In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life
by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada

Index   1   2   3   4

Srila PrabhupadaWhile on tour of South India, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived on the banks of the river Godavari, where He met Sri Ramananda Raya, a great devotee of Sri Krsna. Lord Caitanya expressed a deep desire to hear about Sri Krsna from the lips of Ramananda Raya and requested that Ramananda recite a verse from the revealed scriptures concerning the ultimate goal of life. Ramananda then replied:

"If a person performs the prescribed duties of his social position, he awakens his original Krsna consciousness."

Supporting his statement, Ramananda then cited a verse from the Visnu Purana (3.8.9):

visnur aradhyate pantha
nanyat tat-dosa-karanam

"The Personality of Godhead Lord Visnu is worshiped by the proper performance of prescribed duties in the system of varna and asrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varnas and asramas."

Varna and Asrama Jeopardized

Hearing this statement from Ramananda Raya, Lord Caitanya replied that the system of varnasrama-dharma was external and thus it was not acceptable. Lord Caitanya also rejected the statement of Ramananda because the system of varnasrama-dharma is now jeopardized by the influence of the present age of Kali, the age of quarrel and fighting.

In the Bhagavad-gita, the Personality of Godhead declares that the varnasrama system is created by Him, although He is aloof from such a system. Because the varnasrama system is a creation of the Personality of Godhead, it is not possible to do away with it. However, the nefarious activities of the people of the age of Kali can jeopardize the varnasrama system. We have purposely used the word jeopardized because the whole system still exists but in a reflected form.

In the varnasrama system of social management, the aim of life is to attain the favor of Lord Visnu, the all-pervading Personality of Godhead. Unfortunately, at the present moment the aim of life is to displease the all-pervading Godhead and thereby suffer perpetually under the laws of material nature. The goal of the varnasrama system is to peacefully perform the prescribed duties of humanity and thereby achieve the highest success, namely the favor of Lord Visnu. But when the aim of life is the planned exploitation of material nature, all life is jeopardized on account of the human race fighting with the laws of nature.

The arrangement of nature is so strict that even a slight violation of the laws of nature can do great harm to a conditioned human being. Human beings must always consider themselves to be living under the stringent laws of nature. They must always remember that their plans for breaking nature’s laws will bring about tremendous hardship. Regrettably, human beings under the deluding influence of material nature want to lord it over the laws of nature, and, as such, they are more and more entangled in conditioned life. Foolish human beings do not see the defect of their so-called advancement of knowledge. The most difficult problems of life are birth, death, old age, and disease. These four problems are a permanent settlement for the conditioned soul. Human beings want to lord it over the laws of nature but their so-called advancement of scientific knowledge cannot solve these problems.

A continuous increase of world population to the proportion of three births in every second has puzzled the brains of the leaders of society. To solve the problem of birth, they put forward rascal plans of birth control under the name of family planning, yet the problem is unsolved. By the laws of nature, the population is ever-increasing in spite of all their scientific plans and schemes. On the whole, the problem of birth has remained unsolved.

Mother Nature’s Atom Bomb

The death problem is also not solved. None of the scientific knowledge of the human being has solved the death problem. The advancement of material knowledge can simply accelerate the problem of dying; nobody can save a person from the cruel hands of death. The discovery of the atom bomb and similar other great inventions of the fertile brain of the scientist has simply increased the death problem. The foolish scientists do not know that the atom bomb is actually the scheme of Mother Nature, who is sure to kill the demoniac population when it increases disproportionately.

Modern economists also believe in the laws of nature and confirm that unrestricted birth increases in the human population will certainly result in famine, pestilence, epidemics, and war. So, the so-called civilized states’ plan of killing human beings by atomic and hydrogen bombs is actually the plan of Mother Nature to punish the foolish miscreants.

Everything is automatically executed by Mother Nature as soon as the human being is in violation of her laws. However, foolish people, out of their undue vanity, think that the plan is made by them. To execute her stringent punishment, Mother Nature dictates to the human brain the ability to invent the atomic bomb. Foolishly, the human being wants to take the credit for such inventions, which are meant only for punishment. We learn this fact from the Bhagavad-gita (3.27), wherein it is said that everything is done by prakrti or Mother Nature. But the foolish living entity, puffed up by the vanity of learning, falsely considers himself the Creator.

The Problem Remains the Same

Without going further into the details of birth and death in terms of modernized scientific plans, it can safely be said that the problem of birth and death remains in its original proportion. Nothing has been done to increase or decrease the problem.

The problem of old age and disease is also not solved. The more the inventions of modernized science are made, the more relative diseases increase proportionately.

We can again conclude that birth, death, old age, and disease are the sum total of all the problems of material existence and can never be solved by any plan made by human beings. If a human being wants to solve all the problems of material existence, he must abide by the advice of Godhead that only by full surrender unto Him can one be saved from the stringent conditions of the material laws of nature.

Perverted Castes

The system of varnasrama-dharma as it is mentioned in the scriptures aims at achieving the favor of Lord Visnu. This is the only solution to the problem of birth and death. The jeopardized system of varnasrama-dharma has produced a perverted form, commonly known as the caste system. The caste system is now represented by the political diplomats, the soldiers, the capitalists, and the laborers. The politicians or the best planning brains of the human race have taken the position of brahmanas. Surely the brahmana possesses the best brain for solving the problems of human life, but the politicians are simply using the best part of their brains for executing their own selfish plans. Avoiding the orders of the Supreme Godhead, they only bring disorder to the society.

The military arrangement is a false representation of the ksatriyas, who are meant to give protection to the public at large. However, the military leaders of every country are sucking the blood of the masses by imposing heavy, unbearable taxes, instead of giving any actual protection.

The capitalists, who represent vaisyas, instead of accumulating wealth for carrying out the will of Lord Visnu, are amassing huge wealth for their own sense gratification. As a result of this, many problems, such as political policies that exploit the masses, have sprung up in all parts of the world. The laborers are a per- verted representation of the sudras, who are serving the capital- ists under the pressure of many obligations. They are always groaning to make an adjustment to the labor problem by raising political issues.

The system of varnasrama-dharma has not been ostracized as some may wish, but the whole system has now been pervertedly represented by politicians in the position of brahmanas; military men in the position of the ksatriyas; individual capitalists in the position of the vaisyas; and the ordinary laborers in the position of the sudras. The whole system is perverted by the lawbreaking attitude of mankind. This is spoiling the atmosphere of peaceful progress in human life. At present, the system of perverted varnasrama-dharma cannot in any way please the Supreme Godhead Visnu. Thus no one can escape the police action of Mother Nature, regardless of how expert one may be in material science.

Real Varna and Asrama

The varnasrama system, originated by the Personality of Godhead, is spiritually significant because when all the varnas and asramas cooperate, society facilitates deliverance from the clutches of maya or illusion. This is done by all varnas and asramas carrying out the plan of Godhead. The brahmana is considered the mouth of the virat-purusa (the cosmophysical feature of the Personality of Godhead). The ksatriyas are the arms, the vaisyas are the stomach, and the sudras are the legs. The functioning of the mouth is recognized by sound. Therefore, the function of the brahmanas or sannyasis is to transmit the transcendental sound of the Vedas so that every human being can know what is what in relation to the Supreme. By transmission of transcendental sound, human beings will know their actual identities as superior in nature to matter. Thus they will know their eternal relationship with Godhead. Knowing this, they will be engaged in carrying out the plan of Godhead, instead of serving the deluding energy with a false notion of lording it over her. Carrying out the plan of Godhead will help the conditioned soul get out of the clutches of the deluding energy and enter into the kingdom of God for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.

Every living being is struggling in this material world for eternal life, knowledge, and bliss, but is bewildered by the deluding energy. The plan of Godhead is so designed that in the human form of life one can get out of the entanglement of material existence. Because the ksatriyas are the arms of the virat-purusa, it is their duty to protect the whole body and cooperate with the mouth, stomach, and legs. The system of varnasrama is a spiritual plan of cooperation for mutual benefit, and therefore it is essential that it be maintained in its original dignity. As it stands now, it is perverted and diseased.

The so-called brahmanas have become detached from the body of the virat-purusa because they do not transmit the transcendental sounds of the Vedas. A head that is cut off from the body certainly cannot produce any sound. Such a dead head, although called a brahmana, has no real value as a head. Similarly, those brahmanas who simply claim to be so by a custom of hereditary right also have no value as brahmanas, because they have no power to function as the mouth of Godhead. In the same manner, whoever fails to carry out the plan of Godhead as part and parcel of the virat-purusa must be considered fallen and detached from his position. Such separated parts are of no value as mouths, arms, stomachs, or legs.

Varna and Asrama Rejected

Thus Lord Caitanya rejected Ramananda’s proposal, because in the age of Kali the varnasrama-dharma is so degraded that any attempt to restore it to its original position will be hopeless. He also rejected varnasrama-dharma because it has no value in relation to pure devotional service.

The second, more important consideration is that even if the varnasrama system is observed strictly, it still cannot help one to rise to the highest plane of transcendental service to Godhead. The virat-purusa is a material conception of the Personality of Godhead and is just the beginning of spiritual realization. The topmost spiritual realization is attraction for de- votional service to the Personality of Godhead. Such attraction for devotional service is the only necessity for the living being and it automatically brings a sense of detachment from all other activities.

The Personality of Godhead is worshiped by pure devotional service and He becomes available to His devotees through such devotion. Pure devotional service is produced by cultivation of pure knowledge and activities under the regulative principles of the scriptures. Thus the varnasrama system is explained in relation to pure devotion by Bhagavan Purusa, the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna, who descended to this material world for the deliverance of all fallen souls. The Bhagavad-gita (18.45-46) states:

sve sve karmany abhiratah
samsiddhim labhate narah
sva-karma-niratah siddhim
yatha vindati tac chrnu

yatah pravrttir bhutanam
yena sarvam idam tatam
sva-karmana tam abhyarcya
siddhim vindati manavah

"Every human being will attain the highest goal of life simply by worshiping the Personality of Godhead, from whom all the living entities have come into being and by whom the whole cosmos is generated and again withdrawn."

Worshiping Godhead by prescribed duties is the beginning of devotional service, and all the great sages like Ta†ka, Dramida, Bharuci, Bodhayana, Guhadeva, and Kapardi have approved of this system of gradual progress. All the ancient authorities have commented upon the Vedas in accordance with this principle. The authorities of the Ramanuja sect of Vaisnavas also affirm the above:

The easiest way of attaining the Absolute Truth is to culture knowledge about the Absolute Truth as it is described in the scriptures while simultaneously performing one’s prescribed duty. This process is almost direct realization of the path of devotional service. Realization of the Absolute Truth by proper observance of the varnasrama system does not mean to accept only the renounced order of life sannyasa, but it means that everyone can attain the highest goal by the performance of his own duties. Proper performance does not necessarily mean to take sannyasa.

Ramananda Raya, after being asked by Lord Caitanya to define the highest standard of perfection in human life, had taken up the cause of ordinary people and supported the utility of varnasrama-dharma by quoting the Visnu Purana. He said that the performance of duties according to varnasrama-dharma should be taken as the highest perfection of life.

Yet because the varnasrama-dharma system is a problem within the material world in the age of Kali, Lord Caitanya wanted to distinguish it from the devotional activities, which are transcendental by nature. Taking into consideration the transcendental nature of devotional service, which is the highest perfection of life, Lord Caitanya declared the system of varnasrama-dharma to be external. Lord Caitanya wanted human beings to make further advancement in the process of spiritual realization than what is possible by the performance of varnasrama-dharma.

Although the aim of varnasrama-dharma is to satisfy the all-pervading Godhead Visnu, it does not explicitly mention devotional service rendered directly to the Personality of Godhead. Without being specifically engaged in devotional service, even the proper performance of varnasrama-dharma may lead one to accept either the impersonal or personal feature of Godhead. Impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth will mar the progress of devotional service. Therefore, Lord Caitanya did not wish to risk the human life in that way, and thus He rejected varnasrama-dharma as external.

Lord Caitanya’s rejection of the value of varnasrama-dharma indicated that Ramananda should suggest a more comprehensive process of self-realization.

Hodge-podge Impersonalism

Taking the hint from Lord Caitanya, Ramananda Raya quoted a verse from the Bhagavad-gita (9.27) about the process of dedicating all one’s karma (fruitive actions) to Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.

yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
yat kurusva mad-arpanam

"O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer or give away, as well as all austerities that you perform, do as an offering unto Me."

To give and take means one person giving and another person receiving. This distinct feature of dealings between the living entity and the Personality of Godhead is a more clear conception of ones proper relationship with the Absolute Truth than that which is found in varnasrama-dharma.

The present age of Kali is almost fully surcharged with the imperfect idea of the Absolute Truth being impersonal. The mayavada school has chiefly fathered this impersonal idea of the Absolute Truth by systematic propaganda since the time of Sripad Sa†karacarya. People of demoniac nature, who are now flourishing in all parts of the world, have relished this hodge-podge impersonal idea of the Absolute Truth for their own less than spiritual purposes.

The materialistic people of the world are practically all atheistic and immoral due to the infectious conditions of Kali-yuga. The Kali-yuga is predominated by illegitimate connection with the opposite sex, killing of animals, intoxication, and gambling. The materialists are almost all notorious for all these kinds of nefarious works in spite of their so-called education and knowledge. They are, in the language of the Bhagavad-gita, duskrtina, qualified in the wrong way. When a human being’s activity is targeted towards self-realization, it is right activity. Wrong activity means entangling oneself more and more in the conditions of material nature. Krti means one who is qualified and dus means the wrong way. So the combined word duskrtina means one who is qualified in the wrong way.

Educated Means Atheist

The advancement of material education has produced many graduates, postgraduates, professors, and many other so-called enlightened people in this age of Kali, but most of them are being wrongly educated. The result is that the more people are educated, the more they become immoral and atheistic. Moreover, wrongly educated people have practically no faith in the scriptural injunctions. They have no respect for the self-realized sages who have left behind many valuable literary works, which are considered the treasure chest of spiritual cultivation.

To further misguide these wrongly qualified persons, the pasandis or atheists in the garb of spiritual instructors encourage them in the wrong method of livelihood. This has been predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.4.43-44). Sukadeva Goswami addressed King Pariksit, "O my King, in the age of Kali, almost all the people who are destined to die do not worship the Absolute Personality of Godhead who is the Lord of the universe and is respectfully obeyed by all the demigods such as Brahma, Mahadeva, Indra, and others. Unfortunately, the people in the age of Kali worship pasandis, who misrepresent the teachings of the Vedas by atheistic culture. These people, infected by the sinful activities of Kali, do not worship the Personality of Godhead, the remembrance of whose name only–even by a dying person, a person in trouble, or a person who has fallen down–can deliver all from distress and sin, and lift them to the highest goal of life."

The pasandis have most successfully misdirected the so-called enlightened people of Kali-yuga. They have successfully produced or manufactured many avataras or incarnations of Godhead of their own choice without any reference to the sastras (scriptures) and propagated the false idea of impersonal liberation as the highest achievement in life.

Sankara Astonished

These impersonalists of the present age declare themselves to be the followers of Sripad Sankaracarya, but even if Sankaracarya himself happened to appear, he would be astonished to see his so-called followers. In fact, these impersonalists are all atheists and materialists. They have nothing to do either with the actual brahmavada school of Sankaracarya or with the bhagavata sampradaya represented by the Vaisnava acaryas.

The impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth, as propounded by the so-called brahmavada school, falls short of spiritual progress from its first step. Sankaracarya’s impersonal conception of brahmavada had some meaning because he emphasized renouncing material activities. His ideal example of renunciation, as personally practiced and taught by him, has great significance for the demoniac people of the age of Kali, but the present impersonalists do not follow Sankaracarya or the sastra. They do, however, preach something that is not only absurd from all spiritual points of view, but is the start of material enjoyment, which they try to cover with the red garments of renunciation. These so-called followers of Sripad Sankaracarya are condemned by Sankaracarya himself, because they have taken the red dress simply for the matter of filling their bellies.

The atheistic impersonalists have done tremendous harm to the potential for spiritual advancement of the people in general. Therefore, the impersonalists have become the principal target of reformation for the peaceful sa†kirtana movement of Lord Caitanya.

Absolute Truth is Personal

The Absolute Truth is ultimately a person who is supreme and all-powerful. He is called Purusottama. Impersonal Brahman is the effulgence of His personal body and localized Paramatma or the Supersoul is His plenary part. That is the verdict of all the sastras, especially the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and all other allied transcendental literatures. The whole sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya is aimed at giving importance to the Personality of Godhead and His transcendental service. As such, Lord Caitanya always regarded the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth as detrimental to the path of devotional activities. He considered the system of varnasrama-dharma to be external because even if varnasrama-dharma is properly carried out, one still cannot get a clear conception of the Personality of Godhead.

Ramananda’s suggestion of the sloka from the Bhagavad-gita about offering everything to Krsna definitely advances the conception of the Personality of Godhead, but still the practice of this conception is not fully transcendental. Thus the varnasrama-dharma conception can hardly help to raise the practitioner to the transcendental spiritual plane. Lord Caitanya thus rejected this material conception of the Personality of Godhead and called it external.

No Clear Idea

The grossly materialistic people cannot understand how it is possible to give away the result of one’s own work. It is impossible for grossly materialistic people to part with their earnings that are made by their personal effort. Such gross materialists can simply get information from the suggestion that they have to give away the result of their personal labor to the Personality of Godhead. But because they do not have a clear idea of the Personality of Godhead or the process of giving the result of their earnings to the Personality of Godhead, it is very difficult for them to practice this conception.

When Lord Caitanya rejected Ramananda Raya’s second suggestion of directly offering the fruits of one’s actions to God rather than indirectly through the varnasrama system, Ramananda then made a third suggestion. He proposed that ordinary people, who are fully engaged in the act of earning and enjoying, improve their life by giving up the process of continuing to live in the material world while offering the fruits of their labor to God. On the basis of this improved idea, Ramananda quoted a sloka from Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.32):

ajnayaivam gunan dosan
mayadistan api svakan
dharman samtyajya yah sarvan
mam bhajet sa ca sattamah

In this sloka, the Personality of Godhead says, "Occupational duties are described in the religious scriptures. If one analyzes them, one can fully understand their qualities and faults and then give them up completely to render service unto Me. Such a person is accepted as a saint of the highest order."

This conception is based on the fact that ultimately the acceptance of the devotional service of Godhead is the highest aim of religious perfection. By performing religious duties, if we can reach pure devotion, we may be considered first-class sadhus or saints.

Accept Sannyasa

Ramananda suggested that we give up practicing the rules of varnasrama-dharma and take sannyasa. Acceptance of sannyasa means to renounce materialistic life, and in doing so one has to engage fully in the devotional service of Godhead. In support of this idea, Ramananda quoted the above sloka from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He also supported his suggestion with another sloka from the Bhagavad-gita (18.66):

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

Here, the Personality of Godhead desires that everyone give up all other religious considerations and engage wholly and solely in following Him exclusively. "I will protect you from all difficulties arising out of renouncing all other engagements. You have nothing to fear."

Go Higher

An improved consciousness for the materialists is a desire to either retire from material activities or stay at a place that is undisturbed by the uproar of the modes of nature. The river Viraja is outside the boundary of the material world where there is no disturbance from the three modes of nature. The material world is the creation of the external energy of Godhead, and Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, is the creation of the internal energy of Godhead. Viraja is situated between the material world and the spiritual world. It is outside the boundary of both the material and the spiritual world. However, renunciation without any positive engagement is imperfect and cannot give the candidate the desired result of love of God.

The aim of Lord Caitanya is to bring people to the spiritual world. Therefore, this suggestion of Ramananda, which does not take one within the boundary of Vaikuntha, was also rejected by the Lord. Negating the material activities or becoming disinterested in material activities does not suggest accepting positive spiritual activities. Spiritual activities completely depend on spiritual understanding. People having no realization of the spiritual world cannot sustain themselves by giving up all other activities. One must have a positive transcendental engagement. Otherwise, simply negating the material activities of religiosity will not help one the slightest bit in spiritual realization. By such renunciation, one will simply feed a void in his life and will again be attracted by the material activities for want of actual spiritual engagements. This sort of spiritual realization is another type of impersonal conception and is therefore not ultimately suitable for the prospective devotee.

Mixed Devotion

Ramananda, having realized the desire of Lord Caitanya, then suggested an improved process, called calculated devotion (jnana-misra-bhakti). Driven by a false sense of oneness with the Absolute Truth, the empiric philosopher tries to make an analytical study of the cosmic situation to find out the Absolute Truth. When he has done so, he becomes cheerful on account of his self-realization.

The symptoms of perfect realization of the Absolute Truth, which promote one to the stage of pure devotional service to the Personality of Godhead, are described in the Bhagavad-gita (18.54). This was quoted by Ramananda as a further improvement on the suggestion of renunciation of karma:

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

"The practitioner who has realized the Absolute Truth as the nondifferentiated impersonal Brahman does not lament over any material loss, neither does he desire any material gain. He is equipoised towards all objects of the material world, and these conditions make him fit to be promoted to the pure devotional service of Godhead."

However, the brahma-bhutah state of consciousness is also not a fully transcendental state of spiritual existence. The supramental consciousness, as exists in the spiritual kingdom of Vaikuntha, is a further development. The brahma-bhutah state of consciousness is undoubtedly free from gross material consciousness, and although touching the Absolute Truth indicates a transcendental feeling, it is not the actual transcendental position for realizing the activities of Vaikuntha. As such, it is also external.

Lord Caitanya wants the living entity to be free from every type of material consciousness, including becoming unconcerned with empiric knowledge and fruitive activities. One should stay in pure consciousness, as even a slight tinge of material consciousness causes an impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth. In all these different stages of material consciousness, only imaginary arguments predominate over the Absolute Personality of Godhead. Imaginary argumentative endeavors are detrimental to the pure devotional service of Godhead, and, as such, even the liberated state as above mentioned is external. This liberated state is something like the convalescent stage after relief from a disease. If a convalescent person is not properly taken care of, a relapse of the disease may mar the whole attempt at recovery.

In the brahma-bhuta liberated stage, one has not yet obtained a resting place at the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead. As such, one is still unsupported and thus runs the chance of falling down again into material activities. It is therefore also external and thus the fourth suggestion of Ramananda was rejected by Lord Caitanya.

Knowledge-free Devotion

Ramananda then suggested the beginning of pure devotional service unconcerned with empiric knowledge or fruitive activity. To support this suggestion, Ramananda quoted a statement of Brahma during his prayer of regret before Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead:

jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva
jivanti san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartam
stane stitah sruti-gatam tanu-va†-manobhir
ye prayaso ‘jita jito ‘py asi tais tri-lokyam

"O my Lord, those devotees who completely give up the attempt to become one with You by the culture of empiric knowledge and simply try to hear about Your glories from the mouths of self-realized saints, and who live a virtuous life, can easily achieve Your favor although You are unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds."(Bhag. 10.14.3)

This stage of culturing devotional service directly was accepted by Lord Caitanya. All the previously described stages of the culture of spiritual realization were rejected by Lord Caitanya most logically. The Lord, however, accepted the universal method of hearing the glories of the Personality of Godhead in all circumstances from the mouths of self-realized souls and giving up the attempt to become one with Godhead.

The poison of attempting to become one with Godhead kills the nucleus of devotional service. Anyone actually desiring to be engaged in the transcendental loving service of Godhead must definitely give up this idea for good. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, it is said that the idea of being one with Godhead is the topmost type of pretension, and even a slight development of this idea will completely eliminate the prospect for devotional service. This is the most dangerous misconception in spiritual life and one should at once give up the idea.

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