Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
We Are Pure Spirit Souls
there lived a powerful sage named Astavakra Rsi. The sage was
curved in eight parts of his body, and when he walked his
movements were quite peculiar and awkward. He was also very
ugly, and ordinary people often laughed at the sight of him.
Although externally he was awkward and crooked, internally his
heart was pure because he had realized his eternal
transcendental identity. He knew and realized the difference
between the body and the soul.
Astavakra Rsi was invited by the great king Maharaja Janaka to
attend an assembly of saintly persons. As he entered the
assembly, everyone present began to laugh at him. Hearing them,
Astavakra Rsi also began to laugh. The members of the assembly
were surprised and said to each other, "We are laughing at him,
but he is laughing even more loudly than us. Why is this?"
Maharaja rose from his throne and asked Astavakra Rsi, "Why are
you laughing so loudly?"
replied, "I thought I was coming to join an assembly of saints
and sages, but instead I have stumbled into a convention of
shoemakers. A shoemaker's interest is in leather and skin, and I
see that all of you are just looking at my skin. Your interest
is in seeing if someone is beautiful or ugly, healthy or
disabled, young or old. Your minds are absorbed in these
temporary things. You are not seeing my soul as saintly persons
would. It is simply illusion to place importance on the
external, temporary body while being oblivious to the eternal
soul dwelling within."
Maharaja's heart was deeply penetrated by Astavakra Rsi's words.
He realized that the sage was a liberated soul, and fit to sit
on the throne. He very lovingly placed him on his own throne,
bowed down to him, and accepted him as his instructing spiritual
We Are Not These Bodies
The body is
not the self. What is this material body? It is a bag of bones,
blood, urine and many other unclean substances. The mind is also
part of the material body and is different from the soul. It
experiences temporary mundane emotions as real, thus causing
much anguish and only a little pleasure. We are individual
souls, not these bodies or minds.
are mortal; all the doctors and scientists of this world cannot
prevent old age. One day, twenty, thirty or fifty years from
now, we will become old. Our beauty and power will disappear; we
won't be able to walk without the help of a cane, and after some
time we will die. At that time we will have to give up
everything we have accumulated during this lifetime. Nothing in
this world will be able to save us from continued suffering -
only God can save us in all respects. If we realize this and
engage in His loving service, we will become happy.
souls we are all parts and parcels of the same God, the Supreme
Lord. Souls in all species of life, from the lowest, such as
plants and animals, to the highest, such as humans and demigods,
are His parts and parcels. The ancient scriptures of India, the
Vedas, say, "God is one. Everything in this world is merely an
expansion of His power, or energy." Atheists, who don't believe
in God, believe in the world of nature. They believe that
everything comes from nature and returns to nature. The world of
nature in which they have placed their faith, however, is simply
a part of the energy of that Supreme Lord.
We are like
the Supreme in that we have been created in His image, but
unfortunately we have turned away from Him and have forgotten
who we are. We think that these material bodies are our real
selves. We spend our days collecting money and securing
positions, thinking that these things will make us happy - but
this conception is totally wrong.
A King in
[The history of Astavakra Rsi illustrates that we are not these
mortal bodies. The following history describes how another great
sage, Visvamitra Muni, helped another righteous king to realize
and correct his misconception regarding his own identity. In
days of yore, kings greatly honored holy men, and therefore
Visvamitra was able to help him.]
India there lived a great and very powerful emperor named
Hariscandra. His wife's name was Saibya and his beautiful young
son was Rohitasva. Hariscandra was extremely truthful; he never
told a lie or tolerated any untruth, and he was renowned
throughout the world for his generosity to all creatures.
Although he possessed such qualities, an exalted sage named
Visvamitra was concerned for his welfare.
thought, "The truth that Hariscandra follows is merely worldly
truth, and worldly truth has no real value. Except for devotees
of the Lord, no one in this world can speak the actual truth. If
I ask him, ‘What is your name?', he will say, ‘My name is
Hariscandra.' ‘Who are you?' ‘I am the Emperor.'‘Who is he?' ‘He
is my son.' ‘Who is she?' ‘She is my wife.' But in reality there
is only one truth: We are not mortal bodies. We are spirit
souls, servants of the Supreme Truth." Visvamitra Muni's concern
grew. He was convinced that King Hariscandra's happiness and
eternal well-being would lie only in a proper spiritual
understanding, and he was convinced that his misfortune would
lie in his lack of such understanding.
by his mystic power, he appeared to the king - as if by entering
his dream - and he told him, "You are an excellent king. You are
very generous, a truthful speaker and you worship God. Because
you are so pious I am confident that you will give me whatever I
ask you for. I want something from you."
awoke from his sleep and replied, "Certainly, I will donate
anything you ask for."
voiced his request, "I want your entire kingdom."
replied, "Of course, I will give it to you."
at once left, the king fell back asleep, and by the next morning
he forgot what had happened. Later that morning, Visvamitra
again approached him. He asked, "Do you remember any dream you
had last night?" "Yes, I remember." "You gave me your entire
kingdom." "I may have given it, but it was in a dream." "No, it
was not a dream. I really came to you last night."
by divine power great sages can go practically anywhere and
perform wondrous activities that would appear to ordinary people
as magic, the king believed his words.
continued, "So now, in your fully wakened state, you should say,
‘I vow to give you my kingdom.' "
said, "Yes, I declare that the kingdom is yours."
ancient Indian culture, if someone gives in charity, he gives
some coins in addition to his gift. Visvamitra therefore asked
Hariscandra to give him some additional money. "Without a
donation of coins," Visvamitra said, "no vow is complete.
Something has to be given - even if it is only one percent of
the value of your gift."
would you like?" Hariscandra asked.
replied, "Ten thousand gold coins."
immediately ordered his treasurer, "Give the sage ten thousand
Visvamitra smiled and said, "Liar, it seems that you are going
back on your word. You gave me your entire kingdom. Since your
treasury is now also mine, how can you instruct the treasurer to
give me gold? You will have to think of another way to give me
agreed, and said that he would take a loan from someone in the
kingdom. But Visvamitra said, "The citizens are also mine. You
may not take a loan from any of them."
thought, "All I have left are my wife, my son and myself -
everything else is gone." He told the sage, "I will sell myself,
my wife and my son, and then I will pay you." Visvamitra
replied, "You cannot sell yourself within my kingdom. You can do
so only outside."
kingdom of Hariscandra encompassed the entire Earth, he was now
quite perplexed as to what to do. Visvamitra then said,
"Although Kasi is within my kingdom, it is not considered part
of this world. It is the abode of the demigod Lord Siva. If you
go there you will be outside my kingdom. You can go there to
sell yourself, but do not forget to pay me."
his wife and his son had to go to Kasi by foot, because his
chariots and horses now belonged to Visvamitra. After traveling
for many days they finally arrived in Kasi and Hariscandra began
calling out to the residents, to see who would purchase him. At
that time a lowly person, the guard of a crematorium, told him
that he would purchase him if he would perform duties at the
cremation grounds. No one else had offered to purchase him, so
Hariscandra accepted and was paid five thousand gold coins. To
make up the other five thousand gold coins, he sold his wife and
child to a very cruel person of the priestly caste and then he
sells a cow, he is no longer the owner of that cow. Similarly,
Hariscandra was not the king now, nor was he the husband of his
wife or the father of his child. However, he still somewhat
identified himself as such. He thought, "I was a king. I am the
husband of Saibya and the father of Rohitasva."
time, by the mystic power of Visvamitra, a snake bit
Hariscandra's son and killed him. It was late at night during
the rainy season and bitter winds now blew along with a heavy
downpour of rain. The cruel owner of Saibya told her, "Make your
own independent arrangements to cremate your child. I have
already purchased you and I will not spend any more coins to
cremate your son. Take this dead body away from here."
So, on that
dark night, the weeping Saibya took her son's body in her arms
and carried him to the cremation grounds on the bank of the
Ganges, the same cremation grounds where her husband stood
guard. Hariscandra did not recognize her and, although she was
poor and destitute, he told her, "You cannot cremate this child
without paying the fee." She had no money with which to pay. All
she had in the world was the dead body of her son wrapped in her
Just then a
lightening bolt flashed, and Hariscandra saw that it was his own
wife standing before him. He never expected to see his son there
- dead - nor did he expect to see his wife in her distressed and
worn condition. His heart broke and he began to weep, crying
out, "Oh God, what has happened?"
Now he was
in a dilemma. He wept - but he tried to be true to his new
identity as a guard at the cremation grounds. Being very strict
in what he considered his sense of duty, he told Saibya, "Still
you should pay me. I am the watchman of this crematorium."
nothing to give," she replied, "except half of my veil." As
Saibya began to tear that veil, Visvamitra, along with Lord
Narayana (one of the incarnations of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead), and demigods such as Yamaraja (the lord of death) and
Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe and the head of the
demigods) immediately appeared on the scene, calling out, "Rohitasva
will be king!"
placed his hand on the dead body of the son and said, "Rise
quickly, my child!" Within a moment the boy stood up, his eyes
gazing toward the sky.
told Hariscandra, "I took everything away from you and now I am
returning it. The kingdom is again yours. With your new
realizations, you are now qualified to leave your worldly
responsibilities and enter the forest to meditate on God. "In
this world no one can speak the truth, in the real sense. You
are not Hariscandra. This is the name of your physical body. And
what is this body made of? It is a combination of blood, flesh,
urine and stool. When you think, ‘I am a father, husband, king
and so forth,' how is it the truth? You, the soul within the
body, are the eternal servant of God. You are part and parcel of
Krsna, the Supreme Lord. You are not of this world. Try to serve
God and chant His holy name."
Hariscandra had previously believed in some conception of the
Supreme and had dutifully worshipped Him, but his heart was not
devoted nor was he surrendered to Him. He was devoted to the
false truths of this world. Therefore, even in his palace he
could never experience any happiness in truth. By the mercy of
Visvamitra Muni he achieved the full-fledged freedom of his
transcendental nature, the freedom for which every living being
is anxious. Moreover, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, Sri
Rama, later appeared in his dynasty.
have taken many lives of endeavor to achieve, he achieved in
only a few moments by the arrangement of the powerful sage. And,
by that same arrangement, others may learn from hearing this
history from the Vedas.
We Are Part and Parcel of the
instruct us, "Don't live in darkness; move toward the light."
"Light" refers to knowledge of our true spiritual form, of the
Supreme Lord of whom we are minute parts and parcels, and of the
eternal relationship of loving service we have with Him. That
Supreme Lord is known in the Vedas as Lord Krsna, which means
the all-attractive reservoir of complete pleasure, knowledge and
eternal existence. He has many manifestations and they are all
non-different from Him. He is the supreme person we generally
call God, Allah or Jehovah. To serve Him in our constitutional
or spiritual form is light, and this service brings full and
refers to the state of spiritual ignorance. To be in darkness or
ignorance means to be attached to objects related to this body
and to have a sense of possessiveness toward the things of this
world. Everyone in this world wants to be completely happy and
no one wants to suffer. We can see, however, that despite
people's endeavors to attain happiness since time immemorial,
they have not been truly successful. Medicines, trains,
airplanes and now computers have been invented with the
intention of creating convenience and happiness, and new forms
of entertainment have been designed for this purpose. But has
all this given anyone lasting inner happiness? It is especially
thought that accumulating wealth can buy happiness, but who has
ever become permanently happy by becoming wealthy?
however, a transcendental science, a spiritual scientific
process that leads one to eternal happiness and puts an end to
one's cycle of birth and death. That science is called bhakti-yoga,
or pure devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Performance of bhakti-yoga does not require money, nor does it
require us to expend much energy, but by practicing it we attain
everlasting happiness. Just over five hundred years ago, the
Supreme Lord Krsna descended to this world in the form of His
own devotee, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and He demonstrated the
process of performing pure devotion to God. By that process one
realizes his own self as part and parcel of God. He experiences
love and affection for all living beings, knowing they are part
and parcel of the same God, and he naturally attains true inner
world it is absurd to think that one can have love and affection
for all living entities. If you get too close to a ferocious
tiger it will attack you, and a poisonous snake may bite you. If
you really want to love all beings, first love the Supreme Lord.
That love will automatically be distributed to all beings and in
this way everyone can be happy. This is true love and affection.
In that realm of love even tigers and bears can be calmed and
quieted. Great sages of the past who resided in dense forests
were never attacked by tigers or other wild beasts. If we can
attain that love for the Supreme, we can truly love all others.
Nature of the Supreme Self
[In order to
be attracted to love that Supreme Being, we first need to know
who He is, what His nature is, and what His attractive qualities
One who can
create entire universes cannot be formless or without
attributes. He must have all varieties of power and opulence.
