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The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"

By Hansadutta das

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As long as one is able to earn money, his family members will be affectionate towards him. Later on, however, when the body he lives in becomes diseased, no one in his household will even care to hear about him. As long as the breath of life is present within the body, your household will inquire about you well-being. But as soon as the life air leaves the body and it begins to decay, your own wife will fear that body.

Your Wife Takes Off with Your Best Friend!

Chanakya Pandit has written in the Niti-shastra: "As long as one has money, he has friends, and when he has no money, he has no friends. Therefore, the best friend in this world is money."

Dharma, artha, kama and moksha are the four stages of the development of human civilization. Dharma means religion. Artha means economic development. Kama means sense gratification. Moksha means liberation Generally, people are religious in order to obtain economic development. In other words, for improving their comfort, enjoyment and prestige, people pray to God for money, for a wife, for name, fame and so on. In the Christian religion they pray: "Give us this day our daily bread." This type of religion is based on a desire for improving material happiness.

It All Started So Nicely

America began with the motto "In God we trust." The early Americans trusted God to provide food, clothing and shelter. When food, clothing, shelter and money were provided for, the materialistically religious then indulged in sense gratification (kama ). America has now achieved the highest standard of economic development in the world and is enjoying the highest standard of sense gratification--eating, sleeping, defending and sex. Americans eat six times more, sleep more, have more defence weapons, and they enjoy sex without any restriction. But, since all these activities are related to the temporary material body and do not really give any satisfaction to the eternal soul within this body, we find, especially in America and Europe, that a section of the population is trying to find moksha (salvation or liberation), because they have experienced that a high standard of sense gratification doesn't actually bring any satisfaction. These are the four stages of developing human civilization: beginning with religion for economic development, and economic development for sense gratification, and frustration leading to moksha (liberation).

Even liberation does not bring the satisfaction which the soul hankers for, because the living entity is not alone or independent. The living entity has an eternal relationship with God, and as such, there are activities in that relationship. Those activities are known as sanatana-dharma (eternal duties or activities), better known as bhakti-yoga (devotional service).

"As Long as I am Healthy. . ."

Material activities are activities whose aim is to maintain this body and all others related to the body, such as family members, relatives, community members and countrymen. We have these different kind of duties (family responsibility, community responsibility and national responsibility), but these activities are all temporary. Only temporarily are we the member of a particular family--up until the point when the body is disintegrated by the influence of time, old age, disease and death. As long as the body is in a healthy condition, then the family responsibilities continue.

Here Shankaracarya says, "As long as he's healthy…." In other words, when the body becomes diseased, nobody in the family wants to have anything to do with it. As long as one is capable of earning money for his family, friends and countrymen, then he will be respected and honored. But when we are unable to earn money, then we will very quickly be rejected, forgotten and neglected. We can see that in America old people are put into an old-age home just so they won't be a disturbance in the house. There they won't have to be bothered with and won't interfere with our sense enjoyment. We pay a fee for someone else to take care of our own father and mother. Someone else feeds them, clothes them and gives them medicine, so that we can continue our sense gratification without any interruption. This is a practical example. This means that no one really has any permanent affection or relationship with anyone. Only as long as one can provide sense gratification in terms of money or other comforts, then he is considered with respect. But when he has no capacity to provide sense gratification, then he is immediately rejected.

"I Love My Country, I Love My Family"

Therefore, instead of becoming absorbed in these temporary activities for sense gratification in the name of family, community and nation, we should rather become engaged in devotional service and try to render satisfaction to Vishnu. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum: "The whole world is in darkness, and no one knows that the real duty of the human being is to satisfy Vishnu." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.31 )

Everyone is trying to satisfy his senses. The pursuit of sense gratification is naturally extended to family members, community members and countrymen, but ultimately the purpose of all material activity is to satisfy one's own senses. So-called love, friendship and society is just pretense. We do not really love our country. We don't really love our family. We don't really love our community. We love to enjoy our senses. If serving our family helps us to satisfy our senses, then we shall serve our family. Just like with our mother and father--we obey them in a respectful way as long as they earn money and provide sense gratification, a place to sleep, food to eat, clothing to wear, as long as they pay the bills of our education and so on. But when they are unable to satisfy our senses, we put them into an old age home. This is the real situation.

Get Out Before You Get Kicked Out

Therefore, in Srimad-Bhagavatam it is advised that before a man becomes old, diseased and feeble, he should give up his home, wife and children, and he should accept the vanaprastha (retired) order of life. When the children are grown up, he should hand over the family responsibilities, go to the forest and prepare himself to die by practicing penance and austerity, renunciation and knowledge and Krishna consciousness--not prepare himself to die by going to Hawaii, sitting in the sun, getting tanned and enjoying with some woman. It is not that kind of retirement. He must retire from material activities altogether. This is vanaprastha life. Leaving home for months at a time and going to a holy place, from the age of fifty to sixty, is the preparation for the stage of complete renunciation called sannyasa .

Science of Extracting the Essence of Life

When a man is accustomed to being away from home, he then accepts full renunciation (sannyasa) and does not ever return home. He remains alone and wanders everywhere, depending completely on the mercy of God, preaching the glories of the Lord all over the world. That is the parivrajakacharya sannyasa order of life. Parivrajakacharya means one who is just wandering. By the mercy of the Lord he gets his food and shelter, and after some years of wandering in this way, one actually becomes one hundred percent renounced, detached from everything material. That is called the paramahamsa stage of life, the topmost perfection of human life. Paramahamsa means first-class, perfect human being. Parama means topmost, and hamsa means swan. The swan is the symbol of perfect intelligence, because the swan has the unique ability to separate the essence of milk from water. There are two things: the cheese and the whey. The whey is just water, and the cheese is the essence of milk. The swan knows how to extract the cheese and leave behind the whey or the watery part. So the paramahamsa is the human being who has extracted the essence of life, which is Krishna consciousness (devotional service).

How to Fulfill Your Heart's Desire

Every human being is supposed to be trained systematically to become a paramahamsa and accept the essence of life, Krishna consciousness or spiritual life, and reject everything else. One should reject dharma (religious activities) which aims at artha (economic development). We should reject kama (sense gratification). We should also reject moksha, which is another attempt at sense gratification by means of renunciation and pretending to annihilate our individual identity by becoming one with God. That is also a kind of maya, because we cannot annihilate our individual existence. We are eternal servants of Krishna. Rejecting dharma, artha, kama and moksha, we must accept devotional service to Krishna. Then only can we really experience the nectar for which we are hankering.

Shankaracharya's vivid description illuminates the naked cruelty of material life. There is no kindness, no compassion, no consideration and no happiness whatsoever in any material situation. However gorgeous it may appear externally, essentially it is very vicious. He warns that as long as you can earn money, your family members will have respect and affection, but as soon as you are unable to earn money, immediately you will be neglected. Just as when a farmer's cow no longer gives milk, he no longer cares for the cow and turns it out to pasture or sends it to be slaughtered.

How to Get What You Need and Keep What You Have

Krishna consciousness is not of that character. We shall always be accepted by Krishna. We simply have to remain under His lotus feet, and Krishna will always give us protection, just as he spoke to Arjuna:

kaunteya pratijanihi
na me bhaktah pranasyati
Declare to the world, O Arjuna, My devotee will never be vanquished. (Bhagavad-gita 9.31)
In another verse Krishna promises:
For those who are always engaged in My transcendental loving service, I provide what they need and I protect what they have. ( Bhagavad-gita 9.22)
Krishna can protect us because He is supreme. All others are helpless and dependent--our wife, our children and our friends. They are all subject to death, and therefore they cannot really protect us, and we cannot protect them.

Don't be a Romantic--Be Sober

We must understand everything without sentimental, romantic notions of material life. We must regularly practice being dhira (sober). We should always soberly see things as they are and not allow our imagination to project some a sentimental, romantic dream onto the stark naked reality. No one likes reality. No one likes truth, because truth does not admit to any of our imaginations. It doesn't allow for romance and sentiment. It is very unpleasant. But sentiments and romantic dreams do not really make us happy. They will only frustrate us when we come to learn the truth. Krishna consciousness is such a thing--truth. Our association is just to help us daily remain in that truth, which is our constitutional position.

Basic and Essential Truths for Spiritualists

The illusory energy, or material nature, is so bewildering that immediately upon seeing, smelling, touching or even hearing an object of our desire, we forget everything. As soon as we stop chanting the holy name of Krishna, immediately we become bewildered and are put into illusion. Therefore we must always establish ourself in devotional practices with great determination. Then, when the time of death comes, we shall be so rooted that we cannot help but chant and be situated in Krishna consciousness. That is the whole purpose of devotional practice: to prepare ourselves to give up this material life, this material existence and this material body with all its paraphernalia, such as friends, household and so on.

As long as the soul is present, the body is animated with life and appears very beautiful, and we enjoy very nice dealings with our friends, family members and countrymen. As soon as the life air leaves the body, the body reveals its true abominable character. It is a simple combination of nasty ingredients--blood, mucus, fat, muscle, bone, bile, urine and stool. When the living force is separated from the body, it immediately begins to disintegrate and decompose, and a very obnoxious odor begins to emanate from it. Rigor mortis sets in, and we have to find a way to dispose of the body. It is very embarrassing to have a dead body about. No one keeps a dead body, however beautiful it might have been and however much affection we might have had for the body while living. That affection stops when life leaves the body. At that time, we can understand that the body is not really beautiful at all; that the element of beauty within the body was actually the soul.

Maya is so strong that even though this experience takes place not only in the human form of life but at every moment in all species of life, we still continue to act in the bodily concept of life. Our father has died, his father died. Now we are fathers, and we too shall die. Our children will become fathers, and they also will die. Still, we are stuck on this mistaken concept of life. We are working day and night to maintain the body by earning money for sense gratification. This is maya, and the whole material creation is under the spell of this maya.

In human life we are supposed to be engaged in the progressive program to get free from this maya. This is the essence of human intelligence: to understand our real spiritual nature. When this is understood, then we shall be released and can go back home, back to Godhead for an eternal life of full knowledge and bliss. This Moha-Mudgara-Stotra is very graphic in drawing our attention to these naked truths which have to be thoroughly understood by an aspiring transcendentalist. These are the most basic and essential truths for a spiritualist to understand.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

©2004 - Hansadutta das
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