The Path of Perfection
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Determination and Steadiness in Yoga
yatha dipo nivata-stho
nengate sopama smrta
yunjato yogam atmanah
“As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self.” (Bg. 6.19)
If the mind is absorbed in Krsna consciousness, it will remain as steady as the flame of a candle that is in a room where there is no wind. Therefore it is said that a truly Krsna conscious person always absorbed in transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is as steady as a lamp or candle in a windless place. Just as the flame is not agitated, the mind is not agitated, and that steadiness is the perfection of yoga.
The state of one thus steadily situated in meditation on the transcendent Self, or the Supreme Lord, is described by Sri Krsna in the following verses of Bhagavad-gita (6.20–23):
pasyann atmani tusyati
sukham atyantikam yat tad
vetti yatra na caivayam
sthitas calati tattvatah
yam labdhva caparam labham
manyate nadhikam tatah
yasmin sthito na duhkhena
tam vidyad duhkha-samyoga-
“The stage of perfection is called trance, or samadhi, when one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one’s ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”
Samadhi does not mean making oneself void or merging into the void. That is impossible. Kleso ’dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam [Bg. 12.5]. Some yogis say that one has to put an end to all activities and make himself motionless, but how is this possible? By nature, the living entity is a moving, acting spirit. “Motionless” means putting an end to material motion and being fixed in Krsna consciousness. In such a state, one is no longer disturbed by material propensities. As one becomes materially motionless, one’s motions in Krsna consciousness increase. As one becomes active in Krsna consciousness, one becomes automatically motionless in respect to material activities.
I have often used the example of a restless child. Since it is impossible to make such a child motionless, it is necessary to give him some playthings or some pictures to look at. In this way, he will be engaged, or motionless in the sense that he will not be committing some mischief. But if one really wants to make him motionless, one must give him some engagement in Krsna consciousness. Then there will be no scope for mischievous activities, due to realization in Krsna consciousness. To be engaged in Krsna consciousness, one should first realize, “I am Krsna’s. I am not this matter. I am not of this nation or of this society. I do not belong to this rascal or that rascal. I am simply Krsna’s.” This is motionless; this is full knowledge, realizing our actual position as part and parcel of Krsna. As stated in the Fifteenth Chapter (Bg. 15.7), mamaivamso jiva-loke: “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts.” As soon as we understand this, we immediately cease our material activities, and this is what is meant by being motionless. In this state, one sees the Self by the pure mind and relishes and rejoices in the Self. “Pure mind” means understanding, “I belong to Krsna.” At the present moment, the mind is contaminated because we are thinking, “I belong to this; I belong to that.” The mind is pure when it understands, “I belong to Krsna.”
Rejoicing in the Self means rejoicing with Krsna. Krsna is the Supersoul, or the Superself. I am the individual soul, or the individual self. The Superself and the self enjoy together. Enjoyment cannot be alone; there must be two. What experience do we have of solitary enjoyment? Solitary enjoyment is not possible. Enjoyment means two: Krsna, who is the Supersoul, and the individual soul.
If one is convinced that “I am part and parcel of Krsna,” one is not disturbed even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, because one knows that Krsna will give protection. That is surrender. To attain this position, one must try his best, use his intelligence, and believe in Krsna. Balasya neha saranam pitarau nrsimha (Bhag. 7.9.19). If Krsna does not protect us, nothing can save us. If Krsna neglects us, there is no remedy, and whatever measures we take to try to protect ourselves will be ultimately defeated. There may be many expert physicians treating a diseased man, but that is no guarantee that he will live. If Krsna so wills, a person will die despite the best physicians and medicines. On the other hand, if Krsna is protecting us, we will survive even without medical treatment. When one is fully surrendered to Krsna, he becomes happy, knowing that regardless of the situation, Krsna will protect him. He is just like a child who is fully surrendered to his parents, confident that they are there to protect him. As stated by Yamunacarya in his Stotra-ratna (43), kadaham aikantika-nitya-kinkarah praharsayisyami sanatha jivitam: “O Lord, when shall I engage as Your permanent, eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a perfect master?” If we know that there is someone very powerful who is our patron and savior, aren’t we happy? But if we try to act on our own and at our own risk, how can we be happy? Happiness means being in Krsna consciousness and being convinced that “Krsna will give me protection,” and being true to Krsna. It is not possible to be happy otherwise.
