A lecture given in September 1968 

At the Hare Krsna center in Seattle.

Service or Slavery – The Choice Is Yours

In this material world, everyone is trying to search out happiness and get relief from misery. There are three kinds of miseries caused by our material condition: adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. Adhyatmika miseries are those caused by the body and mind themselves. For example, when there is some disarrangement of the different functions of metabolism within the body, we get a fever or some pain. Another kind of adhyatmika misery is caused by the mind. Suppose I lose someone who is dear to me. Then my mind will be disturbed. This is also suffering. So diseases of the body or mental disturbances are adhyatmikamiseries.

Then there are adhibhautika miseries, sufferings caused by other living entities. For example, human beings are sending millions of poor animals to the slaughterhouse daily. The animals cannot express themselves, but they are undergoing great suffering. And we also suffer miseries caused by other living entities.

Finally, there are adhidaivika miseries, those caused by higher authorities such as the demigods. There may be famine, earthquake, flood, pestilence so many things. These are adhidaivika sufferings.

So we are always suffering one or more of these miseries. This material nature is constituted in such a way that we have to suffer; it is God's law. And we are trying to relieve the suffering by patchwork remedies. Everyone is trying to get relief from suffering; that is a fact. The whole struggle for existence is aimed at getting out of suffering.

There are various kinds of remedies that we use to try to relieve our suffering. One remedy is offered by the modern scientists, one by the philosophers, another by the atheists, another by the theists, another by the fruitive workers. There are so many ideas. But according to the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, you can get free of all your sufferings if you simply change your consciousness to Krsna consciousness. That's all.

All our sufferings are due to ignorance. We have forgotten that we are eternal servants of Krsna. There is a nice Bengali verse that explains this point:

krsna-bahirmukha haiya bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare

As soon as our original Krsna consciousness becomes polluted with the consciousness of material enjoyment the idea that I want to lord it over the resources of matter our troubles begin. Immediately we fall intomaya, illusion. Everyone in the material world is thinking, "I can enjoy this world to my best capacity." From the tiny ant up to the highest living creature, Brahma, everyone is trying to become a lord. In your country many politicians are canvassing to become the president. Why? They want to become some kind of lord. This is illusion.

In the Krsna consciousness movement our mentality is just the opposite. We are trying to become the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna (gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah). Instead of wanting to become a lord, we want to become the servant of Krsna.

Now, people may say this is a slave mentality: "Why should I become a slave? I shall become the master." But they do not know that this consciousness "I shall become the master" is the cause of all their suffering. This has to be understood. In the name of becoming master of this material world, we have become the servants of our senses.

We cannot avoid serving. Everyone of us sitting in this meeting is a servant. These boys and girls who have taken to Krsna consciousness have agreed to become servants of Krsna. So their problem is solved. But others are thinking, "Why should I become a servant of God? I shall become the master." Actually, no one can become the master. And if someone tries to become the master, he simply becomes the servant of his senses. That's all. He becomes the servant of his lust, the servant of his avarice, the servant of his anger the servant of so many things.

In a higher stage, one becomes the servant of humanity, the servant of society, the servant of his country. But the actual purpose is to become the master. That is the disease. The candidates for the presidency are presenting their different manifestos: "I shall serve the country very nicely. Please give me your vote." But their real idea is somehow or other to become the master of the country. This is illusion.

So, we should understand this important point of philosophy: constitutionally we are servants. Nobody can say, "I am free; I am the master." If someone thinks like that, he's in illusion. Can anybody in this meeting say that he's not the servant of anybody or anything? No, because our constitutional position is to serve.

We may serve Krsna, or we may serve our senses. But the difficulty is that by serving our senses we simply increase our misery. For the time being you may satisfy yourself by taking some intoxicant. And under the spell of the intoxicant you may think that you are nobody's servant, that you are free. But this idea is artificial. As soon as the hallucination is gone, again you see that you are a servant.

So we are being forced to serve, but we don't wish to serve. What is the adjustment? Krsna consciousness. If you become the servant of Krsna, your aspiration to become the master is immediately achieved. For example, here we see a picture of Krsna and Arjuna. [Srila Prabhupada points to a painting of Krsna and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra.] Krsna is the Supreme Lord; Arjuna is a human being. But Arjuna loves Krsna as a friend, and in response to Arjuna's friendly love Krsna has become his chariot driver, his servant. Similarly, if we become reinstated in our transcendental loving relationship with Krsna, our aspiration for mastership will be fulfilled. If you agree to serve Krsna, gradually you will see that Krsna is also serving you. This is a question of realization. So, if we want to get free of the service of this material world, the service of our senses, then we must direct our service toward Krsna. This is Krsna consciousness.

Srila Rupa Gosvami quotes a nice verse in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu concerning the service of the senses: kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesa. Here a devotee is saying to Krsna that he has served his senses for a very long time (kamadinam kati na katidha). Kama means "lust." He says, "By the dictation of my lust I have done what I should not have done." When someone is a slave, he's forced to do things he does not wish to do. He's forced. So, here the devotee is admitting that under the dictation of his lust he has done sinful things.

Then someone may say to the devotee: "All right, you have served your senses. But now you are done serving them. Now everything is all right." But the difficulty is this: tesam jata mayi na karuna na trapa nopasantih. The devotee says, "I have served my senses so much, but I find they are not satisfied. That is my difficulty. My senses are not satisfied, nor am I satisfied, nor are my senses kind enough to give me relief, to give me pension from their service. That is my position. I had hoped that by serving my senses for many years they would have been satisfied. But no, they're not. They are still dictating to me."

