The Vedic literature reveals the essential
qualification of a person ready to accept a spiritual master.
A lecture given in New York, November 22, 1966
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
"This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed." Bhagavad-gita 9.2
VIDYA MEANS "education," and raja means "king." What is the king of education?
We have different statuses of life in the material world. In education, someone is an M.A., someone is a B.A., someone is in school three years, someone four years. There are different grades of education. Now, what is the summum bonum the highest or topmost education? The topmost education raja-vidya is Krsna consciousness. Real knowledge is to understand what I am. Unless we come to this point, we are not in knowledge.
When Caitanya Mahaprabhu began His preaching, His first disciple was Sanatana Gosvami, a finance minister of Nawab Hussain Shah. Being attracted by Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement, Sanatana retired from service and joined Lord Caitanya. When he came to Lord Caitanya for the first time, he inquired, "What is education?"
Sanatana was highly educated. In those days the Persian language was being taught in India. Just as during British rule the English language was taught to us, during Pathan rule the Persian language was the state language. Sanatana Gosvami was a great scholar in Sanskrit also. Still, he inquired, "What is education?"
Why did he inquire like that? He told Lord Caitanya, "People in general consider me very educated, and I am such a fool that I accept that I am educated."
So the next question is "Then why do you think you are not educated? You are great scholar in Sanskrit, a great scholar in Persian. Why do you think you are not educated?"
Sanatana replied, "I think I'm not educated because I do not know what I am. I do not wish to suffer, but material miseries are forced upon me. I do not know where I have come from or where I will have to go, and still people think that I am very educated. They designate me a great scholar, and I am satisfied. But I am such a fool that I do not know what I am."
Actually, this is our present situation. We are very proud of our advancement of education. But if you inquire from various persons, "What are you?" hardly anyone will be able to answer. Everyone is under the conception that we are the body. But we are not actually the body. This we have discussed many times. So by passing this examination by knowing "I am not this body" one has come to real knowledge. That is the beginning.
Knowledge and Action
Of the knowledge Lord Krsna is now imparting to Arjuna, Krsna says, "This is raja-vidya." Raja-vidya means to know oneself and act accordingly. If I do not know what I am, then I am mistaken about my situation, and all my activities are mistaken and illusory. Simply knowing "I am not the material body" is not sufficient. You are not material; you are spiritual. So you must act accordingly. That spiritual activity is Krsna consciousness, and it is called raja-vidya, the king of all education.
Raja-guhyam means "very confidential." It is not possible to accept Krsna consciousness very easily. But by the mercy of Krsna and Lord Caitanya, it is very easily delivered to us through chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya has given an analytical study of the living entity. He has begun by saying that there are innumerable living entities all over the universe. If you dig into the earth, you'll find many living entities. If you study the air, you'll find many living entities. If you go deep into the water, you'll find living entities. So all over the universe there are different types of living entities.
Lord Caitanya divides the living entities into two classes: some are moving and some are not moving. Trees, stones, plants, grass they cannot move. A stone has life, but a stone has no developed consciousness. It is too covered. Similarly, if a person in the human body does not understand his position, he's almost stonelike.
Then there are the moving entities, such as aquatics, beasts, birds, reptiles, human beings, demigods, celestial angels. Out of the moving entities, a very small number are human beings. There are 8,400,000 species of life. Out of them, only 400,000 are in the human body. Lord Caitanya says, "Out of these 400,000 human species, some are civilized. And out of many civilized persons, some are devoted to the scriptures." People say, "I belong to the Christian religion," "I belong to the Hindu religion," or "I belong to the Moslem religion." But in the present age, most people who claim "I belong to this religion" do not believe in the scriptures.
Three Kinds of Religious Acts
Those who do believe in the scriptures are mostly attracted by pious, philanthropic activities. They believe, for example, that charity is a good thing. Pious, religious acts are of three kinds: yajna-dana-tapah. Yajna means "sacrifice," dana means "charity," and tapah means "penance." The spiritual orders of brahmacarya (celibate student life) and sannyasa (renounced life) involve tapah. Tapah means voluntarily accepting rigid principles of austerity. Charity means voluntarily giving away one's material possessions.
Yajna means "sacrifice." Nowadays we have no experience of sacrifice. But we get information about sacrifices from such historical literature as the Mahabharata. Formerly kings performed big sacrifices. They distributed millions of rupees, millions of valuables, and gold and silver. That is not possible today. But formerly the kings did that. The kings used to collect taxes from the citizens, but when the kings performed sacrifices, they distributed wealth freely to the citizens. Nowadays the state simply collects taxes but never distributes. So we have no idea what is yajna.
Yajna is the duty of kings or heads of state, dana is the duty of the general householders, and tapah is the duty of the brahmacaris, sannyasis, and vanaprasthas (retired persons). These are different kinds of rules in religious life. Some who believe in scriptures adopt these rules. Mostly, however, people simply accept a certain faith. They say they accept a certain religion, but they do not do anything. Still, out of many millions of people like that, some are really religious: they perform sacrifice and penance and give charity.
Lord Caitanya says, "Out of many millions of persons actually engaged in charity, penance, and sacrifice, some come to the perfect understanding of what they are: 'I am not this body.' "
Now, simply theoretically knowing "I am not this body; I am spirit soul" is not perfect. You actually have to become liberated from material entanglement. That is called mukti, liberation. Out of many thousands of people who know what they are, some of them are actually liberated. And out of many thousands of people who are liberated, some can understand Krsna.
