From Back to Godhead
By Karandhara Dasa
Krsna consciousness means God consciousness. We all have consciousness or awareness, but of what are we aware? For example, if you are pinched you will feel it that is consciousness. In our normal everyday activities we are conscious of so many things like our stomach, our dress, our relationship with others, and so on. This particular facility of consciousness is the symptom of life. Without it there exists only inert matter, lifeless and dull. What is absent from the corpse that qualifies it as “dead”? The missing ingredient is consciousness, or life. We all have consciousness, and furthermore we have free will. Just as with a T.V. set you can tune in any program you like, similarly, with our conscious mind we can pay attention to whatever we choose.
The Vedas and virtually all revealed scriptures of the world inform us that the perfection of our lives, the proper utilization of our consciousness, is to be Krsna conscious, or aware of God. And the perfection of this awareness is called samadhi, or trance. In this state one is never deviated from God, and his mind is always fixed in meditation upon the Lord.
The Lord is perfect and is the reservoir of all pleasure. When we can become totally aware of the Lord, who lies within our hearts as well as being present everywhere, then we share in that pleasure and perfection with the Lord, Krsna or God.
Who is Krsna? Who is God? If we want to meditate on Him always, how shall we do so? If I ask you, “Now you please meditate on my brother,” you would inquire, “Very well, what does your brother look like? What are his activities? Please give me some information about him.” In the same way, if we are to meditate on God we must have some information about Him. Our imagination will not be sufficient for this purpose because God lies beyond our imaginary powers. And where shall we find such information? The revealed scriptures teach us about God and His attributes.
The most complete and comprehensive of all revealed scriptures are the Vedas. The Vedas give us information not only of the greatness of God (all scriptures describe the greatness of God), but also such detailed information as what God looks like, what He does and what He eats; everything is included within the Vedic literatures. They are, therefore, the most valuable sources for learning about God. Other scriptures are not false. Revealed scripture is always perfect and absolute, but, at the same time, some are more complete than others. When you want knowledge of vocabulary, either a small pocket dictionary or a large library edition will do, but the latter gives the most complete knowledge. Similarly, all revealed scriptures will afford knowledge, but theVedas are by far the most complete. It is only the small mind which will discount the authenticity of the Vedas because they appear different from other scriptures, for the reason that they offer greater knowledge. Actually the apparent difference is only due to the observer’s lack of comprehensive perspective. For example, if I am in possession of the large dictionary and I quote some information from it, and if you are holding the pocket volume, you may try to find the same information. If what I have referred to is not mentioned in the small dictionary, you may conclude, “Oh, you are wrong, my good sir. I do not find what you say in my dictionary, so therefore it cannot be factual.” Is this very intelligent? No, The small dictionary and the large one are in absolute agreement; there is no contradiction, but greater knowledge is available in the large edition. It is only when a viewpoint is eclipsed from a lower platform that the discrepancy arises in our consideration.
The Vedas are the source of the most perfect knowledge, and therefore the intelligent person, seeking the most advanced knowledge of God, will do well to hear from them about the science of God.
And what is the information we receive from the Vedas? The Supreme Absolute Truth is an eternal person, fully possessing transcendental and spiritual qualities, and His form or body is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss. The transcendental nomenclature ascribed to this transcendental Supreme Personality is given as Krsna. Krsna is God, and God is Krsna, I am a person, an individual, and I have my name. Similarly God also has a name, Krsna. This denotes that He is a person, an individual, just as my name denotes my individuality. Actually, there are unlimited names of God in every language and culture, but Krsna is all-inclusive because Krsna means all-attractive. Without being all-attractive, there is no meaning to God. We all possess some features or attractiveness. We might be very beautiful or very rich, very intelligent or very strong, but we cannot honestly claim that we possess all or even one of these qualities in fullness.
