|Knowing the Purpose of Life|
Every thoughtful human being asks the fundamental question, "What is the purpose of life?" Unfortunately, our difficulty in finding ultimate meaning is compounded by the fact that thousands of conflicting philosophies, religions, and ideologies and their proponents compete for our loyalty. Here Srila Prabhupada provides some simple and enlightening guidance.
Today's subject matter is our relationship with God. That is self-realization. The sankirtana movement is the easiest process for self-realization because it cleanses the heart. Our misunderstanding of our identity is due to the dust covering the mirror of the mind. In a mirror that is covered with dust one cannot see himself. But if it is very clear, then one can see himself. So meditation is a process for cleansing the heart. Meditation means to try to understand one's relationship with the Supreme.
With everything with which we come in contact there is a relationship. Because I am now sitting on this cushion, the relationship is that I shall sit and the cushion will hold me. You have relationships. You are Englishmen or Indians, so there is a relationship with your society, with your family, with your friends. So what is our relationship with God?
If you ask everyone, very few people will be able to explain their relationship with God. They say, "What is God? God is dead. I don't believe in God, not to speak of a relationship." Because these dirty things are covering their hearts, they cannot see. We have a relationship with everything--why do we not try to understand our relationship with God? Is that very intelligent? No. That is ignorance. All the creatures in this material world are covered by the three modes of material nature. Therefore they cannot see God. They cannot understand God, nor do they try to understand Him. But God is there. In England in the morning there is mist, so you cannot see the sun behind the fog. But does this mean that there is no sun? You cannot see it because your eyes are covered. But if you send a telegram to another part of the world, they will say, "Yes, the sun is here. We can see it. It is very dazzling, full of light." So when you deny the existence of God or you cannot ascertain your relationship with God, that means that you are lacking in knowledge. It is not that there is no God. We are lacking. The sun is not covered. The sun cannot be covered. The fog or the cloud or the mist does not have the power to cover the sun. How big the sun is! It is so many times bigger than this earth. And the clouds can cover at most ten or twenty or a hundred miles. So how can the clouds cover the sun? No. The clouds cannot cover the sun. They cover your eyes. When an enemy comes and a rabbit cannot defend himself, the rabbit closes his eyes and thinks, "My enemy is now gone." Similarly, we are covered by the external energy of God and are thinking, "God is dead."
The Lord has three kinds of energies. In the Visnu Purana there are descriptions of the energy of the Supreme Lord. And in the Vedas also, in the Upanisads, there are descriptions of the energies of the Supreme Lord. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8). Sakti means "energy." The Lord has multienergies. The Vedas say, "God has nothing to do." We have to work because we have no other means to exist--we have to eat, we wish to enjoy this, that--but why should God work? God does not have to work. Then how can we say that God created this universe? Is that not work? No. Then how did it happen? His multifarious energies are so strong that they are acting naturally and are full of knowledge. We can see how a flower blooms and grows and systematically displays multicolors: one side a little spot, another side a little spot, white on one side, more white on the other side. The butterfly also exhibits such artistic symmetry. So this is all being painted, but in such a perfect way and so swiftly that we cannot see how. We cannot understand how it is being done, but it is being done by the energy of the Lord.
