“A Krishna conscious person knows that whatever he has is not under his control. If we do not believe in God, we must believe in some power beyond us which is controlling us at every step, call that power God or nature or whatever. There is a controlling power in the universe, and no sane man can deny it.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Raja-vidya, Ch 4)
In every sphere of activity there is a relative caste system, wherein individuals are given specific tasks and assignments based on their standing. Even while doing something as simple as reading a newspaper or internet website, there is a distinction between the content provider and the person viewing the content. In an airplane, there are class distinctions between the passengers, the pilot and the hospitality crew. The more the scope of control is expanded out, the easier it becomes to see that in the larger picture there is a grand controller, a force whose superiority everyone acknowledges in some way or another. The Vedic tradition identifies this commander by describing His names, forms, qualities and pastimes. Moreover, the controller Himself has a never-ending promise to provide satisfaction through personal interaction to anyone who is wise enough to acknowledge His presence and take to understanding Him. That controller is Lord Krishna, and since He is beautiful in every way, recognizing Him as our Supreme Controller brings the greatest satisfaction, knowledge and bliss.
Just by glancing at the laws of nature, it is seen that no one is supremely independent. For instance, we know that the laws of gravity apply to all objects. No sane man would jump out of a high story building and expect to avoid injury. The voluntary restriction on movement to avoid pain itself is an acknowledgement of a force that cannot be defeated. Similarly, the need for sleep, the dependence on the sun, the need for moderation in eating and drinking, and so many other regulations of everyday life prove that the living entity has very little control. Even the animal species, which according to human estimation has little to no intelligence, understands when someone is attacking and when there is hunger. In this way the animals also work within the bounds set by higher authorities.
In the human form of life, there is every opportunity to identify the higher power and benefit from knowing Him. Without full knowledge, however, the animalistic tendencies take over and the human brain searches for ways to get around the basic laws of nature and defeat the controlling authority. This attitude is most vividly seen in the fervent pursuit to cheat the greatest equalizer, the one force that has yet to lose: death. Advancements in material science, travels through outer space and the frantic research to find cures for common ailments all point to the desire to escape death, which, along with taxes, is guaranteed.
The all-devouring forces of death compel every single person to reveal that they are religious, that they acknowledge the presence of God. After all, to acknowledge a superior controller, one who has full authority, is to verily accept the existence of a “God”. For those who do not know the nature of the Supreme Person or who stubbornly consider His existence to be a myth or a concoction of the stupid who had trouble coping with the difficulties in life, the time of death serves as the most humbling experience. The atheist eventually will see God when they are quitting their body, because, by definition, one who is attached to worldly life will have no desire to escape their body. When a famous person passes away even at an old age there is great sadness throughout society, as the time of death is seen as the completion of life, the endpoint of material existence and all enjoyment as well for the departed.
Regardless of how He is viewed, the mastermind behind the workings of nature is always present, and His forces play no favorites. Whether one tries to buck the forces of nature and their most powerful agent known as death, or whether one wholly acknowledges the supremacy of the entity governing all functions of life, the workings of the sun, moon, gravity, etc. will not change in the slightest. What can be achieved, however, is a permanent end to death on the local level. Just as the measurements of time are not limited to single instances, the duration of one’s existence within a particular body type isn’t tallied just one time. The soul, the identifiable aspect within all life forms, exists perpetually, as it is above and beyond the forces of nature. The outer covering a soul assumes at a particular time may not remain manifest for very long, but this has no effect on the spiritual spark within. For instance, once we turn into adults, our childhood body is lost forever. There is nothing we can do to get it back; it is dead and gone. The skin, blood, flesh, etc. have all been replaced through the influence of time.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Just because we only get one childhood in a single lifetime doesn’t mean that the soul is affected in any way. Similarly, just because a particular body type goes through a cycle of birth and death doesn’t mean that the soul ceases to exist afterwards. The soul remains in existence for as long as the eye can see. The spiritual spark has also been around for as far as the mind can go back in time. This is the very meaning of sanatana, or eternal. Just as the soul is eternal, so are its inherent characteristics, the foremost of which is a loving propensity towards the Supreme Controller. But when desires temporarily shift towards competition in the areas of creation, maintenance and destruction, residence is granted in a realm governed by the impersonal forces of nature. These energies are described as such because the workings of the sun, wind, moon, etc. don’t play favorites. The sun doesn’t rise in the morning to particularly favor any one person. The sunlight is there for everyone’s benefit, as are the moonlight, water, food, and so many other aspects of nature.
As long as the supreme controller is identified as nature, fellow human beings, or even the personal self, residence on the material planets continues. An individual may adopt different bodies through the process of reincarnation, but the foremost characteristic of the soul remains in a dormant state due to the nature of desire. Therefore the aim of human life, which is considered the most advanced species, is to realize the true controller of the universe and take to His service. Not only will this reawaken the dormant love for God that exists within the soul, but it will put a permanent end to death, as there will be no more chance of taking birth in a temporary realm governed by ignorance of the highest authority figure, His blissful nature, and His open-ended offer for salvation to those who kindly surrender unto Him in a mood of pure love and devotion.
