Srila Prabhupada explains that although formulas recommended for transcendental realization may help us progress, they fall short of the ultimate goal.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in New York on November 29, 1966
Quoting Lord Krishna’s words from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu authoritatively answers the question “How can I see God?”
[The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, said:] My dear Uddhava, neither through ashtanga–yoga [the mystic yoga system to control the senses], nor through impersonal monism or an analytical study of the Absolute Truth, nor through study of the Vedas, nor through austerities, charity, or acceptance of sannyasa can one satisfy Me as much as by developing unalloyed devotional service unto Me. – Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 20.137, quoting Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.20
If you want God, Krishna, then there is no way except this devotional service. Not yoga, not philosophical speculation, not ritualistic performances, not study of the Vedic literature, not penance, austerities. All these formulas recommended for transcendental realization may help us advance to a certain extent, but if you want personal touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then you have to adopt this devotional service, Krishna consciousness. There is no other way.
In this verse, Lord Chaitanya is giving evidence from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And in next verse as well:
“Being very dear to the devotees and sadhus, I am attained through unflinching faith and devotional service. This bhakti-yoga system, which gradually increases attachment for Me, purifies even a human being born among dog-eaters. That is to say, everyone can be elevated to the spiritual platform by the process of bhakti-yoga.” (Cc. Madhya 20.138) This is another verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, from the same chapter. Lord Krishna is instructing Uddhava, one of His cousins. He was a great devotee, even more advanced than Arjuna.
There are different grades of devotees. The first-class devotees were the gopis, the damsels of Vrindavan. Nobody could be compared to them in their devotional service. Next was Uddhava, then Arjuna. Uddhava was a great devotee of the Lord, and he was also instructed by the Lord, just as Arjuna was.
The Lord says to Uddhava, bhaktya aham ekaya grahyah. Ekaya: simply by devotional service, by this one method. God is one, and to achieve Him the process is also one. For example, in your body there are nine holes: two nostrils, two ears, two eyes, one mouth, the genitals, and the anus. If you want to supply food to your body, there is one way – through the mouth. There is no other way. You cannot push the food through the ears or eyes or genitals. No. That is not possible. Therefore, similarly, if you want God, then there is one way, bhaktya aham ekaya.
The foolish person says, “Whatever path you may adopt, you will go to God.” Certain rascals say like that. But this is misleading, completely misleading. You cannot reach God by any means except this – bhaktya aham ekaya. It is clearly stated, ekaya. Ekaya means “only one.” There is no second process.
In the Bhagavad-gita, also, it is stated in the eighteenth chapter, bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yash casmi tattvatah: “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.” (Gita 18.55) Tattvatah means “in fact.”
The impersonal conception of Godhead, the localized conception of Godhead, the universal form of God, pantheism, monism – they are not perfect. If you want to know perfectly, then bhakti is necessary. This is stated everywhere, in all Vedic literatures, evidentially – in Bhagavad-gita, which is present before us, in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrita. Everywhere you will find that devotional service is the only way. Bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yash casmi tattvatah. Tattvatah means “in fact.” You can know God partially by some other method. But if you want to know Him completely . . . Of course, God cannot be known completely, but the only process to reach the highest point of knowledge of God possible for a human being or any living entity is bhakti.
Priyah satam: that bhakti, that process of devotional service, is very dear to the actual transcendentalist. Man-nishtha means “fixed only on Me.” To know simply “I believe in God” is not sufficient. The ultimate goal is to attain a very intimate relationship with God, or love of Godhead. That is required.
Belief in God Is Not Enough
Of course, to believe in God, to accept God, is all right. It is better than being an atheist. But that is not the end. You must develop yourself. You should not simply make God your order-supplier; you should be His order-supplier. To become God’s order-supplier is my perfection. And as long as I keep God as my order-supplier, that is not bhakti.
Generally people keep God as their order-supplier: “O God, give us our daily bread,” “O God, I am in distress,” “O God, I am in difficulty,” “O God, I am . . .” God supplies them. God is supplying. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: “The One is supplying the needs of the many.” (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13) But simply recognizing that fact is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is that you should supply God, that God becomes dependent on you. That is bhakti.
