Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE helps us discriminate between what is to be done and what is not to be done. That discrimination in turn helps us rise higher and higher in spiritual life until our consciousness expands and blossoms into the spiritual world.

Consciousness expansion was a popular idea in the 1960s. Many people tried to expand their consciousness by using psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs. Others tried sensory deprivation or techniques of Eastern meditation to push past the frontiers of the rational mind. Srila Prabhupada adopted the phrase "consciousness expansion" and applied it to chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.

Prabhupada said that to expand our consciousness means to know Krsna. He is the Supreme Being and the Supreme Intelligence, and He is the first cause of the universe. Therefore, He is the source of consciousness. Although we, as infinitesimal beings, cannot expand our consciousness to become the universe, by chanting Hare Krsna we can come to know the source of the universe and therefore everything about the universe.

By encouraging us to "expand our consciousness," Srila Prabhupada was not merely employing a preaching tactic. He wanted his disciples to go beyond selfish I-centered designations and reach out with knowledge and love to all living entities. Prabhupada wanted us to have equal vision; he wanted us to be panditah sama-darsinah, self-realized souls who see all living beings with equal vision.

One time a man challenged Prabhupada, "Have you realized panditah sama-darsinah? Can you see all living beings with equal vision?" Prabhupada responded humbly by saying he did not have this vision. All he had was the order of his spiritual master, which he was working hard to carry out. The man took advantage of Prabhupada's humble statement by challenging further: "If you haven't realized panditah sama-darsinah, if all you are doing is following the order of your spiritual master, then what is your claim to greatness?" Prabhupada replied it was true that all he was doing was following the order of his guru. Then he said, "I have one vision of panditah sama-darsinah, and that is that all living entities, without discrimination, should be given Krsna consciousness." The man was impressed by Prabhupada's conviction and understood that he had truly equal vision.

If we are to expand our consciousness to see all living beings equally, then at the very least we have to recognize the fatherhood of God, Krsna. With this vision, we can preach even to an insect. And if we take Prabhupada's analogy of the bhakti-lata,the devotional creeper, we can see how to follow the expanding of consciousness to fruition.

The bhakti-lata grows from the soul, from our eternally existing identity. But in our present embodied state it is covered or we are covered and we cannot distinguish it from our bodily designations. Only when we hear instructions from the pure devotee the devotee with expanded consciousness is the devotional creeper again stirred to life.

Lord Caitanya says that the creeper grows after being watered by the words of the pure devotee. It then grows beyond the material designations, beyond the impersonal spiritual effulgence, the brahmajyoti, beyond even the Vaikuntha planets, and reaches Goloka Vrndavana, the abode of Krsna. There it flourishes and develops the fruits of love of God in one of the five primary relationships with Krsna.

The bhakti-lata grows by reaching beyond matter, by throwing off all that is false to the soul, but there is no indication that the soul grows bigger. In a sense, in order for the soul to expand in consciousness, it has to grow smaller.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote in his commentary to Lord Caitanya's Siksastakam that human beings have no true measure of their self-worth. Instead, they are hampered by an over-developed false ego, or a consciousness that has been wrongly conceived. He says that the best method of consciousness expansion is exemplified in this verse:

trnad api sunicena
taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena
kirtaniyah sada harih

"One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind, one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly." (Siksastakam, Verse 3)

Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that ideal consciousness is smaller, not bigger. He says, "Although grass is matter, its ego is natural and proportionate to it, whereas my false ego, made up of my gross and subtle bodies, is utterly illusory because it is not connected to my original spiritual self. Therefore, I ought to become more humble than a blade of grass."

Grass is modest; we are not. A blade of grass may not be able to walk and work like a human being, but it accepts that it is tiny. It accepts that others will tread on it, and it bends to that affront humbly. It knows its place.

A tree is tolerant and giving and expects no return for its generosity. Trees too are modest. We can follow the example of the tree by caring for others. That is the whole spirit of preaching. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "One who chants offenselessly is overwhelmed with thoughts of others' well-being. Thus the special quality of compassion without envy is being described."

This is the true spirit of expanded consciousness that Srila Prabhupada expected of us, and this is the model of Srila Prabhupada's own expanded, compassionate consciousness. Prabhupada was so humble that he could give Krsna consciousness to everyone without discrimination. His was the true vision of panditah sama-darsinah. As Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "He who in spite of having every reason to be proud demonstrates tolerance, humility, and a spotless heart is a fit candidate to chant purely."

We cannot imitate the maha-bhagavata, the most highly realized devotee, but at least we can practice what he teaches. By chanting Hare Krsna and practicing humility, we will realize consciousness expansion in the purest sense. We will naturally offer respects to all living entities because we will develop the equal vision in which we see them all as servants of Krsna. As our intelligence becomes purified, we will be able to associate with Krsna more and more through His holy name. Then, as our devotion grows, we will feel our smallness and never mistreat anyone as an inferior. It is then that our consciousness will begin to bear the fruits of love of God and of compassion for other living entities.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.