Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Solution to All Problems

Lord Rsabhadeva instructed His hundred sons before renouncing the kingdom to become an avadhuta

From the small insects up to Brahma-loka, there is an innumerable variety of living entities in different levels of consciousness, but all of them share two common propensities: they want to avoid suffering and obtain happiness. The more the living being progresses in the evolutionary cycle of consciousness, the more he uses his intelligence to accomplish these two purposes. According to the species of life, the conception of happiness and suffering changes, as well as the methods to prevent one and get the other. Although the human form of life is specially endowed with higher intelligence and discriminative knowledge, usually they are misused due to a wrong understanding of what real happiness is and how to end suffering for good. However, by the proper use of these tools it is possible to solve both problems.

The existence of pain is admitted and experienced by everyone, therefore the solution to this problem has been the subject of thought in all religions and philosophical systems since the creation of the universe. Sankhya is considered one of the most ancient schools of thought and it starts exactly from this point:

duhkha-trayabhighataj jijnasa tad-apaghatake hetau
drste sa’partha cen naikantatyantato’ bhavat

“From the torment caused by the three kinds of misery proceeds a desire to inquire about the means for extinguishing them. If it be said that the inquiry is superfluous since visible means do exist, we reply: It is not so, because in the visible means there is no certainty nor permanency.” (Sankhya Karika 1)

If there were no suffering, there would be no inquiry, but once there is inquiry, there is possibility to achieve a definite conclusion . Otherwise, one is baffled in life, as Lord Rsabhadeva declares:

parabhavas tavad abodha-jato
yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam
yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai
karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah

“As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.5

The next questions would be: Is it possible to solve all kinds of suffering or only some? And for all the time or only temporarily? Are the means available to all or only to some selected people? Different people will find different answers and try to apply them in their lives. To combat adhyatmika-klesa one may take medicines, but so far no medicine has been found that is able to counteract all bodily and mental suffering. To avoid adhibhautika-klesa is practically impossible, for even if one goes to live in a cave, still there will be insects and animals disturbing. And also adhidaivika-klesa is completely out of our control, as any natural calamity may happen at any moment. All attempts of science to fight these elements are just childishness, and suffering reigns supreme in the world.

On the other hand, the search for happiness has also been a failure, since it is mostly based on sense gratification- gross or subtle- and the very nature of the senses and the mind is to remain insatiable. Huge enterprises are made to provide everything each sense may desire, but we have never heard of someone who became happy in this way. As Lord Vamanadeva says :

sri-bhagavan uvaca
yavanto visayah presthas
tri-lokyam ajitendriyam
na saknuvanti te sarve
pratipurayitum nrpa

“The Personality of Godhead said: O my dear King, even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one's senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 8.19.21

Less intelligent people will keep on trying, just like an ass running after a carrot hanging in front of its nose, but at a certain point one who is even a bit sober will inquire: “What is wrong here”? And if he is fortunate enough to take instructions from guru, sastra and sadhu, he will get the correct answer. That is given by Lord Rsabhadeva:

rsabha uvaca
nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

“Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.1

The great danger of sense gratification is that it is immediately appealing- instant heaven- while the process of tapasya is very painful and may take a long time to fructify. But in due course of time we can judge by the results- phalena pariciyate. As stated by Lord Krishna:

yat tad agre visam iva
pariname 'mrtopamam
tat sukham sattvikam proktam

“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”

yat tad agre 'mrtopamam
pariname visam iva
tat sukham rajasam smrtam

“That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion”.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 18.37-38

It is not very difficult to have a practical experience of both and then decide which one is the best course of action. From childhood I had the strong impression that there must be something wrong in the way most people try to become happy, to the point that when I was fifteen I decided to take another direction, lest I end up in the same path. Although not properly guided externally, my first insight was that I needed to practise austerities some way or other. Then I started to do fasting, to sleep on the floor, to take cold baths, and to study religious books like Bhagavad Gita, The Bible, Dhammapada, Tao Te Ching, etc. Although not following any systematic program, the short term result was that I was mentally much more satisfied than ever, and the long term result was to come closer to the ultimate reality, or Krishna consciousness. Austerity is simply a means of purification, and after purification one is ready for the next step- accept instructions from a mahatma and serve him, as advised by Lord Rsabhadeva:

mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes
tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam
mahantas te sama-cittah prasanta
vimanyavah suhrdah sadhavo ye

“One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to highly advanced spiritual personalities. These personalities are impersonalists and devotees. Whether one wants to merge into the Lord's existence or wants to associate with the Personality of Godhead, one should render service to the mahatmas. For those who are not interested in such activities, who associate with people fond of women and sex, the path to hell is wide open. The mahatmas are equipoised. They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and are fully engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any abominable way. Such people are known as mahatmas.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.2

For the benefit of the inhabitants of this planet, Srila Prabhupada revealed himself as the best and most accessible of the mahatmas. He is ‘sama-citta’, completely equipoised, giving the same chance for everyone, everywhere, without any consideration of colour, caste, creed or nationality; he is ‘prasanta’, very peaceful, not disturbed even in the most adverse conditions, but simply absorbed in his bhajana; he is ‘vimanyu’, devoid of material anger, being always satisfied in Krishna consciousness; he is ‘suhrda’, a friend whose work is meant for the benefit of all, building a hospital where everyone can get the best treatment for the material disease; he is ‘sadhu’, setting the standard of saintly behaviour in every small action.

