for conditioned souls to understand that the Supreme Lord, being absolutely spiritual, is above the three modes and thus param avyayam, absolutely inexhaustible. The reason the Lord uses these words param avyayam is that although He permeates everything by means of His transcendental energies, He remains eternally unchanged and the complete whole. One should avoid making the mistake of thinking that because Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, pervades the entire cosmic manifestation, therefore He cannot possess a definitive form or personality. The heat radiating from a fire spreads in all directions, yet the fire remains unchanged. Similarly, the sun has been emanating light and heat since time immemorial, yet it has not lost any of its potency. And the sun possesses but a minuscule fraction of the Supreme Lord's inexhaustible potency. So what question is there of the Lord's potency being either transformed or decreased? The Lord's energies, like a fire's heat and light, spread everywhere, yet His energies can never diminish at any time. Thus in the Bhagavad-gītā He describes Himself as param avyayam, inexhaustible, the supreme energetic principle. The Vedas describe Him in the following way:

pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya
pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate

Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance. (Īśopaniṣad, Invocation)

Like the Supreme Lord Himself, the process for freeing oneself from the mesmerizing grip of the material energy and coming closer to the Lord is also one without a second. As the only way to see the sun is by the help of sunlight, so the only way to see the Supreme Personality, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is by the illumination of sunlike Kṛṣṇa Himself. Only by surrendering to His lotus feet and rendering Him loving devotional service can one approach Him. Neither fruitive activity through physical strain nor speculative knowledge through mental gymnastics can help one attain the highest perfection of God consciousness. Only through bhakti, or devotion, can the Supreme Lord be achieved. Speculative knowledge and mystic yoga can at best accord one a partial realization of the Absolute Truth—namely, realization of Brahman and Paramātmā (the Supersoul), respectively. It is through the singular means of bhakti that one can perceive face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. When the rising sun chases away the blackness of night, everything becomes clearly visible. Similarly, when the sun of Kṛṣṇa rises above the horizon of one's consciousness, the stygian gloom of māyā, the illusory energy, is driven away, and the original form of every object comes into distinct focus. Thus full knowledge and realization of the Absolute Truth come exclusively through devotion to the Supreme Lord.

However, the path to this perfect realization is fraught with hindrances caused by māyā, the insurmountable material energy. In this regard one may ask, "If by serving Lord Kṛṣṇa one can automatically discharge all subsidiary duties, then why doesn't everyone in the world surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa and worship Him as the supreme absolute being? Almost everyone in the world more or less agrees that there is only one God, not two or more. Yet when that one and only Supreme Personality, Lord Kṛṣṇa, comes personally to declare this truth, why do people still refuse to surrender to Him? Perhaps it is understandable that those who are illiterate and ignorant cannot accept Lord Kṛṣṇa's supremacy and therefore do not surrender to Him. But there are many erudite scholars, philosophers, and leaders of society who extensively discuss the scriptures yet still do not take shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. Why?" The Lord Himself answers this question in His Bhagavad-gītā (7.15):

na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
māyayāpahṛta-jñānā
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ

Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are the lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.

People with demoniac mentalities never surrender to the Supreme Lord. There have always existed two kinds of men: the good, pious men and the impious reprobates. These two types of people are always present in every country and at every period in history. Pious men obey God's laws and are gradually elevated to perfection. The impious, on the other hand, capriciously flaunt God's laws and try to be independent. The racial strife, civil wars, violent revolutions, and world wars so common in the modern age are all caused by the whimsical and selfish nature of impious men.

Pious people can live in any country and adhere to the instructions of their scripture, or they can associate with other pious men from another country and exchange knowledge and realizations. As a result, these seekers of the Absolute Truth can certainly perceive that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the other hand, sinful persons have one interest: to satisfy their egoistic cravings. They may make a show of being vanguards of religion, but behind this facade they continue their reprehensible activities. They vilify the sanctity of the religion of their birth and go against their own country's interest. Their self-centered lives preclude their following even the common etiquette of human behavior, what to speak of dedicating their lives to Lord Kṛṣṇa's devotional service. Such demoniac persons are more dangerous than poisonous snakes.

