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What "Krishna Consciousness" Means

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Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, defined "Krishna consciousness" in various ways. Here are three:

Krishna consciousness means God consciousness:

Satsvarupa: Was Lord Jesus in pure Krishna consciousness?

Prabhupada : Yes. He also taught about God. Krishna consciousness means God consciousness. Jesus, or anyone who speaks about God, is in Krishna consciousness. But one must know the science, and within that science there are degrees of knowledge. One person may know to one extent, another may know to a greater extent, another may know to an even greater extent. "Krishna consciousness" means complete understanding of Krishna.

For example, if a group of people is taking the stairs to reach the 104th floor of a skyscraper, there are so many steps they must take. And comparatively, one person may have covered ten steps; another may have covered twenty, while another will have taken a hundred steps. Their aim is the same, but you can't say that whomever has covered one hundred steps has progressed as far as one who has covered two steps. Their degrees of progress are different, proportionately. But the steps are already there, for anyone to take. So, in any religious system – regardless of "Hindu," "Christian," or "Muhammadan" - the question is how its followers are climbing the steps. They're going up the same staircase, but the question is, "what is their progress?"

- - Srila Prabhupada, from a Q and A session following a Srimad-Bhagavatam class (verse 1.16.24) given in Hawaii on January 20, 1974

Krishna consciousness means to understand everything:

Q: Does Krishna consciousness mean a feeling of "oneness" with the universe?

Prabhupada: Krishna is the central point. If you know what milk is, then you know what butter, cheese, and yogurt are, because they're all milk products, in spite of their varieties. Similarly, everything is a product of Krishna, so if you know Krishna, you know everything. That is universal knowledge. That is oneness.

Whatever things we are seeing and experiencing are all different energies of Krishna. If you're sitting here, and there's a fire, you see it from its illumination, and you'll feel warm from its heat. The light and the heat are due to fire. Therefore, Krishna consciousness means to understand Krishna; as soon as you understand Krishna, you understand everything. That is stated in the Vedic language, yasmin eva viijnate sarvam eva vijnatah bhavati (Mundaka Upanishad, 1.3): "One who understands that one Supreme, he understands everything immediately."

- from a Srimad-Bhagavatam class (verse 7.7.22-26) given in San Francisco on March 10, 1967

Krishna consciousness is our original consciousness:

Whatever we may be doing in this life, everything will be finished with the end of the body. My position, my wealth, my family, my "this" or "that" - everything will be finished, because I'll have to accept another body. Karmana daiva netrena jantor deha upapattaye [ Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.31.1]. This gross body will be finished, and I'll have to accept another gross body. But if you begin Krishna consciousness, that won't be finished, because that is the business of the soul.

Krishna consciousness means the original consciousness; "I am Krishna's. I am God's, part and parcel of God." At the present moment, being illusioned by different material designations, we are thinking: "I am American," "I am Indian," "I am a brahmana (teacher)," "I am a shudra (laborer)," "I am this," "I am that." These are all designations. And Krishna consciousness means, "I am Krishna's." "Aham brahmasmi ("I am spirit"). "So 'ham. ("I am as good as Krishna," or "I am Krishna's. I am an eternal servant of Krishna."). This is the consciousness we need to awaken. That is the prime objective of human life.

Now, we're in a different consciousness, so bhakti means sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam [Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.170]: One has to become freed from all these designations: 'I am this,' 'I am that' - this bodily concept of life. Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke [ Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.84.13]: I'm identifying myself with this body. This is condemned in the shastra: Sa eva go-kharah: ("One who identifies himself with this body is no better than the cows and the asses.")

Krishna consciousness means that one is not identifying himself with this material body. He is identifying himself in his original constitutional position, aham brahmasmi.

- from a lecture on Nectar of Devotion, given on December 27, 1972 in Bombay, India