4.9 Goodbye World, I’m Going Back …

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. – Verse, 4.9, The Bhagavad Gita

“One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and there is no other way to achieve this perfection.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 3.8)

What comes to your mind when you think of form? Matter, isn’t it? In our world, form without matter is not possible. In the spiritual world, Goloka, matter itself is impossible.  So does this mean the spiritual world is formless? NO. Goloka is replete with beautiful beings, birds, trees, mountains made up of pure energy. It’s full of divinely beautiful forms. Krishna descends in His original form from Goloka to our material planet. He doesn’t need a material body to come here. Only those who He bestows with His special mercy can see Him the way He is.

Let me diverge. But, don’t worry, I won’t lose track of this verse.

This happened in Pietermaritzburg, 70km from Durban, sometime in 2003, at the City Funeral Home’s office.  A man was absorbed reading a book. A Vaishnava swami entered the office hoping to get some donation for his missionary work. He sat opposite this man, waiting patiently for a few moments of attention. Swami, after waiting for a few minutes, said that it must be an important book that this man was reading. The man replied that it was the most important book he had ever read. He said that he started reading this book one year ago – after his son died in a traffic accident. His son died young; at the age of 22. The man said to the swami, “A year before his death he came in contact with your movement. He became a vegetarian, started chanting and visiting your temple. He tried his best to get me involved, but I had no interest. I was concerned only with making money and enjoying life. As a result, sometimes we would quarrel about his new-found faith. I was hoping it was just a temporary phase.”

The boy made his father sell his shoe shop because selling leather shoes was a bad karma. The man sold the shop he had been running for 20 years. He did it for his son. Leather and bad karmas didn’t scare him. He decided to retire. And with the money he earned from the sale he decide to start a new business for his son. This funeral home was a bargain. The son had managed it for only a week, and then one day on his way to work he was killed. A friend who survived told the father that he called out Hare Krishna at the last moment.

The man was devastated. His only son had perished. It was too much for him … One morning he came down to the funeral home to collect his things and close the business. When he walked in to his son’s office, he saw this book open. There were none of the usual things on the desk – no papers, files, or pens – just this Bhagavad-gita open at this very page that the man was reading.  The man said he was irresistibly drawn to read it, and as he did, the words acted as a soothing balm to his distraught soul. He discovered that his son had not actually perished – only his body had.  The man learned that his son was an eternal soul, and having chanted the name of God at the moment of his death may well have gone back to the spiritual world.

The man said that he no longer lamented the tragedy that took his son. But he was sorry that he didn’t take up to practice spiritual life with his son while he was alive. Being an undertaker is an unusual occupation. He didn’t have to advertise, there was always work in this profession. But many of his customers were in the same position he was, distraught and suffering. So he started sharing with them the knowledge in this book. He said “My real business, therefore, is reading Bhagavad-gita – and chanting Hare Krishna, like my son.”

With that, he opened the Bhagavad-gita and began reading again. Swami got up to take the leave. However, as he walked to the door the man looked up and extended his hand. “Here, take this [money],” he said. “You can use it to get this knowledge to others who are suffering.” As the swami turned and accepted his offering, his eyes fell on the open page of the Bhagavad-gita. It was the last verse his son had read, and a source of great solace to his father. It was the verse, 4.9 of the Bhagavad Gita: “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.”

In the purport of this verse, Srila Prabhupada says, “One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. The impersonalists and the yogīs attain liberation only after much trouble and many, many births. Even then, the liberation they achieve – merging into the impersonal brahma-jyotirof the Lord – is only partial, and there is the risk of returning to this material world. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the body and activities of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and does not run the risk of returning to this material world.”

Before meeting the life-taking accident, the 22 year boy had read this purport and left the book open. And, when that soul was leaving the body, he must have been aware how special he was that Krishna made him read this verse at the time of death. Krishna Himself refreshed the boy’s consciousness. And, He made him Krishna conscious.

