Bhagavad-gita As It Is
BG Preface and Introduction
A human being should realize the aim of his life, and this direction is given in all Vedic literatures, and the essence is given in Bhagavad-gītā. Vedic literature is meant for human beings, not for animals. Animals can kill other living animals, and there is no question of sin on their part, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste, he must be responsible for breaking the laws of nature. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly explained that there are three kinds of activities according to the different modes of nature: the activities of goodness, of passion and of ignorance.
BG Chapters 1 – 6
Community projects for the four orders of human society, combined with family welfare activities, as they are set forth by the institution of sanātana-dharma, or varṇāśrama-dharma, are designed to enable the human being to attain his ultimate salvation. Therefore, the breaking of the sanātana-dharma tradition by irresponsible leaders of society brings about chaos in that society, and consequently people forget the aim of life-Viṣṇu. Such leaders are called blind, and persons who follow such leaders are sure to be led into chaos.
The word Āryan is applicable to persons who know the value of life and have a civilization based on spiritual realization. Persons who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is realization of the Absolute Truth, Viṣṇu, or Bhagavān, and they are captivated by the external features of the material world, and therefore they do not know what liberation is. Persons who have no knowledge of liberation from material bondage are called non-Āryans. Although Arjuna was a kṣatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight.
This aim of life is attained by performance of yajñas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, which is not the purpose of creation, certainly we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy, because they have no aim in life.
BG Chapters 13 – 18
According to this verse, if one develops the mode of ignorance, after his death he is degraded to an animal form of life. From there one has to again elevate himself, by an evolutionary process, to come again to the human form of life. Therefore, those who are actually serious about human life should take to the mode of goodness and in good association transcend the modes and become situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is the aim of human life. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that the human being will again attain to the human status.
SB Canto 1
The age of Kali is very dangerous for the human being. Human life is simply meant for self-realization, but due to this dangerous age, men have completely forgotten the aim of life. In this age, the life span will gradually decrease. People will gradually lose their memory, finer sentiments, strength, and better qualities. A list of the anomalies for this age is given in the Twelfth Canto of this work. And so this age is very difficult for those who want to utilize this life for self-realization. The people are so busy with sense gratification that they completely forget about self-realization.
The varṇāśrama institution is constructed to enable one to realize the Absolute Truth. It is not for artificial domination of one division over another. When the aim of life, i.e., realization of the Absolute Truth, is missed by too much attachment for indriya-prīti, or sense gratification, as already discussed hereinbefore, the institution of the varṇāśrama is utilized by selfish men to pose an artificial predominance over the weaker section. In the Kali-yuga, or in the age of quarrel, this artificial predominance is already current, but the saner section of the people know it well that the divisions of castes and orders of life are meant for smooth social intercourse and high-thinking self-realization and not for any other purpose.
Herein the statement of Bhāgavatam is that the highest aim of life or the highest perfection of the institution of the varṇāśrama-dharma is to cooperate jointly for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.13).
If realization of the Absolute Truth is the ultimate aim of life, it must be carried out by all means. In any one of the above-mentioned castes and orders of life, the four processes, namely glorifying, hearing, remembering and worshiping, are general occupations. Without these principles of life, no one can exist. Activities of the living being involve engagements in these four different principles of life. Especially in modern society, all activities are more or less dependent on hearing and glorifying. Any man from any social status becomes a well-known man in human society within a very short time if he is simply glorified truly or falsely in the daily newspapers.
We should never desire to increase the depth of material enjoyment. Material enjoyment should be accepted only up to the point of the bare necessities of life and not more or less than that. To accept more material enjoyment means to bind oneself more and more to the miseries of material existence. More wealth, more women and false aristocracy are some of the demands of the materially disposed man because he has no information of the benefit derived from Viṣṇu worship. By Viṣṇu worship one can derive benefit in this life as well as in life after death. Forgetting these principles, foolish people who are after more wealth, more wives and more children worship various demigods. The aim of life is to end the miseries of life and not to increase them.
Ill-fated yogīs are given a chance in the next birth by being placed in the families of good learned brāhmaṇas or in the families of rich merchants in order to execute the unfinished task of Vāsudeva realization. If such fortunate brāhmaṇas and sons of rich men properly utilize the chance, they can easily realize Vāsudeva by good association with saintly persons. Unfortunately, such preferred persons are captivated again by material wealth and honor, and thus they practically forget the aim of life.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that those who are mahātmās, or those whose minds have been so broadened as to be engaged in the service of Lord Kṛṣṇa, are under the influence of the internal potency, and the effect is that such broadminded living beings are constantly engaged in the service of the Lord without deviation. That should be the aim of life. And that is the verdict of all the Vedic literatures. No one should bother himself with fruitive activities or dry speculation about transcendental knowledge. Everyone should at once engage himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
In the Kali-yuga the population is just a royal edition of the animals. They have nothing to do with spiritual knowledge or godly religious life. They are so blind that they cannot see anything beyond the jurisdiction of the subtle mind, intelligence or ego, but they are very much proud of their advancement in knowledge, science and material prosperity. They can risk their lives to become a dog or hog just after leaving the present body, for they have completely lost sight of the ultimate aim of life. The Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared before us just a little prior to the beginning of Kali-yuga, and He returned to His eternal home practically at the commencement of Kali-yuga.