It is due to a lack of knowledge that people say that God is dead, that there is no God, and that we have no relationship with God. These thoughts have been compared to the thoughts of a man haunted by a ghost. Just as a haunted man speaks all nonsense, when we become covered by the illusory energy of God we say that God is dead. But this is not a fact. Therefore, we need this chanting process to cleanse our heart. Take to this simple process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. In that way, in your family life, in your club, in your home, on the road--everywhere--chant Hare Krsna, and this darkness covering your heart, covering your real position, will be removed. Then you'll understand your real constitutional position.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommended: ceto-darpana-marjanam. Marjanam means "cleanse," and darpanam means "mirror." The heart is a mirror. It is like a camera. Just as a camera takes all kinds of pictures of days and nights, so also our heart takes pictures and keeps them in an unconscious state. Psychologists know this. The heart takes so many pictures, and therefore it becomes covered. We do not know when it has begun, but it is a fact that because there is material contact, our real identity is covered. Therefore ceto-darpana-marjanam: one has to cleanse his heart. There are different processes to cleanse the heart--the jnana process, the yoga process, the meditation process, pious activities. Karma also cleanses the heart. If one acts very piously, his heart will gradually be cleansed. But although these processes are recommended for cleansing the heart, in this age they are all difficult. To follow the path of philosophical knowledge one must become a very learned scholar, one must read so many books, one must go to learned professors and scholars and speculate. One must search out a person who has seen the light. So these are all philosophical processes. Meditation is also a recommended process. One should question, "What am I?" Just consider: Am I this body? No. Am I this finger? No, this is my finger. If you contemplate your leg, you will see, "Oh, this is my leg." Similarly, you will find everything to be "mine." And where is that "I"? Everything is mine, but where is that "I"? When one is searching for that "I," that is meditation. Real meditation means concentrating all the senses in that way. But that meditation process is very difficult. One must control the senses. The senses are dragging one outward, and one has to bring them inward for introspection. Therefore there are eight processes in the yoga system. The first is controlling the senses by regulative principles. Then sitting postures--that will help to concentrate the mind. If one sits leaning over, that will not help; if one sits up straight, that will help. Then controlling the breathing, then meditation, then samadhi. But today these are very, very difficult processes. No one can immediately perform them. The so-called yoga processes are fragmental--only the sitting postures and a few breathing exercises are practiced. But that cannot bring one to the perfectional stage. The actual yoga process, although a recommended Vedic process, is very difficult in this age. Similarly one can try to get knowledge by the speculative philosophical process: "This is Brahman, this is not Brahman, so what is Brahman? What is spirit soul?" Such empiric philosophical discussion is also recommended, but it is useless in this age.
Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu--not only Caitanya Mahaprabhu but also the Vedic literature--says:
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
Kalau means "in this age." Nasty eva, nasty eva, nasty eva--three times nasty eva. Eva means "certainly," and nasti means "not." "Certainly not, certainly not, certainly not." What is that "certainly not"? One cannot realize oneself by karma. That is the first "certainly not." One cannot realize oneself by jnana. That is the second "certainly not." One cannot realize oneself by yoga. Certainly not. Kalau. Kalau means "in this age." Kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. In this age one certainly cannot achieve success by any of these three methods. Then what is the recommended process? Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam. Simply chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Kevalam means "only." Simply chant Hare Krsna. It is the easiest and most sublime process. This is recommended, practical, and authorized. So take it. Accept it in any condition of life. Chant. There is no expenditure, there is no loss. We are not chanting a secret. No. It is open. And by chanting you will cleanse your heart.
In this material world no one wants misery, but it comes. Unexpectedly, like a forest fire that starts without anyone's striking a match, it comes. No one wants a war, but war is fought. No one wants famine, but famine comes. No one wants pestilence, but it comes. No one wants fighting, but there is fighting. No one wants misunderstanding, but there is. Why? This is like a blazing fire in the forest. And it cannot be extinguished by fire engines. This blazing fire of problems cannot be extinguished by our so-called advancement of knowledge. No. That is not possible, Just as one cannot extinguish a forest fire by sending a fire engine or by bringing some water, the problems of our life cannot be solved by material processes.
There are many examples. Prahlada Maharaja says, "My dear Lord, the father and mother are not actually the protectors of the children." The father and mother take care of their children; that is their duty. But they are not the ultimate protectors. When nature's law calls the child, the father and mother cannot protect him. Therefore although generally it is considered a fact that the father and mother are the protectors of the child, actually it is not a fact. If someone is sailing the ocean and he thinks he has a very nice seat, will that protect him? No. Still he may drown. A nice airplane is flying in the sky, everyone is safe, but all of a sudden it crashes. Nothing material can protect us. Suppose someone is diseased. He may engage a good physician who gives good medicine, but that will not guarantee that he will live. Then what is the ultimate guarantee? Prahlada Maharaja says, "My dear Lord, if You neglect someone, nothing can protect him."
This is our practical experience. We can invent so many methods to solve the problems presented by the laws of material nature, but they are not sufficient. They will never solve all the problems, nor will they give actual relief. This is the fact. Therefore Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "Maya, this external energy, is very, very strong. No one can surpass it. It is almost impossible." Then how can one get free from this material nature? Krsna says, "Simply by surrendering unto Me one can get relief from the onslaught of material nature." That is a fact. So we have to cleanse the heart to learn what is our relationship with God.
