Curing the Skin Disease
If we are attracted by the skin only, the beauty of the skin, we are bound to be dissatisfied because the person, I, the self, I am different from the body…
aparam bhavato janma
param janma vivasvatah
katham etad vijaniyam
tvam adau proktavan iti
This is an unusual question for Arjuna to put to Krishna, because Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Arjuna accepts Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He knows the qualities of Krishna, he knows that Krishna’s body is transcendental. Krishna appears within the material world and to the ordinary persons He appears to take birth in the same way as we take birth. But He doesn’t take birth ordinarily. When Krishna appeared five thousand years ago in Mathura, He appeared within the prison of Kamsa. Kamsa was the king of Mathura at that time and he had information that Krishna would be born as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. He had imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki because he knew Krishna would be born of these parents and Krishna was destined to kill him. To try and save his life he had imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki and he was killing every one of their sons just after their birth. He was thinking, “In this way I will be able to kill Krishna. When Krishna is born, I’ll be able to kill Krishna as well.”
When Krishna appeared it was not an ordinary birth. When Krishna appears in this material world it’s not an ordinary thing. Krishna doesn’t take birth like us. Krishna doesn’t have a material body. We have this material body which is made of earth, water, fire, air and either, and it is obnoxious. If you analyse this material body you will find it is full of pus and blood and stool and urine, all sorts of horrible things. It’s just a bag full of these things. We are attracted simply to the skin. We think, “Oh, this skin is very nice,” we are very attracted to such a skin. When we see a very beautiful woman what is it we are attracted to? We are attracted to her very beautiful skin, nice complexion, beautiful hair, nicely shaped breasts, thin waste and so on. Such a women is very attractive but what is it we are attracted to? It’s the skin. Only the skin.
The Beautiful Princess
There was a prince who once saw a very beautiful young girl. He visited her to see her but she was very chaste. The prince wanted to marry this very beautiful girl because he was attracted to her out of lust. He wanted to marry her and enjoy her body but the young girl didn’t want to marry the prince. So she said to the prince, “Alright, you want to marry me, you are attracted by my beauty, so I will distil my beauty in the next ten days, I will distil my beauty into liquid form and then you can come and see this distilled form of my beauty.”
So the prince said, “Alright.” Then she said, “If you still want to take me as your wife then you can take me.” The prince replied, “That’s fine, I’ll come back in ten days and certainly I’ll take you as my wife my beautiful young maiden.” Then he went away and as soon as he went away this beautiful young girl started to take very strong purgatives, medicine which would cause her to vomit and pass stool, in this way she kept all the vomit and stool in a big pot. She didn’t eat anything, she was simply passing stool and vomiting, so within ten days her whole beautiful body was destroyed. She was a grey colour, she was very skinny, very weak, you could not recognize her as the same person.
After ten days the prince came back to visit the beautiful girl. She opened the door for him. When the prince saw her he said, “I have come to see one very beautiful lady who I am about to marry.” So the girl said, “I am that beautiful young lady.” He replied, “No it isn’t true. How could it be possible?” She said, “Yes I am that beautiful young girl, I have distilled my beauty, come and see it.” The prince thought, “This will be interesting.” She took him to the place where she was keeping the big pot containing all of her stool, vomit and urine and she said, “Here is my beauty.”
This is the story of liquid beauty, and it is a fact. That is actually the beauty of the material body, it’s simply a bag of pus, stool, urine, blood, mucus, horrible things. And we are just attached to the skin and as soon as the skin is no longer beautiful we are not attracted any more.
Why Are There So Many Divorces?
This is why in Western society, which is simply going on the basis of this “skin disease,” there are so many divorces and so many marriages. A man is being attracted to a woman on the basis of skin disease. He thinks, “Oh, here is a very nice woman. She has very nice hair, a very beautiful complexion, a very nice bodily structure. She is a very beautiful woman.” The woman is thinking in the same way, “This is a very handsome man, he is very strong, very beautiful, a very attractive man.” Then they come together and for a short time enjoy sex life and soon there is some discrepancy in the sex life, some difficulty in the sex life, so they say, “I’m sorry darling it’s just not working any more, the magic is not in our relationship any more. I have to go and find somebody else.” Then they have a divorce. In this way everything is based on the skin, and the skin is temporary. We can never be satisfied, we can never be happy with a relationship based on this skin disease because our skin is a very temporary thing. A beautiful girl is beautiful for a few years only, young girls sixteen, seventeen are very beautiful, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, then finished. She’s not beautiful any more. So this is a fleeting moment only. It’s the same with a man, a man is beautiful, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen then the beauty is gone.
If we are attracted by the skin only, the beauty of the skin, we are bound to be dissatisfied because the person, I, the self, I am different from the body. Krishna describes in another verse in Bhagavad-gita:
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
Here Krishna says that the soul, even in this life, is changing bodies. In the beginning we have a child’s body, then we get a boy’s body, then a man’s body then we get an old man’s body, so the time of death is simply another change of body. A self-realized soul can understand this, he can see this. This is a fact. Our bodies are always changing. You can see. No one can argue with this fact. It’s simply a statement of a very plain fact. I have this man’s body now, previously I had a boy’s body, prior to that I had a child’s body and before that a babies body. They are all different bodies. I can see, my parents have the pictures and they can show you I had these different bodies. Now those bodies have gone. Now I have this man’s body and in due course it will also be finished and I’ll have an old man’s body and ultimately that old mans body will be gone and I will be taken away to another body at the time of death. This is the process of life in the material world. The bodies are changing but the soul is not changing. I the person, I am the same person I was in the babies body, I’m the same person I was in the child’s body, I’m the same person I was in the boys body. I can remember things, I can remember my childhood body, I can remember my boys body. I can remember the activities I performed in these bodies. These activities are performed by me, but the body I had then is gone. So we can understand that I, the self, the person, I am permanent, I am eternal, but the body is always changing. I am not this body, I am the occupier of this body, I am the driver of this body, I am the controller of this body, but I am not the body. The body is a machine. Krishna also states this in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61):
hrd-dese ‘rjuna tisthati
Here it is clearly described that Krishna is in our hearts and He is directing our wanderings and we are seated on a machine made of the material energy. So this body is a machine made of the material energy; earth, water, fire, air, either. The more subtle elements are also there, the mind, intelligence and false ego, but the body is material, the body is temporary. The nature of the soul is different. The nature of the soul is the same as the nature of Krishna. The nature of the soul is sat cit ananda vigraha because that is the nature of Krishna.
We are constitutionally a tiny part of Krishna. So constitutionally we are the same as Krishna in quality. But the quantity is different. We are very tiny and Krishna is very great. Because we are the tiny living entities and Krishna is the great, supreme living entity, by analysing our qualities, as the tiny living entities, we can understand, at least to some extent, the qualities of Krishna, the supreme living entity. The only difference is Krishna is unlimited and we are extremely limited. Krishna is vibhu, which means unlimited and we are anu, which means limited. The analogy is given of the entire ocean compared to a drop of sea-water. If you analyse the drop of sea-water you can find out so many things about the entire ocean. If you analyse the salt content of the drop you can understand the salt proportion of the entire ocean because the substance is the same. You a considering sea-water, only the quantity is different. You are talking about one drop which is very insignificant and the entire ocean which is very great. So we are like that one drop of sea-water and Krishna is like the ocean, because He’s great and we are small.
Krishna’s nature is totally spiritual. He doesn’t have a body like ours which changes. Krishna’s body never changes. This is a very subtle thing to understand. Because if we can just understand this one point. If we can just understand that Krishna’s body is transcendental, Krishna’s body is spiritual, Krishna’s body is not like ours, Krishna’s body doesn’t change, Krishna’s body is not born, Krishna’s body doesn’t die. Our bodies are born and our bodies die, our bodies are changing all the time, but Krishna’s body is never born, Krishna’s body never dies.
Krishna appears within the material world in the same way the sun appears on the horizon and in the evening the sun disappears on the western horizon. The sun appears to be born from the eastern horizon every morning and the sun appears to die in the evening on the western horizon. Actually some primitive tribes would believe this, that the sun is born in the morning, then it dies in the evening and the next morning it is born again. A more intelligent person can understand this is not a fact. The sun has simply gone out of our vision. The sun has passed over to the other hemisphere. The sun is still shining, but it is shining on the other side of the planet. It’s not shining here in Australia, but it’s shining in the United States and then when it’s not shining in the United States it will be shining here in Australia. So an intelligent man knows the sun is always shining. The sun is not born and the sun does not die.
To our material vision Krishna appears to be born five thousand years ago when He appeared in Mathura in the prison house of Kamsa before His parents Vasudeva and Devaki and He appeared to take birth, although as I am about to explain His birth wasn’t ordinary. After about 125 years, because Krishna spent about 125 years on this planet, He appeared to leave His body, He appeared to die. There is a verse in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita clarifying Krishna’s transcendental birth.
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam 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.”
If we can just understand that Krishna’s birth is not material, if we can understand that Krishna’s birth is transcendental. As we have described, Krishna’s appearance is like the sun appearing on the horizon and His disappearance is like the sun setting on the horizon. The sun doesn’t take birth and the sun doesn’t die. Similarly Krishna doesn’t take birth and Krishna doesn’t die. Krishna’s pastimes are going on eternally. He appears here on this planet and His pastimes are manifest before our eyes for some time.
All the pastimes Krishna manifested while He was on this planet are nitya lila. Nitya lila means eternal pastimes. So these pastimes are going on eternally. So in some universe Krishna is appearing, in some universe Krishna is killing the Putana demon, in some universe Krishna is fighting in the battle of Kuruksetra. These pastimes are going on eternally.
Krishna’s activities are not like our activities. Our activities in the material world are subject to the law of karma. This means when we perform some activity we are forced to enjoy or suffer the reaction of the activity. Krishna’s activities are transcendental to the law of karma because He is the controller of the whole material world. Karma is controlled by the material energy and the material energy is one of Krishna’s energies. So Krishna can’t be controlled by the material energy. When He appears within the material world He is still the controller of the material energy, even though He appears to be a child, a cowherd boy in Vrndavana, He’s still the controller of the material energy, He’s the controller of everything. He can never be controlled, He can never be under the influence of maya (illusion). We should try and understand the transcendental nature of Krishna’s appearance and activities.
When Krishna appeared on this planet five thousand years ago in the prison house of Kamsa, before His mother Devaki and His father Vasudeva, he didn’t appear like an ordinary child. He appeared in His four-armed form of Vishnu holding his weapons, the conch-shell, the club, the lotus and His Sudasana chakra. He was complete with beautiful ornaments, beautiful clothes, beautiful hair, beautifully decorated. He showed the full manifestation of Lord Vishnu. His parents were amazed, and His mother was very concerned because she knew that Kamsa was trying to kill Krishna and here right in the prison house of Kamsa Krishna had appeared in His form of Lord Vishnu, so she was thinking that if Kamsa sees Krishna in this form then surely he will kill Him straight away.
This is the nature of Krishna’s yoga maya, this is the nature of Krishna’s bewildering potency in connection with His devotees. Krishna has two bewildering potencies, one is actually Krishna’s bewildering potency and that is called yoga maya and this bewildering potency covers the intelligence of the devotees to help them increase their loving relationships with Krishna. The other bewildering potency is called maha maya and this is the bewildering potency of the material energy which covers the intelligence of the materialists and makes them think they can enjoy in the material world.
This spiritual bewildering potency, yoga maya, is required because sometimes, in some relationships with Krishna, it is an impediment to developing loving feelings for Krishna if He is thought of as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we have Krishna as our son, then the parental relationship is one of protection. The parents are always making nice arrangements so the child can grow up very happily and develop nicely. They want him to get a good education, to become very strong and healthy. They make sure he eats nice food, he’s wearing nice clothes, that he’s kept very clean. All these things are part of the parental relationship. They are trying to protect the child and look to the best interests of the child. So sometimes devotees like to become the parents of Krishna, and they do, they become the parents of Krishna. If they understood that Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that He was the source of everything and the controller of everything, then this parental mood of love for their child would be interrupted. So the parents of Krishna are thinking that Krishna is my son.
Here even though Krishna has appeared in the form of Vishnu, it’s quite obvious that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His mother is still concerned about Him, she’s still thinking that, “Oh, Kamsa is looking for Krishna, and here You have appeared within his palace as Vishnu, so certainly he will find You and kill You.” It’s impossible actually for anyone to kill Vishnu but His mother is thinking like that. So she prays, “My dear son, please take the form of an ordinary human child, because then it’s less obvious that you are Vishnu.” In this way Krishna took His form as a human child, of course He is not a human child, He is still Krishna and His body is transcendental. So Krishna didn’t take on a material body, Krishna appeared in His original, eternal, transcendental body. He appeared as a child and then He grew from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to a youth. The amazing thing is He stayed on this planet for 125 years, which was long enough for Him to have sons and His sons to have sons and even some of His grandsons had sons, so Krishna was a great-grandfather, but He never looked older than sixteen or seventeen. He’s nava yavanam ca, He is eternally a fresh, beautiful youth. This is the spiritual nature. This is our nature also.