All the forms we see in this world have come from Him, so how
can He Himself be formless? The Bible says that God has created
man in His own image, and this is also confirmed in the Vedas.
ever-existing, and in the Vedas He is called Brahman (which
refers to the impersonal effulgence of His body), Paramatma (His
manifestation as the Supersoul in the heart of all beings) and
Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who embodies all
opulence and powers). Of these three, only Bhagavan is complete.
Brahman and Paramatma are His partial expansions. Everything is
present in Bhagavan.
He is so
large that complete universes are contained within Him.
Simultaneously, He is so minute that He resides in each and
every atom - in every atom of air, in every atom of fire and in
every atom of water. He is everywhere and He can hear
Personality of Godhead is one without a second. He is the same
God for the Christians, for the Muslims, for the Hindus and for
all others. There are not different Gods. He is the same God,
the same Allah, the same Christ. Just as there is one sun and
one moon for the entire world, there is one God for all people.
How can there be more than one God? There is only one God, but
He appears differently according to individual vision.
days the moon appears to gradually increase in size until it
becomes full. Its size then begins to decrease until it becomes
a new moon on the last day of the lunar month. In this way it
appears that there are fifteen different moons. These "moons"
are not different from each other; only their names and
appearances differ: full moon, new moon, quarter moon and so on.
Similarly, there is only one God, but people have, in ignorance,
separated themselves from each other and from Him, due to their
different languages and conceptions of Him.
and incarnations of God are His manifestations and are
non-different from Him. Some, being more complete, are more
powerful; and some are less powerful - just as the full moon is
always the same moon, perceived as full, new, quarter, etc. In
reality the moon is always full, but we see it to be waxing or
waning. In the same way Lord Krsna is one without a second, and
He has innumerable manifestations who are all nondifferent from
Him. He sometimes manifests in this world personally, and
sometimes He sends His associates here to disseminate pure
knowledge. In this world all souls are His eternal servants, but
we have forgotten Him since the beginning of creation. He
sometimes descends, therefore, and performs very sweet and
powerful pastimes to attract us and engage us in His service.
doubts the existence of the sun, so why should one doubt the
existence of the creator of the sun or thousands of suns? That
personality can create millions upon millions of worlds in a
moment, and He can also destroy them. He comes to this world
only to save us from suffering, by establishing a relationship
with us and by engaging us in His loving service. There is no
other way to become happy in this or any other world. There is
only one God, and ignorance of our eternal, individual
relationship with Him is the only cause of our unhappiness. We
need not fear serving Him, thinking it to be like serving
someone of this world where the master gains and the servant
loses. It is not like that in the realm of spiritual love. One
receives great happiness in serving Him, a very relishable love
and affection that is even more than one receives by serving
one's wife, husband, children, father and so on. There are
oceans of love and affection in Krsna's transcendental realm.
Have very firm faith in this. Do not doubt that we are spirit
souls, parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
and that we are His eternal servants.
The Process of Self-Realization
previous age of Satya-yuga, the Age of Goodness, mankind lived
pious, peaceful and pure lives of thousands of years. At that
time, great sages used to see Him by meditating upon Him. In
this present age it is not possible to meditate so deeply,
because our minds are unsteady. Such meditation can be achieved,
however, by chanting His name, and by this process we can
realize His mercy and actually see Him. The Vedic literatures
recommend that to attain pure love of God in this current age,
In this age
of quarrel and hypocrisy the only process to achieve
God-realization and self-realization is to chant the holy names
of the Lord, and this is easy to do.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
may be chanted by anyone of any language - whether one is
English, Malaysian, Indian, Spanish or Chinese. People of all
faiths call out to that one God, who is very beautiful,
charming, powerful and merciful. He can come and play with you
in any relationship as a master, friend, son or beloved.
chanting of these names to be truly effective, however, they
should be chanted according to an authentic process, given by
the Supreme Lord Himself. Otherwise, such chanting will not
produce the desired result. Knowledge of this transcendental
process and its goal has descended through a line of disciplic
succession of pure spiritual masters, beginning from the Supreme
Lord Himself. Those who have heard directly from Him appear in
that succession of perfect masters, and a disciple of such a
spiritual master can chant successfully.
The Bona Fide Guide
The bona fide spiritual master, or guru, tells us, "Give me your
ears. I do not want all of your senses - only your ears." Among
all the senses, only the ears can hear sound vibration, and thus
transcendental words. The guru coming in disciplic succession
helps us surrender to God by engaging our function of hearing.
