chindanti kovidās tasya
ko na kuryāt kathā-ratim
With sword in hand, intelligent men cut through the binding knots of reactionary work [karma] by remembering the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, who will not pay attention to His message?
The contact of the spiritual spark with material elements creates a knot which must be cut if one wants to be liberated from the actions and reactions of fruitive work. Liberation means freedom from the cycle of reactionary work. This liberation automatically follows for one who constantly remembers the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead. This is because all the activities of the Supreme Lord (His līlā) are transcendental to the modes of the material energy. They are all-attractive spiritual activities, and therefore constant association with the spiritual activities of the Supreme Lord gradually spiritualizes the conditioned soul and ultimately severs the knot of material bondage.
Liberation from material bondage is, therefore, a by-product of devotional service. Attainment of spiritual knowledge is not sufficient to insure liberation. Such knowledge must be overcoated with devotional service so that ultimately the devotional service alone predominates. Then liberation is made possible. Even the reactionary work of the fruitive workers can lead one to liberation when it is overcoated with devotional service. Karma overcoated with devotional service is called karma-yoga. Similarly, empirical knowledge overcoated with devotional service is called jñāna-yoga. But pure bhakti-yoga is independent of such karma and jñāna because it alone can not only endow one with liberation from conditional life but also award one the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
Therefore, any sensible man who is above the average man with a poor fund of knowledge must constantly remember the Personality of Godhead by hearing about Him, by glorifying Him, by remembering Him, and by worshiping Him always, without cessation. That is the perfect way of devotional service. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, who were authorized by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to preach the bhakti cult, rigidly followed this rule and made immense literatures of transcendental science for our benefit. They have chalked out ways for all classes of men in terms of the different castes and orders of life in pursuance of the teachings of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and similar authoritative scriptures.
Unless we read, hear, and remember these literatures, we cannot cut the knot of our karmic reactions. Suppose a man is tied very strongly with ropes. With his hands and legs bound up, he cannot move independently. Similarly, we are tied up by the laws of material nature. The more sinful we are, the more the material nature binds us. For example, we are always bound by the laws of the state, either the criminal laws or the civil laws. If we violate the criminal laws, our punishment is very severe, and if we violate the civil laws, we are punished less severely—but in either case we are punished.
For the conditioned living entities in the material world, the body itself is a punishment. But people do not know this, and so they are trying to enjoy the body just like hogs. A village hog doesn’t know how abominable it is that he has the body of hog and that he must eat stool and live in a filthy place. He is happy if he can simply enjoy sex with a female hog—never mind whether she is his sister, mother, or daughter. This is the hog’s life-eating stool and enjoying sex. We are conscious of his abominable condition, but he is thinking, “Oh, what a happy life I have! I am dining very nicely on first-class food and having sex without any restriction. This is life.”
Actually, this is māyā, illusion. Māyā has two energies, the āvaraṇātmikā-śakti and the prakṣepātmikā-śakti. The āvaraṇātmikā-śakti covers a living entity with ignorance. Even though he is living a condemned life, still he will think, “I am very happy. I am all right.” His real knowledge is covered. And the prakṣepātmikā-śakti throws the living entity down into the ocean of material existence and keeps him there. When somebody is trying to come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the prakṣepātmikā-śakti will dictate, “Why are you going to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness society? There are so many restrictions there, so many rules and regulations. Better give it up.” And the conditioned soul thinks, “Why, yes, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness is nonsense. Let me give it up.”
The more sinful one is, the more māyā will prevent one from becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. That is māyā’s thankless task. She is just like the police department. The police are no one’s enemy, but when someone commits a crime they arrest him, put him in jail, and punish him. Similarly, māyā is engaged by the supreme authority, Kṛṣṇa, to punish the sinful living entities.
So, the knot of the materialistic way of life is very strong, and the beginning of the knot is sex life. The whole world is bound up by the material laws of nature because of the strong desire for sex. Both in the human society and the animal society, the central point is sex. People are working so hard to earn money because they want to enjoy sex. Even the hippies could not give it up. They renounced everything—their father’s property, their happy life at home—but sex they could not renounce.
Still, although the knot of material life is very difficult to cut, here the Bhāgavatam gives us the way: yad-anudhyāsinā yuktāḥ karma-granthi-nibandhanam chindanti. “With the sword of remembering Kṛṣṇa, you can cut the hard knot of material life.” The best way to remember Kṛṣṇa is to always chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Take this sword of chanting the mahā-mantra; in this age it is the only means for cutting the knot of material life.
Material life means karma, fruitive activities. By performing fruitive activities in this life a person creates his next body. One who acts sinfully may get a dog’s body or a hog’s body or a tree’s body, and one who acts piously may get a demigod’s body. But that is also a “knot”; it is not freedom, because even the demigods, the most materially advanced living beings in the universe, must die.
People are trying to be happy by becoming materially advanced. They do not know that the goal of life is to attain Kṛṣṇa consciousness (na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum [SB 7.5.31]). They think, “By increasing motorcars, we shall be happy.” This is māyā, illusion. Motorcars will not make you happy. This motorcar civilization will be finished within at most a hundred years. Anything we manufacture—a so-called empire, a so-called material civilization—will one day be finished. All these things simply constitute so many knots in the heart, captivating us and leading us to think, “What use is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement? We must have three dozen motorcars and three dozen wine bottles, and then we will be happy.” This is illusion.
In the mood of someone bound up by illusion, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings,
sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa
te-kāraṇe lāgila ye karma-bandha-phāṅsa
“Alas, I have given up the association of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees because I wanted to enjoy illusory material happiness. In this way I have become entangled in the network of karma.” Here Narottama uses the word sat-saṅga, meaning “association with devotees of Kṛṣṇa.” Sat-saṅga can be found in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, where one can hear the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, and practice how to become pure. Just the opposite is asat-saṅga, bad association, which leads one to intoxication, illicit sex, drinking, and so many other sinful practices. The advertisers are asat-saṅga: “Come on, smoke Kool cigarettes and make your brain cool.” The rascals! How can someone become cool by smoking cigarettes? By smoking fire one can become cool? Still, the advertisements are being presented, and the foolish people who are captivated by them smoke cigarettes to become cool. This is māyā.
One who is a little intelligent, however, will immediately see the contradiction in the advertisement: “This advertisement is claiming I can become cool by smoking cigarettes? What is this nonsense?” Similarly, an intelligent person can understand māyā’s tricks and see the contradictions in all her allurements.
Therefore here the Bhāgavatam uses the word kovida, “intelligent person.” When one actually becomes intelligent, he must ask, “Why am I in this miserable condition of life? I do not want to die, but death is there. Why? I do not want disease, but disease is there. Why? I do not want old age, but it is forced upon me. Why? I don’t want war, but the draft board is dragging me to war. Why?” An intelligent person must ask all these “why” questions. Sanātana Gosvāmī showed the proper way to inquire from the guru when he approached Caitanya Mahāprabhu: ke āmi, kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya. “Who am I?” asked Sanātana Gosvāmī. “Why have I been put into this miserable condition of life? My dear Lord, because I am the king’s minister and I know a little Sanskrit and Arabic, the common people call me a paṇḍita, a learned scholar. But to tell You frankly, if I do not know what I am and why I am suffering, what is the value of my education?” This is intelligence.
Intelligence is shown by self-control. The cats and dogs have no self-control. If a bull or a male cat or dog sees a female, immediately he will rape her, yet he will not be punished. But if a human being does that on the street, he will be arrested at once. The inclination to rape is there in both the animal and the human being, but a human being is supposed to control himself. Indeed, human life is meant for self-control. The more you control yourself, the more perfect a human being you become, and the more you allow your senses to run loose, the more of an animal you are. People do not know this. They want freedom, but in the name of freedom they are becoming animals. This is their so-called civilization.
So we have to follow the Bhāgavatam’s instruction and become kovida, intelligent. An intelligent person should take up the sword of remembrance of Kṛṣṇa (anudhyāsinā) and cut the knot of attachment to material enjoyment. One meaning of the prefix anu in anudhyāsinā is “following.” This indicates we should follow in the footsteps of a genuine spiritual master, or ācārya. What the ācārya is teaching and showing by his example, we should follow. Another meaning of anu is “always.” We should always remember Kṛṣṇa if we want to cut the knot of karma binding us to birth and death in this material world.
It is the knot of karma that forces us to transmigrate from one body to another. This is not Darwin’s theory of evolution—that nature causes a gradual evolution of bodies. Rather, each soul determines his future body by his actions in this life. The bodies are already there, and a living entity simply enters a particular type of body according to his karma. Suppose I act so abominably in this life that in my next life I must suffer the punishment of becoming a dog. Then I’ll have to enter the womb of a female dog, and she will give me the body of dog. Eventually I will come out and experience life in a dog’s body. This is the law of karma.
So you can become dog, or you can become a god. As a human being you have the facility to become either. You simply have to choose. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.25),
yānti deva-vratā devān pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā yānti mad-yājino ‘pi mām
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” But if you want to live with God in the spiritual world you must have a body like His, just as if you want to live in the water you must have the body of a fish. And if you don’t want to live with God, if you want to enjoy unrestricted sense enjoyment, then you can take the body of a hog. Nature gives the chance to every human being to select his own future; no one is forced.
Therefore one must be intelligent and inquire, “How can I be freed from material bondage?” The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, answers this question in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.9):
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.” Here Kṛṣṇa says that one must know Him in truth, tattvataḥ. Such knowledge comes from authorized śāstras like the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. But today so many rascals are advertising, “You don’t need to understand God through any book. Just accept me as God.” And people are so foolish that they accept such rascals as God.
Every claim in the scientific world is supported by some book. For example, suppose someone comes upon a tree and claims it is a mango tree. Then one can check the claim by referring to a book on botany and learning the characteristics of a mango tree—how its leaves are shaped, how its fruit tastes, and so on. The same is true in the fields of chemistry, physics, and every other science.
Similarly, their is a process for testing whether someone is God or not. When Caitanya Mahāprabhu was asked how to test if a person is God, He said, “The śāstra mentions the characteristics of God. If someone has those characteristics, He is God.” So we are accepting Kṛṣṇa as God not on blind faith but because His character and activities are mentioned in the śāstra. And we should use the same process to determine who is a genuine spiritual master: not by blind faith, but by reference to śāstra. About the genuine guru the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21) says,
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
“A person who seriously desires real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.”
So, one should be intelligent enough to take shelter of a bona fide guru. This will enable one to cut the hard knot of material life with the weapon of remembrance of Kṛṣṇa. It is not difficult. One simply has to cultivate an attraction for hearing about Kṛṣṇa (kathā-ratim). You don’t need to pass an M.A. or Ph.D. examination. God has given you ears. Simply sit down and hear books like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā from a realized person. These books contain everything you need to understand God. All you have to do is increase your attachment for hearing them. Simply by hearing repeatedly, you will become expert in the science of God. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has approved this process: sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhiḥ. Remain in your social position, but try to hear the transcendental message from realized souls. You will gradually become enlightened and cut the knot of material bondage.
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