We Are All Eternally Youthful
We are also eternally youthful, but because we have come to this material world we have taken on a material body. This material body is a false thing, it’s not our natural body, it’s not our real body. The material body is an imposition on our natural, spiritual self. In our real spiritual state we also have a spiritual body similar in constitution to Krishna’s. We have a body that is eternal, always youthful, full of knowledge and full of pleasure. This is the nature of Krishna’s body, and we have such a body also. This spiritual body is manifest when we are in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world everyone is serving Krishna but as Krishna doesn’t force anyone to serve Him there has to be an alternative place for the rebellious living entities who don’t want to serve Krishna. So we have actually come here, to the material world out of choice. We want to enjoy separately from Krishna so we have this material body, that’s the facility we have to enjoy separately from Krishna. But it’s not natural, all the activities we are performing here, the whole business of trying to satisfy my senses is not natural and it can’t satisfy us. The body we have and all the other bodies in the material world are also not natural. We can’t get satisfaction by finding a beautiful woman, by getting a lot of money or whatever else is available to satisfy the senses. Krishna’s body is transcendental and our body can also be transcendental if we use it in Krishna’s service. So Krishna appeared in the prison house in the form of Vishnu, then He transformed Himself into the form of baby Krishna. Therefore His appearance is not at all ordinary and His body is not material.
Is Arjuna in maya ?
Arjuna is Krishna’s devotee and Arjuna actually knows all these things but now in the verse we are speaking on, the forth text of the forth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is asking Krishna, “How am I to understand that in the beginning you instructed this science to the sun-god.” It appears from this question that Arjuna is in maya, that Arjuna is in illusion, he’s accepting Krishna as an ordinary man who takes birth like him, because he’s saying, “The sun-god is senior by birth to You.” So apparently, from this statement, he’s accepting Krishna was born around the same time he was born, because they were contemporaries, they were around the same age. It appears he’s treating Krishna as an ordinary friend who’s born just like him, say twenty years ago but Srila Prabhupada describes in the purport: “Arjuna knew perfectly well that Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the fountainhead of everything and the last word in transcendence. Of course Krishna appeared as the son of Devaki on this earth, how Krishna remained the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the eternal Original Person, is very difficult for an ordinary man to understand, therefore to clarify this point Arjuna put this question before Krishna so He Himself could speak authoritatively.” This is the secret.
Arjuna is having the discussion of Bhagavad-gita with Krishna not only for his own benefit. Even when the Bhagavad-gita was being spoken Arjuna and Krishna were sitting on their chariot in the midst of the two armies. Everybody on the battlefield, both of the armies, were hearing this discussion going on between Krishna and Arjuna. So even on the battlefield the discussion was for the benefit of all the people on the battlefield. It wasn’t just for the benefit of Arjuna. At the same time Sanjaya was speaking to Dhrtarastra. The narration of Bhagavad-gita is going on between Sanjaya and Dhrtarastra, Sanjaya had some mystic power so even though he was sitting in the palace of Dhrtarastra, he could see what was going on in the battlefield of Kuruksetra and could relate it to Dhrtarastra. So it was for the benefit of Dhrtarastra, it was for the benefit of Sanjaya, it was for the benefit of all the people on the battlefield and ultimately it was written down by Srila Vyasadeva as part of the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is a very popular book, being read by so many people, and the essence of the Mahabharata is this Bhagavad-gita. So Bhagavad-gita is meant for everyone’s benefit, not just Arjuna’s benefit. Although Arjuna knew perfectly well the nature of Krishna he was questioning Krishna so Krishna Himself can explain Himself, which is very auspicious for all the worlds.
This is the nature of a devotee, he is not only thinking of his spiritual advancement, he is thinking of the spiritual advancement of all the living entities in the whole universe. There is also another type of devotee, there are two types of devotees, the preacher who has compassion for all people and who wants to help them and the meditator who is simply interested in his own liberation, he doesn’t care about anybody else. He wants to get out of this material world. He has come from the platform of understanding the material world as a place of suffering and he wants to get out. The meditators generally go to a secluded place, a holy place like Vrndavana. There are so many holy places in India, the Ganges river, Rishikesha, Hardwar, so many holy places are there and great saints are going to these places to meditate and dedicate their lives to God, to serving Krishna. But generally these devotees are less advanced because they are only interested in their own benefit, they are not interested in the fallen conditioned souls.
Devotees Who Leave the Holy Places To Preach Are More Advanced
The devotees who come out of the holy places to preach, even though they expose themselves to the association of unholy people, are protected by Krishna. Krishna protects them, Krishna looks after them, and they become very strong in devotional service. On the other hand, if you go to Vrndavana, you will find in Vrndavana many devotees living there, but many of them are not strictly following any regulative principles. They’re smoking bidis, they’re smoking cigarettes, they’re having illicit sex life, they’re not even strictly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra at all. They’re simply living there in Vrndavana, living a very low degraded life, calling themselves great babajis, great souls, and using the dress of a sannyasis or the dress of a mendicant to beg some chapatis (bread) and money from the pilgrims who are coming to Vrndavana. This is a very degraded condition.
