Though we may be decorated with diplomas and degrees, 
our real knowledge begins on the spiritual plane.

A lecture in Mexico City on February 12, 1975

na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param

"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Bhagavad-gita 2.12

Srila Prabhupada

Krsna began His teaching to Arjuna by chastising him: "You do not know anything, but you are talking as if you are a learned man." This is the defect of persons without spiritual knowledge. They are proud of their learning, their knowledge, their degrees.

When Sanatana Gosvami approached Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he first of all presented himself as a person without knowledge. Sanatana Gosvami was from a very aristocratic brahmana family. He was a very learned scholar in Sanskrit and Urdu, yet still he presented himself before Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a foolish man. He said, apanara hitahita kichui na jani! gramya-vyavahare pandita, tai satya mani: 'These common men say that I am a very learned pandita, but I am such a rascal that I do not know who I am."

This is the position of everyone. You ask any learned scientist or professor, "Who are you?" He'll say, "I'm Mr. John; I'm American." Or "I am Mexican"; or "I am Indian." So this is ignorance. No one is his body. That is the first lesson of spiritual knowledge. As long as we identify with this body, thinking, "I am Mr. Such-and-such"; "I am American"; "I am Indian" this is all ignorance. When you actually understand that you are not this body that you are not American or Indian or Mexican but that you are spirit soul then your spiritual education begins. In Sanskrit this understanding is called aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit soul."

The spirit soul has no connection with this material world. When one fully understands this fact that the spirit soul is different from this material world then he's actually learned. He is said to be situated in thebrahma-bhuta stage. The symptom of one on the brahma-bhuta stage is prasannatma: he becomes jubilant, jolly. As long as one identifies with this body, he will be unhappy, full of anxiety.

Bhagavad-gita begins with this point. One should know that he is not this material body. That knowledge is lacking at the present moment throughout the whole world. Everyone is identifying with the body, just as the animals are. Therefore Krsna chastised Arjuna: "You have an animalistic concept of life, and still you are speaking like a very learned scholar. No learned scholar laments on account of this body."

It is said in Bhagavad-gita, dhiras tatra na muhyati. Dhira means "one who is sober by education"; he is not disturbed. Just like when a man dies, his relatives lament. They cry, "My father is gone; my father is no more." Or, "My son is no more." But if a person is a little sober, he can understand, "I am lamenting that my father is gone, but he's not gone. He's lying on the bed. Then why am I saying he's gone?"

Or some friend might ask, "Why are you lamenting, 'My father is gone"? He is lying here." But still he might say, "No, he's not. He may be lying there, but he's gone."

That is the puzzle: he's lying there, and he's gone. What is this contradiction? That is the point to understand about the soul.

The son is crying, "My father is gone." That means he never saw his father. He saw the body only. But at the time of his father's death, he understands that his father is not this body; he is the soul. When we come to the understanding that every one of us although we may be in different bodies are not these bodies but are spirit souls, then our actual knowledge begins.

Now Krsna is describing the nature of the soul. He says that whenever we sit down together, we say "I," "you," or "he." There cannot be more that these three. I can say "I," I can say "you," and I can say "he." So Krsna says in this verse, na tv evaham jatu: "Neither I, nor you, nor he none of us was ever born, because we are not these bodies."

Birth takes place for the body, not for the soul. It is described here that the soul does not take birth. It is not that he was not existing in the past but now has taken birth.

It is not like that that the soul did not exist in the past but now he's existing. There are some philosophers who think like that. They think that the living symptom was not existing before, and that by the combination of matter the living force is there. But that is not the fact. The living being is there, and therefore the life symptoms are there in the body. Therefore when a man dies, because we do not know about the living force, we cry that our father or our son has gone.

We should acquire knowledge from the authority. Krsna is the authority. He says to Arjuna, "All of us you, I, and all the others who have come to join this fighting it is not that we did not exist in the past. We all existed in the past, we are existing now, and after so-called death, or after quitting this body, we shall still exist."

Now the question will be, "How shall I exist? As an American? An Indian? As something else?" That is a very intelligent question. First of all we have to understand that I, you, every one of us existed in the past. So how did I exist in the past, and how shall I exist in the future? The past is past; that is gone. But now I am existing as a human being, and it is my duty to understand how I shall exist in the future. That is intelligence. If we do not prepare for the next life, then we are animals.

In human society there is education. The father gives education to the child, thinking about his future. But the cats and dogs do not give any education, neither do they know the meaning of education. That is the difference between the human being and the animal.

So if we are not educated in the matter of understanding what our future will be, then we are no better than the animals. But we can have that education in this human form of life. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:

yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr- vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam

The process is there. You can prepare for your next life in this life.

For example, the scientists have attempted to go to the moon, but they could not go there. Why could they not go there? Even on this planet, if somebody goes from one place to another, he has to make himself fit to go there. He must know what the temperature is there so that he can dress accordingly. And hell have to take permission from the state by obtaining a visa, a passport, and so on. He will have to arrange so many things; then he can go.

