When we're ready, Krsna will release us from the grip of illusion and bring us to His world of freedom.
A lecture given in New York, July 25, 1966
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." (Bhagavad-gita 4.9)
LORD KRSNA SAYS, "My birth and activities are all transcendental, and anyone who can understand the transcendental activities, appearance, and disappearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in truth becomes a liberated person. Tyaktvameans "by quitting." By giving up the present material body, he is at once transferred to the spiritual world. He does not have to come back to the material world to get another material body. He at once develops his own spiritual body just like Krsna's. This is the process: Simply by understanding Krsna's transcendental activities, appearance, and disappearance, one becomes fully spiritualized.
The spiritual body is already existing. I am spirit. I have my spiritual body, but that body is now covered by matter. So by understanding the transcendental activities of Sri Krsna, by Krsna consciousness, one can become liberated. And what is the result of that liberation? That is stated in the Eighth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (8.16). The Lord says, mam upetya tu kaunteya duhkhalayam asasvatam napnuvanti … "My dear Arjuna, Kaunteya (son of Kunti), please note that anyone who comes to Me does not come again to the material world, which is duhkhalayam, a place of misery."
The Place of Misery and Impermanence
The material world is certified by the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a place of misery. Now, if this place is made for that purpose just to give us miseries only how can you make it a place of happiness? The place is meant for misery. So Lord Krsna says, "Anyone who comes back to Me doesn't have to return to this place of miseries."
We are deluded, illusioned. We are accepting this place as a permanent settlement. We are making plans, so many plans, to make a permanent settlement, but the Lord says not only that this is a world full of misery, but also that you cannot remain here permanently. However you plan to live here permanently, you cannot live here. You have to give up this place. You can spoil your energy trying to make this material world very comfortable, or you may live for some years very comfortably, but cruel death will come and snatch you from your comfortable position and put you into another position. And this is beyond your control. You cannot say, "I have made my position secure. I have become comfortable by great endeavor, by advancement of economic development, by advancement of material science. Let me remain here. I am happy."
Time will say, "No, that will not be allowed. You must leave at once, without delay."
When your President Kennedy was in a procession and the time came, he had to leave everything at once at once without any hesitation. You cannot hesitate.
We are in the grip of the material nature. However we may declare ourselves independent, we are not independent. We are dependent, completely dependent. We may foolishly mislead ourselves with a false sense of independence, but we are completely under the control of the material nature. The material nature is so strong that to get out of our entanglement is very difficult. But there is a way. That is described in the Bhagavad-gita: mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te: "Anyone who surrenders unto Me [Krsna] can easily cross beyond the material energy." The whole process of material nature is going on under the principle that we must go back to the eternal world to get our eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
These things are awaiting us. But if we do not try to attain that sublime position and we spoil our energy trying to adjust this temporary material world, that is our foolishness. In the Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (7.15) the Lord says:
na mam duskrtino mudha
"There are persons who are miscreants, foolish, the lowest of humankind, and who have been plundered of their real knowledge by the stringent laws of material nature. Such people do not come unto Me."
If we study Bhagavad-gita, we have to take Bhagavad-gita as it is. We cannot give our own interpretation just to suit our purpose. It has already been explained in this Fourth Chapter that the Bhagavad-gita is understood by the parampara system, the disciplic succession. So we have to take this knowledge from the disciplic succession. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken some millions of years ago to the sun-god. That is also stated in the Gita. The sun-god taught Bhagavad-gita to Manu, and Manu instructed Iksvaku. In this way the Bhagavad-gita comes by disciplic succession. But during the time of the Kuruksetra war, that great philosophy of the yoga system Bhagavad-gita was lost, and therefore Lord Krsna again taught it to Arjuna. Therefore if we want to understand Bhagavad-gita, we have to understand it as Arjuna understood it. That is the process.
No Birth and Death
Here the Lord says, "My appearance and disappearance …" Mark these words appearance and disappearance. The words birth and death are not applicable to the Lord. Birth and death apply to the material body. The material body has its birth, and the material body has its death. But the spiritual body is eternal. It has neither birth nor death. Therefore in relation to the spiritual body, the exact language to be used is "appearance and disappearance."
I have several times given the example of the sun. The sun appears and disappears. For the sun there is no question of birth and death, because the sun is eternal. So when the Lord comes, He is just like the sun appearing and disappearing. That we do not see Krsna does not mean that He is not present.
Of course, when we acquire the transcendental sense we will see Krsna through the Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavad-gita is Krsna. It is not different from Krsna. That is the sense of absolute knowledge. In the absolute world there is no difference between the person and the person's words. My words or my songs are being recorded on a tape recorder, but they are different from me. This is the world of duality. But in the absolute world, there is no such difference.
We are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. The name Krsna and the personality Krsna are the same. When I hear the transcendental sound vibration Krsna, that means Krsna is on my tongue, on my ear. Therefore, if we chant this vibration of transcendental sound with devotion and attention, that is the highest type of meditation and yoga.
And it is very easy. The process is that you chant Hare Krsna and you hear exactly the same sound. So your mind is concentrated on the sound Krsna, and Krsna is not different from that sound. Therefore when we chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the chanting is as good as Krsna. Therefore it is stated here, "My appearance, disappearance, activities, and glories are divyam." Divyam means transcendental. They do not belong to this world of duality.
The Higher Nature
Transcendental means above duality. That is the nature of the absolute world. So one is liberated by understanding these facts that Krsna is not different from the sound Krsna, that Krsna is not different from the Bhagavad-gita, that Krsna is not different from anything connected with Krsna. These things are to be understood.
The whole world is a manifestation of the energy of Krsna. There are two kinds of energy: the lower energy and the higher energy. The higher energy manifests the living entities. We living entities belong to the higher nature of the Supreme Lord. Jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat. This world is made of the lower, material nature, and the higher nature is the living entity. But anything connected with Krsna enters the higher nature. Even material things dovetailed with Krsna consciousness turn into the higher nature.
I have several times given this example: If you put an iron rod in the fire, it becomes warm, warmer, and gradually it becomes red hot. When it is red hot, it is transformed into the nature of fire. It is no longer iron. Similarly, if you constantly remain in Krsna consciousness, you at once transfer yourself to the higher nature of Krsna, and that is your liberation. And if we can die in the higher nature, then this formula applies: tyaktva deham punar janma naiti "He does not come back to the material world."
So we have to practice Krsna consciousness in such a way that we shall permanently exist in the higher nature. And if we can die in that higher nature, then our place in the transcendental world is reserved. That is the whole thing. In India there is a common saying: bhajan koro pujan koro murte janle haya. The meaning is that you may be a great meditator, or you may be a great religionist or yogi or a very learned scholar or whatever you may be but everything will be tested at the time of your death.
How far you have progressed will be tested at the time of your death. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita: yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram. Ante means "at the end." The body is sure to end. Antavanta ime deha. The body is antavat: it is destined to end. "As sure as death." But nityasyoktah saririnah. Saririnah means the spirit spark occupying the body. That is nitya, eternal. The whole process is that the eternal has to get rid of the nonpermanent material contact. And he has to take leave for the spiritual world.
During our present life we have to practice in such a way that we remain constantly in the higher nature, in the spiritual nature, like an iron rod in the fire. Not that for one or two hours we make this association and try to be in the higher nature but after leaving this place we again turn to the lower nature. No. Whatever we hear from this place we should try to understand clearly without any doubt. For example, Lord Krsna says that anyone who understands His appearance, disappearance, and activities all these transcendental things goes back to the kingdom of Godhead after leaving this body. Now, this fact should be clearly understood. So I am trying to make you understand clearly how it can be possible. We have to understand everything scrutinizingly. In the Bhagavad-gita you will find, tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya: One has to learn all these things from the person who is in knowledge of them. It is not that simply by purchasing a Bhagavad-gita we understand everything. No. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. You have to approach a person who is in the knowledge of the thing. Without this, you cannot understand. It is recommended. It is essential.
Our propensity to inquire about the higher nature should be awakened. In the lower nature we are busy with eating, sleeping, defending, and sense gratification. We should not be satisfied simply remaining in the lower nature. The human life is meant for developing the higher nature. The Vedanta-sutra therefore says, athato brahma-jijnasa: Now we have the developed consciousness of the human body. Now is the time for asking about the Supreme Brahman.
So the higher nature has to be developed. This transcendental association is meant for developing that higher nature. We must understand the higher nature, as recommended in the Vedas. In all the scriptures it is said that without approaching a person who can teach you of the higher nature, you cannot develop the higher nature. You have the higher nature, but to invoke that higher nature requires the assistance of a person in the higher nature. That is recommended.
Accepting Higher Authority
If someone says, "I don't require the help of any spiritual master," that is wrong. In our Vedic culture, great learned scholars such as Sankaracarya Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka, and Lord Caitanya all accepted a spiritual master. In India there have been many, many great scholars, and they all accepted a spiritual master. Even Krsna. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had a spiritual master because He wanted to show the example. He did not require under any circumstances to acquire knowledge from anyone, but because He was playing just like a human being He set the example of accepting a spiritual master. That is the system. Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh. The disciplic succession must be accepted.
Now, just as we are trying to understand from Krsna, Arjuna is trying to understand. Arjuna said to Krsna, sisyas te 'ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam: "I am surrendering unto You. Oh, accept me as Your disciple." Sisya means disciple. Sas-dhatu is the verb from which this word sisya comes. Sisya means one who voluntarily accepts the disciplinary measures from the higher authority. He is called a sisya.
So to be situated in the higher nature, we have to approach a person like Krsna or His representative. Arjuna got the instruction of the Bhagavad-gita, and he developed the higher nature. We have to take the knowledge from Arjuna as it is. We have to keep ourselves always in the higher nature. Then we will be prepared for the time of death. One day we will have to give up the body. I am now seventy years old. My days are numbered. I'll have to give up this body. The warning is already there.
So we have to prepare ourselves. For example, when going from New York to California, you have to reserve a seat and make many arrangements. Similarly, we must know that we have to leave the body, and we must prepare for that. If we don't prepare for that and all of a sudden death comes, our whole life is spoiled.
So we have to think of Krsna. This is the easiest process: to think of the activities of Krsna, how He appears, how He disappears. We must try to understand these things. This inquisitiveness is transcendental inquiry. And we must know the answers from persons who are in knowledge. That way we shall be able to put ourselves constantly in Krsna consciousness. The result will be that by quitting the body we shall be at once transferred to the transcendental world. This is the process.
Thank you very much.