Srila Prabhupada

If we pursue only bodily happiness and fail to inquire into
the cause of our suffering, are we any better than the animals?

Adapted from a lecture given in Buffalo, New York on April 23, 1969

rsabha uvaca
nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

"Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1)

ASABHADEVA IS ACCEPTED AS AN incarnation of Godhead. He appeared on earth long, long ago and was the father of King Bharata, from whose name this planet is called Bharata-varsa in the Vedic literature. Rsabhadeva had one hundred sons, of whom Bharata was the eldest. Bharata was very intelligent, so his father entrusted the kingdom to him. Before retirement, Rsabhadeva gave His sons spiritual instructions, which are recorded in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Rsabhadeva advises, "My dear sons, the human form of life is not meant for sense gratification."

Rsabhadeva uses the word deha-bhajam: "of those who have accepted a material body." This is very significant. According to Vedic literature, the material world is only one fourth of the complete creation of God. Three fourths of God's creation is the spiritual world. That information you will find in Bhagavad-gita. The material world is a fraction of the whole creation. As far as you can see in the sky, you see this universe. But this is only one universe. There are unlimited universes clustered together, and that cluster is called the material world.

Beyond that cluster is the spiritual sky. That fact is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita: paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah. The Lord says, "Beyond this material world is another nature, which is eternal." There is no history of its beginning or end. That is eternal: no beginning, no end.

Untraceable History

Vedic religion is called sanatana-dharma, "eternal religion," because no one can trace out when the Vedic religion began. Every religion in our present experience has a history. The Christian religion has a history two thousand years old. The Buddhist religion has a history 2,600 years. The Muslim religion has a history one thousand years. But if you trace the Vedic religion, you cannot find a starting date. There is no date. No historian can give one. Therefore it is called sanatana-dharma.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "There is another nature, which is eternal." The material creation is not eternal. We say, "God created." That means that before creation God existed. Therefore God is not under the creation. If God were under the creation, how could He create? He existed before the creation; therefore He is eternal.

Besides an eternal, spiritual God, there is also a spiritual nature, or sky, where there are innumerable spiritual planets. And there are innumerable spiritual living entities. Some of them, who are not fit to live in the spiritual world, are sent to the material world. The same idea is expressed in Milton's Paradise Lost. We conditioned souls are practically living in a place after "paradise lost." We should understand this point.

Here the specific instruction is deha-bhajam, which means that we have willingly accepted the material body. Actually, we are spirit souls; we should not have accepted the material body. But we have, and we cannot trace the history of when and why we did so.

There are 8,400,000 forms of living entities: 900,000 species in the water, 2,000,000 species of plants and vegetables, and so on. Unfortunately, this Vedic knowledge is not taught in any university, but these are facts. If people are interested in research, let them research why the Vedic knowledge says there are 8,400,000 species of life. Darwin's theory of the evolution of organic matter is very prominent in educational institutions. But the Padma Purana and other authoritative Vedic scriptures explain how the living entities have different forms of body, how they are evolving one after another everything is there. Evolution is not a new idea. People are stressing only Darwin's theory. But in the Vedic literature we have immense information of the living condition in the material world.

Apart from that, here it is said, deha-bhajam: "those who have accepted this material body." That means there are many who have not accepted the material body. But in the material world people have no experience of living entities who have not accepted a material body. People don't know that there is a spiritual world. The innumerable living entities in so many universes in the material world are only a fraction of all living entities.

Those in the material world, with the material body, are condemned. For example, people in prison are condemned by the government. But their number is only a fraction of the whole population, not that the whole population of the state goes to prison. Some criminals, who disobey the laws of the state, are put into the prison. Similarly, the conditioned souls within the material world are only a fraction of the living entities in the creation of God. Because they have declined to obey or abide by the orders of Krsna, or God, they have been put into the material world.

Sensible Inquiry

One who is sensible, who is inquisitive and serious, should try to understand, "Why have I been put into material conditional life?" That should be the inquiry. That is called brahma-jijnasa. In the Vedanta-sutra this is the first inquiry. People should be educated to the standard of life where they will be inquisitive to know, "Why have I been put into conditional life? I do not wish to suffer."

Animals are always suffering, but they do not mind it. Recently I was in Hawaii, and in front of my house was a man who kept animals and birds for slaughter. I was telling my students that we could say to the animals, "Oh, my dear animals, why are you standing here? Go away. You are going to be slaughtered." But the animals don't have the intelligence to go. Even in the slaughterhouse they don't go away.

Suffering without knowledge, without remedy, means animal life. One who cannot understand his suffering, who thinks, "Oh, I am very well off. I am very well situated," is in animal consciousness. One should be cognizant of the miseries of his life. One should know that there is suffering in birth, there is suffering in death, there is suffering in old age, and there is suffering in disease.

