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When Knowledge Is Nescience

sa paryagach chukram akayam avranam
asnaviram shuddham apapa-viddham
kavir manishi paribhuh svayambhur
yathatathyato ’rthan vyadadhach chashvatibhyah samabhyah

andham tamah pravishanti
ye ’vidyam upasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo
ya u vidyayam ratah

“Such a person must factually know the greatest of all, the Personality of Godhead, who is unembodied, omniscient, beyond reproach, without veins, pure, and uncontaminated, the self-sufficient philosopher who has been fulfilling everyone’s desire since time immemorial.

“Those who engage in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge.”—Sri Ishopanishad, Mantras 8–9

“Such a person must factually know the greatest of all…who is unembodied, omniscient…” That is the distinction between God and us. We are embodied. This body is different from me. Therefore when I leave this body, it becomes dust. “Dust thou art, dust thou shall be.” That refers to the body. I am not dust. I am spirit soul.

Krishna is not embodied. He has no difference between His body and His soul. He does not change His body, because He doesn’t have a material body. And because He does not change His body, He remembers everything. We change our body; therefore we do not remember what happened in our last birth.

Even in sleep we forget our body and the environment we are in. While sleeping and dreaming, you are in a dreamland. You don’t remember even that you have this body. Every night we experience this. I’m not the body. The body becomes tired. It sleeps or is inactive. But—as I am—I work, I dream, I go somewhere, I fly, or I create another kingdom, another body, another environment. This we experience every night. It is not difficult to understand.

Similarly, in every life, we create a different environment. In this life I may think I am Indian. You may think you are American. Or next life, a different position. Next life I may not be American, or I may not be Indian. And if I become American, I may not be a man. I may be a cow or a bull. Then I will be sent to the slaughterhouse. You see?

This is going on. This is the problem. Always changing bodies. It is a serious situation. We should take this life very seriously. “I’m changing my body life after life. I have no fixed position. I do not know where I will be put within the 8,400,000 species of life. So I must make a solution.”

Krishna gives that solution: yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama. “If anyone, some way or other, by developing Krishna consciousness comes to Me, he doesn’t have to return and accept a material body.” [Bhagavad-gita 15.6] He gets the same kind of body as Krishna, sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: a spiritual body of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.

We should very seriously execute Krishna consciousness, without any deviation. We should not be neglectful, thinking that this is a fashion or something imposed. No. This is the most important function. Human life is meant simply for developing Krishna consciousness. We have no other business. But unfortunately we have created so many engagements that we forget Krishna consciousness. That is called maya. We are forgetting our real business.

The rascal, blind leaders are leading people to hell. The leaders are tied up by the stringent rules and regulations of the material nature, but they have become leaders. And the people are being misled. That is called maya.

Some way or other you have come in contact with Krishna. So catch Him very tightly. If you catch Krishna’s lotus feet very tightly, then maya will not be able to do any harm.

Two Educations

There are two kinds of education: material education and spiritual education, brahma-vidya and jada-vidya. Jada-vidya means material education. Jada means “that which cannot move,” or matter. Spirit can move. Our body is a combination of spirit and matter. As long as the spirit is there, the body moves, just as a man’s coat and pants move as long as the man is wearing them. It appears that the coat and pants are moving, but actually the living entity is moving, and the covering, the dress, appears to be moving. Similarly, this body is moving because the spirit soul is moving.

If a car is moving, that means the driver is moving it. Foolish people may think that the car is moving on its own. But in spite of all the mechanical arrangements, it cannot move.

Because of the wrong kind of education, people think that material nature is working independently, moving and manifesting so many wonderful things. The waves are moving, but the waves are not moving independently. The air is moving them. But the air is also not moving independently. In this way, if you go back, back, back, you’ll find that Krishna is the cause of all causes. That is philosophy: to search out the ultimate cause.

Here it is said, andham tamah pravishanti ye avidyam upasate. Those captivated by the external movements are worshiping avidya, nescience. That will not help them. There are big, big institutions for studying technology—how a motorcar can move, how an airplane can move. They are manufacturing so much machinery. But there is no educational institution to study how the mover, the spirit soul, is moving. That lack of education is called avidya, nescience. The actual mover is not being studied, but the external movement is being studied.

When I lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I inquired, “Where is that technology to study the mover?” But they have no such arrangement. They could not answer satisfactorily. That is avidya.

Dark Desitination

Here, in the Ishopanishad, it is said, andham tamah pravishanti ye avidyam upasate. For those engaged only in the material advancement of education, the result will be that they will go to the darkest region of existence, andham tamah. It is a very dangerous position that at the present moment there is no arrangement in any state, all over the world, for spiritual education. This situation is pushing human society to the darkest region of existence.

Actually, that is happening. In your country, your rich country, you have a nice educational system, with so many universities, but what class of men are you producing? The students are becoming hippies. Why? The leaders should think about this. “What are we producing in spite of so many educational institutions?”

The leaders are worshiping avidya, nescience. That is not knowledge. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung very nicely: jada-vidya jato, mayara vaibhava. Jada-vidya means material education. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says it is an expansion of maya. Tomara bhajane badha: The more we advance in material education, the more we will be hampered in understanding God. And at last we shall declare, “God is dead. I am God. You are God”—all such nonsense.

That idea is hinted at here: andham tamah. Andham means darkness. There are two kinds of darkness: ignorance, and the absence of sunlight or other light. Materialists are certainly being pushed into the darkness. But there is another class—so-called philosophers, mental speculators, religionists, and yogis—who are going still more into the darkness because they are defying Krishna. They pose as if culturing spiritual knowledge, but because they have no information of Krishna, or God, their advancement of education is more dangerous because they are misleading people. For example, with their so-called yoga system they are misleading people by preaching, “Meditate and you’ll understand that you are God.” By meditation, one becomes God. [Laughs.] You see?

Krishna never meditated. He never had any chance to meditate, because from the very beginning Kamsa was prepared to kill Him. Then He was transferred by His father to the house of Nanda-Yashoda. There, when as a three-month-old baby He was sleeping, the demon Putana attacked Him. So Krishna had no chance to meditate to become God. He is God from the very beginning. That is God. God is God, and dog is dog. That is the law of identity.