Of course, Krsna is giving all living entities protection, even in their rebellious condition (eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman). Without Krsna’s protection, we cannot live for a second. When we admit and recognize Krsna’s kindness, we become happy. Krsna is protecting us at every moment, but we do not realize this, because we have taken life at our own risk. Krsna gives us a certain amount of freedom, saying, “All right, do whatever you like. As far as possible, I will give you protection.” However, when the living entity is fully surrendered to Krsna, Krsna takes total charge and gives special protection. If a child grows up and doesn’t care for his father and acts freely, what can his father do? He can only say, “Do whatever you like.” But when a son puts himself fully under his father’s protection, he receives more care. As Krsna states in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita (9.29),
samo ’ham sarva-bhutesu
na me dvesyo ’sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
mayi te tesu capy aham
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”
How can Krsna be envious of anyone? Everyone is Krsna’s son. Similarly, how can Krsna be an enemy toward anyone? Since all living entities are Krsna’s sons, He is everyone’s friend. Unfortunately, we are not taking advantage of His friendship, and that is our disease. Once we recognize Krsna as our eternal father and friend, we can understand that He is always protecting us, and in this way we can be happy.
sa niscayena yoktavyo
tyaktva sarvan asesatah
“One should engage oneself in the practice of yoga with undeviating determination and faith. One should abandon, without exception, all material desires born of false ego and thus control all the senses on all sides by the mind.” (Bg. 6.24)
As stated before, this determination can be attained only by one who does not indulge in sex. Celibacy makes one’s determination strong; therefore, from the very beginning Krsna states that the yogi does not engage in sex. If one indulges in sex, one’s determination will be flickering. Therefore sex life should be controlled according to the rules and regulations governing the grhastha-asrama, or sex should be given up altogether. Actually, it should be given up altogether, but if this is not possible, it should be controlled. Then determination will come because, after all, determination is a bodily affair. Determination means continuing to practice Krsna consciousness with patience and perseverance. If one does not immediately attain the desired results, one should not think, “Oh, what is this Krsna consciousness? I will give it up.” No, we must have determination and faith in Krsna’s words.
In this regard, there is a mundane example. When a young girl gets married, she immediately hankers for a child. She thinks, “Now I am married. I must have a child immediately.” But how is this possible? The girl must have patience, become a faithful wife, serve her husband, and let her love grow. Eventually, because she is married, it is certain that she will have a child. Similarly, when we are in Krsna consciousness, our perfection is guaranteed, but we must have patience and determination. We should think, “I must execute my duties and should not be impatient.” Impatience is due to loss of determination, and loss of determination is due to excessive sex.
The yogi should be determined and should patiently prosecute Krsna consciousness without deviation. One should be sure of success at the end and pursue this course with great perseverance, not becoming discouraged if there is any delay in the attainment of success. Success is sure for the rigid practitioner. Regarding bhakti-yoga, Rupa Gosvami says,
utsahan niscayad dhairyat
sanga-tyagat sato vrtteh
sadbhir bhaktih prasidhyati
“The process of bhakti-yoga can be executed successfully with full-hearted enthusiasm, perseverance, and determination by following the prescribed duties in the association of devotees and by engaging completely in activities of goodness.” (Upadesamrta 3)
As for determination, one should follow the example of the sparrow who lost her eggs in the waves of the ocean. A sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean did not even consider her appeal. So the sparrow decided to dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small beak, and everyone laughed at her for her impossible determination. The news of her activity spread, and when at last Garuda, the gigantic bird carrier of Lord Visnu, heard it, he became compassionate toward his small sister bird, and so he came to see her. Garuda was very pleased by the determination of the small sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuda at once asked the ocean to return her eggs lest he himself take up the work of the sparrow. The ocean was frightened by this, and returned the eggs. Thus the sparrow became happy by the grace of Garuda.