And one should be inquisitive. That is the real research: how to avoid death, how to avoid birth. We have suffered during our birth. We have suffered as a child, as a baby. We remained within the abdomen of our mother, tightly placed in an airtight bag for nine months, bitten by worms, unable to move, unable to protest. But we have forgotten.

Our sufferings are there. The mother is taking so much care undoubtedly; still, the child is crying. Why does the child cry? Because it is suffering but cannot express itself. There are bugs biting or pains somewhere within, and the child is crying, crying, but the mother does not know how to pacify the child.

In this way our suffering begins from the womb of our mother. And then we do not wish to go to school, but we are forced to go to a school. We do not wish to study, but the teachers give us tasks. If you just analyze your life, you will see that it is full of suffering. But we make no inquiry into how to stop that suffering. That lack of inquiry is not education. Therefore the Brahma-sutra says, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now you should inquire about why you are suffering. Is there any remedy for suffering? If there is, then you must take it. You must take advantage of the remedy." But we are callous. We do not care for the remedy, and that is not good.

Therefore Rsabhadeva says to His sons, "My dear sons, now you have this opportunity. Out of 8,400,000 lives, take …"

Forget Rsabhadeva's sons. I will speak to the American boys and girls gathered here. Now you have a very nice body, a very beautiful body, a very nice country. You have no poverty. In so many ways you have an advantage over other nations. So accept this instruction of Rsabhadeva to His sons. Rsabhadeva instructions were not meant only for His sons; they are meant for the whole human race.

The Pleasure of Hogs and Dogs

Rsabhadeva said, "My dear sons, the body is not meant for sense gratification like that of the cats and dogs and hogs. To spoil our life by hard work for sense gratification is not very good."

Take that instruction into your life also. You are very nicely placed, but according to Rsabhadeva's instruction, you should not spoil this beautiful life simply for sense gratification. Why? Rsabhadeva answered: "That sense gratification is available to the stool-eater, the hog. You should not imitate the hogs." You see? I was surprised to hear from one of my principal disciples that some hippies have begun to worship hogs. Your beautiful life, beautiful education, beautiful situation should be used for a beautiful end, not for degrading yourself to the platform of hog worship.

Rsabhadeva says, "My dear boys, sense gratification after hard work day and night is available in the hog's life. That arrangement is not very important. The human form of life is meant for a different purpose." And Rsabhadeva explains that purpose: "The human form of life is meant for austerity and penance."

You will find in the Vedic histories many, many exalted emperors and kings. They also practiced austerity and penance. Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, Ambarisa Maharaja, Yudhisthira Maharaja they were all kings. They were called rajarsi,which means that although they were most opulent kings, still they were great sages. Rsabhadeva advises that persons who have the opportunity of the human form of life with facility for economic welfare and for giving everything very nicely should use that opportunity for a better life. They should perform austerity to attain pure existence.

The austerity we perform in the Krsna consciousness movement is not at all troublesome. It is pleasant. You can ask our students who are practicing it. They are very pleased to practice this austerity. And if you practice it, your existence will be purified. The difference between animal life and human life is that human life is more purified. The human being has better consciousness than the animal. And if you purify your existence more, you are gradually elevated to the spiritual existence, which is completely pure life.

Rsabhadeva advises, "My dear boys, don't spoil your life simply for sense gratification, but voluntarily accept some austerity and penance so that your existence will be purified. You are seeking happiness. Whatever happiness you are inclined to in the material world is only limited. But if you purify your existence and some way or other become promoted to your spiritual existence, then you get the greatest pleasure." Brahma-saukhyam tv anantam.

Brahman means "the greatest" and refers to spiritual existence. There is Brahman life, and there is Brahman pleasure. In Brahman pleasure there is also dancing, there are young girls, young boys everything. Whatever we find in the material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. So if you want unlimited happiness, unlimited knowledge, and eternal life, you should not spoil this very nice opportunity simply for sense gratification, but adjust it to accept the life of austerity to promote yourself to the spiritual life. Then you will get unlimited happiness, unlimited life, unlimited pleasure. That is the sum and substance of this Krsna consciousness movement.

We have literature and magazines to explain all these points. We have our Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Nectar of Devotion, Easy Journey to Other Planets. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant for giving a finishing touch to your present position. Don't take it otherwise. You are all educated. I request you, try to understand this Krsna consciousness movement and take it very seriously. You will be happy. And because people of other countries are following your progress, if you take the Krsna consciousness movement seriously and rightly, the whole face of the world will change. It will be turned into the spiritual world.

Of course, we do not expect that everyone will accept this philosophy, but even if one percent of the population of the world accepts it, the world will change. The Bhagavad-gita explains that if some principal man accepts some theory or philosophy, others follow.

We have our center here. I request you all to try to understand the Krsna consciousness movement and purify yourself. The process of purification is very simple. We are simply chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. My fervent request to you all is this: You are very nicely placed. Please try to understand this philosophy. Make your life happy so that the people of the world will be happy by following your example.

Thank you very much.