In the Katha Upanisad it is stated, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. The Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead, or the Absolute Truth, is eternal. God is eternal, and we are also eternal. But the Vedas indicate that He is the supreme living creature. He is not dead. If He is not living, how is this world working? In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "Under My supervision things are going on." In the Bible also it is said, "God created." That is a fact. Not that at one time there was a chunk and then this happened and then that. No. The Vedas tell us the actual facts, but we have to open our eyes to see. Ceto-darpana-marjanam. That is the process of cleansing our hearts. When we cleanse our hearts, then we will be able to understand what Krsna and the Vedas say. We need to be purified. If a man is suffering from jaundice and you give him a piece of sugar candy, he will say that it is very bitter. But is sugar candy bitter? No, it is very sweet. And the medicine for jaundice is that sugar. Modern science prescribes this, and it is prescribed in the Vedic literature also. So if we take a great quantity of this sugar candy, then we will be relieved from jaundice. And when there is relief, then one says, "Oh, this is very sweet." So the modern jaundice of a godless civilization can be cured by this chanting of Hare Krsna. In the beginning it may appear bitter, but when one advances, then he will see how pleasing it is.
As soon as one understands his identity, his relationship with God, then immediately he becomes happy. We are so full of miseries because we have identified ourselves with the material world. Therefore we are unhappy. Anxieties and fearfulness are due to our misidentifying with the material world. The other day I was explaining that one who identifies with this bag of bones and skin is like an animal. So by chanting Hare Krsna this misunderstanding will be cleansed. Cleansing of the heart means that one will understand that he does not belong to this material world. Aham brahmasmi: I am spirit soul. As long as one identifies oneself with England, with India, or with America, this is ignorance. Today you are an Englishman because you were born in England, but in your next life you may not take your birth in England; it may be in China or Russia or some other country. Or you may not get this human form of body. Today you are a nationalist, you are a very great follower of your country, but tomorrow if you stay in your country you may be a cow being taken to the slaughterhouse.
So we have to thoroughly know our identity. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that the actual identity of every living creature is that he is the eternal servant of God. If one thinks like that--"I am no one else's servant; my business is to serve God"--then he is liberated. His heart is immediately cleansed, and he is liberated. And after one has reached that, then all one's cares and anxieties in this world are over because one knows, "I am a servant of God. God will give me protection. Why should I worry about anything?" It is just like a child. A child knows that his mother and father will take care of him. He is free. If he should go to touch fire, his mother will take care of him: "Oh, my dear child, don't touch." The mother is always looking after him. So why don't you put your trust in God? Actually, you are under the protection of God.
People go to church and say, "God, give us our daily bread." Actually, if He did not give it to us, we would not be able to live. That is a fact. The Vedas also say that the one Supreme Personality supplies all the necessities of every other living creature. God is supplying food for everyone. We human beings have our economic problem, but what economic problem is there in societies other than human society? The bird society has no economic problem. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and out of that, human society is very, very small. So they have created problems--what to eat, where to sleep, how to mate, how to defend. These are a problem to us, but the majority of creatures--the aquatics, the fish, the plants, the insects, the birds, the beasts, and the many millions upon millions of other living creatures--do not have such a problem. They are also living creatures. Don't think that they are different from us. It is not true that we human beings are the only living creatures and that all others are dead. No. And who is providing their food and shelter? It is God. The plants and animals are not going to the office. They are not going to the university to get technological education to earn money. So how are they eating? God is supplying. The elephant eats hundreds of pounds of food. Who is supplying? Are you making arrangements for the elephant? There are millions of elephants. Who is supplying?
So the process of acknowledging that God is supplying is better than thinking, "God is dead. Why should we go to church and pray to God for bread?" In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, "Four kinds of people come to Krsna: the distressed, those who are in need of money, the wise, and the inquisitive." One who is inquisitive, one who is wise, one who is distressed, and one who is in need of money--these four classes of men approach God. "My dear God, I am very hungry. Give me my daily bread." That's nice. Those who approach God in this way are recommended as sukrtinah. Sukrti means "pious." They are pious. Although they are asking for money, for food, they are considered pious because they are approaching God. And others are just the opposite. They are duskrtinah, impious. Krti means "very meritorious," but the word duskrti indicates that their energy is being misused to create havoc. Just like the man who invented atomic weapons. He has a brain, but it has been misused. He has created something that is dreadful. Create something that will insure that man will no longer have to die. What is the use of creating something so that millions of people will immediately die? They will die today or tomorrow or after a hundred years. So what have the scientists done? Create something so that man will not die immediately, so that there will be no more disease, so that there will be no more old age. Then you will have done something. But the duskrtinas never go to God. They never try to understand God. Therefore their energy is misdirected.