*The incident I’ve shared with you in this post happened with Indradyumna Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhuapda. He documents his experiences in his diaries that are also published on the web. The Diaries of a Traveling Monk have been a constant and major source of spiritual inspiration to me. His diaries are case studies that prove the authenticity of the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and other bhakti scriptures. You don’t have to be a devotee to be able to understand and absorb the content of his dairies. They amaze every reader. The incidents documented in his diaries give me goosebumps, bring tears to my eyes, and increase my faith. Krishna talks to me on the pages of Indradyumna maharaj’s diaries. Take a leap of faith and read his diaries here: http://www.travelingmonk.com/diaries/.


4.2 The Convenient Truth

evaṁ paramparā-prāptam
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ paran-tapa

This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.
– The Bhagavad Gita, verse 4.2

The Chaitya Guru, the supreme God, says that the knowledge of the supreme science is imparted through the chain of disciplic succession. So, a guru in the parampara of Krishna gives this knowledge to His disciples and these disciples pass it on to their disciples. The chain protects and preserves the precious knowledge by passing on the information without altering it for ulterior motives and by safeguarding it against the misinterpretations of malicious or ignorant people who interpret the verses according to their limited realization and intelligence. When this chain of disciplic succession breaks, Krishna reappears in the world. He imparts the same knowledge in a way that His devotees understand it. He descends for the devotees.

Even after He sings the song of Truth again, some listen to it according to their perverted rhythm. Being the Supreme He knows that this will happen. They will kill the pandavas and from their ashes they will create five senses. They’ll mine the field of Kurukshetra in the poisonous expanse of their mind and say hey there is no Kukeshetra, it’s the mind; it’s all in the mind. And, they will alter the meanings of the song of God; the Gita, to make it look like their song. He knows that these misintrepreters will enjoy a great following and glory. He watches the drama of His shadowy maya who serves His will. She flames their false ideas who exhibit a yearning of make-believe—a fake desire to know the truth. She materializes their false understanding ephemerally. They fall into her trap. She gives them all the glories of this world; keeps them knitted to the net. She cages them in this world. But, she helps the sincere seekers by bringing them at the feet of the masters who have served the servants of Krishna.

Gandhi misinterpreted the Bhagavad Gita and so did the former president of India, Radha Krishnan. Gandhi said Krishna taught non-violence. Krishna taught everything that the Vedas teach and what they don’t teach. And about violence, Krishna said for the supreme cause it’s justified. Why did Gandhi miss the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna in the first and second chapters when Arjuna gives Krishna reasons not to fight but Krishna refutes all those reasons?


     Arjuna’s Arguments Verse(s)                   Lord Krishna’s refutation in verse(s)

  1. Compassion 1.28 – 1.30                                             2.11 – 2.30
  2. Loss of enjoyment 1.31 – 1.35                                   2.31 – 2.32
  3. Fear of sinful reactions 1.36 – 1.38                         2.33 – 2.37
  4. Destruction of family traditions 1.37 – 1.43       2.45 – 2.46 & 3.24
  5. Indecision 2.6

Krishna has clearly stated many times in the Gita (e.g. see chapter 10, 13, 15) that He is the Supersoul, the seed giving father of the creation, and He is the Supreme Brahman. But, Radha Krishnan said Krishna is referring to His atma as Supersoul not Himself. Did Krishna visit Radha Krishnan and beg him to correct His words? These two great personalities are among those 700-something personalities who have officially misinterpreted the Gita.

A follower of Arya Samaj told me in my tender years that Krishna is not God. He is just a mahapurusha. Before I could nip his words in my ears, this venomous statement polluted the ecology of my mind. And, it severed my heart from the truth. I began to believe this intellectually, and my heart began to weep in silence. This poisonous idea began to widen the dark crevices of my life. And, I craved to find the nectar that I could drink and know the truth instantly. Once I was passing by the temple my parents used to visit regularly. Looking at its entrance, I ended up whispering to myself let them say what they say, I know Krishna IS the God. I took a deep breath and with it released the burden of an idea that was swallowing my feelings of protection and security.  Was I carrying a psychological impression of Krishna being the God? Yes. My psychology has impressions from past lives, too. I carry the learnings of my past lives. Was it a play of Jungian archetypes? Jungian archetypes and psychology are partly derived from the Truth, but they don’t represent the absolute truth. Did I just need a psychological protection from a God who would protect me from bad experiences? At the conscious level it would be a yes because in human experience we’re ridden with fears and anxieties. But at the level of soul it’s also a yes because the scriptures explain that we’re His parts and parcels. So, in our unnatural state of human experience we do need protection and guidance. Who else can protect us if not Krishna?

