The highest perfection of life
gitam bhagavata jnanam
yat tat sangrama murdhani
kala karma tamo ruddham
punar adhyagamat prabhuh
Because of the Lord's pastimes and activities and because of His absence, it appeared that Arjuna forgot the instructions left by the Personality of Godhead. But factually this was not the case, and again he became lord of his senses.
A conditioned soul is enwrapped in his fruitive activities by the force of eternal time. But the Supreme Lord, when He incarnates on the earth, is not influenced by kala, or the material conception of past, present and future. The activities of the Lord are eternal, and they are manifestations of His atma-maya, or internal potency. All pastimes or activities of the Lord are spiritual in nature, but to the laymen they appear to be on the same level with material activities. It so appeared that Arjuna and the Lord were engaged in the Battle of Kurukshetra as the other party was also engaged, but factually the Lord was executing His mission of incarnation and association with His eternal friend Arjuna. Therefore such apparently material activities of Arjuna did not drive him away from his transcendental position, but on the contrary revived his consciousness of the songs of the Lord, as He sang them personally. This revival of consciousness is assured by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita (18.65) as follows:
man mana bhava mad bhakto
mad yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo 'si me
One should think of the Lord always; the mind should not forget Him. One should become a devotee of the Lord and offer obeisances unto Him. One who lives in that fashion becomes undoubtedly endowed with the blessing of the Lord by achieving the shelter of His lotus feet. There is nothing to doubt about this eternal truth. Because Arjuna was His confidential friend, the secret was disclosed to him.
Arjuna had no desire to fight with his relatives, but he fought for the mission of the Lord. He was always engaged in the execution of His mission only, and therefore after the Lord's departure he remained in the same transcendental position, even though it appeared that he forgot all the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita. One should, therefore, adjust the activities of life in pace with the mission of the Lord, and by doing this one is sure to return back home, back to Godhead. This is the highest perfection of life.
Here we are seeing how Arjuna is responding. It appeared that he had forgotten the instructions that he received from the Lord. But actually it was not so. He once again regained and became the lord of his senses and became situated in knowledge and understanding. In the purport, Prabhupada has mentioned some important points. The first is the truth about the Lord’s activities and how they are different from conditioned soul’s activities.
There was once a Sri Vaishnava scholar who asked me this question: It is very difficult to understand why Krishna performed rasa lila playing the flute in the middle of the night and attracting the women who were all married and calling them and dancing with them. This kind of activities are mentioned in the Bhagavatam in context with Krishna and morally upright people become a little disturbed. Why did the Lord do this? Relatively it is easier to appreciate Sri Rama because He was eka patni vrata. But Krishna not only He was bahu patni vrata, others patnis also He was dancing with. We are analyzing Krishna’s activities from the parameters that we are familiar with conventionally of this material world.
That is why in order to prepare us to understand the truth about Krishna, Prabhupada explains from the very beginning the nature of the Lord’s activities, that the Supreme Lord when He incarnates on the earth, He is not influenced by kala like us. The activities of the Lord are eternal and they are manifestations of His atma maya or internal potency. All pastimes or activities of the Lord are spiritual in nature but to the layman they appear to be on the same level with material activities. We also come across people saying –I like Krishna very much because he is just like all of us, He danced with so many gopis had so many gopi friends. Sinful people of this world, also get attracted and they think that, see Krishna had many romantic relations with so many women. Somehow kind of deriving some kind of a justification for what they wish to do. All of these are simply misunderstanding of Krishna’s activities. Krishna says that in the Bhagavad gita - sambhavamy atma mayaya – when I descend, I descend in My internal potency. His activities are not under the influence of material potency.
This has to be appreciated and understood and then we will be able to see why Krishna did these different activities. Whether it is the rasa dance, whether it is killing any demons – all of these are actually on a transcendental plane, the quality of the activities are different from the qualities of a normal human being’s activities. So that is why Prabhupada is explaining here, let’s take the Kurukshetra battle example. On the one side the Pandavas were there, on the other side the Kauravas. The side of the Pandavas, they were fighting, engaged in killing, the Kauravas too were engaged in fighting and killing. But actually the truth is the activities that were happening on the side of the Pandavas because Krishna was present amidst them, they were serving the desire of Krishna, unlike the activities of the Kauravas which was simply on a mundane plane of trying to get hold of kingdom and enjoy.
Here Srila Prabhupada has explained so nicely. All pastimes or activities of the Lord are spiritual in nature but to the layman they appear to be on the same level with the material activities. But factually the Lord was executing His mission of incarnation and association with His eternal friend Arjuna. But on the one hand, one army that was fighting, it was actually fulfilling the mission of the Lord. On the other hand Duryodhana, Kaurava’s side it was simply a fight on the basis of rajo guna in order to enjoy the kingdom. But both were engaged in the same activity of fighting. So this is to show that Krishna may be engaged in activities which are similar to mundane activity but we must know that it is on a different platform altogether. Unless we understand this, we will make a gross mistake of thinking that why is Krishna engaged in such amorous pastimes.
Therefore such apparently material activities of Arjuna did not drive him away from His transcendental position but on the contrary revived his consciousness of the songs of the Lord as he sang them personally. So when one is engaged in the mission of the Lord, even though the mission of the Lord may force us to be engaged in apparently material activities, just like Arjuna, what was he doing? He was using his bow and arrow and killing people. Just like the Kauravas were doing. What does Krishna do to Arjuna to change his decision not to fight? Arjuna put the bow and arrow aside, and said, I don’t want to kill my superiors who are pujar arhau, worthy of my worship. Instead of offering flowers, should I throw arrows at them?
Krishna brought about the change in his thinking by presenting an altogether different perspective of what was actually happening there. He told him what the truth of the spirit soul is, He told him what the truth of Krishna is, He told him how Krishna descends, His divine personality, His birth and activities are divine and Arjuna as an associate of the Lord he simply has to cooperate to serve the mission of the Lord. The Lord has a bigger plan and in the midst of all these things why are you thinking that you should not fight? So He introduced the concept of bhakti, He introduced the concept of jnana, He introduced the concept of karma; all of these things to bring in a transcendental perspective of what was happening. And then He presented that this is what you should do under these circumstances because I am involved in this.
When Arjuna heard this, he got another kind of a perspective and was ready to fight. So we see that Krishna engaged Arjuna in His mission, He told him that don’t think that this is just another battle between the brothers and the cousins for kingdom. Krishna brought in a new perspective that how He is involved, and He has a desire that this battle should happen.
Once a very big scholar, he was telling me, I have respect for Krishna and Gita and all that but one thing I cannot understand, why is Krishna advocating battle? Because everyone likes to have peace in this world, they don’t like wars, there is the Nobel prize for peace. But here we are seeing Krishna advocating not peace but war. Why is God promoting war? One of the many explanations by Prabhupada is this: for instance there is a trial in a court for the crime a person has committed. There was ample opportunity given to the criminal to defend his case with a lawyer. The judge after hearing the whole case, said he has to be hanged. A date and place is fixed and he has to be hanged. On that particular date and fixed time, the person who is supposed to hang him, has suddenly developed some kind of a compassion for this criminal and he is saying, I will not hang this man. So then we see that it is not right, he simply has to follow the order.
In the same way, Arjuna’s position was like that. Krishna the supreme judge had already passed the judgment about Kauravas and their nature; they were given adequate opportunity to change their position, but they were unrelenting and now after all this Krishna had made an arrangement that these Pandavas and the Kauravas battle has to happen and He had a plan. That is why Krishna says, Arjuna even if you don’t fight, I have already decided the outcome of this war. So this was the determination of Krishna and Arjuna was simply given an opportunity to pursue the determination of Krishna and he will be blessed by that.
So this was the arrangement of the Lord and it was not the kind of battles we see in the material world – two parties, two countries fighting on the basis of ignorance. And then we see a very nice statement here by Prabhupada – because Arjuna was engaged in the mission of the Lord which involved such an activity as killing human beings in a battle. Still because it was in the service of the Lord, he remained in a transcendental position, he would not become affected by ignorance. On the other hand, his pure consciousness was revived. So Prabhupada is saying, as the Lord assured Arjuna -
man mana bhava mad bhakto
mad yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo 'si me
One should think of the Lord always, become a devotee and offer obeisances unto Him. One who lives in that fashion becomes undoubtedly endowed with the blessings of the Lord. So Prabhupada is saying here that one should live in this kind of fashion, our lives must be molded in such a way that we are able to man mana always think of Krishna, act as a devotee, worship Him, offer our respects to Him. The aspiration of a devotee should not be – I must become a rich man, I must become a powerful man. The devotee’s aspiration is very simple – I must be always able to think of Krishna, follow His instructions – that’s it. We will not complicate our lives like the materialists complicate their lives with so many entanglements.
As devotees - our requirements are very simple. That is why in the twelfth chapter, Krishna is describing how we can become not just dear to Him but very dear to Him. So it is a formula, we should all be eager to know because we all want to become dear to the Lord. So not so many things, Krishna is not saying that there are two hundred and fifty things that you have to do to become very dear to Me. Just a few things - ye tu dharmamrtam idam yathoktam paryupasate – this path I have described to you Arjuna. And then He is summarizing three things – only three things which are very important by which we will become 'tiva me priyah, we will become very dear to Him. yathoktam paryupasate, paryupasate, one should be completely engaged. Upasana means worship, paryupasate means completely engaged in His worship, in His service.
And the second qualification is sraddadhana with faith. So faith is a very important aspect of growth of devotional service. So paryupasate, sraddadhana and third point Krishna is mentioning – mat parama – means to consider that Krishna is everything for me. mat parama – Krishna’s service is everything for me, worshipping Him, pleasing Krishna that is the goal, that is the life and soul of a devotee. One who has this as the objective in life, is called mat parama, sraddadhana mat parama paryupasate yathoktam paryupasate sraddadhana mat parama bhaktas te 'tiva me priyah - he who follows the imperishable path of devotional service and making Me the supreme goal is very very dear to Me.
So this is a very simple secret and important thing Krishna has mentioned sraddadhana mat parama because Rupa Goswami describes three things as a characteristic of an advanced devotee – of an uttama adhikari. There are many descriptions in the Bhagavatam eleventh canto. Rupa Goswami says, sastra yukta nipunah - uttama adhikari is very expert in understanding the conclusions of the sastras, using reason and logic. Sastra means Vedic literatures, yukti means logic, sastra yukta nipunah – he is expert in this. sarvatha drdha niscayah, sarvata – always his conviction is very firm, sarvata drdha niscayah, sarvata – his niscayah his conviction is drdha and third thing is praudha sraddho and his sraddha is praudha. praudha means very deep, praudha sraddha means it is sraddha, it is not blind - praudha sraddha sastra yukta nipunah sarvatha drdha niscayah, praudha sraddha so such a person - sa bhaktav uttamo matah - is considered to be a uttama bhakta.
So here we see Srila Prabhupada making such a statement of deep sraddha. Prabhupada says one should become a devotee of the Lord and offer obeisances unto Him. One who lives in that fashion becomes undoubtedly endowed with the blessings of the Lord by achieving the shelter of His lotus feet. This is the eternal truth and there is nothing to doubt about this. We see Srila Prabhupada expressing this with a kind of a fervent appeal that, please don’t doubt this. He is speaking from his platform of deep faith in these things.
As Arjuna was Krishna’s confidential friend, the secret was disclosed to him. In fact, the verse preceding this verse – man mana bhava mad bhakto - is Krishna telling, now I will tell you the most confidential truth and after saying that Krishna has said this: we should become devotee of the Lord, think of the Lord, always worship Him, offer respects unto Him and if we do this – mam evaisyasy – we will go back to Krishna, we will achieve His shelter.
Another important point Prabhupada mentions here is – how we must adjust our life and activities, because life will have various demands. Somebody may be a businessman, he will have business demands, somebody may be a housewife, will have to take care of family, take care of children. We must adjust the activities of life in pace with the mission of the Lord. This is the guidance we are receiving from Srila Prabhupada in this purport. And for devotees in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada has given an entire program.
So like Prabhupada has explained that how the four regulative principles are very important. To do our sadhana, to hear Bhagavatam daily, to chant our 16 rounds - these are all very important. We should adjust in such a way we are able to do these things always as these core activities will keep us in pace with the mission of the Lord. So this is the guidance we are getting. By doing this one is sure to return back home, back to Godhead. This is the highest perfection of life.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has disclosed what is the mission of the Lord – yare dekho tare kaho krsna upadesa – simply we have to spread the knowledge about Krishna, follow Krishna’s instructions. The entire Krishna consciousness movement is centered around this principle. We have to go and broadcast knowledge about Krishna to whomever we come across. mam evaisyasi satyam te – Krishna is giving this assurance, same way Prabhupada is repeating and he is giving us similar assurance that if we do this, one is sure to return back home, back to Godhead and this is the highest perfection of life.