lotus feet

English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of my favourite classes by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

manusyanam sahasresu/kascid yatati siddhaye/yatatam api siddhanam/ kascin mam vetti tatvattah

‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows me in truth’ [Bg. 7.3]

‘To understand Krsna is not very easy.  Krsna says manusyanam sahasresu: ‘Out of many millions and millions of persons,’ one tries to become perfect.  Who is going to become perfect, especially in this age?  Everyone is working like cats and dogs.  The whole day is spent working for eating, sleeping, sex and defense, that’s all.  People are not living as manusyas, as human beings.

ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/samanyam etat pasubhir naranam/dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso/dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah

‘Both animals and humans share the activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  But the special property of the humans is that they are able to engage in spiritual life.  Therefore without spiritual life, humans are on the level of animals [Hitopadesa]

What is the difference between my eating and the dog’s?  He is eating according to his taste, and I am eating according to my taste.  The eating business is there in the dog also.  Don’t think that your eating is different because you are eating nice preparations on a table, with a chair and plates.  It is still eating.

People say, ‘Because I am eating nice preparations on a table, I am civilized’.  The sastra, scripture, says that although your food may be different, your eating and the dog’s eating are the same.   You are not civilized just by eating at a table.  Similarly, the dog can sleep on the street without caring for anything, and we cannot sleep without a nice apartment, but both we and the dog are sleeping.   And for sexual intercourse, the dog has no shame.  It can enjoy sex on the street.  We have some restrictions, but the sex is there nonetheless.  And bhaya means defense, to take care of our fears.  That is there in the dog and in you also.  It does not make any difference.  Because you have discovered the atomic bomb for defense, that does not mean that you are better than a dog.  He defends himself according to his intelligence, and you defend yourself according to your intelligence.

Human beings and animals have these four businesses in common: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.  Then what is the special advantage of human life?  That advantage is athato brahma jijnasa: You should be inquisitive to know the value of life, the Absolute Truth.  The dog cannot do that.  That is the distinction between a dog and a human being.  In the human form of life there should be inquiry about Brahman and Parabrahman, spirit and the Supreme Spirit.  When you attain brahma-jnana, knowledge of the Absolute Truth, that is your perfection, not competing with the dog in eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  That is not civilization.  That is not perfection of life.  Foolish persons who are animalistic, like dogs and cats, do not know the aim of life.

na te viduh svartha-gathim hi visnum/durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah/andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/te pisa tantryam uru-damni baddhah

‘Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to the external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu.  As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries’ [SB 7.5.31]

The aim of life is to understand Visnu, the Supreme Lord.  People are trying to become happy in the bahir-artha, in the external energy of God, the material energy.  And the so-called leaders, politicians, philosophers, and scientists are all blind.  They do not know the aim of life.  Still, they are leading the whole society.

Uru-damni baddhah.  Uru means very strong, and damni means rope.  If I tie you with a very strong rope, it is very difficult to untie it, and you are put into difficulty.  Similarly, we in this material world are tied very tightly by the laws of material nature.  And still we declare, ‘I am free.  I am independent.  I can do whatever I like’.  That is called imperfection.  As long as we are in the bodily concept of life and think ourselves free to do whatever we like, we are in ignorance, darkness, tama.  Tama means darkness.

A Vedic injuction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: ‘Don’t remain in darkness; go to the light.’  Darkness means thinking, ‘I am this body, and fulfilling the necessities of the body is the highest perfection of my life.’  Everyone is trying to have a skyscraper and three Rolls Royces, and so on.  They think this is the perfection of life.   They do not think to ask, ‘How many years shall I have this skyscraper?  And what is my main business? My main business is how to become perfect.’

There are many animals within the skyscraper.  There are human beings, dogs, cats, worms, rats – so many things.  So the right to live in a skyscraper is there even for worms, cats, and rats.  Then what is the difference between these animals and me?  The difference is that I can become perfect.  I can ask, ‘What am I?  Am I this body?’  This should be the question.

Krsna says here, ‘The ultimate goal is to understand me.’  Vetti mam tattvatah – to understand Krsna in fact, in truth, not superficially.  That is required.  Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah [Bg. 15.15].  If you are a great scholar studying all kinds of Vedic literature, then you must know Krsna.  If you do not understand Krsna and simply study the Vedas, it is a useless waste of time.

