For Kṛṣṇa there is no difference between material and spiritual energy. For Him, it is all the same. Sometimes electricity works for cooling purposes, and sometimes it works for heating purposes, but the energy generated from the electric powerhouse is all the same. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa's energy is always spiritual, but it is acting in different ways. In a town there may be a department of welfare and a department of police. In the eyes of the government both are the same, for both are subsidiary parts of the government, but for the individual they render different services. The material energy may be working in different ways that may not be very pleasant to the living entity, but that does not mean that material energy is not liked by Kṛṣṇa. It is as important as spiritual energy, but it is engaged to punish the conditioned soul, just as the police department is engaged in punishing criminals. In the Brahma-saṁhitā, it is confirmed that Kṛṣṇa's energy is always spiritual, but it is acting in different ways in different fields of activities. In relation to Kṛṣṇa there is no distinction between the energies, but for our understanding we discriminate and say that sometimes the energy is working in a material way and sometimes in a spiritual way. We are thinking that the energy is hot or cold, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, but in fact the energy is the same.
Kṛṣṇa cannot distribute inferior energy because He is not inferior. He is always superior, spiritual, and therefore His energy is always spiritual. Subhadrā is the sister of Kṛṣṇa, and from her comes the incarnation of Durgā, the personification of material energy. Subhadrā is in the spiritual world and is eternally related to Kṛṣṇa as His energy, but when Durgā conducts her activities here in the material world, it is not that she is to be considered inferior. In the Bhagavad-gītā as well as in Brahma-saṁhitā it is said that Durgā or Māyā is acting under Kṛṣṇa's direction, so how can she be considered inferior? Criminals may think that the police department is an inferior governmental department, but the law-abiding citizens do not think that this is so. It simply functions in a particular way. Similarly, the material energy has to act to bewilder the living entity who is under the direction of Kṛṣṇa.
We are the living entities within the material energy, and we are in this position because we wanted to dominate material nature. Kṛṣṇa has given us the facility, saying, "All right, you may try, but you cannot be successful." As long as we are in ignorance of how the laws of nature are working under the supreme direction of Kṛṣṇa, we will continue to be defeated in our activities. When we understand Kṛṣṇa in perfection, we will automatically know the laws of nature and how they are acting. Vaiṣṇavas are concerned with the background of the laws of material nature. When we understand Kṛṣṇa in perfection, we can understand that there is in actuality no inferior or material energy, but that everything is spiritual. We can understand that on the higher platform whatever we are experiencing are the actions and reactions of the different energies of the Supreme Lord. When we understand Kṛṣṇa perfectly, then these distinctions of superior and inferior energies will disappear. Whatever is engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa is superior energy. In the higher sense, everything is serving Kṛṣṇa, and those who are highly elevated understand this.
That the Lord has various energies is confirmed in Vedic literatures. Yet the Supreme Lord personally has nothing to do. How is this? He has not to strive for wealth, for all wealth is His; nor for knowledge, for all knowledge is His; nor for power, for all power is His; nor for beauty, fame or renunciation, for they are all His in full. Nor does He directly manage universal affairs, for He has many assistants who can conduct affairs while He remains in His abode. This is confirmed in Śrī Īśopaniṣad 4:
- anejad ekaṁ manaso javīyo
- nainad devā āpnuvan pūrvam arṣat
- tad dhāvato 'nyān atyeti tiṣṭhat
- tasminn apo mātariśvā dadhāti
"The Personality of Godhead, although fixed in His abode, is more swift than the mind, and can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He has control over those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence."
