His Holiness Bhavananda Goswami addresses Christian divinity students at St. Paschal's Seminary, Yarra Theological College, in Melbourne, Australia.
HIS HOLINESS BHAVANANDA GOSWAMI is one of eleven spiritual masters that ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He is also ISKCON's co-director for East India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Bhagavad-gita means "The Song of God." Five thousand years ago Lord Krsna taught the Gita to His friend Arjuna. Krsna told Arjuna, bhakto 'si me sakha ceti: "Because you are My devotee as well as My friend, you are authorized to enter into the transcendental mystery of this science." So the basis of this science is bhakti, devotion. Jesus taught, "You should love God with all your heart and all your soul." That was the first lesson to love God with all your heart and all your soul. That is the main purpose of life.
Other than developing our love for God, all other aims in life are useless, temporary. All of us are seeking some sort of satisfaction all of us want to love and be loved. But we have forgotten where to place our love. We're trying to love something temporary, so we're always frustrated. And we always end up in distress, because even if we find some woman or man we love very much, finally one of us has to die, and then the whole relationship is finished. And what do we have left? Nothing, because the relationship was just based on the body, the external feature of the soul.
I don't have to explain the existence of the soul. That you must already accept, or else why would you be in the theological seminary? So the soul is eternal and the body is temporary. And God is eternal; He has always been. And we are part and parcel of God. This is also stated in the Bible man is created in the image of God. What can we understand from this? It's quite clear: man is created in God's image, so God has to be a person. He is not a nonentity. If God is the creator of heaven and earth and all things (I remember the words from my catechism), who is God? He is our creator, too, and He has created us in His image.
So just as we have arms, legs, eyes a body God also has arms, legs, eyes: He has a body. But there is a difference. Right now we're in these material bodies, but His body is spiritual. He is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. He has a form [vigraha] comprised of eternity [sat], knowledge [cit] , and bliss [ananda] ecstatic consciousness.
And He's the source of everyone. Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: "I am the source of everything material and everything spiritual; everything is emanating from Me." [Bg. 10.8] Now, since you're part and parcel of God, you must have all the qualities of God, just as a drop from the ocean has all the qualities of the ocean. But the difference is in quantity. For instance, in Islam we find Allah bham "God is great." Yes, God is great, but how is God great? That is real theological study to understand not just that God is great but how great God is. Religion without philosophy is simply sentiment, fanaticism. You may say God is great, but how great is He? That we want to know. That is the science of Krsna consciousness.
Anyway, we're part and parcel of God we're all spirit souls. So we have all the qualities of God, though in minute quantity. But by associating with this material nature from time immemorial, we've forgotten our real position. And here we have the purpose of the priestly class of men to enlighten all fallen, conditioned souls as to what their real position is. To do that, you yourself have to know your position: you're part and parcel of God you have all the qualities of God but as long as you relate to yourself on the platform of the body and think and act foolishly, then you must suffer. All our suffering is due to ignorance. We don't know how to act and how not to act. We don't know what to do and what not to do. We're bewildered. But God, Krsna, is so kind that He's given His lawbook, the revealed scripture. He's telling us what to do and what not to do. How kind He is. And that revealed scripture is delivered by Krsna's representatives.
Lord Jesus is a representative of Krsna; he is the son of God. Krsna says, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities." [Bg. 14.4] St. Francis also understood this.
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
Pandita means "learned man," and through his knowledge-realized knowledge-the learned man sees the cow, the elephant, the dog, and the dog-eater with equal vision. How does he see them as the same? He understands, aham bija-pradah pita: God is the seed-giving father of everyone, every living entity. If you have that understanding and realization from within your heart, then you can understand everyone everyone is your brother.
Because no one has this understanding, the whole world is in chaos. We may say "brotherhood," but we don't accept the existence of a common father. How can we be brothers? We're simply juggling words. So we have the United Nations-disunited nations, simply groups of dogs barking at each other. No understanding. Every attempt that we make for world peace, for world brotherhood, ends in frustration, ends in chaos, because we have no knowledge. We're simply in ignorance. And the role of the priest is to enlighten us with real knowledge of who we all are, who God is, what this material universe is, and what our relationship with God is. These questions can be asked only by those who have come to the human platform of life. If you have not asked that question (I don't mean you specifically, because you are in the theological seminary you must have asked that question), then you are not considered human.
