By His divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the international Society for Krishna consciousness

Loving God begins with appreciating His greatness and moves on to the desire to serve Him in progressive levels of intimacy.

shri-bhagavan uvaca
mayy asakta-manah partha
yogam yunjan mad-ashrayah
asamshayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tach chrinu


“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Pritha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.”—Bhagavad-gita 7.1

This yoga system, the Krishna consciousness yoga system, begins with developing attachment for Krishna. And the process of developing attachment begins by admitting the greatness of the Supreme Lord.

God is great; there is no doubt about it. Everyone, even in the lowest status of life, can admit that. I am not speaking of the animals. Animals have no sense of God. I am speaking of human beings.

There are different grades of human civilization, from the highest type of civilization to the lowest, the aboriginal, but every one of them has a sense of God. That is the special prerogative of all human beings, not only the civilized human beings. When you came here to America from the European countries, the red Indians were considered aboriginals. Still, they have some religion, some conception of God.

God is great. That is admitted by the human civilization. Now, what is that greatness? Generally when we speak of greatness, we think of the greatness of the sky. That is a simple example of how something can be great: “As great as the sky.” In every religion or in every society the greatness of God is admitted. But how that greatness becomes tangible, that you can find in the Bhagavad-gita.

We have some conception of the sky, but we cannot have a definite idea of the greatness of the sky because our experience and knowledge are gathered by direct sense perception. If we try to understand this table, we can at once understand it, because we can feel the hardness of the table; the perception is there. But if we speak about the sky, we cannot get any direct perception.

Similarly, simply understanding the greatness of God is not all there is to know. But it is the beginning of attachment: “God is great.” You have to develop your attachment to the fullest extent, which is love of God.

You cannot love the sky. That is not possible. If I say, “Love the sky,” you’ll say, “How? I want something tangible. I want a boy, I want a girl, then I can love. How I can love the sky?”

Simply understanding the greatness of the sky is not enough. As explained in the Vedic literature, from the sky, the next development in the process of creation is air. When the air is blowing, you can at least have some touch sensation. Air develops from sky; fire or electricity develops from air; water develops from fire; and land develops from water. When the development comes to the land stage, you can understand something very tangible.

Progressing to Service

Similarly, from the idea of the greatness of God, the sense of service must develop: God is so great, so I must render some service to God. The sense of service is a further development from the sense of His greatness. Just as from the sky the air develops, from the idea of the greatness of God the sense of service develops. For example, because I am serving somebody great, I go to some office because he provides for me. The proprietor gives me some salary; therefore he is greater than I am. I render service in exchange for something given by him. That is the example.

In the Vedic literature it is said, eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: The one great supreme living being is supplying all the necessities of all the small living beings. We are all small living beings, and Krishna, or the Supreme Lord, is also a living being like us, but He is the greatest living being.

The other day I explained that man is made after God, not that God is made after man. Don’t think that because we have two hands, two legs, and one head, we have created a Krishna who has two hands, two legs, and one head. No. That is not the fact. Actually, because Krishna has two legs, two hands, and one head, we also have these.

God is great and we are dependent. So our sense of love has to be developed. We must accept that God is great. He is supplying our needs; why not render some service in gratitude? Is there any harm? Suppose somebody is always supplying you everything, don’t you think to render some service to him in gratitude? If you develop that sense of gratitude, that is further development in attachment; it is development to service.

From Service to Friendship

Now that service has to be further developed. How? Just like service to your friend. A friend does not demand service. A master demands service: “You must do it.” But a friend does not demand service, so you serve him voluntarily: “Yes, why not?” That friendly service is more intimate. It is further development.

One sort of friendship is with awe and veneration. If you have a very rich friend, you cannot talk with him so frankly. But you can talk with a friend in the same status very freely. Similarly, we can develop friendship with God in two stages. The first stage is with awe and veneration: “Oh, God is so great. God is supplying us so many things, and in gratitude I must serve Him.” Or, in the second stage: “He is my well-wisher; He’s my friend.”

Arjuna developed friendship with Krishna. When he saw Krishna in His supreme universal form, he said, “My dear Krishna, I have talked with You as a friend. I have insulted You in so many ways.” Friends sometimes talk with friends in an insulting tone, but that is not insult; that is pleasure. Arjuna talked to Krishna in insulting tones. But when he saw, “Oh, here is the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” he was afraid.

The further development of service is to accept the Supreme Lord as one’s son. When I get somebody as my son, full service is there from the beginning of his life.

As the subtler form of the elements develops into grosser forms, from sky to air, from air to fire, from fire to water, from water to land, similarly, attachment to Krishna begins to develop from the sense of greatness. “God is great,” then “God is my master,” then “God is my friend,” then “God is my son,” then “God is my lover.” All other elements are there in the lover stage. When you love somebody, then the loving element is there, the paternal element is there, the friendship element is there, the master and servant element is there, and the greatness element is there. Therefore, full attachment for Krishna is to love Him as your lover.

Attachment and Protection

Krishna says here, mad-ashrayam: “My protection.” This yoga system, bhakti-yoga, is meant for developing attachment for Krishna under His protection. A friend protects his friend, a master protects his servant, a father protects his child, and a lover protects his lover. Similarly, there is an element of protection in loving Krishna: “Krishna is my friend; He’ll protect me. Krishna is my master; He’ll protect me. Krishna is my father; He’ll protect me. Krishna is my lover; He’ll protect me.” That is mad-ashrayah. If you take any of these attitudes—as friend or lover or son or master—and you develop your attachment for Krishna, then asamshaya, “without any doubt,” samagram, “in full completeness,” you can understand God.