Here I may disclose something one of my students told me: In old age his mother is going to marry. And somebody else complained that his grandmother has also married. Just see: fifty years old, seventy-five years old, and the senses are still so strong that they're dictating, "Yes, you must marry." Try to understand how strong the senses are. It is not simply young men who are servants of their senses. One may be seventy-five years old, eighty years old, or even at the point of death still one is the servant of the senses. The senses are never satisfied.

So this is the material situation. We are servants of our senses, but by serving our senses we are not satisfied, nor are our senses satisfied, nor are they merciful to us. There is chaos!

The best thing, therefore, is to become a servant of Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita [18.66] Krsna says,

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

You have served your senses in so many lives, life after life, in 8,400,000 species. The birds are serving their senses, the beasts are serving their senses, the human beings, the demigods everyone within this material world is after sense gratification. "So," Krsna says, "just surrender unto Me. Just agree to serve Me, and I will take charge of you. You will be free from the dictation of your senses."

Because of the dictation of the senses, we are committing sinful activities life after life. Therefore we are in different grades of bodies. Don't think that everyone of you is of the same standard. No. According to one's activities, one gets a certain type of body. And these different types of bodies afford one different grades of sense gratification. There is sense gratification in the hog's life also, but it is of a very low grade. The hog is so sensual that it does not hesitate to have sex with its mother, its sister, or its daughter. Even in human society there are people who don't care whether they have sex with their mother or sister. The senses are so strong.

So, we should try to understand that serving the dictations of our senses is the cause of all our misery. The threefold miseries that we are suffering the miseries we are trying to get free of are due to this dictation of the senses. But if we become attracted to serving Krsna, we will no longer be forced to follow the dictation of our senses. One name for Krsna is Madana-mohana, "He who conquers Cupid, or lust." If you transfer your love from your senses to Krsna, you will be free from all misery. Immediately.

So this endeavor to be the master "I am the monarch of all I survey" should be given up. Everyone of us is constitutionally a servant. Now we are serving our senses, but we should direct this service to Krsna. And when you serve Krsna, gradually Krsna reveals Himself to you as you become sincere. Then the reciprocation of service between Krsna and you will be so nice. You can love Him as a friend or as a master or as a lover there are so many ways to love Krsna.

So, you should try to love Krsna, and you will see how much you are satisfied. There is no other way to become fully satisfied. Earning great amounts of money will never give you satisfaction. I once knew a gentleman in Calcutta who was earning six thousand dollars a month. He committed suicide. Why? That money could not give him satisfaction. He was trying to have something else.

So my humble request to you all is that you try to understand this sublime benediction of life, Krsna consciousness. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna you will gradually develop a transcendental loving attitude for Krsna, and as soon as you begin to love Krsna, all your troubles will be eradicated and you will feel complete satisfaction.

Thank you very much. Are there any questions?

Question: When we engage the material energy in the service of Krsna, what happens to it? Does it become spiritualized?

Srila Prabhupada: When a copper wire is in touch with electricity, it is no longer copper: it is electricity. Similarly, when you apply your energy to the service of Krsna, it is no longer material energy: it is spiritual energy. So as soon as you engage yourself in the service of Krsna. you become free from the dictates of the material energy. Krsna states that in the Bhagavad-gita [14.26]:

mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

"Anyone who seriously engages in My service immediately becomes transcendental to the material qualities and comes to the platform of Brahman, or spirit."

So, when you apply your energy in the service of Krsna, do not think that it remains material. Everything used in Krsna's service is spiritual. For example, each day we distribute fruit prasadam [fruit that has been offered to Krsna]. Now, one may ask, "Why is this fruit different from ordinary fruit? It has been purchased at the market like any other fruit. We also eat fruit at home. What is the difference?" No. Because we offer the fruit to Krsna, it immediately becomes spiritual. The result? Just go on eating krsna-prasadam, and you will see how you are making progress in Krsna consciousness.

Here is another example. If you drink a large quantity of milk, there may be some disorder in your bowels. If you go to a physician (at least if you go to an Ayurvedic physician), he'll offer you a medical preparation made with yogurt. And that yogurt with a little medicine in it will cure you. Now, yogurt is nothing but milk transformed. So, your disease was caused by milk, and it is also cured by milk. How is that? Because you are taking the medicine under the direction of a qualified physician. Similarly, if you engage the material energy in the service of Krsna under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, that same material energy which has been the cause of your bondage will bring you to the transcendental stage beyond all misery.

Question: How can you make everything so simple to understand?

Srila Prabhupada: Because the whole philosophy is so simple. God is great. You are not great. Don't claim that you are God. Don't claim that there is no God. God is infinite, and you are infinitesimal. Then what is your position? You have to serve God, Krsna. This is simple truth. The rebellious attitude against God is, maya, illusion. Anyone who is declaring that he is God, that you are God, that there is no God, that God is dead he is under the spell of maya.

When a man is haunted by a ghost, he speaks all kinds of nonsense. Similarly, when a person is haunted by maya, he says, "God is dead. I am God. Why are you searching for God? There are so many Gods loitering in the street." People who speak like this are all ghostly haunted, deranged.

So you have to cure them by vibrating the transcendental sound of the Hare Krsna mantra. This is the cure. Simply let them hear, and gradually they will be cured. When a man is sleeping very soundly, you can cry out beside his ear and he'll awaken. So the Hare Krsna mantra can awaken the sleeping human society. The Vedas say, uttisthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata: "O human being, please get up! Don't sleep any more. You have the opportunity of a human body. Utilize it. Get yourself out of the clutches of maya." This is the declaration of the Vedas. So continue to chant Hare Krsna. Awaken your countrymen from illusion, and help them get relief from their miseries.