We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb.”
tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
kastha yathananda-karam manastah
tatah—thereafter; jagat-mangalam—auspiciousness for all living entities in all the universes of the creation; acyuta-amsam—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never bereft of the six opulences, all of which are present in all His plenary expansions; samahitam—fully transferred; sura-sutena—by Vasudeva, the son of Surasena; devi—Devaki-devi; dadhara—carried; sarva-atmakam—the Supreme Soul of everyone; atma-bhutam—the cause of all causes; kastha—the east; yatha—just as; ananda-karam—the blissful (moon); manastah—being placed within the mind.
Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.
The word acyutamsam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sad-aisvarya-purna, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.39), ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. Therefore the word acyutamsam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogis do. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1). Yogis meditate upon the Supreme Person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devaki, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Krsna was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devaki and that she carried the child within her womb.
When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.
Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, entered the body of Devaki from the body of Vasudeva. He was beyond the conditions of the ordinary living entity. When Krsna is there, it is to be understood that all His plenary expansions, such as Narayana, and incarnations like Lord Nrsimha and Varaha, are with Him, and they are not subject to the conditions of material existence. In this way, Devaki became the residence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second and the cause of all creation. Devaki became the residence of the Absolute Truth, but because she was within the house of Kamsa, she looked just like a suppressed fire, or like misused education. When fire is covered by the walls of a pot or is kept in a jug, the illuminating rays of the fire cannot be very much appreciated. Similarly, misused knowledge, which does not benefit the people in general, is not very much appreciated. So Devaki was kept within the prison walls of Kamsa’s palace, and no one could see her transcendental beauty, which resulted from her conceiving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
We have gathered here at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna to remember and celebrate His appearance in this world. According to Vedic literature, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is the Absolute Truth, the origin of all that exists. And He is realized in three features, nondual (advaya), as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11):
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti sabdyate
“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.”
Brahman is the impersonal effulgence that emanates from the transcendental form of the Lord; Paramatma is the localized feature of the Lord, within the heart; and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna Himself, full in six opulences.
The form of Krishna is not material. Our bodies are material, distinct from the soul, which is spiritual. The Bhagavad-gita (2.13) explains,
dehino ’smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” The soul is a nonphysical, nonchemical particle of spiritual energy, and it is the soul that animates the body. As long as the soul is in the body, we say the body is alive. Actually, the body is never alive; the body is just a machine. But it appears to be alive when the soul is present to animate it. And when the soul leaves the body, the body has no capacity to act, to function, and then we say that the body is dead.
In conditioned beings, such as us, there is a distinction between the body, which is made of material energy, and the soul, which is composed of spiritual energy. But in the case of Krishna, there is no difference between His body and soul. Being absolute, His body and He are the same. In our case, there is a difference between us and the body, because our real identity is the soul. If someone’s father passes away, he or she will cry, “Oh, my father has left. My father is gone.” Although the body of the father is there, why do we say, “My father has gone”? Intuitively we know, especially at a time like death, that the body lying there in the room is not the person. The body is just a bag of chemicals. The real person is the soul who has left the body, and so the children and other relatives and friends cry, “Oh, he’s gone,” because he is the soul, not the body.
But in the case of Krishna, He and His body are not different, because He is absolute. There is no difference between His inside and His outside. He is completely spiritual. The Brahma-samhita says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: “Krishna is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual body.” Anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam: “He is the origin of all, but He Himself has no origin. He is the prime cause of all causes.” That is Krishna.
Everything we see in the material world has a cause. On a simple level, we can say, “I am caused by my parents” (or “my body is caused by my parents”). They in turn were caused by their parents, who in turn were caused by their parents. And if we keep going back, further, further, further, eventually we will come to the original cause, and that is Krishna (sarva-karana-karanam). He is the cause of everything—the cause of all causes. But He Himself has no cause.
This is hard for us to understand in the conditioned state, because everything material has a cause; everything has a beginning and an end. But Krishna has no beginning and no end; He is eternal (sanatana). Eternal means “no beginning and no end.” Even we, as spirit souls, are also eternal. We have no beginning and no end. Our life in a particular body has a beginning, which we call “birth” (or “conception”), and it has an end within a particular body, which we call “death.” But we, as spirit souls, have no beginning and no end, because we are parts and parcels of Krishna. We are of the same quality as Krishna, just in different quantity. The Lord says,
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Gita 15.7)
The living entity is an eternal, fragmental part of Krishna. This is the sublime philosophy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva: the “inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference” of the living entity and the Supreme Lord. We are one in quality with the Lord but different in quantity—He is infinite and we are infinitesimal. Because we have the same qualities, we can have a relationship with Him. Unless there is some commonness, we can’t have a relationship. And because of the difference in quantity—He is the whole and we are the part—our relationship is one of service. It is the natural function of the part to serve the whole. For example, the hand is part of the body, so the function of the hand is to serve the body. If the hand doesn’t serve the body, there is something wrong; it is diseased or dead. So, our natural function is to serve Krishna (jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’). And we are eternal, as Krishna is eternal, and our relationship, our service, is also eternal—it never ends.
Earlier we mentioned the three features of the Absolute Truth: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. There are different classes of transcendentalists, who have different spiritual aspirations. Most people are materialists. They are not even interested in spiritual life. They just want to enjoy the world. But when one becomes a little more elevated, a little more purified in consciousness, one thinks of improving oneself spiritually. And when one becomes serious enough, one will actually enter into a discipline in a particular school of thought and practice. So, one category of transcendentalists is the jnanis. Their goal is to merge and become one with Brahman, the impersonal effulgence that emanates from the transcendental body of Krishna. And higher than the jnanis are the yogis. They want to realize the localized feature, the Lord within the heart (dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah). And the highest are the bhaktas. They want to enter into a loving relationship with Bhagavan, Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Although in one sense, because the Absolute Truth is nondual (advaya), all transcendentalists are the same, still, from an analytical or objective point of view there are degrees of realization. As stated earlier, Krishna is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Sat means “eternal,” cit means “cognizant,” and ananda means “blissful.” The jnanis who attain impersonal Brahman realize only the sat feature, eternal existence. The yogis who realize Paramatma have perception of sat (eternity) and cit (knowledge), because they apprehend the individuality of the Lord in the heart. And the bhaktas have full realization of sat, cit, and ananda (eternity, knowledge, and bliss), because real happiness comes from loving relationships. Although one may say that there is a sort of bliss in impersonal Brahman, compared with the ecstatic happiness of loving service to Krishna it is insignificant. There are many statements in the shastra, the Vedic scriptures, to the effect that the happiness realized in relationship to Krishna is like an ocean and that the happiness of merging (or trying to merge) into impersonal Brahman is like a puddle of water in comparison.
brahmany api jagad-guro
“My dear Lord, O master of the universe, since I have directly seen You, my transcendental bliss has taken the shape of a great ocean. Being situated in that ocean, I now realize all other so-called happiness, the pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman, to be like the water contained in the hoofprint of a calf.” (Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya 14.36) Practically, there is no comparison.
Furthermore, to realize impersonal Brahman is very difficult, especially in the present age. And even if one succeeds—or imagines that one has succeeded—there is every chance that one will fall down.
ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.” (SB 10.2.32)
More likely, they just imagine that they have realized Brahman, but whether they have actually realized it or just imagine they have, because they have neglected the service of the lotus feet of Krishna they fall down (patanty adhah).
We, conditioned souls, are rotating in the cycle of repeated birth and death (samsara), and our goal is to gain release from this samsara-chakra. Such liberation is called mukti, or moksha. The impersonal type of liberation, in which the individual soul merges into the spiritual light, is very hard to achieve—if one can achieve it at all. But even if one does, it doesn’t last. Therefore the Bhagavatam says patanty adhah: they fall down. Why? Because they have no engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
Impersonal liberation is like going to sleep. Intelligent people can perceive that there is misery in material existence, and they want relief. That is one factor that may lead someone to consider spiritual life. So, a person trying to achieve impersonal liberation is similar to someone who is suffering and tries to escape the suffering by sleeping—“The world is too much.” Well, all right, you can temporarily escape the misery by going to sleep, but how long can you remain asleep? Eventually you will wake up, and the same miseries will be there.