This is the philosophy of Krishna consciousness: You have to take shelter of Krishna in any of these aspects, and you have to develop your attachment for any of these aspects.

Theoretical and Practical Knowledge

Krishna says in the next verse, jnanam te ’ham sa-vijnanam idam vakshyamy asheshatah, “I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous.” This knowledge of God is not sentiment; it is science. We are not preaching any particular type of sentiment, or any speculation. It is fact. How our relationship with the Supreme Lord can develop, how we are related with Him—these are facts on a philosophical basis. Therefore Krishna is assuring Arjuna: “What I’m speaking to you is not a religious sentiment, but it is jnanam and vijnanam.Jnanam means theoretical knowledge, and vijnanam means practical knowledge. So Krishna says, “I am speaking to you the exact knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with practical demonstration.”

Both theoretical and practical knowledge are required. Simply knowing that such and such chemical element mixed with such and such chemical element becomes such and such chemical element is theoretical knowledge. Oxygen and hydrogen mixed together produces water. This is theoretical knowledge. But when in the laboratory you actually act— you mix such and such quantity of oxygen gas with such and such quantity of hydrogen gas—at once there is formulation of water. As soon as you mix alkali and acid together, there is a reaction, producing soda-bicarbonate.

We begin with the theoretical knowledge that we have a particular type of relationship with God. In fact, you have a particular relationship with everything. You are Americans, and I am an Indian. We all have some particular relationship with our country. I am an Indian citizen, and you are an American citizen. Some particular relationship with the state must be there. You are sitting here, and there is some relationship between us. My students have a relationship with me. I am their teacher; they are my disciples. Or if you are not my disciple, then you are the audience and I am the speaker. There is some relationship.

If we have some relationship with everything, why not with God? We have forgotten our relationship with God. And yoga means to reconnect that relationship. Yoga is not a mental speculation or something done for health’s sake. Yoga means concentrating the mind on God, Paramatma, whom we have now forgotten.

We have to reestablish our forgotten relationship. It is not that you have no relationship with God and we are artificially forcing something—a relationship with God, or Krishna consciousness. No. You have your relationship. Simply by hearing, by cultivating this knowledge, you revive your relationship. There is fire in matches. You simply rub for a few seconds, and the fire will come out. Similarly, your relationship with Krishna, Krishna consciousness, is there within you. Otherwise, how could you accept Krishna consciousness? Krishna is not imported from India. Krishna is not for India or America. He is like the sun. The sun I have seen in India is the same sun I am seeing in America. Nobody can claim, “Oh, this is the Indian sun and this is the American sun.” The sun is one. It is our miscalculation that we say, “This is American land, this is American sun, this is American atmosphere.” No. We must see everything in relationship with God. That is knowledge.

If you don’t take Krishna’s protection, then you cannot develop attachment for Krishna. I have explained previously that developing that attachment takes place by giving Krishna something, by taking something from Him, by disclosing something to Him, by understanding something from Him, by eating something from Him, by giving Him something to eat—six processes.

How to Understand Krishna’s Teachings

Krishna says, “If you understand this knowledge I am speaking to you, then you’ll have nothing more to know.” Krishna says, “I am speaking to you.” He’s particularly marking Arjuna. Why? He does not say here, “I’m speaking to everyone.” No. Not everyone can understand this knowledge. It is confidential. An ordinary man cannot understand Krishna consciousness. Of course, Lord Chaitanya has made it so easy for this age that if you sincerely, with devotion, chant Hare Krishna, you’ll be able to understand Krishna consciousness. The science as it is, is very difficult. But because the age is not very favorable, Lord Chaitanya has inaugurated this sankirtana movement of chanting Hare Krishna and dancing, so that your mind very quickly becomes cleared and you can understand Krishna consciousness. It is a simple process. Otherwise, Krishna says that this knowledge is not for all.

Krishna says, “I am speaking this scientific knowledge of Krishna consciousness unto you.” Why “unto you”? Because Arjuna is a surrendered soul. In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, when Krishna was talking with Arjuna as a friend He did not talk very seriously. He was simply saying, “My dear Arjuna, it is not good for you not to fight. You are a kshatriya, you belong to the warrior class, so if you don’t fight, it will not be very good.” He was speaking on the basis of friendship. But Arjuna understood, “Krishna is not talking very seriously with me because we are friends.” So he surrendered himself. He said, “My dear Krishna, I can understand that the problem that has arisen on this battlefield is very difficult. I have come here to fight, but I have been disturbed with sentiments. How can I kill my brothers, my teacher, my grandfather? But I know that these problems can be solved only by You.”

Arjuna knew, “Krishna is not my ordinary friend; He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Therefore he at once surrendered. Sishyas te ’ham shadhi mam tvam prapannam: “I am surrendered unto You as Your disciple. Please accept me and just teach me what is good for me.” [Bhagavad-gita 2.7] Therefore Krishna says, “I am speaking to you this confidential knowledge because you are surrendered.”

Unless you have at least a little attachment for Krishna, unless you have taken to some sort of service to Krishna, this knowledge will be very difficult to understand. But you can understand when you are a surrendered soul.

Thank you very much.