"Because they have taken up some false duty and are working to
discharge it,  they are all asses. They are forgetting their real business."

A lecture in Philadelphia on July 12, 1975 

sa evam vartamano 'jno
mrtyu-kala upasthite
matim cakara tanaye
bale narayanahvaye

"When the time of death arrived for the foolish Ajamila, he began thinking exclusively of his son Narayana" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.27).

ISKCON Painting

In material life everyone is situated under certain conditioning. I am situated in a certain consciousness, and you are situated in a certain consciousness. According to the modes of nature, we have different conceptions of life and different kinds of consciousness. That is material life.

Generally, materialists think life is meant for sense gratification. Everyone is planning: "I shall live like this; I shall acquire money like this; I shall enjoy like this." Everyone has a program for sense gratification.

So, Ajamila also had such a program. What was it? His program was that since he was very much attached to his youngest child, his whole attention was absorbed in how the child was moving, how he was eating, how he was talking. Sometimes Ajamila was calling him, sometimes he was feeding him . . . Ajamila's whole mind was absorbed in the activities of his child.

Not only Ajamila but everyone is absorbed in a certain type of consciousness. And what is that consciousness due to? How does it develop? As mentioned in the previous verse, Ajamila was absorbed in the activities of his son because of strong affection (sneha-yantritah). Sneha means "affection," and yantritah means "a machine." So, everyone is affected by this machine of affection. This body is a machine that is being worked by nature, and direction is coming from the Supreme Lord. We wanted to enjoy in a certain way, and Krsna has given us a certain type of body, or yantra.

For example, in America you have different makes of motorcar. Somebody wants a Buick, somebody else wants a Chevrolet, another a Ford, and all these cars are ready to buy. Similarly, our body is like a car. Somebody is a "Ford," somebody is a "Chevrolet," somebody is a "Buick." Krsna has given all of us the chance to enjoy in a certain way. He says, "Oh, you wanted this kind of 'car,' or body? Sit down and enjoy." This is our material position.

After changing our body, we forget what we desired and why we have our present body. But Krsna is situated within our heart, so He does not forget. He gives us what we want. Krsna is so kind. If someone wants a body with which he can eat all kinds of nonsense, Krsna gives him the body of a pig. Then he can eat even stool. And if someone wants a body with which he can dance with Krsna, he gets that kind of body. Now, it is up to you to decide whether you are going to get a body with which to dance with Krsna, talk with Krsna, and play with Krsna, or a body with which to eat stool and urine. In this human life we must answer this question.

Now, you may say, "I don't believe in the next life," but nature's law will act. Karmana daiva-netrena: according to how you are acting in this life, you are preparing your next body. And after death-when this body is finished-you will get another body immediately, because you have already done the fieldwork to determine what kind of body you will get.

Ajamila was taking care of his child very nicely. His whole mind was absorbed in the child. Therefore he has been described as mudha, foolish. Like Ajamila, we are forgetting that the day is coming which is calledmrtyu-kale, "the time of death." We forget that. This is our imperfection.

Ajamila was so very busy as an affectionate father that he forgot about his approaching death. We are all like Ajamila. We have so many relationships-whether with affectionate friends or envious enemies-and being completely absorbed in these relationships, we are forgetting that death is ahead.

Therefore materialistic people are called mudhas. The word mudha means "rascal," "ass," "one who does not know what his actual interest is." In India we often see an ass loaded with a ton of clothing by a washerman. The ass can barely walk, but still he has to carry the load. He does not think, "I am carrying so much clothing on my back, but what interest do I have in it? Not a single cloth belongs to me." No, rather he thinks, "It is my duty to carry so much clothing." Why is it his duty? Because the washerman gives him grass. He has no sense to think, "Grass I can get anywhere. Why do I have to accept this duty?" This is the ass's mentality.

Everyone is anxious about his duty. Somebody is a politician; somebody is a householder; somebody is something else. But because they have all taken up some false duty and are working hard to discharge it, they are all asses. They are forgetting their real business.

We have to understand that death will come, that it will not avoid us. (When something is certain, we say it is "as sure as death.") So, before death comes we have to act in such away that we will attain a position in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana, and live permanently with Krsna. This is our real duty.

But people do not know that (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum). We are in this conditioned state of life because we are separated from the original person, Krsna. We are part and parcel of Krsna, but we have forgotten this. We are thinking we are part and parcel of America or India. This is illusion.

