Bhaktivinode Thakura said, krsnera samsara kara chadi 'anacara: everyone can engage in family or worldly life, but one simply has to abandon his destructive habits. This is not a question of negation; it is positive understanding. Simply negating material existence by impersonal voidist philosophy, in India called Mayavadi philosophy, is not sufficient. There must be a positive platform. Without it, simply giving up something negative will not in itself help us progress in spiritual life. If we have no positive destination, simply abandoning or trying to abandon our present condition is of no value.
Spirit Has Form
There are two kinds of Mayavadi philosophy. One, called voidism, for lack of a more positive name, states that the origin of everything is simply void. Generally, Buddhist philosophy advocates voidism in that the Buddhists maintain that this material existence is a combination of material elements and that when these material elements are dismantled, whatever was formed by the combination again becomes void. We may bring some iron, wood, stone, cement and other ingredients together to make a large house, but when we separate the bricks, iron, wood and so on, the construction becomes void. The voidists maintain that material miseries arise from a combination of matter. The bodies of living entities are certainly combinations of material elements earth, water, fire, air, ether and subtle elements such as mind, intelligence, and false ego. These are all considered material, and somehow or other they are combined to make an abode of misery. The voidists say, "Separate them and there will be no more happiness or distress."
The other Mayavadi philosopher, the impersonalist, says, brahma satyam jagan-mithya: this material combination is false, but behind it there is spirit. This is also a fact because matter can only grow when there is spirit within. If a child is born dead, it will not grow even if we somehow keep it chemically preserved. The body will not develop unless the spirit soul is present within. It is a generally accepted fact that matter grows because of spirit, but the impersonalists say that this spirit is impersonal, that it has no form and is formless. The Krsna consciousness philosophy takes exception to both of these theories of the Mayavadi philosophers.
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness maintains that spirit is a fact and that indeed the spirit has form. If one's body is round and bulky, one's suit, his coat and pants, will also be round and bulky. Because the body has arms and legs, one's suit has them also. The external material body is compared to one's clothes in that it covers the spirit soul. If the spiritual body, which the material body clothes, is void, then why does the material body have form? The impersonalists cannot answer this, but Bhagavad-gitaexplains it clearly:
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
"As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." (Bg. 2.22)
Once we had the bodies of infants and children, but now those bodies are changed. When this body becomes too old, the spirit soul gives it up and accepts another. The spirit soul has form, but it is so small that its length and breadth cannot be estimated by material means. Material scientists can only estimate intermediate manifestations; they cannot estimate the smallest, and they cannot estimate the greatest. In other words, they cannot measure the vastness of outer space, nor can they measure the minuscular particle which is the spirit soul. Indeed, the spirit soul is so infinitesimally small that it is stated in Vedic literatures to be no larger than one ten thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. In other words, it cannot be seen by the most powerful microscope available. Modern science has no suitable instrument to actually measure the soul. Consequently, out of frustration they say that the soul is formless. In actuality, however, the soul is not formless; they simply have no instrument to measure it, that's all.
Similarly, because the impersonalists cannot measure the greatest and the smallest, the infinite and the infinitesimal, they say that God and the spirit soul are formless. The Krsna consciousness philosophy, however, maintains that both God and the individual soul have form. The difference is that God is infinite and the spirit soul is infinitesimal. Otherwise they are qualitatively one, just as a drop of sea water and the great sea itself are qualitatively one. Quantitatively there is no comparing the sea and the drop of water, just as there is no comparing the individual soul with the supreme soul. According to the Krsna consciousness philosophy, one should accept one's position as a drop in comparison to the infinite. As often said, God is great, and we are small; our position is to serve the great. That is natural, for everywhere we find the smaller serving the greater. God is great, greater than anything else, and since nothing is equal to Him, it is the constitutional position of all living entities to serve Him. That rendering of service is called Krsna consciousness.
