The Greatest Illusion

[Krishna's lotus feet]“In the Gita it is clearly mentioned that material energy works fully under the direction of the Supreme Lord. It has no independent authority. It works as the shadow moves, in accordance with the movements of the object. But still material energy is very powerful, and the atheist, due to his godless temperament, cannot know how it works; nor can he know the plan of the Supreme Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15 Purport)

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Question: I know that the Sanskrit word Krishna means “all-attractive.” Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God behind the veil of abstraction. But isn’t everything rooted in Krishna? That’s the meaning to God, right? So if everything is rooted in Him, doesn’t that mean atheism is something He created too? How can atheism be attractive?

The Vedas give many names for the entity commonly referred to as God. The closest equivalent for the English term is Ishvara. This means “the supreme controller.” It is still rather generic. The word doesn’t say much about who Ishvara is, what He likes, what His features are, where He lives, and the nature of the things He creates.

The Sanskrit word Bhagavan is more complete. It goes further in the definition than Ishvara. Bhagavan says that the Supreme Lord is a person possessing all fortunes. What are fortunes? Beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation. Bhagavan holds these qualities simultaneously and to the fullest extent possible. Limits are something known only to our mind. Bhagavan is unlimited. The opulences get enumerated for our benefit; to help us in understanding Him.

[Shri Krishna]The word Krishna is both a description of God and a way to identify a specific form of His. Krishna is just a word, so it can be applied to anyone. Any person can be given that name at birth. Bhagavan Krishna refers specifically to the jewel of Vrindavana, the flute player who charms everyone with His vision and the sounds He creates. He plays the role of foster son to Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. Every aspect of Him is attractive; the name befits Him. You can start from the toes and work your way up to the hair on the head and not find any blemishes in Krishna, the delight of the Yadu dynasty. Even His complexion, which stands out, is more attractive than anything we’ve seen.

Krishna’s words are attractive also, and some of the most important words He spoke are found in the Bhagavad-gita. This is something like a Bible of the Vedic tradition, except the content is much deeper. It is not merely a collection of stories meant to teach various lessons on morality. It doesn’t describe God in a vague way. It is the Supreme Lord Himself speaking on the highest philosophy, meant to be heard by those who are not envious of Him. The words clear up all confusions, misgivings and doubts a person may have as to the purpose of an existence, to why we are all on this earth, and to how we should live amongst one another.

etad-yonīni bhūtāni

sarvāṇīty upadhāraya

ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ

prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā

“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

In those all-attractive words spoken to the valiant warrior Arjuna, Krishna mentions that He is the source of everything. Not some transcendental light, not an old man waiting to punish the sinners, not the enlightened Divine being within everyone – He, Shri Krishna, God the person, is the source of everything. Naturally, this would mean that the various tendencies of man are rooted in Him as well. One of the common tendencies is atheism. If Krishna is all-attractive, how can the concept of rejecting a deity be included in the definition?

In truth, atheism is nothing more than forgetfulness of God. The cause is maya, which is a Sanskrit word that means “that which is not.” Think of the expert magician who uses sleight of hand to both fool and entertain the audience. Think of the gifted thespian who makes people believe they are actually the person in the role on stage. Maya is synonymous with illusion. She is a goddess who works at Krishna’s direction.

Under a sober analysis, atheism is quite foolish. Even the animals don’t fall so low. They don’t know who God is, but at the same time they don’t deny His existence. The human being has a higher potential for intelligence, and so atheism can only be the result of maya. The illusion that is maya is so strong that she makes an otherwise intelligent person believe that there is no controller. Under maya’s influence, the living entity thinks such foolish things as “I am God”, “Religions put faith in an invisible person instead of scientists,” and “Through enough sense gratification I can be happy.”

Maya is the greatest illusion. It is like the glittering jewel amongst all other jewels. It acts upon the living entities due to their own choice. Since they wanted to forget God, they received an energy that helped them to forget Him in the strongest possible way. Since maya is rooted in Krishna, her effects can only be reversed through His intervention.

[Krishna's lotus feet]The person in bhakti-yoga sees things clearly. They realize the all-attractiveness of God through hearing about Him. They are no longer bewildered by birth and death and everything that happens in between. They know that the spirit soul, the essence of life, never dies. They are compassionate to the atheists, for through time and good association even the greatest illusion can dissipate. In this age sound is the best means of rescue. The all-attractive sound that represents Krishna is the way to break free of illusion: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

God source of everything seeing,

Even atheism all-attractive being.

Since desire wanting to forget,

By choice into illusory world set.

Controlled by person with Krishna the name,

Can be reversed only by His mercy the same.

Though into greatest illusion fallen,

Chance for intelligence to again awaken.

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