Who among us can say, “I am the most beautiful person in all the world; no one can match me in this opulence”? Even if we could make such a claim, then it would have to be asked, “Yes, you are very nice, but for how long will you be the most beautiful?” Soon your youthfulness will be gone, and, along with it, your so-called beauty will vanish. So our claim to greatness is very limited and temporary at best, but Krsna is not like that. “God” means that no one is equal to Him and no one is greater than Him and that His qualities are eternal. He is the supreme possessor of all opulences. Therefore He is the supreme object of worship and glorification.
The propensity to glorify is naturally present in everyone. We can see that people are always glorifying someone a movie star or a famous historical figure. How often have we heard the glories of Mahatma Gandhi or Socrates? How many advertisements have we seen or heard commending someone for his activities or personality? Everywhere this is going on. Generally, of course, people are most fond of glorifying themselves. Just listen to the subject matter of almost any conversation, and invariably you will notice that the topic concerns the individuals who are speaking. The perfection of this glorifying process is, however, to praise the greatest, the supreme object of glory, who is more worthy than anyone else. That is Krsna. Krsna is in that position. When we see someone who is very nice, we think, “Oh, he is so nice.” Similarly, when we can see Krsna we will understand that He is the nicest, the most beautiful, the richest, all wrapped into one. Actually, Krsna is the reservoir of all opulence. Whatever opulence we perceive around us is simply a tiny fraction of the total opulence of Krsna. For example, whatever quantity of money we may come across, we know that it has originally come from the Treasury Department, and it is only a portion of the total amount of money issued by the Treasury. Some less intelligent man may think, “Now that I have $100 I am certainly the richest person existing,” but it is to be understood that he is speaking with a poor fund of knowledge. Similarly if someone claims to be great in opulences, it only points out his ignorance of the opulence of Krsna. This program of Krsna consciousness is to worship and and become conscious of the highest person, the most perfect being, Krsna. This is not undesirable. It is the most advantageous position. If you worship a very strong person you may receive some protection from him. In the same way, if you worship Krsna you will share the unlimited opulences of strength, fame, beauty, wisdom, renunciation and wealth with Krsna.
Attaining to this platform of Krsna consciousness is the ultimate goal of everyone. Krsna is the perfection of everything; therefore every endeavor is meant to culminate in Krsna. What is the basic reason for all activity? Why do we get out of bed in the morning, work so hard and struggle for existence? What compels us? It is certainly the search for pleasure, the seeking of perfection. If I were to offer you, “Now you come, I will give you whatever you desire, and you will be perfectly satisfied,” would you not take the offer? Is that not your reason for living? Everyone is moving on this principle, whether it be the ant seeking the grain of sugar, or the dog the bone, or the adventurer wondering what lies beyond the next hill, or the artist trying to put into form the perfect artistic conception; everyone is trying to find perfection. But the anomaly is, as we actually experience, that we have not found that perfection in anything we have done. Even if we have achieved some projected goal, upon that achievement, we have instantly realized, “This is not perfection. I must find something more.” If we could factually run the gamut of all endeavors, fulfilling each one, and then aspiring to something more, something higher, all the way to the limit of experience, then at the end we would find Krsna. Krsna would be there, and upon attaining His association we would be completely satisfied. That is the position of Krsna consciousness. Thus instead of going the long route, which is troublesome and virtually impossible, the intelligent person will simply acknowledge, “Yes, it is only Krsna that will satisfy me; enough with all this other peripheral nonsense,” and then he will make a beeline to Krsna by practicing Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness is the process for attaining Krsna. Another name for the process of Krsna consciousness is bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga means to link with Krsna through bhakti or devotion. This devotional, loving consciousness is the medium by which we make the connection with Krsna, We must apply our consciousness to Krsna and topics relating to Him in a devotional mood. Then Krsna consciousness naturally develops. If you want to become “President conscious,” then what would you do? Naturally you would study the President by hearing about him from authority, following his activities, watching his motions and analyzing his behavior. Or if you wanted to become law conscious, you would attend law school and learn the science by regulated, systematic research and study. Similarly, to become Krsna conscious, we must take to a systematic method of hearing from an authority, or guru, and following his instruction, just as one might take instruction from a law professor. He assigns, “Now you do this; read this book; take this test,” and in the same way the guru or spiritual master gives all necessary instruction to his disciple. If the disciple hears submissively and follows the instruction, then he is assured of success.
