“The ordinary conditioned human being may think the conditioned soul, who is covered by his materialistic senses, mind and intelligence, to be equal to Krishna, but Lord Krishna is just like the sun, which, although it sometimes may appear to be so, is never covered by the cloud, snow or fog or by other planets. When the eyes of less intelligent men are covered by such influences, they think the sun to be invisible. Similarly, persons influenced by the senses and addicted to material enjoyment cannot have a clear vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Narada Muni, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 29)
Comment: “Krishna is all-encompassing. Everything, both good and bad, is Krishna. Therefore it is pointless to say that one person is acting properly, while another person isn’t. Krishna is everyone and everyone is Krishna.”
Response: The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are so intricate and complex that people often derive many conclusions from them. One of the most harmful and erroneous conclusions is that man is God or that everything in this creation is on an equal footing since it was all created by God. Other faiths don’t necessarily run into these issues because their knowledge base isn’t as complete. While other religious systems certainly can prove effective when practiced in the proper mindset, the principle method of worship essentially involves sentimentalism or sectarianism. The Vedas, which certainly include sentiment and dedication to notable personalities, are unique in that they provide a fine level of detail into the nature of the soul, where it comes from, and what will ultimately lead to its benefit. These truths are presented through cutting logic, thought-provoking aphorisms, and transcendental activities enacted by the Personality of Godhead. This last point is the most important. Since there is an original Personality of Godhead, it is impossible for the minute living entities, ordinary human beings, to be on an equal footing with Him. Since there is a superior entity, there is also a superior discipline that trumps all others. This discipline is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
What do we mean by disciplines? Religion is generally associated with a theistic tradition or some type of faith. If we delve a little deeper into the issue, we’ll see that religion is essentially a person or group of people’s ultimate conclusion. A final conclusion is one that trumps all others. For example, say that we are learning how to drive. There are secondary conclusions such as knowing when to turn, when to accelerate, when to break, and when to park. There are so many secondary truths or conclusions that one must follow, but the sum total of all conclusions can be thought of as the ultimate conclusion. This truth encompasses all the rules necessary to drive properly, safely, and successfully towards one’s final destination. This same principle can be applied to all ventures. Every person is performing some type of work, whether they know it or not. Therefore there are many conclusions reached based on the scope of activities.
A person’s ultimate conclusion in life can be considered their religion. Even the atheists and agnostics can be considered religious. Their highest truth is that the senses need to be gratified either through activities aimed at satisfying their personal self or through activities of philanthropy and altruism. Those who are religious generally view their ultimate conclusion to be the satisfaction of a particular spiritual figure. The Vedas provide a little more clarity on this issue. The truths that are derived from the Vedas all deal with the soul and its relationship with a divine entity. The all-encompassing conclusion, the one truth that explains all other truths, was put forth by Shri Krishna Chaitanya, a preacher, brahmana, and incarnation of Godhead who appeared on this earth around five hundred years ago. His conclusion is known as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, and it states that the individual spirit souls, the living entities, are simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Krishna. Moreover, the human mind is incapable of properly conceiving of this relationship.
The collective teachings of the Vedas are found in many scriptures, the primary of which are the Ramayana, Puranas, Mahabharata, and Vedanta-sutras. These texts focus on the greatness of God, explaining His various names, forms, and attributes. In addition, the relationship of the living entities to the Supreme Lord is also presented. Not only are there descriptions of the transcendent Lord’s wonderful features, but there are also postulates and truths presented which negate other false or lesser truths. What does it mean to negate a truth? In the area of mathematics, logical proofs are often used to prove or disprove the validity of statements. The same concept applies in spiritual life. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, is often described with the terms neti neti, meaning “not this, not this”. This phrase means that Lord Krishna is not this world. He can only be found in the spiritual world.