“Become still, become silent, and you will become God.” This is nonsense. How I can become silent? Is there any possibility of becoming silent? No. There is no such possibility. “Become desireless.” How I can become desireless?

Purified Activities

These are all bluffs. We cannot be desireless. We cannot be silent. But our desires, our activities, have to be purified. That is real knowledge. We should desire only to serve Krishna. That is purification of desire. Not desireless—that is not possible.

How can I be desireless? How can I be silent? That is not possible. I cannot be silent for a second. So then our activities should be engaged, dovetailed, in Krishna’s service. This is real knowledge: “As a living entity, I have all these things—activities, desires, the loving propensity. Everything is there. But it is being misguided.” We do not know where to place all these things. That is avidya, nescience.

This Ishopanishad teaches us that we should be very careful. We don’t say that you shouldn’t advance in material education. You can advance, but at the same time you should become Krishna conscious. That is our propaganda. We don’t say that you shouldn’t manufacture cars or machines. But we say, “All right, you have manufactured this machine. Employ it in Krishna’s service.” That is our proposal. We don’t say stop it. We don’t say that you can’t have any sex life. But we say, “Yes, have a sex life—for Krishna. Produce Krishna conscious children. For that purpose you can have sex a hundred times.” But don’t create cats and dogs. That is our proposal.

Education is required, but if education is wrongly diverted, it is very, very dangerous. That is the purport of this verse. So-called education has no value.

Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.

Day-to-Day Spirituality

Things come up. Life happens. How to maintain a regulated, sattvic lifestyle while juggling increasingly complicated life responsibilities in the rush of a modern industrialized world?

We’re not alone. People have been trying to practice spiritual life in the material world ever since there was a material world. It’s never as easy as we may like, but with enthusiasm, patience, determination, a sense of humor, and the mercy of the Lord, anything is possible.

Locked Up!

Although I was innocent, about five years ago I had to spend one day behind bars in the San Francisco city jail. Sitting on my bunk in the dingy, smoke-filled cell, I listened as the prisoners talked about freedom. That’s natural, I thought. But some of them, apparently having forgotten about life outside, talked only of improving their life within the jail.

The prisoners’ discussions reminded me of an analogy taught to me by my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The material world, Srila Prabhupada said, is a prison for the soul. All prisoners are in one of two categories: either they are materialists, or they are transcendentalists.

Most of the souls in the material world, having forgotten their original, eternal home, are materialists, concerned only with improving their material conditions. The Sanskrit word for such a person is karmi. The karmis may be moral, religious, hard-working, responsible persons, but all for material ends. The transcendentalists, however, being more advanced in knowledge, can see beyond the temporal. They are not interested in improving themselves materially, but seek full liberation from karma and the endless cycle of birth and death.

Some people disagree with the analysis that the material world is a prison for the soul. Either they say that God has sent us here not to suffer but to enjoy, or they say that if God has indeed sent us here to suffer, then He is unjust and unmerciful.

We should understand first of all that God has more intelligence than to send us to enjoy in a miserable place. The material world means suffering, not enjoyment. We suffer innumerable miseries here, including birth, old age, disease, and death. God didn’t send us here to enjoy; we enjoy in our original home in the kingdom of God, which is full of uninterrupted happiness.

To think that God has unjustly sent us here to suffer is also a misunderstanding. God has given us the free will to love Him or to reject Him. Those who reject Him come to the material world. Here they don’t really escape Krishna’s control. Krishna controls the material world indirectly, through His material energy, which punishes the deviant soul. That punishment, however, rehabilitates the soul.

The soul’s rebellion yields neither freedom nor happiness, because the material world restricts the soul’s activities. As a prisoner must accept a certain dress, diet, and lifestyle, similarly the soul in the material world must accept a particular body and live according to the nature of that body. When the soul transmigrates from one body to another, he must respond to the dictates of each new body. In a dog’s body he’ll bark; in a bird’s body he’ll chirp. He has no freedom to act otherwise.

In the human form, however, the soul can decide whether to continue or end his imprisonment. We chose to come here; we can choose to leave. The karmis choose to remain, whereas the transcendentalists—the jnanis (speculators), the yogis (meditators), and the bhaktas (devotees)—choose liberation.

Most people are karmis, those who wish to remain imprisoned in the material world. They are bound by the law of karma, which assures that for each action they get a corresponding reaction. Their good acts bring them happiness; their sinful acts bring them suffering. Karmis generally do not understand this, and therefore they suffer. Like prisoners who have forgotten free life, the karmis repeatedly try to improve their material situation. They have unlimited desires to enjoy the material world, and even though the material energy repeatedly frustrates their plans, they foolishly continue to hope. Knowing no alternative to material life and its frustrations, they convince themselves that things aren’t so bad.

More intelligent than the karmis are the transcendentalists, who want liberation from the bondage of karma. This is real liberation—ending the cycle of birth and death. Liberation is a popular idea nowadays, and liberation movements abound. But the liberation the transcendentalists seek—full freedom from all the miseries of material existence—is far superior. Modern liberation movements strive only to achieve the freedom to exercise the basic human rights guaranteed by most democratic constitutions: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. These freedoms are not the real goal of life, however, and will not satisfy the soul’s desire for unlimited freedom.

Even if we secure the basic human rights, we’re still stuck with old age, disease, death, and rebirth. No number of protest marches can force (or empower) any government to free its citizens from the laws of nature. We hanker for this freedom, but lacking transcendental knowledge we pursue illusory freedom within the prison. Only the transcendentalists jnanis, yogis, and bhaktas—understand the need for full liberation.

The jnanis strive for liberation through speculative philosophy; their goal is to merge their individual existence with the all-pervading spiritual existence, Brahman. By ending their individual existence, they hope to end their suffering.

The yogis strive for liberation by sense control, breath restraint, and meditation. By practicing yoga according to the rules prescribed in the Vedic literature, a yogi can perceive the Supersoul, the Lord in the heart. Absorbed in trance, the yogi is not affected by the pains and pleasures of material life.

Though the jnanis and yogis are called transcendentalists, as long as they do not engage in devotional service to Lord Krishna, they remain susceptible to the influence of the powerful material energy. To avoid the dangers of material existence, they must escape the prison of the material world and enter the spiritual world by developing their original attitude of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

True, the processes of jnana and yoga derive from a preliminary understanding of the eternal soul. But they fall short of the goal of complete liberation. What the jnanis and yogis don’t know is that the soul is innately active. Full liberation, therefore, doesn’t mean just ending material activities, but entering spiritual activities.

Granted, the jnanis and yogis are more intelligent than the karmis. At least they have understood that the material world is a place of suffering and that they should try to get out. But they’re going about it the wrong way. Like prisoners who escape from jail but are eventually caught, the jnanis and yogis must eventually return to the material world. To leave the prison, a prisoner must have the sanction of the state. Similarly, to leave this material world, the soul must have the sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In the Bhagavad-gita (18.55), Lord Krishna says:

bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yash casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
vishate tad-anantaram

“One can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” By entering into the kingdom of God we become free.

Krishna will let us return to the kingdom of God when we have some activity to perform. And the only activity there is devotional service to Krishna. As a prisoner must prove that he has rehabilitated himself and can contribute to society, we must prove to Krishna that we are no longer envious of Him and want to serve Him with love and devotion in His transcendental abode.

The bhaktas (devotees) demonstrate their love for Krishna by engaging in His devotional service; thus they are already free from material actions and reactions. The devotees have no material desires and live in the material world only to benefit others. Like prison counselors, they may be within the prison, but in no way are they imprisoned. By their consciousness and their activities they are already liberated.

The bhaktas, therefore, are not as motivated to get out of the material world as they are to serve Krishna. Freedom means to live as one desires. And to live as they desire, the devotees do not need to leave the material world. They desire only to serve Krishna, which they can do in the material world. The devotees even refuse to accept any kind of liberation that might interfere with their service to Krishna. The pleasure of serving Krishna is a great ocean of bliss, and the pleasure of liberation is only a drop of that ocean. The devotees consider the liberation of merging into Brahman to be the same as going to hell. Brahman is spiritual existence, but without the spiritual activity of devotional service to Krishna. And any place devoid of spiritual activity is hell for a devotee.

The ideal place for spiritual activity is Goloka Vrindavana, Krishna’s eternal abode in the spiritual world. Even though the devotee is satisfied to serve Krishna in the material world, he naturally desires to be with Krishna and Krishna’s loving associates in Goloka Vrindavana. Krishna, being especially pleased with His devotee who faithfully serves Him in the material world, brings the sincere devotee back to Him at the end of the devotee’s life. And He promises in the Bhagavad-gita,“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”

Tragedy Calls… Am I Next?

The teachings of the Bhagavad-gita help us see beyond the apparent randomness of tragedy.

I had just turned eleven when our small island town was gripped with terror. Mary Kelly had disappeared three days earlier, and now her mutilated body had been found in the woods just a mile from where I lived. The intensive, frantic search was over, leaving everyone stunned with disbelief. In our town, people rarely locked doors unless they were to be away for an extended time. But from that day on, our family began sliding our front door’s shiny brass chain into its groove.

That night as I lay in bed under my covers, I recited the same prayer I’d recited since I was a small child.

“Father, thank you for the night and for the pleasant morning light, for rest and food and loving care, and all that makes the world so fair. Help us to do the things we should, to be to others kind and good. Amen.”

Then I added my usual P.S.: “Please take care of my mother, my father, my brothers, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and all the good people in the world.”

I finished my prayer still feeling shrouded in loneliness, fear, and doubt. As my heart pounded in my chest, my eyes scanned the darkness for any movement or abnormalities. Previously, in fearful moments I’d found comfort in the thought of an almighty, omnipresent God watching over and protecting me. Today’s events had shattered that image. While I had not known Mary Kelly very well, we rode the same bus to school, walked the same halls, and ate in the same cafeteria. Why would God protect me and not her? I concluded that tragedy occurs randomly and I was as vulnerable as anyone else.

I lay awake all night, falling asleep only when a faint light of dawn broke the darkness. An hour later my father’s voice broke through my deep sleep and called me to prepare for school. I considered asking to stay home from school but quickly dismissed the idea, realizing I would be alone all day in an empty house. Dazed, I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for school.

School that day was business as usual. We wanted to forget what had happened and try to reclaim an illusion of safety and well being. But I couldn’t forget. Mary’s death raised questions and doubts that haunted me.

The Tragedy Lottery

To make sense of it all, I compared personal tragedy to winning the lottery. Both involved the luck of the draw. Since I had never won anything, I thought, perhaps that same “bad” luck would also keep me safe from harm. This convoluted thinking pacified my mind to some extent. Still, for the next several years I often lay awake at night imagining sinister footsteps in our quiet, dark suburban house. I so much wanted to regain the lost feeling that God, angels, or someone was looking after me. But for the rest of my childhood, that sense of protection never returned. Instead, I kept an uneasy truce with Lady Luck, who seemed to hold my fate in her hands.

Later, in college, I read Bhagavad-gita and learned about the law of karma, which states that whatever good or bad comes our way is the consequence of good or evil deeds we have done. Since the soul is eternal, karma can even result from deeds done in past lifetimes.

Learning of karma made me question the role of luck in life. I began to consider that my own past deeds, good and bad, had to play out and I would get what I deserved. It also occurred to me that what I was doing today would create something I’d have to live with tomorrow. This gave me a new sense of self-determination. I felt stronger. Then another shock shattered my security.

Why Chuckie?

One evening I went to visit my friend Mark at his fraternity house. He was downstairs playing cards with his friends, and I was about to join them when I was suddenly overcome with a strong desire to work on a school assignment. The paper wasn’t due for two weeks, but instead of hanging around downstairs, as I would have usually done, I returned to the small library upstairs to study.

Suddenly I was jolted by the deafening sound of a gunshot, then screams of “Oh my God! Oh my God! He’s dead!”

Panicked, I ran down the steps. A young man barred me from going any farther and routed me out of the building. His only explanation was that there was a lot of confusion and I had best get back to my dorm.

As I walked down College Avenue, sirens pierced the quiet spring evening. Police cars and an ambulance sped by towards the fraternity house. I could imagine what had taken place. Was it someone I knew? Was it Mark? Who shot the gun and why? My mind flashed back to the time Mary Kelly’s body was found in the woods just a mile from my home. This time, a fatal gunshot had occurred only a few feet away.

That night Mark called. I was relieved to hear his voice. He explained that a student, somewhat intoxicated, was fooling around with a sawed-off shotgun. Not thinking it was loaded, he pointed the gun at a boy named Chuckie and pulled the trigger. To everyone’s shock and horror, the gun—fired from two feet away—blew Chuckie’s head off.

Chuckie was a friend to both of us, and I felt overwhelmed by sadness and disbelief. Over the next few days, as I reflected on the tragedy, I remembered my readings about karma. I began to feel a strong conviction that what had transpired wasn’t just a random series of events but was being arranged by a higher authority. But why Chuckie? Why Mary? What had they done to deserve such a fate? And why not me?

The Problem of Evil

Some years passed, and I remained uncertain about the conflicting roles of luck and karma. At one point I read a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good People. He postulated that, although God created the world and set it into motion, He has no control over what goes on. God is good, but because of His lack of direct involvement, He is not to blame for our blunders. Thus Rabbi Kushner reconciled God’s existence with tragic events happening to good and innocent people.

As I pursued my study of Bhagavad-gita, I came to understand that the Vedic conclusion is quite different. The Lord not only sets the creation into motion, but He personally accompanies every living entity into this material world to assist us in rectifying the consciousness that has separated us from Him.

Krishna, God, creates us to love Him. But love must be voluntary, so He also gives us the free will to reject Him if we choose. When we reject God, we enter this world of matter, where suffering prevails. Out of His love for each of us, Krishna guides us back to His service. He uses the agency of karma, the system of reward and punishment, to help us decipher right from wrong. As our desires become more in line with His desires, He personally takes charge of our lives, guiding us on our journey back to Him. Krishna assures us of this in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66). He tells Arjuna that as we give up all other engagements and serve Him exclusively, according to His desires, then He will protect us from all the reactions of our past karma.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

Returning to Rabbi Kushner’s exploration of “bad” things happening to good people, let us consider what is bad and what is good, as illustrated by the story of a wise old Chinese farmer.

One day the farmer’s horse disappeared.
All his neighbors exclaimed, “Ah, what misfortune.”
The wise farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The following day the horse returned with three wild horses.
At this turn of events, the neighbors all said, “What good fortune!”
Again the wise farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
In the days that followed, the farmer’s son was training one of the wild horses when he fell off and broke his leg.
The neighbors came to console the farmer.
“Oh, what terrible fortune! Your son has broken his leg and can’t work.”
Again the wise farmer simply replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
Shortly thereafter war broke out and the army came to recruit the farmer’s son. Because of his condition, they rejected him.
At this the neighbors joyfully proclaimed, “Just see your good fortune! Because of your son’s broken leg, he has been spared from the war!”
Again the wise farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
And so the story goes.

This story shows how our limited vision prevents us from evaluating what is actually good or bad in any given situation. Unless we can understand past, present, and future, how can we possibly understand the ramifications of an event on someone’s life? I learned from the Bhagavad- gita that only Krishna has the total picture and only He knows what is truly in our long-term interest. Knowing this, advanced, learned devotees of the Lord are not affected by the dualities of the material world. Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (2.15) that a person undisturbed in happiness or distress and steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.

Srimad-Bhagavatam gives many accounts of learned devotees who underwent severe tribulations and reverses and continued to have full faith in the Lord and love for Him. One example is the great king Parikshit. An inexperienced brahmana boy cursed saintly Parikshit to die in seven days. The king accepted the curse as part of the Lord’s greater plan. As a result, he heard the Srimad- Bhagavatam for the last seven days of his life. By the time death arrived, he was fully self-realized and departed for the spiritual world.

Without knowing the Lord’s greater plan, we might have concluded that the event was a tragedy because of the loss of a saintly king. But in fact his death benefited not only the king but also countless generations of Srimad- Bhagavatam readers.

Escaping Death

The Bhagavatam teaches us to see death and suffering from a higher perspective. We learn that in our original position in the spiritual world we are fully enlightened and completely happy, and we never die. As long as we accept the material world as our home and try to be happy here, we’re cheating ourselves. But God, our all- powerful and dearmost friend, arranges everything in our lives to encourage us to return to our spiritual home. We resist, though, and continue to live in material bodies because we harbor desires to enjoy separate from the Lord. And as long as we live in material bodies, death comes.

If we grasp the full scope of our existence, we can understand the significance of each event that we struggle through. Since most of us lack such vision, we need to develop faith that Lord Krishna arranges everything for our ultimate benefit, even if at present we cannot understand how. Krishna instructs Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (18.57) that in all activities we should just depend upon Him and work fully under His protection. He further explains that the mood of dependence on Him is itself devotional service. The more we enter into that mood, the more we will be conscious of Him and see so-called happiness and distress as equally the Lord’s mercy.

No Fear

Becoming conscious of the Lord means no more fear. The material world is called kuntha, “full of anxiety and fear” for the living entity. But the Lord’s abode is called Vaikuntha, “free from fear and anxiety.”

Vaikuntha consciousness manifests more and more as we chant the Lord’s names, following the recommendation given five hundred years ago by Krishna Himself in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya. By chanting the Lord’s name, we cleanse our heart of the impurities that prevent us from understanding the truth about the Lord and ourselves.

Through chanting I have gained faith in the Lord’s plans for me and have recovered my long-lost childhood sense of safety and protection.

Reincarnation III

PART III: Lord Krishna explains reincarnation in the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita (2.13):“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death.” Each of us once had the body of a baby, and now we have the body of an adult. But these two bodies are entirely different. They don’t look alike, and all the chemical ingredients have changed. Nonetheless, our mothers still know us as the same person.

When we are thirty or forty years older, again our body will look different. But we will remain the same person. So what is it that remains the same? It is our real self, the spirit soul. In this way we can observe reincarnation to a certain extent even in this lifetime.

When a person dies, we generally say, “He’s gone,” even if he’s lying right next to us. Why do we say he’s gone? Who has gone? And where has he gone? Because the body is still lying there, we should understand that it is the soul that has left. The person we thought we knew was never identical with his body. In fact, no one had ever seen the real person.

A beautiful actress may be adored by millions, but as soon as she is dead, no one will be attracted to her, although her body still looks the same. Obviously, her body was not the real object of attraction.

Even if you try to inject certain missing chemicals into the body, you can never make it alive again once the soul is gone. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (2.20, 22),

For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

Now, a scientist or a hard-core materialist may ask, “But where is the evidence for the soul and reincarnation? No one has ever observed these directly.”

This challenge presumes that all scientific “facts” have been directly observed. This, of course, is not true. Millions of children are taught that life comes from matter, that it all started with the “big bang” or the “primordial soup.” Then by chance, chemicals began to organize themselves and gradually evolved into the highly sophisticated human form.

We can confidently state that no one has ever observed this process, since supposedly it took place before any human observers existed, and certainly no one lives the billions of years necessary to witness such a process. The theories that life has evolved from chemicals have never been proven. No one has ever observed matter producing life.

We can, however, observe daily how living creatures produce matter: hair, perspiration, fingernails, and so on. Therefore, reincarnation is more compatible with observable phenomena than is the theory of chemical evolution. Matter is clearly dependent on spirit. We can see the body changing while the person remains the same, and we can see life producing matter.

Misled by theories of modern science, people have no knowledge of the soul and the universal laws of reincarnation. They think that death is the end of our existence, and that therefore we should try to enjoy this life as much as possible. This kind of philosophy encourages cruelty, selfishness, crime, and irresponsibility. People don’t know that while they may get away with cheating worldly authorities, and in this way avoid reactions for their activities, they cannot escape the subtle law that every action produces a reaction.

Understanding reincarnation can inspire us to lead more responsible lives of morality, honesty, and love for our fellow human beings, because we know that we will be held responsible for our activities in our next life.

Reincarnation explains many puzzling phenomena. For example, how was Mozart able to melt people’s hearts with his piano playing when he was only five years old, whereas someone else cannot play nicely despite many years of practice? The answer is simple: Mozart had been practicing in at least one lifetime before.

This argument may not be strictly scientific, but it makes more sense than to say that our abilities come about by chance. Of course, some people refuse to accept reincarnation without empirical proof. To this we can say that reincarnation is not something that can be verified in a laboratory. Many other accepted phenomena cannot be explained that way either. Love, remorse, resentment altruism—these cannot be verified in the laboratory, but we all know they exist.

To flatly reject reincarnation is a dogmatic attitude. At least a person should admit that he simply doesn’t know whether it exists or not. After all, there is no proof that it does not exist.

If a materialist takes the chance of living a life against universal laws, against the injunctions of holy scriptures, against the advice of self-realized persons, he runs the risk of having to take birth as an animal or in some other undesirable circumstances. And even if everything is finished at death, he cannot guarantee that he will be happy by living irresponsibly, with no concern for his future life.

In the Bhagavad-gita (16.23) Lord Krishna gives this advice:

He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.

A devotee, however, cannot lose. If reincarnation is a fact, he is assured of a better destination in the next life. And even if reincarnation were not true, the life of a devotee is still a happy life.

Besides these considerations, devotees understand that Krishna consciousness is a spiritual science that enables one to realize the truth of the philosophy. By practicing bhakti- yoga,the devotee becomes free of all doubts concerning the nature of the soul and its activities. And his realizations are confirmed by the authoritative Vedic scriptures and the testimonies of thousands of great saints and sages.

Human life is a crossroads, a chance to either elevate or degrade ourselves. After millions of births in lower species, it is the greatest misfortune to spoil the unique opportunity human life awards us: to once and for all stop the cycle of birth and death and attain our original, blissful position in the spiritual world.

On the Operator of the Universal Machine

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in May 1975 during an early-morning walk in Perth, Australia.

Srila Prabhupada: The atheist says there is no God, no operator of this big universal machine. But has the atheist any experience of a machine working without an operator?

Devotee: No. But you cannot compare this whole universe to any man-made machine.

Srila Prabhupada: Why? Just the other day we saw a huge printing press in Japan. It was printing the sheets, collecting them, stacking them—so many things were being done systematically, all by machine. Similarly, by the universal machine the seasonal changes are going on, the sun is rising, the moon is rising, the water of the oceans is moving in waves. Everything is being done systematically: the sun and the moon are rising exactly on time, the seasons are coming exactly on time. Is this not how a machine works?

Devotee: [taking the role of an atheist] But this universal machine is so wonderful that it goes on without an operator.

Srila Prabhupada: You’re a rascal—dull—so you cannot understand how someone is operating this universal machine. You cannot find in your experience any machine that is working without a person. Why do you bring this idea that without an operator this big universal machine is working? This is a false idea.

Devotee: There are some automatic machines.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Behind every machine there is an operator.

Devotee: Someone must turn it on and off.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There is no such thing as an automatic machine. That is impersonalism.

Devotee: We can see the operator of these small machines, Srila Prabhupada, but we can’t see the operator of this universal machine.

Srila Prabhupada: Have you seen the operator of the electric powerhouse? Do you think the powerhouse is working automatically?

Devotee: Well, we could see him if we wanted to. We could drive there right now.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and you can go to Krishna and see Him, also. But first you must become qualified.

Devotee: That’s not so easy.

Srila Prabhupada: It is very easy. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bahavo jnana-tapasa puta mad-bhavam agatah: “By becoming purified through knowledge and penance, many have come to Me in the past.” So why are you disappointed? You can go to Krishna. Striyo vaishyas tatha shudrah: Even if you are low-born or less intelligent, you can go to Him. Krishna is open to everyone. Simply become qualified, that’s all. And what is the qualification? Krishna says, man-mana bhava mad- bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: “Just always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your respect to Me.” These four things you must do. We have opened our temples for this purpose—so you can always think of Krishna, worship Him, offer obeisances to Him, and become His devotee. Then mam evaishyaty asamshayah: Without any doubt, you will go to Him. What is the difficulty?

Devotee: The operator of the powerhouse is running the powerhouse, but it’s not really necessary that we go see him. We can simply enjoy the electricity provided by the powerhouse.

Srila Prabhupada: That’s what you do if you’re a rascal, a fool. But if you are intelligent enough, you’ll ask, “Who is the operator? Let me see him.” That is the difference between an intelligent person and one who is dull.

I once heard a story about a little boy who was beating on a drum—dumm, dumm, dumm. He became inquisitive and thought, “Wherefrom is the sound coming? Somebody must be within the drum.” So he found a way to open the drum and look inside. This is intelligence. A dull student will think, “Oh, the sound is just coming, that’s all.” But an intelligent boy will always inquire, “What is this, father? ‘ What is this, father?”

So if one is very dull, just like the cats and dogs, he will not inquire about the operator behind this universal machine. In the human form of life this inquiry should come. Otherwise, you remain cats and dogs.

Devotee: What about the body, Srila Prabhupada? Isn’t that also a machine?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Devotee: But the scientists say that this body is more complicated than any machine because it can think, feel, and will, whereas machines can’t do that.

Srila Prabhupada: The scientists cannot see that the thinking, feeling, and willing is coming from the operator of the machine, the soul. These rascals cannot understand that. Krishna says, dehino ‘smin yatha dehe: Within the bodily machine is i the operator, the soul.

Devotee: Just like the child who tried to find the cause of the sound in his drum, the scientists are trying to find the cause of the material world. Is that not intelligence?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they have not reached the ultimate goal.

Devotee: But they’re trying.

Srila Prabhupada: They’re trying—that is admitted. But they are concluding that there is no operator. That is their foolishness. They have to go further and further until they conclude, “Yes, there is an operator.” That is the final goal of their investigation. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: “After many, many births of sincere inquiry, if one is actually intelligent he will surrender to Me.” And then, vasudevah sarvam iti: “He’ll understand that Vasudeva [Krishna] is everything.”

But these scientists waste time. When we say, “Here is Krishna—here is the operator of the universal machine,” they’ll not accept. They would rather waste time life after life, laboring and wondering. But one day they will come to the conclusion that Krishna is the operator behind this whole universe.

Krishna—The Personal Form Of God

This mantra is from the Ishopanishad, the oldest of the famed Upanishads, which are the philosophic heart of the sacred scriptures of India. The mantra presents contradictions—by way of proving the inconceivable potencies of God. In India, as well as throughout the world, those who admit God’s existence have always disputed whether God is impersonal or personal. The Mayavada school accepts only an impersonal aspect of the Lord and rejects His personal feature. The Bhagavata school (devoted to Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and represented today by the Krishna consciousness movement) accepts the Lord as both impersonal and personal.

We should not take it for granted that just because we cannot see God with our eyes, the Lord does not have a personal existence. The Ishopanishad mantra refutes this argument by warning us that the Lord is “far away but very near as well.” The abode of the Supreme Lord is far, far beyond the material sky, and its distance cannot even be measured. But despite the Lord’s being so far away, He can at once, within less than a second, descend before us with a speed swifter than the mind or wind.

And there is no power to prevent the primeval Supreme Being from coming before us in the material world in His supreme personal form. For example, the Lord can appear in the form of Deities supposedly made of earth, stone, or wood. Although engraved from wood, stone, or other matter, these forms are not idols (as the iconoclasts contend). In our present state of imperfect material existence, we cannot see the Supreme Lord because of our imperfect senses. Yet those devotees who want to see Him by means of material vision are favored by the Lord, who appears in a so-called material form to accept His devotees’ service. One should not think that such devotees are worshiping an idol. They are factually worshiping the Lord, who has agreed to appear before them in an approachable way. Nor is the Deity form fashioned to the whims of the worshiper. (This is the actual meaning of the Biblical injunction, “Thou shalt not worship a graven image”—one is forbidden to imagine a form and worship it as God.) The Deity form is authorized by scripture and exists eternally with all His paraphernalia. This can be actually felt by a sincere devotee, but not by an atheist. For the surrendered soul the Lord is always within reach, whereas for the unsurrendered soul He is far, far away and cannot be approached.

Krishna, the Perfect Friend

The more we hear about God’s unlimited qualities, the more we’ll understand that nothing can satisfy like friendship with Him.

The desire for friendship is universal. It is based on our propensity to love someone. This propensity is thoughtfully explained by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, one of the philosophical cornerstones of the Krishna consciousness movement. In his Preface, Srila Prabhupada writes,

The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity, at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy? That missing point is Krishna, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Krishna and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life.

The Vedic literature tells us that our original friend is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the material world, we mistakenly try to re-create our blissful, primeval relationship with Him through various temporal relationships, all of which fail to satisfy our perpetual longing for perfect friendship. Krishna, or God, is the divine fountainhead of the loving sentiment that can be seen in all living beings. The Vedas explain that God created us out of His inexhaustible desire for loving exchanges. Thus friendship with Him is the original state of the soul.

Since we are eternally part of Krishna, there is a natural intimacy between Him and us. In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that He is residing within our hearts as the Supersoul, graciously accompanying us as we wander throughout the universe, life after life, in search of lasting happiness. Unlike us, God possesses a spiritual vision that is never dimmed by material contact, and thus He is perfectly aware of our folly. As our true friend, He exhibits His kindness upon us by allowing us to learn through our own experience the futility of our efforts, and He lovingly deflects our attention back to Himself, the abode of all happiness.

Because Lord Krishna is supremely pure, His friendship is never contaminated with the selfish motives that stain material relationships. In the material world, everyone is ultimately concerned with his or her own interest. Even our friendships are part of our plan for our own enjoyment.

Lord Krishna, by contrast, is always anxious for our ultimate well-being. Although we have turned away from Him, driven by our envy of His position as the supreme enjoyer, He continues to provide all our necessities. The air, the sun, our inherent abilities, and countless other gifts are all clear indications of His good will. And Krishna’s greatest expression of friendship is His association, which He generously offers us through the revealed scriptures, saints, and spiritual masters, who regularly appear throughout the millenniums to invite us back to the spiritual world.

The attractive, dynamic qualities of the soul tend to remain static in the material world because of the soul?s marriage with inert matter. As a result, the thrill of material relationships diminishes quickly. We grow bored seeing the same faces day in and day out. But Krishna is never boring, for His transcendental qualities are ever fresh and ever expanding.

In the Vedas it is stated that even if the scientists could count all the grains of sand on a beach or all the atoms in the universe, they could never estimate even one drop of God’s blissful, all-attractive features. The Nectar of Devotion offers an illuminating summary of Lord Krishna’s spiritual qualities. By studying this great work in a spirit of devotion, we can enhance our appreciation for the Lord and thus develop the desire to know His sublime friendship.

For example. The Nectar of Devotion explains that no one is more appreciative or reciprocative than Lord Krishna, as shown in His dealings with His friends. Once, a poor brahmana named Sudama offered Krishna a few grains of rice. Because Sudama was penniless, he was unable to present his Lord with a valuable gift, as was his desire, but because his humble offering was saturated with love, Krishna eagerly accepted it and ate it with great delight. Out of deep gratitude, Krishna reciprocated with Sudama by giving him more opulence than can be imagined even by the wealthiest person in this world, and in the end Sudama was granted entrance into Krishna’s spiritual abode. Hearing of Krishna’s limitless capacity for appreciating and reciprocating the love of His devotees can inspire us to rekindle our friendship with Him.

Lord Krishna is also the most faithful and considerate friend. He will never abandon us or allow us to feel neglected. Although His propensity to love is so great that He desires to interact with countless living beings simultaneously. He can do so without neglecting even one of them. When Krishna was in Dvaraka, He expanded Himself, by His supreme mystic power, into many Krsnas, giving spiritual bliss to each one of His sixteen thousand queens, each of whom thought that Krishna was residing with her alone.

Another reason that God’s friendship is the most desirable relationship is that it is eternal. In the material world we may sometimes form a relationship with another person that seems to be of sterling quality, but even that soon fades like a dream. At the time of death, the karma of both friends carries them far apart from one another, as strands of seaweed, meeting momentarily on the crest of a wave, are separated forever when the wave breaks to shore.

Happily, this is not the case if we befriend Krishna. The exchange between God and the living entity is never checked. Even if one begins the attempt to realize Krishna in this life and is not completely successful in his spiritual development, he begins in his next life from where he left off, until at last he achieves perfection.

Since we are all Krishna’s servants, it is important for us to remember that any attempt to approach Him must be attended by a serving attitude. Just as the Lord, out of His kindness, is always busy making arrangements for His devotees’ happiness, we must also try to act for His pleasure. This is the beginning of real love. And there is no loss for us if we agree to cultivate our devotional sentiments. In fact, serving Krishna is so relishable that Krishna Himself appeared in the form of a devotee, as Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to taste this pleasure and to show us, by practical example, that there is no greater aspiration for the living being than to achieve Lord Krishna’s friendship.

The Krishna consciousness movement is in the direct line descending from Lord Chaitanya. It was established by Srila Prabhupada to assist those seriously interested in reviving their dormant love for God. Its doors are open to everyone. Persons who aspire for perfect friendship will certainly embrace this rare and wonderful opportunity to find lasting spiritual happiness in the eternal company of Lord Krishna, the perfect friend.

The Meeting of Radha and Krishna

by Dravida dasa

Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, stands on the bank of the River Yamuna with Srimati Radharani, His eternal consort, in this scene in Goloka Vrindavana, the Lord’s spiritual abode. The prancing peacock’s jubilant calls, the fragrance of the lotus and jasmine spreading on the cool, soughing breezes, the fresh springtime atmosphere-all lend the perfect touch to this most exalted spiritual event: the meeting of Radha and Krishna.

Because the spiritual love epitomized in Their meeting resembles the attraction between a young man and a young woman, it is generally misunderstood by those who try to fathom it without reference to the Vedic shastra, or revealed scriptures. These books draw a sharp distinction between love of God and what passes for love between ordinary human beings. “The desire to gratify one’s own senses is lust [kama],” writes Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja in his 16th-century devotional classic Caitanya- caritamrita, “but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krishna is love [prema]. … Therefore lust and love are quite different. Lust is like dense darkness, but love is like the bright sun.”

Our original nature is to dwell in the “bright sun” of love of Krishna in the spiritual world. But somehow we become envious of Krishna in His position as supreme enjoyer, and with that envy our love for Him turns to lust and we enter the darkness of the material world. Thus it is lust that brings us to this world of forgetfulness of God, lust that keeps us here, and lust that prevents us from knowing Lord Krishna as our eternal master, guide, friend, and lover. Only when we transmute that lust back into love for Krishna can we realize that we are His eternal servants and that our real happiness lies in serving His senses, not our own.

Bhakti-yoga, the practice of Krishna consciousness, or devotional service, changes lust into love of God. The first step is hearing—hearing the name of Krishna in the Hare Krishna mantra and hearing the teachings about Krishna given through the revealed scriptures by the great devotees of the Lord and the Lord Himself. But all-important in this process is that the sound we hear (or the words we read) come from the right source, a pure devotee of God. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes this way about hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna: “It is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that one who hears the pastimes of Krishna with the gopis [the cowherd girls in the spiritual world, of whom Srimati Radharani is the foremost] will attain the highest platform of devotional service and will be freed from the lust that overwhelms everyone’s heart in the material world. In other words, by hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, one can get rid of all material lust… . Unless one hears from the right source, however, one will misinterpret the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, considering them to be ordinary affairs between a man and a woman. In this way one will be misguided.”

So let us not be misguided. Krishna is God, the all-powerful, all-perfect creator, maintainer, and destroyer of everything, and Srimati Radharani is His most beloved worshiper (Her very name means “one who worships Krishna best”). Since we are all servants of the Lord, each of us has some role to play in His eternal pastimes of love. But we can discover that role, our original spiritual identity, only if we carefully follow the instructions of those exalted souls who have realized God and whose only motivation is compassion for those of us suffering in this material world, far from our spiritual home. If we follow their instructions, we will one day realize the truth of the unlimitedly sweet pastimes of the Lord-and this will be the perfection of our lives.


Turning to the Beauty of Krishna

The beauty found in this relative world pales before the beauty of Krishna’s perfect form.

