The senses of the living entity are always engaged in some occupation, either in activities prescribed in the Vedic injunctions or in material activities. The natural inclination of the senses is to work for something, and the mind is the center of the senses. The mind is actually the leader of the senses; therefore it is called sattva. Similarly, the leader of all the demigods who are engaged in the activities of this material world - in managing the sun, moon, etc. - is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is stated in the Vedic literature that the demigods are different limbs of the universal body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Our senses are also controlled by different demigods; our senses are representations of various demigods, and the mind is the representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The senses, led by the mind, act under the influence of the demigods. When the service is ultimately aimed at the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the senses are in their natural position. The Lord is called Hṛṣīkeśa, for He is actually the proprietor and ultimate master of the senses. The senses and the mind are naturally inclined to work, but when they are materially contaminated, they work for some material benefit or for the service of the demigods, although actually they are meant to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The senses are called hṛṣīka, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called Hṛṣīkeśa. Indirectly, all the senses are naturally inclined to serve the Supreme Lord. That is called bhakti.
Kapiladeva said that in devotional service the senses, without desire for material profit or other selfish motives, are engaged in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That spirit of service is far better than siddhi, salvation. Bhakti, the inclination to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is in a transcendental position far superior to mukti, or liberation. Thus bhakti is the stage after liberation. Unless one is liberated, one cannot engage the senses in the service of the Lord. When the senses are engaged either in material activities of sense gratification or in the activities of the Vedic injunctions, there is some motive, but when the same senses are engaged in the service of the Lord without ulterior motive, that is called animittā and is the natural inclination of the mind. The conclusion is that when the mind, undeviated either by Vedic injunctions or by material activities, is fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is situated far above mere liberation from material entanglement.
Bhakti, devotional service, is transcendental even to mukti, liberation. Generally people are concerned with dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. In the beginning, there is dharma (religion), then artha (economic development), kāma (sense gratification), then mokṣa (merging into the Supreme One). However, bhakti is above all these. Mukti is not very important for a bhakta. In the words of Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura: muktiḥ svayaṁ mukulitāñjali sevate 'smāt. "Mukti herself is standing with folded hands, waiting to serve the devotee." (Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta 107) This is the experience of Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura, who was a very rich South Indian brāhmaṇa. Due to bad association, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura became a very staunch prostitute hunter, and he spent all his money on a prostitute named Cintāmaṇi. One night, during a terrible rainstorm, Bilvamaṅgala went to see Cintāmaṇi, but the prostitute was thinking, "Surely tonight Bilvamaṅgala will not come. This is a terrible storm." Nonetheless, Bilvamaṅgala came, despite all difficulties. Somehow he managed to cross the raging river, and when he saw the gates of Cintāmaṇi's house closed, he somehow managed to jump over them. Despite all the dangers, he reached Cintāmaṇi's house, and the prostitute, being very astonished, said, "How is it you have come tonight? Oh, you are so attracted to this skin! If you just had this much attraction for Kṛṣṇa, it would certainly be to your benefit." Bilvamaṅgala then immediately left the prostitute's house and went to Vṛndāvana. The fact was that in his previous life he had executed devotional service up to bhāva-bhakti. Thus the prostitute Cintāmaṇi actually became his guru. While in Vṛndāvana, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura wrote a book named Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, which has been recommended by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In that book, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura writes: "If we have devotion fixed on You, My Lord Bhagavān, then we can easily see Your divine form as kaiśora-mūrti, a young boy."
Another name for Kṛṣṇa is Kaiśora. The word kaiśora refers to the age before marriage - that is, it refers to a boy between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is always kaiśora-mūrti. By devotional service, one can see the kaiśora-mūrti of Kṛṣṇa very easily.
When Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura was going to Vṛndāvana, he was still attracted to women. One night he stayed at the house of a very rich merchant, and the merchant's wife told her husband that Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura was attracted to her. She asked her husband what to do, and the merchant simply said, "Serve him." Finally Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura came to his senses, and he thought, "These eyes are my enemies." When the beautiful woman approached him, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura said, "Mother, please give me the pins out of your hair. I am very mad after the beauty of women. So let me pluck out my eyes." In this way, he blinded himself. Although he could not see, in Vṛndāvana he was supplied milk by Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus he personally realized Kṛṣṇa through bhakti and wrote of his personal experience. He wrote, "Mukti is not a very important thing. She is always at my service with folded hands, saying, 'My dear sir, what can I do for you?' " Thus a devotee is not very anxious for mukti because he is already liberated. If a man has a million dollars, why should he hanker after ten rupees?