Negating Material Existence
Instead of artificially attempting to negate material existence, the members of this society for Krsna consciousness are trying to enter into a real existence by chanting the Hare Krsna mahamantra, studying the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, and rendering service to the society which is devoted to spreading the philosophy of Krsna consciousness throughout the world. In this way material existence is automatically negated by entering into the reality. When we come to the reality, we automatically become healthy in the sense that we become freed from this material disease, which is symptomized by the material body which is always full of disease. It is not that because we are diseased we have form and that when we become free from disease we become formless. This is the Mayavadi contention, and it is nonsense. At what stage in our development do we become formless? The impersonalists say that the formless state is attained at death, but in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, "For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain." (Bg. 2.27) It is not possible, therefore, to remain in a formless situation. The point is that we should keep our form but keep it in a healthy condition. This means realizing our spiritual form or spiritual identity, which is svarupa. It is an insanity to think, "Because I have this form, I am feeling pain and pleasure, so now let me become formless." This is strictly a materialistic view of the form of the spirit soul. The real point is to keep the form in a healthy condition; this healthy condition is called mukti, or liberation from material conceptions.
How is this possible? All one has to do is simply dovetail everything to Krsna, to steep one's life in Krsna consciousness. For example, under the spell of maya, people are moved to dance. In any case, dancing will continue, but in one case one person is dancing in the ballroom for his own personal gratification, and another person is dancing in a temple for the satisfaction of Krsna. There is a vast difference between the two. Ballroom dancing is conducted on the platform of the material body, but in Krsna consciousness dancing is on the spiritual platform. Therefore the Society for Krishna Consciousness invites everyone to come dance and sing to relish transcendental pleasure. That is the real program of this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not very difficult; a child can also dance and clap. By real singing and dancing, we can make advancement in spiritual life. The living entity can continue singing, dancing, eating, sleeping, and mating, but he should permeate these things with Krsna consciousness or God consciousness. Everyone is seeking after eternal happiness, and this is the program. There is no question of trying to merge with the void or become formless.
The Dance of Eternity
In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that our next body is determined by our mental condition at the time of death. How does this happen? Lord Krsna gives the following example:
sariram yad avapnoti
yac capy utkramatisvarah
vayur gandhan ivasayat
srotram caksuh sparsanam ca
rasanam ghranam eva ca
adhisthaya manas cayam
utkramantam sthitam vapi
bhunjanam va gunanvitam
"The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life, as the air carries aromas. Thus does he take one kind of body and again quit it to take another. The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a particular type of ear, sense of touch, tongue, and nose, centered about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects. The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, or what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see." (Bg. 15.8-10)
The air carries the aroma of roses from a rose garden, but if the air happens to pass over a sewer, it will carry the obnoxious odor of waste products. The air is pure, but according to the situation it carries either pleasing or unpleasing odors. The spirit soul is also pure, being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but due to its association with material nature it is manifest in different bodies. Different bodies are constantly being acquired. It is a fact that even in our present life we pass through so many different bodies a baby's body, a child's body, a boy's, a young man's, a mature man's, and finally an old man's. Finally, when in old age the body becomes useless, we accept another body. This is called transmigration of the soul.
Our next body will be created according to the consciousness which we are presently culturing. Therefore this human form of life is especially meant for cultivating Krsna consciousness so that when we leave this body and accept another, we get a body like Krsna's that is, a sac-cid-ananda body, an eternal body of bliss and knowledge. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement. We are trying to change the consciousness of all peoples so that they can get a body exactly like Krsna's in their next life. In a spiritual body like Krsna's, it is possible to dance with Krsna in the rasa dance of eternity. That is the highest goal a living entity can attain; personal association with Krsna.
Those who are actually in knowledge know what kind of bodies they will get in the next life. A man knows that he is going to London because he purchases an airplane ticket for that destination. Similarly, anyone can know where he is going after death by knowing the consciousness he has cultivated during this life. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that one takes his next body in accordance to the particular mode predominating at one's death: those who die in the mode of ignorance attain animal bodies and the bodies of those in the lower species. One who dies in the mode of passion attains a human form on a planet like the earth; and one who dies in the mode of goodness is promoted to the higher planetary systems and attains a body like a demigod. All of these bodies, however, are temporary. If one is fortunate to die in Krsna consciousness, he attains an eternal body like Krsna's and associates with the Supreme Lord in His eternal abode. Once that body is attained, it is not changed. Therefore from the scriptures we can understand that the people in general have to be taught to live in the mode of goodness. At least in this way they'll be guaranteed a life in a higher planetary system, if not liberation.
The Vedic civilization is thus meant to elevate people. At the present moment we are most fallen, having been put in this material world as criminals. Wanting to enjoy material nature, we have been put here to attempt this enjoyment, and consequently wherever we go we see people struggling hard to enjoy themselves. Everyone is thinking, "I shall enjoy myself and become great. I shall become prime minister or president. I shall be a big merchant or a big leader." When the living entity fails at everything, he finally thinks, "Now I shall become God." All of these aspirations, even the desire to become God, are material. Therefore Krsna says that we cannot become happy by practicing a religious system which is based on the idea of increasing sense enjoyment or becoming one with God.
