Srila Prabhupada explains that the real purpose of life is to get out of the bondage of material existence.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Vrindavan, India on December 11, 1975.
Material civilization means increasing attachment to the temporary things of this world at the cost of life’s true purpose.

ko griheshu puman saktam
atmanam ajitendriyah
sneha-pashair dridhair baddham
utsaheta vimochitum

“What person too attached to household life due to being unable to control his senses can liberate himself? An attached householder is bound very strongly by ropes of affection for his family [wife, children and other relatives].” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.9

The point being discussed is vimochitam, how one can get out of the bondage of material existence. People do not know that “This is my business, how to get out of this entanglement.” They do not know even what that entanglement is. Such a foolish civilization is going on. Some are passing as scientists, philosophers, big, big politicians, but they do not know what is the aim of life. The aim of life is vimochitam.

We are spirit souls, eternal. They do not know this. At the present moment almost everyone, 99.9 percent of people, do not know what is our problem and how to get out of it. They do not know.

na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum
durashaya ye bahir-artha-maninah
andha yathandhair upaniyamanas
te ’pisha-tantryam uru-damni baddhah<

“Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Vishnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.” (Bhagavatam 7.5.31)

We are bound up, hands and legs, by the tantryam, the shackles or ropes of nature, or of God. We are not free. Api isha tantryam baddhah. We are not free; still we are trying to excel the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The modern scientists are very proud that they have advanced so much that there is no need of talking about God. This is the material civilization.

So many wonderful things are going on. They cannot explain even how things are going on, and still they are proud of scientific advancement and declare, “There is no God.” This is the foolish civilization.

And they are engaged in sinful activities. To solve the so-called population problem, they are killing. That means they are increasing their problems. They do not know the actual fact, that by this killing process they are increasing the problems of life. So what is this due to? This is due to sneha-pashair dridhair baddham. We are bound up by the shackles of nature, and it is due to our attachment to material existence. We have to undo this attachment – vairagya, detachment. That is the necessary thing.

How do we become detached? We are so much attached; how can we become detached? That is also given. The process is given in the Bhagavatam (1.2.7). Vasudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogah prayojitah: engage yourself in executing devotional service to Vasudeva, or Krishna. Vasudeva means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the most opulent, bhagavati. Bhagavan means the most opulent, full with six kinds of opulence. You cannot become liberated by any means except bhakti-yoga. That is explained in the Bhagavatam. And Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (18.55), bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yash chasmi tattvatah: “You can become liberated simply by the bhakti process.” There are many processes, but nothing is powerful except the process enunciated by God Himself, Krishna.

Detachment Education

Bhakti-yoga means vairagya-yoga – detachment. Vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yogam (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 6.254). Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya explained this verse in connection with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s activities. “Who is this personality?” So he explained. He composed one hundred verses in reference to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s activities. Some of them are available, mentioned in the Chaitanya-charitamrita. So first of all, ascertaining Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya says, “What is this movement, the Krishna consciousness movement, inaugurated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? It is vairagya-vidya.” It is vidya, education, but it is vairagya-vidya, detachment education. It is not attachment education.

The material education means attachment education. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said, jada-vidya jato, mayara vaibhava. Our attachment to this material world is maya, illusion. This material happiness is made by maya, and people are making gorgeous arrangements. Why? Prahlada Maharaja says it is because they are vimudhan, all rascals.

“Why rascals? They are scientists, philosophers.”

That’s all right, but after making all these arrangements, you are under the clutches of maya. You are not free from the clutches of maya. So why are you wasting time in this way? You cannot make any solution or any assurance that whatever you are creating for enjoyment you will be able to enjoy. No. That is not possible. That they do not see. They are constructing big, big roads, motorcars, and skyscraper buildings, but there is no assurance that they’ll be able to enjoy them. That is not possible. At any moment, finished. Your skyscraper building, your big, big road, your big, big motorcars, they will remain where you manufactured them, and you have to leave. That they do not see. This is called mudha, foolish. They are afraid of death, but on account of foolishness they declare, “Oh, we are not afraid of death.” They’re afraid.

