Chapter 13: The Vital Force of the Universe
janma karma ca viśvātmann
Of course it is bewildering, O soul of the universe, that You work, though You are inactive, and that You take birth, though You are the vital force and the unborn. You Yourself descend among animals, men, sages, and aquatics. Verily, this is bewildering.
The transcendental pastimes of the Lord are not only bewildering but also apparently contradictory. In other words, they are all inconceivable to the limited thinking power of the human being. The Lord is the all-prevailing Supersoul of all existence, and yet He appears in the form of a boar among the animals, in the form of a human being as Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, etc., in the form of a ṛṣi like Nārāyaṇa, and in the form of an aquatic like a ﬁsh. Yet it is said that He is unborn, and He has nothing to do. In the śruti-mantra it is said that the Supreme Brahman has nothing to do. No one is equal to or greater than Him. He has manifold energies, and everything is performed by Him perfectly by automatic knowledge, strength, and activity. All these statements prove without any question that the Lord’s activities, forms, and deeds are all inconceivable to our limited thinking power, and because He is inconceivably powerful, everything is possible in Him. Therefore no one can calculate Him exactly; every action of the Lord is bewildering to the common man. He cannot be understood by the Vedic knowledge, but He can be easily understood by the pure devotees because they are intimately related with Him. The devotees therefore know that although He appears among the animals, He is not an animal or a man or a ṛṣi or a ﬁsh. He is eternally the Supreme Lord, in all circumstances.
Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as viśvātman, the vital force of the universe. In everyone’s body there is a vital force. That vital force is the ātmā – the living being, the living entity, the soul. It is because of the presence of that vital force, the soul, that the whole body works. Similarly, there is a supreme vital force. That supreme vital force is Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, where is the question of His taking birth? In Bhagavad-gītā (4.9) the Lord says:
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
In this verse the word divyam especially indicates that the Lord’s appearance and activities are spiritual. And elsewhere in the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, ajo ’pi sann avyayātmā. The word aja means “unborn,” and avyayātmā means “not subject to destruction.” This is the nature of Kṛṣṇa, whose transcendental nature is further described by Kuntīdevī in her prayers to the Lord.
In the beginning of her prayers, Kuntīdevī said to the Lord, “You are within, and You are without, but still You are invisible.” Kṛṣṇa is within everyone’s heart (īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati, sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ). Indeed, He is within everything, even within the atom (aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham). Kṛṣṇa is within and He is also without. Thus Kṛṣṇa showed Arjuna His external feature as the viśva-rūpa, the gigantic cosmic manifestation.
This external body of Kṛṣṇa is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. There the hills and mountains are described as the bones of the Lord. Similarly, the great oceans have been described as different holes in the Lord’s universal body, and the planet known as Brahmaloka has been described as the upper portion of His skull. Those who cannot see God have thus been advised to see Him in many ways in terms of the material cosmic manifestation, according to the instructions given in the Vedic literature.
There are those who can simply think of God as being great but do not know how great He is. When they think of greatness, they think of very high mountains, the sky, and other planets. Therefore the Lord has been described in terms of such material manifestations so that while thinking of these different manifestations one can think of the Lord. That is also Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one thinks, “This mountain is the bone of Kṛṣṇa,” or if one thinks of the vast Paciﬁc Ocean as Kṛṣṇa’s navel, one is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Similarly, one may think of the trees and plants as the hairs on Kṛṣṇa’s body, one may think of Brahmaloka as the top of Kṛṣṇa’s skull, and one may think of the Pātāla-loka planetary system as the soles of Kṛṣṇa’s feet. Thus one may think of Kṛṣṇa as greater than the greatest (mahato mahīyān).
Similarly, one may think of Kṛṣṇa as smaller than the smallest. That is also a kind of greatness. Kṛṣṇa can manufacture this gigantic cosmic manifestation, and He can also manufacture a small insect. In a book one may sometimes ﬁnd a small running insect smaller than a period. This is Kṛṣṇa’s craftsmanship. Aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 1.2.20): He can create something greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest. Now human beings have manufactured the 747 airplane, which according to their conception is very big. But can they produce an airplane as small as a ﬂying insect? That is not possible. Actual greatness, however, is not one-sided. One who is actually great can become greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.
But even the great things men can manufacture in the modern age are still not the greatest things man has created. We have information from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that Kardama Muni, the father of the great sage Kapiladeva, manufactured a huge plane that resembled a great city. It included lakes, gardens, streets, and houses, and the whole city was able to ﬂy all over the universe. In that plane, Kardama Muni traveled with his wife and showed her all the planets. He was a great yogī, and his wife, Devahūti, was the daughter of Svāyambhuva Manu, a great king. Kardama Muni had desired to marry, and Devahūti told her father, “My dear father, I want to marry that sage.” Thus Svāyambhuva Manu brought his daughter to Kardama Muni and said, “Sir, here is my daughter. Please accept her as your wife.” She was a king’s daughter and was very opulent, but when she joined her austere husband, she had to serve so much that she became lean and thin. In fact, even with insufﬁcient food she was working day and night. Thus Kardama Muni became compassionate. “This woman who has come to me is a king’s daughter,” he thought, “but under my protection she is not receiving any comfort. So I shall give her some comfort.” Thus he asked his wife, “What will make you comfortable?” A woman’s nature, of course, is that she wants a good house, good food, ﬁne garments, good children, and a good husband. These are a woman’s ambitions. Thus Kardama Muni proved to her that she had received the best husband. By yogic powers he created for her this great airplane and gave her a big house with maidservants and all opulences. Kardama Muni was merely a human being, but he could perform such wonderful things by yogic powers.
Kṛṣṇa, however, is Yogeśvara, the master of all yogic powers. If we get a little mystic power we become important, but Kṛṣṇa is the master of all mystic powers. In Bhagavad-gītā it is said that wherever there is Yogeśvara, Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all mystic powers, and wherever there is Arjuna, who is also known as Pārtha or Dhanur-dhara, everything is present.
We should always remember that if we can keep ourselves always in company with Kṛṣṇa, we shall attain all perfection. And especially in this age, Kṛṣṇa has incarnated as the holy name (kali-kāle nāma-rūpe kṛṣṇa-avatāra, Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 17.22). Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says:
nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ
“My dear Lord, You are so kind that You are giving me Your association in the form of Your holy name, and this holy name can be chanted in any situation.” There are no hard and fast rules for chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. One can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa anywhere. Children, for example, also chant and dance. It is not at all difﬁcult. While walking, our students take their beads with them and chant. Where is the loss? But the gain is very great, for by chanting we associate with Kṛṣṇa personally. Suppose we were to associate personally with the President. How proud we would feel. “Oh, I am with the President.” So should we not feel very much proud if we were to associate with the supreme president, who is able to create many millions of presidents like those of this world? This chanting is our opportunity to do so. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavan mamāpi: “My dear Lord, You are so kind to me that You are always prepared to give me Your association.” Durdaivam īdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ: “But I am so unfortunate that I do not take advantage of this opportunity.”
Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is simply requesting people, “Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.” There was a cartoon in some newspaper that depicted an old lady and her husband sitting face to face. The lady is requesting her husband, “Chant, chant, chant.” And the husband is answering, “Can’t, can’t, can’t.” So in this same way, we are requesting everyone, “Please chant, chant, chant.” But they are replying, “Can’t, can’t, can’t.” This is their misfortune.
Still, it is our duty to make all such unfortunate creatures fortunate. That is our mission. Therefore we go into the street and chant. Although they say “Can’t,” we go on chanting. That is our duty. And if somehow or other we place some literature in someone’s hand, he becomes fortunate. He would have squandered his hard-earned money in so many nasty, sinful ways, but if he purchases even one book, regardless of the price, his money is properly utilized. This is the beginning of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because he gives some of his hard-earned money for the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, he gets some spiritual proﬁt. He is not losing; rather, he is gaining some spiritual proﬁt. Therefore our business is somehow or other to bring everyone to this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement so that everyone may spiritually proﬁt.
When Kṛṣṇa appeared on earth, not everyone knew that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although when there was need He proved Himself the Supreme Godhead, He generally appeared to be just like an ordinary human being. Therefore Śukadeva Gosvāmī, while describing how Kṛṣṇa played as one of the cowherd boys, points out Kṛṣṇa’s identity. Who is this cowherd boy? Śukadeva Gosvāmī says, itthaṁ satāṁ brahma-sukhānubhūtyā. The impersonalists meditate upon the impersonal Brahman and thus feel some transcendental bliss, but Śukadeva Gosvāmī points out that the source of that transcendental bliss is here – Kṛṣṇa.
Kṛṣṇa is the source of everything (ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavaḥ), and therefore the transcendental bliss that the impersonalists try to experience by meditating on the impersonal Brahman in fact comes from Kṛṣṇa. Śukadeva Gosvāmī says, “Here is the person who is the source of brahma-sukha, the transcendental bliss that comes from realization of Brahman.”
A devotee is always prepared to render service to the Lord (dāsyaṁ gatānāṁ para-daivatena), but for those who are under the spell of illusory energy, He is an ordinary boy (māyāśritānāṁ nara-dārakeṇa). Ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: Kṛṣṇa deals with different living entities according to their conceptions. For those who regard Kṛṣṇa as an ordinary human being, Kṛṣṇa will deal like an ordinary human being, whereas devotees who accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead will enjoy the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Of course, the object of the impersonalist is the brahma-jyotir, the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme, but Kṛṣṇa is the source of that effulgence. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is everything (brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate).
Yet the cowherd boys are able to play with that same Kṛṣṇa, the exalted Personality of Godhead. How have they become so fortunate that they are able to play with Him?
itthaṁ satāṁ brahma-sukhānubhūtyā
dāsyaṁ gatānāṁ para-daivatena
sārdhaṁ vijahruḥ kṛta-puṇya-puñjāḥ
The cowherd boys playing with Kṛṣṇa are also not ordinary, for they have attained the highest perfection of being able to play with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How did they achieve this position? Kṛta-puṇya-puñjāḥ: by many, many lives of pious activities. For many, many lives these boys underwent austerities and penances to achieve the highest perfection of life, and now they have the opportunity to play with Kṛṣṇa personally on an equal level. They do not know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for that is the nature of vṛndāvana-līlā, Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in the village of Vṛndāvana.
Not knowing Kṛṣṇa’s identity, the cowherd boys simply love Kṛṣṇa, and their love is unending. This is true of everyone in Vṛndāvana. For example, Yaśodāmātā and Nanda Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇa’s mother and father, love Kṛṣṇa with parental affection. Similarly Kṛṣṇa’s friends love Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s girlfriends love Kṛṣṇa, the trees love Kṛṣṇa, the water loves Kṛṣṇa, the ﬂowers, the cows, the calves – everyone loves Kṛṣṇa. That is the nature of Vṛndāvana. So if we simply learn how to love Kṛṣṇa, we can immediately transform this world into Vṛndāvana.
This is the only central point – how to love Kṛṣṇa (premā pum-artho mahān). People are generally pursuing dharma, artha, kāma, mokṣa – religiosity, economic development, sense gratiﬁcation, and liberation. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu disregarded these four things. “These are not what is to be achieved in life,” He said. The real goal of life is love of Kṛṣṇa.
Of course, human life does not actually begin until there is some conception of religion (dharma). But in the present age, Kali-yuga, dharma is practically nil – there is no religion or morality, and there are no pious activities – and therefore according to Vedic calculations the present human civilization does not even consist of human beings. Formerly people would care about morality and immorality, religion and irreligion, but with the progress of Kali-yuga this is all being vanquished, and people can do anything, without caring what it is. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, and we can actually see, that in Kali-yuga about eighty percent of the people are sinful. Illicit sex life, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling are the four pillars of sinful life, and therefore we request that one ﬁrst break these four pillars, so that the roof of sinful life will collapse. Then by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa one can remain established in a transcendental position. It is a very simple method.
One cannot realize God if one’s life is sinful. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says:
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated, and who are freed from the duality of delusion engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Bhagavad-gītā 7.28)
The word anta-gatam means “ﬁnished.” One can engage in devotional service if one has ﬁnished with his sinful life. Who can ﬁnish with sinful life? Those who engage in pious activities. One must have activities, and if one engages in pious activities one’s sinful activities will naturally vanish. On one side, one should voluntarily try to break the pillars of sinful life, and on another side one must engage himself in pious life.
If one has no pious engagement, it is not that one can become free from sinful activities simply by theoretical understanding. For example, the American government is spending millions of dollars to stop the use of LSD and other such intoxicants, but the government has failed. How is it that simply by passing laws or giving lectures one can make people give up these things? It is not possible. One must give people good engagements, and then they will automatically give up the bad ones. For example, we instruct our students, “No intoxication,” and they immediately give it up, even though the government has failed to stop them. This is practical.
Paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate. If someone isn’t given good engagement, his bad engagements cannot be stopped. That is not possible. Therefore we have two sides – prohibition of sinful activities, and engagement in good activities. We don’t simply say, “No illicit sex,” “No intoxication,” and so on. Mere negativity has no meaning; there must be something positive, because everyone wants engagement. That is because we are living entities, not dead stones. By meditation the impersonalist philosophers try to become dead stones: “Let me think of something void or impersonal.” But how can one artiﬁcially make oneself void? The heart and mind are full of activities, so these artiﬁcial methods will not help human society.
Methods of so-called yoga and meditation are all rascaldom because they provide one no engagement. But in Kṛṣṇa consciousness there is adequate engagement for everyone. Everyone rises early in the morning to offer worship to the Deities. The devotees prepare nice food for Kṛṣṇa, they decorate the temple, make garlands, go out chanting, and sell books. They are fully engaged twenty-four hours a day, and therefore they are able to give up sinful life. If a child has in his hands something that he is eating but we give him something better, he will throw away the inferior thing and take the better thing. So in Kṛṣṇa consciousness we offer better engagement, better life, better philosophy, better consciousness – everything better. Therefore those who engage in devotional service can give up sinful activities and promote themselves to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Activities intended to promote all living entities to Kṛṣṇa consciousness are going on not only in human society but even in animal society also. Because all living entities here are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa but are rotting in this material world, Kṛṣṇa has a plan, a big plan to deliver them. Sometimes He comes to this world personally, and sometimes He sends His very conﬁdential devotees. Sometimes He leaves instructions like those of Bhagavad-gītā. Kṛṣṇa’s incarnation appears everywhere, and He appears among animals, men, sages, and even aquatics (tiryaṅ-nṝṣiṣu yādaḥsu). For example, Kṛṣṇa even appeared as a ﬁsh incarnation.
Thus Kṛṣṇa’s birth, appearance, and disappearance are all bewildering (tad atyanta-viḍambanam). We conditioned living entities transmigrate from one body to another because we are forced to do so by the laws of nature, but Kṛṣṇa does not appear because He is forced. That is the difference. Those who are foolish rascals think, “I have taken my birth in this world, and Kṛṣṇa has taken birth here also. Therefore I am also God.” They do not know that they will have to take birth again by the force of the laws of nature.
One may have been given the chance to have a very beautiful body in a country where one can live in opulence and receive a good education. But if one misuses all this, one will get another body according to one’s mentality. For example, at the present moment, despite so many arrangements by the government for good schools and universities, the civilized countries of the world are producing hippies, young people who are so frustrated that they even worship hogs. But if one associates with the qualities of the hogs, one will actually become a hog in one’s next birth. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ. Nature will give one a full opportunity: “All right, sir, become a hog.” Such are nature’s arrangements. Prakṛti, nature, has three modes, and if one associates with one type of mode, one will receive his next body accordingly.
Kṛṣṇa’s appearance and disappearance are meant to put an end to the living entities’ transmigration from one body to another, and therefore one should understand the greatness of the plan behind Kṛṣṇa’s appearance and disappearance. It is not that Kṛṣṇa comes whimsically. He has a great plan, otherwise why should He come here? He is very much eager to take us back home, back to Godhead. That is Kṛṣṇa’s business. Therefore He says:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18.66) All of us are children of Kṛṣṇa, God, and since we are unhappy because of taking material bodies for repeated birth, death, old age, and disease, He is more unhappy than we are. Our situation in the material body is not at all comfortable, but we are such foolish rascals that we do not care to do anything about this. We are busy trying to arrange for temporary comforts in this life, but we are neglecting the real discomforts of birth, death, old age, and disease. This is our ignorance and our foolishness, and therefore Kṛṣṇa comes to wake us up from this ignorance and take us back home, back to Godhead.