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam/visvakena-kathasu yah/notpadayed yadi ratim/srama eva hi kevalam

‘The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead’ [SB 1.2.8]

You are executing your occupational duties very nicely, honestly.  That is all right.  But if after executing your duties very honestly and nicely you do not awaken your dormant Krsna consciousness, then srama eva hi kevalam: You are simply wasting your time.  Useless.  When you understand Krsna, that is the highest perfection.  But nobody is interested.  Therefore Krsna says in today’s verse, manusyanam sahasresu…: ‘Out of many millions of persons’, one may be interested.  Otherwise, all are in darkness.

What is siddhi, as mentioned here?  Siddhi means to understand my constitutional position, what I am.  I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways.  Is that my position?  But I am a failure.  I am trying to lord it over material nature as a big man – as a minister or a zamindar or a big business magnate.  And when I am a failure, then I want to become God.  That is another ambition.

This is not self-realization.  Self-realization means to understand, ‘I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways, but my attempt is becoming baffled.  Why?  With great endeavor I become a head of state, and I do not wish to die, but death comes and takes away everything – my political position, my wealth, my family, everything.’  Mrtyuh sarva-haras caham [Bg 10.34].  Who is taking?  That is Krsna.

When you realize, ‘I am trying to accumulate so many things but Krsna is taking everything away,’ then why don’t you surrender to Krsna so that He may not take away your position?  That is siddhi.  ‘I am not independent.  I am trying to be independent, but it is not possible.  I am dependent.  I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’

That is self-realization.  That has been taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  Jivera ‘svarupa  haya – krsnera ‘nitya-dasa: ‘It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna.’ [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.108-109].  Brahman realization – aham brahmasmi – is liberation from the material conception of life.  ‘I am not matter.  I am not the body, but I am spirit soul.’  Aham brahmasmi.  That is the first step of self-realization.  But that is not final.  The final realization is ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’  As long as you do not come to that position – the final, consitutional position that ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna’ – then knowledge is lacking; there is no perfection of knowledge.

Therefore, Krsna says in Bhagavad-git [7.19], bahunam janmanam ante…vasudevah sarvam iti: ‘After many, many births, when one is actually self-realize – in awareness, fully in knowledge – then he understands that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything.’  ‘Vasudeva is the supreme everything.  I am simply part and parcel of Vasudeva, an eternal servant of Vasudeva.’  Sa mahatma sudurlabhah.  One who thinks in that way, that kind of perfect person – a mahatma – is very, very rare.  A mahatma understands, ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.  My only business is to serve Krsna.  That is my constitutional position.  I am part and parcel of Krsna.’

This finger is part and parcel of my body.  Its business is to serve the whole body.  I ask the finger, ‘Come here,’ and immediately it comes.  That is the normal, healthy condition of the part and parcel.  My leg is part and parcel of my body.  As soon as I ask the leg, ‘Please take me there,’ it does so.  That is normal.  And if the leg cannot take me there – if I have to take help from a stick – that is not normal.  It is a diseased condition has to be treated.  Similarly, as soon as we find that we do not abide by the orders of Krsna, we must know that we are in ignorance and in an abnormal condition, madness.

To serve Krsna is my duty.  Krsna does not require my help, and still he asks me to surrender to his order.  That is for my good.  If I surrender to Krsna, then that is my benefit.  Krsna does not require my service.  He is omnipotent.  But we are such rascals that we think, ‘Why shall I surrender to Krsna?’  That is perfection.

When you come to the point that you abide by the order of Krsna and surrender to Him, that is perfection.  But people do not do that. 

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’ [Bg. 7.15]  

Why do they not surrender?  Because they are duskritinah, always performing sinful activities, and they are mudhah, rascals.  They do not known their own interest.  And naradhama means the lowest of mankind.  Krsna says, ‘This human body was given to him by material nature to understand me, to surrender to me, but he will not do this.  Therefore: lowest of mankind.’

Someone may object, ‘No, he is so educated.’  No, this is nonsense.  If he does not understand Krsna, what is the meaning of education?  There is no education.  Mayayapahrta-jnanah: his knowledge is stolen by illusion.  Why?  Asuram bhavam asritah: he’s defying Krsna, defying God.  

‘What is God?  I am God.’  This is the position of everyone in the material world, and especially in this age, Kali-yuga.  In Kali-yuga, people are all first-class fools.  That is described in the Bhagavatam [1.1.1o]:

prayenalpayusah sabhya/kalav asmin yuge janah/mandah sumanda-matayo/manda-bhagya upadrutah

‘O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives.  They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and above all, always disturbed’

Kali-yuga is a very difficult age.  In ignorance people fight, quarrel.  Kali means ‘fight’.  Therefore it is called Kali-yuga.  In this age especially, the inhabitants are manda.  Manda means all bad.  Nobody is good.  And sumanda-matayah: Everyone has his own conception of perfection – all bogus.  Why this is?  Manda-bhagyah: because they are unfortunate.  No one knows what he shall eat the next morning or in the evening.  Everyone is in need.  There is scarcity all over the world.

And people are disturbed.  With the progression of Kali-yuga, people will be disturbed by two things especially: taxation and scarcity of food.  That is stated in Bhagavatam [12.2.9]: durbhiksa-kara-piditah.  Kara means taxation.  People will be embarrassed for want of food, and at the same time, every year there will be an increase of taxation.  They will be so disturbed that they will give up their money, wife, children – everything.  They will be disgusted: ‘Now it is impossible to maintain.  Let me go away.’

This is our position in Kali-yuga.  So five thousand years ago, when Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, at that time the position was manusyanam sahasresu – ‘one among thousands will try for perfection.  Now, on account of Kali-yuga, it is ‘one among millions.’  The percentage has increased to one in millions and millions.  

Therefore nobody is interested in this Krsna consciousness movement.  We are trying to give the highest perfection of life, but people are not interested.  They want to remain like cats and dogs and suffer the consequences.  That is going on.

This Krsna consciousness movement is very difficult to understand, but by the grace of Krsna it has been made very easy.  That is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.51]: kaler dosa-nidher rajann asi hy eko mahan gunah.  Sukadeva Goswami described the faults of Kali-yuga to Parikisit Maharaja, but he encouraged him with one verse.  ‘My dear king, Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, but there is one very nice gain.’  What is that?  Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: ‘Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one can become free from all the troubles of Kali-yuga, become liberated, and go back home, back to Godhead.’  So take Krsna consciousness very seriously and make your life perfect’

Thank you very much.’ [Back To Godhead Magazine, March/April 2006]


Tomorrow is the celebration of Nrsimha Caturdasi, the Holy Appearance of Lord Nrsimhadeva, the half-man/half-lion form of the Lord.  I have many wonderful memories of Lord Nrsimhadeva’s mercy and protection.  

Yesterday we had a wonderful programme at the Vedic City Project in Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was, in one sense, a celebration of Lord Nrsimhadeva’s Appearance.  The programme was attended by students from the University of Johannesburg and devotees associated with the project.  Rasika Sekhara prabhu led the devotees in sweet kirtan – which was, basically, the focus of the programme.

I remember celebrating Nrsimha Caturdasi in the back of the Sankirtan van in a caravan park in Kimberley in May 1998.  May is Autumn in South Africa.   Our VW Combi was so cold there was condensation on the roof.  We distributed books in the town during and cooked in the late afternoon.  I can’t remember what we prepared for Lord Nrsimhadeva, but I seem to remember that we made sweets.  Lord Nrsimhadeva is fond of sweets.  There was a picture of Ugra Nrsimha on the wall.  Patita Pavan, Nevil and I chanted Nrsimhadeva prayers in the Sankirtan vehicle.  Looking back now, it seems ecstatic.

Another poignant memory of Lord Nrsimhadeva’s mercy was on Sankirtan in Hatfield, Pretoria.  It was our habit to sometimes distribute books in the Hatfield Mall, which is near ISKCON Pretoria.  Devotees are not allowed to sell books in the Mall, but do anyway.  In fact, there has been a history of conflict between book distributors and Centre Security in the Mall.  I had been selling books in the Mall until I noticed a lady from a hair salon speaking to a security guard in the distance.  She was pointing to me.  I turned around and slowly walked around the corner.  When I was out of sight, I quickly ran out of the mall.   I crossed the road, and waited for about half an hour.  I read a random section of one of Prabhupada’s books, then started selling books to students at the main entrance of the Mall.  A few minutes passed.  Next thing a security guard approached me and, in a mild manner, asked me to follow him to the Management Centre to fill in a form.  I decided to co-operate with him.

His calm manner, however, was a deception.  Instead of leading me to the Centre Management, he took me to the security guards’ locker-room, situated in the underground parking.  Knowing the South African Law, I knew it was not within his jurisdiction as a security guard to take me there.  I questioned this action and asked him to take me to the management office. By this time his mood had changed.  He had begun to address me in an abrupt manner.  I was now surrounded by several guards.  The only thing I could thingk of doing was to reason with them.

I asked him if I could call my Temple President.  I thought that might help.  But he refused.  I was now in the basement locker-room.  The room was flanked with lockers and there was a single wooden bench in the middle of the room.  I found myself surrounded by five large security guards.  The guard who had led me into the room began to taunt me, asking me what was in my bag.  I showed him the books, but he was not really interested in them.  He accused me of trespassing and hawking and mentioned that I could get into trouble for that.  I told him that he was not allowed to arrest me, but this only made him angry.  So I thought it was better not to be too challenging lest I unnecessarily anger the guards.

He took out some handcuffs and asked me to give him my wrist so that he could cuff me to the bench.  Realizing that I would be trapped in the basement if they cuffed me, I began to try to reason with the guards.  ‘I am a fundisa [the Zulu word for ‘priest’]’, I said.  This didn’t seem to make a difference.  I showed him pictures of our Food For Life programme on my camera.  They seemed unfazed.  ‘Please can I call my Temple President.  This all seems to be a big mistake’.  Deadpan looks.  The main guard took a can of pepper spray from his locker and held it a few inches from my eyes.  ‘I am going to spray your eyes with pepper spray’, he snarled.  My heart started to beat fast.  I began to fear the worst.  I looked left and right at the guards around me.  I tried a rugby manouever, dodged two guards, and reached the door.  The last two guards grabbed my wrist.  I let out a shrill scream.  I did not want to scream loudly because I felt no-one would help me anyway.  This would surely anger my assailants.  He forced me to sit on the bench and cuffed my right wrist.  I was very scared.  I did not want to chant aloud, as I feared they would react badly to the name of Krishna.  This was the first time I feared for my life.  The room became very small.  The main guard pressed his face close to mine.  His face twitched with uncontrolled anger.  What would happen to me if they cuffed me to the bench?  I was trying, in terms of my own strength, to get out of this situation.  I figured the best thing to do was to remain calm.

The guard seemed to be really disturbed.  He said, ‘You could crack your head on the floor or leave here without an an eye.  What are you going to tell your fundisa friends?’  The hairs of my back bristled.  I had the stark realization that I was really in danger.

The guard snatched a business card from out of my bag.  Aside from unconsciously glimpsing the maha-mantra, he would have seen some of my credentials.  He said, ‘How do I know if this is true?’  He then asked if I had any money in my pockets.  I had R250 from my collection in my pockets.  I handed the Laxmi (money) to him.  He took it.  He then searched through my bags and took out my dog-eared copy of the Nrsimhadeva Kavaca (Protective Prayers Of Lord Nrsimhadeva).  He looked at the cover and said, ‘What is this?’  I said, ‘It is a scripture’.  He put it back in the bag.  After that he mellowed out.  The other guards also mellowed out.  The tension seemed to dissipate.  The guard handed me my book bag, and escorted me out of the basement and then out of the Mall.  I never thought of it at the time, but Lord Nrsimhadeva had protected me…in a very tangible way.

Lord Nrsimhadeva is the Protector of the Devotees.  Aside from physical protection, He protects the devotees’ spiritual lives.  When Prabhupada introduced the chanting of the Nrsimhadeva prayers in ISKCON – which is now an ISKCON standard – he introduced them with the intention to protect his society.  He was invoking spiritual protection from Lord Nrsimhadeva.  Lord Nrsimhadeva saved the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja from his abusive father, Hiranyakasipu. And, by the grace of Prabhupada, he helped me…even though I did not directly invoke his protection.

All glories to Lord Nrsimhadeva!  All glories to Prahlada Maharaja!  And all glories to Srila Prabhupada!

‘The spiritual planet, Goloka Vrndavana, the eternal abode of Lord Krsna, is shaped like the whorl of a lotus flower.  Even when the Lord descends to any one of the mundane planets, He does so by manifesting His own abode as it is.  Thus His feet remain always on the same big whorl of the lotus flower.  His feet are also as beautiful as the lotus flower.  Therefore it is said that Krsna has lotus feet’

[A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1.16.6 Purport]