By Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta, 1969
This small pamphlet was one of the first pieces of Krishna conscious literature widely distributed in the Western world by Srila Prabhupada's grace.
Lord Sri Krishna says, "My dear Arjuna, there are different classes of men. One class of men, they are sleeping. And another class of men, they are awake. They are not sleeping." And how is this so? This chanting, which we have performed just now, is the wakening process for the sleeping soul. The soul is sleeping, covered by this material body. These bodily activities are in the sleeping stage. Just as we see dreams in the sleeping stage, similarly, all these bodily activities are dreams. Just think for yourself: how many incidents have there been in your past life? If you think of them, they will appear just like dreams. At least for myself this is the case. I was born in India, educated, then married, then I had very good days with my wife, got some children, some of whom died, some of whom are living, some of whom are married; now they have begotten children. All this occurred in my past life. Now it is all a dream. I have no connection with it. Similarly, in dreams I sometimes find that I have become a king. Oh, there are so many riches and so much opulence. Then, as soon as the dream is over, I come home and all is gone.
So actually, these bodily activities which we are now engaged in are not our actual life. Therefore, the Vedic mantra says, "O human race, please wake up. Just utilize the opportunity which you now have." You have a special opportunity. And what is that? This human form of life. Utilize it; don't waste it. Don't go on sleeping. This very same matter is taken up by Sri Krishna. Those who are accustomed to the yoga process know this. The first principle of the yoga process is to control the senses. This is so for every process. In any bona fide process for spiritual realization, the first principle is to control the senses. This is because the senses are dragging us into the darkest region of life. But we do not realize this.
In the Srimad Bhagawatam there is a nice verse. It says, first, man is too much addicted to this materialistic way of life. The materialistic way of life involves eating, drinking, making merry, and enjoying. That's it—that's all. Have very good food, sleep well, and defend yourself so that enemies may not enter into your country, or into your home. And, have sexual enjoyment to your heart's content. This is the materialistic way of life. But persons who are so sleeping do not realize that their real self-interest is different. Our real self-interest is that we must know of our lost relationship with the Supreme Absolute Truth.
The Supreme Absolute Truth is realized from different angles of vision, as impersonal Brahman, or localized Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. One who realizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, automatically understands the other two features. But one who has approached only the impersonal feature of the Supreme Absolute Truth, has no information of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Now here, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is present before you.
Here is the picture of Sri Krishna, with his eternal consort Srimati Radharani, His pleasure potency. In this material world, the reflection of Sri Krishna and His pleasure potency exists pervertedly. As one can see in the picture, Sri Krishna is always consorting with Srimati Radharani. His features are described in Vedic literature: He stands in a very nice curved posture, blowing His flute. This picture is not drawn from artistic imagination. It is a descriptive painting from the Vedic literature. This description is in the Vedic literature.
So, in the material world there is the perverted reflection of Sri Krishna's Pastime with Radharani. It is not sex life as we have it, although it appears to be like that. It is transcendental. But that which we are after here—that is real. A young man wants a young woman, and a young woman wants a young man—this is natural. This is not artificial. It is natural because we are all part and parcel of that Supreme Being, Krishna. His attitude is in me because I am His part and parcel, just as the quality of gold is present in the minute particles of the gold. The chemical composition of gold is one hundred per cent present in a small particle of gold. Qualitatively. Therefore the enjoyment which we want between man and women is not a perversion of love and friendship. It is simply a perverted reflection. The real enjoyment is awakened in association with the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna. It is the same pleasure, but is in its pure form. That same bliss is there for you, but don't become entangled in this perverted form of enjoyment. Don't remain asleep. Don't remain in this dreaming condition. Have the real thing. Awaken from the dream. That is the message of the Vedas.
This is the opportunity. If you miss this opportunity in the human form of life—the developed consciousness—you will slip again into the cycle of 8 million, 400 thousand species of life that is developing, one form after another. That is the gradual process of evolution. We are still within the evolutionary process, but that evolutionary process should be forward, progressive. Not degraded. Don't slide. Don't go downward. By your many years of endeavor, you have come forward to this stage of life. Now, make further progress. Progress toward Sri Krishna. Don't go back.