A decade passed. I wandered from one philosophy to another; one practice to another; one state of mind to another. I switched experiences as they uprooted me. The ground beneath my metaphorical feet began to sink. I was tired of my inner suffering. And one day I gave up! In the privacy of my room I whispered to Krishna, the God who lives in the heart of His pure devotees and in Goloka Vrindvana—beyond which even Buddhist’s void can’t enter—that He should guide me.  On my own I couldn’t do nothing! I was ready to begin my final journey.

A couple of months passed. Some synchronicities happened. A question about the purpose of my life began to prick me. I looked up the web for answers. I speculated with intellectuals. I meditated, too. And one day, I pulled out from my book rack the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. I was curious if it had answers to questions that I couldn’t find in other translations of the Gita. For 6 years this Gita was watching my  wandering.

This was the seeable beginning of my final journey; a point of reference which I call the official beginning. The Bhagavad Gita As It Is revealed to me my nitya dharma (eternal purpose). And it revealed to me how I should execute my naimittika dharma (purpose in this human experience).

I wondered why this translation of the Gita had all the answers while others were filled with gaps. I wanted to trust the commentaries of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada.  I did, actually. I trusted his words before I could know. I wondered why I was so drawn toward his words. And the answer lies in this verse evaṁ paramparā-prāptam.

Disciplic succession (Parampara of Krishna):

  1. Krsna
    2. Brahma
    3. Narada
    4. Vyasa
    5. Madhva
    6. Padmanabha
    7. Nrhari
    8. Madhava
    9. Aksobhya
    10. Jaya Tirtha
    11. Jnanasindhu
    12. Dayanidhi
    13. Vidyanidhi
    14. Rajendra
    15. Jayadharma
    16. Purusottama
    17. Brahmanya Tirtha
    18. Vyasa Tirtha
    19. Laksmipati
    20. Madhavendra Puri
    21. Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita)
    22. Lord Caitanya
    23. Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana)
    24. Raghunatha, Jiva
    25. Krsnadasa
    26. Narottama
    27. Visvanatha
    28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha
    29. Bhaktivinoda
    30. Gaurakisora
    31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
    32. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


3.21 Follow Them …The World Will Follow You

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. Bhagavad Gita, verse 3.21

Who is great? Those who create perishable benchmarks in the material world are great for those whose goal is to enjoy (suffer!) the dangerous waters of the ocean of Maya. And there are rare people who help the world achieve the imperishable and eternal purpose whose values and results accompany them in their next journey. These rare people use  the innovative but perishable creations for higher purposes. In this verse, Krishna is referring to the latter category – the rare souls.

Sports stars, film stars, industrialists are role model of a large population. We want to emulate them. We day dream and we dream in the night to become like them. Some rebellious people wish to set newer benchmarks to show how the last one was not good enough. Visionary people want to create something that no one has created so far. We follow successful people and set our success criteria according to what we see around.

Bhakti acharyas say, don’t renounce the world, but serve God with its things. Srila Prabhupada once gave an example of the mike he was speaking into. He said we could use this mike for delivering discourses on Krishna, or to speak any mundane words. The one who channels the matter and energies of this world to serve the eternal purpose of life is actually great. Wright Brothers made airplanes. Bin Laden used a couple of them to destroy peace. Srila Prabhupada flew in the airplanes to spread the message eternal love.

Krishna says be so successful in becoming selfless and Krishna-centered in our activities that the whole world follows our example. Srila Prabhupada’s life story has inspired millions of souls. Today 10 million initiated devotees chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra that he chanted day and night. And there are many millions eagerly awaiting their initiation. Devotion to Krishna doesn’t die. It may temporarily stall according to the divine plan, but it doesn’t cease. Krishna says “na me bhaktah pranasyati (9.31)” My devotee never perishes. A devotee is known by His devotion.

True greatness lies in doing something of an eternal value to the soul. Only love is eternal. Since eternity, we souls have been yearning for love that lasts forever, love that makes us euphoric each moment, love that stops cravings of any sorts. Our natural demands are centered on love. Only when these demands are not fulfilled we are digressed to lower level experiences. These experiences are centered on fame, power, and money. At a subtle and slightly mature level, the absence of true love makes one an intellectual wanderer. Nothing that satiates the mind and senses can give us an eternal experience of bliss.

Krishna says become eternally great. Become so great that you conquer Me, the unconquerable, He says. He is bhakta-vatsala. He is devoted to His devotees and easily conquered by them. In the war of Mahabharata, He promised that He won’t use weapons. But He tried to hurl a wheel at Bhishma. Why? He protects His devotees and loves to please them. He tried to protect Arjuna and fulfilled Bhishma’s will by this act. Bhishma wanted to see Krishna in that form. As a Kshatriya, He wanted to serve Krishna with His arrows. He drew transcendental blood out of Krishna and Krishna raised the wheel to attack him. Bhishma bended his knees and worshiped Krishna’s beautiful form. Krishna smiled and accepted Bhishma’s offering.

Krishna, the unconquerable, is bound only by the ropes of love. The one whom Dhuryodhana couldn’t bind was bound by Yashoda Ma. Devotees of Krishna are glorified even after annihilation. Prahlad maharaj, the son of Hiranyakashipu is glorified in every yuga, every kalpa. Even remembering Him for a moment purifies us. Krishna says those who serve my devotees actually serve Me. Krishna transfers His potency in His pure devotees. What better greatness is possible in any universe? And what better examples can one set than those who uplift humanity not only economically, emotionally, intellectually, but eternally to the platform of highest love?


Be Tolerant than the trees, beware of their suffering, and be intertwined like the Redwood trees

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu urges in the third verse of shistashtakam taror api sahishuna be tolerant than the trees. Observing the Redwood trees in Muir Woods, Srila Prabhupada teaches us why the trees are so tolerant, and His Holiness Radhanath maharaj teaches us where the tolerance and strength of Redwood trees come from.

In The Hare Krishna Explosion, Hayagriva maharaj writes that once when Srila prabhupada visited Muir woods in San Francisco with his disciples, he enlightened them that the souls that were now standing as tall Redwood trees were too much engrossed in sexual pleasures in their previous lives. Their rebirth as trees was a result of their over indulgence in sex.

Srimad Bhagavatam reveals how the two sons of Kubera were turned into trees when they behaved shamelessly in Narada muni’s presence. Those who like to flaunt their naked bodies are given the bodies of trees in their next lives. This is to teach them what it is to be naked under the sky all their lives. The trees have to tolerate all types of weather conditions. They even have to bear with human onslaught on them. The life of a tree teaches a soul’s tolerance and penance. It teaches us not to be extravagant with our dark desires, rather we should be miser in fulfilling them. Just like we are conscious about spending our money only on the things we really need, we should be contemplative about whether sex is for pleasure or for procreation. We like to spend our money not only on the right things but in the right way too. This should be our approach about using our bodies as well.

His Holiness Radhanath maharaj teaches us that although the roots of Redwood trees are not deep in the earth, these trees have been in Muir woods at their respective places since thousand of years. In their lifetimes many kings of the world were born and died. They won and lost many wars, marked boundaries and removed them. History changed so many times in the lifetimes of the Redwood trees, and it will keep changing. Maharaj teaches us that the strength of these trees lies in their unity. These trees have shallow root system, but their roots are intertwined with the roots of other Redwood trees, 100 feet from the base. Like these trees we should be together through thick and thin in life. No matter what, we shouldn’t cut our roots that are intertwined with roots of other devotees through Bhakti.

The acharyas show us different aspects of the truth in a bonfide way. They teach us how to assimilate our understanding and apply it to improve our devotion. May lord Krishna bestow us with the ability to see things as our acharyas want us to see.