While He was present, He exhibited everything by His different activities. He spoke the Bhagavad-gītā specifically and eradicated all pretentious principles of religiosity. And prior to His departure from this material world, He empowered Śrī Vyāsadeva through Nārada to compile the messages of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and thus both the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are like torchbearers for the blind people of this age. In other words, if men in this age of Kali want to see the real light of life, they must take to these two books only, and their aim of life will be fulfilled. Bhagavad-gītā is the preliminary study of the Bhāgavatam. And Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the summum bonum of life, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa personified. We must therefore accept Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the direct representation of Lord Kṛṣṇa. One who can see Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam can see also Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in person. They are identical.
One can certainly see directly the presence of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the pages of Bhāgavatam if one has heard it from a self-realized great soul like Śukadeva Gosvāmī. One cannot, however, learn Bhāgavatam from a bogus hired reciter whose aim of life is to earn some money out of such recitation and employ the earning in sex indulgence. No one can learn Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam who is associated with persons engaged in sex life. That is the secret of learning Bhāgavatam Nor can one learn Bhāgavatam from one who interprets the text by his mundane scholarship.
This awaits them in due course on quitting the material body. Because they have the highest aim of life, going back to Godhead, they are never envious of anyone, nor are they proud of being eligible to go back to Godhead. Their only business is to chant and remember the holy name, fame and pastimes of the Lord and, according to personal capacity, to distribute the message for others’ welfare without motive of material gain.
In the glorious days, or before the advent of the age of Kali, the brāhmaṇas, the cows, the women, the children and the old men were properly given protection.
1. The protection of the brāhmaṇas maintains the institution of varṇa and āśrama, the most scientific culture for attainment of spiritual life.
2. The protection of cows maintains the most miraculous form of food, i.e., milk for maintaining the finer tissues of the brain for understanding higher aims of life.
3. The protection of women maintains the chastity of society, by which we can get a good generation for peace, tranquillity and progress of life.
4. The protection of children gives the human form of life its best chance to prepare the way of liberty from material bondage. Such protection of children begins from the very day of begetting a child by the purificatory process of garbhādhāna-saṁskāra, the beginning of pure life.
On the other hand, such impoverishment is a good sign as much as the falling of temperature is a good sign. The principle of life should be to decrease the degree of material intoxication which leads one to be more and more illusioned about the aim of life. Grossly illusioned persons are quite unfit for entrance into the kingdom of God.
Even the most pious has to suffer the condition of material nature. But a pious man is faithful to the Lord, for he is guided by the bona fide brāhmaṇa and Vaiṣṇava following the religious principles. These three guiding principles should be the aim of life. One should not be disturbed by the tricks of eternal time. Even the great controller of the universe, Brahmājī, is also under the control of that time; therefore, one should not grudge being thus controlled by time despite being a true follower of religious principles.
The conditioned souls under material bondage are prisoners of matter, and therefore self-realization is the ultimate aim of life. The whole system of āśrama-dharma is a means to detachment. One who fails to assimilate this spirit of detachment is allowed to enter into family life with the same spirit of detachment. Therefore, one who attains detachment may at once adopt the fourth order, namely, renounced, and thus live on charity only, not to accumulate wealth, but just to keep body and soul together for ultimate realization. Household life is for one who is attached, and the vānaprastha and sannyāsa orders of life are for those who are detached from material life. The brahmacārī-āśrama is especially meant for training both the attached and detached.
Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira is the ideal monarch, and monarchy under a trained king like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira is by far the most superior form of government, superior to modern republics or governments of the people, by the people. The mass of people, especially in this age of Kali, are all born śūdras, basically lowborn, ill-trained, unfortunate and badly associated. They themselves do not know the highest perfectional aim of life. Therefore, votes cast by them actually have no value, and thus persons elected by such irresponsible votes cannot be responsible representatives like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira.
As a young boy he was expected to be properly dressed, but he went about naked and was uninterested in social customs. He was neglected by the general populace, and inquisitive boys and women surrounded him as if he were a madman. He thus appears on the scene while traveling on the earth of his own accord. It appears that upon the inquiry of Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the great sages were not unanimous in their decision as to what was to be done. For spiritual salvation there were many prescriptions according to the different modes of different persons. But the ultimate aim of life is to attain the highest perfectional stage of devotional service to the Lord. As doctors differ, so also sages differ in their different prescriptions. While such things were going on, the great and powerful son of Vyāsadeva appeared on the scene.
SB Canto 2
Those who drink through aural reception, fully filled with the nectarean message of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the beloved of the devotees, purify the polluted aim of life known as material enjoyment and thus go back to Godhead, to the lotus feet of Him (the Personality of Godhead).
The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory, material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified instead of diminished. The human necessities of life are fully supplied by the Lord in the shape of food grains, milk, fruit, wood, stone, sugar, silk, jewels, cotton, salt, water, vegetables, etc., in sufficient quantity to feed and care for the human race of the world as well as the living beings on each and every planet within the universe.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhupāda has commented on the kathāmṛtam mentioned in this verse and has indicated Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to be the nectarean message of the Personality of Godhead. By sufficient hearing of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the polluted aim of life, namely lording it over matter, will subside, and the people in general in all parts of the world will be able to live a peaceful life of knowledge and bliss.