Bhakti should be animittā, without motive. Actually Kṛṣṇa can fulfill all of our wishes without difficulty because He is almighty and full of all opulences. If we want material happiness from Kṛṣṇa, it is certainly not difficult for Him to grant it. He can also give us mukti, liberation, but it is foolishness to ask anything from Kṛṣṇa except bhakti. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say that asking God for mukti or anything else other than bhakti is like going to a rich man and asking for ashes. There is another story, about an old woman who was carrying a bundle of dry wood through the forest. Somehow or other the bundle, which was very heavy, fell to the ground. The old woman became very disturbed, and thought, "Who will help put this bundle back on my head?" She then began to call on God, saying, "God help me." Suddenly God appeared and said, "What do you want?" She said, "please help me put this bundle back on my head." So this is our foolishness. When God comes to give us some benediction, we simply ask Him to load us down again with all these material bundles. We ask Him for more material things, for a happy family, for a large amount of money, for a new car or whatever.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches us that we should only beg God for His service life after life. This is the actual meaning of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. When we are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma, Rāma, Hare Hare, we are actually addressing God and His energy, Harā. Harā is Kṛṣṇa's internal potency, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī or Lakṣmī. Jaya rādhe! This is daivī prakṛti, and the devotees take shelter of the daivī prakṛti, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Thus the Vaiṣṇavas worship Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa and Sītā-Rāma. In the beginning of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra we first address the internal energy of Kṛṣṇa, Hare. Thus we say, "O Rādhārāṇī! O Hare! O energy of the Lord!" When we address someone in this way, he usually says, "Yes, what do you want?" The answer is, "Please engage me in Your service." This should be our prayer. We should not say, "O energy of the Lord, O Kṛṣṇa, please give me money. Please give me a beautiful wife. Please give me many followers. Please give me some prestigious position. Please give me the presidency." These are all material hankerings, which should be avoided. Lord Buddha advocated that we give up all material desires. It is not possible to become desireless, but it is possible to give up material desires. It is the nature of the living entity to desire; it is not possible to be desireless. If one is desireless, he is dead. Desirelessness means purifying one's desire, and desire is purified when we only desire the service of Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches:
- na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ
- kavitāṁ vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
- mama janmani janmanīśvare
- bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
"O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth (CC Antya 20.29, Śikṣāṣṭaka 4)." He requests Lord Kṛṣṇa's service birth after birth. It is not that He is seeking salvation; rather, He simply wants to serve Kṛṣṇa one life after another. The devotees are not anxious to merge into the existence of the Supreme. The Buddhist philosophy advocates nirvāṇa, the negation of all material desires. Buddha does not offer more than this. Śaṅkarācārya gives a little more, saying that we should become desireless in this material world and then enter into the Brahman effulgence. This is called brahma-nirvāṇa. According to the Vaiṣṇava philosophy, however, we should negate material desires and be situated on the Brahman platform, but in addition we should engage in the devotional service of the Lord. This is called bhakti. Māyāvādī philosophers cannot understand this, but Kṛṣṇa says that this devotional service is on the transcendental platform.
The Sāṅkhya philosophy of the atheist Kapila, which is a material philosophy, is simply the study of the twenty-four elements. However, the real Sāṅkhya philosophy, propounded by Kapiladeva, is transcendental to the twenty-four elements and material activity. Thus in this Sāṅkhya philosophy, which is actually bhakti-yoga, there is no desire for material benefits. On the material platform, a person works for his own personal sense gratification or for some expanded sense gratification. One may work for himself, family, wife, children, society, community, nation or humanity at large. This is simply expanded sense gratification. Whether one steals for himself, family, community or whatever, the fact remains that he is a thief. It is said that when Alexander the Great arrested a common thief, the thief told Alexander, "What is the difference between us? I am a small plunderer, and you are a great plunderer." Being very sensible, Alexander released him, saying, "Yes, there is no difference." Regardless whether the sense gratification is for oneself, one's family, one's nation or whatever, it is, after all, sense gratification. The quality changes only when we work for the sense gratification of Kṛṣṇa.
It is noteworthy that Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam never states that kṛṣṇa uvāca ("Kṛṣṇa says") or kapiladeva uvāca ("Kapiladeva says"). Rather, it states bhagavān uvāca ("the Supreme Personality of Godhead says"). This means that the version is perfect. If we receive knowledge from an ordinary man, there will be many defects. An ordinary person is subject to illusion, and he also has the tendency to cheat. Although an ordinary person may be a very advanced scholar, he does not possess perfect knowledge. Perfection is something totally different from what we find in the material world. Perfection means that there is no mistake, no illusion, no cheating, no imperfection. Therefore it is stated bhagavān uvāca, for Bhagavān is all-perfect. We should therefore take knowledge from Bhagavān or from one who speaks according to the version of Bhagavān.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is based on this principle. We are not presenting anything that we ourselves could manufacture. Whatever we manufacture is sure to be defective or deficient. What is the value of my philosophy? What is the value of my thought? Generally, people say, "In my opinion," thinking that "my opinion" really means something. People do not think, "I am simply a rascal." People value their opinion, thinking it something very big. Everyone in this material world has imperfect senses; therefore whatever knowledge has been gathered through the senses is necessarily imperfect. As we have stressed over and over, we have to receive knowledge from the disciplic succession. Knowledge has to be received from Bhagavān, the perfect one. If we simply follow this system, we can become a guru for the whole world.
The devotee never thinks that he is a great bhakta. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, has stated, purīṣera kīṭa haite muñi se laghiṣṭha: "I am lower than the worms in stool." (CC Adi 5.205) This is the Vaiṣṇava conception. A Vaiṣṇava is by nature very humble. He never says, "I am the Supreme; I have become God." Kṛṣṇa says, "I am God. Worship Me." The Vaiṣṇava says, "Kṛṣṇa is God. Worship Kṛṣṇa." It is not difficult to become a guru, provided that we repeat what Kṛṣṇa says. Whatever Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gītā is dharma. Dharma is one. It cannot be different. Dharma means abiding by the orders of God. However, if we do not know God or His orders, we can only set about manufacturing some rubbish and fighting among ourselves. This is not dharma but philosophical speculation. All of this speculation and manufactured dharma has been kicked out of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam because it is all cheating. Bhāgavata-dharma is not cheating, for it is related to the Supreme Lord. Bhakti can be applied only to Bhagavān, and if there is no Bhagavān, there is no bhakti. If Bhagavān is zero, where is bhakti? Bhakti is the transaction between Bhagavān and the bhakta. Bhagavān is there, and the bhaktas are there, and the bhaktas address Bhagavān, feed Bhagavān, chant Bhagavān's names, invoke people to hear about Bhagavān, publish books about Bhagavān and worship Bhagavān, and in this way they are constantly absorbed in Bhagavān. This is the process of bhakti.