Thus Kṛṣṇa has no work to perform. As the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He simply engages in enjoying Himself with the gopīs (cowherd girls) and His consort Rādhārāṇī. Kṛṣṇa, as Kṛṣṇa, does not really engage in killing demons. When Kṛṣṇa kills demons, He is known as Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa, not the original Kṛṣṇa. When Kṛṣṇa expands Himself, He first expands as Balarāma, then Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Vāsudeva. As Vāsudeva, He acts in Mathurā and Dvārakā, but as Kṛṣṇa, in His original feature, He remains in Vṛndāvana. This may seem to be confusing; even one of the greatest fiction writers in Bengal misunderstood and thought that Kṛṣṇa of Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa of Dvārakā, and Kṛṣṇa of Mathurā were three different persons. But this is not difficult to understand if we know the nature of Kṛṣṇa's expansions. Kṛṣṇa is the same, and He is the one without a second, but He can expand Himself in billions and trillions of forms. This is all for the purpose of His enjoyment.
In the Tenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa explains His different manifestations to Arjuna in this way (BG 10.27-28):
- uccaiḥśravasam aśvānāṁ
- viddhi mām amṛtodbhavam
- airāvataṁ gajendrāṇāṁ
- narāṇāṁ ca narādhipam
- āyudhānām ahaṁ vajraṁ
- dhenūnām asmi kāmadhuk
- prajanaś cāsmi kandarpaḥ
- sarpāṇām asmi vāsukiḥ
"Of horses know Me to be Uccaiḥśravā, who rose out of the ocean, born of the elixir of immortality; of lordly elephants I am Airāvata, and among men I am the monarch. Of weapons I am the thunderbolt, among cows I am Kāmadhuk, giver of abundant milk. Of procreators I am Kandarpa, the god of love; and of serpents I am Vāsuki, the chief."
Lord Kṛṣṇa further enumerated the many great manifestations of the material creation and explained how each was representative of Himself. He concluded a long detailed account of these manifestations by saying (BG 10.42):
- athavā bahunaitena
- kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna
- viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam
- ekāṁśena sthito jagat
"But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support these entire universes."
Thus this material world is existing on one plenary portion of Kṛṣṇa. If Kṛṣṇa didn't enter this universe, it could not exist. Similarly, unless the spirit soul, which is a fragmental portion of Kṛṣṇa, enters this body, this body cannot exist. As soon as the spirit soul leaves, the body immediately becomes useless: when Kṛṣṇa enters into matter, matter has value. This is true for the minute individual atom and the great universe as well.
Since the manifestations of Kṛṣṇa are so great, we should know that His enjoyment is far greater than ours. We have to try to understand what kind of enjoyment Kṛṣṇa likes. Everyone knows that God is great, and we can conclude from this that His enjoyment is great also. In this regard, Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī has written a verse which says that although the loving affairs of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa may appear like ordinary material affairs, this is not actually the case. Rādhārāṇī is the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa. In the Vedānta-sūtra the Absolute Truth is said to be always enjoying the pleasure potency. When we want pleasure, we cannot have it alone. We feel pleasure in the company of friends or family. I may speak in a room alone, but if I speak in a room before other people, the pleasure is increased. Pleasure means that there must be others, and therefore Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, who is always engaged in enjoying Himself, has become many.
We are Kṛṣṇa's parts and parcels and have been created to give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa. The chief pleasure potency is Rādhārāṇī, and so Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are always together. Whereas the material energy is conducted by the external potency, Māyā, the spiritual world is conducted by the internal potency, Rādhārāṇī. We often pray to Rādhārāṇī because She is the pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa. The very word "Kṛṣṇa" means all-attractive, but Rādhārāṇī is so great that She attracts Kṛṣṇa. If Kṛṣṇa is always attractive to everyone, and Rādhārāṇī is attractive to Kṛṣṇa, how can we imagine the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī? We should try humbly to understand and offer Her our obeisances, saying, "Rādhārāṇī, You are so dear to Kṛṣṇa. You are the daughter of King Vṛṣabhānu, and You are Kṛṣṇa's beloved. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You. Rādhārāṇī is very dear to Kṛṣṇa, and if we approach Kṛṣṇa through the mercy of Rādhārāṇī, we can easily attain Him. If Rādhārāṇī recommends a devotee, Kṛṣṇa immediately accepts him, however foolish he may be. Consequently in Vṛndāvana we find that devotees chant Rādhārāṇī's name more often than Kṛṣṇa's. Wherever we go in India we will find devotees calling, "Jaya Rādhe." We should be more interested in worshiping Rādhārāṇī, for however fallen we may be, if somehow or other we can please Her, we can very easily understand Kṛṣṇa. If we try to understand Kṛṣṇa by the speculative process, we will have to spend many lifetimes of speculation; but if we take to devotional service and just try to please Rādhārāṇī, then Kṛṣṇa can be very easily realized. Rādhārāṇī is such a great devotee that She can deliver Kṛṣṇa.
