There are many ideas about karma, some influenced by total speculation, some by Buddhism, some by Hinduism, some Pagan concepts. In fact the term karma is widely used and with most accepted in its essence in everyday society to mean the result of action and reaction of any done thing. There are many aspects and views of karma, and we could say that it is according to one's karma that one gains a particular understanding of that karma. However, what we're presenting here is an understanding based on the teachings of the Vaishnava Acharyas, spiritual teachers coming down in an unbroken line of disciplic succession into the present time, from time immemorial.
The Laws of Nature: An Infallible Justice ( HDG Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad)
Karma - The
universal law of action and reaction
Bad Karma For The England Coach by Krishna Dharma dasa
DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE? by Ravindra Swarupa dasa
Why Bad Things Happen to Good People - Audio - Vipramukhya Swami
Karma: Meaning and Definition written by Hinduism Today Newspaper
Aspects of karma as defined in Bhagavad
Karma Yoga chapter 3
Karma-Yoga - Action in Krishna Consciousness chapter 5
Karma - action and reaction:
Vikarma - action with bad or binding reaction:
Akarma - action without reaction:
Some make a living in delving into speculations of what one was in a previous life. There may even be some truth in that, but the fact remains that none of that will help one in negating the reaction to those paraabda karmas (residual reactions) other than engaging in activities that are free from karma - akarma. The Buddhist understands that they must negate creating karma in order to be free from it's reaction, thus they aim for nirvana - nir meaning no and vana meaning forest, which infers action as the trees and branches of the forest are always interacting. However, just to try and stop action is not enough. The living entity is not inert, we're dynamic, and such a dynamic being needs activity. Certainly we must stop negative activity that binds us to this world, but just trying to be inactive like a green bird in a green tree, or ceasing reactionary result by theories of the sound of one hand clapping et al is neither fulfilling nor are they practical. The Buddhists make great study of different kinds of karmas but it all amounts to rearranging the deck-chairs as the Titanic slips below the waves of engulfing karmik reaction. Others like Theodora, wife of Justinian the Roman Emporer was so determined to avoid karma that she edited it out of the Bible to escape it's reaction........ (L.Mason. Reincarnation in the Early Church).
Three kinds of karma - Kriyamana karma - Prarabdha karma - Sanchita karma
Dimensions of Good and Evil by Suhotra swami 2003
Karma-mimamsha: Elevation Through the Performance of Duty, as mentioned in the Sad-darshana - The six systems of Vedic philosophy.
into Astrology and Karma:
Another insight into Astrology and Karma from a more devotional view:
the vegetarian diet
Vegetarianism and Beyond - all about karma free eating:
The Cost of Meat - in terms of karma
The universal law of action and reaction:
Laws of Nature BBT book ACBSP:
Reincarnation pages: by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad
Karma and Reincarnation from the Himalayan Academy perspective:
Past Life Regression - a look at karma and reincarnation in action:
FREE - Meet Your Meat - the Video on CD-Rom, and links to P.E.T.A.
Karma and Reincarnation - Reincarnation in the Early Church by L Manson (coming soon)
Articles about Karma
- The universal law of action and reaction
Cause and effect form the basic duality within this material world. Whatever happens has a cause and will cause other effects, both directly and indirectly. Chance doesn't exist. Everything is part of a higher cause-effect structure. Cause and effect refer to the principle of action and reaction. According to the Vedic teachings, this principle applies both on physical and nonphysical levels.
The equation Action = reaction is the basis of Newtonian physics, which restricts this formula to mechanical processes. While Newton denied any possibility of cause- effect without a physical connection, modern quantum physics indicates the universal aspects of the cause-effect principle. Pioneers like David Bohm went so far as to propose the existence of a universal quantum potential field that coordinates a hierarchy of explicit orders and thus allows synchronization of non-local physical events.
These are only abstract ideas, but they show that a closer examination of the complex system of actions and reactions, both on atomic and cosmic levels, will lead us to the conclusion that mere mechanic causality cannot explain everything. This is especially true regarding phenomena like consciousness, life, individuality, and destiny.
The Vedic version is that there is no such thing as chance. Everything happens by the arrangement of higher authorities, also known as "providence." Whatever happens has a cause and a higher purpose. However, the propounders of the materialistic world view strictly deny this. They say that cause and effect is valid within the entire universe, but only on the physical level. Life and consciousness, they say, are the products of atomic combinations under the strict laws of physics (based on causality). But they exclude life and consciousness from causality, saying that they were produced by chance and work by chance. This argument is inconsistent, one- sided, and biased.
Still, it can't be denied that the Vedic idea that nothing happens by chance is difficult for Westerners to accept. If chance doesn't exist, do we mean to say that rapes, murders, car accidents, and concentration camps happen due to predestination, that they had to happen because the causes were set for this effect?
The Vedic view of karma can shed much light on these questions. Karma refutes both the materialistic and fatalistic world view. Karma extends cause and effect from the physical level to the nonphysical levels of consciousness and destiny.
There are many misconceptions about karma. Some Christian critics argue that karma corresponds to the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," which is set up by men and denied by God. Propounders of liberalism say that all human beings have free will, that everybody has to decide for himself what is right or wrong, and that there are no absolute standards such as those suggested by karma. These misconceptions arise from misunderstanding. Let us examine what karma means.
Karma is the Sanskrit word for "action." Since the Sanskrit language is multifaceted, karma means much more than this simple translation. Derived from the root kri "to do, to plan, to execute," karma further means "that which is caused and causing," which suggests that no action is independent. Each action or event is part of a big network of causes and becomes a cause for future reactions or events. This network of karma (action) is coordinated according to the "law of karma" -- the law of action and reaction.
Most misunderstandings are due to the confusion of karma and predestination. Karma is not predestination! The Vedic understanding of karma includes both predestination and free will.
The wrong interpretation of karma can lead to amazing extremes. If you think karma is just predestination, then whatever comes can't be changed and whatever happens was sanctioned by karma. This would allow you to think, "I can exploit others for my purpose, kill them in camps, or enslave them. If I can do it, this means it was their karma, and I am not guilty, because if it wasn't their karma, I couldn't do it. But because I can, I am allowed to do it." There are many beings on Earth and beyond who think like that -- more than most humans imagine.
There are two big mistakes in this logic. First, free will exists, and second, karma is not the supreme law in this creation. Sometimes philosophers consider free will to be the ultimate controlling factor of our destiny, but although this proposition is attractive, it is wrong. The Supreme Lord, Krishna, also has His plan for the creation and sometimes causes gross annihilation of the living beings who have become too sinful and disturbing for the Earth to bear.
To understand the implications of karma, we have to understand the sublime synthesis of predestination and free will. Both aspects exist simultaneously. To conceive of this inconceivable reality, we have to consider both sides of the law of karma: the point of view of action, and the point of view of reaction.
Considering the point of view of reaction, we have to accept that whatever has happened to us was predestined, and it was sanctioned by the universal authority (God, or Vishnu, who as Supersoul is present both within the universe and within the heart of each living entity as the omnipresent witness and the universal memory). Whether we accept this point of view or not, the fact that something happened cannot be changed. We may call it chance or bad or good luck, but then we avoid the lesson that we should learn.
To learn the lesson is important because each situation forces us to react. This leads to the second aspect of karma, the point of view of action. Although the laws of karma set up and predestine the circumstance we are now in, we have free will to decide how to react in each situation. But having free will doesn't make us "free" and independent. Free will means only that we can choose how to act under the influence of a specific set of circumstances; however, we cannot control the results of our actions that come upon us according to the higher law of karma.
Human beings are not restricted to act in a specific manner. They have free will. But with this free will comes responsibility, because the way we act determines the reactions. Thus we are free to choose our future, both individually and collectively. Whatever we do creates a reaction that we must enjoy or suffer. We are constantly receiving the reactions of our previous actions that we created using our free will. Therefore we are responsible for our happiness and distress, and the material nature creates the conditions within which we enjoy or suffer. Collective karma is the aggregate of individual karma. If many people do the same thing or support or tolerate some act, then they are collectively responsible for the results and will get a collective reaction, which can be either good or bad according to the act done.
Although the law of karma is such that we are never a passive victim of predestination, we are also never free from the laws of creation, which are fixed according to the will of the creator. The Supreme Lord also has desires concerning how things shall go on in the material world. He is eager to see the living entities become happy and advance in spiritual knowledge. So sometimes He creates situations and causes things to happen that no one can avoid.
Therefore, the best thing is to live according to the will of the creator.
This is the ultimate responsibility of the human being: to learn that there
is a creator, and to learn how to use everything in harmony with the creator's
will. Then we can become free from the entanglement of the seemingly endless
network of actions and reactions. The science of getting freed from this
material network is described in the Vedic literature and is called yoga.
To understand how to practice yoga, please read the essay entitled Yoga.
© 1997 BBTI, Inc.
Bad Karma For The England Coach: On January 30 this year (1999), Britain woke up to an unusual headline in the news. "Hoddle says disabled are paying for sins of previous life," announced the more serious press, while the tabloids went for variations of "Hoddle goes mad."
The story had made headlines for two reasons: Firstly, the man in question
Glenn Hoddle, coach of the England football team, and secondly, his views were held by
just about all observers to be utterly outrageous. Who did he think he was to pass such
harsh judgement of a disadvantaged class of people? Did he have no sensitivity? The
sports minister for Britain, Tony Banks, said Hoddle was 'from another world.' "I have
listened carefully to Glen Hoddle's views," said Banks. "They are totally unacceptable. If
his theory is correct, he is in for real problems in the next life. He will probably be
doomed to come back as Glenn Hoddle."
It had been a fairly innocent statement by the unfortunate Hoddle , made
course of a sports interview. Most of the interview had been about England's footballing
prospects. But the interviewer, obviously with an eye to a hot story, knew about
Hoddle's beliefs and questioned him accordingly. When asked about his belief in karma,
Hoddle replied, "You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and
half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is
working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people
with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap."
The interviewer had struck gold . That short section of his interview,
headlined by him, made the headlines in every other newspaper. For days afterward a
debate raged. Calls for Hoddle's sacking came from all quarters. Eventually his
authorities bowed to the pressure and he was forced to resign.
As a believer in karma and reincarnation myself I was angered to see the
to Hoddle in the media. I felt personally insulted. Amongst a host of other pejorative
descriptions, Hoddle's beliefs were labelled 'potty', 'crackpot' and 'barmy'. I was
astonished at the blatant hypocrisy; on the one hand tearing Hoddle to pieces for his
'slur on the disabled', while at the same time dismissing someone's religious beliefs as
But what about those beliefs? Are they nonsense? Did Hoddle get it right?
concept of karma include the idea that those suffering disability are receiving the results
of former sins? Surely that is a hard pill to swallow for those so afflicted. Especially, of
course, if one has no belief that there ever was a former life. And even if there was,
what terrible sins did I commit? Looking around me, I don't see that disabled folk are any
more 'sinful' than others. Some seem a whole lot more pious.
Who defines sin? Who decides what reaction should follow our actions? Can
changed, or is everything pre-determined? Unless you can answer all these questions
then your belief in karma and reincarnation will be rather hollow.
Of course, even if he could answer those questions, Hoddle was given little
After his declaration of faith he was carried by the wave of indignation to his sure fate.
But if he had been given a fair trial then he could perhaps have called upon the evidence
of the Bhagavad-gita. It is in this ancient Vedic scripture that the teaching of karma is
clearly described, and answers to all the above questions are offered.
Followed by hundreds of millions, the Gita is the basis of Hinduism , and
Vaishnavism, which of course accepts karma and reincarnation as its central tenet. So
too does Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and a host of other Vedic belief systems coming out
of the central strand of Hinduism. We're talking about almost half the world's population
here. Surely then there must be some kind of logic to the belief.
So what does the Gita say? Well, the basic principle that every living
being is an
eternal soul, moving from life to life until it achieves ultimate liberation, is perhaps
well-known. The Gita helps us to recognise our eternality with a simple exercise. "As the
soul travels from childhood to youth to old age, it similarly travels to another body after
death." In other words, reincarnation is taking place at every moment, not just at
death-the body is constantly changing.
In adulthood we can see that our childhood body has changed completely,
are still the same person . We all know the joke, 'you must have been a beautiful
baby-but baby what went wrong?' It should thus be obvious that we, the person, are
different from the body we inhabit. Perhaps also this is where the disabled can take
some comfort-they know that despite their physical disability they are no less a person
than anyone else. If a man loses an arm or a leg, he does not feel that he has become
only three-quarters whole. He is still the same person within. It should thus be obvious
that the body is not the self.
But now we come to the tricky bit. Why is it that some souls get a body
supermodel Pamela Anderson, while others are consigned to a mortal frame
wracked by disease, or even that of a dog, or a worm, or a cockroach? "As you
sow, so shall you reap", quoted Hoddle , and the Gita does not demur. It agrees that
all our actions will produce a reaction, good or bad.
But it points out that this is a complex equation. That the "intricacies
of karma are hard
to understand even for the highly learned". In other words, while in principle it may be
true that our suffering in this life has at its root some mistakes in this or a former life, it
is more or less impossible to know what those mistakes were or when we made them -
and it is not very important to know anyway.
In fact the Gita is concerned more with permanently ending all reactions
so-called good or bad. As we are eternal souls we do not belong in this world, which is
ultimately only a place of suffering for everyone, whether able-bodied or otherwise.
The Gita teaches us to get out of the material world . To enter the eternal
atmosphere where we really belong, and where suffering does not exist. And it makes it
clear that this can be achieved by anyone, regardless of their bodily condition. All souls
are equal, the body is nothing more than the soul's temporary covering.
Perhaps Hoddle understands this well enough, I don't know. But his brief
karma has certainly given the concept a bad name. That is a shame. For me at least,
the alternative belief of things just happening by chance, with all its apparent unfairness
and injustices, is unacceptable. It is a belief in helplessness which can only lead to
despair. The poor souls suffering in this life are just losers in the great cosmic lottery.
And if we believe that, then why should we display any compassion or concern?
use is it anyway? One man wins and another loses-that's it. It's out of our control and
happening purely by chance.
Even if we say no, God is there and in control, still our compassion seems
pointless if we
do not accept karma. If God is simply acting whimsically, dishing out misery without any
rhyme or reason, then what can we do about it? Our attempts to ameliorate the
situation can be dashed in a moment by this capricious and malevolent God. If he wants
us to suffer, for whatever unfathomable reason, how will we ever prevent it?
If we deny karma we are left with frightening alternatives to explain our
It may be hard to accept, but seeing suffering as the consequences of our own acts is
the only sensible explanation. And this, after all, is the way we run our lives. We want
to hold people responsible for their acts. Would we release a criminal who pleaded, "But
your honour, the knife in my hand stabbed him purely by chance"? Do we not as parents
constantly tell our children that they must accept the consequences of their acts? Does
it not therefore make sense that the supreme authority, God, should work by the same
principle? It seems natural to me that we should be responsible for what we do.
I was thus surprised to see the hue and cry over Hoddle's statements .
first discovered karma I felt a sense of empowerment. Accepting that my misery was a
consequence of my own acts made me realise an important fact: I can change those
consequences. My fate lies entirely in my own hands. I don't need to blame events
outside my control, or my environment, or other people.
This is the only basis for real compassion . We can only do something to
suffering person when we understand the cause of that suffering. Otherwise, without
negating the root cause, our attempts to help will at best be makeshift. Whilst it is fine
to do whatever we can to make life more tolerable for the afflicted, surely the most
important assistance we can render is to remove the affliction-forever.
For those who are disabled or afflicted in some other way this is a philosophy
liberation . My actual identity is different from my external, painful body. Whatever
mistakes I may have made in the past, which have resulted in my present condition, I
can now act in ways that will lead to my permanent happiness. No more pain. That goes
for all of us, disabled or otherwise. Each one of us is suffering one way or another.
Disease, old age and death will eventually visit us all-followed by another birth in who
knows what kind of body. But the Gita describes how we can end that cycle for once
and for all.
I hope that poor Mr Hoddle's abrupt removal from office will at least have
stimulated some deeper thinking about what are, after all, some pretty deep
concepts. Karma and reincarnation deserve a better press than they have had of late.
Go to Iskcon Manchester where this page originated:
written by Hinduism Today Newspaper
Posted Sun, 19-Jun-1994 22:49:46 GMT
Karma: We Mold Our Lives Like
a Potter Fashions a Pot
Karma has quite a karma. Long after India's seers immortalized it in the Vedas, it suffered bad press under European missionaries who belittled it as "fate" and "fatalism," and today finds itself again in the ascendancy as the subtle and all-encompassing principle which governs man's experiential universe in a way likened to gravity's governance over the physical plane. Like gravity, karma was always there in its fullest potency, even when people did not comprehend it.
The early seers who brought through the Vedas were practitioners, mystics and divine oracles who put into practice the knowledge of karma. To them, Karma -- from the root kri, "to do" -- was a power by which they could influence the Gods, nature, weather, harvests and enemies through right intent and rites righteously performed. Thus by their actions they could determine their destiny. Through the ages, other realized souls explained the workings of karma, revealing details of this cosmic law and, when the tradition of writing came into vogue, recording it for future generations. In this way they established karma as perhaps the fundamental principle of Hindu consciousness and culture then and now.
Primordial and unborn, karma is anadi, "beginningless." Its Rig Veda definitions are linked to the performance of the homa, the potent fire rite that temporarily opens a window between the three worlds -- physical, subtle and causal. With Sanskrit mantras, mudras and meditative powers, Vedic priests precipitated a flow of shakti from highly evolved souls, Mahadevas, residing in inner worlds, securing the blessings of the Gods, insuring happiness for the clan. Neglecting the rites or misperforming them made negative karma and invited calamity and loss of wealth.
Communities were tight knit, and the clan prospered or suffered collectively. When one person did transgress, elders suspected not so much an individual's willful intent to do malice as malperformance of the homa. The ritual was held responsible for sustaining a spiritual force-field strong enough to ward off demonic entities that torment, confuse and misguide weak individuals. Priests assumed primary responsibility for the well-being of the community.
Indologist Herman W. Hull, author of The Vedic Origins of Karma, writes: "In the context of Vedic ritual thought, good and bad apparently refer to a valuation of action based on ritual exactitude: good being equated with the correct performance of the rite, bad with the incorrect performance." Swami Vivekananda, who spoke and wrote on karma extensively, commented on this understanding of the law: "The Vedic doctrine of karma is the same as in Judaism and all other religions, that is to say, the purification of the mind through sacrifices and such other external means."
The Upanishads (circa 1500-600 bce), the philosophic treatises of the Vedas, show how karma relates to the individual and his or her actions -- with questions of morality, responsibility, reward and retribution. They clearly command the individual to be responsibly concerned about personal conduct and not expect the priesthood alone to secure and safeguard one's karma through the performance of sacred rites. As Sage Yajnavalkya says in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "What becomes of this man? Indeed, one becomes good by good action and bad by bad action."
Karma in Mystical Vision
The yogis of the ancient Sankhya philosophical system offered a deeply mystical vision. They scrutinized karma to profound levels of magnification and stressed its bearing on the soul of man. What they saw was a plasmic jelly pulsating within the subtle bodies of each person. Embedded in this plasma, which persists from life to life, are the seeds of all past thought and action. In each lifetime, certain of these karmic seeds are released into the nerve system with coded impulsions and tendencies affecting present actions. The effects were most commonly understood to determine three spheres of life: a) jati, family and occupation; b) ayus, health and length of life; c) bhoga, quality and enjoyment of life.
Karma as a Cosmic Building Block
To the rishi seers, karma appeared with such fundamental force and substantive reality that they perceived it as one of the thirty-six primary evolutes of form, called tattvas, which range from Parashakti, pure consciousness, to prithivi tattva, earth. Karma is number eight, called niyati tattva, a spiritual-magnetic energy form. This identification of its magnetic quality is a crucial clue to understanding how karma "comes back," rather than just "goes out." Each karma, or action, generates a vibration, a distinct oscillation of force, a vasana, or subliminal inclination that continues to vibrate in the mind. These vasanas are magnetic conglomerates of subconscious impressions. Like attracts like. Acts of love attract loving acts, malice attracts malice. And each action, karma, continues to attract until demagnetized. This is accomplished through re-experiencing it, or resolving it with understanding -- rather than compounding it with reaction -- or through other subtler spiritual means and practices.
Karma Goes Global
"What goes around comes around," sings country Western singer Willie Nelson. His ballad about "getting back what you give out" dominated US and European radio waves for years and became the West's homespun Upanishad on the Hindu concept of karma. You can hardly watch TV today without a subtle lesson in this cosmic law of cause and effect. Everywhere, karma has squeezed through the white picket fences of non-Hindu religions and irrevocably attached itself to the global ethic emerging worldwide.
But karma has suffered a chronic association with the word fate. Fate is a Western idea, derived largely from the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It means, with wide variation, that one's life has been set by agencies outside oneself. Karma is exactly the opposite. "`It is the coward and the fool who says this is fate,' goes the Sanskrit proverb," said Swami Vivekananda. "But it is the strong man who stands up and says, `I will make my fate.'"
karmabhanda: The bonds of actions, i.e., being bound to rebirth.
karmadosha: Sinful work or vice, blunder; evil consequences.
karmadushta: Corrupt in action.
karmaja: Act-born; resulting or produced from an act, good or bad.
karmajiva: Livelihood earned by work, trade, profession.
karmakshaya: Annihilation of work.
karmakshetra: Place of religious acts.
karmanirhara: The removal of bad deeds or their effects.
karmanishtha: Diligent in performing religious actions.
karmapaka: Ripening of acts, matured results of acts of former births.
karmaphala: The fruit of actions.
karmarambha: The commencement of an act.
karmashaya: "Holder of karma." Describes body of the soul.
karmasamya: Equipoise of karma.
karmasiddhi: Successful action.
karmatyaga: Abandoning worldly duties and obligations.
karmavasha: The necessary influence or repercussion of actions.
karmavidhi: Rule of action; mode of conducting ceremonies.
karmayoga: "Union through action;" selfless religious service.
kriyamana karma: Actions being made. Karma being created.
papa: Wickedness, sin, crime. Wrongful action. Demerit from wrongdoing.
prayaschitta: Penance. "Predominant thought or aim; weighing heavily on the mind."
prarabdha karma: Actions set in motion. Sanchita karma released to bear fruit in one's current life.
punya: Holy, virtuous; auspicious. Meritorious action.
sanchita karma: The entirety of all karmas of this life and past lives.
Reference: A Sanskrit English Dictionary, Sir Monier Monier-Williams.
[KARMA is pronounced as "karmuh," the "uh" being subtle.]
For a deeper understanding on Karma, check Karma Yoga.
Copyright (C) 1994, Himalayan Academy, All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published for commercial purposes without the prior written authority of Himalayan Academy. [The publisher's request is that the material not be used in magazines or newspapers that are for sale without their permission. Redistribution electronically (for free), photocopying to give to classes or friends, all that is okay.] This copyright notice may NOT be removed, or the articles edited or changed without the prior written authority of Himalayan Academy.
DO BAD THINGS
TO GOOD PEOPLE?
by Ravindra Swarup dasa
About five years ago, when we were having an altar installed in our new temple, the overseer from the marble company would regularly bring his seven-year-old son along to watch. The boy was very handsome, with jet-black hair and pale skin and long, dark eyelashes. He was well behaved and always seemed in good humor even though he could hardly walk at all. I never saw him take more than a few steps, leaning on a wall and straining his torso with an awkward twisting motion and then swinging forward a leg clamped into a large, clumsy brace.
The boy had been born crippled. While he was cheerful despite that, his father was not. His father was an angry man. "When that boy was born I stopped going to church," he told me once, as he knelt on our altar putting grout between the marble slabs. "I never did anything bad enough to deserve this. Sure, I'm not a saint, but I don't deserve this. And even if I did, what could HE have done?"
The aggrieved father, an unsophisticated marble contractor, was raising a problem that has long preoccupied Western religious thinkers, so much so that it has created a special discipline called THEODICY, a branch of theology concerned with justifying the ways of God to man. Theodicy deals with what is usually called "the problem of evil." St. Augustine cast it into the form of a dilemma: "Either God cannot or God will not eliminate evil from the world. If He cannot, He is not all-powerful; if He will not, He is not all-good." This formulation makes the logic of the problem clear: to show that the existence of a world with evil in it is compatible with the existence of a God who is BOTH all-powerful AND all-good. To deny either one of these attributes would easily explain evil, but orthodox theologians have always considered that unacceptable.
Those who find the problem of evil intractable usually deny the existence of God outright rather than settle for a God limited either in power or goodness. Would such a finite being really qualify to be called "God"? Would he be worthy of our worship?
Although philosophers and theologians have left us a huge body of technical literature on the problem of evil, it is far from a theoretical concern. It is everybody's problem, sooner or later. Suffering is universal. But oddly enough, practically as widespread is the sufferer's feeling that he has been unfairly singled out. From millions comes the outraged cry: "Why ME! What did I do to deserve this?"
It is for such people that Harold S. Kushner, a Massachusetts rabbi, has written his book WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. It is a painfully honest treatment of what the author claims is the one theological issue that reaches folks "where they really care."
Kushner's book grew out of his personal pain; his testimony commands respect. He tells how his son was afflicted from infancy with progeria, a disease that brings on rapid aging, so that Kushner saw the boy grow bald and wrinkled, stooped and frail, until he died of old age in his fourteenth year. Kushner presents the victim's point of view, and he lets us hear the real voices of people in pain. In that stark light, the standard religious justifications for our misfortunes, which Kushner lays out one by one, do indeed seem like facile verbal shuffles that don't take people's suffering seriously but simply try, however lamely, to get God off the hook.
Kushner effectively criticizes the standard answers handed out by priests, ministers, rabbis, and he offers instead his own radically unorthodox solution. His book has been a bestseller for months, and he has attracted a large and grateful following among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants. Indeed, the popularity of his view among members of America's mainstream churches and synagogues suggests something of a grassroots theological rebellion.
The most reprehensible device of theodicy, in Kushner's view, is to remove the blame from God by putting it onto the sufferer, to explain suffering "by assuming that we deserve what we get, that somehow our misfortunes come as punishment for our sins." To accept that bad things happen to us as God's punishment, Kushner says, may help us make sense of the world, give us a compelling reason to be good, and sustain our belief in an all-powerful and just Deity - yet it is not "religiously adequate."
By "religiously adequate" Kushner means "comforting." Seeing suffering as a punishment for sin is not comforting, because it teaches people to blame themselves for their misfortunes, and so creates guilt, and it also "makes people hate God, even as it makes them hate themselves."
Kushner tells us of a couple who blamed their teenage daughter's sudden death on their own failure to observe the prescribed fast on a Jewish holy day: "They sat there feeling that their daughter's death had been their fault; had they been less selfish and less lazy about the Yom Kippur fast some six months earlier, she might still be alive. They sat there angry at God for having exacted His pound of flesh so strictly, but afraid to admit their anger for fear that He would punish them again. Life had hurt them and religion could not comfort them. Religion was making them feel worse."
It is a virtue of Kushner's work to bring up anger at God up front, to talk at length about what few believers have had the courage to admit, even to themselves. Many people must be grateful that someone has recognized their real feelings and has dealt with them openly.
But the worst thing about the belief that our misdeeds cause our misfortunes, says Kushner, is that it doesn't even fit the facts. People do suffer ills they don't deserve; bad things happen to good people all the time. Kushner adamantly maintains this. To the thousands who resent life's unfair treatment, who proclaim in outrage and indignation, "I didn't do anything to deserve this!" Kushner answers, comfortingly, "That's right, you didn't."
And Kushner is not talking about saints, about people who never do wrong. Rather, he wants to know "why ordinary people, nice friendly neighbors, neither extraordinarily good nor extraordinarily bad, should suddenly have to face the agony of pain and tragedy... They are neither much better nor very much worse than most people we know; why should their lives be so much harder?"
Here, tapping into a great psychic underground of resentment, Kushner has found his following. He has been willing to openly acknowledge a vast repressed sense of betrayal, a great silenced accusation that leaks unwillingly from the hearts of the believers and wends its way up to the divine ear as the universal unvoiced antiprayer: "You didn't hold up Your end of the bargain!"
Kushner insists that the innocent suffer, and as conclusive proof he advances that grievance which has been the bane of Judeo-Christian theodicy and which occasioned his own harrowing foray into the problem of evil: the suffering and death of children.
This is what drove the marble contractor to take up atheism, the usual response of those who feel God has failed them. But atheism is the response Kushner wants to prevent with his book. To restore the faith of those who have been spiritually devastated by misfortune, Kushner offers his own story of how he and his wife "managed to go on believing in God and in the world after we had been hurt."
Kushner is indeed convinced that the existence of a God both all-good and all-powerful is incompatible with the evils of our world; yet he wants us to go on believing in God - but not in a God who is all-powerful. God is good, but there are limits to what He can do. God does not want us to suffer; He is as angry and upset at our misfortunes as we are. But He is also helpless.
This is Kushner's credo: "I believe in God," he says, but - "I recognize His limitations." As a result, Kushner tells us in relief, "I no longer hold God responsible for illness, accidents, and natural disasters, because I realize that I gain little and I lose much when I blame God for these things. I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die, for whatever exalted reason."
It is not hard for me to put myself in the place of Kushner or the marble contractor: I have children of my own. I can even understand why, given the kind of religion they know, Kushner can worship only a finite deity, and the marble contractor can't bear to enter a church. Nevertheless, I don't have the problem with God that they do. When bad things happen, I don't find myself calling into question either His power or His goodness.
Of course, I am a devotee of Krsna; my religious convictions are founded upon the Vedic theism revealed in the BHAGAVAD-GITA and the SRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM. To espouse those convictions has been viewed by most normal Americans as a radical thing to do. But now we find that many normal Americans are willing to do something that, in its way, is more radical than what I've done. They are abandoning one of the most basic and universal theistic tenets: they are becoming worshipers of God-the-not-almighty.
I want to tell you how we handle the problem of evil. If you, like so many others, are unsatisfied with the standard Judeo-Christian theodicy, perhaps you will consider our Krsna conscious view before following Rabbi Kushner.
In the BHAGAVAD-GITA Krsna explains that you and I, like all living beings, are spiritual entities, souls. We now animate bodies made of matter, but we are not these bodies. Our involvement with matter is unfortunate, for it is the cause of all our suffering. We rightly belong in the spiritual kingdom, where life is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. There everyone is joyously surrendered to the control of God as they directly serve Him in love. Every action is motivated exclusively by the desire to satisfy God.
But some of us perversely wished God's position for ourselves. We wanted independence so that we could try to enjoy and control others like God does. Yet we cannot, of course, take God's place; He alone has no master. But to grant our desires, God sends us to the material world, where He now controls us indirectly, through His material nature and its laws. Here we can forget God, strive to fulfill OUR desires, and have the illusion of independence.
Yet we are controlled by the laws of nature, and these force us to perpetually inhabit a succession of temporary material bodies. In ignorance, we identify ourselves with each body we enter, and we suffer again and again the pains of birth, old age, disease, and death. Life after life we transmigrate through plant, animal, and human bodies, sometimes on this planet, sometimes on far better ones, sometimes on far worse.
Once we take a human birth, our destiny is shaped by KARMA. In the BHAGAVAD- GITA (8.3) Krsna succintly defines KARMA as "actions pertaining to the development of material bodies." This means that there are actions we do now that determine our future material bodies. What kind of actions? Those motivated by material desire. We may do them directly for ourselves or indirectly for our extended self - our family, friends, community, nation, and the like. All such acts sentence us to future births in the material world, there to reap what we have sown.
KARMA is of two kinds: good and bad. Every civilized society recognizes a set of commandments that have divine authority and that regulate material enjoyment. Such commandments, for example, restrict the enjoyment of sex to marital relations and oblige the wealthy to be philantropic. They also encourage religious and charitable acts, which earn the performer merit. And they prescribe atonements for transgressors. Thus people are allowed to pursue material enjoyment, but they must observe moral and religious codes. And those who follow these codes, who live pious lives of restricted sensual pleasure, are assured of even greater enjoyment in the life to come.
If we act according to scriptural regulations, the VEDAS tell us, we will produce good KARMA and in future births enjoy the benefits of our piety. For example, if a person is born in an aristocratic family, is beautiful, well educated, or very wealthy, he is reaping the benefits of good KARMA. The VEDAS also tell us that if a person is extraordinarily pious he may be reborn on one of the higher planets in this universe, where the standard of sensual pleasure is far greater than anything we have on earth.
Conversely, there is bad KARMA. We create bad KARMA when we disregard scriptural injunctions and restrictions in our pursuit of sensual pleasure - that is, when we act sinfully. Bad KARMA brings us suffering and misfortune, such as birth in a degraded family, poverty, chronic disease, legal problems, or physical ugliness. Exceptionally bad KARMA will take us into animal bodies or down to lower planets of hellish torment.
The law of KARMA is as strict, relentless, and impartial as the grosser natural laws of motion and gravity. And, like them, it applies to us whether we know about it or not. For example, if I eat the flesh of animals even though I can live as well without it, my bad KARMA will force me to be born as an animal and to be slaughtered myself. Or if I arrange to have a child killed in the womb, I simultaneously arrange for myself to be killed in the same way, again and again, without ever seeing the light of day.
So when you and I were born we inherited, along with our blue eyes or our black hair, the consequences of our past good and bad deeds. We have a long history, and the happiness and distress our lives will bring is set. We are indeed children of destiny, hostages to fortune, but it is a destiny we created for ourselves, a fortune self-made. And in this life we are continuing to create our future.
But of all this Kushner is unaware, and he can make no sense of his suffering. He has the unshakable conviction that God owes him an agreable and happy life, that God is obliged to arrange matters for his satisfaction. But God fails, bringing on Kushner's crisis of faith. It can only be that God is either bad or weak, Kushner reasons, and then settles for weakness.
Yet in spite of Kushner, God is both all-good and all-powerful. But He does not engineer our suffering - we do. We are the authors of our KARMA. And it is our decision, not His, that brings us down into the material world, into the realm of suffering.
So the answer to the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is "They don't." All of us here in the material world are - how shall I put it? - NOT OF THE BEST SORT. Reprobates and scapegraces - each of us persona non grata in the kingdom of God. We are sent here because we seek a life independent of God, and He grants our desire as far as possible. But since His position is already taken, we can only play at being God while deceiving ourselves that we are independent of Him.
At the same time, the material world reform us, teaches us through reward and punishment to acknowledge God's supreme position. For by natural law we are rationed out the pleasures we desire according to our observance of the divine regulations, following the ways of good KARMA. The practice of good KARMA, then, amounts to a materially motivated religion, an observance of God's orders on the inducement of material reward. By this practice, spanning many lifetimes, I may, it is hoped, become habituated to following God's commands and reconciled to His supremacy. Thereupon I become eligible at last to take up the pure and eternal religion, in which, completely free from all material desires, I serve God in loving devotion, asking nothing in return. This religion, called BHAKTI in the VEDAS, causes my return to the kingdom of God. The acts of BHAKTI are KARMA-less: they produce no future material births, good or bad.
From the VEDAS, then, we learn of two clearly distinct religions, one pure and the other impure. Practicing good KARMA can elevate us in the material world, secure for us a vast life span on heavenly planets, and so on. In other words, it can make us first-class inmates of the material world. But BHAKTI alone can release us from the prison altogether. Even the best KARMA cannot free us from suffering, as Krsna warns in the BHAGAVAD-GITA (8.16): "From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place." But BHAKTI destroys all karmic reaction, extirpates all material desires, revives our pure love for God, and delivers us beyond birth and death to His abode. There we never taste temporary, material pleasure but rather relish eternal, spiritual bliss by serving Krsna and thus joining in HIS bliss.
It is a signal of virtue of the Vedic tradition that it distinguishes so clearly between the religion of good KARMA and the religion of BHAKTI and offers BHAKTI purely, without compromise. Most of us, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, have been taught a kind of common karmic religion: God has put us on this earth to enjoy ourselves, and if we do so within the ordained limits, not forgetting to show God gratitude and proper respect, He will see to our success. We should ask God to meet our needs and fulfill our lawful desires, for He is the greatest order supplier. If we are observant and good, He will reward us well in this life and even better in the next.
This is the religion Kushner professed: "Like most people, my wife and I had grown up with an image of God as an all-wise, all-powerful parent figure who would treat us as our earthly parents did, or even better. If we were obedient and deserving, He would reward us. If we got out of line, He would discipline us, reluctantly but firmly. He would protect us from being hurt or from hurting ourselves, and would see to it that we got what we deserved in life."
Of course, Kushner begins to reconsider his religion when he discovers that it doesn't work. At this point, most people (like the marble contractor) become atheists. The idea of God as order supplier is thus responsible for a great deal of unbelief. But Kushner wants to preserve his faith in God, or at least in God's goodness, by denying His power.
Kushner's chief defense of his position is that it is "religiously adequate," that is, comforting. You will recall that he accused conventional theodicy of making people feel worse - causing them to feel guilty and to hate God. The explanation of suffering I have presented shouldn't make anyone feel worse. True, it says that we cause our own suffering, yet the point is not to make us feel guilty. The point is to let us know we've made some mistakes and should correct them. And why should we resent God for our suffering? Suffering comes by the law of KARMA. But KARMA is the impartial working of causal law.
Hostility toward God is what has put us under that law; it certainly won't help us get out. For His part, God is making every effort to get us out: He comes to this world from time to time to teach the path of BHAKTI, which will destroy all our KARMA, He sends His representatives throughout the world on the same mission, and He even stays with us as the indwelling Supersoul during our sojourn in the material world, ready to give us the intelligence to approach Him when we put aside our ancient enmity.
Kushner has the right instincts: he too would like people to cease their enmity toward God, and he even recognizes the ignobility of worshiping Him on the condition that He satisfy our demands. But if only we recognize God's limitations, he says, we won't be angry at Him when things go wrong in our life, nor will we worship Him for the satisfaction of our desires. Kushner thus urges the religious adequacy of his own theodicy.
But it is far from adequate. Kushner's problem is that he cannot overcome the conditioning of karmic religion. He needs something more spiritually powerful than good instincts to free him from the implicit hostility toward God, the unconscious, deep-seated unwillingness to serve Him unconditionally, that binds the conditioned soul to KARMA.
Kushner is still hostile. Because God did not satisfy his demands, Kushner must think of Him as ineffectual and weak. Kushner once thought of God as a parent who always gratifies our desires. But now Kushner's views Him as needing our forgiveness - for having failed as a parent: "Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love and forgive Him despite His limitations... as you once learned to forgive and love your parents even though they were not as wise, as strong, or as perfect as you needed them to be?"
Kushner asserts that his hostility toward God is no more, but what he has really done is simply change the form in which it is expressed - from rage to condescension. And this idea of God will only support our unwillingness to acknowledge His supremacy, and thus it will help keep us in the material world, where we will continue to suffer. Thus Kushner's theodicy will not make us feel better; it will only make us feel worse.