Some religious systems maintain that by practicing certain religious principles one can go to the heavenly planets and enjoy beautiful women and drink soma juice for ten thousand years. This may sound like a great promotion to a mere earthling, but as anyone can see this is simply a more advanced materialistic life. There is nothing spiritual about it. When one finally understands that there can be no actual happiness in this way, he declares the material world to be false, saying, "This universe is false now let me search out Brahman." Unfortunately this philosophy negates the spark of enjoyment which is within every living entity. The scriptures say that such elevated persons, believing this world to be false and not knowing Krsna, become impersonalists and voidists to detach themselves from false engagements and negate material enjoyments. Many religious systems are manufactured on such a platform how to enjoy oneself to the fullest extent and how to become zero. Actually we are neither enjoyers nor are we zeros; therefore Krsna rejects any religious system which is based on false renunciation or material enjoyment. We mistakenly take this material world as a fact and consequently try to enjoy it, and when we become frustrated, we try to make it zero. Actually it is not zero, nor is there any cause for frustration. We simply have to receive the right knowledge regarding it.
This right knowledge is given in Bhagavad-gita by Lord Krsna, who says:
bharta bhokta mahesvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto
dehe 'smin purusah parah
samam sarvesu bhutesu
yah pasyati sa pasyati
"In this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who is existing as overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul. One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees." (Bg 13.23, 28)
If we simply understand that Krsna is the only enjoyer, our propensity to become false enjoyers will be vanquished. We must simply admit: "I am not the enjoyer; Krsna is the enjoyer." If we understand this, there is no question of renunciation. Krsna also says, "I am the proprietor of all planetary systems." If this is the case, and it is, then what is there for us to renounce? Since Krsna is the proprietor of everything, there is no question of renunciation, and if He is the only enjoyer, there is no meaning to our separate or independent enjoyment. If we try to enjoy or usurp another's property, we become thieves, and if we renounce the property of another, we become pretenders, for in actuality we have nothing to renounce. This is our position, and one who knows this perfectly well is to be known to be situated in Krsna consciousness.
We should know for certain that Krsna is not poor. Isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord." (Isopanisad, Mantra 1) If we remain satisfied with whatever is given to us by Krsna, and if we remain in Krsna consciousness, always thinking, "My father is so kind and rich. Let me abide by His orders and live peacefully," then the world and ourselves will actually become peaceful. But as soon as we want to encroach on another's property and enjoy more than is allotted us by the Lord, we automatically become criminals. In order to become free from criminal offenses, we have to abide by the many prescriptions given in the scriptures. These prescriptions are of the nature of tapasyaor penance. One is practicing tapasya when he would like to steal another's property but thinks, "No, it would be criminal. My father said that it is criminal, and therefore I shall not take it." We all have the inclination to steal, to usurp other's things, but we must restrain ourselves and act in accordance to the laws of Krsna, who is our Father.
This process may at first seem a little difficult, but if we actually study Krsna consciousness we will not only understand Krsna but will be happy and liberated. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that if one simply understands Him, as He is, he will be liberated. Understanding Krsna superficially is not real knowledge. Krsna also states in Bhagavad-gita that it is very difficult to understand Him, but despite this if one is fortunate and sincere, he can readily understand. Krsna says that there is no truth higher than Him, and if one is fortunate enough to understand this and follow the advice of Krsna, he is on the path of liberation. One who has the fortune to discriminate can understand Krsna very easily, but the association of devotees is also required. It is very difficult to know Krsna when one is removed from the association of Krsna's devotees, and therefore this International Society for Krishna Consciousness is formed in order to give everyone an opportunity to associate with devotees of Krsna and also become devotees. This movement is open to everyone because Krsna is everyone's father. We should not think that Krsna is a Hindu God or is for the Indians and not the others. He is for everyone. If He were not, how could He be God? God cannot be God simply for a particular type of man or for a particular section of society. God is God for all human beings, beasts, aquatics, insects, trees, plants all the varieties of creation. That is God. When we come to understand Him in His universality, and when we come to realize our relationship with Him, we will have arrived at Krsna consciousness.