While philosophers argue about "the truth," Lord Krsna and
His devotees show the path to full knowledge and salvation.
A lecture given in New York, March 7, 1966
na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Bhagavad-gita 2.12
Krsna Is Trying To convince Arjuna that death does not take place. He says clearly, "I, you, and all the other kings and soldiers who have assembled on this great battlefield existed in the past; at present we are face to face, and we are seeing that we are existing; and in the future we shall also exist in the same way."
"In the same way" means individually. I am an individual person. You are an individual person. He is an individual person. The individuality of every living being is a fact. Therefore we see that we have differences of opinion. You may not agree with what I think, because you have your individuality. Similarly, another gentleman may not agree with your thinking.
So everyone has his individuality. Yet one class of philosophers says that the soul is one homogeneous entity, and that after the annihilation of the body the soul will mix with that entity. For example, water takes the shape of the pot or bowl it is in. In a round pot the water will be round, in a square container it will be square, but if you mix the water of millions of pots, there will be no distinguishing shapes. So the theory of one class of philosophers is that when a soul is liberated it mixes with the Supersoul, just as a drop of water mixes with the sea when put back into it. The soul loses its identity. That is their theory.
But here Lord Krsna says, "I, you, and all others who have come here …" The Battle of Kuruksetra was a great world war. About sixty million people took part, including all the kings of the world. And Krsna says, "They were individuals in the past, they are individuals now, and they will continue to be individuals even after the annihilation of the body."
So how will you adjust the two theories? One theory says that after liberation all souls become one, just as drops of water put into the sea become one entity, without distinction. And Lord Krsna says, "No, they keep their individuality. They do not mix."
Now, we are all ignorant laymen. But we have our discretion by which we can consider which theory is correct. For example, every one of you has some knowledge of history. Suppose you read in a history book about the world two hundred years ago. You find that all the people were individuals. And at present you can see that all living entities birds, animals, human beings are individuals. Then why should you not believe that in the future they will remain individuals? In the past they were individuals, and in the present they are individuals, so why will they not remain individuals in the future?
It is natural to conclude that they will continue to be individuals. Even if we do not have sufficient knowledge in either of these two theories mixing or remaining individual by our own small reasoning we can understand that since we have information from history that there were individuals in the past, and at present we are seeing that there are individual persons, why not in the future? How it is that in the future they'll mix and become one homogeneous thing?
Another example: Two hundred years ago in March the climate was the same as it is in March 1966. Naturally I conclude that in the future in March there will be the same climate. In astronomy also you find that on a certain date in March in 1966 the sun will rise at the same time it rose on that date in the past. The whole of astronomy is based on that principle. Astronomers prepare astronomical charts for a hundred years. How? By this calculation: in the past it was like this, at present it is like this, so naturally in future it will be like this.
Now you are speaking of the imminent springtime, because you have experience. You are foretelling. It is not really foretelling. From past experience you are saying what will take place.
So we can understand some things by our reasoning. But there are things beyond our reasoning, like God, or the existence of God. Of course, by our reasoning we take it for granted that because everything has a creator there is a God. For example, we know that this tape recorder has a manufacturer. The typewriter also has a manufacturer. Everything has a father or a manufacturer. I am created by my father. My father was created by his father. Similarly, we can naturally conclude that for the whole cosmic situation there is a creator. You see? This is simple reasoning. It is not very hard to understand.
But there are things beyond our experience, beyond our reasoning, beyond our conception. Those things are called acintya. Acintya means "inconceivable." How can we understand that which is beyond our conception? The scriptures say, acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: "By arguments alone we should not try to understand that which is beyond our conception, beyond our reasoning power, beyond the approach of our material senses."
Another Vedic injunction says, tarko 'pratistha srutayo vibhinna: "If we consult different scriptures, we'll find that one scripture is speaking something, and another scripture is speaking something different." Take cow-killing, for example. The Hindus say that cow-killing is irreligious. The Muslims say, "No, cow-killing is religious." So which scripture shall I accept? Which one is right? Therefore it is said that if you consult different scriptures, you'll find contradictory statements. Your scripture may be different from my scripture. And nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam: If you consult philosophers, you'll find that one philosopher differs with another philosopher. A "big" philosopher is one who has cut down other philosophers and put up his own theory.
Then how can one conclude what is the right path? I cannot establish it by my imperfect arguments. I cannot even consult the scriptures. Neither can I take real instruction from different philosophers. Then what is the way of getting the real thing? Dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam: "The truth of religion is very confidential, very secret." So how to know it? Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: We simply have to see how great personalities have taken up religion, and we have to follow them. That's all. For example, in the Christian religion one may not understand all the Biblical injunctions, but if one follows the ideal life of Lord Jesus Christ, one gets the same result he got. Similarly, if Muslims follow the ideal life of Hazrat Muhammad, they get the same result.