Since the ultimate aim of life is spiritual realization, the direct way of invoking the holy name of the Lord, as mentioned above, is precisely recommended by Lord Caitanya, and people of the modern age can easily take advantage of this simple process, which is tenable for the condition of the complicated social structure.
The desires for acquiring a house, possessing land, having children and becoming prominent in society, the affection for community and the place of birth, and the hankering for wealth, which are all like phantasmagoria or illusory dreams, encumber a human being, and he is thus impeded in his progress toward self-realization, the real aim of life. The brahmacāri, or a boy from the age of five years, especially from the higher castes, namely from the scholarly parents (the brāhmaṇas), the administrative parents (the kṣatriyas), or the mercantile or productive parents (the vaiśyas), is trained until twenty-five years of age under the care of a bona fide guru or teacher, and under strict observance of discipline he comes to understand the values of life along with taking specific training for a livelihood.
As long as one is blind to inquiring after self-realization, all material activities, however great they may be, are all different kinds of defeat because the aim of human life is not fulfilled by such unwanted and profitless activities. The function of the human body is to attain freedom from material bondage, but as long as one is fully absorbed in material activities, his mind will be overwhelmed in the whirlpool of matter, and thus he will continue to be encaged in material bodies life after life.
It is for this reason only that the Lord advises in the Bhagavad-gītā that one give up all so-called religious activities and completely engage in the devotional service of the Lord to become free from all anxieties due to the dangerous life of material existence. To work situated in sad-dharma is the right direction of life. One’s aim of life should be to go back home, back to Godhead, and not be subjected to repeated births and deaths in the material world by getting good or bad bodies for temporary existence. Herein lies the intelligence of human life, and one should desire the activities of life in that way.
SB Canto 3
The perfection of human life is attained by following three principles of civilization: protecting the cows, maintaining the brahminical culture and, above all, becoming a pure devotee of the Lord. Without becoming a devotee of the Lord, one cannot perfect one’s human life. The perfection of human life is to be elevated to the spiritual world, where there is no birth, no death, no disease and no old age. That is the highest perfectional aim of human life. Without this aim, any amount of material advancement in so-called comforts can only bring the defeat of the human form of life.
The devotees, however, worship only the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu. This worship is not for any material benefit, as desired by all the materialists, even up to the salvationists, mystics and fruitive workers. Devotees worship the Supreme Lord to attain unalloyed devotion to the Lord. The Lord, however, is not worshiped by others, who have no program for attaining love of God, which is the essential aim of human life. Persons averse to a loving relationship with God are more or less condemned by their own actions.
Viṣṇu worship is the ultimate aim of human life. Those who take the license of married life for sense enjoyment must also take the responsibility to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, and the first stepping-stone is the varṇāśrama-dharma system. Varṇāśrama-dharma is the systematic institution for advancing in worship of Viṣṇu. However, if one directly engages in the process of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it may not be necessary to undergo the disciplinary system of varṇāśrama-dharma. The other sons of Brahmā, the Kumāras, directly engaged in devotional service, and thus they had no need to execute the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma.
Devotees are generally attracted by the narratives of the pastimes of the Lord, and even though they do not prosecute austerities or meditation, this very process of hearing attentively about the pastimes of the Lord will endow them with innumerable benefits, such as wealth, fame, longevity and other desirable aims of life. If one continues to hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is full of narratives of the pastimes of the Lord, at the end of this life, one is sure to be transferred to the eternal, transcendental abode of the Lord. Thus hearers are benefited both ultimately and for as long as they are in the material world. That is the supreme, sublime result of engaging in devotional service.
SB Canto 4
The word baddha-sauhṛdāḥ—”bound in friendship”—is particularly used here. Karmīs, jñānīs and yogīs cannot be bound in devotional service. Karmīs fully engage in the activities of the body. Their aim of life is to give comfort to the body only. Jñānīs try to get out of entanglement by philosophical speculation, but they have no standing in the liberated position. Because they do not take shelter under the lotus feet of the Lord, they fall down from the exalted position of Brahman realization. Yogīs also have a bodily concept of life—they think that they can achieve something spiritual by exercising the body through dhāraṇā, āsana, prāṇāyāma, etc.
Nārada Muni asked King Prācīnabarhiṣat: My dear King, what do you desire to achieve by performing these fruitive activities? The chief aim of life is to get rid of all miseries and enjoy happiness, but these two things cannot be realized by fruitive activity.
The purpose is restriction. People have given up all this restriction. Now they are regularly opening wine distilleries and slaughterhouses and indulging in drinking alcohol and eating flesh. A Vaiṣṇava ācārya like Nārada Muni knows very well that persons engaged in such animal-killing in the name of religion are certainly becoming involved in the cycle of birth and death, forgetting the real aim of life: to go home, back to Godhead.