Furthermore, if we think God weak and ineffectual, it is certain that we will not be able to surrender to Him fully and serve Him without any personal consideration. The condition that makes such service and surrender possible is His promise of complete protection. "Declare it boldly," Krsna tells His disciple Arjuna, "My devotee never perishes." (Bg. 9.31) Because we can depend upon God completely, we can surrender to Him completely: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Therefore you have nothing to fear." (Bg. 18.66)
If we accept Kushner, we will always have to look out for ourselves; we will have to act for our own sake, and so we will remain involved with KARMA. Our service to God will never be total and unconditional. Indeed, as long as we insist on taking care of ourselves, God will leave us to our own devices.
But if we accept Krsna, if we give up independent action and depend completely on God, devoting all our effort to His service, He will take complete care of us. We shouldn't expect God to remove all inconvenience, but if difficulty comes we should simply tolerate it, recognizing that our residual bad KARMA is playing itself out, and continue to expect God's mercy.
God will minimize the karmic reaction due us, but the ultimate way He protects us is by bestowing spiritual consciousness upon us and destroying the ignorance by which we identify ourselves with matter. Krsna describes that consciousness in the BHAGAVAD-GITA (6.22-23): "In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses... Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This, indeed, is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact." God frees us not so that we can goof off, not so we can get some "reward," but so that we can serve Him wholeheartedly, without any other concern.
So if we accept Krsna, we can solve the problem of evil. That solution doesn't lie in rejecting either the goodness or the power of God, but rather in taking advantage of that goodness and power to perform pure devotional service - and in that way end all our suffering forever.
A seminar given at London's Bhaktivedanta Manor on November 13, 2000.
[Listen] (45:56) [Download] (2.98 MB)
http://chantandbehappy.com/devotees/ scroll down to view and access this file link
Vikarma - action with bad or binding reaction:
Akarma - action without reaction:
- CHAPTER 3 -
Bhagavad Gita 3.1
jyäyasé cet karmaëas te
matä buddhir janärdana
tat kià karmaëi ghore mäà
arjunaù uväca—Arjuna said; jyäyasé—better; cet—if; karmaëaù—than fruitive action; te—by You; matä—is considered; buddhiù—intelligence; janärdana—O Kåñëa; tat—therefore; kim—why; karmaëi—in action; ghore—ghastly; mäm—me; niyojayasi—You are engaging; keçava—O Kåñëa.
Arjuna said: O Janärdana, O Keçava, why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You think that intelligence is better than fruitive work?
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Çré Kåñëa has very elaborately described the constitution of the soul in the previous chapter, with a view to delivering His intimate friend Arjuna from the ocean of material grief. And the path of realization has been recommended: buddhi-yoga, or Kåñëa consciousness. Sometimes Kåñëa consciousness is misunderstood to be inertia, and one with such a misunderstanding often withdraws to a secluded place to become fully Kåñëa conscious by chanting the holy name of Lord Kåñëa. But without being trained in the philosophy of Kåñëa consciousness, it is not advisable to chant the holy name of Kåñëa in a secluded place, where one may acquire only cheap adoration from the innocent public. Arjuna also thought of Kåñëa consciousness or buddhi-yoga, or intelligence in spiritual advancement of knowledge, as something like retirement from active life and the practice of penance and austerity at a secluded place. In other words, he wanted to skillfully avoid the fighting by using Kåñëa consciousness as an excuse. But as a sincere student, he placed the matter before his master and questioned Kåñëa as to his best course of action. In answer, Lord Kåñëa elaborately explained karma-yoga, or work in Kåñëa consciousness, in this Third Chapter.
buddhià mohayaséva me
tad ekaà vada niçcitya
yena çreyo ’ham äpnuyäm
vyämiçreëa—by equivocal; iva—certainly; väkyena—words; buddhim—intelligence; mohayasi—You are bewildering; iva—certainly; me—my; tat—therefore; ekam—only one; vada—please tell; niçcitya—ascertaining; yena—by which; çreyaù—real benefit; aham—I; äpnuyäm—may have.
My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me decisively which will be most beneficial for me.
In the previous chapter, as a prelude to the Bhagavad-gétä, many different paths were explained, such as säìkhya-yoga, buddhi-yoga, control of the senses by intelligence, work without fruitive desire, and the position of the neophyte. This was all presented unsystematically. A more organized outline of the path would be necessary for action and understanding. Arjuna, therefore, wanted to clear up these apparently confusing matters so that any common man could accept them without misinterpretation. Although Kåñëa had no intention of confusing Arjuna by any jugglery of words, Arjuna could not follow the process of Kåñëa consciousness—either by inertia or by active service. In other words, by his questions he is clearing the path of Kåñëa consciousness for all students who seriously want to understand the mystery of the Bhagavad-gétä.
loke ’smin dvi-vidhä niñöhä
purä proktä mayänagha
çré-bhagavän uväca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; loke—in the world; asmin—this; dvi-vidhä—two kinds of; niñöhä—faith; purä—formerly; proktä—were said; mayä—by Me; anagha—O sinless one; jïäna-yogena—by the linking process of knowledge; säìkhyänäm—of the empiric philosophers; karma-yogena—by the linking process of devotion; yoginäm—of the devotees.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who try to realize the self. Some are inclined to understand it by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others by devotional service.
In the Second Chapter, verse 39, the Lord explained two kinds of procedures—namely säìkhya-yoga and karma-yoga, or buddhi-yoga. In this verse, the Lord explains the same more clearly. Säìkhya-yoga, or the analytical study of the nature of spirit and matter, is the subject matter for persons who are inclined to speculate and understand things by experimental knowledge and philosophy. The other class of men work in Kåñëa consciousness, as it is explained in the 61st verse of the Second Chapter. The Lord has explained, also in the 39th verse, that by working by the principles of buddhi-yoga, or Kåñëa consciousness, one can be relieved from the bonds of action; and, furthermore, there is no flaw in the process. The same principle is more clearly explained in the 61st verse—that this buddhi-yoga is to depend entirely on the Supreme (or more specifically, on Kåñëa), and in this way all the senses can be brought under control very easily. Therefore, both the yogas are interdependent, as religion and philosophy. Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation. The ultimate goal is Kåñëa, because the philosophers who are also sincerely searching after the Absolute Truth come in the end to Kåñëa consciousness. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gétä. The whole process is to understand the real position of the self in relation to the Superself. The indirect process is philosophical speculation, by which, gradually, one may come to the point of Kåñëa consciousness; and the other process is directly connecting with everything in Kåñëa consciousness. Of these two, the path of Kåñëa consciousness is better because it does not depend on purifying the senses by a philosophical process. Kåñëa consciousness is itself the purifying process, and by the direct method of devotional service it is simultaneously easy and sublime.
na karmaëäm anärambhän
naiñkarmyaà puruño ’çnute
na ca sannyasanäd eva
na—not; karmaëäm—of prescribed duties; anärambhät—by nonperformance; naiñkarmyam—freedom from reaction; puruñaù—a man; açnute—achieves; na—nor; ca—also; sannyasanät—by renunciation; eva—simply; siddhim—success; samadhigacchati—attains.
Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.
The renounced order of life can be accepted when one has been purified by the discharge of the prescribed form of duties which are laid down just to purify the hearts of materialistic men. Without purification, one cannot attain success by abruptly adopting the fourth order of life (sannyäsa). According to the empirical philosophers, simply by adopting sannyäsa, or retiring from fruitive activities, one at once becomes as good as Näräyaëa. But Lord Kåñëa does not approve this principle. Without purification of heart, sannyäsa is simply a disturbance to the social order. On the other hand, if someone takes to the transcendental service of the Lord, even without discharging his prescribed duties, whatever he may be able to advance in the cause is accepted by the Lord (buddhi-yoga). Sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya träyate mahato bhayät. Even a slight performance of such a principle enables one to overcome great difficulties.
na hi kaçcit kñaëam
jätu tiñöhaty akarma-kåt
käryate hy avaçaù karma
sarvaù prakåti-jair guëaiù
na—nor; hi—certainly; kaçcit—anyone; kñaëam—a moment; api—also; jätu—at any time; tiñöhati—remains; akarma-kåt—without doing something; käryate—is forced to do; hi—certainly; avaçaù—helplessly; karma—work; sarvaù—all; prakåti-jaiù—born of the modes of material nature; guëaiù—by the qualities.
Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.
It is not a question of embodied life, but it is the nature of the soul to be always active. Without the presence of the spirit soul, the material body cannot move. The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Kåñëa consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy. In contact with material energy, the spirit soul acquires material modes, and to purify the soul from such affinities it is necessary to engage in the prescribed duties enjoined in the çästras. But if the soul is engaged in his natural function of Kåñëa consciousness, whatever he is able to do is good for him. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.5.17) affirms this:
tyaktvä sva-dharmaà caraëämbujaà
bhajann apakvo ’tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva väbhadram abhüd amuñya kià
ko värtha äpto ’bhajatäà sva-dharmataù
“If someone takes to Kåñëa consciousness, even though he may not follow the prescribed duties in the çästras or execute the devotional service properly, and even though he may fall down from the standard, there is no loss or evil for him. But if he carries out all the injunctions for purification in the çästras, what does it avail him if he is not Kåñëa conscious?” So the purificatory process is necessary for reaching this point of Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore, sannyäsa, or any purificatory process, is to help reach the ultimate goal of becoming Kåñëa conscious, without which everything is considered a failure.
ya äste manasä smaran
mithyäcäraù sa ucyate
karma-indriyäëi—the five working sense organs; saàyamya—controlling; yaù—anyone who; äste—remains; manasä—by the mind; smaran—thinking of; indriya-arthän—sense objects; vimüòha—foolish; ätmä—soul; mithyä-äcäraù—pretender; saù—he; ucyate—is called.
One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.
There are many pretenders who refuse to work in Kåñëa consciousness but make a show of meditation, while actually dwelling within the mind upon sense enjoyment. Such pretenders may also speak on dry philosophy in order to bluff sophisticated followers, but according to this verse these are the greatest cheaters. For sense enjoyment one can act in any capacity of the social order, but if one follows the rules and regulations of his particular status, he can make gradual progress in purifying his existence. But he who makes a show of being a yogé while actually searching for the objects of sense gratification must be called the greatest cheater, even though he sometimes speaks of philosophy. His knowledge has no value, because the effects of such a sinful man’s knowledge are taken away by the illusory energy of the Lord. Such a pretender’s mind is always impure, and therefore his show of yogic meditation has no value whatsoever.
yas tv indriyäëi manasä
asaktaù sa viçiñyate
yaù—one who; tu—but; indriyäëi—the senses; manasä—by the mind; niyamya—regulating; ärabhate—begins; arjuna—O Arjuna; karma-indriyaiù—by the active sense organs; karma-yogam—devotion; asaktaù—without attachment; saù—he; viçiñyate—is by far the better.
On the other hand, if a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga [in Kåñëa consciousness] without attachment, he is by far superior.
Instead of becoming a pseudo transcendentalist for the sake of wanton living and sense enjoyment, it is far better to remain in one’s own business and execute the purpose of life, which is to get free from material bondage and enter into the kingdom of God. The prime svärtha-gati, or goal of self-interest, is to reach Viñëu. The whole institution of varëa and äçrama is designed to help us reach this goal of life. A householder can also reach this destination by regulated service in Kåñëa consciousness. For self-realization, one can live a controlled life, as prescribed in the çästras, and continue carrying out his business without attachment, and in that way make progress. A sincere person who follows this method is far better situated than the false pretender who adopts show-bottle spiritualism to cheat the innocent public. A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living.
niyataà kuru karma tvaà
karma jyäyo hy akarmaëaù
çaréra-yäträpi ca te
na prasiddhyed akarmaëaù
niyatam—prescribed; kuru—do; karma—duties; tvam—you; karma—work; jyäyaù—better; hi—certainly; akarmaëaù—than no work; çaréra—bodily; yäträ—maintenance; api—even; ca—also; te—your; na—never; prasiddhyet—is effected; akarmaëaù—without work.
Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work.
There are many pseudo meditators who misrepresent themselves as belonging to high parentage, and great professional men who falsely pose that they have sacrificed everything for the sake of advancement in spiritual life. Lord Kåñëa did not want Arjuna to become a pretender. Rather, the Lord desired that Arjuna perform his prescribed duties as set forth for kñatriyas. Arjuna was a householder and a military general, and therefore it was better for him to remain as such and perform his religious duties as prescribed for the householder kñatriya. Such activities gradually cleanse the heart of a mundane man and free him from material contamination. So-called renunciation for the purpose of maintenance is never approved by the Lord, nor by any religious scripture. After all, one has to maintain one’s body and soul together by some work. Work should not be given up capriciously, without purification of materialistic propensities. Anyone who is in the material world is certainly possessed of the impure propensity for lording it over material nature, or, in other words, for sense gratification. Such polluted propensities have to be cleared. Without doing so, through prescribed duties, one should never attempt to become a so-called transcendentalist, renouncing work and living at the cost of others.
loko ’yaà karma-bandhanaù
tad-arthaà karma kaunteya
yajïa-arthät—done only for the sake of Yajïa, or Viñëu; karmaëaù—than work; anyatra—otherwise; lokaù—world; ayam—this; karma-bandhanaù—bondage by work; tat—of Him; artham—for the sake; karma—work; kaunteya—O son of Kunté; mukta-saìgaù—liberated from association; samäcara—do perfectly.
Work done as a sacrifice for Viñëu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunté, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.
Since one has to work even for the simple maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties for a particular social position and quality are so made that that purpose can be fulfilled. Yajïa means Lord Viñëu, or sacrificial performances. All sacrificial performances also are meant for the satisfaction of Lord Viñëu. The Vedas enjoin: yajïo vai viñëuù. In other words, the same purpose is served whether one performs prescribed yajïas or directly serves Lord Viñëu. Kåñëa consciousness is therefore performance of yajïa as it is prescribed in this verse. The varëäçrama institution also aims at satisfying Lord Viñëu. Varëäçramäcäravatä puruñeëa paraù pumän/ viñëur ärädhyate (Viñëu Puräëa 3.8.8).
Therefore one has to work for the satisfaction of Viñëu. Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer. Therefore, one has to work in Kåñëa consciousness to satisfy Kåñëa (or Viñëu); and while performing such activities one is in a liberated stage. This is the great art of doing work, and in the beginning this process requires very expert guidance. One should therefore act very diligently, under the expert guidance of a devotee of Lord Kåñëa, or under the direct instruction of Lord Kåñëa Himself (under whom Arjuna had the opportunity to work). Nothing should be performed for sense gratification, but everything should be done for the satisfaction of Kåñëa. This practice will not only save one from the reaction of work, but also gradually elevate one to transcendental loving service of the Lord, which alone can raise one to the kingdom of God.
eña vo ’stv iñöa-käma-dhuk
saha—along with; yajïäù—sacrifices; prajäù—generations; såñövä—creating; purä—anciently; uväca—said; prajä-patiù—the Lord of creatures; anena—by this; prasaviñyadhvam—be more and more prosperous; eñaù—this; vaù—your; astu—let it be; iñöa—of all desirable things; käma-dhuk—bestower.
In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Viñëu, and blessed them by saying, “Be thou happy by this yajïa [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.”
The material creation by the Lord of creatures (Viñëu) is a chance offered to the conditioned souls to come back home—back to Godhead. All living entities within the material creation are conditioned by material nature because of their forgetfulness of their relationship to Viñëu, or Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedic principles are to help us understand this eternal relation, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gétä: vedaiç ca sarvair aham eva vedyaù. The Lord says that the purpose of the Vedas is to understand Him. In the Vedic hymns it is said: patià viçvasyätmeçvaram. Therefore, the Lord of the living entities is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viñëu. In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam also (2.4.20) Çréla Çukadeva Gosvämé describes the Lord as pati in so many ways:
çriyaù patir yajïa-patiù
dhiyäà patir loka-patir dharä-patiù
patir gatiç cändhaka-våñëi-sätvatäà
prasédatäà me bhagavän satäà patiù
The prajä-pati is Lord Viñëu, and He is the Lord of all living creatures, all worlds, and all beauties, and the protector of everyone. The Lord created this material world to enable the conditioned souls to learn how to perform yajïas (sacrifices) for the satisfaction of Viñëu, so that while in the material world they can live very comfortably without anxiety and after finishing the present material body they can enter into the kingdom of God. That is the whole program for the conditioned soul. By performance of yajïa, the conditioned souls gradually become Kåñëa conscious and become godly in all respects. In the Age of Kali, the saìkértana-yajïa (the chanting of the names of God) is recommended by the Vedic scriptures, and this transcendental system was introduced by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of all men in this age. Saìkértana-yajïa and Kåñëa consciousness go well together. Lord Kåñëa in His devotional form (as Lord Caitanya) is mentioned in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11.5.32) as follows, with special reference to the saìkértana-yajïa:
yajanti hi su-medhasaù
“In this Age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of saìkértana-yajïa.” Other yajïas prescribed in the Vedic literatures are not easy to perform in this Age of Kali, but the saìkértana-yajïa is easy and sublime for all purposes, as recommended in Bhagavad-gétä also (9.14).
te devä bhävayantu vaù
çreyaù param aväpsyatha
devän—demigods; bhävayatä—having pleased; anena—by this sacrifice; te—those; deväù—demigods; bhävayantu—will please; vaù—you; parasparam—mutually; bhävayantaù—pleasing one another; çreyaù—benediction; param—the supreme; aväpsyatha—you will achieve.
The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.
The demigods are empowered administrators of material affairs. The supply of air, light, water and all other benedictions for maintaining the body and soul of every living entity is entrusted to the demigods, who are innumerable assistants in different parts of the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their pleasures and displeasures are dependent on the performance of yajïas by the human being. Some of the yajïas are meant to satisfy particular demigods; but even in so doing, Lord Viñëu is worshiped in all yajïas as the chief beneficiary. It is stated also in the Bhagavad-gétä that Kåñëa Himself is the beneficiary of all kinds of yajïas: bhoktäraà yajïa-tapasäm. Therefore, ultimate satisfaction of the yajïa-pati is the chief purpose of all yajïas. When these yajïas are perfectly performed, naturally the demigods in charge of the different departments of supply are pleased, and there is no scarcity in the supply of natural products.
Performance of yajïas has many side benefits, ultimately leading to liberation from material bondage. By performance of yajïas, all activities become purified, as it is stated in the Vedas: ähära-çuddhau sattva-çuddhiù sattva-çuddhau dhruvä småtiù småti-lambhe sarvagranthénäà vipramokñaù. By performance of yajïa one’s eatables become sanctified, and by eating sanctified foodstuffs one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence finer tissues in the memory become sanctified, and when memory is sanctified one can think of the path of liberation, and all these combined together lead to Kåñëa consciousness, the great necessity of present-day society.
hi vo devä
tair dattän apradäyaibhyo
yo bhuìkte stena eva saù
iñöän—desired; bhogän—necessities of life; hi—certainly; vaù—unto you; deväù—the demigods; däsyante—will award; yajïa-bhävitäù—being satisfied by the performance of sacrifices; taiù—by them; dattän—things given; apradäya—without offering; ebhyaù—to these demigods; yaù—he who; bhuìkte—enjoys; stenaù—thief; eva—certainly; saù—he.
In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisfied by the performance of yajïa [sacrifice], will supply all necessities to you. But he who enjoys such gifts without offering them to the demigods in return is certainly a thief.
The demigods are authorized supplying agents on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viñëu. Therefore, they must be satisfied by the performance of prescribed yajïas. In the Vedas, there are different kinds of yajïas prescribed for different kinds of demigods, but all are ultimately offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For one who cannot understand what the Personality of Godhead is, sacrifice to the demigods is recommended. According to the different material qualities of the persons concerned, different types of yajïas are recommended in the Vedas. Worship of different demigods is also on the same basis—namely, according to different qualities. For example, the meat-eaters are recommended to worship the goddess Kälé, the ghastly form of material nature, and before the goddess the sacrifice of animals is recommended. But for those who are in the mode of goodness, the transcendental worship of Viñëu is recommended. But ultimately all yajïas are meant for gradual promotion to the transcendental position. For ordinary men, at least five yajïas, known as païca-mahä-yajïa, are necessary.
One should know, however, that all the necessities of life that the human society requires are supplied by the demigod agents of the Lord. No one can manufacture anything. Take, for example, all the eatables of human society. These eatables include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, sugar, etc., for the persons in the mode of goodness, and also eatables for the nonvegetarians, like meats, none of which can be manufactured by men. Then again, take for example heat, light, water, air, etc., which are also necessities of life—none of them can be manufactured by the human society. Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no profuse sunlight, moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which no one can live. Obviously, our life is dependent on supplies from the Lord. Even for our manufacturing enterprises, we require so many raw materials like metal, sulphur, mercury, manganese, and so many essentials—all of which are supplied by the agents of the Lord, with the purpose that we should make proper use of them to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the ultimate goal of life, namely, liberation from the material struggle for existence. This aim of life is attained by performance of yajïas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, which is not the purpose of creation, certainly we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy, because they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratification; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajïas. Lord Caitanya, however, inaugurated the easiest performance of yajïa, namely the saìkértana-yajïa, which can be performed by anyone in the world who accepts the principles of Kåñëa consciousness.
bhuïjate te tv aghaà päpä
ye pacanty ätma-käraëät
yajïa-çiñöa—of food taken after performance of yajïa; açinaù—eaters; santaù—the devotees; mucyante—get relief; sarva—all kinds of; kilbiñaiù—from sins; bhuïjate—enjoy; te—they; tu—but; agham—grievous sins; päpäù—sinners; ye—who; pacanti—prepare food; ätma-käraëät—for sense enjoyment.
The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.
The devotees of the Supreme Lord, or the persons who are in Kåñëa consciousness, are called santas, and they are always in love with the Lord as it is described in the Brahma-saàhitä (5.38): premäïjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaù sadaiva hådayeñu vilokayanti. The santas, being always in a compact of love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda (the giver of all pleasures), or Mukunda (the giver of liberation), or Kåñëa (the all-attractive person), cannot accept anything without first offering it to the Supreme Person. Therefore, such devotees always perform yajïas in different modes of devotional service, such as çravaëam, kértanam, smaraëam, arcanam, etc., and these performances of yajïas keep them always aloof from all kinds of contamination of sinful association in the material world. Others, who prepare food for self or sense gratification, are not only thieves but also the eaters of all kinds of sins. How can a person be happy if he is both a thief and sinful? It is not possible. Therefore, in order for people to become happy in all respects, they must be taught to perform the easy process of saìkértana-yajïa, in full Kåñëa consciousness. Otherwise, there can be no peace or happiness in the world.
annäd bhavanti bhütäni
yajïäd bhavati parjanyo
annät—from grains; bhavanti—grow; bhütäni—the material bodies; parjanyät—from rains; anna—of food grains; sambhavaù—production; yajïät—from the performance of sacrifice; bhavati—becomes possible; parjanyaù—rain; yajïaù—performance of yajïa; karma—prescribed duties; samudbhavaù—born of.
All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajïa [sacrifice], and yajïa is born of prescribed duties.
Çréla Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa, a great commentator on the Bhagavad-gétä, writes as follows: ye indrädy-aìgatayävasthitaà yajïaà sarveçvaraà viñëum abhyarcya tac-cheñam açnanti tena tad deha-yäträà sampädayanti, te santaù sarveçvarasya yajïa-puruñasya bhaktäù sarva-kilbiñair anädi-käla-vivåddhair ätmänubhava-prati bandhakair nikhilaiù päpair vimucyante. The Supreme Lord, who is known as the yajïa-puruña, or the personal beneficiary of all sacrifices, is the master of all the demigods, who serve Him as the different limbs of the body serve the whole. Demigods like Indra, Candra and Varuëa are appointed officers who manage material affairs, and the Vedas direct sacrifices to satisfy these demigods so that they may be pleased to supply air, light and water sufficiently to produce food grains. When Lord Kåñëa is worshiped, the demigods, who are different limbs of the Lord, are also automatically worshiped; therefore there is no separate need to worship the demigods. For this reason, the devotees of the Lord, who are in Kåñëa consciousness, offer food to Kåñëa and then eat—a process which nourishes the body spiritually. By such action not only are past sinful reactions in the body vanquished, but the body becomes immunized to all contamination of material nature. When there is an epidemic disease, an antiseptic vaccine protects a person from the attack of such an epidemic. Similarly, food offered to Lord Viñëu and then taken by us makes us sufficiently resistant to material affection, and one who is accustomed to this practice is called a devotee of the Lord. Therefore, a person in Kåñëa consciousness, who eats only food offered to Kåñëa, can counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress of self-realization. On the other hand, one who does not do so continues to increase the volume of sinful action, and this prepares the next body to resemble hogs and dogs, to suffer the resultant reactions of all sins. The material world is full of contaminations, and one who is immunized by accepting prasädam of the Lord (food offered to Viñëu) is saved from the attack, whereas one who does not do so becomes subjected to contamination.
Food grains or vegetables are factually eatables. The human being eats different kinds of food grains, vegetables, fruits, etc., and the animals eat the refuse of the food grains and vegetables, grass, plants, etc. Human beings who are accustomed to eating meat and flesh must also depend on the production of vegetation in order to eat the animals. Therefore, ultimately, we have to depend on the production of the field and not on the production of big factories. The field production is due to sufficient rain from the sky, and such rains are controlled by demigods like Indra, sun, moon, etc., and they are all servants of the Lord. The Lord can be satisfied by sacrifices; therefore, one who cannot perform them will find himself in scarcity—that is the law of nature. Yajïa, specifically the saìkértana-yajïa prescribed for this age, must therefore be performed to save us at least from scarcity of food supply.
karma brahmodbhavaà viddhi
tasmät sarva-gataà brahma
nityaà yajïe pratiñöhitam
karma—work; brahma—from the Vedas; udbhavam—produced; viddhi—you should know; brahma—the Vedas; akñara—from the Supreme Brahman (Personality of Godhead); samudbhavam—directly manifested; tasmät—therefore; sarva-gatam—all-pervading; brahma—transcendence; nityam—eternally; yajïe—in sacrifice; pratiñöhitam—situated.
Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice.
Yajïärtha-karma, or the necessity of work for the satisfaction of Kåñëa only, is more expressly stated in this verse. If we have to work for the satisfaction of the yajïa-puruña, Viñëu, then we must find out the direction of work in Brahman, or the transcendental Vedas. The Vedas are therefore codes of working directions. Anything performed without the direction of the Vedas is called vikarma, or unauthorized or sinful work. Therefore, one should always take direction from the Vedas to be saved from the reaction of work. As one has to work in ordinary life by the direction of the state, one similarly has to work under direction of the supreme state of the Lord. Such directions in the Vedas are directly manifested from the breathing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said, asya mahato bhütasya niçvasitam etad yad åg-vedo yajur-vedaù sämavedo ’tharväìgirasaù. “The four Vedas—namely the Åg Veda, Yajur Veda, Säma Veda, and Atharva Veda—are all emanations from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead.” (Båhad-äraëyaka Upaniñad 4.5.11) The Lord, being omnipotent, can speak by breathing air, for as it is confirmed in the Brahma-saàhitä, the Lord has the omnipotence to perform through each of His senses the actions of all other senses. In other words, the Lord can speak through His breathing, and He can impregnate by His eyes. In fact, it is said that He glanced over material nature and thus fathered all living entities. After creating or impregnating the conditioned souls into the womb of material nature, He gave His directions in the Vedic wisdom as to how such conditioned souls can return home, back to Godhead. We should always remember that the conditioned souls in material nature are all eager for material enjoyment. But the Vedic directions are so made that one can satisfy one’s perverted desires, then return to Godhead, having finished his so-called enjoyment. It is a chance for the conditioned souls to attain liberation; therefore the conditioned souls must try to follow the process of yajïa by becoming Kåñëa conscious. Even those who have not followed the Vedic injunctions may adopt the principles of Kåñëa consciousness, and that will take the place of performance of Vedic yajïas, or karmas.
evaà pravartitaà cakraà
moghaà pärtha sa jévati
evam—thus; pravartitam—established by the Vedas; cakram—cycle; na—does not; anuvartayati—adopt; iha—in this life; yaù—one who; agha-äyuù—whose life is full of sins; indriya-ärämaù—satisfied in sense gratification; mogham—uselessly; pärtha—O son of Påthä (Arjuna); saù—he; jévati—lives.
My dear Arjuna, one who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacrifice thus established by the Vedas certainly leads a life full of sin. Living only for the satisfaction of the senses, such a person lives in vain.
The mammonist philosophy of “work very hard and enjoy sense gratification” is condemned herein by the Lord. Therefore, for those who want to enjoy this material world, the above-mentioned cycle of performing yajïas is absolutely necessary. One who does not follow such regulations is living a very risky life, being condemned more and more. By nature’s law, this human form of life is specifically meant for self-realization, in either of the three ways—namely karma-yoga, jïäna-yoga, or bhakti-yoga. There is no necessity of rigidly following the performances of the prescribed yajïas for the transcendentalists who are above vice and virtue; but those who are engaged in sense gratification require purification by the above mentioned cycle of yajïa performances. There are different kinds of activities. Those who are not Kåñëa conscious are certainly engaged in sensory consciousness; therefore they need to execute pious work. The yajïa system is planned in such a way that sensory conscious persons may satisfy their desires without becoming entangled in the reaction of sense-gratificatory work. The prosperity of the world depends not on our own efforts but on the background arrangement of the Supreme Lord, directly carried out by the demigods. Therefore, the yajïas are directly aimed at the particular demigods mentioned in the Vedas. Indirectly, it is the practice of Kåñëa consciousness, because when one masters the performance of yajïas one is sure to become Kåñëa conscious. But if by performing yajïas one does not become Kåñëa conscious, such principles are counted as only moral codes. One should not, therefore, limit his progress only to the point of moral codes, but should transcend them, to attain Kåñëa consciousness.
yas tv ätma-ratir eva syäd
ätma-tåptaç ca mänavaù
ätmany eva ca santuñöas
tasya käryaà na vidyate
yaù—one who; tu—but; ätma-ratiù—taking pleasure in the self; eva—certainly; syät—remains; ätma-tåptaù—self-illuminated; ca—and; mänavaù—a man; ätmani—in himself; eva—only; ca—and; santuñöaù—perfectly satiated; tasya—his; käryam—duty; na—does not; vidyate—exist.
But for one who takes pleasure in the self, whose human life is one of self-realization, and who is satisfied in the self only, fully satiated—for him there is no duty.
A person who is fully Kåñëa conscious, and is fully satisfied by his acts in Kåñëa consciousness, no longer has any duty to perform. Due to his being Kåñëa conscious, all impiety within is instantly cleansed, an effect of many, many thousands of yajïa performances. By such clearing of consciousness, one becomes fully confident of his eternal position in relationship with the Supreme. His duty thus becomes self-illuminated by the grace of the Lord, and therefore he no longer has any obligations to the Vedic injunctions. Such a Kåñëa conscious person is no longer interested in material activities and no longer takes pleasure in material arrangements like wine, women and similar infatuations.
naiva tasya kåtenärtho
na cäsya sarva-bhüteñu
na—never; eva—certainly; tasya—his; kåtena—by discharge of duty; arthaù—purpose; na—nor; akåtena—without discharge of duty; iha—in this world; kaçcana—whatever; na—never; ca—and; asya—of him; sarva-bhüteñu—among all living beings; kaçcit—any; artha—purpose; vyapäçrayaù—taking shelter of.
A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.
A self-realized man is no longer obliged to perform any prescribed duty, save and except activities in Kåñëa consciousness. Kåñëa consciousness is not inactivity either, as will be explained in the following verses. A Kåñëa conscious man does not take shelter of any person—man or demigod. Whatever he does in Kåñëa consciousness is sufficient in the discharge of his obligation.
tasmäd asaktaù satataà
käryaà karma samäcara
asakto hy äcaran karma
param äpnoti püruñaù
tasmät—therefore; asaktaù—without attachment; satatam—constantly; käryam—as duty; karma—work; samäcara—perform; asaktaù—unattached; hi—certainly; äcaran—performing; karma—work; param—the Supreme; äpnoti—achieves; püruñaù—a man.
Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.
The Supreme is the Personality of Godhead for the devotees, and liberation for the impersonalist. A person, therefore, acting for Kåñëa, or in Kåñëa consciousness, under proper guidance and without attachment to the result of the work, is certainly making progress toward the supreme goal of life. Arjuna is told that he should fight in the Battle of Kurukñetra for the interest of Kåñëa because Kåñëa wanted him to fight. To be a good man or a nonviolent man is a personal attachment, but to act on behalf of the Supreme is to act without attachment for the result. That is perfect action of the highest degree, recommended by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Çré Kåñëa.
Vedic rituals, like prescribed sacrifices, are performed for purification of impious activities that were performed in the field of sense gratification. But action in Kåñëa consciousness is transcendental to the reactions of good or evil work. A Kåñëa conscious person has no attachment for the result but acts on behalf of Kåñëa alone. He engages in all kinds of activities, but is completely nonattached.
karmaëaiva hi saàsiddhim
sampaçyan kartum arhasi
karmaëä—by work; eva—even; hi—certainly; saàsiddhim—in perfection; ästhitäù—situated; janaka-ädayaù—Janaka and other kings; loka-saìgraham—the people in general; eva api—also; sampaçyan—considering; kartum—to act; arhasi—you deserve.
Kings such as Janaka attained perfection solely by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.
Kings like Janaka were all self-realized souls; consequently they had no obligation to perform the prescribed duties in the Vedas. Nonetheless they performed all prescribed activities just to set examples for the people in general. Janaka was the father of Sétä and father-in-law of Lord Çré Räma. Being a great devotee of the Lord, he was transcendentally situated, but because he was the king of Mithilä (a subdivision of Bihar province in India), he had to teach his subjects how to perform prescribed duties. Lord Kåñëa and Arjuna, the Lord’s eternal friend, had no need to fight in the Battle of Kurukñetra, but they fought to teach people in general that violence is also necessary in a situation where good arguments fail. Before the Battle of Kurukñetra, every effort was made to avoid the war, even by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the other party was determined to fight. So for such a right cause, there is a necessity for fighting. Although one who is situated in Kåñëa consciousness may not have any interest in the world, he still works to teach the public how to live and how to act. Experienced persons in Kåñëa consciousness can act in such a way that others will follow, and this is explained in the following verse.
yad yad äcarati çreñöhas
tat tad evetaro janaù
sa yat pramäëaà kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
yat yat—whatever; äcarati—he does; çreñöhaù—a respectable leader; tat—that; tat—and that alone; eva—certainly; itaraù—common; janaù—person; saù—he; yat—whichever; pramäëam—example; kurute—does perform; lokaù—all the world; tat—that; anuvartate—follows in the footsteps.
Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
People in general always require a leader who can teach the public by practical behavior. A leader cannot teach the public to stop smoking if he himself smokes. Lord Caitanya said that a teacher should behave properly before he begins teaching. One who teaches in that way is called äcärya, or the ideal teacher. Therefore, a teacher must follow the principles of çästra (scripture) to teach the common man. The teacher cannot manufacture rules against the principles of revealed scriptures. The revealed scriptures, like Manu-saàhitä and similar others, are considered the standard books to be followed by human society. Thus the leader’s teaching should be based on the principles of such standard çästras. One who desires to improve himself must follow the standard rules as they are practiced by the great teachers. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam also affirms that one should follow in the footsteps of great devotees, and that is the way of progress on the path of spiritual realization. The king or the executive head of a state, the father and the school teacher are all considered to be natural leaders of the innocent people in general. All such natural leaders have a great responsibility to their dependents; therefore they must be conversant with standard books of moral and spiritual codes.
na me pärthästi kartavyaà
triñu lokeñu kiïcana
varta eva ca karmaëi
na—not; me—Mine; pärtha—O son of Påthä; asti—there is; kartavyam—prescribed duty; triñu—in the three; lokeñu—planetary systems; kiïcana—any; na—nothing; anaväptam—wanted; aväptavyam—to be gained; varte—I am engaged; eva—certainly; ca—also; karmaëi—in prescribed duty.
O son of Påthä, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I a need to obtain anything—and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described in the Vedic literatures as follows:
taà devatänäà paramaà ca daivatam
patià paténäà paramaà parastäd
vidäma devaà bhuvaneçam éòyam
na tasya käryaà karaëaà
na tat-samaç cäbhyadhikaç ca dåçyate
paräsya çaktir vividhaiva çrüyate
sväbhäviké jïäna-bala-kriyä ca
“The Supreme Lord is the controller of all other controllers, and He is the greatest of all the diverse planetary leaders. Everyone is under His control. All entities are delegated with particular power only by the Supreme Lord; they are not supreme themselves. He is also worshipable by all demigods and is the supreme director of all directors. Therefore, He is transcendental to all kinds of material leaders and controllers and is worshipable by all. There is no one greater than Him, and He is the supreme cause of all causes.
“He does not possess bodily form
like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between
His body and His soul. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental.
Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore,
no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious,
and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.”
(Çvetäçvatara Upaniñad 6.7–8)
Since everything is in full opulence in the Personality of Godhead and is existing in full truth, there is no duty for the Supreme Personality of Godhead to perform. One who must receive the results of work has some designated duty, but one who has nothing to achieve within the three planetary systems certainly has no duty. And yet Lord Kåñëa is engaged on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra as the leader of the kñatriyas because the kñatriyas are duty-bound to give protection to the distressed. Although He is above all the regulations of the revealed scriptures, He does not do anything that violates the revealed scriptures.
yadi hy ahaà na varteyaà
jätu karmaëy atandritaù
manuñyäù pärtha sarvaçaù
yadi—if; hi—certainly; aham—I; na—do not; varteyam—thus engage; jätu—ever; karmaëi—in the performance of prescribed duties; atandritaù—with great care; mama—My; vartma—path; anuvartante—would follow; manuñyäù—all men; pärtha—O son of Påthä; sarvaçaù—in all respects.
For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Pärtha, certainly all men would follow My path.
In order to keep the balance of social tranquillity for progress in spiritual life, there are traditional family usages meant for every civilized man. Although such rules and regulations are for the conditioned souls and not Lord Kåñëa, because He descended to establish the principles of religion He followed the prescribed rules. Otherwise, common men would follow in His footsteps, because He is the greatest authority. From the Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is understood that Lord Kåñëa was performing all the religious duties at home and out of home, as required of a householder.
utsédeyur ime lokä
na kuryäà karma ced aham
saìkarasya ca kartä syäm
upahanyäm imäù prajäù
utsédeyuù—would be put into ruin; ime—all these; lokäù—worlds; na—not; kuryäm—I perform; karma—prescribed duties; cet—if; aham—I; saìkarasya—of unwanted population; ca—and; kartä—creator; syäm—would be; upahanyäm—would destroy; imäù—all these; prajäù—living entities.
If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.
Varëa-saìkara is unwanted population which disturbs the peace of the general society. In order to check this social disturbance, there are prescribed rules and regulations by which the population can automatically become peaceful and organized for spiritual progress in life. When Lord Kåñëa descends, naturally He deals with such rules and regulations in order to maintain the prestige and necessity of such important performances. The Lord is the father of all living entities, and if the living entities are misguided, indirectly the responsibility goes to the Lord. Therefore, whenever there is general disregard of regulative principles, the Lord Himself descends and corrects the society. We should, however, note carefully that although we have to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, we still have to remember that we cannot imitate Him. Following and imitating are not on the same level. We cannot imitate the Lord by lifting Govardhana Hill, as the Lord did in His childhood. It is impossible for any human being. We have to follow His instructions, but we may not imitate Him at any time. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.33.30–31) affirms:
naitat samäcarej jätu
manasäpi hy anéçvaraù
vinaçyaty äcaran mauòhyäd
yathä ’rudro ’bdhi-jaà viñam
teñäà yat sva-vaco-yuktaà
buddhimäàs tat samäcaret
“One should simply follow the instructions of the Lord and His empowered servants. Their instructions are all good for us, and any intelligent person will perform them as instructed. However, one should guard against trying to imitate their actions. One should not try to drink the ocean of poison in imitation of Lord Çiva.”
We should always consider the position of the éçvaras, or those who can actually control the movements of the sun and moon, as superior. Without such power, one cannot imitate the éçvaras, who are superpowerful. Lord Çiva drank poison to the extent of swallowing an ocean, but if any common man tries to drink even a fragment of such poison, he will be killed. There are many pseudo devotees of Lord Çiva who want to indulge in smoking gaïjä (marijuana) and similar intoxicating drugs, forgetting that by so imitating the acts of Lord Çiva they are calling death very near. Similarly, there are some pseudo devotees of Lord Kåñëa who prefer to imitate the Lord in His räsa-lélä, or dance of love, forgetting their inability to lift Govardhana Hill. It is best, therefore, that one not try to imitate the powerful, but simply follow their instructions; nor should one try to occupy their posts without qualification. There are so many “incarnations” of God without the power of the Supreme Godhead.
saktäù karmaëy avidväàso
yathä kurvanti bhärata
kuryäd vidväàs tathäsaktaç
saktäù—being attached; karmaëi—in prescribed duties; avidväàsaù—the ignorant; yathä—as much as; kurvanti—they do; bhärata—O descendant of Bharata; kuryät—must do; vidvän—the learned; tathä—thus; asaktaù—without attachment; cikérñuù—desiring to lead; loka-saìgraham—the people in general.
As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.
A person in Kåñëa consciousness and a person not in Kåñëa consciousness are differentiated by different desires. A Kåñëa conscious person does not do anything which is not conducive to development of Kåñëa consciousness. He may even act exactly like the ignorant person, who is too much attached to material activities, but one is engaged in such activities for the satisfaction of his sense gratification, whereas the other is engaged for the satisfaction of Kåñëa. Therefore, the Kåñëa conscious person is required to show the people how to act and how to engage the results of action for the purpose of Kåñëa consciousness.
na buddhi-bhedaà janayed
vidvän yuktaù samäcaran
na—not; buddhi-bhedam—disruption of intelligence; janayet—he should cause; ajïänäm—of the foolish; karma-saìginäm—who are attached to fruitive work; joñayet—he should dovetail; sarva—all; karmäëi—work; vidvän—a learned person; yuktaù—engaged; samäcaran—practicing.
So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Kåñëa consciousness].
Vedaiç ca sarvair aham eva vedyaù. That is the end of all Vedic rituals. All rituals, all performances of sacrifices, and everything that is put into the Vedas, including all direction for material activities, are meant for understanding Kåñëa, who is the ultimate goal of life. But because the conditioned souls do not know anything beyond sense gratification, they study the Vedas to that end. But through fruitive activities and sense gratification regulated by the Vedic rituals one is gradually elevated to Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore a realized soul in Kåñëa consciousness should not disturb others in their activities or understanding, but he should act by showing how the results of all work can be dedicated to the service of Kåñëa. The learned Kåñëa conscious person may act in such a way that the ignorant person working for sense gratification may learn how to act and how to behave. Although the ignorant man is not to be disturbed in his activities, a slightly developed Kåñëa conscious person may directly be engaged in the service of the Lord without waiting for other Vedic formulas. For this fortunate man there is no need to follow the Vedic rituals, because by direct Kåñëa consciousness one can have all the results one would otherwise derive from following one’s prescribed duties.
guëaiù karmäëi sarvaçaù
kartäham iti manyate
prakåteù—of material nature; kriyamäëäni—being done; guëaiù—by the modes; karmäëi—activities; sarvaçaù—all kinds of; ahaìkära-vimüòha—bewildered by false ego; ätmä—the spirit soul; kartä—doer; aham—I; iti—thus; manyate—he thinks.
The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.
Two persons, one in Kåñëa consciousness and the other in material consciousness, working on the same level, may appear to be working on the same platform, but there is a wide gulf of difference in their respective positions. The person in material consciousness is convinced by false ego that he is the doer of everything. He does not know that the mechanism of the body is produced by material nature, which works under the supervision of the Supreme Lord. The materialistic person has no knowledge that ultimately he is under the control of Kåñëa. The person in false ego takes all credit for doing everything independently, and that is the symptom of his nescience. He does not know that this gross and subtle body is the creation of material nature, under the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such his bodily and mental activities should be engaged in the service of Kåñëa, in Kåñëa consciousness. The ignorant man forgets that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as Håñékeça, or the master of the senses of the material body, for due to his long misuse of the senses in sense gratification, he is factually bewildered by the false ego, which makes him forget his eternal relationship with Kåñëa.
tattva-vit tu mahä-bäho
guëä guëeñu vartanta
iti matvä na sajjate
tattva-vit—the knower of the Absolute Truth; tu—but; mahä-bäho—O mighty-armed one; guëa-karma—of works under material influence; vibhägayoù—differences; guëäù—senses; guëeñu—in sense gratification; vartante—are being engaged; iti—thus; matvä—thinking; na—never; sajjate—becomes attached.
One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results.
The knower of the Absolute Truth is convinced of his awkward position in material association. He knows that he is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, and that his position should not be in the material creation. He knows his real identity as part and parcel of the Supreme, who is eternal bliss and knowledge, and he realizes that somehow or other he is entrapped in the material conception of life. In his pure state of existence he is meant to dovetail his activities in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa. He therefore engages himself in the activities of Kåñëa consciousness and becomes naturally unattached to the activities of the material senses, which are all circumstantial and temporary. He knows that his material condition of life is under the supreme control of the Lord; consequently he is not disturbed by all kinds of material reactions, which he considers to be the mercy of the Lord. According to Çrémad-Bhägavatam, one who knows the Absolute Truth in three different features—namely Brahman, Paramätmä, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead—is called tattva-vit, for he knows also his own factual position in relationship with the Supreme.
tän akåtsna-vido mandän
kåtsna-vin na vicälayet
prakåteù—of material nature; guëa—by the modes; sammüòhäù—befooled by material identification; sajjante—they become engaged; guëa-karmasu—in material activities; tän—those; akåtsna-vidaù—persons with a poor fund of knowledge; mandän—lazy to understand self-realization; kåtsna-vit—one who is in factual knowledge; na—not; vicälayet—should try to agitate.
Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge.
Persons who are unknowledgeable falsely identify with gross material consciousness and are full of material designations. This body is a gift of the material nature, and one who is too much attached to the bodily consciousness is called manda, or a lazy person without understanding of spirit soul. Ignorant men think of the body as the self; they accept bodily connections with others as kinsmanship, the land in which the body is obtained is their object of worship, and they consider the formalities of religious rituals to be ends in themselves. Social work, nationalism and altruism are some of the activities for such materially designated persons. Under the spell of such designations, they are always busy in the material field; for them spiritual realization is a myth, and so they are not interested. Those who are enlightened in spiritual life, however, should not try to agitate such materially engrossed persons. Better to prosecute one’s own spiritual activities silently. Such bewildered persons may be engaged in such primary moral principles of life as nonviolence and similar materially benevolent work.
Men who are ignorant cannot appreciate activities in Kåñëa consciousness, and therefore Lord Kåñëa advises us not to disturb them and simply waste valuable time. But the devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord. Consequently they undertake all kinds of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try to engage them in the acts of Kåñëa consciousness, which are absolutely necessary for the human being.
mayi sarväëi karmäëi
niräçér nirmamo bhütvä
mayi—unto Me; sarväëi—all sorts of; karmäëi—activities; sannyasya—giving up completely; adhyätma—with full knowledge of the self; cetasä—by consciousness; niräçéù—without desire for profit; nirmamaù—without ownership; bhütvä—so being; yudhyasva—fight; vigata-jvaraù—without being lethargic.
Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.
This verse clearly indicates the purpose of the Bhagavad-gétä. The Lord instructs that one has to become fully Kåñëa conscious to discharge duties, as if in military discipline. Such an injunction may make things a little difficult; nevertheless duties must be carried out, with dependence on Kåñëa, because that is the constitutional position of the living entity. The living entity cannot be happy independent of the cooperation of the Supreme Lord, because the eternal constitutional position of the living entity is to become subordinate to the desires of the Lord. Arjuna was therefore ordered by Çré Kåñëa to fight as if the Lord were his military commander. One has to sacrifice everything for the good will of the Supreme Lord, and at the same time discharge prescribed duties without claiming proprietorship. Arjuna did not have to consider the order of the Lord; he had only to execute His order. The Supreme Lord is the soul of all souls; therefore, one who depends solely and wholly on the Supreme Soul without personal consideration, or in other words, one who is fully Kåñëa conscious, is called adhyätma-cetas. Niräçéù means that one has to act on the order of the master but should not expect fruitive results. The cashier may count millions of dollars for his employer, but he does not claim a cent for himself. Similarly, one has to realize that nothing in the world belongs to any individual person, but that everything belongs to the Supreme Lord. That is the real purport of mayi, or “unto Me.” And when one acts in such Kåñëa consciousness, certainly he does not claim proprietorship over anything. This consciousness is called nirmama, or “nothing is mine.” And if there is any reluctance to execute such a stern order, which is without consideration of so-called kinsmen in the bodily relationship, that reluctance should be thrown off; in this way one may become vigata-jvara, or without feverish mentality or lethargy. Everyone, according to his quality and position, has a particular type of work to discharge, and all such duties may be discharged in Kåñëa consciousness, as described above. That will lead one to the path of liberation.
ye me matam idaà nityam
mucyante te ’pi karmabhiù
ye—those who; me—My; matam—injunctions; idam—these; nityam—as an eternal function; anutiñöhanti—execute regularly; mänaväù—human beings; çraddhä-vantaù—with faith and devotion; anasüyantaù—without envy; mucyante—become free; te—all of them; api—even; karmabhiù—from the bondage of the law of fruitive actions.
Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions.
The injunction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, is the essence of all Vedic wisdom and therefore is eternally true without exception. As the Vedas are eternal, so this truth of Kåñëa consciousness is also eternal. One should have firm faith in this injunction, without envying the Lord. There are many philosophers who write comments on the Bhagavad-gétä but have no faith in Kåñëa. They will never be liberated from the bondage of fruitive action. But an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Kåñëa consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Kåñëa consciousness.
ye tv etad abhyasüyanto
nänutiñöhanti me matam
viddhi nañöän acetasaù
ye—those; tu—however; etat—this; abhyasüyantaù—out of envy; na—do not; anutiñöhanti—regularly perform; me—My; matam—injunction; sarva-jïäna—in all sorts of knowledge; vimüòhän—perfectly befooled; tän—they are; viddhi—know it well; nañöän—all ruined; acetasaù—without Kåñëa consciousness.
But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.
The flaw of not being Kåñëa conscious is clearly stated herein. As there is punishment for disobedience to the order of the supreme executive head, so there is certainly punishment for disobedience to the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A disobedient person, however great he may be, is ignorant of his own self, and of the Supreme Brahman, Paramätmä and the Personality of Godhead, due to a vacant heart. Therefore there is no hope of perfection of life for him.
prakåter jïänavän api
prakåtià yänti bhütäni
nigrahaù kià kariñyati
sadåçam—accordingly; ceñöate—tries; svasyäù—by his own; prakåteù—modes of nature; jïäna-vän—learned; api—although; prakåtim—nature; yänti—undergo; bhütäni—all living entities; nigrahaù—repression; kim—what; kariñyati—can do.
Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish?
Unless one is situated on the transcendental platform of Kåñëa consciousness, he cannot get free from the influence of the modes of material nature, as it is confirmed by the Lord in the Seventh Chapter (7.14). Therefore, even for the most highly educated person on the mundane plane, it is impossible to get out of the entanglement of mäyä simply by theoretical knowledge, or by separating the soul from the body. There are many so-called spiritualists who outwardly pose as advanced in the science but inwardly or privately are completely under particular modes of nature which they are unable to surpass. Academically, one may be very learned, but because of his long association with material nature, he is in bondage. Kåñëa consciousness helps one to get out of the material entanglement, even though one may be engaged in his prescribed duties in terms of material existence. Therefore, without being fully in Kåñëa consciousness, one should not give up his occupational duties. No one should suddenly give up his prescribed duties and become a so-called yogé or transcendentalist artificially. It is better to be situated in one’s position and to try to attain Kåñëa consciousness under superior training. Thus one may be freed from the clutches of Kåñëa’s mäyä.
tayor na vaçam ägacchet
tau hy asya paripanthinau
indriyasya—of the senses; indriyasya arthe—in the sense objects; räga—attachment; dveñau—also detachment; vyavasthitau—put under regulations; tayoù—of them; na—never; vaçam—control; ägacchet—one should come; tau—those; hi—certainly; asya—his; paripanthinau—stumbling blocks.
There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization.
Those who are in Kåñëa consciousness are naturally reluctant to engage in material sense gratification. But those who are not in such consciousness should follow the rules and regulations of the revealed scriptures. Unrestricted sense enjoyment is the cause of material encagement, but one who follows the rules and regulations of the revealed scriptures does not become entangled by the sense objects. For example, sex enjoyment is a necessity for the conditioned soul, and sex enjoyment is allowed under the license of marriage ties. According to scriptural injunctions, one is forbidden to engage in sex relationships with any women other than one’s wife. All other women are to be considered as one’s mother. But in spite of such injunctions, a man is still inclined to have sex relationships with other women. These propensities are to be curbed; otherwise they will be stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization. As long as the material body is there, the necessities of the material body are allowed, but under rules and regulations. And yet, we should not rely upon the control of such allowances. One has to follow those rules and regulations, unattached to them, because practice of sense gratification under regulations may also lead one to go astray—as much as there is always the chance of an accident, even on the royal roads. Although they may be very carefully maintained, no one can guarantee that there will be no danger even on the safest road. The sense enjoyment spirit has been current a very long, long time, owing to material association. Therefore, in spite of regulated sense enjoyment, there is every chance of falling down; therefore any attachment for regulated sense enjoyment must also be avoided by all means. But attachment to Kåñëa consciousness, or acting always in the loving service of Kåñëa, detaches one from all kinds of sensory activities. Therefore, no one should try to be detached from Kåñëa consciousness at any stage of life. The whole purpose of detachment from all kinds of sense attachment is ultimately to become situated on the platform of Kåñëa consciousness.
çreyän sva-dharmo viguëaù
sva-dharme nidhanaà çreyaù
çreyän—far better; sva-dharmaù—one’s prescribed duties; viguëaù—even faulty; para-dharmät—than duties mentioned for others; su-anuñöhität—perfectly done; sva-dharme—in one’s prescribed duties; nidhanam—destruction; çreyaù—better; para-dharmaù—duties prescribed for others; bhaya-ävahaù—dangerous.
It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.
One should therefore discharge his prescribed duties in full Kåñëa consciousness rather than those prescribed for others. Materially, prescribed duties are duties enjoined according to one’s psychophysical condition, under the spell of the modes of material nature. Spiritual duties are as ordered by the spiritual master for the transcendental service of Kåñëa. But whether material or spiritual, one should stick to his prescribed duties even up to death, rather than imitate another’s prescribed duties. Duties on the spiritual platform and duties on the material platform may be different, but the principle of following the authorized direction is always good for the performer. When one is under the spell of the modes of material nature, one should follow the prescribed rules for his particular situation and should not imitate others. For example, a brähmaëa, who is in the mode of goodness, is nonviolent, whereas a kñatriya, who is in the mode of passion, is allowed to be violent. As such, for a kñatriya it is better to be vanquished following the rules of violence than to imitate a brähmaëa who follows the principles of nonviolence. Everyone has to cleanse his heart by a gradual process, not abruptly. However, when one transcends the modes of material nature and is fully situated in Kåñëa consciousness, he can perform anything and everything under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. In that complete stage of Kåñëa consciousness, the kñatriya may act as a brähmaëa, or a brähmaëa may act as a kñatriya. In the transcendental stage, the distinctions of the material world do not apply. For example, Viçvämitra was originally a kñatriya, but later on he acted as a brähmaëa, whereas Paraçuräma was a brähmaëa but later on he acted as a kñatriya. Being transcendentally situated, they could do so; but as long as one is on the material platform, he must perform his duties according to the modes of material nature. At the same time, he must have a full sense of Kåñëa consciousness.
atha kena prayukto ’yaà
päpaà carati püruñaù
anicchann api värñëeya
baläd iva niyojitaù
arjunaù uväca—Arjuna said; atha—then; kena—by what; prayuktaù—impelled; ayam—one; päpam—sins; carati—does; püruñaù—a man; anicchan—without desiring; api—although; värñëeya—O descendant of Våñëi; balät—by force; iva—as if; niyojitaù—engaged.
Arjuna said: O descendant of Våñëi, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?
A living entity, as part and parcel of the Supreme, is originally spiritual, pure, and free from all material contaminations. Therefore, by nature he is not subject to the sins of the material world. But when he is in contact with the material nature, he acts in many sinful ways without hesitation, and sometimes even against his will. As such, Arjuna’s question to Kåñëa is very sanguine, as to the perverted nature of the living entities. Although the living entity sometimes does not want to act in sin, he is still forced to act. Sinful actions are not, however, impelled by the Supersoul within, but are due to another cause, as the Lord explains in the next verse.
käma eña krodha eña
viddhy enam iha vairiëam
çri-bhagavän uväca—the Personality of Godhead said; kämaù—lust; eñaù—this; krodhaù—wrath; eñaù—this; rajaù-guëa—the mode of passion; samudbhavaù—born of; mahä-açanaù—all-devouring; mahä-päpmä—greatly sinful; viddhi—know; enam—this; iha—in the material world; vairiëam—greatest enemy.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.
When a living entity comes in contact with the material creation, his eternal love for Kåñëa is transformed into lust, in association with the mode of passion. Or, in other words, the sense of love of God becomes transformed into lust, as milk in contact with sour tamarind is transformed into yogurt. Then again, when lust is unsatisfied, it turns into wrath; wrath is transformed into illusion, and illusion continues the material existence. Therefore, lust is the greatest enemy of the living entity, and it is lust only which induces the pure living entity to remain entangled in the material world. Wrath is the manifestation of the mode of ignorance; these modes exhibit themselves as wrath and other corollaries. If, therefore, the mode of passion, instead of being degraded into the mode of ignorance, is elevated to the mode of goodness by the prescribed method of living and acting, then one can be saved from the degradation of wrath by spiritual attachment.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead expanded Himself into many for His ever-increasing spiritual bliss, and the living entities are parts and parcels of this spiritual bliss. They also have partial independence, but by misuse of their independence, when the service attitude is transformed into the propensity for sense enjoyment, they come under the sway of lust. This material creation is created by the Lord to give facility to the conditioned souls to fulfill these lustful propensities, and when completely baffled by prolonged lustful activities, the living entities begin to inquire about their real position.
