Srila Prabhupada speaks about the qualifications to see God, who is all around us.

By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture given on April 9, 1971, in Bombay

Although Krishna is invisible to ordinary persons, He tells us how we can become extraordinary and thus able to see Him always.

kunty uvacha
namasye purusham tvadyam
ishvaram prakriteh param
alakshyam sarva-bhutanam
antar bahir avasthitam

“Srimati Kunti said: O Krishna, I offer my obeisances unto You because You are the original personality and are unaffected by the qualities of the material world. You are existing both within and without everything, yet You are invisible to all.” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.18

The manifestation of this material world is the impersonal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And His personal feature is situated in everyone’s heart as Paramatma, the Supersoul. Therefore it is said here, alakshyam sarva-bhutanam antar bahir avasthitam. Although Krishna, or God, is outside and inside, still He is not visible. Not visible to whom? To the ordinary persons who are not in Krishna consciousness. Sarva-bhutanam means all the ordinary living entities. They cannot see Krishna, or God, either within or outside.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (7.25), naham prakashah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavritah: “I am not visible to everyone, because there is a curtain called yoga-maya covering the eyes of ordinary persons,” just like a cloud covering the eyes’ sight. One cannot see the sun in full vision when there is a cloud. Similarly, yoga-maya has created a cloud, on account of which we cannot see God.

But the same eyes can be purified. You may not be able to see because you have a cataract; you are blind. But if the cataract is operated on and removed, then your vision is revived. So you can see.

Ordinarily you cannot see God, either inside or outside. We say that God is within and God is outside, but why can’t we see Him? Because we are not devotees. But as soon as you become a devotee, a lover of God, or Krishna, then you can see.

Krishna is present everywhere. The Brahma-samhita (5.38) says,

santah sadaiva hridayeshu vilokayanti
yam shyamasundaram achintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Syamasundara, Krishna Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.” Prema means love, and anjana means ointment. When the ointment of love is smeared over the eyes, then those who are devotees – santah, saintly persons – can always see Krishna within the heart.

One who is a lover of God can see Krishna in everything. Whatever he sees, he sees Krishna there, because he knows, “This thing is produced out of Krishna’s energy.” Take for example a flower. A devotee sees a flower as produced by Krishna’s energy. He sees the beauty of the flower, appreciating Krishna’s artistic sense. When he hears the sweet voice of a bird, he immediately understands, “Krishna is speaking so nicely through this bird.” This is called Krishna consciousness. Everywhere he sees Krishna. Antar bahih – within and without.

One who comes to this platform of understanding Krishna or seeing Krishna within and without will see Krishna within and without always, twenty-four hours a day. He will see nothing else.

Others simply say, “Where is God? God is dead. Can you show me God?” Such persons will never be able to understand what God is because they want to see God by challenging Him. That is not possible. God is not visible by challenge, simply by love and surrender. Then God can be seen.

Therefore shastra, scripture, says aradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim: “If one has come to the point of worshiping the Supreme Lord, there is no more necessity of undergoing severe austerities and penances.” For their sense gratification, karmis, jnanis, and yogis have to undergo severe austerities. But the bhakta, the devotee, if he simply learns how to love Krishna then he hasn’t got to undergo severe austerities and penances. Immediately he is released from material bondage, because that is a result of reaching the perfectional stage.

The gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrindavan, learned how to love Krishna. That’s all. They never underwent any severe austerities like the yogis who go to the Himalayas and press their noses and undertake other practices. No, the gopis never did such things. Their only business was to love Krishna automatically. Of course, that stage is not easily obtained, but the shastra says that if you come to that stage – simply loving Krishna – then you are on the highest platform of blissful life.

Those who are seeing God twenty-four hours a day have reached the highest stage of perfection. And by this Krishna consciousness movement one can be brought to this platform – loving Krishna twenty-four hours a day without any cessation.

Covered by a Curtain

But others cannot see God. Why? Because their eyes are covered by a curtain created by maya. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.15) Krishna speaks about persons who are very proud of their advancement of scientific knowledge. Mayayapahrita-jnanah:  their knowledge has been taken away by maya. Apahrita means taken away. And Kunti says here (Bhagavatam 1.8.19), maya-javanikachchannam ajna adhokshajam avyayam: Because of the curtain of maya, such persons cannot see Adhokshaja.

Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is also known as Adhokshaja. Aksha means direct perception. People sometimes say, “Can you show me God?” The answer is, “Do you have the eyes to see God?” God, or Krishna, cannot be seen by these eyes. So one of Krishna’s names is Adhokshaja. Adhah means down, made down, or defeated.