And being suspended in the impersonal Brahman effulgence can be boring. It is a relief—it is definitely a relief—to be out of the material world, but eventually it gets boring. Someone may go on a cruise: “Oh, boy, I need to get away from things. Let me go on a cruise. I want to enjoy the sea.” And it may be nice for a while, but eventually one gets bored—just water and waves and wind. Eventually one wants to go back on dry land, even though the land is what one wanted to get away from. Although there was frustration and misery on the land, at least there was some stimulation, some variety.
The impersonal jnanis who want to merge and become one with Brahman eventually fall down (patanty adhah), because they become restless. They want some activity, and because they have no idea of the spiritual activities of Krishna consciousness, devotional service to Krishna, patanty adhah, they fall into material activities, and again they suffer, because the result of material activity is material misery.
So, why does the Lord descend? He is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha: eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. And He lives in His spiritual abode, where everything is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. And He is served by great souls completely free of material contamination, liberated from the material bodies that cause so much pain. Why should the Lord come here at all? What does He have to gain?
Personally, He has nothing to gain. But He comes out of His mercy, to deliver us. The material world is compared to a prison house, and we, conditioned souls, are the prisoners. Like prisoners, we are restricted. We can’t just go anywhere and everywhere, wherever we want. Liberated souls can travel anywhere in the universe. They don’t need spaceships or any other such contraptions. They can move about freely. But we are bound. We are not allowed to leave this planet very easily, and even if we do, we don’t really have any other place to stay. So we are bound, and we have to suffer.
I mentioned the body, that there is so much pain in the body. Someone might think, “This swami is very negative about the body.” But the Bhagavad-gita says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: one should always perceive the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease. You might say, “Why does the swami have to be so negative? I want to enjoy the body. I want to enjoy life. I want to enjoy the here and now”—which is good in a certain context—but if I ask any of you, “Truthfully, do you want disease?” “No.” “Do you want old age?” “No.” “Do you want death?” “No.” Well, that is what comes with the body. When you get a material body, those come in the package; they are what you get with it. You may think, “But there is so much happiness in the body. I can go surfing, I can go hiking, I can eat ice cream, I can drink and eat and enjoy with the body.” Well, yes, but it is not actually the body that enables you to enjoy; it is the soul within the body. All the parts of the body may be there when the soul departs, but where is the enjoyment? There is no enjoyment in the body after the soul leaves. We may think that we are enjoying with the senses, but it is actually because of the presence of the soul that we are able to enjoy and work and live.
The body is the medium for the conditioned soul’s experience. For example, I have these eyeglasses. I see through the eyeglasses—the eyeglasses themselves don’t see. Similarly, we have these sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin—and we perceive through them. They themselves cannot actually perceive. It is the soul that perceives—through the senses of the body. But we don’t need the body in order to perceive happiness. With the body, there is some perception of happiness—but with lots of pain.
There are different schools of philosophy—sad-darsana—and one philosopher has analyzed and concluded that the body is meant for misery. He gives the example of your little finger. How many ways can your little finger enjoy? Not many. And how many ways can it feel pain? So many. Even a little sliver or blister can be so painful. And the finger can be cut, burned, crushed. The body is so vulnerable. But the soul is not. As the Gita says, it can’t be cut, it can’t be burned, it can’t be made wet, it can’t be withered—it is beyond the range of material elements.
nainam chindanti sastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty apo
na sosayati marutah
“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Gita 2.23) Without the body, the soul can enjoy freely, in every way, but without the pain.
And because the soul is part and parcel of Krishna, it derives its real happiness in relation to Krishna. We now are like fish out of water, because originally we come from Krishna, from the spiritual atmosphere, and we have come into the material world and are suffering in a foreign atmosphere. We are always restless, anxious, and fearful.
So, why does Krishna come? He comes to reclaim us, His lost children, to bring us back home, back to Him. That is why He comes. There is no other reason. There is nothing for Him here. He comes only for our sake.
Although He comes into the material world, He doesn’t come in a physical body. He comes in His original, spiritual form (sac-cid-ananda-vigraha). And Krishna in particular comes in a form that resembles a human being. “Man is made in the image of God.” That Krishna comes in a humanlike form is very good for us, because it makes it easier for us in human bodies to relate to Him.
manusam deham asthitah
bhajate tadrsih krida
yah srutva tat-paro bhavet
“When the Lord assumes a humanlike body to show mercy to His devotees, He engages in such pastimes as will attract those who hear about them to become dedicated to Him.” (SB 10.33.36) He comes to reclaim us and deliver us, His lost children and devotees.
How does He come? He does not take birth like an ordinary human being, by seminal discharge. Rather, He manifests Himself, or appears.
ajo ’pi sann avyayatma
bhutanam isvaro ’pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya
“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.” (Gita 4.6)
That is what we read tonight. It is a very esoteric subject, how the Lord appears. But He chooses a completely purified devotee and enters the mind of that completely purified devotee. The name of the devotee whose mind Krishna entered is given here—Vasudeva. And the state that enabled him to receive Krishna within his pure mind is called vasudeva, which means completely beyond the three modes of material nature, completely transcendental—the state of pure goodness, suddha-sattva. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, sattvam visuddham vasudeva-sabditam: completely pure consciousness is known as vasudeva.
sattvam visuddham vasudeva-sabditam
yad iyate tatra puman apavrtah
sattve ca tasmin bhagavan vasudevo
hy adhoksajo me manasa vidhiyate
“The condition of pure goodness, suddha-sattva, in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed without any covering, is called vasudeva. In that pure state the Supreme Godhead, who is beyond the material senses and who is known as Vasudeva, is perceived by my mind.” (SB 4.3.23, quoted as Cc Adi 4.66)
After Vasudeva received Krishna within his purified mind, or heart, he, by his spiritual power, transferred Him into the purified heart of Devaki. There was no seminal discharge. The process by which the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the heart of Vasudeva to the heart of Devaki is called diksa. Diksa means “spiritual initiation.” Diksa takes place between teacher, or guru, and disciple. When the guru is qualified enough, he can carry Krishna within his heart. And when the disciple is qualified enough, he can receive Krishna from the guru—through an exchange called diksa.
The process of diksa is essential for the realization of God (Krishna). There is an entire science of bhakti-yoga, described in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, and it begins with this process. Guru-padasrayas tasmat: “One must accept shelter at the lotus feet of a spiritual master.” Krsna-diksadi-siksanam: “One must take initiation from him and receive instruction from him.” And visrambhena guroh seva: “One must serve him with intimacy.”
We cannot attain Krishna by our own efforts. We have to receive Krishna by the mercy of one who has Him. Thus Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great spiritual teacher, prays to the pure devotee:
krsna se tomara, krsna dite paro,
tomara sakati ache
ami to’ kangala, ‘krsna’ ‘krsna’ boli’,
dhai tava pache pache
“Krishna is yours; you have the power to give Him to me. I am simply running behind you shouting, ‘Krishna! Krishna!’ ” (Saranagati, “Ohe! Vaishnava Thakura”)
This act of diksa, as described in today’s verse, is really the culmination of a gradual process. It is not so easy that we just decide, “Oh, let me find a guru who has Krishna, and he will give Him to me, and my business will be finished.” We have to be qualified to receive Krishna, and the process of becoming qualified proceeds gradually. We have to work to come to that stage of purity where we can receive Krishna in our hearts—and not just receive Him in our hearts, but actually see Him face to face. After residing for some time in the heart of Devaki, Krishna came before her, and they saw each other face to face. She saw Him face to face, and He saw her. That is the perfection of Krishna consciousness.
So, we have to qualify ourselves. We have to cleanse the mirror of the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam).
The process of purification varies from age to age. Although the basic process is the same—Krishna consciousness—in the present age the specific process recommended is to chant the holy names of the Lord:
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Lord Hari [Krishna]. There is no other means, no other means, no other means for success in this age.” (Brhan-naradiya Purana 38.126)
Chant is repeated three times for emphasis. “You must do it, you must do it, you must do it.” There was once a cartoon in a newspaper, which depicted an elderly man sitting across from his wife. She was requesting him, “Chant, chant, chant,” and he was replying, “Can’t, can’t, can’t.” That is our misfortune. Shastra, scripture, tells us, “Chant, chant, chant” (harer nama harer nama harer nama), and for no good reason—just some causeless aversion—we say (not necessarily by our words but by our behavior), “Can’t, can’t, can’t.” “Can’t, because I am too busy.” “Can’t, because I prefer other things.” “Can’t, because . . .”—because, because, because. So harer nama harer nama harer nama is emphatic: chant, chant, chant. And kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva: there is no other way, no other way, no other way. Now, that phrase might conjure up images of a fanatical Christian insisting, “Jesus is the only way.” But this nasty eva, the “only way,” is a little different. (And we don’t want to presume that there is anything wrong with “Jesus is the only way,” either.) But in this context, nasty eva, “no other way,” has a special meaning.
In different ages, different methods for self-realization were recommended—in Satya-yuga it was meditation, in Treta-yuga Vedic sacrifice, and in Dvapara-yuga opulent temple worship. In the present age, however, harer nama, chanting the holy names of God, is prescribed. So, nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva means “not by silent meditation, not by elaborate sacrifices, not by ritualistic temple worship,” but by chanting the holy names.
The holy names are not sectarian. There are Christian sects in which practitioners constantly repeat the name of Jesus. We don’t say that you have to chant only the holy name of Krishna. You may chant any name of God. Because God is absolute, any name of God is as good as any other. But you should chant some name. The Muslim tradition also recommends chanting the name of God, of Allah. In Pakistan I came across a book titled, Ninety-Nine Names of Allah. In the Vedic tradition there is Visnu-sahasra-nama, “A Thousand Names of Vishnu.” So the principle of chanting the names of God is current in every tradition, but it is often overlooked. Then again, in any tradition, the majority of people are conventional. It is only the minority who are really mystical, or spiritual. But within the mystical, spiritual traditions, the chanting of God’s names is advised.
The process of chanting (sankirtana) cleanses the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam) and makes it a fit place for the Lord to reside. That is what we have to do to prepare to receive Him. We have to chant. And chanting is pleasant, as I hope you have all experienced. It is pleasurable. That’s the other thing: although the results of Krishna consciousness are the highest, the process is also the easiest and most sublime. It’s almost too good to be true, but it is true. Chanting is easy and joyful, and at the same time it cleanses the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam) and makes it a fit place for the Lord to reside. And that process is accomplished through diksa, the continuing process of diksa, which culminates in perfect realization of Krishna. And then, when one is fully purified and realized, Krishna can’t contain Himself within your heart. He becomes so pleased with your service and so eager to see and embrace you that He comes out of your heart. (Of course, at the same time, He also stays there.) In His own way, He comes out of your heart to look at you and touch you and embrace you and take you by the hand and invite you to come with Him to His eternal abode.
That is the perfection of Krishna consciousness, and it is possible for each and every one of us. We just have to make the effort to chant without offense, and remain encouraged and steady in that effort. And for that, we need association. In every endeavor one needs association. In every field there are associations of people engaged in the same endeavor, because they support each other. There is the chamber of commerce, the diabetes society, the birdwatchers association—there are societies for everything, because in association with others who are pursuing the same goal, we get encouragement to stay on the path and we learn from them, from their experiences, how to improve in our own efforts and quicken our progress. It is a natural thing—and essential. Once we become a little serious, once we develop a little faith and attraction, the next stage is to associate with devotees (adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sangah). That association will really help us.
Chanting is simple, but the real art of chanting is to hear the chanting. Anyone can chant mindlessly, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna . . .” and look at the trees, look at the moon, look at the newspaper, look at the television, but that’s not real chanting. Real chanting means to hear with one’s mind fixed on the sound. This is meditation, mantra meditation, and it takes practice. If you chant for five minutes, will you be able to keep your mind fixed on the sound of the holy name? It will be a challenge. Even one minute is a challenge, because the nature of the mind is to flicker. It is restless. It always wants to go every which way—like the wind. In the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna says that it is harder to control the mind than to control the wind.