The Srimad Bhagawatam says that most people do not know their self-interest in life. It is like coming to a crossroads and not knowing the way. Suppose you are going to Philadelphia, and after crossing New York City, you see a crossroads, and you do not know the road. Of course, in America, there is a very efficient system of direction on the roads. That way, you have no misguidance. Similarly, in the scriptures the Vedic literature gives you direction. Yes, here is a crossing. If you want to go this way, you may. So the Bhagawatam says that people do not know the direction by which to make progress. One must know that he must make further progress toward Vishnu. Why? Because this is a very highly developed life. In this form of life, we have very high intelligence. We have more intelligence than cats and dogs and other animals. Why misdirect it? The misdirection is due to being attracted to this bodily concept of life. One is thinking, "I shall be happy utilizing the body and the senses to the utmost."
Because we do not know what our progressive life is, we are trying to squeeze the essence out of this body. To enjoy it. In the Bhagawatam there is a very good example cited about these foolish men. They are compared with the camel. The camel is a desert animal very fond of twigs containing thorns. They have very long necks, and they take a bunch of twigs with thorns and begin to chew. By contact with the thorns, blood oozes out the tongue. Naturally, if you chew thorns, your tongue will be cut. So, when they take those thorns within the mouth and begin to chew, the blood comes out. And when the blood is mixed up in that form, they eat it, because blood has a taste he likes. He thinks that twigs with thorns are very tasteful. Our sex life is like that. Just squeeze it out of the body, and we think we are enjoying it. This is our position. Another example is given. In India the washermen keep asses. They load the ass as much as possible. The ass works all day and in the evening, his is offered some grass, and he's satisfied. For a morsel of grass, he is ready to work the whole day with a half ton of clothing on his back. Similarly, we also, the karmis, are very busy working all day and all night. And when we come home, we eat only one piece of bread. For one piece of bread, which costs not more than ten cents, one is working all day and all night. So the comparison is to the ass. The ass does not know for whom he is working so hard, and taking some bread. "This is the aim of my life." Is it my aim of life -- to eat something and go to sleep, and have some sex pleasure and then die? No, this is not the aim of life. Your aim of life should be to realize yourself -- that you are part and parcel of the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Krishna is awaiting your arrival, so that you can enjoy life in His association.
One does not know what the progressive way of life is. Why? Because he has understood that this sense enjoyment is life's greatest pleasure. He is foolishly thinking that he will be happy by this sense enjoyment. This is just like having a horse which is not properly bridled. It is running on, running on, and you do not know where it will throw you. Similarly, uncontrolled senses are just like unbridled horses, dragging your chariot. You do not know where it will throw you. We do not realize how responsible we are for every action. To every small part of our action, there is a reaction. And our uncontrolled senses are putting us through the chain of action and reaction and dragging us into the darkest part of the universe.
Therefore, Lord Sri Krishna says that one who has learned how to control the senses is called swami. To a controlled person, worldly activities are darkness. Those who are situated in pure consciousness see that people who work hard simply for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—these people are sleeping. And, to the persons who are engaged in these material activities, we are sleeping. They see that Swamiji has come to America to preach something to make us inactive. He is just trying to drag us from our general engagement, and he's trying to engage us in the process of Kirtan and hearing Bhagavad Gita, and wasting time. So, they believe we are sleeping. Somebody may think, these poor fellows have gathered here to waste their time in discussing something dry, which has no meaning, which is not bringing forth anything. Let us have some business discussion, so that we can gain something from it. We see that these people are sleeping and they that we are sleeping.
Now, actually, who is sleeping? He is awake who comes to the platform of consciousness that I am not this body—I am consciousness. One is awake who has understood this simple fact, that I am not this body, I am consciousness. Without consciousness, my body is useless. Therefore, I am actually consciousness. I am pure soul, and the symptom of my presence is consciousness. I am not this body. When I think deeply, I can understand that this is my body. This is not I, body. This is my body. So, one who has understood this—he is awake.
Now, the whole process described in the Bhagavad Gita is to be awake. You are pure consciousness—spirit soul. And, not only to be awake, but to act accordingly, so that, at the ultimate end, your pure consciousness may be liberated from this bodily entanglement. Then you'll get your healthy life. This is a disease, this material life. This material body is the symptom of my diseased form of life. I am not actually subject to birth and death. I am eternal. I never take my birth. I never die. This is my real position. Then, what is this birth and death? It is due to this body. Changing the body like a dress is called birth and death. But actually, I am pure soul.