The objects of enjoyment became stale by the influence of Kālakanyā. Due to the continuance of his lusty desires, King Purañjana became very poor in everything. Thus he did not understand the aim of life. He was still very affectionate toward his wife and children, and he worried about maintaining them.
A section of the Indian population known as the Ārya-samājists lay too much stress on the sacrificial portion of the Vedas. This verse indicates, however, that such sacrifices are to be taken as illusory. Actually the aim of human life should be God realization, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Vedic performances are, of course, very glittering and pleasing to hear about, but they do not serve the real purpose of life.
SB Canto 5
The varṇāśrama-dharma is meant for imperfect, conditioned souls. It trains them to become spiritually advanced in order to return home, back to Godhead. A civilization that does not know the highest aim of life is no better than an animal society. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). A human society is meant for elevation to spiritual knowledge so that all of the people can be freed from the clutches of birth, death, old age and disease. The varṇāśrama-dharma enables human society to become perfectly fit for getting out of the clutches of māyā, and by following the regulative principles of varṇāśrama-dharma, one can become successful. In this regard, see Bhagavad-gītā (3.21-24).
When a person considers sense gratification the aim of life, he certainly becomes mad after materialistic living and engages in all kinds of sinful activity. He does not know that due to his past misdeeds he has already received a body which, although temporary, is the cause of his misery. Actually the living entity should not have taken on a material body, but he has been awarded the material body for sense gratification. Therefore I think it not befitting an intelligent man to involve himself again in the activities of sense gratification by which he perpetually gets material bodies one after another.
If one is serious about going back home, back to Godhead, he must consider the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the summum bonum and chief aim of life. If he is a father instructing his sons, a spiritual master instructing his disciples, or a king instructing his citizens, he must instruct them as I have advised. Without being angry, he should continue giving instructions, even if his disciple, son or citizen is sometimes unable to follow his order. Ignorant people who engage in pious and impious activities should be engaged in devotional service by all means. They should always avoid fruitive activity. If one puts into the bondage of karmic activity his disciple, son or citizen who is bereft of transcendental vision, how will one profit? It is like leading a blind man to a dark well and causing him to fall in.
In the dead of night, jackals cry very loudly, and similarly one’s wife and children in this material world also cry like jackals. The children say, “Father, this is wanted; give me this. I am your dear son.” Or the wife says, “I am your dear wife. Please give me this. This is now needed.” In this way one is plundered by the thieves in the forest. Not knowing the aim of human life, one is constantly being misguided. The aim of life is Viṣṇu (na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31)). Everyone works very hard to earn money, but no one knows that his real self-interest is in serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead of spending money for advancing the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, one spends his hard-earned money on clubs, brothels, liquor, slaughterhouses and so forth. Due to sinful activities, one becomes implicated in the process of transmigration and thus has to accept one body after another. Being thus absorbed in a distressed condition, one never attains happiness.
This is the way of material life. When one is captured by sexual attraction, he becomes implicated in so many ways and cannot understand the real aim of life. Therefore Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.31) says, na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: generally people do not understand the ultimate goal of life. As stated in the Vedas, oṁ tad viṣṇoḥ paramaṁ padaṁ sadā paśyanti sūrayaḥ: those who are spiritually advanced simply look to the lotus feet of Viṣṇu. The conditioned soul, however, not being interested in reviving his relationship with Viṣṇu, becomes captivated by material activities and remains in everlasting bondage, being misled by so-called leaders.
As originally mentioned, a poor man belonging to the mercantile community goes to the forest to get some cheap goods to bring back to the city to sell at a profit. He is so absorbed in the thought of maintaining body and soul together that he forgets his original relationship with Kṛṣṇa and seeks only the bodily comforts. Thus material activities are the conditioned soul’s only engagement. Not knowing the aim of life, the materialist perpetually wanders in material existence, struggling to get the necessities of life. Not understanding the aim of life, even though he acquires sufficient necessities, he manufactures artificial necessities and thus becomes more and more entangled. He creates a mental situation whereby he needs greater and greater comforts.
“O son of Kuntī, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (BG 9.27) Material wealth and opulence attained through previous pious activities can be fully utilized for one’s benefit in this life and the next if one is Kṛṣṇa conscious. One should not try to possess more than he needs for the bare necessities. If one gets more than is needed, the surplus should be fully engaged in the Lord’s service. That will make the conditioned soul, the world and Kṛṣṇa happy, and this is the aim of life.
The results of all one’s activities should be utilized not for sense gratification but for the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Lord gives all information in Bhagavad-gītā about the aim of life, and at the end of Bhagavad-gītā He demands surrender unto Him. people do not generally like this demand, but one who cultivates spiritual knowledge for many births eventually surrenders unto the lotus feet of the Lord (bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate (BG 7.19)).
This purification is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for blind indulgence in sense gratification. In the human form, the living being must engage himself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness to purify his existence: tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ śuddhyet (SB 5.5.1). This is the instruction of King Ṛṣabhadeva to His sons. In the human form of life, one must undergo all kinds of austerities to purify his existence. Yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam. We are all seeking happiness, but because of our ignorance and foolishness, we cannot know what unobstructed happiness really is. Unobstructed happiness is called brahma-saukhya, spiritual happiness.