There is a tendency for neophyte devotees to go to places of pilgrimage to live but generally they have no compassion for the fallen conditioned souls nor any real attachment to Krishna. Instead of going to Vrndavana and becoming firmly fixed in Krishna consciousness, they go there and engage in sense gratification. The nature of a monkey is the same, when the monkey is in Vrndavana he’s interested in chasing some she-monkey, and wherever the monkey is he’s still interested in chasing some monkey. You can put a monkey anywhere, the monkey is still a monkey.
Going to holy places to meditate is difficult in this age. We have to be engaged in service. We have to be doing something practical to spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. We can’t just sit down in one place and chant Hare Krishna. Of course for very, very elevated souls this process is possible, for example Haridasa Thakur. In the pastimes of Lord Caitanya there was a Mohammedan, a disciple of Lord Caitanya, called Haridasa Thakur. Lord Caitanya was living in Jagannatha Puri and the temple of Lord Jagannatha is managed by caste Brahmans who don’t allow non-Hindu’s to enter the temple. Because Haridasa Thakur was a Mohammedan, he was not permitted to enter the temple of Lord Jagannatha. But Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the form of Lord Caitanya, was visiting Haridasa Thakur every day and He was taking maha-prasadam from Lord Jagannatha to him. Lord Caitanya was always very concerned about Haridasa Thakur’s welfare. So this is the position, the caste Brahmans wouldn’t allow Haridasa Thakur to enter the temple, but Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the form of Lord Caitanya was personally serving Haridasa Thakur.
Haridasa Thakur was daily chanting three hundred thousand names of Krishna, that’s sixty-four rounds times three, and we’re chanting sixteen rounds. So he’s chanting sixty-four rounds times three which is one hundred and ninety-two rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Sometimes we are finding difficulty in chanting sixteen rounds and Haridasa Thakur was daily chanting one hundred and ninety two rounds of this Hare Krishna mantra. To us it is inconceivable, but he was doing it. For Haridasa Thakur this process of bhajan was possible and his chanting was purifying the entire universe. For Haridasa Thakur sitting down in Jagannatha Puri and chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare was a bona fide process and he actually had full compassion for all the fallen conditioned souls.
Many devotees today imitate Haridasa Thakur’s activities, but they don’t sit down and chant Hare Krishna. They go to Vrndavana and they are looking for women and looking for intoxication, this is a most degraded position to be in. It simply means their next life will be a monkey in Vrndavana.
Of course to take birth in Vrndavana, even as a monkey, is a very special thing, because the Vrndavana here in the material world is a replica of Vrndavana in the spiritual world. This Vrndavana, there is a place in India called Vrndavana, and that place, that area is actually a part of the spiritual world. Devotees go to this bhuma Vrndavana, this earthly Vrndavana to practice spiritual life, but if they go to Vrndavana and commit sinful activities then the result is next birth they will be monkeys in Vrndavana. This, of course, is not an ordinary thing, because after their one birth as a monkey in Vrndavana they will go back to Godhead, still, it’s not so nice.
If we go to Vrndavana we should be very careful and we should follow strictly the process of saddhana bhakti, Krishna consciousness. For us going to Vrndavana, generally speaking, should be for purification. We should go there and visit the holy places, take bath in the Yamuna river, and come back purified and inspired with fresh energy to preach in the Western world. That was Srila Prabhupada’s principle idea about Vrndavana. Of course many devotees have to stay in Vrndavana to look after the preaching in Vrndavana, for managing the temple and so on, this is a different thing. But for the majority of us our business is to visit Vrndavana, to become purified, and come back to the West and preach.
Haridasa Thakur’s position is different to our position. Our position is we have to do service, to do something for the pleasure of the spiritual master. We have to see what our spiritual master wants us to do and then do it. In this way we will make advancement in spiritual life. If we think it’s very good to go to Vrndavana and live in Vrndavana and chant Hare Krishna but if our spiritual master says we should do something else then our living in Vrndavana and chanting Hare Krishna is only nonsense. If the spiritual master wants us to preach and distribute his books but instead we go to Vrndavana and eat and sleep, this is not good. It’s not going to help us.
So Arjuna is a pure devotee of Krishna and he is putting this question to Krishna in this verse for our benefit, for the benefit of the readers in the future, so Krishna Himself can clarify the situation of His transcendental appearance and activities in His own words.