By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Lecture given in Paris, France on June 9, 1974

Self-realized souls direct us to the most profitable subject for life’s endless questions and answers. 

variyan esha te prashnah
krito loka-hitam nripa
atmavit-sammatah pumsam
shrotavyadishu yah parah

“Sri Shukadeva Goswami said: My dear King, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial to all kinds of people. To hear the answer to this question is the prime subject matter of hearing, and it is approved by all transcendentalists.” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.1

Srimad-Bhagavatam is in the format of questions and answers. First of all it was narrated by Vyasadeva and heard by his son, Shukadeva Goswami. Then Shukadeva Goswami narrated it to Parikshit Maharaja at the time of Parikshit’s death. Suta Goswami also heard it at that time. That is the way of the parampara system, the system of disciplic succession.

Krishna says in the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita (4.1–2):

imam vivasvate yogam
proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha
manur ikshvakave ’bravit
evam parampara-praptam
imam rajarshayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata
yogo nashtah parantapa

“I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” These verses refer to the parampara system.

Our Bhagavata system, or Vedic system, is not a matter of research work, unlike, for example, the system of the Theosophists. They’re searching for God. Since the beginning, they’ve been searching. So many leaders of their movement have come and gone, but the Theosophists are still searching. And they will go on searching for lifetimes. But God is not something to be searched out. He is not an ordinary thing, not a material thing.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.29) Lord Brahma says,

athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya
prasada-leshanugrihita eva hi
janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimno
na chanya eko ’pi chiram vichinvan

“My Lord, if one is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet, he can understand the greatness of Your personality. But those who speculate to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years.” Chiram vichinvan. Even if you speculate for millions of years to understand God, it is not possible to understand Him that way. He is not a subject for speculative knowledge. Knowledge of God is to be received through the right source, by the deductive process, not the inductive process. Because our senses are limited, we cannot have any perfect idea of God by relying on our senses and the inductive process.

There are two ways to acquire knowledge: aroha-pantha and avaroha-pantha. Aroha-pantha means to know something by the ascending process. People are trying to know the moon, Venus, and other planets. They’re literally ascending into space to try to understand them. But they’ve been doing this for the last twenty years, and still they do not know the actual situation of the moon planet. They’re going and returning. Actually, it is questionable whether they have gone. From the situation, it is understood they’re not going. Maybe they are going to some other planet.

That is my opinion, because their description of the moon does not tally with the information we have from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The moon is one of the heavenly planets. The demigods, who are of a higher class than human beings, live there. One who is elevated to the moon lives there for ten thousand years. There, one day is equal to our six months and the duration of life is ten thousand years of such days. The karma-kandiyas who perform Vedic ritualistic ceremonies very nicely are promoted to the moon.

There are seven upper planetary systems and seven lower planetary systems. We are living in Bhurloka, in the middle. Above this is Bhuvarloka, then Svarloka, Janaloka, Maharloka, Tapoloka, and Brahmaloka. According to the shastra, the Vedic literature, you can go to higher planets such as Brahmaloka or the sun only with the necessary qualifications. You are seeing the sun every day, but you cannot go there. You have no right.

Rascals say, “I shall go by my own strength. I shall know everything by dint of my own knowledge, my research work.” That is not possible.

So what to speak of understanding God? You cannot understand even what is in your presence, the material world, and the spiritual world is beyond the material sky. Paras tasmat tu bhavah anyah (Gita 8.20). There is another sky. You have no estimation of that other sky. Even in the material world, you are seeing only one sky in one universe, but there are innumerable universes. And beyond the material world is the spiritual sky. There are also spiritual planets, Vaikuntha planets. And above these Vaikuntha planets is Krishnaloka, Krishna’s abode.

You cannot understand Krishna – God – or His abode by the speculative, ascending process. That is not possible. You have to inquire from the proper authority.

The Duty of the Dying

Parikshit Maharaja inquired from Shukadeva Goswami, “What is my duty now that I am going to die?”

Parikshit Maharaja was cursed by a brahmana boy to die in seven days. Parikshit Maharaja was quite competent to counteract the curse of the brahmana boy, but he decided, “I shall die.” He thought, “I offended the boy’s father, a rishi, by placing a dead snake around his neck. His son has become angry and cursed me: ‘You have insulted my father, so die with this snake.’“

Parikshit Maharaja accepted the curse. He immediately left his kingdom, family, and everything and went down to the bank of the river Ganges. Because he was the king, many big, big men, great saintly persons, and even demigods came to see him at the last stage of his life, the last seven days.

Parikshit Maharaja was a devotee of Krishna from childhood, so he asked Shukadeva Goswami, “What is my duty in reference to knowing about Krishna?”

His question is here being welcomed by Shukadeva Goswami: “Your question – an inquiry about Krishna – is very much welcome.”

Variyan esha te prashnah. Prashna means question. “You have asked a question about Krishna. It is very, very good.” Why? Krito loka-hitam nripa: “It is good for all of human society. Because you have inquired about Krishna, I’ll have to reply. People will hear, it will be recorded, and people will be benefitted.” Loka-hitam.

King Parikshit is inquiring and Shukadeva Goswami is answering. In another place, great saintly persons inquired and Suta Goswami replied. This kind of question and answer is atmavit-sammatah. Atmavit means self-realized. One who does not know what the self is, who does not know what he is, is an animal. “What am I? Am I this body? Or am I something other than this body?” If this inquiry is not there, one is not a human being; he’s an animal. Animals cannot inquire. Cats and dog cannot inquire, “What am I?”

Everyone who has a material body is suffering. That is the condition. If you have a material body, you must suffer. It is not a question of being European or American or white or black. Whether you are an animal or a man, as soon as you have a material body you must suffer. That is the material condition. Therefore our Krishna consciousness movement is not meant for mitigating the so-called sufferings of the body. When there is a body, there must be suffering.

We should not be very much disturbed by the sufferings of the body. You’ll have to suffer, even though you make a very nice arrangement. In European cities we see so many nice arrangements, with big, big houses, big, big roads, nice cars. If some Indian comes from an Indian village, he’ll see, “It is heaven – such nice houses, such nice buildings, such nice cars.” But do you think you are not suffering? The rascal may think, “Here is heaven.” But those who are residing in this heaven know what kind of heaven it is. Suffering must be there as soon as you get a material body.

“Suffering? We are enjoying.”

What are you enjoying? Is there any guarantee that you’ll enjoy? You have a nice building, a nice road, a nice car. That’s all right. You are thinking you are enjoying. But is there any guarantee that you will enjoy? Any moment you’ll be finished. Any moment. There is no guarantee.

A Strong Foundation

That is not enjoyment. Real enjoyment is permanent enjoyment. When a man constructs a house, he makes the foundation very strong.

“But what is your foundation, sir? Is it very strong? You can be taken away at any moment. Why don’t you make your foundation strong to be able to live here permanently?”

But that intelligence he hasn’t got. He’ll waste time making the house foundation very strong, but not his own foundation. His foundation is tottering and may collapse at any second.

Persons with this kind of intelligence are called animals. The dog will live for six or ten years, but he is very proud: “I have a very nice master. Gow! Gow!“ You see? This kind of intelligence is no good.

Therefore it is said here, <atmavit-sammatah. A question like Parikshit’s is approved by persons who are self-realized. Atmavit means “one who knows what he is.” Sammatah means “approved.”

Atmavit sammatah pumsam shrotavyadishu yah parah. Parah means “superior.” We are accustomed to hear so many things. We are hankering to hear the radio or the record album or the news from the newspaper. We are always anxious, very anxious, to hear the news. In your country especially, millions of big newspapers are printed just to satisfy the desire to hear what is going on in the world. But after seeing one or two pages, you throw it away, because the news is hackneyed. You know there was political strife, there was a fire, there was a burglary, there was this, there was that. The same story. Charvita-charvananam: chewing the chewed.

This kind of hearing will not give me pleasure. Therefore here it is said, shrotavyadishu yah parah. This krishna-prashna – questions and answers about Krishna – is not ordinary questions and answers. It is not ordinary hearing. It is atmavit-sammatah. Those who are self-realized will understand its value; they will approve of it, because it is transcendental: shrotavyadishu yah parah.

Someone may say, “There are many subjects for hearing, and this is just one of them.”

Shukadeva Goswami says, “No, this is parah, transcendental, the most superior questions and answers for hearing.”

In the next verse Shukadeva Goswami says,

shrotavyadini rajendra
nrinam santi sahasrashah
apashyatam atma-tattvam
griheshu griha-medhinam

“Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O Emperor.” Rajendra means “the best of kings.” Parikshit Maharaja was the best of kings. He is preparing for death. He does not think, “I am now the king. I’ll die, and I shall again become the king.” He does not think foolishly like that. He knows, “I may be the king in this life, and in the next life I may be a dog.”

He’s atmavit: he knows atma, the soul. The destination of the soul after death is under the control of nature. You cannot say, “This time I am a very good-looking French boy or girl. In the next life I shall become the same.”

Crows Worshiping Napoleon

Everyone has love for his country. That is the modern civilization. In your country, Napoleon loved his country so much. Now you do not know where he is. You simply have a statue. And you are thinking, “I am worshiping Napoleon.”

You do not actually worship him. Real worship is as we are doing here in this temple. If you want to worship Napoleon, you must keep him in this way, as we are keeping the deity. But no, you keep him on the street, and the crows pass stool on him. That is not worship; that is insult.

This modern civilization has no common sense. If you are worshiping Napoleon, why do you keep him like that? We are worshiping Krishna, and we are keeping Him in a nice place.

They will say, “It is idol worship. These foolish people are worshiping an idol.”

And they are worshiping Napoleon very nicely. Just see their intelligence.

The opinion of persons who are not atmavit has no value. We don’t care for their opinion. Approval should be from persons who are self-realized. Their opinion has value. A rascal says, “In my opinion.” What is the value of your opinion? We don’t accept your opinion. We take the opinion of Krishna and Krishna’s devotee.

Shukadeva Goswami says, “My dear King, the subject for hearing by ordinary, common men, is many thousands of questions and answers.” That is life. A businessman asks, “What is the rate of this commodity?” And another man answers, “This is the price.” And he replies, “If it is favorable, purchase it.”

This is going on. But the exchange between Parikshit Maharaja and Shukadeva Goswami is not that kind of question and answer. Nor is it about a radio message or a football club or so many things. These things are meant for the common class of men, who have many, many thousands of questions and answers.

Why do they have so many topics for thousands of questions and answers when we have only one topic: Krishna? That is answered by the word griha-medhinam. In Vedic language there are two words for married people: grihamedhi and grihastha. Grihastha is the general word for those who are householders, living with family. In this age, and especially in western countries, to take sannyasa, the renounced order of life, is very difficult. Actually, in this age sannyasa is forbidden unless one is very strong spiritually. It is better to remain a grihastha and cultivate Krishna consciousness. Don’t accept sannyasa whimsically and then do all kinds of nonsense.

But don’t become a grihamedhi. A grihamedhi does not know anything other than supporting a family and living very comfortably. Life centers on the home. A grihastha knows Krishna. A grihamedhi has thousands of questions and answers centered on family life. But a grihastha has one topic for questions and answers: Krishna.

In our Krishna consciousness movement we don’t talk of just anything. We simply talk of Krishna. And if we talk of Krishna for a hundred years, we will not be finished. We have so many books. If we try to understand one word of Srimad-Bhagavatam, then it will take a hundred years. You can try to understand the opening words of the Srimad-Bhagavatam – janmady asya yatah – for one hundred years.

Go on reading both Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita every day. The more you become realized, atmavit, the more you’ll see new meaning, new light. Srimad-Bhagavatam is so nice.

What is the limit of learning? The limit is when you understand Srimad-Bhagavatam. No more knowledge required. Therefore it is called shrotavyadishu yah parah: the ultimate, first class.

Grihamedhis do not know that there is the soul and the soul is permanent. We are hankering after happiness. For whose happiness? It is the soul’s happiness. It is Krishna’s happiness. We try to protect the body. We are very fond of the body. Why? Because the soul is there. Everyone knows it. As soon as there is no soul in the body, it is kicked out. Throw it away in the street. Nobody cares for it. Suppose the bodies of a beautiful man and a beautiful girl are lying dead in the street. Who cares for them? But as long as the soul is there – “Oh, such a beautiful boy, such a beautiful girl.” The soul is important.

So actually, we love the soul. This is the fact. This is atmavit. And why do we love the soul? Because we love Krishna. The soul is part and parcel of Krishna. So why are we so fond of the soul? Because it is part and parcel of Krishna. Therefore, ultimately, we love Krishna. This is the conclusion. And if we do not love Krishna, that is an abnormal stage. The normal stage is to love Krishna.

Therefore we are trying to awaken people’s Krishna consciousness. As soon as one is fixed in Krishna consciousness and begins to love Krishna, then he doesn’t want to love anything separately. As Dhruva Maharaja said: “Now I am fully satisfied.” Otherwise, we’ll have many questions, many answers, as long as we are not self-realized. And our time will be spoiled.

Krishna-prashna, inquiry about Krishna, should continually go on. You’ll find all the answers in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then simply by such questions and answers your life will be successful.

Thank you very much.