The gross materialists who ignore their relationship with God are described in the Bhagavad-gita as mudhas. Mudha means "ass," "donkey." Those who are working very, very hard to earn money are compared to the donkey. They will eat the same four capatis [whole-wheat bread-patties] daily, but they are unnecessarily working to earn thousands of dollars. And others are described as naradhama. Naradhama means "the lowest of mankind." The human form of life is meant for God realization. It is the right of man to try to realize God. One who understands Brahman, God, is a brahmana, not others. So that is the duty of this human form of life. In every human society there is some system that is called "religion" and by which one may try to understand God. It doesn't matter whether it is the Christian religion, the Muhammadan religion, or the Hindu religion. It doesn't matter. The system is to understand God and our relationship with Him. That's all. This is the duty of the human beings, and if this duty is ignored in human society, then it is animal society. Animals have no power to understand what is God and their relationship with God. Their only interests are eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. If we are only concerned with these things, then what are we? We are animals. Therefore the Bhagavad-gita says that those who ignore this opportunity are the "lowest of mankind." They got births and yet did not utilize it for God realization but simply for the animal propensities. Therefore they are naradhama, the lowest of mankind. And there are other persons who are very proud of their knowledge. But what is that knowledge? "There is no God. I am God." Their actual knowledge has been taken away by maya. If they are God, then how have they become dog? There are so many arguments against them, but they simply defy God. Atheism. Because they have taken to the process of atheism, their actual knowledge is stolen away. Actual knowledge means to know what is God and our relationship with God. If one does not know this, then it is to be understood that his knowledge has been taken away by maya.
So in this way, if we try to understand our relationship with God, there are ways and means. There are books, and there is knowledge, so why not take advantage of them? Everyone should take advantage of this knowledge. Try to understand that in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures, everywhere, it is said that God is great and that although we are qualitatively one with God, we are minute. The ocean and the minute particle of water have the same quality, but the quantity of salt in the drop of water and the quantity of salt in the ocean are different. They are qualitatively one but quantitatively different. Similarly, God is all-powerful, and we have some power. God creates everything, and we can create a small machine to fly, just like the small machines with which children play. But God can create millions of planets flying in the air. That is the qualification of God. You cannot create any planets. Even if you can create a planet, what is the benefit of that? There are millions of planets created by God. But you also have the creative power. God has power, and you have power. But His is so great that yours cannot compare to it. If you say, "I am God," that is foolishness. You can claim that you are God, but what acts have you performed so extraordinary that you can claim that you are God? This is ignorance. The knowledge of one who thinks himself God has been taken away by the spell of maya. So our relationship is that God is great and we are minute. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna clearly says, "All living entities are My parts and parcels. Qualitatively they are one with Me, but quantitatively they are different." So we are simultaneously one with and different from God. That is our relationship. We are one because we have the same qualities as God. But if we study ourselves minutely, we will find that although we have some great qualities, God has them all in greater quantities.
We cannot have anything that is not in God. That is not possible. Therefore in the Vedanta-sutra it is said that everything that we have is also found in God. It is emanating from God. So our relationship is that because we are small, because we are minute, we are the eternal servitors of God. In this material world also, in ordinary behavior, we see that a man goes to serve another man because the other man is greater than he and can pay him a nice salary. So naturally the conclusion is that if we are small, our duty is to serve God. We have no other business. We are all different parts and parcels of the original entity.
A screw that is connected with a machine is valuable because it is working with the whole machine. And if the screw is taken away from the machine, or if it is faulty, it is worthless. My finger is worth millions of dollars as long as it is attached to this body and is serving the body. And if it is cut off from this body, then what is it worth? Nothing. Similarly, our relationship is that we are very small particles of God; therefore our duty is to dovetail our energies with Him and cooperate with Him. That is our relationship. Otherwise we are worthless. We are cut off. When the finger becomes useless the doctor says, "Oh, amputate this finger. Otherwise the body will be poisoned." Similarly, when we become godless we are cut off from our relationship with God and suffer in this material world. If we try to join again with the Supreme Lord, then our relationship is revived.