Similarly, the practice of yoga, especially bhakti-yoga in Krsna consciousness, may appear to be a very difficult job. But if anyone follows the principles with great determination, the Lord will surely help, for God helps those who help themselves,
sanaih sanair uparamed
atma-samstham manah krtva
na kincid api cintayet
“Gradually, step by step, with full conviction, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence, and thus the mind should be fixed on the Self alone and should think of nothing else.” (Bg. 6.25)
We are the self, and Krsna is also the Self. When there is sunlight, we can see the sun and ourselves also. However, when there is dense darkness, we sometimes cannot even see our own body. Although the body is there, the darkness is so dense that I cannot see myself. But when the sunshine is present, I can see myself as well as the sun. Similarly, seeing the self means first of all seeing the Supreme Self, Krsna. In the Katha Upanisad it is stated, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: “The Supreme Self is the chief eternal of all eternals, and He is the chief living being of all living beings.” Krsna consciousness means fixing the mind on Krsna, and when the mind is thus fixed, it is fixed on the complete whole. If the stomach is cared for and supplied nutritious food, all the bodily limbs are nourished, and we are in good health. Similarly, if we water the root of a tree, all the branches, leaves, flowers, and twigs are automatically taken care of. By rendering service to Krsna, we automatically render the best service to all others.
As stated before, a Krsna conscious person does not sit down idly. He knows that Krsna consciousness is such an important philosophy that it should be distributed. Therefore the members of this Krsna consciousness society are not just sitting in the temple but are going out on sankirtana parties, preaching and distributing this supreme philosophy. That is the mission of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His disciples. Other yogis may be satisfied with their own elevation and sit in secluded places, practicing yoga. For them, yoga is nothing more than their personal concern. A devotee, however, is not satisfied just in elevating his personal self.
krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
vaisnavebhyo namo namah
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord, who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are full of compassion for the fallen souls.” A devotee displays great compassion toward conditioned souls. The word krpa means “mercy,” and sindhu means “ocean.” A devotee is an ocean of mercy, and he naturally wants to distribute this mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, was God conscious, Krsna conscious, but he was not satisfied in keeping this knowledge within himself. Had he continued to live alone in God consciousness, he would not have met crucifixion. But no. Being a devotee and naturally compassionate, he also wanted to take care of others by making them God conscious. Although he was forbidden to preach God consciousness, he continued to do so at the risk of his own life. This is the nature of a devotee.
It is therefore stated in Bhagavad-gita (18.68–69) that the devotee who preaches is most dear to the Lord.
ya idam paramam guhyam
bhaktim mayi param krtva
mam evaisyaty asamsayah
“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.”
na ca tasman manusyesu
kascin me priya-krttamah
bhavita na ca me tasmad
anyah priyataro bhuvi
“There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” Therefore the devotees go out to preach, and going forth, they sometimes meet opposing elements. Sometimes they are defeated, sometimes disappointed, sometimes able to convince, sometimes unable. It is not that every devotee is well equipped to preach. Just as there are different types of people, there are three classes of devotees. In the third class are those who have no faith. If they are engaged in devotional service officially, for some ulterior purpose, they cannot achieve the highest perfectional stage. Most probably they will slip, after some time. They may become engaged, but because they haven’t complete conviction and faith, it is very difficult for them to continue in Krsna consciousness. We have practical experience in discharging our missionary activity that some people come and apply themselves to Krsna consciousness with some hidden motive, and as soon as they are economically a little well situated, they give up this process and take to their old ways again. It is only by faith that one can advance in Krsna consciousness. As far as the development of faith is concerned, one who is well versed in the literatures of devotional service and has attained the stage of firm faith is called a first-class person in Krsna consciousness. And in the second class are those who are not very advanced in understanding the devotional scriptures but who automatically have firm faith that krsna-bhakti, or service to Krsna, is the best course and so in good faith have taken it up. Thus they are superior to the third class, who have neither perfect knowledge of the scriptures nor good faith but by association and simplicity are trying to follow. The third-class person in Krsna consciousness may fall down, but when one is in the second class or first class, he does not fall down. One in the first class will surely make progress and achieve the result at the end. As far as the third-class person in Krsna consciousness is concerned, although he has faith in the conviction that devotional service to Krsna is very good, he has no knowledge of Krsna through the scriptures like the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Sometimes these third-class persons in Krsna consciousness have some tendency toward karma-yoga and jnana-yoga, and sometimes they are disturbed, but as soon as the infection of karma-yoga or jnana-yoga is vanquished, they become second-class or first-class persons in Krsna consciousness. Faith in Krsna is also divided into three stages and described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. First-class attachment, second-class attachment, and third-class attachment are also explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam, in the Eleventh Canto.
