A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Without this preliminary spiritual knowledge, Lord Krsna says, one is a fool.

sri bhagavan uvaca
asocyan anvasocas tvam / prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca / nanusocanti panditah

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: "While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead." Bhagavad-gita 2.11

HERE KRSNA IS IDENTIFIED as bhagavan, or God. I have given the definition of bhagavan: a person who is full in all opulences wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation. If you find a person who has all these opulences in full, He is God. With this understanding, it will be very difficult to accept an ordinary man as God.

You'll find that in the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna was convinced that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But because in the future others would have doubts about Krsna, Arjuna requested Krsna, "Will You show me Your universal form?" Krsna agreed and showed it to him. So now an intelligent man may test a so-called God by asking, "Just show something that proves you are God." Without showing something simply by false advertisement one cannot be God.

Our mistake is that we do not know what is God. We think that God may be just like one of us. No. The God who controls the huge affairs of universal administration cannot be like one of us. He is superconscious.

Transmigration of the Soul

To understand God, first we must understand our self, or the soul within the body. The existence of life is very subtle. Our gross body is made of earth, water, fire, air, and sky. And behind that is a subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego. When I give up the gross body, the subtle body carries me to another gross body. So when my body is lifeless, the subtle body is not. At night, for example, when the gross body is asleep the subtle body works, and therefore we dream. Similarly, when the gross body dies the subtle body carries us to the next life.

I have explained in the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is how a person changes bodies. When the mind, intelligence, and ego of a dying person are absorbed in a certain kind of thought, that thought takes him to a suitable body for the next life. Just as the air is pure but when passing over a rose tree it carries the aroma of the rose and when passing over a filthy place it carries the smell of that filthy place, so the mind, intelligence, and ego carry the flavor of our present activities to the next life. That is the subtle mystery of the transmigration of the soul from one body to another.

If in our present life we purify our consciousness, then in our next life we shall get a body full of transcendental "flavor." If in our present life we practice devotion to God, then our next life will be as an associate of God. The whole thing is in our hands. If we want to be degraded, we can prepare ourselves in this life for degradation in the next. And if we want to elevate ourselves to the highest perfection of life to become one of the associates of God we can prepare ourselves for that. How?

Beyond the Gross and Subtle Bodies

Let me give an example: Since people are now trying to go to the moon, they cultivate thoughts of the moon, first by hearing. Unless you hear about a place, you cannot desire to abide there. Our friend Mr. Cohen has left for California. I have no understanding of California, but Mr. Cohen has told me that after reaching there he'll write with a description of the place. Now, suppose if after reading that description I think of going there. Then I'll prepare myself "Oh, I must go there." Similarly, when I described to you the spiritual world, you were very much pleased and thought, "I must go there." So we have to hear. Unless we hear what God is like, what sort of place He has, what the mode of life is there, we cannot be attracted.

Now, to go to the spiritual world, we must first get free from the two bodies in which we are now living the gross body and the subtle body. Suppose a man's gross body appears dead. One must know that the subtle body has carried him to another body. The subtle body has not lost life. The life is there.

But when you get liberation, the subtle body the egoistic life has to be left also. And since in any case the body has to be left, why should one cry for the body? Therefore Krsna says to Arjuna, "A learned man does not lament over the body. One who is actually learned has no concern for the body. He's concerned with the activities of the soul. You are speaking so many things according to bodily relations 'If my friends die, their wives will become widows …' You are posing as a learned man, but you are fool number one because your whole conception is based on the body. Your whole argument with Me was based on the body."

Anyone who identifies with the body is not a learned man; he's a fool. He may be a B.A., an M.A., a Ph.D., but if he identifies with the body then according to Bhagavad-gita and according to the Vedic literature he's not a learned man. That is the first instruction in spiritual life. If we want to progress toward spiritual advancement in knowledge, we must have this preliminary knowledge: "I am not the body." This is not an advanced understanding. This is simply the A-B-C-D of spiritual life.

A Society of Cows and Asses

In the Bhagavatam there is a very nice verse in this connection:

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma-ijya-dhih

Kunape means "bag," and tri-dhatuke refers to the three elements that make up the body. According to the Ayurvedic medical system, the body is made of three elements: kapha, pitta, vayu (cold or water, heat or fire, and air). Therefore the body is called a bag made of these three elements. The Bhagavatam says, "One who identifies with the body made of water, fire, and air, who thinks of the issues or by-products of the body as his own kinsmen, who sees the land from which the body has grown as worshipable, and who goes to places of pilgrimage simply to bathe is considered no better than a cow or an ass."