The real aim of life is liberation, but unfortunately the opportunity for liberation is being denied to people in general, and therefore their human lives are being spoiled. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, however, is being propagated all over the world to reestablish the varṇāśrama-dharma system and thus save human society from gliding down to hellish life.
SB Canto 6
There is no profit, however, in executing the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. By performing such activities one may go to the higher planetary systems, but as stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.21), kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti: when the period of one’s enjoyment in the heavenly planets is terminated because of the limited extent of the results of one’s pious activities, one must return to earth. Thus there is no use in endeavoring to travel up and down in the universe. It is better to chant the holy name of the Lord so that one may become fully purified and eligible to return home, back to Godhead. That is the aim of life, and that is the perfection of life.
“Since an ordinary living being is materially contaminated, his words and intelligence are also material. Therefore he cannot ascertain the Supreme Personality of Godhead by manipulating his material senses. The conception of God derived through the material senses is inaccurate because the Supreme Lord is beyond the material senses, but when one engages his senses in devotional service, the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed on the platform of the soul. When that Supreme Godhead becomes the aim of one’s life, one is said to have attained spiritual knowledge.
The word vivikta-padam refers to the path of logical discourses concerning the aim of life. If one does not discuss that which is important in life, one is put into darkness and must struggle for existence. What, then, is the benefit of his advancement in knowledge? The people of the West are seeing their students becoming hippies, despite gorgeous arrangements for university education. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, however, is trying to convert misguided, drug-addicted students to the service of Kṛṣṇa and engage them in the best welfare activities for human society.
As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.31), na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: persons who are unenlightened do not know the aim of life, which is to return home, back to Godhead. Therefore, both individually and collectively, they try to enjoy so-called material comforts, and they become addicted to wine and women. The men produced in such a society are less than fourth class. They are the unwanted population known as varṇa-saṅkara, and as stated in Bhagavad-gītā, an increase of varṇa-saṅkara population creates a hellish society. This is the society in which Americans now find themselves.
There must be ideal, first-class men to act as advisors, second-class men to act as administrators, third-class men to produce food and protect cows, and fourth-class men who obey the three higher classes of society. One who does not follow the standard system of society should be considered a fifth-class man. A society without Vedic laws and regulations will not be very helpful to humanity. As stated in this verse, dharmaṁ te na paraṁ viduḥ: such a society does not know the aim of life and the highest principle of religion.
One should not take shelter of any other instructions, for Bhagavad-gītā gives direct instructions on how to fulfill the aim of human life. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa therefore says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: (BG 18.66) “Give up all other processes of religion and simply surrender to Me.” Even if one does not accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His instructions are so exalted and beneficial for humanity that if one follows His instructions one will be saved. Otherwise one will be cheated by unauthorized meditation and gymnastic methods of yoga. Thus one will board a boat of stone. which will sink and drown all its passengers.
If society is guided by political diplomacy, with one nation maneuvering against another, it will certainly sink like a stone boat. political maneuvering and diplomacy will not save human society. People must take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness to understand the aim of life, to understand God. and to fulfill the human mission.
SB Canto 7
This aim of life is attained by performance of yajñas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, which is not the purpose of creation, certainly we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy, for they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratification; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajñas. Lord Caitanya, however, inaugurated the easiest performance of yajña, namely the saṅkīrtana-yajña, which can be performed by anyone in the world who accepts the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one wastes twenty years in childhood and boyhood and another twenty years in old age, when one cannot perform any material activities and is full of anxiety about what is to be done by his sons and grandsons and how one’s estate should be protected. Half of these years are spent in sleep. Furthermore, one wastes another thirty years sleeping at night during the rest of his life. Thus seventy out of one hundred years are wasted by a person who does not know the aim of life and how to utilize this human form.
The living entity is āśraya, always subordinate, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is viṣaya, the supreme objective, the goal of life. Unfortunate persons trapped in this material world do not know this. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: (SB 7.5.31) illusioned by the material energy, everyone in this material world is unaware that the only aim of life is to approach Lord Viṣṇu.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is filled with descriptions of the characteristics of various devotees, with reference to the service of the Lord. This Vedic literature is called Bhāgavatam because it deals with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His devotee. By studying Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master, one can perfectly understand the science of Kṛṣṇa, the nature of the material and spiritual worlds, and the aim of life. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam amalaṁ purāṇam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless Vedic literature, as we have discussed in the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Therefore, simply by understanding Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, one can understand the science of the activities of the devotees, the activities of the demons, the permanent abode and the temporary abode. Through Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, everything is perfectly known.
A foolish civilization is extremely risky, and therefore the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to make people aware of their fully dependent condition under the stringent laws of nature and is trying to save them from being victimized by strong māyā, which is Kṛṣṇa’s external energy. Behind the material laws is the supreme controller, Kṛṣṇa (mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sacarācaram (BG 9.10)). Therefore if one surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa (mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te (BG 7.14)), one may immediately be freed from the control of external nature (sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate (BG 14.26)). This should be the aim of life.
