Sunday, October 12, 2008

The End of the Journey

             While travelling throughout innumerable universes in different forms of life, the conditioned living entities finally come to the human form of life on this Earth planet. The sastras praise such a birth, for it is a rare opportunity given to the jivas to go back to Godhead and thus solve all the problems of life. Unfortunately, even in such a wonderful opportunity as a human being, the jivas often become infatuated by the ‘facilities’ available in this world for sense gratification, and thus instead of elevating themselves, they simply waste the chance and keep on the wheel of samsara. However, if besides being blessed with a human body, one becomes bhagyavan, fortunate enough to have a bonafide guru and Krishna, and takes full advantage of that, then one’s history in this world may have a happy end.


            In the fourth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, we are instructed about the story of king Puranjana. One of the meanings of the word ‘puranjana’ according to the Sabda-kalpa-druma dictionary is ‘puram deha-ksetram janayatiti,’ one who produces a field of activities in the form of a material body. The soul is originally sac-cid-ananda and has no need at all to accept a material body, but if by misuse of his minute independence, he does so, the material world is a chance to fulfil his perverted desires and then go back home. Krishna also does not need this material world (although He can also enjoy it through His pastimes), but to help the jiva in his plans, He manifests the material universes through His multiple energies. Taking advantage of the material elements, the souls, according to their own desires, cause a material body to appear and enter it as a purusa, or enjoyer, as it is said:


sri-bhagavan uvaca

karmana daiva-netrena

jantur dehopapattaye

striyah pravista udaram

pumso retah-kanasrayah


“The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.31.1


Such a body will act just as a machine produced by the material energy, and Krishna, being our best friend, accompanies us in the body:


isvarah sarva-bhutanam

hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati

bhramayan sarva-bhutani

yantrarudhani mayaya

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 18.61


            Because of the spiritual nature of the living entity and its inherent identity as a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord (BG 15.7), the jiva cannot really enjoy this world due to its incompatibility, therefore maya covers its consciousness with ahankara so that the soul may temporarily forget its true nature and fully identify itself with a material body and its pains and pleasures. In the spiritual world, there is no difference between the body and the soul, but even though in the material world the body has really nothing to do with the soul, due to the false ego, the deluded living entity accepts a material body as the very self in whatever species of life one may be. This is called adhyaropa, superimposition. This principle of superimposition will not only work in relation to the body and the soul, but it will influence the consciousness of the conditioned jiva in all its aspects, for the jiva will see the world through a superimposed angle just as one with green glasses sees everything green. This fact is what makes the soul feel as if enjoying or suffering in this world, which would otherwise not be possible due to the soul’s nature. By looking at the world with this deluded vision, the soul will see everything, starting with its own body, as objects of enjoyment and will try to exploit the material resources to its best capacity. Its attempts, however, will meet the resistance of innumerable antagonistic elements, which may be classified into three: adhibhautika, adhidaivika and adhyatmika. Although the desire for pleasure is immanent in all beings and is actually a spiritual feeling in its original state, here we don’t have the proper atmosphere to fully satisfy this propensity, never mind how much we may try. This is also part of Krishna’s plan, for the idea is not to stay here forever but to come to our original senses and turn towards Him. This, however, would be very difficult if we had no inconveniences here. Nobody makes plans in such a way that they will get suffering, but in spite of their best efforts, suffering comes anyway:


tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido

na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah

tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham

kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa


“Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet [Brahmaloka] down to the lowest planet [Patala]. As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in course of time, just as in course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.5.18


All these inconveniences are indeed due to our obstinacy to have our own program for enjoyment without including Krishna in it. Srila Prabhupada used to tell one story to illustrate this fact. Once the fingers decided to conspire against the stomach, for after all, they were doing all the hard work and the stomach was just enjoying. So they decided to have a strike and stop supplying food to the stomach, and started trying to enjoy everything by themselves. Although they tried again and again to grasp all kinds of foodstuffs, they could not really enjoy them. On the other hand, they were becoming weaker and weaker. At last, they had a great idea— to give food to the stomach! So, our first duty in this world is to find out the stomach, or the root.  But only finding out the root is not sufficient— we must be very careful to know how to water it:


yatha taror mula-nisecanena

trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah

pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam

tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya


“As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.31.14


King Ambarisa is the perfect example of how one can do this. We also see how Prthu Maharaja and the Pracetas were fully dedicated to the Lord, even though externally performing their respective duties. The ninefold process of bhakti is recommended for all, but out of them, hearing from a self-realised soul is the most potent:


“We can increase our propensity for devotional service by hearing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam from realized souls. The more we hear from realized souls, the more we make advancement in our devotional life.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.22.25, purport


“The transcendental vibration from the mouth of a pure devotee is so powerful that it can revive the living entity's memory of his eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.20.25, purport


“The secret of success in the cultivation of Krsna consciousness is hearing from the right person.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase =>  SB 4.29.39-40, purport


            Prthu Maharaja heard from Sanat-kumara and became perfect; King Barhisat heard from Narada Muni and became liberated; and the Pracetas attained perfection after hearing from Lord Siva and Narada Muni. Although these great personalities are very merciful, they speak only to selected people. On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada is as powerful as Narada or the Kumaras, but much more merciful, for he is giving everyone the chance to hear from a pure devotee through his books and recorded lectures. And it just depends on us to utilize them according to our desire to advance.


            When Krishna is given His proper place in our lives, then automatically everything starts to work properly. Since Krishna is the one who fulfils the desires of all living entities, surrender unto Him is the surest way to obtain one’s wished object. But when a desire is really fulfilled in Krishna consciousness, the result is self-satisfaction, not only sensual or mental satisfaction. This is corroborated by the Manu-samhita (2.6):


vedo’akhilo dharma-mulam smrti-sile ca tadvidam |

acaras caiva sadhunam atmanas tustir eva ca ||



“The root of dharma is fourfold: the Vedas, the Smrtis, the rules of conduct of the saintly persons, and self-satisfaction.”


          To get rid of gross desires and contaminations may not be very difficult for one who is strictly following the regulative principles, but to remove the subtle ones, a person must be really determined and pray to Krishna very ardently. We may even cheat ourselves, but Paramatma knows what everyone really has in their heart. Especially if we voluntarily cultivate material desires, our going back home will be procrastinated, and the whole thing may be spoiled:


“As soon as personal motivation comes in it is not possible for one to understand our Krishna Consciousness philosophy.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Isana, Vibhavati  --  Calcutta 21 September, 1970


“We have worked very hard and established a great institution, but if we think for our personal benefit then it will become ruined. This is my only concern.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Cyavana:  --  Bombay 1 November, 1974

“The poison is personal ambition.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Satyabhama  --  Bombay 1 November, 1970


But even if one is fortunate enough to get rid of all material desires, while one is in the material world the possibility of contracting the same disease again is still present:


“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that even though one may become free from the desire for fruitive activity, sometimes the subtle desire for fruitive activity again comes into being within the heart. One often thinks of conducting business to improve devotional activity. But the contamination is so strong that it may later develop into misunderstanding, described as kuti-nati (faultfinding) and pratisthasa (the desire for name and fame and for high position), jiva-himsa (envy of other living entities), nisiddhacara (accepting things forbidden in the sastra), kama (desire for material gain) and puja (hankering for popularity).”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 12.135, purport


The conditioned soul has been entangled in materialism for so long that to remove such a covering from the consciousness may be quite hard. The jivas here are in a vicious cycle that produces reaction after reaction, desire after desire. The great advantage of Krishna consciousness is that we have a practical way to deal with the problem, or in other words, we can remove a thorn with another thorn. The impersonalists’ proposal of stopping action and become desireless is just a hallucination, for the soul is by nature active and conscious. But by following the path of the great acaryas we can engage all our senses and desires in the service of Krishna and His pure devotees, and if we manage to please Them, our trip back to Godhead is guaranteed.



This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the third year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, fourth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, on 18/10/04



  1. You said: "If besides being blessed with a human body, one becomes ‘bhagyavan’, fortunate enough to have a bonafide guru and Krishna, and takes full advantage of that, then his history in this world may have a happy end." That bonafide guru, I believe, can be each and everyone of the illuminated people of the world throughout history who have enlightened us in so many ways.

  2. In the vaisnava tradition we believe that it is very difficult to approach God directly, but if we get the favor of one who is a lover of God, then we automatically get His favor too. This is what we call a bona fide guru: a liberated soul who is fully God conscious, and whose very association surcharges others with God consciousness. He usually belongs to a standard disciplic succession and is fully conversant with the sacred texts. Indeed, we can benefit from those great souls who lived in the past by hearing and following their instructions, just like so many people still take benefit from Jesus, St.Francis, etc. But if one is fortunate enough to personally meet such a guru and be directly guided by him, that is the ideal process.