The Appearance of Lord Caitanya
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself, and He is teaching how to develop love of God by a very simple method…chanting the names of the Lord. Only five hundred years ago Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, prophesied that the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra would resound throughout every town and village in the world. At a time when Western man was directing his exploratory spirit toward studying the physical universe and circumnavigating the globe, in India Śrī Caitanya was inaugurating and masterminding a revolution directed inward. His movement swept the subcontinent, gained millions of followers, and profoundly influenced the future of religious and philosophical thinking, both in India and the West. In the following talk, presented in November 1969 at London’s Conway Hall, Śrīla Prabhupāda describes the divine appearance of Śrī Caitanya.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the golden avatāra, appeared in India nearly five hundred years ago. It is the custom in India that when a child is born, an astrologer is called for. When Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared five thousand years ago, Gargamuni was called by His father, and he said, “This child formerly incarnated in three complexions, such as red and golden, and now He has appeared in blackish color.” Kṛṣṇa’s color is described in the scriptures as blackish, just like the color of a cloud. Lord Caitanya is understood to be Kṛṣṇa appearing in golden complexion.
There is much evidence in Vedic literature that Caitanya Mahāprabhu is an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, and this is confirmed by scholars and devotees. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is confirmed that the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, or God, in this present age, Kali-yuga, will always engage in describing Kṛṣṇa. He is Kṛṣṇa, but as a devotee of Kṛṣṇa He describes Himself. And in this age His bodily complexion will not be blackish. This means that it may be white, it may be red, or it may be yellow, because these four colors—white, red, yellow, and black—are the colors assumed by the incarnations for the different ages. Therefore, since the red, white, and blackish colors were already taken by former incarnations, the remaining color, golden, is assumed by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. His complexion is not blackish, but He is Kṛṣṇa.
Another feature of this avatāra is that He is always accompanied by His associates. In the picture of Caitanya Mahāprabhu one will find that He is always followed by many devotees chanting. Whenever God incarnates He has two missions, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. There Kṛṣṇa says, “Whenever I appear, My mission is to deliver the pious devotees and to annihilate the demons.” When Kṛṣṇa appeared, He had to kill many demons. If we see a picture of Viṣṇu we will notice that He has a conchshell, lotus flower, club, and disc. These last two items are meant for killing demons. Within this world there are two classes of men—the demons and the devotees. The devotees are called demigods; they are almost like God because they have godly qualities. Those who are devotees are called godly persons, and those who are nondevotees, atheists, are called demons. So Kṛṣṇa, or God, comes with two missions: to give protection to the devotees and to destroy the demons. In this age Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission is also like that: to deliver the devotees and to annihilate the nondevotees, the demons. But in this age He has a different weapon. That weapon is not a club or disc or lethal weapon—His weapon is the saṅkīrtana movement. He killed the demoniac mentality of the people by introducing the saṅkīrtanamovement. That is the specific significance of Lord Caitanya. In this age people are already killing themselves. They have discovered atomic weapons with which to kill themselves, so there is no need for God to kill them. But He appeared to kill their demonic mentality. That is possible by this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Therefore, in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that this is the incarnation of God in this age. And who worships Him? The process is very simple. Just keep a picture of Lord Caitanya with His associates. Lord Caitanya is in the middle, accompanied by His principal associates—Nityānanda, Advaita, Gadādhara, and Śrīvāsa. One simply has to keep this picture. One can keep it anywhere. It is not that one has to come to us to see this picture. Anyone can have this picture in his home, chant this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, and thus worship Lord Caitanya. That is the simple method. But who will capture this simple method? Those who have good brains. Without much bother, if one simply keeps a picture of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu at home and chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, then one will realize God. Anyone can adopt this simple method. There is no expenditure, there is no tax, nor is there any need to build a very big church or temple. Anyone, anywhere, can sit down on the road or beneath a tree and chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and worship God. Therefore it is a great opportunity. For example, in business or political life one sometimes finds a great opportunity. Those who are intelligent politicians take a good opportunity and make a success of it the first time it comes. Similarly, in this age, those who have sufficient intelligence take to this saṅkīrtanamovement, and they advance very quickly.
Lord Caitanya is called “the golden avatāra.” Avatāra means “descending, coming down.” Just as one may come down from the fifth story or the one-hundredth story of a building, an avatāra comes down from the spiritual planets in the spiritual sky. The sky we see with our naked eyes or with a telescope is only the material sky. But beyond this there is another sky, which is not possible to see with our eyes or instruments. That information is in the Bhagavad-gītā; it is not imagination. Kṛṣṇa says that beyond the material sky is another sky, the spiritual sky.
We have to take Kṛṣṇa’s word as it is. For example, we teach small children that beyond England there are other places, called Germany, India, etc., and the child has to learn about these places from the version of the teacher because they are beyond his sphere. Similarly, beyond this material sky there is another sky. One cannot experiment to find it, any more than a small child can experiment to find Germany or India. That is not possible. If we want to get knowledge, then we have to accept authority. Similarly, if we want to know what is beyond the material world then we have to accept the Vedic authority, otherwise there is no possibility of knowing. It is beyond material knowledge. One cannot go to the far planets in this universe, what to speak of going beyond this universe. The estimation is that in order to go to the highest planet of this universe with modern machinery one would have to travel for forty thousand light-years. So we cannot even travel within this material sky. Our lifetime and means are so limited that we cannot have proper knowledge of even this material world.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, when Arjuna asked Kṛṣṇa, “Will you kindly explain the extent to which Your energies are working?” the Supreme Lord gave him so many instances, and at the end He finally said, “My dear Arjuna, what shall I explain about My energies? It is not actually possible for you to understand. But you can just imagine the expansion of My energies: this material world, which consists of millions of universes, is a display of only one fourth of My creation.” We cannot estimate the position of even one universe, and there are millions of universes. Then beyond that is the spiritual sky, and there are millions of spiritual planets. All this information is available from the Vedic literature. If one accepts Vedic literature, then he can get this knowledge. If one doesn’t accept it, there is no other means. That is our choice. Therefore, according to Vedic civilization, whenever an ācārya speaks he immediately gives references from the Vedic literature. Then others will accept it: “Yes, it is correct.” In a law court the lawyer gives references from past judgments of the court, and if his case is tight, the judge accepts. Similarly, if one can give evidence from the Vedas,then it is understood that his position is factual.
The avatāra for this age, Lord Caitanya, is described in Vedic literature. We cannot accept anyone as an avatāra unless he has the symptoms described in the scriptures. We do not whimsically accept Lord Caitanya as an avatāra on the basis of votes. Nowadays it has become a fashion that any man can come and say that he is God or an incarnation of God, and some fools and rascals will accept it: “Oh, he is God.” We do not accept an avatāra like that. We take evidence from the Vedas. An avatāra must conform to descriptions in theVedas. Then we accept him; otherwise no. For each avatārathere is a description in the Vedas: He will appear at such and such a place, in such and such a form, and He will act like this. That is the nature of Vedic evidence.
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a list of the avatāras, and there is mention of Lord Buddha’s name. This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was written five thousand years ago, and it mentions different names for future times. It says that in the future the Lord would appear as Lord Buddha, his mother’s name would be Añjanā, and he would appear in Gayā. So Buddha appeared twenty-six hundred years ago, and theŚrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which was written five thousand years ago, mentioned that in the future he would appear. Similarly, there is mention of Lord Caitanya, and similarly the lastavatāra of this Kali-yuga is also mentioned in theBhāgavatam. It is mentioned that the last incarnation in this age is Kalki. He will appear as the son of a brāhmaṇa whose name is Viṣṇu-yaśā, in a place called Śambhala. There is a place in India with that name, so perhaps it is there that the Lord will appear.
So an avatāra must conform to the descriptions in theUpaniṣads, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Mahābhārata, and other Vedic literatures. And on the authority of Vedic literature and the commentary of great, stalwart gosvāmīs like Jīva Gosvāmī, who was the greatest scholar and philosopher in the world, we can accept Lord Caitanya as an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa.
Why did Lord Caitanya appear? In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “Give up all other engagements and simply engage in My service. I will give you protection from all results of sinful actions.” In this material world, in conditional life, we are simply creating sinful reactions. That’s all. And because of sinful reactions, we have received this body. If our sinful reactions stopped we would not have to take a material body; we should get a spiritual body.
What is a spiritual body? A spiritual body is a body which is free from death, birth, disease, and old age. It is an eternal body, full of knowledge and bliss. Different bodies are created by different desires. As long as we have desires for different kinds of enjoyment, we have to accept different kinds of material bodies. Kṛṣṇa, God, is so kind that He awards whatever we want. If we want a tiger’s body, with tigerlike strength and teeth with which to capture animals and suck fresh blood, then Kṛṣṇa will give us the opportunity. And if we want the body of a saintly person, a devotee engaged only in the service of the Lord, then He will give us that body. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā.
If a person engaged in yoga, the process of self-realization, somehow or other fails to complete the process, he is given another chance; he is given birth in a family of a purebrāhmaṇa or a rich man. If one is fortunate enough to take birth in such a family, he gets all facilities to understand the importance of self-realization. From the very beginning of life our Kṛṣṇa conscious children are getting the opportunity to learn how to chant and dance, so when they are grown up they will not change, but instead will automatically make progress. They are very fortunate. Regardless of whether he is born in America or Europe, a child will advance if his father and mother are devotees. He gets this opportunity. If a child takes birth in a family of devotees, this means that in his last life he had already taken to the yoga process, but somehow or other he could not finish it. Therefore the child is given another opportunity to make progress under the care of a good father and mother so that he will again advance. In this way, as soon as one completes his development of God consciousness, then he no longer has to take birth in this material world, but returns to the spiritual world.
Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā: “My dear Arjuna, if one understands My appearance, disappearance, and activities, simply because of this understanding he is given the opportunity to take birth in the spiritual world after giving up this body.” One has to give up this body—today, tomorrow, or maybe the day after that. One has to. But a person who has understood Kṛṣṇa will not have to take another material body. He goes directly to the spiritual world and takes birth in one of the spiritual planets. So Kṛṣṇa says that as soon as one gets this body—it doesn’t matter if it is from India or the moon or the sun or Brahmaloka or anywhere within this material world—one should know that it is due to his sinful activities. There are degrees of sinful activities, so according to the degree of sinfulness, one takes a material body. Therefore our real problem is not how to eat, sleep, mate, and defend—our real problem is how to get a body that is not material but spiritual. That is the ultimate solution to all problems. So Kṛṣṇa guarantees that if one surrenders unto Him, if one becomes fully Kṛṣṇa conscious, then He will give one protection from all reactions to sinful life.
This assurance was given by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā, but there were many fools who could not understand Kṛṣṇa. In the Bhagavad-gītā they are described as mūḍhas.
Mūḍhameans “rascal,” and Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā, “They do not know what I actually am.” So many people misunderstood Kṛṣṇa. Although Kṛṣṇa gave us this message of theBhagavad-gītā so that we could understand Him, many people missed the opportunity. Therefore Kṛṣṇa, out of His compassion, came again, as a devotee, and showed us how to surrender unto Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa Himself came to teach us how to surrender. His last instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā is to surrender, but people—mūḍhas, rascals—said, “Why should I surrender?” Therefore, although Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, this time He teaches us practically how to execute the mission of the Bhagavad-gītā. That’s all. Caitanya Mahāprabhu is teaching nothing extraordinary, nothing beyond the process of surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which was already taught in theBhagavad-gītā. There is no other teaching, but the same teaching is presented in different ways so that different kinds of people may take it and take the opportunity to approach God.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu gives us the opportunity to reach God directly. When Rūpa Gosvāmī, the principal disciple of Lord Caitanya, first saw Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he was a minister in the government of Bengal but wanted to join Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s movement. So he gave up his position as a minister, and after joining, when he surrendered, he offered a nice prayer to Lord Caitanya. This prayer says:
nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
“My dear Lord, You are the most munificent of all the incarnations.” Why? Kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te: “You are directly giving love of God. You have no other purpose. Your process is so nice that one can immediately learn to love God. Therefore You are the most munificent of all incarnations. And it is not possible for any personality other than Kṛṣṇa Himself to deliver this benediction; therefore I say that You are Kṛṣṇa.” Kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya-nāmne: “You are Kṛṣṇa, but You have assumed the name Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. I surrender unto You.”
So this is the process. Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, and He is teaching how to develop love of God by a very simple method. He says simply to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“In this age, simply go on chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.There is no other alternative.” People are embarrassed by so many methods of realization. They cannot take to the actual ritualistic processes of meditation or yoga; it is not possible. Therefore Lord Caitanya says that if one takes up this process of chanting, then immediately he can reach the platform of realization.
The chanting process offered by Lord Caitanya for achieving love of God is called saṅkīrtana. Saṅkīrtana is a Sanskrit word. Sam means samyak—“complete.” And kīrtana means “glorifying” or “describing.” So complete description means complete glorification of the Supreme, or the Supreme Complete Whole. It is not that one can describe anything or glorify anything and that will be kīrtana. From the grammatical point of view that may be kīrtana, but according to the Vedic system, kīrtana means describing the supreme authority, the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is called kīrtana.
This devotional service begins with the method of śravaṇa. Śravaṇa means “hearing,” and kīrtana means “describing.” One should describe, and another should hear. Or the same man himself can both describe and hear. He does not need anyone else’s help. When we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, we chant and hear. This is complete. This is a complete method. But what is that chanting and hearing? One must chant and hear about Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa. Not of anything else. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ: [SB 7.5.23] one can understand Viṣṇu, the all-pervading Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by the method of hearing.
We have to hear; if one simply hears, that is the beginning. One does not need any education or development of material knowledge. Just like a child: as soon as he hears, immediately he can respond and dance. So by nature God has given us these nice instruments—ears—so that we can hear. But we must hear from the right source. That is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One must hear from those who are devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are called satām. If one hears from the right source, from a realized soul, then it will act. And these words of God, or Kṛṣṇa, are very relishable. If one is intelligent enough, he will listen to what is spoken by the realized soul. Then very soon he will be released from material entanglements.
This human life is meant for advancing on the path of liberation. That is called apavarga, freedom from entanglement. We are all entangled. Our acceptance of this material body means that we are already entangled. But we should not progress in the process of entanglement. That process is called karma. As long as the mind is absorbed inkarma, we will have to accept a material body. At the time of death, our mind may be thinking, “Oh, I could not complete this work. Oh, I am dying! I have to do this. I have to do that.” This means that Kṛṣṇa will give us another chance to do it, and so we will have to accept another body. He will give us the chance: “All right. You could not do it. Now do it. Take this body.” Therefore the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, “These rascals have become madly intoxicated; because of intoxication they are doing something they should not have done.” What are they doing? Mahārāja Dhṛtarāṣṭra is a very good example. Mahārāja Dhṛtarāṣṭra was cunningly planning to kill the Pāṇḍavas in order to favor his own sons, so Kṛṣṇa sent His uncle, Akrūra, to advise him not to do that. Dhṛtarāṣṭra understood Akrūra’s instructions, but he said, “My dear Akrūra, what you are saying is quite right, but it does not stand in my heart, so I cannot change my policy. I have to follow this policy and let whatever happens take place.”
So when men want to satisfy their senses, they become mad, and in this madness they’ll do anything and everything. For example, there have been many instances in material life where someone has become mad after something and has committed a criminal act such as murder. The person could not check himself. Similarly, we are accustomed to sense gratification. We are mad, and therefore our minds are fully absorbed in karma. This is very unfortunate, because our body, although temporary, is the reservoir of all misfortunes and miseries; it is always giving us trouble. These matters are to be studied. We should not be mad. Human life is not meant for that. The defect of the present civilization is that people are mad after sense gratification. That is all. They do not know the real value of life, and therefore they are neglecting the most valuable form of life, this human form.
When this body is finished there is no guarantee what kind of body one will take next. Suppose in my next life I by chance get the body of a tree. For thousands of years I will have to stand up. But people are not very serious. They even say, “What is that? Even if I have to stand up, I shall forget.” The lower species of life are situated in forgetfulness. If a tree were not forgetful it would be impossible for it to live. Suppose we were told, “You stand up for three days here!” Because we are not forgetful, we would become mad. So, by nature’s law, all these lower species of life are forgetful. Their consciousness is not developed. A tree has life, but even if someone cuts it, because its consciousness is not developed, it does not respond.
So we should be very careful to utilize this human form of life properly. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is meant for achieving perfection in life. It is not a bluff or exploitation, but unfortunately people are accustomed to being bluffed. There is a verse by an Indian poet: “If one speaks nice things, people will quarrel with him: ‘Oh, what nonsense you are speaking.’ But if he bluffs them and cheats them, they will be very glad.” So if a bluffer says, “Just do this, give me my fee, and within six months you will become God,” then they will agree: “Yes, take this fee, and I shall become God within six months.” No. These cheating processes will not solve our problem. If one actually wants to solve the problems of life in this age, then he has to take to this process of kīrtana. That is the recommended process.
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
In this age, Kali-yuga, one cannot execute any process of self-realization or perfection of life other than kīrtana. Kīrtana is essential in this age.
In all Vedic literatures it is confirmed that one must meditate on the Supreme Absolute Truth, Viṣṇu, not on anything else. But there are different processes of meditation recommended for different ages. The process of mystic yogic meditation was possible in Satya-yuga, when men lived for many thousands of years. Now people will not believe this, but in a previous age there were people who lived for one hundred thousand years. That age was called Satya-yuga, and the meditation of mystic yoga was possible at that time. In that age the great yogī Vālmīki Muni meditated for sixty thousand years. So that is a long-term process, which is not possible to execute in this age. If one wishes to conduct a farce, that is another matter. But if one actually wants to practice such meditation, it takes an extremely long time to perfect. In the next age, Tretā-yuga, the process of realization was to perform the various ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas. In the next age, Dvāpara-yuga, the process was temple worship. In this present age the same result can be achieved by the process of hari-kīrtana,glorification of Hari, Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
No other kīrtana is recommended. This hari-kīrtana was started five hundred years ago in Bengal by Lord Caitanya. In Bengal there is competition between the Vaiṣṇavas and theśāktas. The śāktas have introduced a certain type of kīrtanacalled kālī-kīrtana. But in the Vedic scriptures there is no recommendation of kālī-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana.One cannot say, “Oh, you are Vaiṣṇava. You can performhari-kīrtana. I shall perform śiva-kīrtana or devī-kīrtana orgaṇeśa-kīrtana.” No. The Vedic scriptures do not authorize any kīrtana other than hari-kīrtana. Kīrtana means hari-kīrtana, the glorification of Kṛṣṇa.
So this process of hari-kīrtana is very simple: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Actually there are only three words:Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma. But they are very nicely arranged for chanting so that everyone can take the mantra and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare. Since we have started this movement in the Western countries, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Egyptians, and Japanese are all chanting. There is no difficulty. They are chanting very gladly, and they are getting the results. What is the difficulty? We are distributing this chanting free of charge, and it is very simple. Simply by chanting, one can have self-realization, God realization, and when there is God realization, then nature realization is included also. For example, if one learns one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and zero, then he has studied the entirety of mathematics, because mathematics means simply changing the places of these ten figures. That’s all. Similarly, if one simply studies Kṛṣṇa, then all his knowledge is perfect. And Kṛṣṇa is easily understood simply by chanting this mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. So why not take this opportunity?
Take this opportunity that is being offered to human society. It is very ancient and scientific. It is not that it is a concoction that will last for only three or four years. No. In theBhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “This philosophy is inexhaustible and indestructible. It is never lost or destroyed.” It may be covered for the time being, but it is never destroyed. Therefore it is called avyayam. Vyayameans “exhaustion.” For example, one may have a hundred dollars, and if they are spent one after another, the next day it will come to zero. That is vyaya, exhaustible. But Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not like that. If you cultivate this knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then it will increase. That is certified by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam. Ānanda means “pleasure,” “transcendental bliss,” andambudhi means “ocean.” In the material world we see that the ocean does not increase. But if one cultivates Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then his transcendental bliss will simply increase. Ānandāmbudhi-vardhanam. And I shall always remind everyone that the process is very simple. Anyone can chant, anywhere, without taxation or loss, but the gain is very great.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has explained this kīrtanamovement in His Śikṣāṣṭaka. Śikṣā means “instruction,” andaṣṭaka means “eight.” He has given us eight verses to help us understand this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and I shall explain the first of these instructions. The Lord says, ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: [Cc. Antya 20.12] one should cleanse the heart. I have explained this several times, but it does not become monotonous. It is just like the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa; it does not become tiresome. Our students can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra twenty-four hours a day, and they will never get tired. They will continue to dance and chant. And anyone can try it; because it is not material, one will never get tired of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the material world, if one chants anything, any favorite name, for three, four, or ten times, he will get tired of it. That is a fact. But because Hare Kṛṣṇa is not material, if one chants this mantra, he will never get tired. The more one chants, the more his heart will be cleansed of material dirt and the more the problems of his life within this material world will be solved.
What is the problem of our lives? That we do not know. Modern education never gives enlightenment about the real problem of life. That is indicated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Those who are educated and are advancing in knowledge should know what is the problem of life. This problem is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: one should always see the inconveniences of birth, death, old age, and disease. Unfortunately no one pays attention to these problems. When a man is diseased he thinks, “All right. Let me go to the doctor. He will give me some medicine, and I will be cured.” But he does not consider the problem very seriously. “I did not want this disease. Why is there disease? Is it not possible to become free from disease?” He never thinks that way. This is because his intelligence is very low-grade, just like that of an animal. An animal suffers, but it has no sense. If an animal is brought to a slaughterhouse and sees that the animal before him is being slaughtered, he will still stand there contentedly eating the grass. This is animal life. He does not know that next time it will be his turn and he will be slaughtered. I have seen it. In a Kālī temple I have seen that a goat was standing there ready to be sacrificed and another goat was very happily eating the grass.
Similarly, Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira was asked by Yamarāja, “What is the most wonderful thing in this world? Can you explain?” So Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira answered, “Yes. The most wonderful thing is that at every moment one can see that his friends, his fathers, and his relatives have died, but he is thinking, ‘I shall live forever.’” He never thinks that he will die, just as an animal never thinks that at the next moment he may be slaughtered. He is satisfied with the grass, that’s all. He is satisfied with the sense gratification. He does not know that he is also going to die.
My father has died, my mother has died, he has died, she has died. So I will also have to die. Then what is after death? I do not know. This is the problem. People do not take this problem seriously, but the Bhagavad-gītā indicates that that is real education. Real education is to inquire why, although we do not want to die, death comes. That is real inquiry. We do not want to become old men. Why does old age come upon us? We have many problems, but this is the sum and substance of all of them.
In order to solve this problem, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu prescribes the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. As soon as our heart is cleansed by chanting this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the blazing fire of our problematic material existence is extinguished. How is it extinguished? When we cleanse our heart we will realize that we do not belong to this material world. Because people are identifying with this material world, they are thinking, “I am an Indian, I am an Englishman, I am this, I am that.” But if one chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, he will realize that he is not this material body. “I do not belong to this material body or this material world. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. I am eternally related with Him, and I have nothing to do with the material world.” This is called liberation, knowledge. If I don’t have anything to do with this material world, then I am liberated. And that knowledge is called brahma-bhūta.
A person with this realization has no duty to perform. Because we are now identifying our existence with this material world, we have so many duties. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says that as long as there is no self-realization, we have so many duties and debts. We are indebted to the demigods. The demigods are not merely fictitious. They are real. There are demigods controlling the sun, the moon, and the air. Just as there are directors of government departments, so for the heating department there is the sun-god, for the air department there is Varuṇa, and similarly there are other departmental demigods. In the Vedas they are described as controlling deities, so we cannot neglect them. Also, there are great sages and philosophers who have given us knowledge, and we are indebted to them. So as soon as we take birth we are indebted to so many living entities, but it is impossible to liquidate all these debts. Therefore the Vedic literature recommends that one take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. And Kṛṣṇa says, “If one takes shelter of Me, then he doesn’t have to take shelter of anyone else.”
Therefore those who are Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees have taken shelter of Kṛṣṇa, and the beginning is hearing and chanting. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ [SB 7.5.23]. So our fervent, humble request to everyone is to please accept this chanting. This movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness was introduced by Lord Caitanya five hundred years ago in Bengal, and now all over India and especially in Bengal there are millions of followers of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Now this movement is starting in the Western countries, so just be very serious in understanding it. We do not criticize any other religion. Don’t take it in that way. We have no business criticizing any other process of religion. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is giving people the most sublime religion—love of God. That’s all. We are teaching to love God. Everyone is already loving, but that love is misplaced. We love this boy or this girl or this country or that society or even the cats and dogs, but we are not satisfied. So we must place our love in God. If one places one’s love in God, he will be happy.
Don’t think that this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is a new type of religion. Where is the religion which does not recognize God? One may call God “Allah” or “Kṛṣṇa” or something else, but where is that religion which does not recognize God? We are teaching that one should simply try to love God. We are attracted by so many things, but if our love is reposed in God, then we will be happy. We don’t have to learn to love anything else; everything else is automatically included. Just try to love God. Don’t try to love just trees or plants or insects. This will never satisfy. Learn to love God. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission; that is our mission.
From The Science of Self Realization
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada