How can one truly understand the greatness of the Supreme Lord, we don’t have to look further than the Bhagavad gita, where Lord Krishna says that “That very ancient science of relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee.” A devotee is one who accepts the supremacy of the Supreme Lord, and he is convinced about his eternal relationship with God.
Because God is a person beyond all time and space, we can never understand Him by our speculation. He can be understood only when He reveals Himself. To our great fortune. He has revealed Himself in the Vedic literature, which presents the fullest explanation of the transcendental names, forms, qualities, and activities of God. The Srimad- Bhagavatam—the crest jewel of the Vedic literature—specifically expounds the glories of Lord Sri Krishna. Those who wish to advance their understanding of God would do well to study Srimad-Bhagavatam as it is presented in English in its pure form by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Krishna’s credentials appear in many Vedic literatures. The Srimad-Bhagavatam in particular clearly and repeatedly states that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavatam’s step-by-step presentation, the complete science of God is given in nine cantos, comprising more than two dozen volumes. The entire Tenth Canto describes exclusively the appearance and activities of Sri Krishna. Lord Krishna alone, the Bhagavatam reveals, possesses all the qualifications of God discussed in the preceding nine cantos. And all the great teachers of the Vedic literature—led by Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Vishnusvami, Nimbarkacarya, and Sankaracarya (who professed to be an impersonalist)—accept Krishna as God.
A lecture given in Hyderabad, India, on November 18, 1972 – By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam
jara tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”
This verse is from the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. The first chapter is the preparatory study of Bhagavad-gita, and the second chapter is the summary study. Bhagavad-gita means “the song sung by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Throughout Bhagavad-gita you’ll find the words sri bhagavan uvaca: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said.”
Bhagavad-gita is the science of understanding God. As everything is understood thoroughly through a scientific process, if you want to know God you have to adopt the process by which one can understand God. That process is described in the Bhagavad-gita: bhaktya mam abhijanati. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says, “If anyone wants to understand Me, he has to take to the process of devotional service,” not the speculative process or the mystic yogic process or fruitive activities.
This point is clearly stated not only in Bhagavad-gita but in all other Vedic scriptures. For example:
athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi
janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimno na canya eko ‘pi ciram vicinvan
One can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead by His mercy only. Anyone who has received a small particle of the prasadam—mercy—of the Lord can understand Him.
No one can understand the Lord perfectly, because the Lord is unlimited. We have limited, imperfect senses, we are subject to illusion, we try to cheat—we have so many defects. Therefore it is not possible to understand God simply by exercising our senses.
To know “God is very good, God is great” is one thing, but by studying Bhagavad-gita we not only know “God is great,” but we see what kind of God He is, what His form is, and so on.
We have heard from the scriptures:
ishvarah paramah krishnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam
“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.”
When Krishna was present five thousand years ago, He appeared in His original form of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. But the nondevotees could not understand that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He appeared to be a human being. Avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam. Mudha means less intelligent persons. They may be very great scholars, but in the matter of understanding God, they’re mudhas. Why? Mayaya apahrta-jnana asuram bhavam asritah—because they defy God. At present, people are mostly asuram bhavam asritah. Asuri bhava means to defy God: “There is no God. God is dead. I am God. You are God. So many Gods are loitering in the street. Why are you searching for God?”
There are so many such statements. God has become so cheap. There are so many “incarnations” of God, especially in India. It is a breeding ground of “Gods.” That means people do not know what God is. They think God is such a cheap thing. But from the Bhagavad-gita we understand what God is. When Arjuna asked Krishna, “How are You controlling the whole cosmos?” Krishna explained, and then He concluded:
athava bahunaitena kim jnatena tavarjuna
vistabhyaham idam krtsnam ekamsena sthito jagatem
“The whole material world is sustained by a partial manifestation of My energies.” The material manifestation is one fourth of God’s energy. The three-fourths manifestation of His energy is the spiritual world. Paras tasmat tu bhavo ‘nyo ‘vyakto ‘vyaktat sanatanah. Besides the material world there is another nature, which is spiritual. The spiritual nature is described as para, “superior.” There are two energies working: material nature and spiritual nature. Material nature is described in the Bhagavad-gita:
bhumir apo ‘nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakrtir astadha
These eight types of energy—earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, intelligence, and ego—make up the material nature.
Bhinna prakrtih. They are separated energies, and they are inferior, apara. Apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param. Beyond the inferior energy is another, superior energy. That is the living entity.
The Superior Energy
The living being is an energy of the Supreme Lord, just as the sunshine is the energy of the sun globe. The sunshine is a combination of tiny shining particles. It looks like one homogeneous thing, but it is made up of small particles. That is the scientific understanding. Similarly, we are small particles of the Supreme Lord. How small? That is also described in the scripture:
balagra-sata-bhagasya satadha kalpitasya ca
bhago jivah sa vijneyah sa canantyaya kalpate
The dimension of the living entity is one ten-thousandth of the tip of a hair. We are very proud of our eyes. But here is the indication from the scripture of the length and breadth of the living soul. You may try to see it with your eyes or your microscope, but that is not possible. Therefore, one class of philosophers, because they cannot find the soul, say that it is nirakara, “formless.”
Spiritual enlightenment means that first we must try to understand the jiva, the living entity. We can understand the quality of the Lord by understanding the jiva because the jiva is a small particle of the Lord. We can understand the composition of gold from a small particle of gold, or the chemical composition of the ocean from a drop of ocean water. Similarly, if we analyze the characteristics of the living entity, we can understand the characteristics of God.
Authorities Accept Krishna
Therefore the beginning of spiritual education is to understand one’s self. That is called self-realization. How to realize the self? We have to take knowledge from others. We have to learn from a teacher. Krishna is accepted as the supreme teacher by great sages like Vyasadeva, Narada, Devala, Asita, and all other great sages, and in the modern age by our acharyas, spiritual preceptors: Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vishnusvami, Nimbarka, Shankaracharya. We have to follow the acharyas. All these acharyas accept Krishna as the Supreme Lord. And five hundred years ago Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Srimad-Bhagavatam says, krishnas tu bhagavan svayam: “Krishna is the Supreme Lord.” Similarly, Lord Brahma says:
ishvarah paramah krishnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam
“Govinda, Krishna, is the cause of all causes. He is the primal cause, and He is the very form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.”
Because we have so much evidence, we have to accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is no doubt about it. But why do people not accept? Why do so many big scholars and big scientists not accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The reason is given in the Bhagavad-gita:
na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah
mayayapahrta-jnana asuram bhavam asritah
“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.” Krti means “meritorious,” and duskrti means “miscreants”—those who use their merits for mischief-making. Everyone has merits, but some people use their merits for mischief-making. For example, a thief uses his good brain to steal. Such a person is a duskrti.
Another class of people is called mudha. Mudha means “less intelligent,” or “unintelligent.” Another class is nara-dhama, “the lowest of the mankind.” And finally, mayaya apahrta-jnanah, “those whose knowledge has been taken by maya, illusion.” These classes of men do not surrender unto Krishna.
We are not manufacturing these words. They are in Bhagavad-gita. If we claim to study the Gita, we have to accept the statements there. Bhagavad-gita means “the song sung by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Our Krishna consciousness movement is meant to preach all over the world that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead: krishnas tu bhagavan svayam.
You are searching after God. You are taxing your brain so much. But in spite of this, you sometimes say, “There is no God,” or “God is dead,” or “Everyone is God,” and so on. But our proposition is “Why are you taxing your brain? Here is God: Krishna.”
from authorities, by hearing from the Vedic literature, by hearing of Krishna’s activities, we can know that Krishna is God. If we read about the life of Krishna, we can see that He’s God from the very beginning . God is not manufactured by some mystic power. God is God, and dog is dog. A dog cannot become God; God cannot become a dog.
Krishna was God from the very beginning. As soon as Krishna took birth, He appeared in His four-armed form as Lord Vishnu. But when his mother prayed to Him to become an ordinary child, He became an ordinary child with two hands. So that is God: He must be God from the very beginning, not that by attaining some mystic power one can become God.
We already have power, because each of us is a part and parcel of God. Therefore we have qualities like God’s. But we cannot become one hundred percent God. That is not possible. Great Vedic scholars have analyzed all the demigods and other living entities and have found that only Krishna is one hundred percent God. Ete camsa-kalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam. All others are subordinate. There are many other gods, but they are not the Supreme God. Ishvarah paramah krishnah.
We are speaking of the paramah ishvarah, or paramesvara. There are two words: ishvara, paramesvara; atma, paramatma. The param—supreme—is God. We are Brahman; He is Parabrahman. So Parabrahman, Paramatma, Paramesvara—all these are applicable to Krishna.
After hearing the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna admitted,
param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam adi-devam ajam vibhum
“You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest.” That is the position of Krishna.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna also says, aham adir hi devanam: “I am the source of all the demigods.” There are so many demigods—Indra, Chandra, Varuna, and so on. But Krishna says He is their origin. And He says, aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: “I am the source of everything. Everything emanates from Me.” In the Vedanta-sutra the Absolute Truth is described as janmady asya yatah: He from whom everything emanates.
Because of His power, Krishna is Bhagavan. Bhagavan means full in six opulences. God must be the richest, the strongest, the most famous, the most beautiful, the most renounced, and the most knowledgeable. That is the definition of God. Lord Brahma accepts Krishna as God by that definition: ishvarah paramah krishnah, “Krishna is the supreme controller.” Because unless Krishna is the most powerful, how can He be the supreme controller? Every one of us is a small controller. Someone controls in his office, someone controls in his family life, someone controls a few factories, but no one can say, “I am the supreme controller.” That is not possible. The supreme controller is Krishna.
In this Krishna consciousness movement we are trying to link with the supreme controller. We do not wish to become the controller. We want to be controlled—but by the supreme controller, not by others. That is our proposition. For example, a person who has to render service may hanker after government service, because it is natural to conclude, “If I have to serve someone, why serve a petty merchant? Why not take government service?”
We cannot but serve, any one of us. That is our constitutional position. Every one of us is a servant. So our proposition is “You are a servant in any case. Why not become the servant of God?” That is the proposition we make in the Krishna consciousness movement.
In material consciousness we are all servants of our senses. By the dictation of our lusty desires, we will do anything abominable. So we are all servants. Therefore, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, jivera svarupa haya nitya-krishna-dasa: Our real constitutional position is that we are eternal servants of God, Krishna. But in the material condition of life, every one of us is trying to become the master. That is the struggle for existence. Everyone is trying: “I shall become the master. I shall become the Supreme.” But our position is servant. So our thinking is called illusion. I am not master. I am servant. But I am trying to become master artificially. That is the struggle for existence.
When you give up this wrong idea—”I am master”—and try to become the servant of the Supreme, that is called liberation. Liberation does not mean achieving a gigantic form or so many hands and so many legs. Liberation means to become liberated from the wrong consciousness. The wrong consciousness is to think, “I am master.” We have to change this consciousness That is the purpose of the Krishna consciousness movement.
One has to understand thoroughly that he’s not master, he’s servant. He’s completely dependent on the supreme will. If we do not surrender to the supreme will, then we have to surrender to the will of maya. We have to remain a servant. If we reject servitude of the Supreme Lord, then we have to become the servant of the senses. That is maya. Actually, that is going on. The whole world is serving different types of desire.
Now, we have not manufactured the Krishna consciousness movement. We get it from the Bhagavad-gita: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Krishna says, “Give up all these nonsense desires. Surrender unto Me” That is the whole purpose of the Bhagavad-gita. Maya dictates our desires, which dictate us. And we want to falsely become the master. That is illusion. We are not master. How can we be master? We may be scientifically advanced. We may manufacture wonderful machines and weapons, but after all, we are subjected to the rules of maya: birth, disease, old age, and death. We cannot escape these four principles of maya’s machinery.
Therefore the sane man, who is actually learned, surrenders to Krishna. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate. One who becomes wise surrenders to Krishna. Otherwise, one thinks, “Who is Krishna? I am as good as Krishna. I am God.” That is maya. That is not actually knowledge.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said, ye ‘nye ‘ravindaksa vimukta-maninah. There are those who think they have become liberated and have become Narayana, or God. But actually they are not, because they’re subjected to the rules of material nature. They cannot get out of its clutches. Who can? Mam eva ye prapadyante. Krishna says, “Anyone who surrenders unto Me.”
daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”
Therefore the Krishna consciousness movement is a very pious movement, promoting the most glorious welfare activities. And we are preaching this movement all over the world. Our only ambition is to place Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We don’t want to become Krishna; we want to become the most obedient servant of Krishna. That is our proposition.
We invite everyone, from all parts of the world, and people are coming. They are joining this movement. Krishna appeared in India, so India has a special advantage in understanding Krishna. But Indians are neglecting to understand Krishna. That’s a great misfortune. But we request everyone to join this movement, study the philosophy, and become happy. That is our proposition.
Thank you very much.
What Krishna says about himself
If we are expected to understand God, then who better to explain His qualities and characteristics than Himself? So in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna provides the Self-revelatory truth about His position in His explanations to Arjuna. There are numerous verses in this regard, of which the following are but a few:
“And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me–and that they are in Me, and are Mine. (4.35)
The sages, knowing Me to be the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries. (5.29)
Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. (7.6)
It is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant… I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support, and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable om. I am also the Rig, the Sama, and the Yajur Vedas. I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed. (9.16-18)
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. (Bg.10:8)
“I am all devouring death, and I am the generator of all things yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, faithfulness and patience. (Bg. 10.34) Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as the Supreme Person.” (Bg.15.18)
Going on to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna specifically explains that before, during, and after the universal creation, there is always Himself that exists.
“Brahma it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Supreme Lord.” (Bhag.2.9.33)
“Gold alone is present before its manufacture into gold products, the gold alone remains after the products’ destruction, and the gold alone is the essential reality while it is being utilized under various designations. Similarly, I alone exist before the creation of this universe, after its destruction and during its maintenance.” (Bhag.11.28.19)
“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, I alone existed with My specific spiritual potencies. Consciousness was then unmanifested, just as one’s consciousness is unmanifested during the time of sleep. I am the reservoir of unlimited potency, and therefore I am known as unlimited or all-pervading. From My material energy the cosmic manifestation appeared within Me, and in this universal manifestation appeared the chief being, Lord Brahma, who is your source and is not born of a material mother.” (Bhag.6.4.47-48)
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Bg.9.11)
“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme. I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible. A Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows.” (Bg.7.24-26)
Lord Krishna also explains that he is the Supersoul of each and every living being, who exist only because of Him. He also establishes that He is the spiritual sound vibrations that can be chanted, as well as the forms of the Deities that we can see. “All living beings, moving and nonmoving, are My expansions and are separate from Me. I am the Supersoul of all living beings, who exist because I manifest them. I am the form of the transcendental vibrations like omkara and Hare Krishna Hare Rama, and I am the Supreme Absolute Truth. These two forms of Mine–namely the transcendental sound and the eternally blissful spiritual form of the Deity, are My eternal forms; they are not material.” (Bhag.6.16.51)
“My dear Uddhava, I am the cause, protector and the Lord of all mystic perfections, of the yoga system, of analytical knowledge, of pure activity and of the community of learned Vedic teachers. Just as the same material elements exist within and outside of all material bodies, similarly, I cannot be covered by anything else. I exist within everything as the Supersoul and outside of everything in My all-pervading feature.” (Bhag.11.15.35-36)
Lord Krishna goes on to explain how He is perceived by different people in different ways. “When there is agitation and interaction of the material modes of nature, the living entities then describe Me in various ways such as all-powerful time, the Self, Vedic knowledge, the universe, one’s own nature, religious ceremonies and so on.” (Bhag.11.10.34)
However, when a person reaches the vision of the Supreme by the process of Self-realization, which takes him or her above the influence of the material modes, the experience is one and the same. Then there is no more confusion about what is or what is not the highest level of spiritual realization.
In conclusion Krishna explains, “Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendour. But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.” (Bg.10:41-42)