“Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.29)
Despite the noble efforts of societal leaders, individuals are naturally inclined to viewing others in terms of their relationship to a particular race, gender, nationality, or religious group. These classifications are often revealed through the practices of racism and bigotry; hence the categorization is viewed in a negative light. Yet the practice is so prevalent because grouping individuals in this way allows for similarities and natural bonds with our fellow man to be found. Similarities in distinguishing features make it easier to form friendships and feel as though there are others out there going through similar struggles. Though groupings based off bodily traits and behavior certainly do have some validity, there is one trait that every single form of life shares. When the proper vision is acquired to see this quality in everyone, society at large can work together for the highest common good, a condition which leads to peace and harmony for all.
Though the average human being puts on a new set of clothes every day and gradually progresses through the various stages of life, the grouping of individuals is not usually based on age or outward dress. Rather, distinctions are made between gender, nationality, religious affiliation, and species. In fact, the scientific discipline of biology goes into a deep study of the different kingdoms, phyla, and species of life that are known to be in existence. These groupings are created so as to make life easier to understand. If we know what a particular form of life is prone towards doing, it’s easier to react to them. As a famous children’s animated television show once said, “And knowing is half the battle”, knowledge brings confidence. If we are in the know about something, we will know what to expect and how to react in important situations.
Though there are many movements that push for equality and racial harmony, it is an undeniable fact that issues of race and gender are always part of the public’s consciousness. When filling out any official document of importance, nationality and race are usually addressed. These group distinctions allow a person to find commonalities with their fellow man and thus understand them better. Not only are groupings made off of outward features of the body, but also on occupation and interests in hobbies and so forth. If we practice medicine for a living, naturally we will have things in common with other doctors and medical practitioners. If we write computer programs for a living, it would make sense that we’d have other computer scientists as friends.
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, teach one very important lesson to aspiring transcendentalists. This instruction is put forth right at the beginning, before the student goes any further in their studies. Aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman.”, serves as the first lesson because it helps us understand that we have something in common with every form of life, regardless of the type of body they occupy. There is only one God, but since His potency is so great, He gives off transcendental sparks that are individually autonomous. Since these sparks come from the original fire, there is a natural affinity towards association with the reservoir of energy. Yet the qualities of free-will and independence bring about choices for the sparks. The autonomous entities may not always choose to associate with their intimate life partner, the Supreme Lord. Those who choose against the reservoir of spiritual energy are allowed to take birth in a realm which has nothing to do with God, save for His presence as an impartial observer.
Since every form of life in this material world is in the same predicament and of the same quality, they are all equal. The aggregate total of all spirit makes up Brahman. In this way, every one of us is Brahman at the core, but currently we are covered by a material body which is always changing. This dress, or outer garment, causes false identifications based on race, gender, and ethnicity. These identifications are deemed flawed because they don’t speak to the nature of Brahman. Spirit is completely pure and uncontaminated. Brahman is a way to realize the Absolute Truth, or God. The best way to understand Brahman is to think of the sun and the sunshine. The sun is all-powerful and completely unique. There is nothing like it in the universe. No one can explain its workings or even come close to contaminating it. As such, God is like the sun, only more powerful and complete.
The sunshine emanates from the sun, so it can be considered non-different from the original solar body. There is no difference in the constitutional makeup between one ray of sunshine and another. Yet the sunshine is not nearly as powerful as the sun. The sunshine’s potency can also be covered up and clouded by other material elements. Though the constitutional makeup of the sunshine never changes, its autonomous nature is checked in a way by the material elements. The sun, however, is never checked. One may be able to block out the effects of the sun for a short period of time, but the sun itself remains exactly in the same position. No one is able to move it.
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
The properties of the sun and the sunshine illustrate the difference between God and the living entities. The sum total of the sunshine can be thought of as Brahman. Since we are all individual sparks, part of Brahman, we are all considered equal. This includes the ants, reptiles, plants, cows, and other forms of life. When one understands this fact, they can create the most inclusive grouping of all. If we understand that everyone is Brahman, we’ll see that everyone is our brother and sister. We are all one, as we are all the same. We are all fighting for one cause, so the more people that join this fight the better.
And what exactly is that cause? As sparks emanating from the Supreme Energetic, our natural position is to be engaged in His service. Yet this engagement cannot be taken up unless and until we realize who we are. The false identifications based off class, gender, and race are related to the outer covering of the soul. This covering is constantly changing, and at the time of death, a brand new set of material elements is provided to the soul, such are the workings of the laws of karma, or fruitive activity. Upon ascending to the Brahman realization stage, a purified individual can take the necessary steps to thwart karma’s effects.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.54)
Upon realizing Brahman, there is no more hankering or lamenting. Hankering is a result of the desire for some personal benefit, and lamentation comes from failing to achieve whatever was hankered after. Since the outer body is always changing and is subject to eventual destruction, there is no reason to hanker or lament over anything related to it. Rather, the aim of life should be to reunite with the spiritual sun, Shri Krishna. In the Vedic tradition, the one and only God is referred to by many names, each of which speaks to His innumerable transcendental attributes. For a husband, there is great joy derived from hearing his beloved call him by his name. The name is much more personal and indicative of the loving thoughts shared by the paramour. In the same way, addressing God by His different names shows signs of transcendental love directed at the Supreme Loveable Object.
Though there are many names for the Divine Personality, Krishna is considered the most inclusive. It speaks to His all-attractive nature, His position as the best friend of every living entity, and His status as the ultimate enjoyer. Though Krishna can be called directly by saying His name, there is an even better way to address both He and His supreme potency. God is the energetic and the spirit souls are His energy. When the energy is in the company of the energetic, the energy is considered liberated and in its natural habitat. There is one living entity who best exemplifies the transcendental loving spirit, the energy acting in the interests of the energetic. This person is Shrimati Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna. Both Radha and Krishna can be address by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers]—can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.32)
When the Brahman classification is adopted, a bond with our fellow man can immediately be formed and the chanting of the Lord’s names can collectively commence. Along with chanting, there are other processes such as worshiping, hearing, and remembering. When the processes are taken together, or if only one process is exclusively adopted, we get the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. We should note that nowhere in this discipline is their mention of the Hindu faith or one’s birthright, skin color, or gender. This speaks to the nature of Brahman. Brahman is neither American, nor Indian, nor Russian, nor Chinese. Brahman is not male or female. Brahman has no relation to bank balance, stature in society, or physical strength. Every form of life, anything with a soul in it, is Brahman. Krishna is Parabrahman, or the Supreme Spirit, so when Brahman dovetails all its activities with His service, there is peace and harmony. Since we are already accustomed to making designations, why not adopt the most accurate one, a classification that applies universally and brings about the highest benefit?