Increasing Foolishness

Actually we should not increase our foolishness. Human life is meant for utilizing our intelligence. That is human life. Instead of utilizing intelligence, if we increase our foolishness that’s the wrong type of civilization. That is not actual civilization. So Chaitanya Mahaprabhu very kindly inaugurated this civilization, Krishna consciousness. It is the same thing as confirmed in the Vedas:

vasudeve bhagavati
bhakti-yogah prayojitah
janayaty ashu vairagyam
jnanam cha yad ahaitukam

“By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world.” (Bhagavatam 1.2.7) Ashu: “very soon.” The examples are here. You are Europeans and Americans. You were attached to so many things. But because you have taken to Krishna consciousness – vasudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogam – you have come to Vrindavan to worship Vasudeva, Krishna. Or in your countries we have established so many temples. On account of being engaged in the devotional service of Vasudeva, although you are young boys and girls you have given up so many nonsense things. This is called vairagya, detachment. Meat-eating is the general life of Europeans and Americans, but at the present moment if somebody offers you millions of dollars and requests you, “Take some meat with me,” I think you will deny it. This is called vairagya.

I’ve actually seen. Our Gargamuni was sent to his father. I advised him, “Your father has a big business. Just accept it for Krishna consciousness.”

His father was very glad, but he offered meat, and when Gargamuni said, “Father, Daddy, I cannot take meat,” then the father became angry. He drove him away. So he came back. The young man refused to take the father’s property.

This is vairagya. And the whole Krishna consciousness movement means vairagya-vidya, the education of vairagya, detachment.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna, and He wanted to teach the people this vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yogam. As Krishna He commanded, “Just give up all this nonsense engagement.” Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja (Gita 18.66): “Just surrender unto Me. That is good for you. I shall save you from the reactions of your sinful activities.”

Material life means simply sinful activities. Simply. Even though there is some covering of pious activities, that is also sinful. It is said in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 4.176), ‘dvaite’ bhadrabhadra-jnana, saba – ‘manodharma.’ Dvaite means “in this world of duality.” Bhadra and abhadra. We have manufactured so many things. We say, “This is very good” and “This is bad.” Bhadra abhadra. Bhadra means good, and abhadra means bad. But the author of Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, says that this good and bad is concocted. They are neither good nor bad. They are the same thing – material quality. Then how are things going on as “This is good; this is bad”? ‘Ei bhala, ei manda’, – ei saba ‘bhrama.’ This is mental concoction.

In the material world there cannot be anything good. It is bad. If there is real goodness, that is the spiritual world, shuddha-sattva. In the material world there are three gunas, or modes. Of these, sattva-guna is accepted as very good – the mode of goodness. But above this mode of goodness there is shuddha-sattva, pure goodness.

Someone may say, “But goodness is goodness.”

No. This material goodness is polluted with ignorance and passion. Therefore we see in the material world a very good person may become polluted. Yesterday morning we were discussing about Brahma, the top created being in the universe. He is very good, but sometimes he is also polluted. Therefore this material world is not pure goodness. Even if there is goodness, it is not pure. There is always the chance of becoming polluted by the other, base qualities – ignorance and passion.

The Platform of Pure Goodness

Therefore there cannot be pure goodness here. Pure goodness is the Krishna consciousness platform, devotional service. If you keep yourself rigidly on the platform of devotional service, then you are in pure goodness. And as soon as you are slack, immediately the two base qualities will attack you.

Therefore it is very difficult to keep pure goodness. For example, goodness is represented by the brahmana. But at the present moment the brahmanas, the hereditary brahmanas by birth – how they have fallen on account of the attack of these base qualities! But they’re trying to keep their brahminical platform in spite of being polluted by the two base qualities. Therefore the Chaitanya-charitamrita author’s statement: ‘ei bhala, ei manda’, – ei saba ‘bhrama.’ Even if you are raised to the brahmana quality, there is always the chance of falling down. So therefore you have to keep always on the transcendental platform, brahma-bhutah.

Even from the brahma-bhutah platform one may fall down. Those who are already merged into the Brahman fall down. Aruhya krichchrena param padam tatah patanty adhah (Bhagavatam 10.2.32). Why? Anadrita yushmad anghrayah. Unless one is a very rigid devotee, even if he has approached the other feature – namely the Brahman feature among Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan – he falls down. And why? Because of this attachment: sneha-pashair dridhair baddham.

I was citing Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s song:

jada-vidya jato, mayara vaibhava,
tomara bhajane badha
anitya samsare moha janamiya
jibake karaye gadha

“Materialistic studies are the glare of maya only, for they are an obstacle to spiritual progress. The infatuated person is trapped in the impermanent world, falsely trying to enjoy it, and such studies make him as foolish as an ass.”