Generally, the gross fools and the ignorant fruitive workers do not surrender to the Supreme Lord. Such people never enquire into the Absolute Truth. They never ask such questions as "Who is God?" "What is the world?" "Who am I?" "Why am I working like an ass my whole life?" or "What is the result of my endeavors?" The ass slaves his whole life carrying the washerman's burden, just for a handful of grass. Similarly, the karmīs (fruitive workers) toil tirelessly simply to secure a supply of food and other necessities. The ass is a symbol of foolishness, for he works hard only to fill his belly and copulate with a she-ass. So also do the asinine karmīs toil tirelessly out of affection and attachment, struggling to maintain their homes and, beyond that, the land of their birth, which they consider worshipable. In the home the karmī's sole source of enjoyment is his wife, who cooks for him and provides pleasure for his misery-ridden senses. The shortsighted karmīs do not want to know of any broader issues concerning themselves or their world; they are simply tethered to their home and bodily cares. And those leaders who foster the people's sensual lives are bigger fools and rascals than the ordinary karmīs. Therefore they never come in contact with the Bhagavad-gītā or Lord Kṛṣṇa. The word surrender means nothing to them.

People who do not surrender to the Supreme Lord are called narādhama, "the lowest of men." Such men fritter away their human lives, behaving like animals. In other words, when a person does not use this rare human birth to achieve its actual purpose but wastes it in degraded activities, he is called a narādhama. When a beggar suddenly finds a treasure yet continues to live like a beggar, he is surely a miser and a narādhama. Similarly, when someone receives the priceless gift of a human birth yet squanders it by living like an animal—simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—then such a person is a narādhama. These fools do not realize that after many millions of births in lower species, the soul finally receives the rare human birth. And it is in this birth that the soul must sincerely endeavor to elevate himself to the transcendental platform, attain the Absolute Truth, and return to his original home in the spiritual world. If in this human life the soul makes no attempt to alleviate his situation, even after learning how horribly he has suffered in millions of previous lifetimes, then such a person is certainly a miserable miser and narādhama. But if one tries to utilize his rare human birth for self-realization by becoming elevated to the brahminical class, then his life is successful. Brāhmaṇa does not mean brāhmaṇa by birth. A brāhmaṇa is one who surrenders to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Lord of the brāhmaṇas. A narādhama cannot do so. Therefore another meaning of narādhama is "one who rejects devotional service."

Another class of men who do not surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa are the demons, those who are staunchly inimical to Him. Famous and powerful demon kings like Rāvaṇa, Hiraṇyakaśipu, Jarāsandha, and Kaṁsa acquired many mystic powers through learning and severe austerities. But because they always challenged the various incarnations of the Supreme Lord, such as Lord Rāma, Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, Lord Viṣṇu, and Lord Kṛṣṇa, they are known as demons. Often the demons do not lack education or intelligence, but because of their fiendish mentality toward the Supreme Lord, their learning and brain capacity come to naught. Their abilities, being fully in the grip of material nature, are ultimately taken from them. The reason for the demons' failure has been stated earlier: If one does not surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa, it is impossible to surmount material nature.

Torturing the devotees of Kṛṣṇa is the preoccupation of the demons, who think that Lord Rāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa cannot punish them because They are ordinary mortals. Thus the demons conclude that they themselves are as learned and intelligent as Lord Rāma and Lord Kṛṣṇa. The atheistic students of Navadvīpa thought Lord Caitanya was an ordinary human being, and thus to win their respect the Lord accepted the renounced and austere sannyāsa order of life. In this way the Lord showed Himself to be the personification of divine magnanimity. The demons invariably confuse matters: they worship humans as gods and call God a human being. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord fittingly describes such grossly foolish persons: avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam (BG 9.11). "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form." The demons' learning, intelligence, and titles are like the gems that glitter on a poisonous snake's hood. The presence of a priceless gem on a snake's hood does not decrease his venom. Similarly, a demon's erudition, intelligence, and titles do not make him less of a demon, and thus he is as horrendous as a venomous snake.

Decorating a dead body and taking it to the funeral pyre with pomp is certainly nothing but a flagrant display for entertainment only. The public is similarly cheated when accolades and scholarly degrees are piled on a demon who is an arrant competitor of the Supreme Lord. The atheistic, demoniac education imparted to the young in modern universities is simply producing a bunch of demons with titles. Proof of this is the recent incident in which Principal Garg of Aligarh University was murdered by some students. The whole state of Uttar Pradesh is shocked and has opened a probe into this vicious act. The governor has called for a conference of the leaders and teachers, but in the past all such conferences have met with the same frustrating fate: no solution. We think the present conference will also fail. The only means to eradicate the demoniac mentality in society is to teach the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Having taken note of all the disaster and corruption wreaked by the demons, it is the moral responsibility of every citizen in the world to learn and teach the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.