It is not that all of a sudden anyone can come to your country, Mexico, without arrangement. Similarly, if you want to go to the higher planetary system, then you have to make your arrangement in this life. You cannot go to the moon by force with your tiny airplane. That is not possible.

Therefore Bhagavad-gita says, yanti deva-vrata devan. A man can go to the higher planetary systems when he has prepared himself to go there. There are millions and trillions of planets. Wherever you want to go you can go. The descriptions of these planets are given in the sastra [scripture].

But there is another description of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is beyond this material sky. We have to receive information about where that spiritual world is. We can receive that information from Vedic literature. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah:

"There is another nature the spiritual nature which is beyond this material nature." The material nature is vyakto 'vyaktat, some portion is manifested and some portion is not manifested. We get information fromBhagavad-gita that the spiritual nature is beyond this manifested and unmanifested cosmic situation.

So Krsna, the supreme authority, says, yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam. If somebody cultivates Krsna consciousness, he can go to the spiritual nature. It is not difficult; you simply you have to change your mode of life. To become Krsna conscious means to be pure, to regain our original, spiritual existence.

We are pure as brahman, as spirit soul, but because we have been contaminated by the material modes of nature, our consciousness is now different. On account of different consciousness, there are three classes of men. One class of men are very intelligent, one class of men very passionate, and one class of men fools and rascals.

So to understand your promotion to the spiritual world, you have to become a first-class man. "First-class man" means brahmana. A brahmana is truthful; he is self-controlled; he is simple; he is tolerant. There are nine qualifications to become a first-class man. The preliminary qualification is that you should not become sinful. Instead of becoming sinful, you should become pious by following these four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no gambling.

The first principle is no illicit sex. That is forbidden. Sex is not forbidden, but illicit sex is forbidden. That is not very difficult. Everyone wants sex; that is a necessity of the body. As we want to eat, as we want to sleep, similarly there is sex desire. But if you want to become a first-class man, then don't have illicit sex. Do not have sex except in marriage.

Therefore in human society there is marriage, not in the dog society. Sex within marriage and according to regulative principles is not prohibited. That means anyone who follows these rules and regulations becomes purified and pious. Without becoming purified and pious you cannot understand God. It is said, therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28]:

yesam tv anta-gatam papam
jananam punya-karmanam
te dvandva-moha-nirmukta
bhajante mam drdha-vratah

A person who is completely free from sinful activities can become a devotee, a lover of God.

This Krsna consciousness movement is teaching human society how to become purified. There is no such restriction that this man can be purified, that man cannot be. There is nothing like that. Everyone can be purified if he so desires.

So immediately we may not be able to become purified as it is prescribed no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication. It may not be possible, because those who are accustomed to these things find them difficult to give up. Therefore the process given is very simple: chant Hare Krsna.

Purification is necessary. Without purification you cannot understand God. But the method we are prescribing to chant Hare Krsna that is very simple. Not that we are prescribing it is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prescription. We are simply propagating it.

So I am very glad to see that you Mexican boys, girls, ladies, and gentlemen are coming here and joining the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. I request you to continue this procedure. Please come here, join this chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, take prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krsna], and go home. And surely you'll be purified and qualified for going back to home, back to Godhead. Thank you very much. Are there any questions?

Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: [Translating from Spanish] He wants to know if within marriage it is possible to achieve perfection.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The human being is meant for marriage, not the cats and dogs. If you can remain without marriage, without sex life, that is very good. But if you cannot, then marry and be a gentleman and remain peaceful.

HDG: Can a person achieve Krsna consciousness outside the temple?

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. You have to follow the rules and regulations, that's all.

HDG: He wants to know what it is like in the spiritual world. What are the activities of Krsna there?

Srila Prabhupada: The same activities. Simply there is no sinful activity.

HDG: When one breaks the principles, can Krsna forgive him?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna can forgive you once, twice, not regularly. [Laughter]

HDG: Sometimes people come and join our movement and follow the four regulative principles, and even so there appears to be some fault in their character in terms of their treatment of other people who come to the temple. So he says that he feels undoubtedly that by following the process, gradually the defects will be eliminated, but is there any way to more rapidly . . .

Srila Prabhupada: If a man comes, follows the regulative principles even for some time, and again he falls down, as long as he has followed, that asset is permanent. Any spiritual asset is never lost. So, little by little by little when it is complete cent percent then you become liberated. The spiritual asset is never lost.

Even if a person comes to the temple and follows the regulative principles for some time and then falls down, he's not a loser; he's a gainer.

Others, who do not take this lesson, even though they may perform their so-called duties very perfectly, they are losers. So at least for some time let every one of you come here and follow the regulations. If you become perfect, it is all right. But even if you go away, whatever you have done, that is your permanent asset. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat. Even that little asset can help you to become free from the greatest danger. There are many examples. They're stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Therefore in this human form of life, at least we shall try to get some spiritual assets. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that even if such a person falls down, he's given the chance next life to take birth in a very rich aristrocratic family or in a very pious brahmana family. So, a little spiritual asset in this human form of life will at least guarantee your next life in a very nice family. But without spiritual life there is no guarantee whether you are going to become a human being or a cat or dog.