However one is situated, one should have the determination to go out and preach Krsna consciousness. That endeavor should at least be there, and one who so attempts to preach renders the best service to the Lord. Despite opposition, one should attempt to elevate people to the highest standard of self-realization. One who has actually seen the truth, who is in the trance of self-realization, cannot just sit idly. He must come out. Ramanujacarya, for instance, declared the Hare Krsna mantra publicly. He did not distribute it secretly for some fee. Recently, an Indian yogi came to America to give some “private mantra.” But if a mantra has any power, why should it be private? If a mantra is powerful, why should it not be publicly declared so that everyone can take advantage of it? We are saying that this Hare Krsna maha-mantra can save everyone, and we are therefore distributing it publicly, free of charge. But in this age, people are so foolish that they are not prepared to accept it. Rather, they hanker after some secret mantra and therefore pay some “yogi” thirty-five dollars or whatever for some “private mantra.” This is because people want to be cheated. But the devotees are preaching without charge, declaring in the streets, parks, and everywhere, “Here! Here is the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Come on, take it!” But under the spell of maya, illusion, people are thinking, “Oh, this is not good.” But if you charge something and bluff and cheat people, they will follow you.
In this regard, there is a Hindi verse stating that Kali-yuga is such an abominable age that if one speaks the truth, people will come and beat him. But if one cheats, bluffs, and lies, people will be bewildered, will like it, and will accept it. If I say, “I am God,” people will say, “Oh, here is Swamiji. Here is God.” In this age, people don’t have sufficient brain power to inquire, “How have you become God? What are the symptoms of God? Do you have all these symptoms?” Because people do not make such inquiries, they are cheated. Therefore it is necessary to be fixed in consciousness of the Self. Unless one knows and understands the real self and the Superself, one will be cheated. Real yoga means understanding this process of self-realization.
yato yato niscalati
manas cancalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad
atmany eva vasam nayet
“From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.” (Bg. 6.26) This is the real yogic process. If you are trying to concentrate your mind on Krsna, and the mind is diverted—wandering to some cinema or wherever—you should withdraw the mind, thinking, “Not there, please. Here.” This is yoga: not allowing the mind to wander from Krsna.
Very intense training is required to keep the mind fixed on Krsna while sitting in one place. That is very hard work indeed. If one is not so practiced and tries to imitate this process, he will surely be confused. Instead, we always have to engage ourselves in Krsna consciousness, dovetailing everything we do to Krsna. Our usual activities should be so molded that they are rendered for Krsna’s sake. In this way the mind will remain fixed on Krsna. As stated before, we should not try to sit down and stare at the tip of our nose. At the present moment, attempts to engage in that type of yoga are artificial. Rather, the recommended method is chanting loudly and hearing Hare Krsna. Then, even if the mind is diverted, it will be forced to concentrate on the sound vibration “Krsna.” It isn’t necessary to withdraw the mind from everything; it will automatically be withdrawn, because it will be concentrated on the sound vibration. If we hear an automobile pass, our attention is automatically diverted. Similarly, if we constantly chant Hare Krsna, our mind will automatically be fixed on Krsna, although we are accustomed to think of so many other things.
The nature of the mind is flickering and unsteady. But a self-realized yogi has to control the mind; the mind should not control him. At the present moment, the mind is controlling us (go-dasa). The mind is telling us, “Please, why not look at that beautiful girl?” and so we look. It says, “Why not drink that nice liquor?” and we say, “Yes.” It says, “Why not smoke this cigarette?” “Yes,” we say. “Why not go to this restaurant for such palatable food? Why not do this? Why not do that?” In this way, the mind is dictating, and we are following. Material life means being controlled by the senses, or the mind, which is the center of all the senses. Being controlled by the mind means being controlled by the senses, because the senses are the mind’s assistants. The master mind dictates, “Go see that,” and the eyes, following the directions of the mind, look at the sense object. The mind tells us to go to a certain place, and the legs, under the mind’s directions, carry us there. Thus, being under the direction of the mind means coming under the control of the senses. If we can control the mind, we will not be under the control of the senses. One who is under the control of the senses is known as go-dasa. The word go means “senses,” and dasa means “servant.” One who is master of the senses is called gosvami, because svami means “master.” Therefore, one who has the title gosvami is one who has mastered the senses. As long as one is servant of the senses, he cannot be called a gosvami or svami. Unless one masters the senses, his acceptance of the title svami or gosvami is just a form of cheating. It was Rupa Gosvami who thus defined the meaning of the word gosvami. Originally, Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami were not gosvamis but were government ministers. It was only when they became disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu that they became gosvamis. So gosvami is not a hereditary title but a qualification. One becomes so qualified under the directions of a bona fide spiritual master. Only when one has attained perfection in sense control can he be called a gosvami and become a spiritual master in his turn. Unless one can master the senses, he will simply be a bogus spiritual master.
This is explained by Rupa Gosvami in his Upadesamrta (1):
vaco vegam manasah krodha-vegam
etan vegan yo visaheta dhirah
sarvam apimam prthivim sa sisyat
“A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.” In this verse Rupa Gosvami mentions six “pushings” (vegam). This pushing is a kind of impetus. For instance, when nature calls, we have to go to the toilet, and we cannot check this urge. So this urge is called vegam, a kind of pushing. According to Rupa Gosvami, there are six vegams. Vaco vegam is the urge to talk unnecessarily. That is a kind of pushing of the tongue. Then there is krodha-vegam, the urge to become angry. When we are pushed to anger, we cannot check ourselves, and sometimes men become so angry that they commit murder. Similarly, the mind is pushing, dictating, “You must go there at once,” and we immediately go where we are told. The word jihva-vegam refers to the tongue’s being urged to taste palatable foods. Udara-vegam refers to the urges of the belly. Although the belly is full, it still wants more food, and that is a kind of pushing of the belly. And when we yield to the pushings of the tongue and the belly, the urges of the genitals become very strong, and sex is required. If one does not control his mind or his tongue, how can he control his genitals? In this way, there are so many pushings, so much so that the body is a kind of pushing machine. Rupa Gosvami therefore tells us that one can become a spiritual master only when he can control all these urges.
Etan vegan yo visaheta dhirah sarvam apimam prthivim sa sisyat: “One who can control the pushings and remain steady can make disciples all over the world.” The word dhira means “steady, sober.” Only one who is a dhira is qualified to make disciples. This all depends on one’s training. Indeed, yoga means training the mind and the senses to be fixed on the Self. This is not possible by meditating only fifteen minutes a day and then going out and doing whatever the senses dictate. How can the problems of life be solved so cheaply? If we want something precious, we have to pay for it. By the grace of Lord Caitanya, this payment has been made very easy—just chant Hare Krsna. By our chanting, this system of control, this yoga system, becomes perfected. Iha haite sarva siddhi haibe tomara. Thus Lord Caitanya has blessed us. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna, we will achieve the perfection of self-realization. In this age of Kali-yuga, when people are so fallen, other processes will not be successful. This is the only process, and it is easy, sublime, effective, and practical. By it, one can realize oneself.
According to Krsna in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita (9.2), this process is the most sublime.
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.”
After eating, a man can understand that his hunger has been satisfied; similarly, by following the principles of Krsna consciousness, one can understand that he has advanced in self-realization.