For example, take Yashodamayi, Krishna’s foster mother. She was so advanced in devotion that God became dependent on her. God appeared as her child. As the child always remains dependent on the mercy of the mother, Krishna remained dependent on His foster mother, Yashodamayi. Mother Yashoda said, “My dear child, if You become more naughty, then I shall chastise You.” And God is crying. You see? This the nature of the relationships between God and the devotee. The one who chastises the whole universe, the whole creation, is afraid of His mother.
He becomes dependent as He likes. He says in the shastra, the Vedic scriptures, “When My devotee thinks that I am dependent on him, oh, I like that. I like that.” People always worship God as the sublime, but the greatest devotees do not worship Him that way. They want to serve God when He acts as their dependent, just as a mother serves her dependent child. She has no other purpose. She is satisfied simply to keep the child in perfect order. Yes. She has no other purpose.
Similarly, when you are inclined to see that God is always satisfied, that is devotion. Then you can have God in your grip. God is so kind; Krishna is so kind. Nobody can conquer Him, but He becomes conquered by this kind of devotional service. This is the process of conquering Him. What is the use of becoming one with God? You can conquer Him. You can have Him within your grip. Such is the process of devotional service.
Therefore Lord Chaitanya concludes,
ataeva ‘bhakti’—krishna-praptyera upaya
‘abhidheya’ bali’ tare sarva-shastre gaya
“The conclusion is that devotional service is the only means for approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This system is therefore called abhidheya. This is the verdict of all revealed scriptures.” (Cc. Madhya 20.139) Therefore, if you want Krishna, then bhakti, devotional service, is the only way. Abhidheya means that is the transaction required.
An Apprenticeship in Krishna Consciousness
In this life, while we are in the material world, we have our material body. So this devotional service – Krishna consciousness, doing everything in Krishna consciousness – is just like an apprenticeship to reach the highest stage. The same thing will be there in your liberated stage in the spiritual kingdom. But here, by the order of the shastra, by the guidance of the spiritual master, you are being trained as an apprentice. This is called abhidheya, practice. But even in practice you will feel, “I am making progress.”
dhana paile yaiche sukha-bhoga phala paya
sukha-bhoga haite duhkha apani palaya
taiche bhakti-phale krishne prema upajaya
prema krishnasvada haile bhava nasha paya
“When one actually becomes rich, he naturally enjoys all kinds of happiness. When one is actually in a happy mood, all distressful conditions go away by themselves. No extraneous endeavor is needed. Similarly, as a result of bhakti, one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens. When one is so situated that he can taste the association of Lord Krishna, material existence, the repetition of birth and death, comes to an end.” (Cc. Madhya 20.140–141)
This is a very important passage. Just note it carefully. Now, by apprenticeship, by practice, if one sincerely follows this practice, then what is the result? Dhana paile yaiche sukha-bhoga phala paya. If a poor man gets sufficient money, then at once all his distress is over, immediately. As soon as the sun is in the sky, at once the darkness is gone. In the morning, even before we see the sun directly, immediately the darkness goes away. Suppose I am in distress, poverty-stricken, and I get some large amount of money. Immediately my distress is gone. Similarly, as soon as we have a little taste of this devotional service, our miserable life becomes happy. Sukha-bhoga haite duhkha apani palaya. And if there is happiness, where is the question of misery? If there is light, where is the question of darkness?
A person in Krishna consciousness cannot be in the distress of material miseries. This takes place automatically. Similarly, taiche bhakti-phale krishne prema upajaya: by execution of this devotional service, gradually you develop love of God. Preme krishnasvada haile bhava nasha: and as soon as you get a taste for Krishna, you at once lose all the nonsense tastes, culminating in sex life. The material taste means wanting to gratify our senses in so many ways, and the supermost point is sex life.
As soon as you get into touch with Krishna and develop Krishna love, all this nonsense is finished. Then you are liberated. And as long as you are attached even to a pinch of material taste, there is no question of liberation from material miseries; you have to continue the transmigration from one body to another. And having a material body means material miseries. You may get the body of a king, or you may get the body of Brahma or Indra or Candra or an ant or an insignificant animal. Any material body is meant for miseries – tapa-traya, threefold material miseries. And besides the threefold miseries, ultimately there is birth, death, old age, and diseases.