Through this vibration of sound, his transcendental words enter
the heart of the disciple and reveal Krsna, God Himself, who is
hidden in everyone's heart. No sense but the ears can perceive
this transcendental sound.
two kinds of sound vibration. One is transcendental and is
beyond this material world. It comes from the Supreme
Personality of Godhead Himself via the disciplic succession. The
other is ordinary material sound vibration, which comes from the
vibration of the material tongue. One who has not extensively
practiced bhakti-yoga and who is not perfect may give Krsna's
holy name and various spiritual mantras to others, but the sound
vibrations spoken by him will have no spiritual effect. Although
such sounds are by nature powerful and transcendental, they must
be imbued with realization. Otherwise, they will manifest as
worldly, mundane words. If a guru is not sufficiently expert in
chanting transcendental sound and has no realization of its
nature, that sound vibration will not produce any real fruit in
the heart of the person who receives it from him. Self-realized
souls perfectly utter that transcendental sound, and one should
receive it from them.
definition of bhakti, pure devotion, is given in the Vedic
scriptures as follows: "Pure devotional service is the
cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the
pleasure of Lord Krsna, or in other words, the uninterrupted
flow of service to Krsna, performed through all endeavors of the
body, mind and speech, and through the expression of various
spiritual sentiments. It is not covered by knowledge aimed at
impersonal liberation or by reward-seeking activity, and it is
devoid of all desires other than the aspiration to bring
happiness to Krsna." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.11)
Vedic scriptures contain many verses that explain the quality of
a person who, because of his own pure devotional service, can
actually help us. One such verse is as follows: "Any person who
seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual
master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification
of the bona fide guru is that, having left aside all material
desires, he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by
deliberation and is able to convince others of the Supreme
Godhead." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.97)
following history illustrates how the heinous criminal Valmiki
became a great devotee by associating with a self-realized
spiritual master who had the above-mentioned qualities. Valmiki,
though born into the priestly caste, associated with bad men. As
a result he became a ferocious criminal, even murdering many
sages. He once approached the exalted sage Narada Muni to kill
him, but as he moved toward him Narada raised his hand and said,
"Stop!" The astonished Valmiki was forced to freeze his
movements and thus a mood of submission to Narada entered his
heart. Narada then revealed to him the reactions that would come
to him as a result of his abominable sins. Valmiki took shelter
of Narada and inquired from him how to become free from those
"Sit down here and chant ‘Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama.' (Rama is
the name of one of Krsna's incarnations.) Do this and nothing
else." Valmiki tried, but the reactions to his sinful activities
had fructified to the point that he was unable to chant that
divine name. Narada cleverly told him, "If you cannot chant Rama,
you can chant mara."
in the Sanskrit language means "death") has the same syllables
as Rama said backwards. When mara mara is chanted repeatedly, it
automatically becomes "Rama Rama." Having given Valmiki these
instructions, Narada left that place.
easily able to chant mara mara, and continued chanting for
thousands of years while waiting for his guru's return. During
that time he did not eat or even pass stool and urine. Ants ate
his flesh, blood and other bodily substances, gradually
enclosing him in an anthill. In this way his own body vanished,
and it now appeared that he had a body made of earth. In due
course of time, Brahma, the chief demigod and original guru of
the disciplic succession of gurus, came to that place. Upon
seeing the condition of Valmiki's body, Lord Brahma sprinkled
water upon him from his sacred water pot while uttering mantras,
and Valmiki's body then became that of a beautiful youth. Brahma
told him, "Now you have perfected the chanting of your mantra;
you have realized the Supreme Lord."
in the course of his meditation, the great sage Valmiki composed
the famous Ramayana, the authorized history of Lord Rama, whose
name he was chanting. Written hundreds of thousands of years
ago, the Ramayana is counted as one of the original Vedas and is
considered the most famous spiritual epic in India. Valmiki
compiled it just before Lord Rama descended to this world. -ed]
In this day
and age it is not possible for us to perform such austerity. We
find it difficult to refrain from eating, drinking or sleeping
for just one day, what to speak of several years, and we cannot
be fully absorbed in meditation for twelve hours, six hours or
even one hour. But there is a process that we can easily follow,
and this process is the essence of all Vedic scriptures. Take
the seed of the perfect transcendental name of Krsna by
accepting initiation from a bona fide guru. Chant the Hare Krsna
mantra and you will very easily find happiness.
Hare Krsna Hare
Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare