Knowledge Means Power

Lord Chaitanya“The Lord had some talks with the Moulana and his companions, and the Lord convinced the Moulana that in the Koran also there are descriptions of Bhagavata-dharma and Krishna. All the Pathans were converted to His cult of devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Introduction)

That a preacher should meet with difficulty in his efforts is not surprising. The easiest way to remain liked is to keep quiet and thus avoid offending anyone. With this behavior no one will think that you are bothering them or trying to convert them to a new way of life. As strange as it may seem, this passive approach doesn’t always correlate to kindness. If we see someone doing something wrong, something that can hurt both them and the people they influence, the kind approach is to try to correct them. If we’re driving on a highway and see someone asking for a ride, depending on the time and circumstance, there is every chance of just passing that person by. “Oh, they are a stranger. Maybe they are on drugs, or maybe they are trying to steal someone’s car. I better just ignore them.” If we recognize the person as a friend or family member, however, we’ll immediately pull over and see what is going on. The Vaishnava preacher, the humble devotee of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, views every distressed person as being in his extended family. Therefore they won’t discriminate when distributing the mercy of hari-kirtana, the chanting of the holy names. This attitude was exhibited to its finest by Lord Chaitanya.

Lord ChaitanyaThat a follower of a religious tradition would try to preach the message of their specific gospel is not surprising. The aim of spirituality is to inject life into the otherwise dull and lifeless existence focused on association with matter. What does this mean exactly? Imagine a life revolved around performing compulsory work during the day to maintain a living establishment for the nighttime. When the day is over, the worker is so tired that all they can do is sit in front of the television and try to forget about the fact that they have to go to work again the following day, repeating the same cycle. This is just one day, but imagine repeating the pattern over and over again for upwards of thirty years. Even the most enthusiastic material enjoyer would start to become bewildered after a while. “What is the point to all of this? Why am I even alive? Why do I have to follow the same path every single day?”

The human being can make these considerations, for the other species are fine with simply searching for their food, enjoying their shelter, mating with whoever is around, and defending their territory from predators. The human being intrinsically knows that there should be more to life, something to give a spark to their existence. Full enthusiasm was once there before, during the childhood years. At the same time, we know that children are less mature than adults, and thereby less intelligent as well. How can less knowledge equate to more enthusiasm and happiness? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, agree that maturity should bring an increased vigor for activity. Knowledge means power, no? The ability to handle different situations should lead to more enjoyment, for frustration is rooted in ignorance. But after becoming educated and finding a way to earn a living, how do we find that enthusiasm for life that keeps us going far beyond the basic enjoyments of sense pleasures?

“The Blessed Lord then said: This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.” (Bhagavad-gita, 13.2)

Lord KrishnaIn the Vedic tradition, and also in many other systems of spirituality around the world, the second birth is considered more important. The first birth is the biological one, the emergence of the infant from the womb of the mother. Entrance into the field of activity starts here, sort of like running onto the field to play a big game. Without entry, there can only be potential for action. Just as while we are sleeping we can only think about what we’re going to do in the future, while in the womb the spirit soul only has the potential for acting.

Once on the field, however, we have to know where to go, what to do, and how to remain safe. For this the parents and guardians are there, taking care of our every need. Once the body develops to the point that the human being can roam around the field on its own without too much supervision, there is a need for a second birth, one that relates to accepting supreme wisdom and gaining entry into a system of maintenance aimed at furthering the highest purpose.

And what exactly is that purpose? Once on a field of play, the aim is to have fun. On the soccer field, the young children play around and chase a ball to have a good time. In American football, you do things like hit your opponent, and pass and kick a ball. Without the second birth, the human being naturally assumes that his business in life is to follow a similar tact; just eat, drink and be merry. Do just enough work so that you can enjoy yourself by playing and seeing all that the world has to offer.

soccer ballWhy would this be a bad thing? For starters, this pursuit isn’t guaranteed to be pleasant. Others have an equal right to be on the field and “enjoy” everything it has to offer. When the ambitions collide, someone has to be the loser. In every tournament in sport, there is just one champion who emerges, which automatically means that the other entrants will end up being losers. In the field of activity that is the material world, not even victory lasts forever, thus ensuring that everyone turns out to be a loser in the end.

Then there is the issue of peace of mind. Though the human being is on the field, he doesn’t know why he was put there or when he’ll have to leave. Therefore constant worry results over the potential to lose everything, to no longer have the ability to run around and enjoy oneself. Even if there is money in the bank and no worries financially, the mental struggle to find something to do is there. Once that outlet for action is found, the cycle of ambition, work and reward follows. When there is work taken up to further a purpose, the fear of failure and the failure itself can again cause mental anguish.

The Vedas reveal that the purpose of life is not to simply run around the field and pretend like nothing is wrong. The spirit soul is the identifiable aspect within every life form. The soul has inherent properties, with its foremost characteristic, or dharma, being its inclination to serve. Therefore even when playing on the field, the greatest source of happiness comes from helping others, finding ways to act in the interests of someone else. Even the wealthiest moguls end up forming large charitable organizations, for they don’t know what to do with their money.

“I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. This is beginningless, and it is subordinate to Me. It is called Brahman, the spirit, and it lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 13.13)

Lord KrishnaWithout a proper second birth, the human being will direct its serving propensity in all the wrong directions and thus not find any satisfaction for the soul craving it. With instruction from a guru, or spiritual master, the proper course in life can be found. And what is that exactly? The soul’s serving propensity is meant to be directed towards God, who is the creator of the playing field. Though He creates it, He has nothing to do with its operation; He is not involved in the temporary ups and downs, the losses and gains that occur regularly. Krishna is awaiting the day when the individuals tire out from their play and sincerely desire a return to the spiritual land, their original home.

How do we even know that God exists? Isn’t this theory about the meaning of life just that, a theory? How do we know that the Vedas are authorized or that we even need a second birth? Other spiritual traditions have their own God that people are meant to worship, so how can we say that any one system is superior to another? If there are so many systems, why can’t atheism be thrown into the mix and be considered legitimate? Skepticism can be used to counter even the most strongly presented fact. Even an ironclad assertion like “the sky is blue” can be weakened by ad hominem attacks, word jugglery, and the questioning of the sanity of the person making the claim.

Despite the ability to invalidate any claim, we still follow authority all the time in life. The authority is established with each person based on past history. If a person tells us something, we may initially believe them, and then if that faith ends up benefitting us, we’ll take that same person as an authority figure in the future, at least until they fail us. Similarly, by following the prescriptions of the Vedas, which are presented succinctly and perfectly in this age by Lord Chaitanya and His followers, we’ll see that religion is a pursuit universally applicable, not limited by sectarian boundaries. The facts about the soul are real and apply to every single person.

Lord ChaitanyaWho is Lord Chaitanya? The Vedas subscribe to the “one God” idea, but His forms are not limited. He is indeed a person, though that is a very difficult conclusion to reach through mental speculation alone. The first instruction taught to aspiring transcendentalists of the Vedic school is aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman.” Brahman is pure spirit, so it has nothing to do with playing fields. Every spirit soul is Brahman; therefore their changing bodies don’t represent their true identity.

If we are not matter, then God must be the same way. If we don’t have forms, then the Supreme Absolute Truth must be formless as well, no? While there is a formless aspect to God, His original feature is that of Bhagavan, a personality who possesses spiritual attributes. The unmanifest land is full of variegatedness that is not contradictory. How someone can have blue eyes, green eyes and no eyes simultaneously cannot be understood by a living being trapped in a playing field with allures for sensual enjoyment, the kind of which is divorced of its relationship to Shri Krishna.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described by thousands of names, with Krishna considered the best because it speaks to His all-attractiveness. Lord Chaitanya is the very same Krishna descending to this earth in the guise of a devotee, showing others how to worship God. Usually the incarnations act as worshipable objects, showing others who God is and what He looks like. Lord Chaitanya’s mission was to teach others how to worship God. Not that everyone would listen or even give up their preconceived notions, Lord Chaitanya’s underlying purpose was to elevate everyone’s own understanding of God to the point that they would think of the Lord at all times.

Lord ChaitanyaHow did He propagate His message? Through sound vibration of course. He didn’t have millions of dollars, a printing press, or a caravan to travel around the world with. He just had His feet and His voice. Regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, traveling around India and dancing to the playing of mrdangas and karatalas, Lord Chaitanya infused the bhakti, or devotional, spirit into everyone He met.

Lest He be confused with a sentimentalist given to worshiping a blue deity, Lord Chaitanya was also an expert scholar. Devotional service, or bhagavata-dharma, is the highest disciplinary system for the spirit soul. Though the Vedas have many branches of knowledge, the ripest fruit on the tree is the information about Krishna and devotion to Him. Rather than present scholarly discourses reserved for only the intelligentsia, Lord Chaitanya disseminated the same information through the holy name, which was sung congregationally so as to penetrate the thick wall of nescience surrounding the consciousness conditioned to material life.

Lord Chaitanya was so intelligent and devoted that He could convert so many people towards the bhakti cult. His acts of conversion shouldn’t be confused with the idea of giving up a particular faith and jumping to another one. How can loving God be considered a faith? Moreover, what need is there to convert from one religion to another in this respect? Lord Chaitanya would even rightly convince many Muslims that their Koran had statements glorifying the Supreme Lord as a person and declaring devotional service to be the ultimate practice. Therefore Gaurahari’s only desire was that others truly follow the teachings of religion, whose instructions culminate in full, voluntary surrender, in a mood of pure love, towards the Supreme Lord.

Lord Chaitanya was a wonderful preacher who never made compromises. He didn’t just tell everyone that what they were doing was alright, that they could continue to live attached to material life and claim to be religious. Rather, if He saw grievous errors committed, He would point them out and then tell others how to correct them. If there was animal killing going on in the name of religion, Lord Chaitanya would point out the defects. Obviously this wasn’t taken well by the followers of such practices. “My father did it this way, and his father also did, and his father before him. Therefore how can what I’m doing be wrong?” Though this attitude is easy to adopt – for how can we know better than our forefathers – simply following tradition doesn’t mean that one is acting piously.

Lord ChaitanyaEven the monists of the Vedic tradition were taken on by Lord Chaitanya, though they had difficulty giving up their vision of the Supreme Absolute Truth as being formless. Nevertheless, Lord Chaitanya, the most merciful incarnation of Godhead, was extremely successful in His preaching efforts. He converted so many people to worshiping God instead of matter. He was kind enough to pass down that magical preaching touch to His descendants, and thus we see that Krishna is a household name around the world today, and that bhakti-yoga and its principles are followed by many.

Who could ever come away not enlightened after hearing from Lord Chaitanya and His flawless teachings? Only the hardest heart would remain steadfastly against bhakti-yoga, loving God, after being given the seed of the creeper of devotional service from a devotee following the principles themselves. Yet even in these instances there is some advancement made, though the receiver may not know it. Shri Gaurahari, the ocean of mercy, allows anyone to awaken their dormant God consciousness, even if they aren’t born into a tradition which puts an emphasis on a second birth. When the playing field is seen as a place filled with boundless opportunities for glorifying Krishna and devotion to Him, the childlike enthusiasm can remain active all the way up until death, where the loving arms of the Supreme Abode wait to embrace us.

In Closing:

For those who process of bhakti do take,

The loving arms of Supreme Lord await.

Living entity emerges onto the playing field,

Where activities different rewards they yield.

Sometimes through hard work there are winners,

Since bodies must decay all are losers.

Shri Krishna, the deity that is blue,

Of material world has nothing to do.

Second birth for the human is more important,

Learn knowledge of God always pertinent.

Lord Chaitanya, Krishna as a devotee,

Spread such information to set souls free.

Religion in real form is all the same,

Meant to bring God’s company, highest gain.

Gaurahari brought wisdom through chanting,

Krishna’s names, seeds of devotion implanting.

Most merciful of all the divine incarnations,

Gave bhakti formula to create best of conditions.

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