The Real Religion of the Living Entity

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What Lord Krishna descends to teach is beyond the ordinary sense of the word “religion.”

yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srijamy aham

"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself." – Bhagavad-gita 4.7

Last night we discussed how the Supreme Personality of Godhead descends to this material platform. Although He is the supreme authority of all energies, although He is unborn, although He is the Lord of all creation, material and spiritual, He comes.

ajo ’pi sann avyayatma
bhutanam ishvaro ’pi san
prakritim svam adhishthaya
sambhavamy atma-mayaya

"Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, by My internal energy I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form." (Gita 4.6) He comes not by being forced by the laws of material nature, but He comes out of His own energy. This point we discussed last night.

Now the next point is, why does He come? That is explained in the next verse: yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. As soon as there is discrepancy in the matter of discharging occupational duty, He comes. I purposely translate the word dharma as "occupational duty." Everyone has an occupational duty. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.13) confirms it:

atah pumbhir dvija-shreshtha
varnashrama-vibhagashah
svanushthitasya dharmasya
samsiddhir hari-toshanam

"O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead." Svanushthitasya dharmasya samsiddhih: "the perfection of prescribed duty." Your occupational duty will be perfect when you satisfy the Supreme Lord by it. That is dharma.

Now let us consider what is our occupational duty. I purposely do not translate this word dharma as "religion." Religion is an imperfect conception of the word dharma. In the dictionary we find that religion means a particular type of faith. But dharma does not mean that. Dharma means natural occupation. That is called dharma.

I have several times explained the word dharma in this class, using the example of the heat of fire. Without heat, fire has no meaning. Wherever there is fire, there is heat and light. Therefore heat and light are the dharma or religion of fire. That means fire cannot change its dharma. As we generally understand the word faith, it is something that we can change. Today I am Hindu. Tomorrow I can become a Christian. You are a Christian today. You can become a Hindu or Muslim tomorrow. So faith can be changed, but dharma means natural occupation or natural intimate connection.

That fire is heat and light cannot be changed. Whether the fire is in America or India or Russia, the heat and light are there. That is the dharma of fire.

Now here Krishna says, yada yada hi dharmasya glanih: "As soon as there is discrepancy in the discharge of the natural function of the living entity . . ." Abhyutthanam adharmasya means the uprising of unnatural activities or unnatural occupations. Tada: "at that time"; atmanam, "self"; srijamy aham, "I descend or appear."

Just Surrender

Now, dharma is explained in the sixty-sixth verse of the eighteenth chapter. The Lord says, sarva-dharman parityajya: "Just give up all kinds of occupational duty or religiosity." We have created all kinds of religious formulas. So Krishna says, "Give up all kinds of religious formulas." But what is to be done? Mam ekam sharanam vraja: "Just surrender unto Me."

That means that surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the real religion of the living entity. Not that I like a particular type of faith and that is my religion. Religion means that one is trained in how to surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is called religion. And the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6) also clarifies the word dharma: sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokshaje. That by which one is trained to surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the best dharma.

Now, you can select your own religion. Be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Buddhist – whatever you like. Srimad-Bhagavatam does not stop you, but it gives you the hint about the purpose of religion. The purpose of religion is to develop your love of Godhead. That is real religion.

Here Krishna says yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. At least some people remember that there is God. But generally in this age they are forgetful. That is dharmasya glanih. And by forgetting God, people cannot be happy. That is the cause of their unhappiness. People are thinking, "God is dead. We have no obligation to God. There is no God." This sort of thinking will never make people happy. And actually, it is happening. They have become atheistic. The modern civilization is godless, but people are not happy. Therefore God or His representative comes when people forget their relationship with God.

Real religion is to understand our relationship with God as it is described in the Bhagavad-gita and confirmed by great acharyas like Lord Chaitanya. Lord Chaitanya enunciated the constitutional position of the living entity.

Sanatana Goswami inquired from Him, "Who am I? Why am I always in a miserable condition?"

In answer to the question "Who am I?" Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu immediately replied, jivera 'svarupa' haya — krishnera 'nitya-dasa': The real identity of the living entity is that he is eternally a servant of God. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 20.108) We should not understand the word servant to mean a materialistic servant. To become the servant of God is a great position, not an ordinary position. People try to get some government service. Why? Or people try to get some service in some established, well-reputed business firm. Why? Because that service is comfortable, and there is great profit in such service. So if people are satisfied by getting service in the government or in some good establishment, then just think of your position if you become a servant of God? God is the government of all governments.

Thinking We're the Controller

We are servants of God constitutionally. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, jivera 'svarupa' haya — krishnera 'nitya-dasa.' But at the present moment I am thinking that I am the master, not the servant. This is called maya. Actually I am the servant, but I am thinking I am the master. Everyone is trying to lord over the material nature according to his capacity. He's trying to be the controller, the master, but actually his position is to be the servant. Forgetting his servitorship is called dharmasya glanih, discrepancy of his natural position.

Now, there is an ordinary sense of religion. The Hindus have the Vedic scriptures. The Muslims have the Koran. The Christians have the Bible, with its Old Testament and New Testament. Similarly, many other religious sects have their own scripture. So dharma can mean the rules and regulations prescribed in the scriptures.

For example, there are rules and regulations in the law book or statute book of each particular state. Similarly, another meaning of dharma is that it is the law of God. It may be differently described in different countries according to different climatic conditions or different situations. But in every religious scripture obedience to God is instructed. That is a fact. No scripture says that there is no God and you are independent – whether it is the Bible or the Koran or the Vedas or even Buddhist literature, Buddhist scripture.

Generally, according to Buddha philosophy there is no soul and no God. But Buddhists have to obey Lord Buddha. So there is also God because Lord Buddha is accepted by the Vedic literature as an incarnation of God. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a list of incarnations, and Lord Buddha is accepted as one of the incarnations who will appear. The verse about Lord Buddha is in the future tense. Bhavishyati means "He will appear in the future." The Srimad-Bhagavatam was compiled by Vyasadeva five thousand years ago, and Lord Buddha appeared about two thousand six hundred years ago. Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam was written before the appearance of Lord Buddha. Because the Srimad-Bhagavatam is shastra, it has given an accurate prediction. Everything is there. Buddho namnanjana-sutah kikateshu bhavishyati (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24). The mother's name is given there: Anjana. And kikateshu means Gayapradesh. In India there is a province called Bihar. In that province there is a district called Gaya. In that district Lord Buddha appeared. He was a kshatriya, He was a Hindu, and He propagated the religion of nonviolence, Buddhism.

His specific propaganda was to stop animal killing. Animal killing is recommended in the Vedic literature. Therefore people wanted to give him Vedic evidences. "In the Vedic literature animal sacrifice is recommended under certain conditions. So why do you preach against it? You are a Hindu and a follower of the Vedas. Why are you preaching nonviolence?"

Therefore Buddha had to give up the Hindu religion.

He said, "I do not care for your Vedas. It is my propaganda to stop animal killing. So if you follow me, then you must stop animal killing."

He taught ahimsa paramo dharmah: nonviolence is the highest religion. Later on, of course, Lord Buddha was patronized by a great emperor, Ashoka, and therefore practically all the Indian population turned to become Buddhist, with few exceptions.

Then Sankaracharya came and preached a philosophy that is almost Buddhism. Lord Buddha preached that there is no God and no soul. This body is a combination of matter, and if we dissolve this material combination then there is no more perception of misery or happiness. That is nirvana. That is his philosophy. But later on, Acharya Sankara appeared and preached brahma satyam jagan mithya. This bodily combination is temporary, or mithya. He said flatly that it is false. Of course, in Vaishnava philosophy we say it is temporary. Temporary or false, you can take to be in the same category. But Sankaracharya said brahma satyam jagan mithya: spirit soul, Brahman, is reality, and the external feature of Brahman, or the body, is false.

So anyway, here the point is that in any religion there is a conception of worshiping God or a symbol of God. Even in Jain philosophy they worship Mahavira. In India there is Jainism. That is almost like Buddhism. They have the same process of worship, in big, nice, costly temples. And they come to visit the temple to offer their worshipful offerings, flowers, fruits, everything.

Similarly, in the Gurudwara, the Sikhs worship like the Hindus. They also offer flowers, fruits, and sweetmeats, and they read their Granthasahib. As we are reading Bhagavad-gita, they read Granthasahib, enunciated by Guru Nanak.

According to different kinds of faith, people accept Krishna or Lord Jesus Christ or Jehovah or Lord Buddha or Guru Nanak, but acceptance of authority is there everywhere. Now, we have to see who is the highest authority from the Vedic literature, by our arguments, by our understanding. But acceptance of authority is there.

Defying Authority

Dharmasya glanih means to defy authority. That is a discrepancy in the discharge of religiosity or occupational duty. Even in your office, even in the government, if you do not accept authority there is chaos, revolution. This sort of mentality is very dangerous. When one does not accept any authority, that is a chaotic condition.

Our present position is in three statuses. In the gross status of our understanding, we take this gross body as the self. At that time we have a certain dharma or occupational duty. When I accept my mind as myself, then my occupational duty changes. And when I understand that I am a spirit soul, then my occupational duty is again different.

Here Krishna, because He is the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is speaking of dharma as occupational duty on the spiritual platform. He does not mean dharma or occupational duty on the gross bodily platform or the subtle mental platform. He means dharma as the occupational duty on the spiritual platform. And that is confirmed by Lord Chaitanya: jivera 'svarupa' haya — krishnera 'nitya-dasa.' The real constitutional position of the living entity, especially of the human being, is to accept our position as servant of Krishna. And when there is a discrepancy in the matter of Krishna consciousness, at that time Krishna comes, Krishna descends.

Krishna's Sound Incarnation

Sometimes He personally descends, sometimes He descends as His incarnation, sometimes He descends as a sound vibration, and sometimes He descends as a devotee. There are many different categories of His descent. And at the present moment Krishna has descended in His holy name. You should understand that. Kali-kale nama-rupe krishna-avatara. This is the statement of Lord Chaitanya. He says that in this Age of Kali, Krishna has descended in the sound-vibration form. Sound is also one of the forms of Krishna's descent. For example, om is a form of Krishna. Similarly, Krishna has now descended in the form of His holy name. There is no difference between Him and His name. People are now forgetting their relationship with God, but the incarnation of Krishna in the form of His holy name – this chanting of Hare Krishna – will deliver all people of the world from their forgetfulness.

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says,

kali-kale nama-rupe krishna-avatara
nama haite haya sarva-jagat-nistara

"In this Age of Kali, the holy name of the Lord, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is the incarnation of Lord Krishna. Simply by chanting the holy name, one associates with the Lord directly. Anyone who does this is certainly delivered." (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi 17.22) If you chant or associate with the chanting of holy name of Krishna, then you will get the highest perfectional stage of life. We should accept that Krishna has descended at the present moment in the form of His holy name.

Thank you very much.