Your sense perception will be defeated if you want to realize God by your imperfect sense perception. To realize God in that way is not possible. Your attempt will be defeated. Aksha means eyes. You are very proud of seeing, but you are seeing because there is light. If the light is taken away, you cannot see.

Your seeing power is conditional. You cannot see God in that way. Only when you develop love of God will you be able to see Krishna always, twenty-four hours a day. This is the science.

Maya-javanikachchannam ajna. Because the javanika, the curtain, is there, created by maya, everyone is ajna. Ajna means foolish, without any knowledge.

ajnadhokshajam avyayam
na lakshyase mudha-drisha
nato natyadharo yatha

“Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.” (Bhagavatam 1.8.19). Mudha means the ass, or donkey, and mudha-drisha means those who are seeing like an ignorant person or an ass. What is the example? A theatrical actor is playing on the stage, and a child, seeing somebody acting, has forgotten that his father is acting. Because the father has dressed in a different way and is displaying a different posture, playing on the stage, although the child is sitting amongst the audience he cannot understand, “He’s my father playing.” Because he hasn’t got the understanding. One who is older or advanced in knowledge can see. Or the mother can say, “Oh, don’t you see that your father is playing there?” So although both the child and the mother are there, one cannot see and the other can see.

One who has knowledge can see God. One who hasn’t got knowledge cannot see God, although God is everywhere. Na lakshyase mudha-drisha nato natyadharo yatha. Nato means a theatrical actor. When He is dressed like an actor, the foolish man cannot see Him as He is.

The Supreme Human Position

Kunti Devi then says (1.8.20),

tatha paramahamsanam
muninam amalatmanam
katham pashyema hi striyah

“You Yourself descend to propagate the transcendental science of devotional service unto the hearts of the advanced transcendentalists and mental speculators, who are purified by being able to discriminate between matter and spirit. How, then, can we women know You perfectly?” Krishna is visible only to the paramahamsas, those who have attained the supreme position of a human being.

According to the Vedic system there are eight stages: brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra; and brahmachari, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasa. The sannyasi is understood to be on the first-class stage. And there are four stages of sannyasa: kuticaka, bahudaka, parivrajakacharya, and paramahamsa. Not all sannyasis are of equal status.

Nowadays, accepting sannyasa life is forbidden because nobody can actually strictly follow the rules and regulations. Nor has anybody got any inclination to accept sannyasa. Therefore in this age sannyasa is sometimes forbidden.

But if you ask, “Why have you taken sannyasa?” the answer is that this sannyasa is not karma-sannyasa, which means simply giving up all ordinary work, rituals, and so on. This sannyasa is devotional sannyasa, or Vaishnava sannyasa. The Vaishnava sannyasi is anyone who gives up everything and simply devotes his time for pushing on the Krishna consciousness movement. He is also a sannyasi.

Working Only to Please Krishna

It is recommended in the Bhagavad-gita (6.1):

anashritah karma-phalam
karyam karma karoti yah
sa sannyasi cha yogi cha
na niragnir na chakriyah<

“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.” The sannyasi works without any desire to enjoy the fruits of his activity. The Vaishnava sannyasis are working for Krishna; they have no desire to make any profit out of it. Other sannyasis are working for a profit. They want moksha, or mukti, liberation. But Vashnava sannyasis do not want even moksha.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the ideal sannyasi, never prayed for moksha, which means freedom from having to accept another material body after death. Vaishnava sannyasis do not want even moksha. Therefore they have no demands, and are different from the ordinary sannyasi.

The ordinary sannyasi has a demand. He wants mukti. But the aim of the Vaishnava sannyasi, whether in sannyasi dress or in non-sannyasi dress, is simply to satisfy Krishna. Anashritah karma. He has no shelter in the work that he is doing for Krishna. He does not think, “I shall work in this way, and there will be a good result, and I will enjoy it.” Other sannyasis are thinking like that: “I will perform severe austerities and penances. I shall go to the Himalayas and very rigidly execute all the principles of sannyasa. But as a result of this, I will get liberated, mukti.” Therefore he has got a demand.

So that sannyasi and this sannyasi – the Vaishnava sannyasi – are different. Vaishnava sannyasa can be accepted even in grihastha life, or householder life. In one sense, all these boys and girls who are working for Krishna have no other desire. They are all sannyasis because they have no desire to achieve any result out of their work. In krishna-bhakti, the only thing they want is that Krishna will be satisfied. They are engaged in preaching work because they want to satisfy Krishna.

Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” (Gita 18.66) They are teaching all over the world the same principles, the same philosophy: “Please surrender unto Krishna, and you will be happy.” That is their message. They have no other message. Therefore anashritah karma-phalam karyam karoti. They are all sannyasis.

Of course, because Lord Chaitanya accepted this kind of sannyasa, we are maintaining that system. But the actual point of sannyasa is not mukti, but to satisfy Krishna. That is sannyasa – how Krishna will be satisfied, how Krishna’s representative will be satisfied. We have to work under Krishna’s representative. If we want to be expert in anything, then we have to work under some expert. Therefore we accept a guru.

We do not serve Krishna directly; we accept a guru. The principle is that the guru is the representative of Krishna, and if we work under the guru and if we can satisfy the guru, then Krishna is satisfied. That is very easy to understand. Suppose in office you are working under some officer. You have no acquaintance with the proprietor, but your pay, your promotion will be considered by the proprietor on the recommendation of this officer. When the officer will say, “Yes, this man has worked very nicely,” then your increment of pay and your promotion will immediately be accepted by the proprietor.

Therefore shastra says, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: If you can satisfy your spiritual master, then you must know that you have satisfied Krishna. He is the representative of Krishna and you are working under him, so if he says, “It is all right,” Krishna says, “It is all right,” although you have never seen Krishna. And yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ’pi. If the spiritual master says, “Oh, you are doing nothing,” then all your labor is spoiled. Na gatih kuto ’pi. You have no other shelter.

Free of Dirty Things

Here it is said, tatha paramahamsanam muninam amalatmanam. Amala means without any dirty thing. What is that dirty thing? To have any slight desire for enjoying this material body. That is called the dirty thing. Everyone is samala, with dirty things.

The karmis, jnanis, and yogis are infected with dirty things. Why? The karmis want that “I shall be elevated to the heavenly planet, and I shall enjoy there in the celestial gardens with beautiful women.” That is their ambition. People are working very hard here. Everyone wants a very comfortable life with a good bank balance, a good house, a good wife, good children. That is their ambition. They are karmis. They have no other ambition.

The jnani sees that his good wife, good family, good money, and good house are nonsense. “It will not stay. For some years I can enjoy it; then it will all be vanquished.” They are jnanis. They know how things are happening. Therefore they want moksha. But there is still want: “Now I have given up all this. I don’t want this material happiness. Now I shall merge into the existence of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is the supreme enjoyer, so if I become one with Him, then I shall enjoy, supreme.”

The same enjoyment spirit is there, to merge into the Supreme. It is in a different way only. The karmis are directly trying to enjoy sense enjoyment. The jnanis are indirectly wanting for another kind, another higher status of sense enjoyment.

The yogis want to play some jugglery, magic. There are eight kinds of yoga-siddhis, perfections. You will find yogis showing some yoga-siddhi, and people are after that. Foolish people they are thinking that the yogi is God just by creating something by some magic.

Suppose I am sitting here and I make a motion like this and immediately I produce a golden cup. Oh, immediately thousands of people will come: “Oh, here is God. Here is God.” Because he has produced a golden cup worth, say, two thousand rupees, he has become God. Many merchants are producing two thousand rupees every moment. Then why are they not God? But the foolish people have no sense. They are captivated by this jugglery, yoga-siddhi.

This jugglery, yoga-siddhi magic, captivates foolish persons. So yogis want yoga-siddhis. If some foolish persons gather, then the yogi gets sense enjoyment. That is another type of sense enjoyment. So therefore in the Chaitanya-charitamrita it is said that bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami sakali ashanta – they are not paramahamsas.

So amalatmanam means when there are no more dirty things. The karmis have got dirty things: sense enjoyment. The jnani have also got dirty things. One may say that “Mukti is a dirty thing?” Yes. According to the Vaishnava calculation it is a dirty thing.

Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakura has said kaivalyam narakayate. Kaivalyam means to become one with the Supreme, mukti. He said, “It is exactly like hell.” Tri-dasha-purakasha-pushpayate: “And these heavenly planets,” the objective of the karmis, “are like a flower in the sky.”

Our point is that paramahamsa means one who has no such dirty things in the heart, neither bhukti nor mukti nor siddhi. These are all dirty things. Bhukti means material enjoyment, mukti means to merge into the existence of the Supreme Lord, and siddhi means yoga-siddhi. They are all dirty things. A person with such dirty things is not a paramahamsa. He may be a sannyasi, but he’s not a paramahamsa. Paramahamsa means one who has no dirty things. So all the bhaktas who are pure devotees are paramahamsas.

Krishna comes to teach this highest science of devotion to make people paramahamsas, not karmis, jnanis, and yogis, who all have dirty things within the heart. Therefore, as the first condition, Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam: “Just surrender unto Me and I shall make you a paramahamsa.” Then you will be able to see Krishna always.

Thank you very much.