The Mahabharata, which is one of the primary Vedic texts mentioned above, contains a small chapter which later turned into a famous book known as the Bhagavad-gita. This book is noteworthy because it chronicles a conversation between Lord Krishna and His disciple Arjuna during Krishna’s time on earth. Though the text is essentially a transcript of a conversation, Krishna plays the role of a teacher, or spiritual master. Therefore the words take on an added importance. Yet the truths found in the Gita are so profound that even non-devotees take to reading this wonderful book. The nature of enjoyment, lust, anger, greed, happiness, sadness, karma, birth, death, God, atheism, and so many other topics are covered.
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
Because the truths found in the Gita are so profound, there is an urge to remove Krishna from His teachings. The achintya-bhedabheda-tattva states that the living entities are the same as Krishna in one sense. Krishna validates this by stating that He is in every aspect of the creation, but everything is not in Him. Since God creates everything, nothing can be considered separate from Him. At the same time, Krishna makes sure to remind us that there is only one God. Just because we are part of the entire creation and thus part of the complete whole known as God, it doesn’t mean that we are the original God. We can never be as powerful as Krishna.
Problems arise when people take shelter of argument and logic in lieu of Krishna. Studying various statements found in the Gita and other books, such philosophers take the words to be absolute. Logic and argument work in such a way that any truth can be negated simply through skepticism. For example, if I were to say that the sky is blue, another person could use logic and argument to question my assertion. “How do you know the sky is blue? How do you even know what blue is? How can you trust your eyes? Just because everyone else says the sky is blue, does that mean they are right? Since you cannot be completely sure of your assertion, it cannot be considered true. Therefore anything else you say also cannot be considered true.” In this way, a simple truth like the sky being blue is negated. When we apply this concept on a grander scale, we see that the entire sum and substance of the universe becomes nullified, or equivalent to zero. This is the practice of the class of transcendentalists known as the Mayavadis. They believe in a formless Absolute Truth known as Brahman. While the Vedas certainly do acknowledge the existence of Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth remains a personality. This personality, whose name is Krishna, has a transcendental body which is full of bliss and knowledge. The effulgence that beams off His body is known as Brahman. Those who are unable to see through this effulgence remain stuck on the Brahman realization.
Aside from the Mayavadis, there are those who take Krishna’s statement pertaining to God being everything the wrong way. Such philosophers conclude that since Krishna creates everything, nothing can be considered bad. Murderers, liars, cheats, and thieves are simply associating with a certain aspect of Krishna’s creation, so they can’t really be considered any worse than the pious saints. Since God is everything, everything must also be God. In one sense, this is certainly true. Lord Krishna can never be separated from His energies. There is a separation, however, in the area of consciousness. Moreover, regardless of the nature of the living entity, man is always looking for happiness through enjoyment. Krishna is everything, but depending on the type of energy one associates with, the nature of the enjoyment will vary. In addition, certain energies belonging to Krishna actually bring about misery instead of happiness, hence the distinction between piety and sin, virtue and vice.
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 13.14)
Spiritual activities derive their uniqueness from the nature of enjoyment. Potency is what distinguishes God from any other entity. Only the original form of Godhead, the Almighty Creator, is capable of providing on the grandest scale. The reach of His arms and legs is endless. His body is so large that He is capable of devouring the entire creation in a second, and then reproducing it right afterwards. In fact, this very description of the Supreme Lord, in His form of Lord Rama, was given by the demon Akampana. Even the enemies of the Lord are aware of His capabilities. Yet what separates the demons from the devotees is the nature of enjoyment. Not only does the Supreme Lord fulfill orders which are incapable of being fulfilled by any ordinary living entity, but He also provides the greatest enjoyment possible. This is what separates Krishna from any other person. In this area, there is no equality amongst living entities. Krishna is the ultimate reservoir of pleasure.
