By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Lecture given in New York City on April 19, 1973
The sound of Krishna’s name and of discussions about Him is auspicious for everyone, even those who don’t understand the meaning.
shrotavyadishu yah parah
“Sri Shukadeva Goswami said: My dear king, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial to all kinds of people. The answer to this question is the prime subject matter for hearing, and it is approved by all transcendentalists.
“Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O emperor.” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.1–2
Parikshit Maharaja had questioned Shukadeva Goswami, “Now that I am going to die within seven days, what is my duty?” Parikshit Maharaja enquired about Krishna because he was born in a Vaishnava family. He was the grandson of Arjuna, who was one of the Pandava brothers. They were all Vaishnavas, or devotees of Krishna. From childhood, Parikshit Maharaja had the opportunity to worship Krishna, even playing with the household Krishna deity. So naturally as death approached he was inclined to hear about Krishna.
He enquired, “What is my duty? Shall I simply hear about Krishna, or something else?”
On hearing this question, Shukadeva Goswami is congratulating him, variyan esha te prashnah: “Oh, your question is very wonderful, very welcome.” Variyan means “very welcome” or “glorious.” “Your question is glorious because you have enquired about Krishna.”
Krito loka-hitam nripa: “My dear king, this question is all-auspicious for all the people of the world.” If you simply enquire about Krishna or hear about Krishna – even if you do not understand – that vibration about Krishna is auspicious. We are chanting Hare Krishna, and we may not understand the meaning of Hare Krishna, but still, because it is transcendental sound it is auspicious. Wherever you chant Hare Krishna, people may hear or not hear, but it is auspicious for them. So we are sending our devotees for street sankirtana, street chanting. It doesn’t matter whether people are eager to hear it or not, but it is auspicious. It will create an atmosphere that is very, very congenial to human society. Our activities should be based on that principle.
We shall not be disappointed that we are chanting but nobody is taking notice. Our sankirtana movement is so nice that simply by chanting, the vibration will create an auspicious atmosphere.
The Beginning in New York
I began this Krishna consciousness movement here in New York, in that storefront, simply by chanting. I did not bribe you American boys and girls to come to me. My only asset was chanting. In Tompkins Square Park, Brahmananda Swami first danced to my chanting. He and Acyutananda. That was the first dancing of our Krishna consciousness movement. I had no mridanga drum from India, only a little drum. I was chanting Hare Krishna for three hours, from two to five, and so many boys and girls were coming and joining the chanting. The first photograph was in The New York Times. They appreciated, and people in general also appreciated. The beginning was only chanting; there was nothing more. At that time there was no program of prasada distribution. That came later on.
We should always be confident that this chanting is not a vibration of this material world. Narottama Dasa Thakura says, golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana – it is imported from the spiritual world. It is completely spiritual. In Bombay there is a rascal who says, “The chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and the chanting of ‘Coca-Cola’ is the same.” He is such a rascal. He does not know that Hare Krishna is not a vibration of this material world. But one who has no knowledge will think, “What is the meaning of this chant, ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna’?” But they can see that we can go on chanting day and night and still we are not becoming tired. But any other material name, after chanting three times you will feel tired. That is the proof. You can go on chanting Hare Krishna day and night, and you will never feel tired. These poor people have no brain to understand.
The chanting is so auspicious. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given His benediction: ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam (Sikshashtaka 1). We are suffering in this material world because our understanding, or our heart, is not cleansed. This chanting will help us to cleanse the heart.
“Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17)
Chanting is so nice that as soon as you take to chanting, or hear about Krishna – the chanting is also hearing about Krishna – immediately the cleansing process begins, ceto-darpana-marjanam. And as soon as our heart is cleansed, bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam, then we become free from the blazing fire of this material existence. Chanting is so auspicious.
Therefore Shukadeva Goswami says here, variyan esha te prashnah krito loka-hitam nripa. In another place also, Suta Goswami says, yat kritah krishna-samprashno yenatma suprasidati (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.5) . When the great saintly persons at Naimisharanya enquired about Krishna, Suta Goswami replied, yat kritah krishna-samprashnah: “Because you have enquired about Krishna, that enquiry will cleanse your heart, yenatma suprasidati. You will feel transcendental bliss, comfort, within your heart.”
Prime Welfare Activity
This movement is the prime welfare activity for human society, loka-hitam. It is not a business. “Business” means something for my hitam, my benefit, only. This movement is not like that; it is Krishna’s business. Krishna is for everyone; therefore Krishna’s business is meant for everyone. We therefore welcome everyone. “Come here and chant.”