As this seems like a lot to swallow at one time, the religious institutions provide for a gradual elevation process through education, wherein one first learns that they are not their body, aham brahmasmi. Without this primary understanding, the basic functional unit of any bona fide spiritual discipline, there will not be any tangible progress made. Without first knowing who we are, how can we possibly even begin to fathom the workings of the Supreme Controller, whose familiarity will bring us the greatest pleasure? If the false identification adopted at the time of birth continues all the way up until death, how can desires shift from the material world to the spiritual world? If I identify myself solely as a human being having certain attributes, my desires will naturally be focused on meeting the demands of the senses. Since the senses are part of the temporary body, they will have to be renounced at the time of death. Yet if my desires are still focused on the senses at the end of life, the higher authorities will have no choice but to grant me a body in the next life that is commensurate with my wishes.
On the other hand, if I am taught that I am not my body at the beginning of my spiritual education, I can gradually take the steps necessary to transcend the effects of the senses. As mentioned before, the workings of nature will always be there, irrespective of whether the supreme authority is acknowledged or not. But the knowledge of aham brahmasmi, or “I am Brahman”, helps because it immediately removes the urge to fight against nature and the attempt to supersede its authority. The struggle against the natural forces represents the greatest waste of time, as even the animals aren’t stupid enough to follow this pursuit. Why try to create the most powerful source of artificial light and energy when the sun already takes care of this for us without requiring any external source or maintenance? Why create a giant reservoir of water when the clouds already supply all the water we need through periodic rainfall?
When proper identification of the self is present, a person can realize the need for resisting the temptations for gratifying the senses and instead focus on maintaining a simple lifestyle. At this point, the skeptic may retort with, “What’s wrong with searching after higher enjoyment? Why would I want to simply sit around all day and do nothing and pretend to be happy when I can go out and explore life?” Knowledge of Brahman is only the first step; it is not meant to be a tool to stop all activity. Rather, this wonderful teaching provided in the beginning stages of Vedic instruction reveals the secret to finding mental felicity. It is not the engagement per se that brings happiness, but rather the effect an activity has on the mind.
Let’s try and think of it this way: Say that we have two cellular telephones that have identical features. They can both fetch email, send and receive text messages, browse the internet, take photographs and, of course, make phone calls. If you were to carefully study both phones, you’d see that their capabilities are completely the same. There is one difference, however, in the internal makeup. Under similar usage, one phone requires recharging only once a week, while the other requires recharging every other day. Right away we see that the phone that only requires recharging once a week is superior due simply to efficiency. When equal supplies of energy are provided, one phone operates for a longer period of time; thus it is superior.
In a similar manner, if you have one living entity who can survive on a simple lifestyle and remain ever-satisfied within the mind, and you have another person who requires travelling to the moon at great expenditure to feel a little bit of happiness – which comes with great stress and turmoil as well – you’d have to say that the simpleminded man is more efficient. After all, the end result is the effect on the mindset, for consciousness is the ultimate source of happiness. The outward cause always appears to be some event in nature or some effect in one’s life, but the true determinant of happiness and distress is consciousness.
Through this rudimentary analysis we see that the highest engagement in life is to find that set of procedures and guidelines to follow that will lead to a permanent shift in consciousness for the better. This is where the higher stages of spiritual understanding really take on their value. By knowing that we are spirit soul in the beginning, we can slowly realize the need for finding counterparts in association. Not surprisingly, the ideal companion is God, who is known by many names in the Vedic tradition, with one of them being “Krishna”, which also addresses His original and most complete form.
Krishna is the very same supreme controller that everyone else acknowledges in some way or another. Yet through directly accepting Krishna’s supremacy, we get to personally interact with Him, whereas others will only associate with the separated expansion of energy known as material nature. Everything is Krishna, but only the Lord’s personal association, which can be easily had by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, extracts the soul’s primary characteristic, or its dharma, and brings it to the forefront of consciousness.
The beauty of association with Krishna is that He is fully animate and capable of reciprocating feelings and thoughts. The same can’t be said of any other labeled authority figure, be it a powerful politician, celebrity, or nature itself. The powerful human being may be able to elicit adulation offered in person or through communication media, but they can never be conscious of every single person in the world. Moreover, simply reciting the name of such praiseworthy persons will not bring about their audience. But with Krishna, who is the all-pervading witness, or antaryami, these defects are absent. The name of God and the personal form of the Lord are not different from one another.
If we are going to worship someone and anoint them as the highest authority figure, it might as well be Krishna. Not only is the Lord ever-blissful, beautiful, full of form, and the holder of every beneficial attribute, He also interacts with us through His pastimes and His teachings, which can be found in sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Accepting nature as the supreme controller does nothing to purify consciousness, whereas thoughts and remembrance of Krishna in a mood of love and devotion, even from those who are unaware of the truths of spiritual life, immediately turn the bewildered soul into the most efficient living entity, one who can survive any and all situations with minimal external support. Those who are Krishna conscious think of their beloved Shyamasundara at all times and appreciate the workings of His nature even more. Knowing the effect He has on His devotees, who wouldn’t take to worshiping Bhagavan Shri Krishna, who, as the Supreme Lord, transcends all sectarian traditions and barriers erected through ignorance? Everyone worships Krishna in some way or another, but only the devotees extract the sweet nectar that is the Lord’s personal association.