By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhuapada
Lecture given in Vrindavan, India, November 12, 1976
To attain bhakti, or pure devotional service to the Lord, one must come to the point of desiring nothing else.
matto ’py anantat paratah parasmat
akinchananam mayi bhakti-bhajam
[Lord Rshabhadeva said:] “I am fully opulent, almighty, and superior to Lord Brahma and Indra, the king of the heavenly planets. I am also the bestower of all happiness obtained in the heavenly kingdom and by liberation. Nonetheless, the brahmanas do not seek material comforts from Me. They are very pure and do not want to possess anything. They simply engage in My devotional service. What is the need of their asking for material benefits from anyone else?”
Lord Rshabhadeva is an incarnation of Krishna. He is explaining that devotional life, bhakti-yoga, is so exalted that persons engaged in it do not care for the heavenly planets, which are part of the material world, or for liberation. They consider those rewards insignificant. Prabodhananda Sarasvati, a follower of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, wrote kaivalyam narakayate: “The liberation of becoming one with the Supreme is as good as going to hell.” And what did he say about the heavenly planets—Svargaloka, Janaloka, Maharloka, Tapoloka? Tri-dasha-pura akasha-pushpayate: “They are as insignificant as an illusory flower in the sky.”
Suppose you go to Svargaloka and become Indra, the king of the heavenly planets. That is not a permanent position. By pious activities you can become Brahma, Indra, and so many demigods. You can hold such posts. But even if you go to Brahmaloka, the planet of Brahma, what is the benefit? You have to come back. Similarly, even you go to the Brahman effulgence, the impersonal spiritual energy emanating from Krishna, you will eventually fall back to the material world.
Therefore devotees are akinchana. They neglect all these things. They don’t care for them.
Karmis, persons seeking material enjoyment, try to go to Svargaloka, the heavenly planets; yogis and jnanis, or impersonalistic philosophers, want to go to the brahmajyoti, the effulgence of God. But a devotee is not seeking relief because a devotee is not uncomfortable in the material world. Why? Because a devotee sees God, Krishna, everywhere, and wherever Krishna is present, then everything is all right. That is the view of someone engaged in devotional service to the Lord.
“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana [Krishna], never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation, and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.” ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.17.28) Devotees are not anxious either to go to Svargaloka or to refrain from going. They are satisfied: “Wherever Krishna keeps me, that is all right. Never mind whether it is heaven or hell.” They feel that way because they perceive Krishna within themselves and are concerned only with Him.
Wherever the Supreme Personality of Godhead is present, that place is Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. The Supreme Lord is in every living entity’s heart. Hogs and dogs have a heart, and Krishna is present there. Does that mean that Krishna is living with hogs and dogs? No. He is living in Vaikuntha. Wherever He may live, He lives in Vaikuntha. Similarly, the devotee lives with Narayana, or Krishna, so there is no question of hell and heaven for the devotee. He is in Vaikuntha. If Krishna is living in Vaikuntha, the devotee is also living in Vaikuntha.
The devotees are concerned with Krishna, Narayana. Therefore they are not afraid. The great sage Narada travels everywhere. He goes to hell, he goes to heaven, and he goes Vaikuntha to see Narayana. And as he travels, he chants and sings the holy names of the Lord. His business is to enlighten others. If he goes to hell, he advises the souls there, “Chant Hare Krishna.” And if he goes to Indraloka, the heavenly planets, he will advise the same thing. That is his business. Similarly, those who are preaching Krishna consciousness should not be afraid of hell or heaven. Wherever they go they simply preach, “Chant Hare Krishna.” That is their business.
Rejecting Material Desires
One has to become akinchana, desiring nothing material, simply the lotus feet of the Lord. Our predecessor spiritual master Narottama Dasa Thakura has written, ha ha prabhu nanda-suta, vrishabhanu-suta-juta, karuna karoho ei-baro: “O Krishna, along with Radharani, please be merciful upon me.” Narottama-dasa koy, na theliho ranga pay: “I am fully surrendered unto You. Don’t reject me.” Toma bine ke ache amara. “I have nothing except Your lotus feet.”
This is the mood of akinchana: “I have no other thing except You. So how can You reject me? Give me shelter.”
If I think that I have another shelter besides Krishna’s lotus feet, then I am not akinchana. I am kincana: I have some other hope besides Krishna.
Akincana means that my only hope is Krishna. Kunti Devi in her prayers addressed Krishna as akinchana-gocara: “You are realized by a person who has no desire to possess anything else.” And Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has said, nishkincanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukhasya. Bhagavad-bhajana, worship of the Lord, requires one to be nishkincana, which has the same meaning as akinchana. If you want to enjoy something material, there is no question of bhagavad-bhajana, because if you have even a little pinch of desire to enjoy material comforts, you’ll not be admitted into the pure service of the Lord.
Therefore Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja. (Bhagavad-gita 18.66) He instructs us to surrender fully unto Him. Bhakti-yoga begins when one thinks, “No more. Enough of this material enjoyment.” One must even reject brahma-bhutah, the stage of Brahman realization, in which one thinks, “I am in the brahmajyoti. I have become something important.” No. Devotees reject even the brahmajyoti. As Prabodhananda Sarasvati says, kaivalyam narakayate: “Existing in the brahmajyoti is like being in hell.” This is the position of the devotee.
We Must Be Willing
Bhakti, devotional service, is not easy, but at the same time it is very easy. It is one moment’s business. But we must be willing. Krishna says, “Surrender unto Me.” If we do that, then immediately we are on the bhakti stage. But we are not willing. Krishna says directly, “Surrender unto Me,” but people say, “When Krishna is merciful to me, then I shall surrender.” What is this nonsense? Krishna is directly asking you. He has to become merciful again? What kind of mercy?
These are all pleas. Actually the person doesn’t want to surrender. “I shall not surrender unto You, sir. I shall make some pleas, some excuses. That’s all.”
We do not know how many times we have been born and died, for millions and millions of years. Still, we are so shameless we want to do it again and again. We want to continue to enjoy material life, which is nothing but eating, sleeping, sex, and fear. This is every living being’s business, from the small insect up to Brahma and Indra. People do not want to stop this business. They want to improve it. “I am eating now without any plate, but if I can eat on a golden plate, that is advancement.” A gentleman is eating tasty dishes, and a hog is eating stool. The eating is the same; the difference is just a matter of taste.
When we devotees are offered food on an airplane, we refuse it. We don’t touch anything on the airplane because we know what it is. But the man next to us is happily eating the intestines of a hog. He is enjoying eating with his spoon and fork, and we are thinking, “Oh, what a nasty thing he is eating!”
We should completely give up anything material. That is nishkincana. We have no business with anything material, whether on a golden plate or on the street or on the floor. It does not make any difference. Our business is to accept prasada, what Krishna has eaten. We are not interested in the intestine of hogs, and we are not interested in tasty dishes like halava and puris if they have not been offered to Krishna. We are interested to eat what has already been accepted by Krishna.
Those who eat Krishna prasada enjoy thousands of nice preparations. Why should we go to the restaurant? There are so many nice preparations offered to Krishna. Krishna is ready to accept from a devotee whatever he offers, within limits. There are people who say, “Whatever I eat I can offer.” But that is not the process. The process is that you must offer Krishna what He wants. When you invite someone to your home, you ask, “What can I offer you?” That is the etiquette. Not that the guest has to eat any horrible thing you offer.
Krishna says that he eats the offerings of His devotees. But the atheist says, “Oh, you are offering so many nice dishes, but they are still lying there in front of your deity. He has not eaten.” Such a person does not know how Krishna eats. Krishna can eat with His eyes. He can eat by touching. And even if He eats the whole thing, He can keep the whole thing present. The atheist cannot see this, but the devotee knows, “Krishna is eating, and we shall take the prasada.”
A Successful Life
We have to learn what bhakti is. If we advance in devotional service, then naturally we will lose our taste for the material world. We must know that by taking to devotional service we can leave the material world. The material world is the place where there is danger at every step. Everyone will have to die. So before death we must become fully Krishna conscious. The end will come today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Nobody will remain here. But success is to remember Narayana, Krishna, at the end of life. We should practice that. Don’t think, “I shall die tomorrow, but you are dying today, so I am better than you.” Nobody will live here forever. Everyone will die, and we must be prepared for death. The devotee has no fear of dying, because if he is completely surrendered to Krishna, then he is going back to Him—simply by surrendering to Krishna.
And how does one surrender? Krishna says,
pratijane priyo ’se me
“Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Bhagavad-gita 18.65) Krishna is giving assurance. If we do only these four things, we will go to Him. The first is to always think of Krishna. Anyone can do it. And everyone can offer Krishna patram pushpam phalam toyam: fruit, a flower, a leaf, or water. ( Bhagavad-gita 9.26) Everyone can hear from Krishna to learn about Him. Where is the difficulty?
The difficulty is that we want enjoyment in this material world. But the devotee is not attracted to the material world, including the heavenly planets. And the devotee is not attracted by liberation or yogic perfection. Persons who desire those things are never peaceful. Those who want material enjoyment work hard for material profit or promotion to the heavenly planets. Those who are after liberation undergo severe austerities and penance to enter the impersonal spiritual energy. And the yogis also work very hard. Yoga practice is not so easy, especially in this age.
Our bhakti-yoga is so easy. Simply do the four things Krishna asks. Take to bhakti, devotional service, and reject everything else. That will make your life successful.
Thank you very much.