Now, in the city you can know, "I have come so far," because the streets are numbered and you know the location of this house or that house. But in the country every place is similar the same jungle, the same field, the same grass. We do not know where we are going. I have experience of the sea. When I was coming from India I saw water everywhere. I could not tell which way the ship was proceeding. But the captain had a chart. He was calculating our position by latitude, longitude, time. In the Mediterranean Sea I asked the captain, "Where are we now?" He said, "We are so many miles from Italy. We are so many miles from Tunisia. Now we are coming to Gibraltar." But I was seeing only vast water. I kept thinking, "Just after ten miles I shall reach America."
So what are those charts? The charts are made by experienced sailors. The captain was consulting the chart because it was made by experienced sailors. Similarly, in calculating where to find salvation we have to follow the liberated souls. The difference between the conditioned soul and liberated soul is that a conditioned soul is imperfect in four ways: A conditioned soul is sure to commit mistakes, is in illusion, has the tendency to cheat others, and has imperfect senses.
Therefore, knowledge should be taken from a liberated soul. Why is the Bhagavad-gita so honored? The Gita was spoken in India, and people take it to be a scripture of the Hindus. So why are you Americans reading the Gita? In other countries also Germany, England, Japan there are great scholars of the Gita. Why? Because it is spoken by a great personality.
We Hindus accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But others, even though they don't accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, accept at least that He was a great personality. Therefore, they also consult the knowledge of the Gita.
My point is that when such a great personality as Krsna speaks, His version is right. And Krsna confirms what we understand from our practical experience: There were individuals in the past, there are individuals at present, and there will continue to be individuals. We know this by our common sense, and it is confirmed by Sri Krsna, whom we call the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Krsna says, na tv evaham jatu nasam: "Don't think that I did not exist in the past." That means, "I was Sri Krsna in the past just as I am Sri Krsna at present. And you and the others are also individuals." Na caiva na bhavisyamah: "And don't think that we shall not remain." Sarve means "we all." It is plural. Janadhipah "kings" is also plural. Krsna says, "They are all individual souls."
The individual soul continues to exist. That is the version of the Bhagavad-gita. It is better to accept this version without unnecessarily commenting upon it or interpreting it in a different way. Interpretation is bad. A scripture should not be interpreted. A scripture should be taken as it is. When is interpretation required? When a thing is not properly understood. Otherwise, there is no need to interpret.
For example, someone may say, "Such and such village is on the sea." Now, the person who hears that may be confused: "How is that? How can there be a town on the water?" An explanation is required. The explanation is that "on the sea" does not mean "in the midst of the sea" but "on the bank of the sea." That is a needed interpretation.
But there is no need to interpret something that is very clear to everyone. Here the statement of Bhagavad-gita, as spoken by Lord Krsna, is very clear: "I, you, and all these people assembled here are individual persons. They were individual persons in the past, at present we see that they are individual persons, and they will continue to be individual persons."
I may not know what they will become in the future, but because Krsna is God His statement should be accepted. That acceptance makes my knowledge perfect. I'll give you a simple example. If a little boy asks his mother, "Who is my father?" the mother will reply, "Here is your father." If the child says, "I don't believe that he is my father," is it possible to convince him in any other way than the statement of the mother? No. Her statement is the final word. And if the boy says, "I don't believe it," that is his foolishness.
Similarly, a thing beyond our conception, beyond our limit of knowledge, should be taken from the authority. So here is an authority: Sri Krsna. His authority is accepted all over the world. In India there are five disciplic successions of authorities, made up of the Vaisnavites and the followers of Sankaracarya. Generally, there are two groups: impersonalists and personalists. There are four personalist schools: Ramanuja Sampradaya (the followers of Acarya Ramanuja), Madhvacarya Sampradaya, (the followers of Madhvacarya), Nimbarka Sampradaya, (the followers of Nimbarka Acarya), and Visnusvami Sampradaya (the followers of Visnusvami). Although they are four, their conclusion is the same. And a differing sect is the Sankara Sampradaya. But although these five sections of Hindus have different theses and philosophies, they all accept Sri Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Sripada Sankaracarya is considered an impersonalist, one who does not believe in the personal form of God. But, still, he has admitted in Sankara-bhasya, his Bhagavad-gita commentary, "Sri Krsna is the Personality of Godhead." The Vaisnavites naturally admit that Krsna is God because they are believers from the beginning. But even Sankaracarya, an impersonalist, has clearly written, sa bhagavan svayam krsnah:"Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
In the Vedic scriptures there are many verses giving evidence that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Brahma-samhita states,
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
Isvara means "lord." Lord means "controller" or "proprietor." You have some lordship over your environment, he has some lordship, I have some lordship, the President has some lordship. In this way you'll find different degrees of lordship. But here it is said that the Lord in the supreme, superlative degree is Krsna. Above Him there is no other Lord.
In this world we find that you are a bigger lord than I, he is a bigger lord than you, and someone is a bigger lord than he. In this way you can come to the lordship of the President. Then you can find a person who is more than the President, and then a person who is more than that person. But when you reach Sri Krsna by such an analytical process, you'll find that no one is greater than or equal to Him. Therefore Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So when Krsna says something, we must agree to accept it. If we don't agree, that will not be beneficial for us.
What Krsna says in today's verse is confirmed in the Vedic literature: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. Nitya means "eternal." We are all eternal. Among all the eternal living entities, Krsna is the chief. This is a definition of God. Cetananah means "conscious." We are all conscious beings. Krsna is the supreme conscious being.
Now, of course, there are some yoga schools in America that do not believe in God. But the yoga principle does not deny the existence of God. I have brought an authoritative book by two great professors of Calcutta University. The book is called Introduction to Indian Philosophy. After having studied all the philosophies of India, the authors have given a nutshell idea of each philosophical system.
They write, "Yoga, as distinguished from the Sankhya, is theistic." The yoga system was introduced by Patanjali, a great authority. These professors have studied carefully. Their book is very authoritative. This is the sixth edition, and it is used in universities all over the world. The authors, Dr. Chatterjee and Dr. Datta, are recognized scholars. I am therefore reading their opinion. What do they say? The yoga system is theistic.
They also write, "According to the yoga [system], God is the Supreme Person." Now, you have been in so many yoga societies. Did you ever hear there that God is the Supreme Person? Yet in the Bhagavad-gita,Lord Krsna is telling us about the future and the past because He is perfect. He can see both past and future.
Because we are not perfect, we do not know past and future. Say your age is thirty-five years. Can you say where you were thirty-six years ago? You cannot say. Or suppose you live for a hundred years. Can you say where you shall be after a hundred years? You cannot say, because you are imperfect. But God is not imperfect. God is the perfect being.
The yoga system also accepts that conclusion. According to the yoga system, God is the Supreme Person, who is, above all, individual. Every living entity is individual. But this particular individual God is free from all defects. And because He's free from all defects, His statements are without defect. We must admit, "Because I am imperfect, my statements are also imperfect. I have no idea of the past and future."
How can I say that in the future you will be like this, or in the past you were like this? I cannot say. Only He who can see past, present, and future can say.
Today's verse is the statement of the Supreme Person. We have to believe it. If we don't believe it, then we are the losers.
God is the perfect being, eternal and all-pervading. You are present before me as a person, but you are absent from your residence. But God is not like that. Although Krsna is present before Arjuna, instructing him, Krsna's all-pervading at the same time. A crude example: At midday, you see that the sun is above your head. If you ask a friend five thousand miles away, "Where is the sun?" he'll say, "It is above my head." So if a material thing can be "all-pervading," is it not possible for the supreme spiritual being? He must be.
The Vedic scriptures also say that God is the eternal perfect being. His consciousness is eternal. Because He has eternal consciousness He can say, "You and I and all these beings were like this." He has actually experienced what I was in my previous birth. But because my consciousness is not eternal, I have forgotten. And I cannot say what I shall be in my next birth.
These are the distinctions between God and us. If we falsely claim, "I am God. I am that supreme consciousness," that is lunacy. We should not indulge in such talk, and anyone teaching in that way is cheating. It is not possible that we are God the perfect being who is eternal, all-pervading, omnipotent, omniscient.
All living entities except God are subjected to ignorance and egoism. Without having God's qualifications, one declares, "I am God." This is egoism. All of us are subject to the reactions of our acts. If we do something good, we reap a good result. If we do something bad, we reap a bad result. And because we are defective, we do good things and bad things.
God is all-good. If we follow God or His representative, we become good. Because they are good, they cannot give you bad direction. Therefore everyone should follow the instruction of God. That is devotional service. No one should deviate from the service of the Lord.
The whole Bhagavad-gita is teaching that principle. Today's verse is from the beginning of the Gita. And at the end the Lord will say to Arjuna:
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
"Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all reactions of sinful life." If we want to be all-good, we have to follow the instructions of the all-good. That will make our life perfect.
Thank you very much.