So, what we have today is simply an animal society. Spending all their time just figuring out elaborate methods of eating, elaborate methods of sleeping, elaborate methods of defense, and elaborate methods of having sex. A dog eats; we eat the principle is the same. We may eat in a fancy restaurant, but the principle of eating is the same. The dog sleeps in the street, and we sleep on a fancy waterbed, but the sleeping principle is the same. The dog defends with his teeth and his claws, and we defend with so many elaborate antiballistic missiles, but the defense principle is the same. And the dog has sex in the street, and we have sex in many fancy ways, but the sex principle remains the same. Fancy eating, sleeping, mating, and defending that is not human civilization. It is just highly polished cat-and-dog civilization. This understanding you should have.
If you're going to disseminate knowledge, then you should have knowledge real understanding. Then you can have compassion for all the fallen, conditioned souls and really enlighten them. They are suffering due to ignorance. Now, your duty is to dispel that ignorance with the shining lamp of knowledge. And knowledge means knowing who you are, who God is, what this material creation is, and what your relationship with God is. If you concentrate on those points, everything else will come you will have full knowledge.
There's a story about a woman whose husband was drowning.
She was screaming, "My husband's drowning!"
Then a social worker came along and told her, "Don't worry, ma'am I'll save him!"
So he swam out to her husband and tried to pull the man back to shore by the collar of his jacket. But somehow in the commotion the drowning man slipped out of his jacket, and the social worker just brought back the jacket, with nobody inside it.
"Here you are, lady," he said. "I've saved your husband!"
She was furious. "You haven't saved him you've saved his jacket!"
This is the state of present-day society. Everyone is busy trying to save the external covering of the soul. So many hospitals, so many this, so many that … all simply trying to save the person's external covering, his material body. No one sees that the spiritual person within is suffering simply because of ignorance he doesn't know who he is. No matter how many hospitals you open, you're not going to stop anybody from dying. It is not possible. No matter how many medicines you may invent, you still cannot prevent disease. No matter how many surgeries you perform on a person's face, no matter how many exercises you have him do, you can't prevent him from growing old. And no matter how much contraception you use, you cannot prevent birth. As surely as people must meet their death, so they must surely take another birth. And as soon as they take birth, they must grow old, and they must suffer disease, and they must die again. Here are the problems of life. So real social work is to enlighten people with this knowledge how, when you die, you'll be able to return to your original, eternal relationship with Krsna, with God.
But unless you know what your relationship with God is, then how can you teach anyone else? "Physician, heal thyself" before you dare to teach others. That is the Krsna consciousness movement: how to heal yourself from the real disease this material contamination. You have to enlighten yourself with real knowledge about your true identity and your relationship with God.
And you can do that very simply, very easily, and very joyfully by chanting the names of God. God has countless names, because His names refer to His countless qualities. Jehovah, Adonai, or Allah God has countless qualities, and He has countless names. Any of these bona fide names of God that you chant can deliver you from this material contamination. Our hearts are filled with polluted desires. Those desires have been building up since time immemorial, due to our contact with this material nature. So we have to cleanse the heart. And we can cleanse the heart by chanting God's names, by praying. That is also in your scripture to praise God "All glories to God; praise Him with cymbals and drums." That is also written there.
And you should do it, because that is the instruction of your teacher, your guru. Guru means "teacher." It also means "heavy" heavy with knowledge, and heavy with responsibility. You are here in this theological seminary to learn how to be gurus, to teach others. And the only process for realization of knowledge is to accept the authority, the higher authority. Take Jesus, for instance. He was a guru. He had knowledge of God, and his good disciples received that knowledge in a submissive mood not challenging, but in a submissive mood. And he left them instructions, so many instructions. Moral instructions, so that they could rise from the modes of ignorance and passion to the platform of material goodness, and so that from that platform they could understand transcendental science. That is why he said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" so many instructions… "Thou shalt not kill."
One who does not follow the instructions of the guru is called guru-druha, the killer of the guru. If you do not follow the instruction of your spiritual teacher, then you are killing him. Jesus said, "Thou shalt not kill," but today so much killing is going on. St. Francis saw everyone equally. You are killing so many cows, and you are drinking the blood. You are not following the instruction of your guru.
The cow gives milk, the perfect form of food. And practically everyone in this room, I'm sure, was raised on cow's milk. Now, we'd have to say that whoever gives milk for raising the baby is a mother. So the cow is my mother I was raised on her milk. Then, when I'm strong enough, let me cut my mother's throat and drink her blood. This is supposed to be advanced civilization…. Animal civilization! Why animal civilization? Because you're not following the instruction of your teacher. You are not following the instruction of your guru. Therefore, everything becomes chaotic. It must…. He is the representative of God. And God is the protector of he cow. [Pause.] Does anyone have any questions?
Q: You seem to think that we don't practice what we preach.
A: No, I didn't say that. I was just saying that we practice what we preach.
Q: In your talk you were saying that we don't follow our teacher.
A: I didn't say that you don't. If the shoe fits, wear it. [Laughter.]
Q: You referred earlier to some knowledge of the catechism. Were you at one time a Catholic?
Q: Would you be able to disclose information about your change or conversion or whatever word you like to use?
A: Actually, I haven't changed or converted. I have simply increased my knowledge and understanding of God. Actually, Christ taught Krsna consciousness, but due to the time and place in which he taught, he wasn't able to give complete instruction. After all, he was speaking to barbarians. That is his glory that he went among the barbarians to preach love of God. But they attempted to kill their own teacher. So he couldn't give full information about Krsna. But he was teaching love of God, no doubt. We accept Christ as a pure devotee, the son of God.
Q: Do you accept him as God Himself?
A: No, we do not accept him as God, and nowhere does he say he is God. Always Jesus said, "I am the son of God, and my Father and I are one." You are also one with Krsna, as I was explaining earlier. Everyone is spirit. All of us are souls, spiritual souls. We have the same quality as God. But now we're just covered over by this powerful material nature because we don't have the same quantity or magnitude as God. He's great; we're tiny. Jesus never said he was God. He is the son of God, and we accept him as that, and we give him all respect as a pure devotee of the Lord.
Q: Why do you talk as if you have greater knowledge than we do?
A: Do you really want to know? By the mercy of our spiritual master, we have some grater knowledge than you. But that is not a statement of pride, because I was a dog until I met my guru. I was a dog. But by his mercy he has elevated me, though I am totally unqualified for the position of a teacher. It's all by his mercy. You can't amount to anything without the mercy of your guru. For instance, Jesus took fishermen and farmers, and he taught them God consciousness and turned them into great devotees of the Lord.
Q: How do you feel about women's lib?
A: Women's lib is actually a big trick by the men to exploit the women. The women can't admit that, but it is. "Let me exploit the women, have sex with them, and if they get pregnant, I'll give them the choice: 'Either you go on the dole, or you can kill your child in the womb you can become a murderer.' " This is women's liberation murder the child in the womb, liberation to murder. It's all a trick by the men, and the women can't admit it. They cannot face that. They are simply being deceived by men who want to utilize them and exploit them for their own sense gratification and all in the name of women's liberation. And then the men leave them to beg from the government or become murderers. Nonsense.
Q: For Catholics there is love of God, but there is also action toward one's neighbor. Do you
A: Yes. If you develop your love for God, for Krsna, then naturally you love everything about Him, including His creation. But aren't the animals your neighbors? Don't they have rights? True, they're not so intelligent. But just because they're less intelligent, that doesn't mean you should use your higher intelligence to think up so many different ways to kill them. If you have a neighbor (if you're regarding everyone as your neighbor), perhaps your neighbor is not so intelligent maybe he's a little retarded so does society stand for it if you go up and smash him in the head with a hammer? "He's my neighbor, but he's not so intelligent, a little retarded. So let me kill him." We don't allow that. We're suffering because we're breaking the law of Krsna, we're breaking the law of God. You may not have to answer to the state, but you cannot escape the law of God. There is no moment when we're away from God. Krsna says, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: "I am within the heart of every living entity." He's within our hearts, so no one can keep anything hidden from Krsna.