“The highly renowned Rama rages into a fury against those who dare brave against Him. He is extremely powerful, for He can completely stop the onset of a pulsing river simply by using His arrows. Shriman Rama can bring down all the stars, planets, and the sky itself by use of His arrows. He is even capable of saving the earth if it should collapse. The illustrious Rama, if He wanted to, could deluge the whole world by breaking apart the shorelines of the seas. With His arrows, He can resist the onset of the oceans and the wind. After withdrawing the whole world into Himself, that highly renowned best of men, by virtue of His powers, is capable of again creating the whole world with all its creatures.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.23-26)
As mentioned before, regardless of the specific activities adopted, people are seeking enjoyment. There is really no such thing as good or bad in a spiritual sense because the resulting conditions of fruitive activity are temporary. The soul is eternal, but its outer covering is not. The body is always changing, as is the giant body known as the creation. Sin is any activity which leads to a temporary unfavorable condition at some point in the future, while piety leads to a temporary favorable condition. By this definition alone, we see the difference between acts of bhakti and acts of karma. Any activity which results in a temporary consequence can be considered an act of karma. The actual consequence is not of importance, for one person may deem a specific consequence favorable, while another may view it the other way. One person likes ice cream, while another loathes it. In this way, enjoyment is a relative thing. Unless a particular enjoyment is tied to Krishna, it is considered second class.
Every person is religious because every person has an ultimate object of worship and someone or something that they view as the ultimate source of pleasure. When the primary object of worship is part of Krishna’s separated energy, the resulting consequence is the continuation of the cycle of birth and death. When the worshipable object is part of Krishna’s internal energy, which is represented by pure spirit, the associated result is association with that spirit. Here we get a hint into why Krishna comes to earth from time to time. Since God is the supreme spirit, those who associate with Him will receive the highest form of enjoyment. This is why devotees, those who choose to associate regularly with Krishna through chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, try to induce others to take to bhakti-yoga as well. They know that everyone is looking for happiness, regardless of which aspect of Krishna’s energy they are currently associating with. Since association with Krishna’s separated energy, represented by activities that aim to please the gross senses of the temporary body, can never lead to true happiness, acts of karma must be considered second class. The devotees try to help others see the folly in their ways so that their enjoyment, which is ultimately what they are after, can be increased.
Taking shelter of argument and logic is not a very good idea because it can lead to a neutral position. If everything becomes negated through categorization and the grouping of activities into logical units, the resulting condition is essentially the same as the starting point. If after reading the Bhagavad-gita, a person comes to the conclusion that everything is God so it doesn’t matter what activities we take up, they haven’t changed anything about their outlook or the nature of their activities. This begs the question as to why the Gita exists in the first place. Why would Krishna come to earth to espouse the belief of negativity or voidism, when such philosophies already exist in Krishna’s absence? The Lord would have no need to codify a religion of neutrality in a book such as the Gita or Shrimad Bhagavatam.
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)
We know that Krishna comes to earth for a reason. His mission cannot be the spreading of a philosophy that claims that all activities are the same, for the last instruction given in the Gita is that we should surrender ourselves completely to Krishna and give up all other dharmas. Dharma can mean religiosity, but the more accurate definition is an essential characteristic. Whatever someone views as their essential characteristic will determine the nature of the activities they take up. If someone believes that the essential characteristic of man is that he is his body, then the activities adopted from this line of thinking will involve sense gratification. By the same token, if a person believes their essential characteristic is that of oneness with nature, their activities will be devoid of any spiritual interaction. Such a mindset makes one prone to falling back down to the platform of sense gratification, or worse, subscribing to the idea that they are God.
Lord Krishna states that one should abandon all other dharmas except that of surrender to Him. This is because our essential characteristic is that of being enjoyed. Who enjoys us? Krishna, of course. Yet there is full independence in this relationship. The Lord does not force us to surrender unto Him. Therefore anyone who wants to remain in association with material nature is given every opportunity to do so. The Bhagavad-gita, Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and other Vedic texts are intended for those who are looking for a higher taste, the type of satisfaction that never leaves them worse off from where they started. Therefore the ultimate activity resulting from the ultimate conclusion is that of bhakti-yoga. Acts of devotion are devoid of any association with inferior energies. Those who take to the path of bhakti get to associate with Krishna, or one of His non-different forms such as Rama, Narasimha, or Chaitanya, for all of eternity. This surrender can only come about when we see past the glaring effulgence of Brahman and abandon our worship of logic and argument. Lord Krishna is not of this material world, and neither are we. When both the energetic and the energy are together in the spiritual world, the resulting fusion is a thing of beauty.