This inquiry is the beginning of the Vedänta-sütras, wherein it is said, athäto brahma jijïäsä: one should inquire into the Supreme. And the Supreme is defined in Çrémad-Bhägavatam as janmädy asya yato ’nvayäd itarataç ca, or, “The origin of everything is the Supreme Brahman.” Therefore the origin of lust is also in the Supreme. If, therefore, lust is transformed into love for the Supreme, or transformed into Kåñëa consciousness—or, in other words, desiring everything for Kåñëa—then both lust and wrath can be spiritualized. Hanumän, the great servitor of Lord Räma, exhibited his wrath by burning the golden city of Rävaëa, but by doing so he became the greatest devotee of the Lord. Here also, in Bhagavad-gétä, the Lord induces Arjuna to engage his wrath upon his enemies for the satisfaction of the Lord. Therefore, lust and wrath, when they are employed in Kåñëa consciousness, become our friends instead of our enemies.
yathädarço malena ca
tathä tenedam ävåtam
dhümena—by smoke; ävriyate—is covered; vahniù—fire; yathä—just as; ädarçaù—mirror; malena—by dust; ca—also; yathä—just as; ulbena—by the womb; ävåtaù—is covered; garbhaù—embryo; tathä—so; tena—by that lust; idam—this; ävåtam—is covered.
As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the living entity is similarly covered by different degrees of this lust.
There are three degrees of covering of the living entity by which his pure consciousness is obscured. This covering is but lust under different manifestations like smoke in the fire, dust on the mirror, and the womb about the embryo. When lust is compared to smoke, it is understood that the fire of the living spark can be a little perceived. In other words, when the living entity exhibits his Kåñëa consciousness slightly, he may be likened to the fire covered by smoke. Although fire is necessary where there is smoke, there is no overt manifestation of fire in the early stage. This stage is like the beginning of Kåñëa consciousness. The dust on the mirror refers to a cleansing process of the mirror of the mind by so many spiritual methods. The best process is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The embryo covered by the womb is an analogy illustrating a helpless position, for the child in the womb is so helpless that he cannot even move. This stage of living condition can be compared to that of the trees. The trees are also living entities, but they have been put in such a condition of life by such a great exhibition of lust that they are almost void of all consciousness. The covered mirror is compared to the birds and beasts, and the smoke-covered fire is compared to the human being. In the form of a human being, the living entity may revive a little Kåñëa consciousness, and, if he makes further development, the fire of spiritual life can be kindled in the human form of life. By careful handling of the smoke in the fire, fire can be made to blaze. Therefore the human form of life is a chance for the living entity to escape the entanglement of material existence. In the human form of life, one can conquer the enemy, lust, by cultivation of Kåñëa consciousness under able guidance.
ävåtam—covered; jïänam—pure consciousness; etena—by this; jïäninaù—of the knower; nitya-vairiëä—by the eternal enemy; käma-rüpeëa—in the form of lust; kaunteya—O son of Kunté; duñpüreëa—never to be satisfied; analena—by the fire; ca—also.
Thus the wise living entity’s pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.
It is said in the Manu-småti that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. In the material world, the center of all activities is sex, and thus this material world is called maithunya-ägära, or the shackles of sex life. In the ordinary prison house, criminals are kept within bars; similarly, the criminals who are disobedient to the laws of the Lord are shackled by sex life. Advancement of material civilization on the basis of sense gratification means increasing the duration of the material existence of a living entity. Therefore, this lust is the symbol of ignorance by which the living entity is kept within the material world. While one enjoys sense gratification, it may be that there is some feeling of happiness, but actually that so-called feeling of happiness is the ultimate enemy of the sense enjoyer.
indriyäëi mano buddhir
etair vimohayaty eña
jïänam ävåtya dehinam
indriyäëi—the senses; manaù—the mind; buddhiù—the intelligence; asya—of this lust; adhiñöhänam—sitting place; ucyate—is called; etaiù—by all these; vimohayati—bewilders; eñaù—this lust; jïänam—knowledge; ävåtya—covering; dehinam—of the embodied.
The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.
The enemy has captured different strategic positions in the body of the conditioned soul, and therefore Lord Kåñëa is giving hints of those places, so that one who wants to conquer the enemy may know where he can be found. Mind is the center of all the activities of the senses, and thus when we hear about sense objects the mind generally becomes a reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification; and, as a result, the mind and the senses become the repositories of lust. Next, the intelligence department becomes the capital of such lustful propensities. Intelligence is the immediate next-door neighbor of the spirit soul. Lusty intelligence influences the spirit soul to acquire the false ego and identify itself with matter, and thus with the mind and senses. The spirit soul becomes addicted to enjoying the material senses and mistakes this as true happiness. This false identification of the spirit soul is very nicely explained in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.84.13):
sva-dhéù kalaträdiñu bhauma ijya-dhéù
yat-tértha-buddhiù salile na karhicij
janeñv abhijïeñu sa eva go-kharaù
“A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth worshipable, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is to be considered like an ass or a cow.
tasmät tvam indriyäëy
päpmänaà prajahi hy enaà
tasmät—therefore; tvam—you; indriyäëi—senses; ädau—in the beginning; niyamya—by regulating; bharata-åñabha—O chief amongst the descendants of Bharata; päpmänam—the great symbol of sin; prajahi—curb; hi—certainly; enam—this; jïäna—of knowledge; vijïäna—and scientific knowledge of the pure soul; näçanam—the destroyer.
Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bhäratas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.
The Lord advised Arjuna to regulate the senses from the very beginning so that he could curb the greatest sinful enemy, lust, which destroys the urge for self-realization and specific knowledge of the self. Jïäna refers to knowledge of self as distinguished from non-self, or in other words, knowledge that the spirit soul is not the body. Vijïäna refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul’s constitutional position and his relationship to the Supreme Soul. It is explained thus in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam (2.9.31):
sa-rahasyaà tad-aìgaà ca
gåhäëa gaditaà mayä
“The knowledge of the self and Supreme
Self is very confidential and mysterious, but such knowledge and specific
realization can be understood if explained with their various aspects by
the Lord Himself.” Bhagavad-gétä gives us that general and
specific knowledge of the self. The living entities are parts and parcels
of the Lord, and therefore they are simply meant to serve the Lord. This
consciousness is called Kåñëa consciousness. So, from
the very beginning of life one has to learn this Kåñëa
consciousness, and thereby one may become fully Kåñëa
conscious and act accordingly.
Lust is only the perverted reflection of the love of God which is natural for every living entity. But if one is educated in Kåñëa consciousness from the very beginning, that natural love of God cannot deteriorate into lust. When love of God deteriorates into lust, it is very difficult to return to the normal condition. Nonetheless, Kåñëa consciousness is so powerful that even a late beginner can become a lover of God by following the regulative principles of devotional service. So, from any stage of life, or from the time of understanding its urgency, one can begin regulating the senses in Kåñëa consciousness, devotional service of the Lord, and turn the lust into love of Godhead—the highest perfectional stage of human life.
indriyebhyaù paraà manaù
manasas tu parä buddhir
yo buddheù paratas tu saù
indriyäëi—senses; paräëi—superior; ähuù—are said; indriyebhyaù—more than the senses; param—superior; manaù—the mind; manasaù—more than the mind; tu—also; parä—superior; buddhiù—intelligence; yaù—who; buddheù—more than the intelligence; parataù—superior; tu—but; saù—he.
The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.
The senses are different outlets for the activities of lust. Lust is reserved within the body, but it is given vent through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. These outlets are not in use when there is superior consciousness, or Kåñëa consciousness. In Kåñëa consciousness the soul makes direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore the hierarchy of bodily functions, as described here, ultimately ends in the Supreme Soul. Bodily action means the functions of the senses, and stopping the senses means stopping all bodily actions. But since the mind is active, then even though the body may be silent and at rest, the mind will act—as it does during dreaming. But above the mind is the determination of the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul proper. If, therefore, the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely, the intelligence, mind and senses, will be automatically engaged. In the Kaöha Upaniñad there is a similar passage, in which it is said that the objects of sense gratification are superior to the senses, and mind is superior to the sense objects. If, therefore, the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance that the senses will become engaged in other ways. This mental attitude has already been explained. paraà dåñövä nivartate. If the mind is engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, there is no chance of its being engaged in the lower propensities. In the Kaöha Upaniñad the soul has been described as mahän, the great. Therefore the soul is above all—namely, the sense objects, the senses, the mind and the intelligence. Therefore, directly understanding the constitutional position of the soul is the solution of the whole problem.
With intelligence one has to seek out the constitutional position of the soul and then engage the mind always in Kåñëa consciousness. That solves the whole problem. A neophyte spiritualist is generally advised to keep aloof from the objects of the senses. But aside from that, one has to strengthen the mind by use of intelligence. If by intelligence one engages one’s mind in Kåñëa consciousness, by complete surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then, automatically, the mind becomes stronger, and even though the senses are very strong, like serpents, they will be no more effective than serpents with broken fangs. But even though the soul is the master of intelligence and mind, and the senses also, still, unless it is strengthened by association with Kåñëa in Kåñëa consciousness, there is every chance of falling down due to the agitated mind.
evaà buddheù paraà
jahi çatruà mahä-bäho
evam—thus; buddheù—to intelligence; param—superior; buddhvä—knowing; saàstabhya—by steadying; ätmänam—the mind; ätmanä—by deliberate intelligence; jahi—conquer; çatrum—the enemy; mahä-bäho—O mighty-armed one; käma-rüpam—in the form of lust; duräsadam—formidable.
Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence [Kåñëa consciousness] and thus—by spiritual strength—conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.
This Third Chapter of the Bhagavad-gétä is conclusively directive to Kåñëa consciousness by knowing oneself as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without considering impersonal voidness the ultimate end. In the material existence of life, one is certainly influenced by propensities for lust and desire for dominating the resources of material nature. Desire for overlording and for sense gratification is the greatest enemy of the conditioned soul; but by the strength of Kåñëa consciousness, one can control the material senses, the mind and the intelligence. One may not give up work and prescribed duties all of a sudden; but by gradually developing Kåñëa consciousness, one can be situated in a transcendental position without being influenced by the material senses and the mind—by steady intelligence directed toward one’s pure identity. This is the sum total of this chapter. In the immature stage of material existence, philosophical speculations and artificial attempts to control the senses by the so-called practice of yogic postures can never help a man toward spiritual life. He must be trained in Kåñëa consciousness by higher intelligence.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Third Chapter of the Çrémad Bhagavad-gétä in the matter of Karma-yoga, or the Discharge of One’s Prescribed Duty in Kåñëa Consciousness.
Bhagavad Gita - CHAPTER 5 -
Karma-yoga—Action in Kåñëa Consciousness
sannyäsaà karmaëäà kåñëa
punar yogaà ca çaàsasi
yac chreya etayor ekaà
tan me brühi su-niçcitam
arjunaù uväca—Arjuna said; sannyäsam—renunciation; karmaëäm—of all activities; kåñëa—O Kåñëa; punaù—again; yogam—devotional service; ca—also; çaàsasi—You are praising; yat—which; çreyaù—is more beneficial; etayoù—of these two; ekam—one; tat—that; me—unto me; brühi—please tell; su-niçcitam—definitely.
Arjuna said: O Kåñëa, first of all You ask me to renounce work, and then again You recommend work with devotion. Now will You kindly tell me definitely which of the two is more beneficial?
In this Fifth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gétä, the Lord says that work in devotional service is better than dry mental speculation. Devotional service is easier than the latter because, being transcendental in nature, it frees one from reaction. In the Second Chapter, preliminary knowledge of the soul and its entanglement in the material body were explained. How to get out of this material encagement by buddhi-yoga, or devotional service, was also explained therein. In the Third Chapter, it was explained that a person who is situated on the platform of knowledge no longer has any duties to perform. And in the Fourth Chapter the Lord told Arjuna that all kinds of sacrificial work culminate in knowledge. However, at the end of the Fourth Chapter, the Lord advised Arjuna to wake up and fight, being situated in perfect knowledge. Therefore, by simultaneously stressing the importance of both work in devotion and inaction in knowledge, Kåñëa has perplexed Arjuna and confused his determination. Arjuna understands that renunciation in knowledge involves cessation of all kinds of work performed as sense activities. But if one performs work in devotional service, then how is work stopped? In other words, he thinks that sannyäsa, or renunciation in knowledge, should be altogether free from all kinds of activity, because work and renunciation appear to him to be incompatible. He appears not to have understood that work in full knowledge is nonreactive and is therefore the same as inaction. He inquires, therefore, whether he should cease work altogether or work with full knowledge.
sannyäsaù karma-yogaç ca
tayos tu karma-sannyäsät
çré-bhagavän uväca—the Personality of Godhead said; sannyäsaù—renunciation of work; karma-yogaù—work in devotion; ca—also; niùçreyasa-karau—leading to the path of liberation; ubhau—both; tayoù—of the two; tu—but; karma-sannyäsät—in comparison to the renunciation of fruitive work; karma-yogaù—work in devotion; viçiñyate—is better.
The Personality of Godhead replied: The renunciation of work and work in devotion are both good for liberation. But, of the two, work in devotional service is better than renunciation of work.
Fruitive activities (seeking sense gratification) are cause for material bondage. As long as one is engaged in activities aimed at improving the standard of bodily comfort, one is sure to transmigrate to different types of bodies, thereby continuing material bondage perpetually. Çrémad-Bhägavatam (5.5.4–6) confirms this as follows:
yad indriya-prétaya äpåëoti
na sädhu manye yata ätmano ’yam
asann api kleça-da äsa dehaù
paräbhavas tävad abodha-jäto
yävan na jijïäsata ätma-tattvam
yävat kriyäs tävad idaà mano vai
karmätmakaà yena çaréra-bandhaù
evaà manaù karma-vaçaà
prétir na yävan mayi väsudeve
na mucyate deha-yogena tävat
“People are mad after sense gratification,
and they do not know that this present body, which is full of miseries,
is a result of one’s fruitive activities in the past. Although this body
is temporary, it is always giving one trouble in many ways. Therefore,
to act for sense gratification is not good. One is considered to be a failure
in life as long as he makes no inquiry about his real identity. As long
as he does not know his real identity, he has to work for fruitive results
for sense gratification, and as long as one is engrossed in the consciousness
of sense gratification one has to transmigrate from one body to another.
Although the mind may be engrossed in fruitive activities and influenced
by ignorance, one must develop a love for devotional service to Väsudeva.
Only then can one have the opportunity to get out of the bondage of material
Therefore, jïäna (or knowledge that one is not this material body but spirit soul) is not sufficient for liberation. One has to act in the status of spirit soul, otherwise there is no escape from material bondage. Action in Kåñëa consciousness is not, however, action on the fruitive platform. Activities performed in full knowledge strengthen one’s advancement in real knowledge. Without Kåñëa consciousness, mere renunciation of fruitive activities does not actually purify the heart of a conditioned soul. As long as the heart is not purified, one has to work on the fruitive platform. But action in Kåñëa consciousness automatically helps one escape the result of fruitive action so that one need not descend to the material platform. Therefore action in Kåñëa consciousness is always superior to renunciation, which always entails a risk of falling. Renunciation without Kåñëa consciousness is incomplete, as is confirmed by Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé in his Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.2.258):
vairägyaà phalgu kathyate
“When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete.” Renunciation is complete when it is in the knowledge that everything in existence belongs to the Lord and that no one should claim proprietorship over anything. One should understand that, factually, nothing belongs to anyone. Then where is the question of renunciation? One who knows that everything is Kåñëa’s property is always situated in renunciation. Since everything belongs to Kåñëa, everything should be employed in the service of Kåñëa. This perfect form of action in Kåñëa consciousness is far better than any amount of artificial renunciation by a sannyäsé of the Mäyävädé school.
jïeyaù sa nitya-sannyäsé
yo na dveñöi na käìkñati
nirdvandvo hi mahä-bäho
sukhaà bandhät pramucyate
jïeyaù—should be known; saù—he; nitya—always; sannyäsé—renouncer; yaù—who; na—never; dveñöi—abhors; na—nor; käìkñati—desires; nirdvandvaù—free from all dualities; hi—certainly; mahä-bäho—O mighty-armed one; sukham—happily; bandhät—from bondage; pramucyate—is completely liberated.
One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.
One who is fully in Kåñëa consciousness is always a renouncer because he feels neither hatred nor desire for the results of his actions. Such a renouncer, dedicated to the transcendental loving service of the Lord, is fully qualified in knowledge because he knows his constitutional position in his relationship with Kåñëa. He knows fully well that Kåñëa is the whole and that he is part and parcel of Kåñëa. Such knowledge is perfect because it is qualitatively and quantitatively correct. The concept of oneness with Kåñëa is incorrect because the part cannot be equal to the whole. Knowledge that one is one in quality yet different in quantity is correct transcendental knowledge leading one to become full in himself, having nothing to aspire to or lament over. There is no duality in his mind because whatever he does, he does for Kåñëa. Being thus freed from the platform of dualities, he is liberated—even in this material world.
pravadanti na paëòitäù
ekam apy ästhitaù samyag
ubhayor vindate phalam
säìkhya—analytical study of the material world; yogau—work in devotional service; påthak—different; bäläù—the less intelligent; pravadanti—say; na—never; paëòitäù—the learned; ekam—in one; api—even; ästhitaù—being situated; samyak—complete; ubhayoù—of both; vindate—enjoys; phalam—the result.
Only the ignorant speak of devotional service [karma-yoga] as being different from the analytical study of the material world [Säìkhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.
The aim of the analytical study of the material world is to find the soul of existence. The soul of the material world is Viñëu, or the Supersoul. Devotional service to the Lord entails service to the Supersoul. One process is to find the root of the tree, and the other is to water the root. The real student of Säìkhya philosophy finds the root of the material world, Viñëu, and then, in perfect knowledge, engages himself in the service of the Lord. Therefore, in essence, there is no difference between the two because the aim of both is Viñëu. Those who do not know the ultimate end say that the purposes of Säìkhya and karma-yoga are not the same, but one who is learned knows the unifying aim in these different processes.
tad yogair api gamyate
ekaà säìkhyaà ca yogaà ca
yaù paçyati sa paçyati
yat—what; säìkhyaiù—by means of Säìkhya philosophy; präpyate—is achieved; sthänam—place; tat—that; yogaiù—by devotional service; api—also; gamyate—one can attain; ekam—one; säìkhyam—analytical study; ca—and; yogam—action in devotion; ca—and; yaù—one who; paçyati—sees; saù—he; paçyati—actually sees.
One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.
The real purpose of philosophical research is to find the ultimate goal of life. Since the ultimate goal of life is self-realization, there is no difference between the conclusions reached by the two processes. By Säìkhya philosophical research one comes to the conclusion that a living entity is not a part and parcel of the material world but of the supreme spirit whole. Consequently, the spirit soul has nothing to do with the material world; his actions must be in some relation with the Supreme. When he acts in Kåñëa consciousness, he is actually in his constitutional position. In the first process, Säìkhya, one has to become detached from matter, and in the devotional yoga process one has to attach himself to the work of Kåñëa consciousness. Factually, both processes are the same, although superficially one process appears to involve detachment and the other process appears to involve attachment. Detachment from matter and attachment to Kåñëa are one and the same. One who can see this sees things as they are.
sannyäsas tu mahä-bäho
duùkham äptum ayogataù
yoga-yukto munir brahma
sannyäsaù—the renounced order of life; tu—but; mahä-bäho—O mighty-armed one; duùkham—distress; äptum—afflicts one with; ayogataù—without devotional service; yoga-yuktaù—one engaged in devotional service; muniù—a thinker; brahma—the Supreme; na cireëa—without delay; adhigacchati—attains.
Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the devotional service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person engaged in devotional service can achieve the Supreme without delay.
There are two classes of sannyäsés, or persons in the renounced order of life. The Mäyävädé sannyäsés are engaged in the study of Säìkhya philosophy, whereas the Vaiñëava sannyäsés are engaged in the study of Bhägavatam philosophy, which affords the proper commentary on the Vedänta-sütras. The Mäyävädé sannyäsés also study the Vedänta-sütras, but use their own commentary, called Çäréraka-bhäñya, written by Çaìkaräcärya. The students of the Bhägavata school are engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, according to päïcarätriké regulations, and therefore the Vaiñëava sannyäsés have multiple engagements in the transcendental service of the Lord. The Vaiñëava sannyäsés have nothing to do with material activities, and yet they perform various activities in their devotional service to the Lord. But the Mäyävädé sannyäsés, engaged in the studies of Säìkhya and Vedänta and speculation, cannot relish the transcendental service of the Lord. Because their studies become very tedious, they sometimes become tired of Brahman speculation, and thus they take shelter of the Bhägavatam without proper understanding. Consequently their study of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam becomes troublesome. Dry speculations and impersonal interpretations by artificial means are all useless for the Mäyävädé sannyäsés. The Vaiñëava sannyäsés, who are engaged in devotional service, are happy in the discharge of their transcendental duties, and they have the guarantee of ultimate entrance into the kingdom of God. The Mäyävädé sannyäsés sometimes fall down from the path of self-realization and again enter into material activities of a philanthropic and altruistic nature, which are nothing but material engagements. Therefore, the conclusion is that those who are engaged in Kåñëa conscious activities are better situated than the sannyäsés engaged in simple speculation about what is Brahman and what is not Brahman, although they too come to Kåñëa consciousness, after many births.
kurvann api na lipyate
yoga-yuktaù—engaged in devotional service; viçuddha-ätmä—a purified soul; vijita-ätmä—self-controlled; jita-indriyaù—having conquered the senses; sarva-bhüta—to all living entities; ätma-bhüta-ätmä—compassionate; kurvan api—although engaged in work; na—never; lipyate—is entangled.
One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.
One who is on the path of liberation by Kåñëa consciousness is very dear to every living being, and every living being is dear to him. This is due to his Kåñëa consciousness. Such a person cannot think of any living being as separate from Kåñëa, just as the leaves and branches of a tree are not separate from the tree. He knows very well that by pouring water on the root of the tree, the water will be distributed to all the leaves and branches, or by supplying food to the stomach, the energy is automatically distributed throughout the body. Because one who works in Kåñëa consciousness is servant to all, he is very dear to everyone. And because everyone is satisfied by his work, he is pure in consciousness. Because he is pure in consciousness, his mind is completely controlled. And because his mind is controlled, his senses are also controlled. Because his mind is always fixed on Kåñëa, there is no chance of his being deviated from Kåñëa. Nor is there a chance that he will engage his senses in matters other than the service of the Lord. He does not like to hear anything except topics relating to Kåñëa; he does not like to eat anything which is not offered to Kåñëa; and he does not wish to go anywhere if Kåñëa is not involved. Therefore, his senses are controlled. A man of controlled senses cannot be offensive to anyone. One may ask, “Why then was Arjuna offensive (in battle) to others? Wasn’t he in Kåñëa consciousness?” Arjuna was only superficially offensive because (as has already been explained in the Second Chapter) all the assembled persons on the battlefield would continue to live individually, as the soul cannot be slain. So, spiritually, no one was killed on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra. Only their dresses were changed by the order of Kåñëa, who was personally present. Therefore Arjuna, while fighting on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, was not really fighting at all; he was simply carrying out the orders of Kåñëa in full Kåñëa consciousness. Such a person is never entangled in the reactions of work.
Bg 5.8, Bg 5.9, Bg 5.8-9
naiva kiïcit karométi
yukto manyeta tattva-vit
paçyaï çåëvan spåçaï jighrann
açnan gacchan svapan çvasan
pralapan visåjan gåhëann
unmiñan nimiñann api
vartanta iti dhärayan
na—never; eva—certainly; kiïcit—anything; karomi—I do; iti—thus; yuktaù—engaged in the divine consciousness; manyeta—thinks; tattva-vit—one who knows the truth; paçyan—seeing; çåëvan—hearing; spåçan—touching; jighran—smelling; açnan—eating; gacchan—going; svapan—dreaming; çvasan—breathing; pralapan—talking; visåjan—giving up; gåhëan—accepting; unmiñan—opening; nimiñan—closing; api—in spite of; indriyäëi—the senses; indriya-artheñu—in sense gratification; vartante—let them be so engaged; iti—thus; dhärayan—considering.
A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, or opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them.
A person in Kåñëa consciousness is pure in his existence, and consequently he has nothing to do with any work which depends upon five immediate and remote causes: the doer, the work, the situation, the endeavor and fortune. This is because he is engaged in the loving transcendental service of Kåñëa. Although he appears to be acting with his body and senses, he is always conscious of his actual position, which is spiritual engagement. In material consciousness, the senses are engaged in sense gratification, but in Kåñëa consciousness the senses are engaged in the satisfaction of Kåñëa’s senses. Therefore, the Kåñëa conscious person is always free, even though he appears to be engaged in affairs of the senses. Activities such as seeing and hearing are actions of the senses meant for receiving knowledge, whereas moving, speaking, evacuating, etc., are actions of the senses meant for work. A Kåñëa conscious person is never affected by the actions of the senses. He cannot perform any act except in the service of the Lord because he knows that he is the eternal servitor of the Lord.
brahmaëy ädhäya karmäëi
saìgaà tyaktvä karoti yaù
lipyate na sa päpena
brahmaëi—unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ädhäya—resigning; karmäëi—all works; saìgam—attachment; tyaktvä—giving up; karoti—performs; yaù—who; lipyate—is affected; na—never; saù—he; päpena—by sin; padma-patram—a lotus leaf; iva—like; ambhasä—by the water.
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.
Here brahmaëi means in Kåñëa consciousness. The material world is a sum total manifestation of the three modes of material nature, technically called the pradhäna. The Vedic hymns sarvaà hy etad brahma (Mäëòükya Upaniñad 2), tasmäd etad brahma näma-rüpam annaà ca jäyate (Muëòaka Upaniñad 1.2.10), and, in the Bhagavad-gétä (14.3), mama yonir mahad brahma indicate that everything in the material world is a manifestation of Brahman; and although the effects are differently manifested, they are nondifferent from the cause. In the Éçopaniñad it is said that everything is related to the Supreme Brahman, or Kåñëa, and thus everything belongs to Him only. One who knows perfectly well that everything belongs to Kåñëa, that He is the proprietor of everything and that, therefore, everything is engaged in the service of the Lord, naturally has nothing to do with the results of his activities, whether virtuous or sinful. Even one’s material body, being a gift of the Lord for carrying out a particular type of action, can be engaged in Kåñëa consciousness. It is then beyond contamination by sinful reactions, exactly as the lotus leaf, though remaining in the water, is not wet. The Lord also says in the Gétä (3.30), mayi sarväëi karmäëi sannyasya: “Resign all works unto Me [Kåñëa].” The conclusion is that a person without Kåñëa consciousness acts according to the concept of the material body and senses, but a person in Kåñëa consciousness acts according to the knowledge that the body is the property of Kåñëa and should therefore be engaged in the service of Kåñëa.
käyena manasä buddhyä
kevalair indriyair api
yoginaù karma kurvanti
käyena—with the body; manasä—with the mind; buddhyä—with the intelligence; kevalaiù—purified; indriyaiù—with the senses; api—even; yoginaù—Kåñëa conscious persons; karma—actions; kurvanti—they perform; saìgam—attachment; tyaktvä—giving up; ätma—of the self; çuddhaye—for the purpose of purification.
The yogés, abandoning attachment, act with body, mind, intelligence and even with the senses, only for the purpose of purification.
When one acts in Kåñëa consciousness for the satisfaction of the senses of Kåñëa, any action, whether of the body, mind, intelligence or even the senses, is purified of material contamination. There are no material reactions resulting from the activities of a Kåñëa conscious person. Therefore purified activities, which are generally called sad-äcära, can be easily performed by acting in Kåñëa consciousness. Çré Rüpa Gosvämé in his Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.2.187) describes this as follows:
éhä yasya harer däsye
karmaëä manasä girä
nikhiläsv apy avasthäsu
jévan-muktaù sa ucyate
“A person acting in Kåñëa consciousness (or, in other words, in the service of Kåñëa) with his body, mind, intelligence and words is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may be engaged in many so-called material activities.” He has no false ego, for he does not believe that he is this material body, or that he possesses the body. He knows that he is not this body and that this body does not belong to him. He himself belongs to Kåñëa, and the body too belongs to Kåñëa. When he applies everything produced of the body, mind, intelligence, words, life, wealth, etc.—whatever he may have within his possession—to Kåñëa’s service, he is at once dovetailed with Kåñëa. He is one with Kåñëa and is devoid of the false ego that leads one to believe that he is the body, etc. This is the perfect stage of Kåñëa consciousness.
çäntim äpnoti naiñöhikém
phale sakto nibadhyate
yuktaù—one who is engaged in devotional service; karma-phalam—the results of all activities; tyaktvä—giving up; çäntim—perfect peace; äpnoti—achieves; naiñöhikém—unflinching; ayuktaù—one who is not in Kåñëa consciousness; käma-käreëa—for enjoying the result of work; phale—in the result; saktaù—attached; nibadhyate—becomes entangled.
The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.
The difference between a person in Kåñëa consciousness and a person in bodily consciousness is that the former is attached to Kåñëa whereas the latter is attached to the results of his activities. The person who is attached to Kåñëa and works for Him only is certainly a liberated person, and he has no anxiety over the results of his work. In the Bhägavatam, the cause of anxiety over the result of an activity is explained as being one’s functioning in the conception of duality, that is, without knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Kåñëa is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. In Kåñëa consciousness, there is no duality. All that exists is a product of Kåñëa’s energy, and Kåñëa is all good. Therefore, activities in Kåñëa consciousness are on the absolute plane; they are transcendental and have no material effect. One is therefore filled with peace in Kåñëa consciousness. But one who is entangled in profit calculation for sense gratification cannot have that peace. This is the secret of Kåñëa consciousness—realization that there is no existence besides Kåñëa is the platform of peace and fearlessness.
sannyasyäste sukhaà vaçé
nava-dväre pure dehé
naiva kurvan na kärayan
sarva—all; karmäëi—activities; manasä—by the mind; sannyasya—giving up; äste—remains; sukham—in happiness; vaçé—one who is controlled; nava-dväre—in the place where there are nine gates; pure—in the city; dehé—the embodied soul; na—never; eva—certainly; kurvan—doing anything; na—not; kärayan—causing to be done.
When the embodied living being controls his nature and mentally renounces all actions, he resides happily in the city of nine gates [the material body], neither working nor causing work to be done.
The embodied soul lives in the city of nine gates. The activities of the body, or the figurative city of body, are conducted automatically by its particular modes of nature. The soul, although subjecting himself to the conditions of the body, can be beyond those conditions, if he so desires. Owing only to forgetfulness of his superior nature, he identifies with the material body, and therefore suffers. By Kåñëa consciousness, he can revive his real position and thus come out of his embodiment. Therefore, when one takes to Kåñëa consciousness, one at once becomes completely aloof from bodily activities. In such a controlled life, in which his deliberations are changed, he lives happily within the city of nine gates. The nine gates are mentioned as follows:
nava-dväre pure dehé
haàso leläyate bahiù
vaçé sarvasya lokasya
sthävarasya carasya ca
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead,
who is living within the body of a living entity, is the controller of
all living entities all over the universe. The body consists of nine gates
[two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, one mouth, the anus and the genitals].
The living entity in his conditioned stage identifies himself with the
body, but when he identifies himself with the Lord within himself, he becomes
just as free as the Lord, even while in the body.” (Çvetäçvatara
Therefore, a Kåñëa conscious person is free from both the outer and inner activities of the material body.
na kartåtvaà na karmäëi
lokasya såjati prabhuù
svabhävas tu pravartate
na—never; kartåtvam—proprietorship; na—nor; karmäëi—activities; lokasya—of the people; såjati—creates; prabhuù—the master of the city of the body; na—nor; karma-phala—with the results of activities; saàyogam—connection; svabhävaù—the modes of material nature; tu—but; pravartate—act.
The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.
The living entity, as will be explained in the Seventh Chapter, is one of the energies or natures of the Supreme Lord but is distinct from matter, which is another nature—called inferior—of the Lord. Somehow the superior nature, the living entity, has been in contact with material nature since time immemorial. The temporary body or material dwelling place which he obtains is the cause of varieties of activities and their resultant reactions. Living in such a conditional atmosphere, one suffers the results of the activities of the body by identifying himself (in ignorance) with the body. It is ignorance acquired from time immemorial that is the cause of bodily suffering and distress. As soon as the living entity becomes aloof from the activities of the body, he becomes free from the reactions as well. As long as he is in the city of body, he appears to be the master of it, but actually he is neither its proprietor nor controller of its actions and reactions. He is simply in the midst of the material ocean, struggling for existence. The waves of the ocean are tossing him, and he has no control over them. His best solution is to get out of the water by transcendental Kåñëa consciousness. That alone will save him from all turmoil.
nädatte kasyacit päpaà
na caiva sukåtaà vibhuù
tena muhyanti jantavaù
na—never; ädatte—accepts; kasyacit—anyone’s; päpam—sin; na—nor; ca—also; eva—certainly; su-kåtam—pious activities; vibhuù—the Supreme Lord; ajïänena—by ignorance; ävåtam—covered; jïänam—knowledge; tena—by that; muhyanti—are bewildered; jantavaù—the living entities.
Nor does the Supreme Lord assume anyone’s sinful or pious activities. Embodied beings, however, are bewildered because of the ignorance which covers their real knowledge.
The Sanskrit word vibhu means the Supreme Lord who is full of unlimited knowledge, riches, strength, fame, beauty and renunciation. He is always satisfied in Himself, undisturbed by sinful or pious activities. He does not create a particular situation for any living entity, but the living entity, bewildered by ignorance, desires to be put into certain conditions of life, and thereby his chain of action and reaction begins. A living entity is, by superior nature, full of knowledge. Nevertheless, he is prone to be influenced by ignorance due to his limited power. The Lord is omnipotent, but the living entity is not. The Lord is vibhu, or omniscient, but the living entity is aëu, or atomic. Because he is a living soul, he has the capacity to desire by his free will. Such desire is fulfilled only by the omnipotent Lord. And so, when the living entity is bewildered in his desires, the Lord allows him to fulfill those desires, but the Lord is never responsible for the actions and reactions of the particular situation which may be desired. Being in a bewildered condition, therefore, the embodied soul identifies himself with the circumstantial material body and becomes subjected to the temporary misery and happiness of life. The Lord is the constant companion of the living entity as Paramätmä, or the Supersoul, and therefore He can understand the desires of the individual soul, as one can smell the flavor of a flower by being near it. Desire is a subtle form of conditioning for the living entity. The Lord fulfills his desire as he deserves: Man proposes and God disposes. The individual is not, therefore, omnipotent in fulfilling his desires. The Lord, however, can fulfill all desires, and the Lord, being neutral to everyone, does not interfere with the desires of the minute independent living entities. However, when one desires Kåñëa, the Lord takes special care and encourages one to desire in such a way that one can attain to Him and be eternally happy. The Vedic hymns therefore declare, eña u hy eva sädhu karma kärayati taà yam ebhyo lokebhya unninéñate. eña u eväsädhu karma kärayati yam adho ninéñate: “The Lord engages the living entity in pious activities so that he may be elevated. The Lord engages him in impious activities so that he may go to hell.” (Kauñétaké Upaniñad 3.8)
ajïo jantur anéço
svargaà väçv abhram eva ca
“The living entity is completely
dependent in his distress and happiness. By the will of the Supreme he
can go to heaven or hell, as a cloud is driven by the air.”
Therefore the embodied soul, by his immemorial desire to avoid Kåñëa consciousness, causes his own bewilderment. Consequently, although he is constitutionally eternal, blissful and cognizant, due to the littleness of his existence he forgets his constitutional position of service to the Lord and is thus entrapped by nescience. And, under the spell of ignorance, the living entity claims that the Lord is responsible for his conditional existence. The Vedänta-sütras (2.1.34) also confirm this. Vaiñamya-nairghåëye na säpekñatvät tathä hi darçayati: “The Lord neither hates nor likes anyone, though He appears to.”
jïänena tu tad ajïänaà
yeñäà näçitam ätmanaù
teñäm äditya-vaj jïänaà
prakäçayati tat param
jïänena—by knowledge; tu—but; tat—that; ajïänam—nescience; yeñäm—whose; näçitam—is destroyed; ätmanaù—of the living entity; teñäm—their; äditya-vat—like the rising sun; jïänam—knowledge; prakäçayati—discloses; tat param—Kåñëa consciousness.
When, however, one is enlightened with the knowledge by which nescience is destroyed, then his knowledge reveals everything, as the sun lights up everything in the daytime.
Those who have forgotten Kåñëa must certainly be bewildered, but those who are in Kåñëa consciousness are not bewildered at all. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gétä, sarvaà jïäna-plavena, jïänägniù sarva-karmäëi and na hi jïänena sadåçam. Knowledge is always highly esteemed. And what is that knowledge? Perfect knowledge is achieved when one surrenders unto Kåñëa, as is said in the Seventh Chapter, 19th verse: bahünäà janmanäm ante jïänavän mäà prapadyate. After passing through many, many births, when one perfect in knowledge surrenders unto Kåñëa, or when one attains Kåñëa consciousness, then everything is revealed to him, as everything is revealed by the sun in the daytime. The living entity is bewildered in so many ways. For instance, when he unceremoniously thinks himself God, he actually falls into the last snare of nescience. If a living entity is God, then how can he become bewildered by nescience? Does God become bewildered by nescience? If so, then nescience, or Satan, is greater than God. Real knowledge can be obtained from a person who is in perfect Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore, one has to seek out such a bona fide spiritual master and, under him, learn what Kåñëa consciousness is, for Kåñëa consciousness will certainly drive away all nescience, as the sun drives away darkness. Even though a person may be in full knowledge that he is not this body but is transcendental to the body, he still may not be able to discriminate between the soul and the Supersoul. However, he can know everything well if he cares to take shelter of the perfect, bona fide Kåñëa conscious spiritual master. One can know God and one’s relationship with God only when one actually meets a representative of God. A representative of God never claims that he is God, although he is paid all the respect ordinarily paid to God because he has knowledge of God. One has to learn the distinction between God and the living entity. Lord Çré Kåñëa therefore stated in the Second Chapter (2.12) that every living being is individual and that the Lord also is individual. They were all individuals in the past, they are individuals at present, and they will continue to be individuals in the future, even after liberation. At night we see everything as one in the darkness, but in day, when the sun is up, we see everything in its real identity. Identity with individuality in spiritual life is real knowledge.
tat-buddhayaù—those whose intelligence is always in the Supreme; tat-ätmänaù—those whose minds are always in the Supreme; tat-niñöhäù—those whose faith is only meant for the Supreme; tat-paräyaëäù—who have completely taken shelter of Him; gacchanti—go; apunaù-ävåttim—to liberation; jïäna—by knowledge; nirdhüta—cleansed; kalmañäù—misgivings.
When one’s intelligence, mind, faith and refuge are all fixed in the Supreme, then one becomes fully cleansed of misgivings through complete knowledge and thus proceeds straight on the path of liberation.
The Supreme Transcendental Truth is Lord Kåñëa. The whole Bhagavad-gétä centers around the declaration that Kåñëa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the version of all Vedic literature. Para-tattva means the Supreme Reality, who is understood by the knowers of the Supreme as Brahman, Paramätmä and Bhagavän. Bhagavän, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the last word in the Absolute. There is nothing more than that. The Lord says, mattaù parataraà nänyat kiïcid asti dhanaïjaya. Impersonal Brahman is also supported by Kåñëa: brahmaëo hi pratiñöhäham. Therefore in all ways Kåñëa is the Supreme Reality. One whose mind, intelligence, faith and refuge are always in Kåñëa, or, in other words, one who is fully in Kåñëa consciousness, is undoubtedly washed clean of all misgivings and is in perfect knowledge in everything concerning transcendence. A Kåñëa conscious person can thoroughly understand that there is duality (simultaneous identity and individuality) in Kåñëa, and, equipped with such transcendental knowledge, one can make steady progress on the path of liberation.
brähmaëe gavi hastini
çuni caiva çva-päke ca
vidyä—with education; vinaya—and gentleness; sampanne—fully equipped; brähmaëe—in the brähmaëa; gavi—in the cow; hastini—in the elephant; çuni—in the dog; ca—and; eva—certainly; çva-päke—in the dog-eater (the outcaste); ca—respectively; paëòitäù—those who are wise; sama-darçinaù—who see with equal vision.
The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brähmaëa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].
A Kåñëa conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes. The brähmaëa and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, and an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as Paramätmä, is present in everyone’s heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge. As far as the bodies are concerned in different castes or different species of life, the Lord is equally kind to everyone because He treats every living being as a friend yet maintains Himself as Paramätmä regardless of the circumstances of the living entities. The Lord as Paramätmä is present both in the outcaste and in the brähmaëa, although the body of a brähmaëa and that of an outcaste are not the same. The bodies are material productions of different modes of material nature, but the soul and the Supersoul within the body are of the same spiritual quality. The similarity in the quality of the soul and the Supersoul, however, does not make them equal in quantity, for the individual soul is present only in that particular body whereas the Paramätmä is present in each and every body. A Kåñëa conscious person has full knowledge of this, and therefore he is truly learned and has equal vision. The similar characteristics of the soul and Supersoul are that they are both conscious, eternal and blissful. But the difference is that the individual soul is conscious within the limited jurisdiction of the body whereas the Supersoul is conscious of all bodies. The Supersoul is present in all bodies without distinction.
ihaiva tair jitaù sargo
yeñäà sämye sthitaà manaù
nirdoñaà hi samaà brahma
tasmäd brahmaëi te sthitäù
iha—in this life; eva—certainly; taiù—by them; jitaù—conquered; sargaù—birth and death; yeñäm—whose; sämye—in equanimity; sthitam—situated; manaù—mind; nirdoñam—flawless; hi—certainly; samam—in equanimity; brahma—like the Supreme; tasmät—therefore; brahmaëi—in the Supreme; te—they; sthitäù—are situated.
Those whose minds are established in sameness and equanimity have already conquered the conditions of birth and death. They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman.
Equanimity of mind, as mentioned above, is the sign of self-realization. Those who have actually attained to such a stage should be considered to have conquered material conditions, specifically birth and death. As long as one identifies with this body, he is considered a conditioned soul, but as soon as he is elevated to the stage of equanimity through realization of self, he is liberated from conditional life. In other words, he is no longer subject to take birth in the material world but can enter into the spiritual sky after his death. The Lord is flawless because He is without attraction or hatred. Similarly, when a living entity is without attraction or hatred, he also becomes flawless and eligible to enter into the spiritual sky. Such persons are to be considered already liberated, and their symptoms are described below.
na prahåñyet priyaà
nodvijet präpya cäpriyam
brahma-vid brahmaëi sthitaù
na—never; prahåñyet—rejoices; priyam—the pleasant; präpya—achieving; na—does not; udvijet—become agitated; präpya—obtaining; ca—also; apriyam—the unpleasant; sthira-buddhiù—self-intelligent; asammüòhaù—unbewildered; brahma-vit—one who knows the Supreme perfectly; brahmaëi—in the transcendence; sthitaù—situated.
A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is unbewildered, and who knows the science of God, is already situated in transcendence.
The symptoms of the self-realized person are given herein. The first symptom is that he is not illusioned by the false identification of the body with his true self. He knows perfectly well that he is not this body, but is the fragmental portion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is therefore not joyful in achieving something, nor does he lament in losing anything which is related to his body. This steadiness of mind is called sthira-buddhi, or self-intelligence. He is therefore never bewildered by mistaking the gross body for the soul, nor does he accept the body as permanent and disregard the existence of the soul. This knowledge elevates him to the station of knowing the complete science of the Absolute Truth, namely Brahman, Paramätmä and Bhagavän. He thus knows his constitutional position perfectly well, without falsely trying to become one with the Supreme in all respects. This is called Brahman realization, or self-realization. Such steady consciousness is called Kåñëa consciousness.
vindaty ätmani yat sukham
sukham akñayam açnute
bähya-sparçeñu—in external sense pleasure; asakta-ätmä—one who is not attached; vindati—enjoys; ätmani—in the self; yat—that which; sukham—happiness; saù—he; brahma-yoga—by concentration in Brahman; yukta-ätmä—self-connected; sukham—happiness; akñayam—unlimited; açnute—enjoys.
Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.
Çré Yämunäcärya, a great devotee in Kåñëa consciousness, said:
yad-avadhi mama cetaù kåñëa-pädäravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhämany udyataà rantum äsét
tad-avadhi bata näré-saìgame smaryamäne
bhavati mukha-vikäraù suñöhu niñöhévanaà ca
“Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Kåñëa, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.” A person in brahma-yoga, or Kåñëa consciousness, is so absorbed in the loving service of the Lord that he loses his taste for material sense pleasure altogether. The highest pleasure in terms of matter is sex pleasure. The whole world is moving under its spell, and a materialist cannot work at all without this motivation. But a person engaged in Kåñëa consciousness can work with greater vigor without sex pleasure, which he avoids. That is the test in spiritual realization. Spiritual realization and sex pleasure go ill together. A Kåñëa conscious person is not attracted to any kind of sense pleasure, due to his being a liberated soul.
ye hi saàsparça-jä
duùkha-yonaya eva te
na teñu ramate budhaù
ye—those; hi—certainly; saàsparça-jäù—by contact with the material senses; bhogäù—enjoyments; duùkha—distress; yonayaù—sources of; eva—certainly; te—they are; ädi—beginning; anta—end; vantaù—subject to; kaunteya—O son of Kunté; na—never; teñu—in those; ramate—takes delight; budhaù—the intelligent person.
An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunté, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.
Material sense pleasures are due to the contact of the material senses, which are all temporary because the body itself is temporary. A liberated soul is not interested in anything which is temporary. Knowing well the joys of transcendental pleasures, how can a liberated soul agree to enjoy false pleasure? In the Padma Puräëa it is said:
ramante yogino ’nante
[Cc. Madhya 9.29]
“The mystics derive unlimited transcendental
pleasures from the Absolute Truth, and therefore the Supreme Absolute Truth,
the Personality of Godhead, is also known as Räma.”
In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam also (5.5.1) it is said:
näyaà deho deha-bhäjäà
kañöän kämän arhate viò-bhujäà ye
tapo divyaà putrakä yena sattvaà
çuddhyed yasmäd brahma-saukhyaà tv anantam
“My dear sons, there is no reason
to labor very hard for sense pleasure while in this human form of life;
such pleasures are available to the stool-eaters [hogs]. Rather, you should
undergo penances in this life by which your existence will be purified,
and as a result you will be able to enjoy unlimited transcendental bliss.”
Therefore, those who are true yogés or learned transcendentalists are not attracted by sense pleasures, which are the causes of continuous material existence. The more one is addicted to material pleasures, the more he is entrapped by material miseries.
sa yuktaù sa sukhé naraù
çaknoti—is able; iha eva—in the present body; yaù—one who; soòhum—to tolerate; präk—before; çaréra—the body; vimokñaëät—giving up; käma—desire; krodha—and anger; udbhavam—generated from; vegam—urges; saù—he; yuktaù—in trance; saù—he; sukhé—happy; naraù—human being.
Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.
If one wants to make steady progress on the path of self-realization, he must try to control the forces of the material senses. There are the forces of talk, forces of anger, forces of mind, forces of the stomach, forces of the genitals, and forces of the tongue. One who is able to control the forces of all these different senses, and the mind, is called gosvämé, or svämé. Such gosvämés live strictly controlled lives, and forgo altogether the forces of the senses. Material desires, when unsatiated, generate anger, and thus the mind, eyes and chest become agitated. Therefore, one must practice to control them before one gives up this material body. One who can do this is understood to be self-realized and is thus happy in the state of self-realization. It is the duty of the transcendentalist to try strenuously to control desire and anger.
yo ’ntaù-sukho ’ntar-ärämas
tathäntar-jyotir eva yaù
sa yogé brahma-nirväëaà
yaù—one who; antaù-sukhaù—happy from within; antaù-ärämaù—actively enjoying within; tathä—as well as; antaù-jyotiù—aiming within; eva—certainly; yaù—anyone; saù—he; yogé—a mystic; brahma-nirväëam—liberation in the Supreme; brahma-bhütaù—being self-realized; adhigacchati—attains.
One whose happiness is within, who is active and rejoices within, and whose aim is inward is actually the perfect mystic. He is liberated in the Supreme, and ultimately he attains the Supreme.
Unless one is able to relish happiness from within, how can one retire from the external engagements meant for deriving superficial happiness? A liberated person enjoys happiness by factual experience. He can, therefore, sit silently at any place and enjoy the activities of life from within. Such a liberated person no longer desires external material happiness. This state is called brahma-bhüta [SB 4.30.20], attaining which one is assured of going back to Godhead, back to home.
labhante—achieve; brahma-nirväëam—liberation in the Supreme; åñayaù—those who are active within; kñéëa-kalmañäù—who are devoid of all sins; chinna—having torn off; dvaidhäù—duality; yata-ätmänaù—engaged in self-realization; sarva-bhüta—for all living entities; hite—in welfare work; ratäù—engaged.
Those who are beyond the dualities that arise from doubts, whose minds are engaged within, who are always busy working for the welfare of all living beings, and who are free from all sins achieve liberation in the Supreme.
Only a person who is fully in Kåñëa consciousness can be said to be engaged in welfare work for all living entities. When a person is actually in the knowledge that Kåñëa is the fountainhead of everything, then when he acts in that spirit he acts for everyone. The sufferings of humanity are due to forgetfulness of Kåñëa as the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend. Therefore, to act to revive this consciousness within the entire human society is the highest welfare work. One cannot be engaged in such first-class welfare work without being liberated in the Supreme. A Kåñëa conscious person has no doubt about the supremacy of Kåñëa. He has no doubt because he is completely freed from all sins. This is the state of divine love.
A person engaged only in ministering to the physical welfare of human society cannot factually help anyone. Temporary relief of the external body and the mind is not satisfactory. The real cause of one’s difficulties in the hard struggle for life may be found in one’s forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord. When a man is fully conscious of his relationship with Kåñëa, he is actually a liberated soul, although he may be in the material tabernacle.
käma—from desires; krodha—and anger; vimuktänäm—of those who are liberated; yaténäm—of the saintly persons; yata-cetasäm—who have full control over the mind; abhitaù—assured in the near future; brahma-nirväëam—liberation in the Supreme; vartate—is there; vidita-ätmanäm—of those who are self-realized.
Those who are free from anger and all material desires, who are self-realized, self-disciplined and constantly endeavoring for perfection, are assured of liberation in the Supreme in the very near future.
Of the saintly persons who are constantly engaged in striving toward salvation, one who is in Kåñëa consciousness is the best of all. The Bhägavatam (4.22.39) confirms this fact as follows:
karmäçayaà grathitam udgrathayanti santaù
tadvan na rikta-matayo yatayo ’pi ruddha-
sroto-gaëäs tam araëaà bhaja väsudevam
“Just try to worship, in devotional service, Väsudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even great sages are not able to control the forces of the senses as effectively as those who are engaged in transcendental bliss by serving the lotus feet of the Lord, uprooting the deep-grown desire for fruitive activities.”
In the conditioned soul the desire to enjoy the fruitive results of work is so deep rooted that it is very difficult even for the great sages to control such desires, despite great endeavors. A devotee of the Lord, constantly engaged in devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness, perfect in self-realization, very quickly attains liberation in the Supreme. Owing to his complete knowledge in self-realization, he always remains in trance. To cite an analogous example of this:
sväny apatyäni puñëanti
tathäham api padma-ja
“By vision, by meditation and by
touch only do the fish, the tortoise and the birds maintain their offspring.
Similarly do I also, O Padmaja!”
The fish brings up its offspring simply by looking at them. The tortoise brings up its offspring simply by meditation. The eggs of the tortoise are laid on land, and the tortoise meditates on the eggs while in the water. Similarly, the devotee in Kåñëa consciousness, although far away from the Lord’s abode, can elevate himself to that abode simply by thinking of Him constantly—by engagement in Kåñëa consciousness. He does not feel the pangs of material miseries; this state of life is called brahma-nirväëa, or the absence of material miseries due to being constantly immersed in the Supreme.
Bg 5.27, Bg 5.28, Bg 5.27-28
cakñuç caiväntare bhruvoù
präëäpänau samau kåtvä
yaù sadä mukta eva saù
sparçän—sense objects, such as sound; kåtvä—keeping; bahiù—external; bähyän—unnecessary; cakñuù—eyes; ca—also; eva—certainly; antare—between; bhruvoù—the eyebrows; präëa-apänau—up-and down-moving air; samau—in suspension; kåtvä—keeping; näsa-abhyantara—within the nostrils; cäriëau—blowing; yata—controlled; indriya—senses; manaù—mind; buddhiù—intelligence; muniù—the transcendentalist; mokña—for liberation; paräyaëaù—being so destined; vigata—having discarded; icchä—wishes; bhaya—fear; krodhaù—anger; yaù—one who; sadä—always; muktaù—liberated; eva—certainly; saù—he is.
Shutting out all external sense objects, keeping the eyes and vision concentrated between the two eyebrows, suspending the inward and outward breaths within the nostrils, and thus controlling the mind, senses and intelligence, the transcendentalist aiming at liberation becomes free from desire, fear and anger. One who is always in this state is certainly liberated.
Being engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, one can immediately understand one’s spiritual identity, and then one can understand the Supreme Lord by means of devotional service. When one is well situated in devotional service, one comes to the transcendental position, qualified to feel the presence of the Lord in the sphere of one’s activity. This particular position is called liberation in the Supreme.
After explaining the above principles of liberation in the Supreme, the Lord gives instruction to Arjuna as to how one can come to that position by the practice of the mysticism or yoga known as añöäìga-yoga, which is divisible into an eightfold procedure called yama, niyama, äsana, präëäyäma, pratyähära, dhäraëä, dhyäna and samädhi. In the Sixth Chapter the subject of yoga is explicitly detailed, and at the end of the Fifth it is only preliminarily explained. One has to drive out the sense objects such as sound, touch, form, taste and smell by the pratyähära process in yoga, and then keep the vision of the eyes between the two eyebrows and concentrate on the tip of the nose with half-closed lids. There is no benefit in closing the eyes altogether, because then there is every chance of falling asleep. Nor is there benefit in opening the eyes completely, because then there is the hazard of being attracted by sense objects. The breathing movement is restrained within the nostrils by neutralizing the up-moving and down-moving air within the body. By practice of such yoga one is able to gain control over the senses, refrain from outward sense objects, and thus prepare oneself for liberation in the Supreme.
This yoga process helps one become free from all kinds of fear and anger and thus feel the presence of the Supersoul in the transcendental situation. In other words, Kåñëa consciousness is the easiest process of executing yoga principles. This will be thoroughly explained in the next chapter. A Kåñëa conscious person, however, being always engaged in devotional service, does not risk losing his senses to some other engagement. This is a better way of controlling the senses than by the añöäìga-yoga.
jïätvä mäà çäntim åcchati
bhoktäram—the beneficiary; yajïa—of sacrifices; tapasäm—and penances and austerities; sarva-loka—of all planets and the demigods thereof; mahä-éçvaram—the Supreme Lord; su-hådam—the benefactor; sarva—of all; bhütänäm—the living entities; jïätvä—thus knowing; mäm—Me (Lord Kåñëa); çäntim—relief from material pangs; åcchati—one achieves.
A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.
The conditioned souls within the clutches of illusory energy are all anxious to attain peace in the material world. But they do not know the formula for peace, which is explained in this part of the Bhagavad-gétä. The greatest peace formula is simply this: Lord Kåñëa is the beneficiary in all human activities. Men should offer everything to the transcendental service of the Lord because He is the proprietor of all planets and the demigods thereon. No one is greater than He. He is greater than the greatest of the demigods, Lord Çiva and Lord Brahmä. In the Vedas (Çvetäçvatara Upaniñad 6.7) the Supreme Lord is described as tam éçvaräëäà paramaà maheçvaraà. Under the spell of illusion, living entities are trying to be lords of all they survey, but actually they are dominated by the material energy of the Lord. The Lord is the master of material nature, and the conditioned souls are under the stringent rules of material nature. Unless one understands these bare facts, it is not possible to achieve peace in the world either individually or collectively. This is the sense of Kåñëa consciousness: Lord Kåñëa is the supreme predominator, and all living entities, including the great demigods, are His subordinates. One can attain perfect peace only in complete Kåñëa consciousness.
This Fifth Chapter is a practical explanation of Kåñëa consciousness, generally known as karma-yoga. The question of mental speculation as to how karma-yoga can give liberation is answered herewith. To work in Kåñëa consciousness is to work with the complete knowledge of the Lord as the predominator. Such work is not different from transcendental knowledge. Direct Kåñëa consciousness is bhakti-yoga, and jïäna-yoga is a path leading to bhakti-yoga. Kåñëa consciousness means to work in full knowledge of one’s relationship with the Supreme Absolute, and the perfection of this consciousness is full knowledge of Kåñëa, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A pure soul is the eternal servant of God as His fragmental part and parcel. He comes into contact with mäyä (illusion) due to the desire to lord it over mäyä, and that is the cause of his many sufferings. As long as he is in contact with matter, he has to execute work in terms of material necessities. Kåñëa consciousness, however, brings one into spiritual life even while one is within the jurisdiction of matter, for it is an arousing of spiritual existence by practice in the material world. The more one is advanced, the more he is freed from the clutches of matter. The Lord is not partial toward anyone. Everything depends on one’s practical performance of duties in Kåñëa consciousness, which helps one control the senses in every respect and conquer the influence of desire and anger. And one who stands fast in Kåñëa consciousness, controlling the abovementioned passions, remains factually in the transcendental stage, or brahma-nirväëa. The eightfold yoga mysticism is automatically practiced in Kåñëa consciousness because the ultimate purpose is served. There is a gradual process of elevation in the practice of yama, niyama, äsana, präëäyäma, pratyähära, dhäraëä, dhyäna and samädhi. But these only preface perfection by devotional service, which alone can award peace to the human being. It is the highest perfection of life.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Fifth Chapter of the Çrémad Bhagavad-gétä in the matter of Karma-yoga, or Action in Kåñëa Consciousness.
courtesy of www.vedabase.com/