To develop love of Krishna is real liberation. And that love of Krishna begins after many, many births of cultured life. When one surrenders unto Krishna, that is the beginning of his real life. The first thing is “I must get myself out of this material contamination.” That is called shraddha. “In this very life I shall realize the truth.” As you make this shraddha, this belief and determination, more and more perfect, then you make advancement. It cannot be just something official, a make-show.
Tato sadhu-sangah: then, as you become determined, your taste for associating with devotees increases. Now we are associating with Lord Chaitanya’s teaching. He is a great devotee. This type of association is called sadhu-sanga. Then comes bhajana-kriya, learning how to execute devotional service. Now Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is teaching. You will gradually know what is bhajana-kriya, how to execute devotional service. That we shall come to later on. Tato anartha-nivrittih syat:and as soon as your prescribed duties in devotional service are discharged, you become free from all material contamination. That is the test. Tato nishtha: then you become firmly convinced. Tato ruci: then you get a taste for devotional service. Athasakti: then you cannot give it up. In any circumstances you cannot give it up. Tato bhavah: then you become fully in samadhi, in trance. Sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah: these are the steps for attaining love of God.
You cannot immediately go and purchase love of God from the market. You have to practice it. The love is there within you. It is not artificial, nor is it an imposition by some person. No. It is already there. If you submissively hear such topics as we are discussing, and if you practice, it will be very nice, and you will quickly develop in love of God.
Hearing and practicing are required. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: the tongue, jihva, should be engaged. How? The tongue should be engaged in glorifying Krishna. That is one of its businesses. And the tongue should be engaged in eating krishna-prasada. These two things – chanting and eating. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau.
Just see the technique. No other body part – the tongue has been especially mentioned. And what is the business of the tongue? I am speaking with the help of the tongue. If I had no tongue, I could not talk with you. And I taste with the tongue. So engage the tasting capacity of your tongue in krishna-prasada,and engage your tongue in talking about Krishna. This is the process.
Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: as you engage the tongue in this process, God will reveal Himself to you. You cannot order God, “Please come and stand here. I shall see You.” He is not your servant. You have to please Him by your service attitude. Then He will reveal to you what He is. And that is bhakti, that service attitude.
Taiche bhakti-phale krishne prema upajaya: if you execute devotional service, then you develop your love. And krishna-prema asvada haile, bhava nasha paya: the more you develop your love of Krishna, love of God, the more you are free from material contamination. When you are perfectly in Krishna love, you are perfectly free from material contamination. This is the way of liberation.
daridrya-nasha, bhava-kshaya,—premera ‘phala’ naya
prema-sukha-bhoga—mukhya prayojana haya
“The goal of love of Godhead is not to become materially rich or free from material bondage. The real goal is to be situated in devotional service to the Lord and to enjoy transcendental bliss.” (Cc. Madhya 20.142) One should not think, “Now I am materially happy. All my distress, all my poverty, has gone by devotional service of Krishna,” or “I have become liberated.” No. These are by-products. To become liberated and to become materially happy by prosecution of Krishna consciousness are by-products. You have to try for something further. And what is that? Prema-sukha-bhoga: to be absorbed in love of Krishna. That is recorded here, that this should be your ultimate goal of life.
We should not stop: “Oh, now I am very happy. Now I have no material miseries,” or “I am liberated. Now this material contamination does not affect me.” No. Lord Chaitanya showed the result of being fully absorbed in love of God. He prayed, cakshusha pravrishayitam shunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me: “Oh, I am crying. Tears are coming just like torrents of rain from My eyes.” Sunyayitam jagat sarvam: “I am seeing everything as vacant.” Why? Govinda-virahena me: “I am in separation from Govinda.”
That is the highest stage of life. Govinda-virahena me. In this material world, if you love somebody and if he is dead and passed and gone, you see everything as vacant. So the test of being fully absorbed in love of God is govinda viraha, feeling separation from Govinda, Krishna. But we are foolish and don’t know that.
Still, we know that everything will be finished here. We should think, “Why should I give so much attachment to this nonsense?” Give your attachment to Krishna. He will never be finished. That is love of Krishna. We have to attain that stage. That is the perfection of life.
Thank you very much.