A sadhu, a saintly person, should always think of loka-hitam, the welfare of the people. That is the difference between a sadhu and an ordinary man. An ordinary man thinks only of himself, or of himself expanded – his family, community, society, nation. These are all expanded selfishness. When I am alone, I think of my benefit only. When I am a little grown up, I think of my brothers and sisters. And when I am a little advanced, I think of my family. A little more advanced, and I think of my community. A little more advanced, and I think of my country, my nation. Or I can think of the whole human society, internationally. But Krishna is so big that He includes everyone. Not only human society, but also animal society, bird society, beast society, tree society – everything. Krishna says, aham bija-pradah pita: “I am the seed-giving father of all these forms.” (Gita 14.4) There are 8,400,000 different kinds of forms. Krishna claims, “They, all of them, are My part-and-parcel living entities. They are now covered by different dresses, but they are living entities.”
A person in Krishna consciousness has the vision to see beyond the different dresses to the living entities within. One who is actually Krishna conscious does not see the outward dress; he sees the living entity encased in a particular type of body. He has no concern with the body. Therefore a sadhu always thinks of everyone’s benefit.
It is said of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, leading followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, lokanam hita-karinau tri-bhuvane manyau: because they were the benefactors for all kinds of living entities, they were honored in the three worlds, tri-bhuvane, or in other words, all over the universe. A sadhu’s business is to benefit all living entities. A sadhu does not like to even cut down a tree, because he knows, “Here is a living entity. He is standing here for many years by his karma, and he has to continue this for many years more. He cannot avoid this, because it is nature’s law.”
If you are put into prison for six months, nobody can save you; nobody can make your term of imprisonment one day less than six months. Similarly, we get our particular type of body, and we have to remain in that body for a certain period by the laws of nature. So if we cut down a tree, the living entity within does not die, but because we check the continuation of his period in that body, we have become sinful. We cannot even cut down a tree without Krishna’s purpose. Without Krishna’s purpose we cannot kill even an ant; we cannot even cut down a tree. We shall be liable for punishment. So a sadhu sees, “Here also is a living entity.”
“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Gita 5.18) A pandita does not make any discrimination – “Here is an animal, here is a man.” No. He sees, “Though they have different bodies, both the animal and the man are part and parcel of Krishna. According to their karma, they have been put into these bodies.”
Inquiry into Atma
Now, krishna-samprashnah, questions and answers about Krishna. Quoting Lord Brahma, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended, sthane sthitah shruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir: “Remain in your position, but try to hear about Krishna.” Simply come to this temple and try to hear about Krishna. That will purify you. Krishna’s name is so powerful that if you simply hear “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,” you become purified.
It is not that only I am eulogizing this process. Atmavit-sammatah. All great self-realized personalities say this. Atmavit means one who knows atma. Generally people do not know atma. But atmavit means one who knows atma, one who knows aham brahmasmi: “I am spirit soul; I am not this body.” And atmavit means one who is well acquainted with atma-tattva, the science of the soul.
Unless one becomes aware of atma-tattva, whatever he is doing he is being defeated. Generally people are thinking, “I am now constructing this big skyscraper building. I am successful. I have become Rothschild. I have become this or that.” That is not atma-vit. Just because someone is materially opulent, that does not mean he is atma-vit.
That subject will be discussed in the next verse, apashyatam atma-tattvam. Those who cannot see their atma are described as griheshu griha-medhinam: they are compact in this materialistic way of life . Actually this is the position of the whole world. People are not atma-vit; they do not enquire into atma-tattvam. Therefore they are less intelligent.
Therefore I say that our propaganda is to make people more intelligent. They might not have taken it very nicely. They thought, “This poor swami has come to make us intelligent.” But actually that is the fact. The bodily concept of life is not intelligence. “I spoil my whole life for bodily comforts, and then, after giving up this body, I become a cat or a dog.” What kind of intelligence is that? Is that very good intelligence? In this life you may become a very big man, a big politician, big diplomat, big businessman, but next life, after your death, your greatness in this material life will not help you. According to your activities in this life, nature will offer you a certain type of body, and you’ll have to accept it. Of course, you will forget this life. That is the concession given by nature. Now, in this life, we do not remember what we were in our past life. Suppose I would remember that I was a king in my past life, and now I have become a dog. How much suffering that remembrance would bring! Therefore by nature’s law one forgets. Death makes this forgetfulness.
This is a great science. People do not know it. Our Krishna consciousness movement is very scientific, authorized, so our business is to enlighten people as far as possible, and at the same time we must remain enlightened. We may not be again covered by the darkness of maya.
You can keep yourself very fit not to be covered by maya. If you very strictly adhere to the principle of Krishna consciousness, then maya will not be able to touch you. That is the only remedy. Otherwise maya is always looking for the opportunity, the loophole, so she can capture you again. But if you remain strictly in Krishna consciousness, maya will not be able to do anything.
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Gita 7.14) Therefore our program is to think of Krishna twenty-four hours a day. Satatam – always. That is recommended.
Even if you cannot do anything else, simply think of Krishna. That is the highest meditational perfection. Always chant the Hare Krishna mantra, be in touch with Krishna in so many ways, and then you are secure. Maya will not be able to touch you. And if we can somehow or other pass our days in this way and at the time of death remember Krishna, then our whole life is successful.
Thank you very much.