The Gift of Consciousness

Radha and Krishna“In this material world we desire sense enjoyment, but without Krishna or without Krishna consciousness there is no possibility of sense enjoyment. We may have strong arms and legs, but when there is no consciousness—when there is no Krishna consciousness—we cannot even utilize them.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 21)

Whether one refers to Him as Krishna, God, nature, or death, the highest authority figure is still the source of the true benefit of the human form of life, the very essence of living for that matter. The supreme gift is known as consciousness, and without it there would be no enjoyment of the various senses and the activities they draw the individual towards. Therefore a wise man would at least acknowledge the existence, presence and benevolence of the kindest of benefactors. Taking things one step further, if the same gift, consciousness, is utilized for the service of the original donor, the most pleasurable object known the world over, then the true potential for knowledge, bliss and excitement in activity will be reached. This fact was well known to Kunti Devi, a famous queen and mother.

Lord KrishnaLord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the most attractive, complete and blissful feature of the original Divine Being, personally made an appearance on this earth some five thousand years ago. Krishna is not simply a blue god of the Hindu tradition, but rather the very embodiment of the origin of spirit, an entity who is ever-intelligent and firmly linked to every instance of life. In one sense everything is God, including matter, but only within the spiritual energy is there a personal presence. Our hands and legs are part of our body, but if someone wants to address us, they must communicate through sound and sight, which enter through the ears and the eyes. The information then gets processed by the brain, which is driven by consciousness. Therefore our ability to have conscious thought is the true benefit of our existence, the essence of which is the spiritual spark found within the heart.

The Supreme Soul residing alongside the individual soul in every form of life is personally identifiable with God, or that person we call out to in times of trouble. Even an atheist believes in Krishna, except their acknowledgement of His personal feature is lacking. An atheist must eventually bow down to a higher force at the time of death. Whether the intelligence and personal abilities of that force are recognized or not bears no difference on the effects. We may not believe in the sun or in the laws of gravity, but these energies will act nonetheless. One may say they outwardly don’t believe in God, but at the time of death they will succumb to a more powerful force, one that takes them away from their present condition without asking for permission to do so. Government influence can be checked through resistance, but no amount of diet, exercise or pleading can stop the all-devouring force of time.

Lord KrisnaSince God exists, it couldn’t hurt to understand who He is and why He does what He does. This is indeed the true benefit of human life, for the famous Vedanta-sutras open with “athato brahma jijnasa”, or “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, or the Absolute Truth.” When first learning about transcendental subject matters, understanding the simultaneously all-pervading and personal nature of the Supreme Truth is quite difficult; therefore it is understandable if one focuses on studying Brahman first. Just as the individual soul is the essence of life within a specific form of body, the sum collection of all individual entities comprises Brahman, which is likened to a beam of light shining off of a luminous object, which is the original source known as Krishna, or God.

Due to His kind-hearted nature and His causeless mercy, Shri Krishna appears on this earth every now and then. During His descent in the Dvapara Yuga, Krishna spent much time with a royal family known as the Pandavas, whose mother, Queen Kunti, had suffered greatly throughout her life. In spite of the difficulties she encountered, due to her attachment to Krishna she actually prayed to have all of those calamities repeat, for that would again bring Krishna’s association. Every time the Pandavas were in trouble, they were somehow miraculously saved. Kunti Devi knew that the only force capable of performing miracles is Shri Krishna, so the credit for their family remaining alive belonged solely to Him. It is said that if Krishna wants to protect someone, no one can harm them. Conversely, if Krishna wants to kill someone, no force can protect them.

Krishna protecting DraupadiIn one set of beautiful prayers offered to the Lord, Kunti Devi says that without Krishna’s presence, the senses have no meaning. This is a very nice offering, for it speaks to Krishna’s generous attitude. As we can’t remember even being within the womb of our mother, we can understand that there was no control over where we took birth and what type of body we received. In the larger scheme such events are determined by karma, or the results of fruitive activity, but even with the ability to alter one’s destiny, the individual still lacks a direct influence in shaping the specifics of their future form of body. From these facts we can understand that all of our immediate possessions, the appendages of the outer covering of the soul and its various senses, have been given to us. The real question is, “Why?”

Only with consciousness can there be enjoyment. To reach the full potential of happiness, the mindset must be purified and focused on a legitimate object of pleasure. When acting in ignorance of the source of the senses, the conditioned living entity takes exclusively to material sense gratification, wherein the demands of the tongue, genitals and stomach are given precedence. This behavior is especially prominent in the animal species, as they don’t know any better. A dog has no clue what birth and death are, nor does it understand the presence of the soul and the importance of consciousness. A dog simply eats when it wants to, has sex with whoever is around, sleeps when it is tired, and defends its territory by barking loudly.

Since it is animal-like, the human being has penchants for similar activity. But with the potential for a more developed consciousness provided by “nature”, the human being has the opportunity to ascend to new heights, to actually fulfill the true mission of life. When the presence of the original donor, God, is acknowledged, the senses can be put to good use. Irrespective of the specific activity adopted, the underlying cause is always the mood of service, the desire to offer some type of work as a sacrifice for a future benefit. Under the mindset of pure sense gratification, the living entity drawn towards service views the individual self as the sole beneficiary. In its egregious form this behavior is not only unappreciated by society as a whole, but it provides very limited amounts of pleasure. If selfishness could solve all problems, wealthy millionaires and celebrities would never take to charity, philanthropy, and championing causes they felt were important. A wealthy man has every opportunity for sense gratification available to him, so he could spend the entire day intoxicated if he wanted to. This lifestyle gets old really fast, however, so the search for a new outlet for the desire to serve continues.