Gadha means ass. This so-called advancement of civilization means the living entity is always compared to an ass, mudha. Instead of becoming intelligent, by material education one becomes more and more a first-class ass. Because the more you become advanced in so-called material civilization, the more you’ll forget God. Mayara vaibhava. Maya’s business is to keep you always sleeping, forgetting God. This is maya’s business. The more you forget Krishna, the more you are under the influence of maya. So if you increase your volume of material civilization, then more and more you’ll forget God and you’ll be attached to this material world, mayara vaibhava.

People are increasing material civilization more and more and coming under the clutches of maya. “Clutches of maya” means birth, death, old age, and disease. This is maya’s shackles, or ropes. But they do not care for it. They do not take into account that “I am eternal. I do not die even after the destruction of this body. So why shall I suffer in this way repeatedly, birth and death?” And that is also not only inconvenient, but very painful. Today you are an American or Indian, but tomorrow if you become a tree in the American land, then what is your position? But they do not care for it, do not understand it; therefore it is mayara vaibhava. This advancement of material civilization is mayara vaibhava.

Therefore the Vedic civilization is about voluntarily accepting poverty. Voluntary. Big, big kings voluntarily accepted poverty. Bharata Maharaja and others. Even Lord Ramachandra. Take recent history, within five hundred years. Rupa Goswami was the chief minister of the government of Bengal, a most opulent position, but he became a mendicant, voluntarily accepting it. “What is this nonsense position – minister, opulent life? Kick it out.” He is not a fool. He was a politician. But he thought, “Kick it out,” and he became a mendicant.

Voluntarily accepting poverty is Indian civilization, Vedic civilization. Not to increase material opulence but to decrease it. The more you decrease it, the more you are civilized. And in the Western countries, if you instruct them, “Decrease these nonsense activities – no more ‘tire civilization,’” they’ll say, “Oh, this is primitive. Primitive. This tendency is primitive.” Not primitive. That is a very sober civilization. Instead of increasing unwanted necessities, decrease them.

That is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.6):

anarthopashamam sakshad
bhakti-yogam adhokshaje
lokasyajanato vidvamsh
chakre satvata samhitam

“The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth.” This satvata samhitamSrimad-Bhagavatam – is there simply to decrease this unwanted so-called material civilization.

It is very difficult to understand, but our Krishna consciousness movement is for that purpose. We are interested to construct a nice temple, but we are not interested to construct a very big skyscraper building for people’s general living. No. We should live very humbly.

In India you’ll find there are so many valuable temples which cannot be constructed at the present moment. You will see in this Vrindavan the broken Govindaji temple. It is not possible to construct such costly temples at the present moment. Even by spending crores of rupees you cannot construct them. But those who had money used to do that. Money should be engaged for Krishna’s comfort. This is bhakti. The meaning of Vrindavan is that everyone is engaged in how to keep Krishna in comfort. This is Vrindavan life. Not for personal comfort. The whole of Vrindavan is engaged, beginning from Mother Yashoda, Nanda Maharaja, the young gopis, and the young cowherd boys. That is Vrindavan: Krishna is the center.

Our aim of life should be to become more and more engaged with the view to give Krishna the comfortable position. Then we can be liberated. We should be very much interested not for personal comfort, but for the comfort of the superior, Krishna. Then it will be possible to get out of these material clutches. That is called vairagya.

Sneha-pashair baddham. At present we are bound up by the laws of material nature, and if we want to undo it, then we should learn vairagya-vidya.

shikshartham ekah purushah puranah
kripambudhir yas tam aham prapadye

“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, who has descended in the form of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service and detachment from whatever does not foster Krishna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 6.254) This is written by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. If you want to get out of this material bondage, then learn bhakti-yoga, vairagya-vidya.

How to learn? Krishna Himself – Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – is teaching. Just see His vairagya. At home is the most affectionate mother and the most beautiful young wife, Vishnu-priya, but He renounced everything. He became a sannyasi in His full youth, at twenty-four years of age. He had a nice wife at home and a very affectionate mother. The home appeared to be very, very happy due to the mother and the wife. Not only that, but He was a learned scholar, very influential in Nabadwip. He could gather 100,000 men by His order only. He was so influential, so beautiful, so learned – everything. His opulence was very, very great. But He gave it up. Similarly, the Goswamis also gave up their positions.

This Krishna consciousness movement means vairagya-vidya: to get detached. Don’t increase attachment. Try to decrease attachment; then you’ll be successful.

Thank you very much.