Now, people are saying that God is dead. This theory is popular. They are making propaganda that the Lord is dead. But neither God nor we will ever die; neither do we have birth. In Bhagavad Gita Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, says, "Arjuna, why are you afraid of fighting? Myself, yourself, and all these kings and soldiers who have assembled before us—all of them—they existed before, and they're existing now, and they will continue to exist in the future. There is no birth and death. So, this warfare should be on the condition of the body. Don't be afraid of it."
This point we have already discussed. One must understand this point: I am pure soul. My presence as pure soul is symptomatized by my consciousness. I know what has happened in my past life. And what is happening, that I can remember also. And, I can guess about my future life. At least, I make plans for my future. Unless I have my future, why should I plan? But, I am beyond this past, present and future. I am eternal. The Lord is eternal, and I am eternal also, as part and parcel of the Supreme God. Therefore, my self-interest is to attain that life of eternity. Life of full bliss. Life of full knowledge. That is the mission of my life. And one who takes that position seriously, who has taken up this mission of life, and is trying for that perfection, he is actually awake. And others who are not at this point, they are sleeping. This is the mark of a sleeping man. A man who is working strenuously the whole day, he is not actually awake. He is sleeping because his real intelligence is asleep. He has lost his self-interest. He does not know what the real interest of human life is.
All Vedic literature is imploring us, "Don't sleep! Don't sleep! Be awake! Be awake! Get up! Get up from this sleep! Utilize the boon which you now have. Don't be foolish."
People are working hard, and earning enough to eat. Especially in your country, there are sufficient means for eating, and nobody is starving. That's all right, but they are still not satisfied. I have studied this very carefully. The younger people all appear to be frustrated. It is not a very good condition, when the young generation, which is the future hope of the country, feels that there is no hope. Their future is dark. Why? Because they have no direction. What is the aim of life? What will they become? The philosophy is, work hard, get dollars, and enjoy as you like. This is misguidance. Therefore, the young are not happy. So, they take center of something which is objectionable for satisfaction. But that cannot give total satisfaction.
Now, here is an opportunity. The Bhagavad Gita can show you your actual life. Take advantage of it. Appeal especially to the younger people. Don't be frustrated; don't be disappointed. There is full enjoyment in your future. You are all part and parcel of the Supreme. Iswara parama Krishna, sat-chit-ananda vigraha. The Lord says, "Oh, these poor living entities. They are suffering so much. They are feeling frustrated. Oh, they are my parts and parcels." He is claiming. So He comes to claim you. "My dear boys, my dear children, why are you suffering? Please hear me. Give up all your engagements. Just hear Me. Try to follow what I say. I shall liberate you from all the reactions of sin." You'll find in the Bhagavad Gita that this is guaranteed. Simply surrender unto the Lord. Not only Sri Krishna, of course. Lord Jesus Christ also spoke in the same way: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew: 1/28-30) That is the message of all persons who come from that Spiritual World—from the Kingdom of Godhead. That is the only message.
So, actually, this Bhagavad Gita is giving you the light to a happy life. Don't miss this opportunity. Try to hear it, to have it. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has made it very easy. To fulfill the mission of our life, there are nine different processes of devotional service: hearing, chanting, remembering, worshipping, accepting, service, offering everything, friendship and praying. Out of these nine, the first two processes, which are principle and primary, are Sravanam Kirtanam Vishnu. Hear and glorify. That will cleanse your heart of the dust which has accumulated for so many lifetimes, and you will see things very clearly.
Swami and Goswami are different synonyms of the word for persons who are in full control of the senses. Don't be thinking that you cannot control your senses. Everyone is able. You'll get strength by this process. This chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare will help you. Don't be dejected by thinking that you have no strength. You'll get strength. Continue this process. Kirtanam Sravanam means chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. And, hear some passages from the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagawatam. Utilize these two processes, and you'll find strength for your spiritual life. One has to become situated in that position of sense control.
Now, you have no doubt seen the ocean. How full it is! The ocean is so powerful that, if it rose, all New York City would be submerged under water. But it does not disturb us. It does not go beyond its limits. For example, the Narrows is the brink of the ocean. The ocean does not come on the other side of the Narrows. This is the example. When we have controlled the senses, we shall be just like the big ocean—although full with spiritual knowledge, calm and quiet without disturbing anyone, and without being disturbed. Peaceful.
In Bengal there are about five hundred rivers. All these rivers flow down water, to the ocean. But still, the ocean, the Bay of Bengal, is calm and quiet. Quiet. Similarly, for those who have become as full and as big as the ocean, material desires may come, but they are not disturbed. Although so many rivers are flowing down water, you won't see an inch of increase in the ocean. It keeps the same level. You can take any amount of water out of it, and you can pour any amount of water into it. The sea level is always the same. This example is given. Desires we must have. We cannot extinguish desires. It is foolishness to think that we can subdue desires. Desires are the symptoms of life. Let there be desires. If I have life and consciousness, then desire must also be there. Just as, when the water flows down from the rivers to the ocean, the ocean is not disturbed, so a person need not be disturbed by these desires. This is the art. This is the secret of the perfection of your life.
Desires may come, but if you are fixed with a proper understanding, you convert your desires. The whole process is to dovetail your desires with the Lord's. The example is that Arjuna desired not to fight, but after hearing Bhagavad Gita, his desire changed. He said, "Yes, I shall fight!" He desired to fight. So there was desire. The mode of desire was changed, that's all. Similarly, we cannot stop desiring. That is not possible. But we have to change the quality of the desire. That is all. It's not very difficult: I shall do this, I shall not do this. Bhagavad gita is meant to show us these things. Arjuna desired something before hearing Bhagavad Gita, and he desired something else after hearing Bhagavad Gita. The quality of desire changed. Similarly, by hearing the Gita you can change your desire. You don't have to stop your desire. You simply have to purify your desires. Then you'll not be disturbed by them. When your desires disturb you, you may know that you are not yet spiritually established. And when your desires enlighten you, enliven you, give you happiness—you may know that that desire is spiritual. Just as with Arjuna, the desire has to be changed.
Let desires be. Now, you can change the desires. Desire for Krishna. Don't desire for yourself. Desire for Krishna. How can I desire for Krishna? Take a practical example. Krishna came to this material world to call us; "My dear boys, please give up all your nonsensical engagements. Become a follower of Mine, and I shall protect you." This is Krishna's message. Now Bhagavad Gita is present, the message of Krishna. If you desire to preach this message of the Gita to the people of the world, that means you have changed your desire. And you can thereby purify yourself. There will be sufficient activities to execute the desire. But all those activities will be purified.
So, we don't have to stop our activities, nor our desires. But we have to dovetail them with the desires of the Lord, as Arjuna did. After dovetailing his desires with Sri Krishna's, his activities became more responsible. Just like a coward, he was refusing to fight. He was a Shatriya, a military man. His duty was to fight for a good cause. And what is a good cause? Sri Krishna instructed him to fight: "It is My plan." What can be a better cause than this? When the Supreme Personality of Godhead says that this is My wish, what can be more important? And what can be a better purpose, than one which is coming directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
When we dovetail with the desire of the Supreme Lord, then our responsibility becomes more imperative, and we become more active than we are otherwise. In material activity you will get tired. This is the difference between material activity and spiritual activity. When you are engaged in spiritual activities, you'll not get tired. You have newer and newer strength to act. Therefore, desire is not to be stopped; activities are not to be stopped. Whatever potency you have in you, that is the potency given by the Supreme Lord, because you are the part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore, all the potencies that you have, they are also part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. And if you utilize them for the purposes of the Supreme Lord, then you become dovetailed with Him, and your life becomes successful. You'll not be disturbed by material desires, you'll attain peace. The peace for which you are hankering in life after life, moment after moment—that you'll get at that time, when your desires are purified, and dovetailed with the Lord. One who desires sense gratification, the enjoyment of material satisfaction, will never be happy. That is not possible. If you want peace, if you want happiness, if you want perfection in your life, then just begin to dovetail your desires, activities, and potentials with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then you will see what real happiness is, and can tell who is really crazy.