Srila Prabhupada explains that our Krishna consciousness will progress in stages if we follow the prescribed devotional practices.

By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Nairobi on October 27, 1975.

Before we can relish higher stages of Krishna consciousness, we must steadily practice the prescribed items of devotional service.

dhyayed devam samagrangam
yavan na chyavate manah

“The glory of the Lord is always worth singing, for His glories enhance the glories of His devotees. One should therefore meditate upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead and upon His devotees. One should meditate on the eternal form of the Lord until the mind becomes fixed.” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.18

This is called meditation. Yavan here means that as long as the mind is disturbed and deviates from our subject of meditation, we should practice this kirtana, or singing the glory of the Lord. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advises that the devotee should chant always, twenty-four hours, kirtaniyah sada harih. Here it is said, “It is worth singing.” Why? Punya shloka yashaskaram. Even if you do not fix up your mind – kirtana means fix up your mind – but even if you do not fix up your mind, then you are still a gainer. The more you glorify the Lord, the more you become pious, simply by kirtana. It is not necessary that you understand, but if you go on chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, then you become pious. Punya-shloka. One of Krishna’s names is Punya-shloka. Simply by chanting “Krishna” you become pious.

Dhyayed devam samagrangam. The dhyana, the meditation, should begin from the lotus feet of the Lord. As soon as you begin kirtana, first of all concentrate your mind on the lotus feet. Do not all of a sudden jump up to the face. Be practiced to think of the lotus feet, then still higher, the knees, then the thighs, then the belly, then the chest. In this way, at last go to the face. This is the process. It is described in the Second Canto of the Bhagavatam.

The process is how to think of Krishna. This is meditation. By kirtana it becomes very easy. If you chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra twenty-four hours like Haridasa Thakura . . . That is not possible. So chant as much as possible. This lecture is also kirtana. We are talking about Krishna, reading about Krishna, reading Krishna’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita, or reading Krishna’s glories in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. They are all kirtana. It is not that simply when we sing with musical instruments, that is kirtana. No. Anything you talk about Krishna, that is kirtana. Kirtaniyah sada harih.

Vachamsi vaikuntha-gunanuvarnane. Maharaja Ambarisha always engaged his words in describing the glories of the Lord. This is the character of Maharaja Ambarisha. Whenever he would talk, he would talk about Krishna. This is kirtana. He won’t talk about anything else. Sa vai manah krishna-padaravindayoh. Whenever he would think, he would think of Krishna – His lotus feet, His body, His hands, His flute. This is meditation. And trance means when your mind is so fixed up on Krishna or Vishnu that not for a second is your mind deviated from Krishna’s form. That is called trance. Not artificially. You can practice it. If you see Krishna daily in the temple, if you worship, if you offer your obeisances, naturally you will think of Krishna twenty-four hours, and that will make you more pious, because without being pious, nobody can think of Krishna.

To be pious means there is no reaction of sinful life. It is all squared up. That you can do at any moment. Krishna takes charge. Krishna says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami: “I will deliver you from all sinful reactions.” (Gita 18.66). He can do that. He can nullify one’s destiny.

Everyone, beginning from the small microbe, the indragopa, and up to Indra the king of heaven – so from this Indra to that Indra – all different types of living entities are suffering, not enjoying, the resultant action of their past sinful life. This is material existence. Everyone is suffering, but Maya is so kind that she misleads the sufferer to understand that the suffering is enjoying. This is Maya. Actually, everyone is suffering, but he is misled to think that he is enjoying. So if we keep ourself always in contact with Krishna, then we become pious more and more, and as soon as our sinful reactions of life are counteracted by these pious activities, we begin to understand Krishna. Yesham tv anta-gatam papam. Without being sinless, nobody can understand Krishna. So this process should be continued.

A Different Kind of Form

Devam, in today’s verse, means the Supreme Lord. Samagra means the whole; angam means body. Samagrangam. If He has no body, if He is formless, if He is nirakara, then where is the question of angam? He has angamsamagrangam – but He hasn’t got a form like us. That is the meaning. When in the shastra it is said that God has no form, it means that He has no material form. He has form; otherwise how can I think of His form? Krishna’s form is not like us. If you take my statue or any other statue and if you pray or if you offer food, that does not go actually to the person. But Krishna’s anga, His form, is nondifferent from Krishna.

Foolish people may say, “These men are offering food to a marble statue. Everyone knows.”

No. It is not the fact. The fact is that Krishna is omnipotent. He can accept your service by becoming a marble statue. Because you cannot see Krishna by your present eyes, He has appeared before you just like a marble statue. But He is not a marble statue. We must know that. If we think, “Here is a marble statue, and if I commit some offense, who is going to see?” this is the wrong conclusion. He is Krishna personally present here in a form we can see. It is His mercy. It is called arca-vigraha, “a form for worship.”

Krishna is everything. This marble is also Krishna’s energy. He can accept your service from any part of His energy. The marble is His energy, the water is also His energy, the air is also His energy – everything. Without Krishna nothing can exist. He is omniscient, all-powerful. He can accept your service through His energy. This is arca-vigraha. Samagrangam.

Krishna has got form, angam, but His anga is different. His anga is sach-chid-ananda, eternal and full of bliss and knowledge. Krishna and His direct expansions are ananda-chinmaya, blissful spiritual consciousness. When Krishna is in the rasa dance, the gopis He is enjoying with are expansion of His energy, and you will find, therefore, that Krishna is there with each and every gopi. That is another kind of expansion – Krishna in innumerable forms simultaneously.

We should not take Krishna’s dancing to be like our ball dance. No, that is a mistake. If we understand Krishna’s dancing, then we become liberated. It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that instead of reading some books of this ball dance, if you read about Krishna’s dancing, then what will be the result? The result will be kamam hrid-rogam ashv apahinoty achirena dhirah (Bhagavatam 10.33.39). Every one of us has got lusty desires, but if actually one is advanced and hears from a realized person the meaning of Krishna’s rasa dance, then the result will be that hrid-roga-kamam – one’s heart diseasewill be vanquished. We have got a heart disease. “Heart disease” means lusty desire. Hrid-roga-kamam apahinoti: “It becomes vanquished.” If one actually hears Krishna’s rasa-lila, then no more material lusty desires. This is the result.

Rasa-lila: Only for the Advanced

But unless we are advanced spiritually, we should not indulge in hearing about the rasa-lila. Then we shall commit offense. We shall think, “Krishna is dancing like us.” How is Krishna dancing? Krishna is dancing with each and every gopi. Can you do that? Then how can you say, “Krishna is dancing like us”? Every gopi is thinking, “Krishna is dancing with me.” How it is possible? There are many rascals who imitate. “I am Krishna, and I can also dance like that.” No. It is ananda-chinmaya-rasa-pratibhavitabhih. This manifestation, demonstration, is not of this material world. Ananda-cinmaya-rasa. When Krishna was dancing, all the gopis left their material body by the side of the husband, but they went to dance. That is the spiritual body. That is not the material body. So don’t indulge in such a way. “Krishna’s dancing and our dancing is the same.” Then you will be mistaken. That will be an offense.

We have to become advanced in spiritual understanding. So-called artists indulge in painting Krishna’s pictures, His dealings with the gopis. That is not very good. That is misleading. People may think wrongly, and actually that happens. If without being mature, without being advanced in spiritual consciousness, if one tries to understand or see krishna-lila with the gopis, then he will be misled. Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, you will find, rigidly discussed this krishna-lila with a very confidential devotee, Ramananda Raya, not with others. He never discussed with Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya or Prakashananda Sarasvati. With them he discussed Mayavada philosophy, but not krishna-lila. Krishna-lila He discussed with Ramananda Raya, a most confidential devotee. And to understand Krishna, Vyasadeva has devoted nine cantos. And then, from the  Tenth Canto, he begins krishna-lila.

Krishna-lila is the face of Krishna, the smiling of Krishna. So here we have to practice to see the different parts of the body gradually from below. We first of all see His lotus feet. That is described. The two feet are called the First Canto and Second Canto. In this way we must go. Everything is very scientifically arranged. If we take it chronologically, according to the instruction of the shastra, then it will be very easy.

Understanding “In Truth”

manushyanam sahasreshu
kashchid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kashchid mam vetti tattvatah

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” We should understand tattvatah, “in truth.” That tattvatah means bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yash chasmi tattvatah: “One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service.” (Gita 18.55) Tattvatah. Only through devotional service.

What is devotional service? Prahlada Maharaja said:

Hearing [shravanam] and chanting [kirtanam] about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) – these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. (Bhagavatam 7.5.23)

We have to follow these nine principles of devotional service, especially shravanam, kirtanam, and archanam – worshiping the deity. Even if you follow one, that is sufficient, but there are nine different processes. As far as possible we shall execute everything, and at least shravanam kirtanam vishnoh smaranam pada-sevanam archanam.

The Importance of Deity Worship

Archana is very important. For the kanishtha-adhikari, the devotee in the lower stage, archana is very, very important. The devotee in the higher stage also offers worship, but such a devotee is able to Krishna everywhere. But a neophyte devotee cannot do so. Some people say, “Why should you go to the temple? Krishna is everywhere.” Krishna is everywhere; that is a fact. But that vision is for the paramhamsa, one who is very, very advanced. The kanishtha-adhikari cannot see like that. Like a parrot, he can say, “Krishna is everywhere.” But he must be educated to know “Here is Krishna in the temple.” Otherwise it is simply blasphemy that “Krishna is everywhere.” That’s a fact, but where is your realization? Krishna is within your heart. Have you got that realization? Can you talk with Krishna?

Krishna says, “I talk.” Dadami buddhi-yogam tam (Gita 10.10). Krishna gives intelligence. Krishna is giving, but have you got that realization?

These are all facts ­– that Krishna is everywhere, Krishna is within your heart, Krishna is within the atom. But where is your realization? Therefore you have to begin realization by archana. That is very essential. The more you become expert in archana, then the more you become realized, and the more you become advanced. So therefore the kanishtha-adhikari has to raise himself. Lord Krishna tells Uddhava:

archayam eva haraye
pujam yah shraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteshu chanyeshu
sa bhaktah prakritah smrita

“A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prakrita-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position.” (Bhagavatam 11.2.47)

By executing this archana, gradually you advance. But if you simply remain in the archana-viddhi, or the archana process, and you cannot understand who is a bhakta and what to do with others . . . That is also a bhakta’s duty, not that simply we shall remain engaged in archana. We must know how to respect devotees, how to do some service to others also. That is madhyama-adhikari. If you simply become satisfied that “Now I am initiated and I am offering archana. I have become perfect” – no, the perfection is still awaiting. You have to understand who is a devotee. You have to understand how to give service to the innocent. If you do not know that, then if you simply become packed up by arca-vigraha-seva, or archana, you will remain on the material platform.

Prakritah means material. One may be trying to go to the spiritual platform, but – na tad-bhakteshu chanyeshu – he may simply remain in archana and not preach. Anyeshu means those who are innocent. Lord Krishna describes those who are madhyama-adhikari, or in the middle stage:

ishvare tad-adhineshu
balisheshu dvishatsu cha
yah karoti sa madhyamah

“An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikari, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhagavatam 11.2.46)

By archa-vigraha worship, by shravana-kirtana, by making proper advancement, you will understand the position of Krishna, Ishvara. And adhina. Adhina means those who are working for Krishna. They are called tad-adhina. Adhina means subordinate.

Every devotee is subordinate. Nobody is equal to Krishna. If we think otherwise, then it is mistake. A devotee is dasa. Dasa means servant. A servant is always the subordinate. Therefore a Vaishnava says, “I am dasa.” He never says, “I am master.”

Nobody can be superior to Krishna or equal to Krishna. To think that one can be is a mistake. The Mayavada philosophers think, “Now I have become equal to Krishna. I am also Krishna.” That is rascaldom. Krishna, God, is never equal to anyone. Asamaurdhva. Asama means “not equal,” and urdhva, “always the top.”

We should remain tad-adhina, always under Krishna. That is our perfection.

Krishna is the protector of all living entities. A father is always anxious to see that his children are well protected; similarly, Krishna is also always anxious to give protection to His subordinates. But if the subordinate denounces Krishna – “I don’t want Your protection” – then suffer your karma. That you are doing. Those who are in the material world are suffering. Why? They have given up the protection of Krishna. They are thinking, “We can protect ourselves. What is the use of Krishna?” This is called dharmasya glanih. This is deviation from the natural way of life, when you give up the protection. Our Krishna consciousness movement is meant for going back to that protection, for going back home, back to Godhead.

Thank you very much.