In India the principles of this science were followed strictly. Even fifty years ago, I saw that in the villages of Bengal and the suburbs of Calcutta, people engaged in hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam daily when all their activities ended, or at least in the evening before going to bed. Everyone would hear the Bhāgavatam. Bhāgavata classes were held in every village, and thus people had the advantage of hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which describes everything about the aim of life—liberation or salvation. This will be clearly explained in the next verses.
The original system is that a brāhmaṇa should actually become a brāhmaṇa; he should not only take birth in a brāhmaṇa family, but must also be qualified. Also, even if one is not born in a brāhmaṇa family but has brahminical qualifications, he must be considered a brāhmaṇa. By strictly following this system, one can be happy without extra endeavor. Sva-bhāva-vihito dharmaḥ kasya neṣṭaḥ praśāntaye. The real aim of life is to mitigate distress, and one can do this very easily by following the principles of śāstra.
The actual aim of life is to go back home, back to Godhead, but there are many hindrances created by the three modes of material nature—sometimes by a combination of rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, the modes of passion and ignorance, and sometimes by the mode of goodness. In the material world, even if one is a philanthropist, a nationalist and a good man according to materialistic estimations, these conceptions of life form a hindrance to spiritual advancement. How much more of a hindrance, then, are hostility, greed, illusion, lamentation and too much attachment to material enjoyment? To progress toward the target of Viṣṇu, which is our real self-interest, one must become very powerful in conquering these various hindrances or enemies. In other words, one should not be attached to being a good man or a bad man in this material world.
SB Canto 8
No one can overcome the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s illusory energy (māyā), which is so strong that it bewilders everyone, making one lose the sense to understand the aim of life. That same māyā, however, is subdued by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who rules everyone and who is equally disposed toward all living entities. Let us offer our obeisances unto Him.
The prowess of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, certainly controls all living entities, so much so that the living entities have forgotten the aim of life. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: (SB 7.5.31) the living entities have forgotten that the aim of life is to go back home, back to Godhead. The external energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead gives all conditioned souls what appears to be an opportunity to be happy within this material world, but that is māyā; in other words, it is a dream that is never to be fulfilled. Thus every living being is illusioned by the external energy of the Supreme Lord.
People without spiritual education do not know that the ultimate goal of life is to go back home, back to Godhead. Forgetting this aim of life, they are working very hard in disappointment and frustration (moghāśā mogha-karmāṇo mogha jñānā vicetasaḥ (BG 9.12)). The so-called vaiśyas—the industrialists or businessmen—are involved in big, big industrial enterprises, but they are not interested in food grains and milk. However, as indicated here, by digging for water, even in the desert, we can produce food grains; when we produce food grains and vegetables, we can give protection to the cows; while giving protection to the cows, we can draw from them abundant quantities of milk; and by getting enough milk and combining it with food grains and vegetables, we can prepare hundreds of nectarean foods. We can happily eat this food and thus avoid industrial enterprises and joblessness.
“When a person considers sense gratification the aim of life, he certainly becomes mad after materialistic living and engages in all kinds of sinful activity. He does not know that due to his past misdeeds he has already received a body which, although temporary, is the cause of his misery. Actually the living entity should not have taken on a material body, but he has been awarded the material body for sense gratification. Therefore I think it not befitting an intelligent man to involve himself again in the activities of sense gratification, by which he perpetually gets material bodies one after another.”
It is said that one who is glorious in his activities is always living and never dies. Therefore, fame should be the aim of life, and even if one becomes poverty-stricken for the sake of a good reputation, that is not a loss. Bali Mahārāja thought that even if this brahmacārī, Vāmanadeva, were Lord Viṣṇu, if the Lord accepted his charity and then again arrested him, Bali Mahārāja would not envy Him. Considering all these points, Bali Mahārāja finally gave in charity everything he possessed.
As indicated by Bali Mahārāja by the words janād bhītaḥ, every devotee in Kṛṣṇa consciousness should always be afraid of the common man engaged in pursuing material prosperity. Such a person is described as pramatta, a madman chasing the will-o’-the-wisp. Such men do not know that after a hard struggle for life one must change his body, with no certainty of what kind of body he will receive next. Those who are completely established in Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy and who therefore understand the aim of life will never take to the activities of the materialistic dog race. But if a sincere devotee somehow does fall down, the Lord corrects him and saves him from gliding down to the darkest region of hellish life.
When Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared, He purposefully became a cowherd boy and showed personally how to give protection to the cows and calves. Similarly, He showed respect to Sudāmā Vipra, a real brāhmaṇa. From the Lord’s personal activities, human society should learn how to give protection specifically to the brāhmaṇas and cows. Then the protection of religious principles, fulfillment of the aim of life and protection of Vedic knowledge can be achieved. Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled. The Lord, therefore, is described as go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya because His incarnation is only for the protection of the cows and brāhmaṇas. Unfortunately, because in Kali-yuga there is no protection of the cows and brahminical culture, everything is in a precarious position. If human society wants to be exalted, the leaders of society must follow the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā and give protection to the cows, the brāhmaṇas and brahminical culture.
