“When love of Godhead is attained, love for all other beings automatically follows because the Lord is the sum total of all living beings.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Introduction)
The best way to adopt universal brotherhood, the harboring of good will towards every other life form, including those beyond the human species, is to have a full appreciation for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the fountainhead of all energies. For there to be appreciation, there must be knowledge, and for there to be knowledge, there must be an authorized source of information. An invalid source will provide faulty information, and thus the recipient will wrongly consider themselves to be learned. An education which is not rooted in information about the Supreme Person and the living entity’s inherent link to Him will be deficient in its effectiveness. On the other hand, proper knowledge of the Supreme Person can leave the knower fully appreciative of the many component aspects of creation.
What is the effect of substandard knowledge? Moreover, isn’t this a rather harsh assessment of the teachers of targeted items of focus, which help students attain skill in a particular venture? When information passed down through the teacher-student paradigm is not rooted in understanding of the Supreme Person, the aim of the disciplinary system will be focused on finding satisfaction for some aspect of the body. To use an example, let’s take something as simple as instruction in cooking. If a person takes a class to learn how to cook elegant dishes, the underlying aim is to satisfy the taste buds with the sumptuous food that results. At the same time, we know that the animal community doesn’t have the opportunity to become immersed in the culinary arts. Rather, they are satisfied with the allotment of food items provided by nature, which operates under intelligence. If nature just functioned randomly, then the movements of the sun and the seasons it causes could never be predicted. For there to be regularity of function, there must be intelligence.
A person may take a cooking class for other reasons. Perhaps they are looking to work as a cook, or maybe they want to satisfy the members of their family with tasty dishes every day. Yet once again the onus is placed on the body, which is considered temporary by the Vedic seers, those who take divine instruction passed down from the original Personality of Godhead at the beginning of creation. The sense demands can never be fully satisfied, and the more one tries to find happiness through this channel, the less they learn to appreciate others. The pursuit of sense gratification is entirely personally related; therefore happiness for oneself doesn’t necessarily bring happiness for another person. Moreover, there will be competition in this area, as someone else’s success in a particular venture can be detrimental to the person seeking out their own satisfaction.
The defects in the example of the cooking class can be rectified pretty quickly, provided that the aim of the instructor and the students shifts in the right direction. If the object of focus is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then even something as simple as cooking can be both appreciated and excelled at. The devotee understands that their inherent link to the spiritual world means that if the Lord is made happy through devotional efforts, that pleasure will be shared with those who are intimately associated with Him.
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that anyone who offers Him a leaf, flower, fruit, or some water with devotion will have their offering accepted by Him. Krishna is the same God that everyone worships, ignores or decries. He is the original form of Godhead, the most attractive entity to be found in any realm. In whatever room Krishna walks into, He is the most beautiful person. The same applies for His strength, knowledge, fame, level of renunciation, and wisdom. Since He is in full possession of these attributes He is also known as Bhagavan.
Service to God is to be enacted voluntarily, for the loving spirit cannot blossom when there is fear or coercion due to impending punishment. Krishna is so wonderful that one who gains His association becomes fortunate. By this very definition, someone who falls out of the graces of the Lord and His land becomes the biggest loser. If on one side you have the greatest gain and on the other you turn your back to that benefit, naturally the latter condition will be the worst possible one. In this way anyone who is forgetful of Krishna already suffers the worst punishment. There is no need for worry about further punishment after the initial turn from spiritual life is made, for the misery continues to arrive without cessation.
If God doesn’t explicitly want to punish us once we forget Him, why do we have such horrible things like rape, incest, murder and natural disasters? In the realm divorced of its direct relationship to the Supreme Person, every interest will be directed at pleasing the senses. Since each person will look to fulfill this need first, fierce competition must follow. The decried practices of racism, bigotry and caste distinctions only exist because they further the interests of specific parties. If everyone understood that they are inherently linked to God, there would be no reason to make such distinctions, or at least they wouldn’t matter as far as human interactions went.
“O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.21)
When operating under the competitive spirit, there must be some temporary gains and setbacks. Hence we see economic booms, depressions, wars, famines, periods of prosperity, and other temporary conditions. The soul of the living entity is eternal, so even the worst act perpetrated on the body cannot do anything to alter the makeup of the spiritual spark, the essence of identity. Therefore the pains and miseries of the material world are not directly related to God, as the miserable conditions are concomitant with forgetfulness of the Supreme Person.
The best approach for finding pleasure is to take directly to understanding the fountainhead of energy, Shri Krishna, as this will lead one towards the necessary educational pursuits to keep the soul satisfied. With the soul satisfied in full Krishna consciousness, appreciation for the other aspects of life will increase. The process can be likened to the results that come from appreciating a completed product versus just admiring its various components. Let’s say we have a brand new motorcycle sitting in the garage. To enhance our appreciation, we could try to take the bike apart and study the various aspects. We could admire the different parts and appreciate the fine craftsmanship and how vital the components are towards the machine as a whole. The other option is to appreciate the entire machine itself, riding it around, enjoying our time. With appreciation of the motorcycle, the component parts are automatically paid homage. The same appreciation could come by studying each of the individual parts, but this process is much more difficult.
In a similar manner, just by knowing Krishna, so much of nature can be noticed, appreciated and honored without any added effort. The gopis of Vrindavana illustrated this concept very nicely. Aside from being the original Personality of Godhead residing in the spiritual sky, Krishna is also the best friend of the devotees, who He is kind enough to visit every so often in the material world. In reality, the distinction between worlds applies only to the conditioned souls deluded by a false ego. Wherever Krishna goes is a spiritual land, but since His personal presence typically goes unnoticed in the phenomenal realm, it is considered a separated area.
The gopis loved Krishna the most during His time on earth some five thousand years ago. Their love is of the transcendental variety, not the kind that can turn into hate at a moment’s notice. Even if the gopis did get angry at Krishna, they never hated Him. On the contrary, they only thought of Him more and more. Even if they were envious of other gopis being more favored by Krishna, their jealousy was not material in any way. Never did they associate with their body, and never did they seek the full satisfaction of anyone besides Krishna.
When the gopis would think of Krishna and the flute He would play, they would automatically appreciate the tree that produced the flute that touched Krishna’s lips. Lest they stop their meditation here, they increased their appreciation by honoring the flowers that surrounded the tree that produced the flute that touched Krishna’s lips. They went further by appreciating everything around the same tree. In this way their knowledge of production of goods was perfect, and so was their overall attitude. They carried the attitude of universal brotherhood without explicitly seeking it. They loved Krishna, so naturally they would love everything about His creation. If they ever were really disappointed about something not tied to Krishna, it was that the creator gave them eyelids that periodically obstructed their vision of the beautiful Shyamasundara, Shri Krishna who is the most attractive and has the complexion of a dark raincloud.
What does this mean for us? How can we know Krishna? How can we get authorized information about Him? The saints have kindly passed on to us the confidential wisdom found in the sacred Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. By helping ourselves to their gifts, the proper attitude in life can be adopted. What’s so wonderful is that one who takes on the mood of devotion, or bhakti, can go into any situation and extract nectar from it. The devotee enrolled in the cooking class can take the information learned and use it to prepare delicious items to be offered to Krishna, which then subsequently turn into prasadam. The devotee with the appreciated motorcycle can use their vehicle to travel from town to town to chant the Lord’s glories, especially those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
The traits exhibited by the gopis and the saints also serve as a nice barometer for how well one is progressing in their practice of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Hating someone or something else is very easy; it requires no effort whatsoever. Only one who knows God can see the good in all people and their potential to become devotees who enthrall the Supreme Lord with their heartfelt acts of devotion. If this potential is there in all of us, why wouldn’t we wish for every one of our fellow brothers and sisters to attain full enlightenment and reach the spiritual sky at the end of life?
Without loving Krishna, or God, it is practically impossible to reach the state of mind where every other life form is appreciated. Through acts of charity and sacrifice, perhaps our fellow man can be more appreciated, but the millions of other creatures may go neglected. Krishna is also known as Govinda and Gopala because of His connection to cows. The cow is a sacred animal in the Vedic tradition because of the milk that it provides. A person can be destitute, living on a tiny plot of land, but if they have one or two cows, they will not have a problem finding food to eat. The cow doesn’t require much either; just the promise of protection and the ability to roam the fields to eat. And for that small amount of attention, the cow provides so much in return.
Not just limited to cows and human beings, spirit souls are found in all spheres of life. One who knows the nature of the soul and its relationship to Krishna will thus refrain from needlessly inflicting violence on others, especially when its purpose is just to satisfy the taste buds. In this way the Vedic knowledge passed down about God and devotion to Him is complete, not lacking anything that we might need to know. The devotee following bhakti is never bereft of anything important, including requisite knowledge. Knowledge of Krishna is sufficient for acquiring every beneficial trait imaginable.
When knowledge of Krishna one has understood,
Comes easily to them universal brotherhood.
Want to love God’s creatures, every single one?
And the wonders of creation, the moon and the sun?
Studying each component separately is hard,
Takes time to become familiar with each part.
Of knowledge and wisdom Krishna is the source,
At beginning of creation Vedas did He bring forth.
From devotion to God appreciation does grow,
Of integral aspects of creation we come to know.
The gopis gave to Shri Krishna all of their love,
His beautiful smile and flute always thinking of.
When bhakti in our lives we do incorporate,
The amazing creation we will appreciate.