My children, my wife, my relatives, my father, my mother, my brother, my nation, my society these ideas are all due to bodily relations. There are thousands of women in the streets of New York, but because I have a bodily relation with a particular woman, I call her my wife. And because I have a bodily relation with the children produced by her, they are my children. But the basic principle "I am this body" is wrong. And because I am not the body, the expansions of the body are not mine. But the whole world is going on under under the false impression that the body is the self and that the expansions of the body are mine.

The fighting between one nation and another nation is due to the body. Now everyone is fighting for land. "Oh, we are Indian." "We are Pakistani." "We are Vietnamese." "We are Americans." "We are German." So much fighting is going on over land. The land has become worshipable, so worshipable that one sacrifices his valuable life for it. Why is the land so dear? Because the body has grown from it. Again, the bodily connection.

Now, in the Christian world the water of the Jordan River is considered sacred. Similarly, when Hindus go to some pilgrimage place they bathe in the sacred river there. But one should know that going to a sacred place does not mean simply bathing in the water there. The real point of going to a sacred place is to find intelligent scholars in spiritual knowledge, to associate with them, and to learn from them. That is the purpose of going to a place of pilgrimage.

My residence is Vrndavana. In Vrndavana many great scholars and saintly persons live. One should go to such holy places not simply to bathe in the water; one must be intelligent enough to find some spiritually advanced man living there and take instruction from him and be benefited by that. But people do not go to find saints. They simply bathe and purchase some goods and advertise, "Oh, I have been to such and such pilgrimage place."

The Bhagavatam says that such persons are considered cows or asses. Practically the whole world is moving as a civilization of cows and asses because our whole life is based on identification with the body. The center is the body, and everything expands from the body.

Perfection in Spiritual Knowledge

A woman in the audience: In the Indian places known as sacred places, isn't it also a fact that there is more magnetism there because of the meeting of saints?

Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. Therefore the place itself has got some magnetism just like Vrndavana. Now I am sitting here in New York the world's greatest city but my heart is always hankering after Vrndavana. I am not happy here. I shall be very happy to return to my Vrndavana, that sacred place.

"But then why are you here?" Because it is my duty. I have brought some message for you people. Because I have been ordered by a superior, my spiritual master: "Whatever you have learned, you should go to the Western countries and distribute that knowledge." So in spite of all my difficulties, all my inconveniences, I am here because of duty. If I go and sit down at Vrndavana, I shall be very comfortable there. I'll have no anxiety, nothing of the sort. You see? But I have taken all the risk in old age because I am duty bound. So I have to execute my duty in spite of all my inconveniences. That is the idea.

So the basic principle of spiritual advancement in knowledge is that one should first be convinced that one is not the body. Then other spiritual knowledge will begin. Unless one understands himself, he cannot understand God. "I am not the body" that knowledge one must accept, at least theoretically.

Here it is said, bhagavan uvaca, which means that Krsna has such extensive knowledge that there cannot be any mistakes in His teachings. He's the authority, so whatever He says is right. That is the conception ofbhagavan. Here it is not said krsna uvaca, because someone may doubt Krsna "Krsna was a historical personality. Why should you be so much concerned with Krsna?" So it is said, bhagavan uvaca. Bhagavanhas all knowledge. So there cannot be any mistake in whatever He will speak.

For ordinary persons there are four imperfections: to commit mistakes, to become illusioned, to have imperfect senses, and to cheat. First, we must commit mistakes. We are sure to commit mistakes. Even Gandhi, the great politician, committed mistakes, and so have many other great men. "To err is human." Any man, however great in the estimation of the world, is sure to commit mistakes.

Another imperfection is that we are illusioned. Illusion means taking one thing for another. In the desert one accepts the sand as water. That is called illusion. Similarly, every one of us who identifies with the body is under illusion. Even the President is under illusion. Even the greatest scientist is under illusion.

The next imperfection is the tendency to cheat. One is imperfect, but he wants to give knowledge to others. That is cheating. You may ask, "You are also giving us knowledge … ?" No, I am not giving you knowledge. I am speaking Bhagavad-gita. I am giving you knowledge as given by Lord Krsna. It is not my knowledge.

And finally, we have imperfect senses.

One who is above these four imperfections who never commits mistakes, is never illusioned, never cheats others, and has perfect senses He is God. That is a definition of God. And one who is not God but who comes to the perfect stage of life is liberated. Then he's as good as God.

Thank you very much.