Here it is clearly stated that attachment for one thing is the cause of bondage in conditioned life, and the same attachment, when applied to something else, opens the door of liberation. Attachment cannot be killed; it has simply to be transferred. Attachment for material things is called material consciousness, and attachment for Kṛṣṇa or His devotee is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Consciousness, therefore, is the platform of attachment. It is clearly stated here that when we simply purify the consciousness from material consciousness to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we attain liberation. Despite the statement that one should give up attachment, desirelessness is not possible for a living entity. A living entity, by constitution, has the propensity to be attached to something. We see that if someone has no object of attachment, if he has no children, he transfers his attachment to cats and dogs. This indicates that the propensity for attachment cannot be stopped; rather, it must be utilized for the best purpose. Our attachment for material things perpetuates our conditional state, but the same attachment, when transferred to the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotee, is the source of liberation.
Here it is recommended that attachment should be transferred to the self-realized devotees, the sādhus. And who is a sādhu? A sādhu is not just an ordinary man with a saffron robe or long beard. A sādhu is described in Bhagavad-gītā as one who unflinchingly engages in devotional service. Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service, if one simply has unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person, he is understood to be a sādhu. Sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ (BG 9.30). A sādhu is a strict follower of devotional service. It is recommended here that if one at all wants to realize Brahman, or spiritual perfection, his attachment should be transferred to the sādhu, or devotee. Lord Caitanya also confirmed this. Lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya: (CC Madhya 22.54) simply by a moment's association with a sādhu, one can attain perfection.
Mahātmā is a synonym of sādhu. It is said that service to a mahātmā, or elevated devotee of the Lord, is dvāram āhur vimukteḥ, the royal road of liberation. Mahat-sevāṁ dvāram āhur vimuktes tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam (SB 5.5.2). Rendering service to the materialists has the opposite effect. If anyone offers service to a gross materialist, or a person engaged only in sense enjoyment, then by association with such a person the door to hell is opened. The same principle is confirmed here. Attachment to a devotee is attachment to the service of the Lord because if one associates with a sādhu, the sādhu will teach one how to become a devotee, a worshiper and a sincere servitor of the Lord. These are the gifts of a sādhu. If we want to associate with a sādhu, we cannot expect him to give us instructions on how to improve our material condition, but he will instruct us how to cut the knot of the contamination of material attraction and how to elevate ourselves in devotional service. That is the result of associating with a sādhu. Kapila Muni first of all instructs that the path of liberation begins with such association.
According to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu:
- 'sādhu-saṅga', 'sādhu-saṅga'-sarva-śāstre kaya
- lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
"The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success." (CC Madhya 22.54)
It is said that man is a social animal, and, according to our association, we can mold our character. Businessmen associate with one another to develop their business capabilities. There are many different types of association, and association brings about bondage to a particular thing. If one associates with materialistic people, one's bondage to sense gratification tightens. Woman is the symbol of sense gratification; therefore anything dealing with sense gratification is called yoṣit-saṅga. This material world is filled with yoṣit-saṅga because everyone is interested in sense gratification. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (2.44):
- vyavasāyātmikā buddhiḥ
- samādhau na vidhīyate
"In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place." The word bhoga means "sense gratification." Bhogaiśvarya: Those who are overly attached to opulence and sense gratification cannot understand spiritual life, and they are very slow to take to it. At the present moment people are manda, very slow. They do not take this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement very seriously because they have been taught by modern civilization simply to enjoy life for sense gratification. In the Western countries, especially, there are many implements for sense gratification. There are even machines for shaving, although formerly an ordinary razor would do. Now, thanks to the machine, one does not even have to move his hand. So this is considered progress. However, we learn from the śāstras that human life is not meant for sense enjoyment but for tapasya. That is Vedic civilization. First of all, one must be trained in the brahmacārī system and learn how to deny the senses. A brahmacārī should be trained in tapasya, not in enjoyment. Formerly, brahmacārīs would have to go from door to door to beg alms for the āśrama, and they were trained from the very beginning to address every woman as mother.
Presently, people are in such a miserable condition that they are saying, "Let us die. Let us die." However, Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā says, "Why should you die?" People want to die in order to put an end to the threefold miseries of material nature, but who is making research on how to stop death? From Bhagavad-gītā we learn that death is not really natural for us. It is artificially imposed upon us, and we have to become deathless again. That is the perfection of human life, but no one cares about it. We have become so dull that we cannot avoid birth, old age, disease and death. We are actually experiencing them because we are not alert. For this reason, when Sanātana Gosvāmī approached Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he said, "My dear Lord, somehow or other You have dragged me to Your lotus feet. I am now asking You what my actual position is. Why am I forced to suffer the threefold miseries of material life?" No one is interested in inquiring about this matter. Mokṣa, liberation, means getting free from the threefold miseries of life as well as birth, old age, disease and death. Sometimes, when people are a little interested, they take to a path that is not even approved, or they invent something. But nothing need be invented. By this Kṛṣṇa consciousness process, everyone can be elevated. Everyone can be delivered, regardless of his situation or culture. We have spread this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement throughout the world, and people are becoming happy because of it.
According to Bhagavad-gītā (9.32), anyone can take shelter of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa never denies anyone, and similarly, Kṛṣṇa's devotee never denies anyone. That is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We tell everyone, "Yes, you are welcome. Take this education and spiritual life and become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa." Sometimes we are criticized because of this, but Kṛṣṇa specifically says in Bhagavad-gītā that even those who are lowborn can take shelter of Him and become elevated for liberation. What, then, to speak of pious people born in brahminical families? Unfortunately, in this age people born in rich or brahminical families often don't care for spiritual realization. They misuse their chance and exhaust the results of their pious activities. Society needs first-class sādhus in order to improve. If everyone is a śūdra and debauchee, how can society be peaceful? Therefore in order to organize society, Kṛṣṇa recommends the varṇāśrama-dharma. There must be ideal brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras. However, no one cares about this now.
One may ask, "What is a sādhu?" A sādhu is one who serves Kṛṣṇa and engages in Kṛṣṇa consciousness without reservation. In Bhagavad-gītā (9.30), Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
- api cet su-durācāro
- bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
- sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
- samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated."
It is the sādhu's business to be very tolerant. When one becomes a devotee, many people become one's enemy, because in this age people are asuric, demoniac. Even one's father may turn into an enemy like Hiraṇyakaśipu, the father of Prahlāda Mahārāja. Prahlāda was only five years old and was chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, but his father was prepared to kill him because he was a devotee. Hiraṇyakaśipu was saying, "Why are you chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa? Why are you speaking of a separate God? I am God." That is the meaning of asuric, demoniac. Rascals who claim to be God themselves are simply demons. Although Prahlāda's father was insisting that he was God, Prahlāda Mahārāja could not accept this. He simply accepted his father as an asura, and consequently there was a quarrel between them. When Hiraṇyakaśipu asked Prahlāda Mahārāja, "What is the best thing you have learned from your teachers?" Prahlāda replied, "O best of the asuras, as far as I can understand, because we have accepted this material body, we have to accept death. But this is not the object of human life. Human life is meant for mokṣa, liberation." Unfortunately, foolish people do not understand this. Kṛṣṇa says, mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś cāham: "I am death, and I will take away everything you possess." (BG 10.34) Hiraṇyakaśipu was such a powerful demon that even the demigods were afraid of him, but Kṛṣṇa took everything away in a second. Hiraṇyakaśipu was looking for security, and he was thinking, "I will not die in this way, and I will not die in that way." But he did not think that he would be killed by the Lord in the form of Nṛsiṁha. However intelligent we may be, and however much we may try to cheat Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa is always more intelligent. When Mother Yaśodā tried to bind Kṛṣṇa with a rope, she found that the rope was always two inches too short. Our intelligence is like that. We want to cheat God and surpass Him, but this is not possible. People think themselves very advanced in knowledge, but actually, due to their pride, their knowledge is taken away by māyā. Kṛṣṇa actually takes the knowledge away from atheistic, demoniac people like Hiraṇyakaśipu. Atheists do not know that Kṛṣṇa's intelligence is always at least two inches greater than anyone else's.
In material life, we simply struggle for existence. We want to exist, and we do not want to die. Nor do we want to undergo the pains of birth, catch diseases or grow old. There are so many miseries in material life that we do not want, but they are forced upon us. Unfortunately, we are not intelligent enough to make a solution to all these problems. We should be inquiring like Sanātana Gosvāmī about how to put an end to them all. Instead, we are working in such a way that we have to accept another material body. We are experiencing the difficulties arising from this material body, but we are not working in a way to become free. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is giving information on how to become liberated.
Those who are mahātmās are always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Bhajana is the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. If we serve a mahātmā like Haridāsa Ṭhākura, who was always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, our path of liberation is opened. However, if we associate with materialistic people, who are simply mad for sense gratification, we take the way of darkness. Tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam. The Vedas enjoin that we not remain in darkness but that we go to the light. We have accepted a body, but we will not be allowed to remain in that body permanently. We will have to give it up and accept another, and then another and another. What is this business? The material world is in such darkness, and people are taking on one body after another. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is therefore here to give enlightenment and liberation, and it is offering not only the simplest process of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa but also the most sublime philosophy.