cancalam hi manah krsna
pramathi balavad drdham
tasyaham nigraham manye
vayor iva su-duskaram
“The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate, and very strong, O Krsna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Gita 6.34)
How can you control the wind? It is always going here and there. No one can stop it. So how can we control the mind? We can’t. Still, the Bhagavad-gita says it is possible—by practice (abhyasa) and detachment.
mano durnigraham calam
abhyasena tu kaunteya
vairagyena ca grhyate
“It is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.” (Gita 6.35)
This is the suitable practice: hearing about Krishna consciousness and then chanting—and hearing—Lord Krishna’s name. We chant and we hear. We practice fixing our mind on the sound of the holy name of the Lord. That is our sadhana; that is our practice. And it is serious business, and hard work. As our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, said, “Chanting is easy”—anyone can articulate the sounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna—“but the determination to chant [and hear with attention] is not so easy.” So that is what we need. We need that determination (drdha-vratah). And that determination develops in the association of devotees who are serious about chanting and hearing. Therefore the association of devotees is so valuable, and it is most important to maintain favorable relationships with devotees.
There are different offenses to be avoided when one chants. The main offense is to be inattentive while chanting, and another is to offend devotees. Devotees are our best well-wishers. They give us the holy name. They give us support in our efforts to chant. And if we offend them, we cut ourselves off from our best well-wishers, our best friends, our best support for the chanting. We cut ourselves off from the mercy that we so desperately need to progress. But if we pay attention to these two points—chanting attentively and maintaining favorable relationships with devotees—then gradually we can come to the stage of perfection. It takes time, but we can actually come to that stage when Krishna will enter our hearts. He is there already, but He will manifest Himself fully to us, and then, eventually, we will see Him face to face. So we should always, every spare moment, kirtaniyah-sada-harih, chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whatever you do when you are not chanting should be to place you in a position where you can chant. You may say, “I can’t chant all the time. I have to work. I have to earn money. I have to pay the bills.” That is true, but what is the goal of it all? Why do you want a roof over your head? Why do you want food on your plate? Ultimately, it should be to keep your body and soul together so you can chant the holy names and realize God. That is kirtaniyah-sada-harih, to “always chant the name of God.” We have the body. We must take care of it. We must bathe and dress and eat and sleep. We must get the necessities of life. We must do it all. But why are we doing it? The goal should be to chant the holy names of Krishna and realize Krishna.
Krishna comes to give us this message, and if from this occasion, Sri Krishna Janmashtami, we can just take this message—take it in our heart—that will be the beginning of our perfection. We must take it in our heart and practice it and repeat it to others—repeat it both for the benefit of others and for our own sake. And the results will be glorious. Krishna’s purpose in appearing in this world will be fulfilled, and our purpose as human beings will be fulfilled. And we will all be happy in Krishna consciousness together. Hare Krishna.
Are there any questions or comments?
Guest (1): Christians believe in resurrection, and Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation, but personally, I always ask myself, “What is the meaning of starting something and ending something? What is the meaning of several or many lives when we can be comfortable with maybe just one life? Why do we reach only after many lives?
Giriraj Swami: That is a very good question. We agree with you completely. That is the whole idea. Especially now that we have come to this human form of life, which is achieved after many lifetimes, and especially now that we have come in touch with devotees who tell us about Krishna and the process of bhakti-yoga, we can and should complete our purpose in this world in this life.
labdhva su-durlabham idam bahu-sambhavante
manusyam artha-dam anityam apiha dhirah
turnam yateta na pated anu-mrtyu yavan
nihsreyasaya visayah khalu sarvatah syat
“After many, many births one achieves the rare human form of life, which, although temporary, affords one the opportunity to attain the highest perfection. Thus a sober human being should quickly endeavor for the ultimate perfection of life before his body, which is always subject to death, falls away. After all, sense gratification is available even in the most abominable species of life, whereas Krsna consciousness is possible only for a human being.” (SB 11.9.29)
And if we chant seriously—chant and hear and follow the regulative principles that support the chanting and hearing—we can achieve complete success in the same lifetime. And that should be our determination.
Still, the Bhagavad-gita explains that if by chance you are not completely successful, then in your next life you continue from where you left off in this one; you don’t have to start all over again. With anything material, you have to start all over again in the next life. In this life you might know seven languages, but in your next life, when you are born, all you can say is “Ga, ga, ga,” and you don’t even know ABC. Materially, whatever you acquire in this life is lost at the time of death. But whatever you gain spiritually through the practice of bhakti-yoga continues in the next life. Suppose in this life you complete only 50 percent; then in the next life you begin from 51 percent. You don’t have to start again from the beginning.
But still, we have the human form of life, and the association of devotees, so why should we take any chances? We should have that determination to be completely successful in this life, just like you said.
Guest (1): Why did we come here in the first place? Why do we have to go through so many lives?
Giriraj Swami: Actually, as mentioned, we all come from Krishna, but when we turn away from Him—when we forget Him and want to enjoy apart from Him—we come under maya and suffer in the material world.
krsna-bahirmukha hana bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare
“When the living entity desires to enjoy separately from Krishna and turns away from Him, the illusory potency of the Lord, maya, immediately takes the soul in her clutches.” (Prema-vivarta)
But in that process, we don’t start at the bottom; we start at the top. We start as an elevated being on a higher planet. So we can reverse the process from that position and go back to Godhead. We don’t start as a germ or an amoeba. But if we are careless, we can keep declining and end up as an amoeba, in the body of an amoeba. But we don’t start at the bottom. We actually start at the top, and if we are attentive and vigilant, we can reverse the whole process in one lifetime. We don’t have to pass more than one life, and we don’t have to see any lower form of life.
Guest (1): Can we say that everything around us is energy—the material world? Animals, vegetables, minerals—everything is life, even if it doesn’t have consciousness by itself?
Giriraj Swami: Well, that is true—everything is energy—but as stated in the Bhagavad-gita, there are two kinds of energies. One is the material energy, and the other is the spiritual energy. The spiritual energy is conscious, alive. And the material energy is dull, dead.
bhumir apo ’nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.” (Gita 7.4)
apareyam itas tv anyam
prakrtim viddhi me param
yayedam dharyate jagat
“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.” (Gita 7.5)
What we see alive in the material world is really a combination of the spiritual and material energies—the spiritual spark within the physical body. And as long as the soul is present, there is consciousness. But an inanimate object—say, this piece of metal—has no consciousness. Of course, in an ultimate sense, we could say that there is consciousness everywhere, because Krishna is everywhere. He is expanded within the atoms and in the space between the atoms throughout the entire universe (andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham). But practically, in terms of individual consciousness, animals and vegetables have souls; they are a combination of matter and spirit. Minerals do not have souls; they are material energy. And then there is Krishna, who is completely spiritual.
Guest (1): Are there other forms of intelligence on other planets in the universe, or is it just here on our own planet?
Giriraj Swami: There is, in fact, even more advanced intelligent life on planets other than the earth. Everything is the creation of God. We don’t believe that anything has happened by accident or chance. God has created all these planets to provide different environments for different types of people. Just as there are different relativities on earth—Ojai or Santa Barbara may be relatively more congenial than Alaska or Antarctica—so there are relativities within the universe. Some planets are more heavenly, and some are more hellish. The earth is considered to be in the middle, though a little on the lower side. But there is intelligent life everywhere—and suffering everywhere—and everyone is ultimately meant to become God conscious and go back home, back to Godhead
punar avartino ’rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
[The Supreme Lord Krishna said:] “From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Gita 8.16)
Guest (2): You said that the only practice we need to do is chant the name of God. That seems to be asking God to receive from Him the grace of the holy name. But what can we do to prepare ourselves in everyday life to better understand and receive this grace?
Giriraj Swami: Yes, there are practices. Although chanting in and of itself is enough, there are disciplines that we can undertake to make it easier for us to get the full benefit of the chanting, to get the full grace of the Lord. There are certain personal restrictions. But the beauty of chanting is that even if it is hard at first to accept these restrictions, the process of chanting itself, the process of purification itself, will make it easier to accept them—to the point where we won’t even want to indulge in adverse activities anymore.