This process of bhakti-yoga is given by the spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as the curriculum for attaining God consciousness. It is a bona fide course of study, fully accredited. We should accept it like that, and if we really desire to attain the perfection of our lives, Krsna consciousness, then we should execute it with full-hearted faith and enthusiasm.
The basic principle is simply to fix the mind on Krsna. Bhakti-yoga is the practical way of doing this. In bhakti-yoga the idea is simply to direct our consciousness towards Krsna. And what are the faculties for accomplishing this? What instruments do we have at hand? Our senses. Sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing, are the instruments by which we perceive, or in other words, by which we are conscious. When we look at a billboard sign, our minds, receiving a perception from the eyes, automatically go into action, developing associations and making impressions, and thus we are thinking about or are conscious of that sign. Or if we eat an apple, we experience a particular sensation of taste which is another quality of consciousness. In this way, by dint of our senses of perception, we are conscious of so many things. Recently a specially designed space capsule successfully landed on the moon. Complete with a computer and various types of instruments, the complex machinery began to study the moon in various ways. The instruments would receive data by way of some type of sensitivity (heat sensitivity, light sensitivity, etc.) and would transmit the information to the computer. The computer would then analyze and synthesize this data and produce knowledge of the moon. This is a crude example of how the senses, sight, touch, smell, etc., which are sensitive to different types of energy, work in coordination with the mind and produce knowledge or consciousness.
From this, we can understand that consciousness merely reflects the experience of whatever it is directed towards, just as the space capsule reflects information from wherever it is directed. If you walk into a store, you can purchase whatever you like some ice cream, some fruit, or some milk. You make the choice. And according to whatever you select, you will have a certain taste experience. Similarly, in our lives and with our consciousness, we can be aware and have experience of whatever we choose. And the highest choice, that experience or taste which is the most perfect, the absolute and supreme, is Krsna, or God, and it is not abstract or impersonal. It is not some obscure conception. Krsna is never impersonal. He is a person, transcendental and complete.
The Vedas, and especially the Srimad-Bhagavatam (science of God), give us all this personal information about Krsna. Krsna’s qualities, form and attributes are described extensively in a simple and pure manner. Anyone can understand, and the result of exposing ourselves to this experience will be the perfection of our lives, God consciousness.
The human form of life is especially meant for this purpose of reviving our God consciousness. Only humans can practice bhakti-yoga because the better development of consciousness is only found in the human body. Animal propensities are found both in animal life and human life. Unfortunately people are nowadays more concerned with the principles of material sense gratification because they have no knowledge of spiritual or transcendental sense gratification. In other words they are only animal conscious and are negligent of God consciousness. This tendency is becoming more and more developed, producing an increasingly degrading effect. People are becoming more and more animalistic.
We should not continue on this path. We are all implicated. If we do not elevate ourselves in God consciousness, then we shall degrade ourselves to the level of dog consciousness.
Bhakti-yoga is the process of elevating oneself to the platform of Krsna consciousness. This cannot be artificially attained, but it is acquired by association with devotees of the Lord, hearing from authorized scriptures and chanting the holy names of the Lord. This chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, is the simplest and most expedient means for developing Krsna consciousness. And it is practical. Anyone can very easily master the practice and immediately feel the blissful results of transcendental experience. Krsna is there, right in front of you, and by this transcendental sound vibration, Hare Krsna, you gradually come to the position of realizing that fact. When you have mastered the chanting and are fixed in continuously resounding the name, Krsna will then appear in the soul’s eye, and He will dance upon your tongue. You will then taste the Supreme, your thoughts will be absorbed in Krsna, and your consciousness will be perfect.