Somebody is interested in his country, another is interested in his society or family, and we have created so many duties in relationship to these things. Therefore, the sastra [scripture] says the rascals do not know what their actual self-interest is: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. And because they are ignorant of their real self-interest, they are durasayah-hoping for something that will never be fulfilled. They are trying to adjust things within this material world to become happy, but they do not know that as long as they remain in this material world there is no question of happiness.

In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that this place is duhkhalayam asasvatam, "full of miseries, and temporary." In this material world we are forced to change bodies, one after another. This is misery. I am permanent (na hanyate hanyamane sarire), so why do I have to change my body? This is the question we should be asking.

To get the answer to this question, we have to receive knowledge from the perfect source. And Krsna, the supreme perfect person, is personally giving us knowledge in the Bhagavad-gita. But if we are so unfortunate that we do not take the perfect knowledge-if we concoct, speculate, create our own idea-then it is to be understood that we are durasayah, hoping for the impossible. We are thinking, "I shall be happy in this way; I shall be happy in that way." No, you shall never be happy unless you go back home, back to Godhead. This is perfect instruction.

Suppose there is a mad boy who has forsaken his father. His father is a rich man, with everything for the boy's comfort, but the boy has become a hippie. We in this material world are like that. Our father is Krsna, and we can live in His kingdom very comfortably, without any botheration or endeavor for earning money. But we have decided that we shall live here in this material world. This is the ass's mentality-mudha. We do not know what our self-interest is, and we are hoping against hope: "I shall be happy in this way; I shall be happy in that way."

Sometimes the washerman sits on the ass's back and takes a bunch of grass and puts it in front of the ass. The ass wants to take the grass, but as he moves forward the grass also moves forward. The ass thinks, "Just one step forward and I shall get the grass." Because he is an ass, he does not know that the grass is situated in such a way that he may go on walking for millions of years but will not get it. Similarly, the materialistic person does not come to his senses and understand, "For millions and trillions of years I have tried to become happy in this material world, but I will never be happy here."

Therefore, you have to take knowledge from the guru, who knows things as they are. The guru is worshiped in this way:

caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah

"I was blinded by ignorance, but my spiritual master opened my eyes with transcendental knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him."

The blind politician will promise you happiness: "Give me your vote, and I shall bring heaven for you. As soon as I become president, I will give you such-and-such benefit." So you elect Mr. Nixon-and again you become disappointed. Then you say, "Mr. Nixon, get out." And you accept another fool. This is going on. In this way you will never get the information by which you can become happy.

Wherefrom shall I get the right information? The Vedas say, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want the right information, then go to the guru." And who is the guru? Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains, amara ajnaya guru hana: "Become a guru on My order." So a guru is one who carries the order of Krsna. (Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna.) Nobody can become a guru unless he carries the order of the Supreme Lord and serves the Supreme Lord.

Unfortunately, people do not know this. Therefore anyone can come and say, "I am a guru." How have you become a guru? "Oh, I am self-perfected. I don't need to read any books. I have come to bless you." [Laughter.] The foolish rascals do not know that unless one follows the sastra, the supreme authority of Krsna, no one can become a guru. So they accept so many bogus gurus. This is going on.

You should know that a guru is one who carries the order of the Supreme Lord. This is a simple definition of guru. And any rascal who manufactures some idea cannot be guru. Immediately kick him out. Immediately. He is a rascal, not a guru. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, a guru is the faithful servant of God. So first you have to ask a person presenting himself as a guru: "Are you a faithful servant of God?" If he says, "No. I am God," then kick him on the face immediately. [Laughter.] Kick him out immediately: "You rascal! You have come to cheat us!"

The Vedic literature says, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want to know the science of spiritual life, you must approach a guru." And if someone is without a guru, if he is manufacturing his own way of life, then he is a mudha, a rascal. This was Ajamila's position. He was thinking, "I am such an affectionate father; I am taking care of my little son. I am feeding him; I am patting him. I am a very faithful and honest father."

But here the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that Ajamila is a mudha, a rascal. Why? Na vedagatam antakam: because he did not realize that death was coming. He did not think, "Behind me Death is waiting, and he has come to take me." How could Ajamila's affection for his so-called son and society and family save him from death? That he could not answer.

So we must be prepared for death. We must always know that death is behind us and can at any moment capture us by the neck and drag us away. That is a fact. Is there any guarantee that you shall live one hundred years? No. If you go on the street you may immediately meet death. There may be heart failure, there may be a motorcar accident… so many dangers.

