Getting the Picture of God
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, the various scriptures I’ve read refer often to the life breath. They say the breath comes directly from God, so one path of yoga is to concentrate on the breath and then on God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There are various kinds of air within the body, and the soul is within the heart, floating on those airs. So one preliminary form of yoga has to do with controlling those airs. At the time of death, the idea is to elevate the soul from the heart to the brahma-randhra, a small opening at the top of the head. From there the soul goes out to any planet he desires. Naturally he’ll desire to go to a spiritual planet, where he can live without material miseries and in association with God. That is the goal of yoga. But here in your country, yoga means a certain type of physical exercise. Yes.
Reporter 3: And this path of devotional yoga or bhakti-yoga that you teach—this is the path for this time, this age?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Bhakti- yoga is the real yoga. You’ll find in Bhagavad- gita that when the Lord describes the yoga system, He says,
yoginam api sarvesham
shraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
“The firstclass yogi is he who is always thinking of Me [Krishna] within himself and rendering transcendental loving service to Me.” The bhakti-yogi is the first- class yogi. So these students of ours are being taught how to think of Krishna always, twenty-four hours a day, without any stop. And that is first-class yoga.
Reporter 3: To think about something, don’t you first have to see it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Well, are you showing your disciples Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Certainly.
Reporter 3: Then what is Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada: Ask my disciples. They have already seen Krishna. Ask them. They’ll tell you what Krishna is. But let me ask you, as before: if they give realized information about Krishna, will you accept it?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada [motioning]: Then see. Here is Krishna.
Reporter 3: But that’s a painting.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a painting. Suppose a painting of you were there. Could I not say, “Here is Mr. Such-and-such”?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the wrong there?
Reporter 3: Well, to paint me, the artist would have to see me.
Srila Prabhupada: No, first of all, are you in your picture or not?
Reporter 3: Yes, I am.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Similarly, Krishna is in His picture. But the difference is that people cannot talk with your picture, but we can talk with Krishna’s picture. That is the difference.
Reporter 3: But some of these pictures of Krishna seem a bit different.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We are speaking of the basic principle. Krishna’s blackish/bluish colour is there. Krishna’s flute is there. Krishna’s peacock feather is there. These things are described in the shastra, the scripture. So these paintings follow the actual form of Krishna described in the scripture.
Now, take even a painting of yourself. One man may paint your face a little differently from the way another man paints it. But on the whole, your form is the same, and of course, it does not depend on the painter’s conception. So Krishna’s form is not dependent on the painter’s conception but on the description of His features given in the scripture. Since Krishna is absolute, He and His picture are nondifferent.
Reporter 3: But if a painter were to paint a picture of me or anybody else, first he’d directly study the subject—a living subject.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In this case, also, the subject is living. Krishna is living, and in the scripture He is described: “Krishna’s colour is bluish. In His hand Krishna has got a flute. Krishna has got a peacock feather on His head.” And tri-bhanga-lalitam: Krishna stands gracefully, His form curving in three places.” Tri- bhanga means that when He stands, in three places His form curves. You see. shyamam tri-bhanga-lalitam niyata- prakasham: “Krishna’s graceful dark-bluish, threefold-bending form is eternally manifest.” These are the descriptions given in the Vedas. And for instance, from these descriptions my students have painted so many pictures. From these descriptions I have simply given hints that “This picture should be like this.” So they take note and make the pictures, and people very much appreciate our pictures. So you can paint pictures by consulting the scriptural authority—the Vedas—and those who have studied the Vedas. That is what we are doing. If you are intelligent, you can make genuine pictures of God like that.
Reporter 3: But still, somebody must have seen Krishna to actually paint Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. People have seen Krishna. For instance, when Krishna was present on this earth, so many people saw Him. Ever since then, people have built so many temples. And by worshiping the Deity in their temples, they are regularly worshiping Krishna’s form—just as it is described in the Vedic literature and as the people centuries ago saw personally.
Reporter 3: But has anybody now actually seen Krishna? Now?
Srila Prabhupada: How can someone see Krishna now? One has to see through the parampara, the disciplic succession that began with those who saw Krishna. You may not have seen your grandfather. How do you know what he was like? How do you know? Your grandfather and his father you have not seen. How do you know anything about them?
Reporter 3: By your parents’ telling you.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your father has seen your grandfather. Although you may not have seen him, still, your father can describe all about your grandfather. “My father was like this, like this, and like this.” What is the difficulty? So therefore, you have to receive knowledge from the authorities, the disciplic succession.