In th e current age, Kali-yuga, humankind has never had more power than it has today. Our powers, to name just a few, include nuclear weapons, global trade, mega computers, genetic modification, satellite tracking, medical miracles, instant communication, and unimaginable amounts of knowledge at our Googleing fingertips. Indeed many of these are beyond the realms of magic envisaged by man.
Power includes both ability and authority. The dictionary defines power with words like “capacity,” “strength,” “control,” and “influence.” Throughout history, humans have sought greater power and admired or feared the powerful. Alexander, Caesar, Nero, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler the list is as endless as history.
In the modern day, the presidents of Russia, China, and the U.S., along with the super billionaires of the world, have incredible power to wage war, buy influence, affect the course of history, and enjoy the pleasures of the world. Meanwhile, business and political elites concentrate power for their personal benefit in a constant cycle of increasing control and ability.
But the experience of power in the material world also reveals certain realities.
Power is temporary: The greatest emperors die, and even the greatest civilizations fade into history.
Power is dependent: No one has independent power. In fact, the more power accumulated, the greater the dependency. The President of the United States depends on his business donors, his political connections, his foreign allies, and of course his domestic voters.
Power is limited: However great our power, someone is always greater. People know this, so they’re never really sure who’s in control, and they search for greater and greater conspiracies.
Power is often destructive: Used properly, power is a creative force. But the expression of power often takes the form of destruction and killing. For example, as we human beings expand our power, we’re exhausting and destroying the earth.
The Nature of Power
The quest, abuse, and rules of power are not new. The Vedic scriptures show examples of the nature of power, such as the story of the great Hiranyakashipu. After a 10,000-year penance, Hiranyakashipu could ask a boon of Lord Brahma, the demigod master of creation. He first asked for immortality, but Lord Brahma was unable to grant such power because it is beyond his own. Lord Brahma could only grant Hiranyakashipu the boons that he would not die during the day or at night, by hand or weapon, inside or outside, by man or beast. Having accumulated this great power, Hiranyakashipu conquered the known universe and cultivated the enmity of Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Hiranyakashipu’s own son, pure in knowledge, disregarded his father’s accumulated power and worshiped Sri Visnu. Thus, despite all his great power, Hiranyakashipu couldn’t convince his own son to give up devotion to Visnu, even through bribery, terror, torture, and attempted murder.
In effect, as Hiranyakashipu’s power was shown to be limited, he was forced to become more and more violent and destructive, hastening the end of his temporary power. Krishna took the form of Lord Nrsimha half man, half lion. At dusk, the Lord took the life of Hiranyakashipu with His fingernails as they fought in the doorway of Hiranyakashipu’s palace. Lord Nrsimha thus perfectly exploited Hiranyakashipu’s power, proving it to be fatally flawed: It was dependent, limited, destructive, and temporary.
The great power of our current civilization also reveals these flaws. That power is dependent because it relies on the resources of the earth, in particular oil. It is limited, as shown by its inability to purge the world of terror or even consolidate a hold on Middle East oil. It is destructive because it harms the environment and uses weapons of greater and greater destruction and killing power. And finally it is temporary, as time will show, just as time has shown repeatedly in the annals of history through the fall of all great mighty empires from the Mongol empire of Kublai Khan, to the Persian empire of the Safavids, the Greek empire of Alexander, the Roman empire of Augustus, the French empire of Louis the Sun King, the British empire of Victoria, and the current American empire.
One person, however, holds independent, unlimited, loving, and infinite power: Lord Sri Krishna. God’s power is a mystery and secret only when we disguise the truth in our own minds so that we can continue to fruitlessly seek our own personal power in fearful and flawed freedom.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (5.29):
jnatva mam santim rcchati
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”
Srila Prabhupada explains: The conditioned souls within the clutches of the illusory energy are all anxious to attain peace in the material world. But they do not know the formula for peace, which is explained in this part of the Bhagavad-gita. The greatest peace formula is simply this: Acknowledging that Lord Krishna is the beneficiary in all human activities.
Men should offer everything to the transcendental service of the Lord because He is the proprietor of all planets and the demigods thereon. No one is greater than He.
He is greater than the greatest of the demigods, Lord Siva and Lord Brahma. In the Vedas (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.7) the Supreme Lord is described as tam isvaranam paramam mahesvaram.
Under the spell of illusion, living entities are trying to be lords of all they survey, but actually they are dominated by the material energy of the Lord. The Lord is the master of material nature, and the conditioned souls are under the stringent rules of material nature.
Unless one understands these bare facts, it is not possible to achieve peace in the world either individually or collectively. This is the sense of Krishna consciousness: Lord Krishna is the supreme predominator, and all living entities, including the great demigods, are His subordinates. One can attain perfect peace only in complete Krishna consciousness.
When we accept the limited, dependent, temporary, and destructive nature of our own power, we can find peace within ourselves, among each other, and as nations.
This is not to say that we can no longer exercise power. The greatest devotees of the Lord are more powerful than we can imagine. But their power begins from within.
Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to the song Bhajahu Re Mana, composed by the pure devotee and poet Govinda Dasa, “Without controlling the mind, without the mind being not disturbed, nobody can make any spiritual progress. . . . If we concentrate our mind on the lotus feet of Krishna, then automatically the mind becomes controlled. . . . The system of controlling the mind means you give the mind better engagement, then the mind will not be attracted by inferior energy. This is the science or secret of success.”
Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that a devotee completely surrenders the results of the exercise of power and thus finds success.
santim apnoti naisthikim
phale sakto nibadhyate
“The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.” (Bhagavad-gita 5.12)
Srila Prabhupada explains:
The difference between a person in Krishna consciousness and a person in bodily consciousness is that the former is attached to Krishna whereas the latter is attached to the results of his activities.
The person who is attached to Krishna and works for Him only is certainly a liberated person, and he has no anxiety over the results of his work. In the Bhagavatam, the cause of anxiety over the result of an activity is explained as being one’s functioning in the conception of duality, that is, without knowledge of the Absolute Truth.
Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. In Krishna consciousness, there is no duality. All that exists is a product of Krishna’s energy, and Krishna is all good. Therefore, activities in Krishna consciousness are on the absolute plane; they are transcendental and have no material effect.
One is therefore filled with peace in Krishna consciousness. But one who is entangled in profit calculation for sense gratification cannot have that peace. This is the secret of Krishna consciousness realization that there is no existence besides Krishna is the platform of peace and fearlessness.
Today, despite our great power and achievements, humankind is still unsatisfied and must remain so as long as we hold on to our material desires. Throughout the world, despite our great success in fact because of our great success we’re frustrated by our limitations. There is even a hugely successful false secret, promoted as “The Secret,” whose advocates encourage us to worship the material energy.
Such worship may succeed, but only at great cost, as explained in the verse above (5.12). We get results, but material desires trap us in ever greater desires. And so the millionaire is dissatisfied at not being a billionaire, and yet at death all the money in the world is powerless.
The real secret is to surrender to the ultimate power and fully depend on the Lord. It is the secret beyond the material secret.
In Krishna consciousness the mind is controlled, the exercise of power is fearless, and the expression of power is loving, positive, and liberating. One attains real success escape from the duality of the material world not by material power but by surrender to the absolute and loving Lord.
Kapila Monet was born to two Prabhupada disciples, Hari Lila Devi Dasi and Nitai pada Dasa, in Vancouver in 1976. He attended Vancouver gurukula until the age of ten, lived for a number of years at Saranagati Village, and then attended Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He has lived in London for ten years, where he works for a financial information company.