The first restriction is no eating meat. The second is no taking intoxicants. The third is no illicit sex—no sex outside of marriage, no frivolous sex. And the fourth is no gambling. If we are able to follow these regulative principles, our chanting will be more quickly effective, and we will be better receptacles for God’s grace.
And there are other things as well, such as getting up early in the morning. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” The early hours of the morning, especially before sunrise, are considered the best for spiritual practice, and therefore we generally rise early. Some devotees, when feasible, get up at two. They may take rest at eight and get up at two. Otherwise, we try to rise by four. Initiated disciples have a certain quota of chanting, which takes about two hours to complete. So they rise by four and complete their quota of rounds between five and seven and still have the rest of the day ahead of them.
And the more serious you are, the more things you can learn to improve your practice. But if you can just manage those four restrictions—and get up early—you will be off to a good start. And if you want to know more, we have volumes of books . . .
Guest (2): Hard news. Thank you.
Giriraj Swami: I was going to ask if you were ready for the answer before I gave it, but I figured that you asked, and you seemed sincere, so I just said it.
But again, the good news is that if you chant, all the other things will become easier. That’s why we don’t emphasize the restrictions at first, because we know that if people just chant, they will lose interest in those indulgent acts, and they will become more and more eager to advance in Krishna consciousness.
Guest (2): Inshallah.
Giriraj Swami: When you said “inshallah,” it reminded me of a group of Ahmadiyya Muslims who would sometimes meet me at our Juhu Beach temple. They told me the same thing, that the prayers offered before sunrise—almost like we say, beginning an hour and a half before sunrise—are heard by God more than prayers offered later in the day.
Inshallah, or insha’Allah, means “if Allah wills.” Allah is a name of God, so insha’Allah means “God willing.” Of course, we also accept the name Allah. Allah is the same as Krishna. But our devotees in Pakistan, instead of “insha’Allah,” would sometimes say, “insha Krishna,” to mean the same thing—“God willing.”
Krishna Bhamini dasi: Maharaja, I was just going to give an example. In the beginning, some people think, “Oh, I have to be a vegetarian” when they hear all the negative restrictions. But the process of spiritual life is so pleasant that they experience a higher taste. They actually prefer our food, prasada, to other things they used to eat. And it is kind of like that with all of the seeming restrictions. As we chant and associate with devotees, we develop a higher taste.
Giriraj Swami: Good point.
Krishna Bhamini dasi: I was going to say one more thing. You already explained it. But in today’s world, fanatical Muslims, or fanatics in any religion, may be chanting God’s names, yet so much violence is going on. They may chant, for example, “Allah, Allah,” yet engage in so much violent activity. They are “God’s warriors,” so to speak. So, you have explained that there are ways to chant God’s names properly.
Giriraj Swami: Correct. One must avoid that offense of offending devotees, and devotees are there in every tradition. One may take the name of God in one’s own tradition, but if one is inimical to devotees in other traditions, that is an offense, not only against the devotees but against the holy name. And if one commits offenses against the holy name, one doesn’t get the benefit. In fact, it is described that when you offend devotees, the holy name is offended and withdraws its mercy. So even though such fanatics are mouthing God’s name, it is almost as if God has left. He has withdrawn His mercy from them, because they are offensive.
Of course, offending devotees is the worst, but offending anyone—causing pain to any living entity—is prohibited. That is the complete injunction. And that is one reason why we don’t kill animals or eat flesh.
So, it is not just a question of mouthing God’s name. One should be in the proper consciousness, the proper mood of service to God and to the devotees of God—in whatever tradition, culture, or community they may be. We should respect and appreciate all genuine devotees, servants of God, and encourage the devotees and chant the holy names. That will bring us all success, and one day the holy name will reveal Himself to us, and we will see Krishna face to face.
prabhu kahe,—“vaisnava-seva, nama-sankirtana
dui kara, sighra pabe sri-krsna-carana”
The Lord [Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu] said, “You should engage yourself in the service of the servants of Krsna and always chant the holy name of Krsna. If you do these two things, you will very soon attain shelter at Krsna’s lotus feet.” (Cc Madhya 16.70)
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Sri Krishna Janmashtami, September 2, 2007, Ojai, California]