Even Kṛṣṇa cannot understand Rādhārāṇī's qualities. He fails to understand Her because She is so great. In order to understand Rādhārāṇī, Kṛṣṇa actually accepted Her position. Kṛṣṇa thought, "Although I am full and complete in every respect, I still don't understand Rādhārāṇī. Why is that?" This obliged Kṛṣṇa to accept the propensities of Rādhārāṇī, and this accounts for His manifestation as Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, but He is Kṛṣṇa accepting the propensities of Rādhārāṇī. Rādhārāṇī is always feeling separation from Kṛṣṇa, and similarly, in the position of Rādhārāṇī. Lord Caitanya was always feeling that separation. Furthermore, those who follow the teachings of Lord Caitanya should experience and relish the feelings of separation, not of meeting.
The gosvāmīs, disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the most perfect and highly elevated beings, never said, "I have seen Kṛṣṇa." Instead, they constantly cried, "Where is Rādhārāṇī? Where are Lalitā and Viśākhā and the other damsels of Vṛndāvana?" In their mature stage of love of Godhead, when they were living in Vṛndāvana, the gosvāmīs would also cry, "Rādhārāṇī, where are You? Where are Your associates? Where are You, O son of Nanda Mahārāja? Where are you all?" In this way they were searching after Kṛṣṇa, and they never at any time said, "Last night I saw Kṛṣṇa dancing with the gopīs." Such claims are not made by a mature devotee, but by one who takes things very cheaply. Some people think that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are so cheap that They may be seen every night, but this is not the teaching of the gosvāmīs who were always searching after Kṛṣṇa crying, "Where are You? Where are You Rādhārāṇī? Where are You Kṛṣṇa? Are You there by Govardhana Hill? Are You on the bank of the Yamunā?" In this way, throughout the whole tract of Vṛndāvana, the gosvāmīs were crying and searching after Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa like madmen.
We have to follow in the footprints of the gosvāmīs and search out Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in this way. Vṛndāvana is in our hearts, and we must search for Him there. This is the process recommended by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the process of worship in separation. Feeling separation from Kṛṣṇa, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu would throw Himself into the sea. Sometimes He would leave His room in the dead of night and disappear. No one would know where He had gone, but all the while He was searching after Kṛṣṇa. Thus it is not that we are to enjoy the loving exchanges between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā like spectators at some sports show. We must feel separation from Them. The more we feel separation, the more we should understand that we are advancing. With our material senses, we cannot see Kṛṣṇa, nor can we even hear His name. We can begin to perceive Him when we advance in devotional service. That devotional service begins with the tongue, not the legs, eyes or ears. The tongue must be utilized to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare and take Kṛṣṇa prasādam. Thus the tongue has a dual function, and by utilizing it in this way, we will realize Kṛṣṇa. We cannot see Kṛṣṇa with our material eyes, nor hear about Him with material ears, nor touch Him with our hands; but if we engage our tongue in His service, He will reveal Himself, saying, "Here I am."
This chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa extinguishes the blazing fire of material nature. This is also the purport to the following prayer to the spiritual master (Śrī Gurvaṣṭakam, Verse 1):
- trāṇāya kāruṇya-ghanāghanatvam
- prāptasya kalyāṇa-guṇārṇavasya
- vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam
"The spiritual master is receiving benediction from the ocean of mercy. Just as the cloud pours water on the forest fire to extinguish it, so the spiritual master extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master."
This material world is often compared to a forest fire which takes place automatically. No one wants a forest fire, but there is often lightning, or carelessness, or friction, or whatever, and the fire immediately takes place. Similarly, this material world is beset with a blazing fire of problems. Everyone wants to live here peacefully, but situations develop in such a way that this is not possible for anyone. We struggle very hard to adjust things in so many ways, but nature's laws are so cruel and dangerous that in spite of our hopes and plans the blazing fire of the problems of material existence continues.
In this century, for instance, we have attempted to put out the fire of war, but it has not been possible. There was a First World War, and then a League of Nations was formed to try to prevent a second, but despite their attempts a second took place. Now a United Nations has been constructed to help end war, but war is going on in Vietnam, in Egypt, in Pakistan and other places. No one wants a Third World War, but it seems imminent. It is not possible to send a fire brigade, a few men with buckets of water, to extinguish a great fire in the forest. To extinguish a roaring forest fire there must be volumes of water; in other words, there must be an arrangement that is beyond human endeavor. When there is a merciful cloud over the forest fire, the cloud bursts, rain pours down in torrents, and the blazing fire is immediately extinguished. As a cloud collects water from the ocean, similarly the spiritual master collects water from Kṛṣṇa's ocean of mercy and pours it over the blazing fire of material existence. Thus one who bestows or distributes the merciful rain of Kṛṣṇa is called a spiritual master or guru.
In Vedic literatures it is said that in order to understand the transcendental science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we must try to acquire knowledge of how to extinguish this blazing fire of problems. Scientists, philosophers and other educated men are trying very hard to extinguish it, but the result seems to be bigger and bigger bombs. The karmīs or fruitive laborers are working with heart and soul, day and night, to extinguish this fire or to diminish the miserable condition of material existence by dint of hard labor. The jñānīs or philosophers are also trying, but they have become disgusted and so proclaim, "This world is false." Thinking this, they try to merge into the existence of the Supreme and in this way extinguish the fire. This is like the jackal who tries to pick some grapes from a vine, and when he fails, says, "Oh, these grapes are sour anyway." The yogīs or meditators try to gain superior mystic power by becoming greater than the greatest, smaller than the smallest, lighter than the lightest, and heavier than the heaviest, but this is just so much child's play. With any material body - whether it be great or small, light or heavy - the problems of material existence still remain. In this way one may progress from one stage to another, coming from the stage of karmī or fruitive laborer, to the stage of jñānī or philosopher, to the stage of yogī or meditator, but in any case one finally has to come to the platform of bhakti, or devotional service. This is the real evolutionary process. It is indicated in Bhagavad-gītā in this way (BG 7.19):
- bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
- jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
- vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
- sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ
"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes, and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."
Surrender to Kṛṣṇa is the point; that is the aim of life, and the bhaktas, the intelligent men of the world, take to this stage immediately. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says that they are wise men. If, after many, many births one has to come to this point of surrender, then why not immediately?
The blazing fire of material nature is supervised by Durgā. Often she is portrayed with weapons in her hands. She has ten hands, and each holds a different type of weapon. This indicates that she is ruling all ten directions of this universe. She wields the different weapons to chastise the demons. There is one famous picture of a demon struggling with a lion, and the Goddess Durgā is pulling the demon's hair and pushing her trident against his chest. If we study this picture we can determine that we are the demon and that the trident is the threefold miseries of material existence from which we are always suffering. Some miseries are inflicted by other living entities, some are inflicted by natural disasters, and some are inflicted by the mind and body themselves. In one way or another we are always struggling against these three types of miseries. No one in the material creation can say that he is free from them. The trident of this material nature is pressed against everyone's chest, and because of this, pure happiness within this material world is not possible. We may try to satisfy Mother Durgā by worshiping her or by giving her some bribe, but Durgā is not so easily bribed.
Therefore we should know that our aim of life should be to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should make every arrangement - social, political, philosophical or religious - but the aim should be to approach the Supreme person. In the Vedas it is stated that the learned advanced people, the demigods of the creation, simply look to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. The aim should be the same with human civilization. Without looking to Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet, all religious, social or political endeavors will fail. It is not possible to make progress as long as our desires are anchored in the material world. In this regard, there is a story of a bridegroom's party who had to go to the bride's house down the river. It was settled that they would start at night by boat and reach the destination early in the morning. Therefore at night, after supper, the jubilant party got aboard a boat, made themselves comfortable and instructed the boatmen to start. Since all the members of the party were seated comfortably, and since the river breeze was very pleasant, they slept soundly that night. In the morning they all got up early, but to their astonishment they saw that the boat had not moved an inch toward the destination, even though the boatmen had rowed vigorously all night long. Finally, after inquiring, they found that despite the boatmen's rowing, the boat had not moved because they had failed to raise the anchor. The marriage ceremony was thus spoiled because of a foolish mistake.
Our present civilization is therefore a mistaken civilization because the mistaken leaders have forgotten to raise the anchor of attachment. Instead, the anchor is being more and more firmly fixed because they have structured the social order on the basis of sense gratification. This sense gratifying social and political set-up, maintained by various plans and schemes, has been described in Bhagavad-gītā as follows (BG 16.10-11):
- kāmam āśritya duṣpūraṁ
- dam bha-māna-madānvitāḥ
- mohād gṛhītvāsad-grāhān
- pravartante 'śuci-vratāḥ
- cintām aparimeyāṁ ca
- pralayāntām upāśritāḥ
- etāvad iti niścitāḥ
"The demoniac, taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride, and false prestige, and being thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. Their belief is that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus, there is no measurement for their anxiety."
The leaders, like the boatmen, are all illusioned. They mislead us into taking some temporary benefit, but how long can their plans and schemes go on? If they persist until they die of heart failure or are killed by assassins, then another just like them takes their place. Even the so-called philosophers of modern society are captivated by material name and fame, and so they do not lead the general populace in the proper direction. Thus the anchor of life remains deeply fixed in the waters of nescience for the purpose of sense gratification, and thus our so-called civilization rots in a stagnant pool. Because we are not moving, we are always in the same port of problematic life. All schemes are only useless scraps of paper in the face of war, famine, earthquakes and other disasters. All these disasters are warnings from Mother Durgā, and by them she confirms her eternal superiority over the illusioned planmakers. The different weights on the anchor which keep us grounded in material life are our attachments to the material body due to our ignorance of spiritual facts, our attachment to kinsmen due to bodily relations, our attachment to our land of birth and our material possessions, our attachment to material science and our attachment to religious forms and rituals without knowing their true purpose - all these anchor the boat of the human body in the material universe. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, using the example of a strongly rooted banyan tree, advises us in Bhagavad-gītā how to get rid of this attachment once and for all (BG 15.3-4):
- na rūpam asyeha tathopalabhyate
- nānto na cādir na ca sampratiṣṭhā
- aśvattham enaṁ suvirūḍha-mūlam
- asaṅga-śastreṇa dṛḍhena chittvā
- tataḥ padaṁ tat parimārgitavyaṁ
- yasmin gatā na nivartanti bhūyaḥ
- tam eva cādyaṁ puruṣaṁ prapadye
- yataḥ pravṛttiḥ prasṛtā purāṇī
"The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. This banyan tree must be cut out with determination, by the weapon of detachment. Thereafter, one must seek that situation from which, having gone, one never comes back. One must surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and is extending since time immemorial."
The Personality of Godhead, who is fully cognizant of everything in His creation, informs us in our best interest that we must desire to get rid of this material existence. We must detach ourselves from everything material. To make the best use of a bad bargain, our material existence should be 100% spiritualized by constant association with Kṛṣṇa's message, His devotees and His names. Therefore everyone who ordinarily engages in material affairs can derive the highest benefit from this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. All kinds of spiritual endeavors are more or less tinged with material contamination. However, pure devotional service is transcendental to all pollution. We need not artificially adopt principles of materialism; we need only fix our minds on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.