Symptoms of Liberation
So understanding Krsna is not easy. But Krsna is kind. He knows that in this Age of Kali it will be very difficult for people to become liberated by the ordinary process first to become civilized, then to become religious, then to give charity and perform sacrifices, then to come to the platform of knowledge, and then to come to liberation. Therefore He came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and gave us a direct method of becoming Krsna conscious.
After being liberated, you can know Krsna. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: brahma-bhutah prasannatma. The first symptom of a liberated person is that he is very happy. You'll never find him morose. Na socati na kanksati: he has no anxiety. We are full of anxieties. "Oh, I haven't got this thing. I have to secure that thing. I have to pay this bill. Oh, this I have to do" so many anxieties. But a liberated person has no anxieties. Does this mean that because he has no anxieties he is a very rich man? No. Not necessarily. But he has no anxiety.
He also has no lamentation. He does not think, "I am poor." Why should he think he's poor? When I think, "I am a part of this material world, and I haven't got this material possession," then I think, "I am poor." But one who is liberated from the material conception of life has no concern for what he possesses or does not possess. Therefore he's prasannatma, joyful. "Oh, I have nothing to lose, nothing to gain. I am completely separate from here." That is liberation.
The liberated person's vision of life is samah sarvesu bhutesu: he does not see anyone as rich or poor, foolish or educated. There are so many dualities in the material world, but the vision of the liberated person is completely on the spiritual platform. He sees that every living entity is a part and parcel of Krsna. Therefore he tries to take all living beings back to Krsna consciousness. He does not distinguish "He is a brahmana. He is a sudra, a laborer. He is Indian. He's American," or "He's black. He's white," or "He's educated. He's noneducated." No. "Everyone should come to Krsna consciousness." That is his viewpoint. Samah sarvesu bhutesu. When one is qualified in that way, then mad-bhaktim labhate param. Lord Krsna says, "Then he becomes eligible to become My pure devotee."
The process of coming to liberation under regulative principles is not easy, especially in this age. The Bhagavatam describes the people of this age as prayenalpayusah: "Their duration of life is very short." And mandah. Mandah means "very slow." Out of twenty-four hours, people sleep twelve, and out of the remaining twelve, they're busy ten hours earning money. Two hours left. What can they do for spiritual understanding? There's no time.
Then the Srimad-Bhagavatam says: sumanda-matayo. If someone has the intention to make spiritual progress, then there are so many pseudo spiritual societies to entrap him.
Then manda-bhagyah: "And most of the people are unfortunate." Most people don't even have sufficient arrangements for the primary principles of life eating, sleeping, defending, and mating. These are only primary principles; they are available even in animal life. But in this age, even these primary principles are difficult to obtain shelter, food, a wife. And everyone is afraid. "When will war be declared and I'll be sent to the warfield?"
And finally, upadruta "On top of all this, people are always disturbed with diseases and so many other things."
This is the position of people in this age. Therefore Lord Krsna thought that it would be impossible for such people to come to the point of liberation under the regulative process. So out of His causeless mercy, He came as Lord Caitanya and distributed the highest perfection of life spiritual ecstasy through the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting is practical. It does not depend on whether you are liberated or nonliberated, on your position or your condition. Just come and take part in it, and you'll feel spiritual ecstasy. Therefore this process is called pavitram, "very pure." Anyone who takes to this process becomes purified. The purification begins at once.
Uttamam means "the highest," or "transcendental." Yesterday I explained the meaning of uttamam by quoting a commentary on today's verse. The commentator explained the meaning of uttamam by referring to a verse from the Padma Purana:
kutam bijam phalonmukham
This means that when one is in Krsna consciousness in the highest transcendental knowledge gradually the seeds of all reactions to his sins become vanquished. We have studied in the Bhagavad-gita the example that if you put something into the fire, the fire turns it into ashes. Similarly, as soon as the fire of Krsna consciousness begins, all reactions of sinful activities from our past life are destroyed.
The Purpose of Scripture
Our suffering is due to sinful activities. And sinful activities are due to our ignorance. Sinful activities are done by persons who do not know what is what. A child does not know the result of touching fire, because he is ignorant. But as soon as the child touches fire, his hand becomes burned. The fire does not allow any concession for the child. The fire will act as fire. Similarly, we do not know how this material world is going on what the laws are, who the controller is, how it is being controlled. Out of ignorance we act in some way, but nature is so stringent that it will never excuse us, whether we do it knowingly or unknowingly.
Therefore ignorance is the cause of suffering. So one should be put into proper knowledge. And proper knowledge means knowing things as they are: what we are, what the world is, what God is, what our relationship with God is. We should know these things. One should not simply become a technical expert or some departmental expert. That is not knowledge. Here is knowledge: you should know what you are and how you should act. And this knowledge can be achieved in the human form of life, not in the animal form of life. Therefore, to give you knowledge, to give you proper direction, there are so many scriptures in all parts of the civilized world. They should not be neglected.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Since time immemorial, people have forgotten their relationship with the Supreme Lord. Therefore the Lord has sent many representatives to give them the scriptures." So we should take advantage of the scriptures, especially the Bhagavad-gita. In Bhagavad-gita you'll find everything presented nicely. You can put your arguments. You can try to understand with your knowledge, with your intelligence. Everything will be clear.
So we should take advantage of the Bhagavad-gita. And our power to understand it will increase if we begin our study with this transcendental sound vibration: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Thank you very much.