Lord KrishnaWho better to act as a beneficiary for our loving attitude than the original donor Himself, the man from whom our senses emanate? In the Vedic tradition, the Supreme Divine Entity, the person most often addressed as God, is tagged with thousands of names that each speak to His different features. As Hrishikesha, Krishna is the master and owner of all senses. Therefore when the servant acts in the interests of the Master, not only does a harmonious situation result, but the servant actually surpasses the Master in stature. The gloriousness of Shrimati Kunti Devi is a perfect illustration of this fact. As a powerful mother and exalted princess, Kunti Devi could have dedicated all of her sense actions exclusively for the benefit of her five sons, who were all pious individuals in their own right. Instead, she first directed all her thoughts, desires and hopes at the feet of her nephew, Shri Krishna, who also happened to be God Himself. By adopting this proper priority system, not only was Kunti’s consciousness purified, all other aspects of her life were taken care of as well. If Kunti had not served the Supreme Master perfectly, there would be no need to praise her exploits or discuss her kind prayers today.

How do we serve someone that we can’t even see? How do we know that there is such a thing as a God who gives us senses? Moreover, how do we know that serving this entity will actually bring us any pleasure? For starters, we can accept the statements of the great authority figures like Vyasadeva, Kunti Devi, Narada Muni, King Janaka and so many others who dedicated their thoughts, words and deeds to Krishna and subsequently experienced the highest bliss. Following the instructions heard from authority figures is acquiring knowledge through the descending process. This method saves a lot of time and trouble, as the necessary quality assurance tests have already been conducted. The processes recommended by the mahajanas, experts on worship of Krishna, come with a full stamp of approval, so anyone who follows these dictates will be benefited.

Nityananda PrabhuBut as we all know, if we blindly follow someone who is a swindler, a cheater who has some ulterior motive, the descending process will bring complete disaster. Therefore the best option is to at least try out some of the prescriptions offered by the Vaishnavas, devotees of Vishnu/Krishna, and see what effect they have. Since Krishna is the giver of consciousness, its purification can be quickly had by focusing our thoughts and desires on the Lord’s personal self. Though we can’t see Krishna’s influence in front of us in our conditioned state, His name, which is non-different from Him, is still present. Therefore the foremost recommendation for aspiring transcendentalists of the current age is to chant the maha-mantra as often as possible: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This sequence of words is so powerful that Lord Nityananda, the dear associate of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, went from house to house begging people to recite it. Nityananda Prabhu didn’t want any money, fame or acknowledgment of greatness; he just wished that the sincere souls of the world would take to chanting the names of Hari, or Krishna. Haribol, or “chant the name of God”, is the famous line sung by followers of the bhakti school, those who take loving service to the Supreme Lord to be their only engagement in life.

Simply chanting Hare Krishna is enough to make proper use of the senses. The name of the Lord gradually evokes consciousness of His other names, forms, pastimes and attributes. Though it may seem like a childlike process aimed at reforming the unintelligent, since chanting directly attacks the snakelike material senses and purifies consciousness, the activities that result are based on the highest intelligence. We may perform the most worthwhile activity in karma, starve our senses through strict austerity, and even master many mystic powers, but if our resulting behavior is still based on a faulty consciousness, one which views the individual or any inferior entity not directly related to God as the ultimate beneficiary of activity, we will fail to achieve perfection. On the other hand, for one who takes Haribol to be their call to action, the most important slogan in their life, their activities will always remain pure, irrespective of their level of acuity of spiritual wisdom.

Of what use is high knowledge anyway if the resulting activities don’t provide a tangible benefit? If we spend years in medical school, get a license to practice and then stop there, should we be proud of our accomplishments? If we don’t actually start healing people, of what use is our education? Similarly, gathering knowledge of the differences between matter and spirit, adhering to specific dogmas and rituals, and even acknowledging the existence of God don’t represent the summit of activity, as the soul requires an eternal engagement, one that never fizzles out or fades away.

Radha-Krishna with cowFrom Kunti Devi’s exemplary behavior, we see that just by remembering God and focusing the consciousness on His beautiful form, we can reach the full potential for intelligence. We have no evidence that Kunti Devi was a Vedantist, a Sanskrit scholar, or a meditational yogi. We do know that she loved Krishna very much, so much so that she saw past His being her brother Vasudeva’s son. Just from a steady link in consciousness to the Supreme Lord, which is the underlying purpose to yoga, Kunti Devi made the most of her unique gift of consciousness. This same benediction of an eternal existence is granted to all of us, so by taking to bhakti-yoga, which starts and continues with the chanting of the names of Hari, we can use our wonderful gift to gain the greatest spiritual advantage. Just as the Pandavas and Queen Kunti were always in a protected status, enjoying the company of Shri Krishna, if not in person than at least in thought, the humble soul who dedicates their consciousness towards satisfying the Supreme Lord, whose foremost desire is to reclaim the fallen souls of the phenomenal world, will never have anything to fear in this world. Remembering Krishna brings an end to the cycle of birth and death, thereby revealing that the most precious benediction of consciousness is the key that unlocks the door to eternal freedom of movement, satisfaction and enjoyment.

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