Actually, to live is wonderful. To die is not wonderful, because you are meant for death. As soon as you took your birth, you immediately began to die. Someone may inquire, "When was this child born?" and you may say. "One week ago." That means the child has died one week. We are thinking that he is living one week, but actually he has died one week. It is wonderful that he is still living, that he has not died. Death is not wonderful, because it is sure. It will come after one week or after one hundred years. Therefore we should utilize our remaining time to make a solution to the real problem of our life-that we are repeatedly dying and again accepting another body.

How will people understand this spiritual knowledge unless they come to the proper guru? Therefore the sastra says, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want to know the real problem of your life, and if you want to be enlightened about how to become Krsna conscious, how to become eternal and go back home, back to Godhead, then you must approach a bona fide guru." And who is the bona fide guru?That we have explained:

The bona fide guru is he who follows the orders of Krsna and serves Krsna. The genuine guru never manufactures his own idea-"Do this and give me money and become happy." That is not what a real guruteaches. That is simply a process for earning money.

Like Ajamila, everyone is simply living in a fool's paradise, manufacturing his own idea. Somebody has taken one thing as his duty, another has taken something else as his duty. But they are all fools. You must know from the guru what your real duty is.

[Srila Prabhupada addresses his disciples.] Every day you are singing guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya, ar na koriho mane asa. This is life. You accept the bona fide guru, and whatever he orders, you carry out. Then your life is successful, Ar na koriho mane asa. And you do not desire anything else. Are you not singing this daily? But do you understand the meaning? Or are you singing only? What is the meaning? Who will explain?

Devotee: "My only wish is that my mind may be purified by the words coming from the lotus mouth of my spiritual master. I have no desire but this."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya. Citta means "consciousness" or "heart." The disciple must think, "I shall do what my spiritual master orders." My Guru Maharaja [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] told me to preach Krsna consciousness in the West. So, it is not my pride, but I can say for your instruction that I did it. Therefore, whatever little success you see, it is due to my following his order. I have no independent capacity, but I took the words of my guru as my life and soul. This is a fact.

So, everyone should do that. But if you make any addition or alteration, you are finished. No addition or alteration. You have to approach a guru-a faithful servant of God, Krsna-and take his instruction on how to serve the Lord. Then you will be successful. If you concoct-"I am more intelligent than my guru: I can make additions and alterations"-then you are finished.

Sing further.

Devotee: Sri-guru-carane rati, ei se uttama-gati.

Srila Prabhupada: If you want to make real progress, you must be firmly faithful at the lotus feet of your guru. Then?

Devotee: Ye prasade pure sarva asa.

Srila Prabhupada: By the guru's mercy, all desires are fulfilled. You'll find this instruction throughout the whole of Vaisnava philosophy. So, unless we become absorbed in serving a bona fide guru, we remainmudhas, asses.

Today we are reading a verse about Ajamila. Here Vyasadeva says that the rascal was absorbed in the service of his son, Narayana. Ajamila was not calling the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Narayana; he was calling his son: "Narayana, please come here. Narayana, please take this." Still, Krsna is so merciful that He took it that Ajamila was chanting His name, Narayana. Ajamila never thought, "I am going to Lord Narayana." Out of affection he simply wanted his son. But Ajamila got the opportunity to chant the holy name of Narayana, and that was his good fortune.

Ajamila is described as mudha and ajna. Mudha means "rascal," and ajna means "ignorant." Not just Ajamila but all persons in this material world are ignorant rascals because they do not care that they will have to meet death, when everything will be finished-all their plans, all their assets, everything. They do not know that. Or rather they know it, but they don't care to think of these things. Therefore everyone is mudha and ajna.

Now, when Ajamila was dying, he thought of his child. Fortunately, his child's name was Narayana. So Ajamila was delivered. But suppose I am similarly affectionate to my dog. Then what is my position? Naturally I will think of my dog at the time of death, and immediately I shall get the body of a dog. That is nature's law: yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram tam tam evaiti: "Whatever you think of at the time of death will determine your next life." Ajamila was very affectionate toward his son, so he thought of him at the time of death. Similarly, if you are very affectionate toward your dog or to something else, you will think of that at the time of death. Therefore, practice chanting Hare Krsna so that at the time of death you can think of Krsna and make your life successful.

Thank you very much.