SB Canto 10.1 to 10.13
One who has forgotten the real aim of life may worship goddess Durgā, māyā-śakti, under various names, for different purposes, and in different places. As there are many holy places for the worship of Kṛṣṇa, there are also many holy places in India for the worship of Durgādevī, or Māyādevī, who took birth as the daughter of Yaśodā. After cheating Kaṁsa, Māyādevī dispersed herself to various places, especially in Vindhyācala, to accept regular worship from ordinary men. A human being should actually be interested in understanding ātma-tattva, the truth of ātmā, the spirit soul, and Paramātmā, the supreme soul.
The uncivilized man or materialistic person, however, does not know this aim of life. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). One’s real self-interest lies in satisfying Lord Viṣṇu. Not satisfying Lord Viṣṇu but instead attempting to become happy through material adjustments (bahir-artha-māninaḥ) is the wrong way for happiness. Because Viṣṇu is the root of everything, if Viṣṇu is pleased, everyone is pleased; in particular, one’s children and family members become happy in all respects. Nanda Mahārāja wanted to see his newborn child happy. That was his purpose. Therefore he wanted to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu, and to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu it was necessary to satisfy His devotees, such as the learned brāhmaṇas, māgadhas and sūtas. Thus, in a roundabout way, ultimately it was Lord Viṣṇu who was to be satisfied.
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
You are the embodiment of all human goals and are Yourself the final aim of life. Desiring to attain You, O all-powerful Lord, intelligent persons abandon everything else. It is they who are worthy of Your association, not men and women absorbed in the pleasure and grief resulting from their mutual lust.
Foolish persons engrossed in their material assets are unnecessarily proud of being leaders of the people, but they ignore the spiritual value of man. Such illusioned leaders make plans covering any number of years, but they can hardly make humanity happy in a state conditioned by the threefold miseries inflicted by material nature. One cannot control the laws of nature by any amount of struggling. One must at last be subject to death, nature’s ultimate law. Death, birth, old age and illness are symptoms of the diseased condition of the living being. The highest aim of human life should therefore be to get free from these miseries and go back home, back to Godhead.
There are two kinds of general activities—śreyas, or activities which are ultimately beneficial and auspicious, and preyas, or those which are immediately beneficial and auspicious. For example, children are fond of playing. They do not want to go to school to receive an education, and they think that to play all day and night and enjoy with their friends is the aim of life. Even in the transcendental life of Lord Kṛṣṇa, we find that when He was a child He was very fond of playing with His friends of the same age, the cowherd boys. He would not even go home to take His dinner.
This verse cited by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu applies to human beings, not to animals. As indicated in the previous verse by the words manuṣya-janma, these injunctions are for human beings. Unfortunately, human beings, although they have the bodies of men, are becoming less than animals in their behavior. This is the fault of modern education. Modern educators do not know the aim of human life; they are simply concerned with how to develop the economic condition of their countries or of human society. This is also necessary; the Vedic civilization considers all aspects of human life, including dharma (religion), artha (economic development), kāma (sense gratification) and mokṣa (liberation). But humanity’s first concern should be religion. To be religious, one must abide by the orders of God, but unfortunately people in this age have rejected religion, and they are busy in economic development.
The purport of all revealed scriptures is understanding of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore if a person explains anything that is not Kṛṣṇa, he simply wastes his time laboring hard without fulfilling the aim of his life. If one simply becomes a teacher or professor of education but does not understand Kṛṣṇa, it is to be understood that he is among the lowest of mankind, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15): narādhamā māyayāpahṛta-jñānāḥ. If one does not know the essence of all revealed scriptures but still becomes a teacher, his teaching is like the disturbing braying of an ass.
Tapana Miśra is a vivid example of such a person. He was a learned scholar, but he could not ascertain what the goal of life is. Therefore he was given a chance to hear Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructing Sanātana Gosvāmī. Lord Caitanya’s instruction to Tapana Miśra is especially significant for persons who loiter here and there collecting books and reading none of them, thus becoming bewildered regarding the aim of life.
The fulfillment of human life is summarized in this verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.82.44). There are two important words in this verse: bhakti (devotional service) and amṛtatva (eternal life). The aim of human life is to attain the natural position of eternal life. This eternal life can be achieved only by devotional service.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “I do not know very well the aim of life and how to achieve it. Please tell Me of the best ideal for humanity and how to attain it.”
The human form is meant for the understanding of Kṛṣṇa consciousness (athāto brahma jijñāsā), for inquiring about the Supreme Brahman. In the human form, everyone has a chance to understand the Supreme Brahman. The so-called leaders of human society do not know the real aim of human life and are therefore busy with economic development. This is misleading. Every state and every society is busy trying to improve the quality of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. This human form of life is meant for more than these four animal principles. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are problems found in the animal kingdom, and the animals have solved these problems without difficulty. Why should human society be so busy trying to solve these problems? The difficulty is that people are not educated to understand this simple philosophy. They think that advancement of civilization means increasing sense gratification.
The aim of life is to get rid of the material conditioning and enter into spiritual existence. Although the śāstras prescribe different methods for different men, the Supreme Personality of Godhead says that one ultimately must accept the path of devotional service as the assured path of spiritual advancement. Devotional service to the Lord is the only process actually confirmed by the Lord. Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (BG 18.66). One must become a devotee if one wants to return home, back to Godhead, and become eternally blissful.