Now, one may argue that we may accept instructions from Srila Prabhupada, but could we serve him? Better to hear his own answer:

“To serve the topmost devotee means to hear from him about the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.22.22

“If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Adi 1.35

“To serve the Spiritual Master's word is more important than to serve him physically.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Syamasundara -- Los Angeles 19 July, 1970

Thus Srila Prabhupada is giving to the world the opportunity to serve him by appreciating his words, following and distributing them.
Every object has its own purpose and only when it is specifically employed in its natural function- svadharma- it can really be attributed with value. The purpose of the human body is to attain self-realisation, therefore if it is employed in any other business, it will never lead one to happiness, but rather it will just be a source of constant misery, for oneself and for others too. Therefore, by taking to the process of devotional service to Krishna, as elaborately described in Srimad Bhagavatam by Srila Prabhupada on the light of all acaryas of our parampara, we can at one stroke accomplish what everyone has been trying since time immemorial- to get rid of all miseries of material existence and to obtain eternal, transcendental, blissful life.

This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the fourth and last year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, Fifth Canto of Bhagavatam, in October of 2005.


  1. You are mentioning in this esey about how austerity is purifing and is practicly bringing us to God.
    And I can understand that austerity is bringing a kind of mental happiness,since I had experiance of that.I lived very austerlly and I have understood that I am more happy than when I had all facilities for living "nicely".
    But I can not understand what is the conection between austere living and God realisation?What kind of austerity one has to performe in order to realise God?
    I won't say Krsna since for me it is hard to accept Krsna as God,and the other thing is what I know about Krsna(since I have red some things),that he didn't have so much austere life at all..He was a royal person.Even Caitanya came in high familly and also I didn't got impression from caitanya caritamrta that all of his associates were very austere.
    Can you please elaborate little bit on that?

  2. Dear anonymous,

    As you claim to have read Caitanya Caritamrta and practice some sort of austerity, I may assume you are a Hare Krishna, either in maya or just asking questions to tease me…
    As explained in the Isopanisad text 8, God is the supreme pure, therefore to approach Him one must be pure. What makes one contaminated is the influence of the three modes of material nature, but out of them, the mode of goodness should be cultivated, for it is the outlet leading to pure goodness, in which one is free from the lower modes and in which God realization is possible. Desire to enjoy our senses independently of God is the cause of indulgence in ignorance, passion or goodness, and austerity means to deliberately refrain from it. Thus by avoiding unnecessary sense gratification one progresses towards pure goodness, which is conducive to God consciousness. That austerity and self-control is the cause of enduring satisfaction is well explained in the BG chapter 2 and 18. Now, mere austerity without God consciousness is imperfect because what He wants to see is our sincerity of purpose and not how much we are suffering. On this principle, God may be pleased with someone who is very sincere, but not very austere, and displeased with someone who is very austere, but does not feel a bit of devotion (like the impersonalists, for example). At the same time, sincerity must be demonstrated not only by thoughts or words, but also by acts. The general rule is that to progress in the path of devotion we must follow a standard process as prescribed by the scriptures and acaryas, in which usually there is some austerity according to time, place and circumstance. To sacrifice one’s own so-called material interests and satisfaction for God is something that conquers Him, and this is the real austerity that blooms in God consciousness.

    Lord Caitanya’s associates were all liberated persons in the most exalted level of love of God, therefore for them to practice austerity or not was irrelevant. Still, as the whole pastime is also meant to teach many lessons, some of the prominent disciples like the Gosvamis of Vrndavana were absolutely austere to set the example, while others were not, corroborating the point I made above. In any case, Lord Caitanya was simply requesting everyone to chant Hare Krishna, for this pleases Him more than any austerity.

    Where from did you hear that Lord Krishna was just a royal personality? 5.000 years ago in India the only historical records were the Puranas and the Epics, therefore any statement about Krishna should be supported by them. The very acknowledgement of the existence of a person called Krishna usually comes from these scriptures, and they clearly and unanimously affirm that He is the Godhead. And if we CAREFULLY study the activities He performed, we can understand that no one else can fit the definition of God so well as He does. While reading the scriptures, to accept one statement and reject the other is called arddha-kukkuti-nyaya, the logic of the half hen, and in this way the whole result is lost.