People are very much enamored by the beauty of this world. The Vedic literature, however, offers us penetrating insight into the actual nature of material beauty. If people would take the time to hear from these revered sources, they would be surprised to learn that what is accepted as beauty within this world is but the pale, illusory reflection of the unlimited spiritual beauty of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Of course, some would disagree with the idea that material beauty is false. The smitten young man sees his sweetheart as the epitome of loveliness, the scholar is moved by the rich imagery in a masterpiece of poetry, and the artist views the pastoral scenery as the handiwork of angels. In each case the viewer appreciates what he or she perceives to be true beauty. Why, then, is it said to be false?

The answer to this question is given in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita,where Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.”

Material beauty is herein deemed false in the sense that its manifestation is very, very brief. It appears momentarily and then disappears like a mirage. The attractive young body becomes old and wrinkled; it dies, decays, and is eaten by worms. And the beauty of the poem. although preserved for some time in book form, must also perish, as must the flowered countryside, lost forever in the dark wells of time.

Material beauty also proves false when we look more closely or shift our perspective. If the young man, for instance, were to peel away the covering layer of skin on the alluring young body—the object of his attraction—he would immediately become repulsed, proving conclusively that material beauty is only skin deep. And the poem or country scene, appreciated at one moment as quintessential beauty, may be seen in the next as utterly devoid of all charm by the same admirer, who, having endured some emotional trauma, now sees everything much differently.

Finally, material beauty is false in that it can never fully satisfy the soul, and in time the young man desires another lover, the scholar purchases a new book of poems, and the artist goes on to view another scene, each searching for an absolute level of fulfillment that continually eludes him, even up to death.

All of these points are mentioned not to invoke a mood of gloom and despair but rather to illustrate that although our love of beauty is a perfectly natural sentiment we are looking for it in all the wrong quarters. As a miner carefully studies his maps before prospecting, we also must determine the whereabouts of true beauty if we wish to unearth this valuable treasure.

The Vedic literature tells us that the reservoir of beauty is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Absolute Truth, or the source of everything. The relative beauty found in this world has its origin in Him, and ultimately we must turn to Him if we wish to realize our desire to know perfect beauty. In the Brahma- samhita.Lord Brahma eloquently describes the transcendental beauty of Lord Krishna:

I worship Govinda [Krishna], the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose blooming eyes are like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock’s feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness is charming millions of Cupids.

This factual description of Krishna’s spiritual beauty is not a whimsical creation of Brahma’s imagination. Rather, it was spoken by Brahma in a trance of self- realization, in which he saw the Lord standing before him face to face. In his next verse. Brahma continues to describe his vision, with notable reference to the eternality of Krishna’s form:

I worship Govinda. the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of jeweled ornaments, who is always reveling in pastimes of love. whose graceful, threefold- bending form of Syamasundara is eternally manifest.

As Krishna’s form is “eternally manifest” so is the beauty of that form, thus fulfilling the Bhagavad-gita’s definition of reality—that which has “no cessation.” Not only is Krishna’s beauty eternal, but it is also ever fresh, like an endlessly blooming springtime. A devotee never tires of viewing that divine form, which is so magnificent that Krishna Himself cannot estimate it for in one moment He measures, and in the next moment it expands unlimitedly, eluding even His vast capacity to understand.

Since Krishna is the Absolute Truth. His beauty is also absolute and is never canceled or diminished by closer examination or change in perspective. His form is the vessel of pure spiritual energy—eternity, knowledge, and bliss—and it is therefore beautiful through and through. Indeed it has been compared to the radiant vaidurya gem, which, although appearing differently according to the play of light upon its numerous colored facets, is extraordinarily beautiful from whichever angle it is viewed. Thus Krishna’s beauty is always appreciated by the countless pure devotees who inhabit the spiritual sky, some of whom regularly descend to this material plane to turn our attention back to Him.

Krishna’s absolute nature is also such that anything connected with Him, be it His name, form, words, pastimes, or paraphernalia. also exhibits His superlative beauty. In Srila Prabhupada’s book Krishna, this remarkable feature of Krishna’s personality is apparent in the following statement by a devotee, in which the beauty of the Lord’s flute-playing is feelingly described:

My dear friends, Krishna is so beautiful that the goddess of fortune always remains on His chest and He is always adorned with a golden necklace. Beautiful Krishna plays His flute in order to enliven the hearts of many devotees. He is the only friend of the suffering living entities. When He plays His flute, all the cows and other animals of Vrindavana, although engaged in eating, simply take a morsel of food in their mouths and stop chewing. Their ears raise up and they become stunned. They do not appear alive but like painted animals. Krishna’s flute-playing is so attractive that even the animals become enchanted, and what to speak of ourselves.

All of these features combine to make Krishna’s beauty fully satisfying. While material beauty offers momentary pleasure to the senses. Krishna’s spiritual beauty touches the very soul of the living being. thrilling him with a pleasure so wonderful that once having relished it he can never give it up. Srila Rupa Gosvami has therefore advised,

My dear friend, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don’t look upon the form of Krishna, who is standing on the bank of Keshi-ghata. He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky.

The more a devotee appreciates Krishna’s beauty, the less he falls for the flickering attractions of this material world. Once, Haridasa Thakura, a great devotee of the Lord, was chanting Hare Krishna alone, absorbed in the beauty of the Lord’s holy name. An alluring young prostitute appeared and tried to divert him from his vow of chanting Krishna’s names 300,000 times daily. Haridasa’s attraction to Krishna’s beauty was so deep, however, that he remained unaffected by her advances. Instead, he converted the prostitute into a virtuous devotee greatly attached to the beauty of Krishna.

Although descriptions of Krishna’s beauty are fascinating, we may rightfully wonder how we can overcome our own attraction to the world’s enticements and achieve the coveted vision of Krishna’s spiritual beauty. We can begin by remembering that even the flickering beauty of this world has its origin in Krishna. The sunrise, the fragrant flower, the taste of water, or anything else of value can remind us of Krishna and thus act as an agent for our spiritual enlightenment.

Furthermore, by hearing and chanting about Krishna in the company of devotees and by worshiping His Deity form in the temple, we can accelerate our spiritual advancement. This combination of pleasurable devotional activities will very surely and effectively raise us to the platform of pure love for Krishna, enabling us to view Him face to face and enjoy the nectar of His moonlike beauty.