Spiritual knowledge means fully understanding the Absolute Truth in three features—impersonal Brahman, localized Paramātmā and the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ultimately when one takes shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and engages in the Lord’s service, the resultant knowledge is called vijñāna, special knowledge, or the practical application of spiritual knowledge. One should be engaged in the Lord’s devotional service to achieve the aim of life, called prayojana. The practice of devotional service to attain that goal of life is called abhidheya.
Those who are materialistic, however, who are very proud of material wealth and have no spiritual knowledge, like the prākṛta-sahajiyās, regard their own happiness as the aim of life. Some of them aspire to enjoy themselves by sharing the happiness of Kṛṣṇa. This is the mentality of fruitive workers who want to enjoy sense gratification by making a show of service to Kṛṣṇa.
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Easy Journey to Other Planets
This spiritual art and science of devotional service is the highest contribution of Indian sages to the rest of the world. Therefore everyone who has taken his birth in India has an obligation to perfect his life by adopting the principles of this great art and science and distributing it to the rest of the world, which is still ignorant of the ultimate aim of life. Human society is destined to reach this stage of perfection by gradual development of knowledge. Indian sages, however, have already reached that position. Why do others have to wait for thousands and thousands of years to attain their heights? Why not give them the information immediately in a systematic way, so that they may save time and energy? They should take advantage of a life for which they may have labored millions of years to attain.
As stated in our pamphlet Kṛṣṇa, the Reservoir of Pleasure, if we transfer ourselves to the spiritual world, to Kṛṣṇa’s planet or to any other spiritual planet, then we will get a body similar to God’s: sac-cid-ānanda—eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. So those who try to be Kṛṣṇa conscious have a different aim of life than those who are trying to promote themselves to the better planets in this material world. Lord Kṛṣṇa says, mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam āsthito yoga-dhāraṇām: “The perfection of yoga is to transfer oneself to the spiritual world.” (BG 8.12)
Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
Even Your great devotees and servants, known as great sages and saintly persons, remain in such a state that no one can get any clue as to the aim of their lives. Human society considers them crazy and cynical. Their aim of life remains a mystery to the common human being; the lowest of mankind can know neither You nor Your servants. A contaminated human being cannot even imagine the pastimes of You and Your devotees. O unlimited one, when the activities and endeavors of Your devotees remain a mystery to the common human beings, how can Your motives and endeavors be understood by them? All kinds of energies and opulences are engaged in Your service, but still they rest at Your shelter.
Renunciation Through Wisdom
The objective of life is not simply a subject of debate or speculation. The ultimate aim of life is to realize that supreme object, the Personality of Godhead. Buddhi-yoga, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, means to become absorbed in serving the Supreme Lord and His name, qualities, form, pastimes, etc. In other words, it means becoming an instrument for His satisfaction. We have to become infused with His spiritual potency; thus strengthened, we then have to make the propagation of His transcendental glories our prime duty in life. By means of such Potent missionary activities, innumerable jīvas can experience endless spiritual joy.
Light of the Bhagavata
We should always remember that the society, friendship, only shadowy representations of the real society, friendship, and love reciprocated in the kingdom of God. There is no reality in the conditioned life of material existence, but because of our ignorance we are attached to the mirage. The idea of society, friendship, and love is not at all false, but the place where we search for it is false. We have to give up this false position and rise to the reality. That should be the aim of life, and that is the result of cultivating the human spirit.
Human beings are not meant to quarrel like cats and dogs. They must be intelligent enough to realize the importance and aim of human life. The Vedic literature is meant for humanity and not for cats and dogs. Cats and dogs can kill other animals for food without incurring sin, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste buds, he is responsible for breaking the laws of nature. Consequently he must be punished.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.30-31) it is stated that those who are captivated by the temporary beauties of the external energy forget the real aim of life, which is to go back to Godhead. Forgetting this, one tries to adjust things by various plans and programs, but this is like chewing what has already been chewed. Nonetheless, the Lord is so kind that He allows the forgetful living entity to continue in this way without interference. Thus this mantra of Śrī Īśopaniṣad uses the very appropriate word yāthātathyataḥ, indicating that the Lord rewards the living entities just in pursuance of their desires. If a living being wants to go to hell, the Lord allows him to do so without interference, and if he wants to go back home, back to Godhead, the Lord helps him.
A patient must regain his health before he can truly enjoy sense pleasure again. Thus the aim of human life should not be to enjoy perverted sense enjoyment but to cure the material disease. Aggravation of the material disease is no sign of knowledge, but a sign of avidyā, ignorance. For good health, a person should not increase his fever from 105 degrees to 107 degrees but should reduce his temperature to the normal 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the temperature of the feverish material condition, which has reached the point of 107 degrees in the form of atomic energy. Meanwhile, the foolish politicians are crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge and the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Śrī Īśopaniṣad herein warns that we must not follow this dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must develop the culture of spiritual knowledge so that we may become completely free from the cruel hands of death.
Thus in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observance. But this is not the purpose of religion. The path of religion is actually meant for self-realization, and economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. A man should lead a healthy life with a sound mind just to realize vidyā, true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for working like an ass or for culturing avidyā for sense gratification.