Published on June 15th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


From Folly to Defeat

The dog is thinking, ‘I am this body,’ and the cat is also thinking, ‘I am this body.’ So if a human being thinks like that, then he remains in ignorance. And if you remain in ignorance, whatever you believe to be to your credit is not an achievement: it is defeat. This is to be understood.


September 1973, Stockholm, Sweden

parabhavas tavad abodha-jato
yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam
yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai
karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.5)

“As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma (fruitive activity) has its reactions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, one has to accept a material body” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.5).

In the previous verse Rsabhadeva has said that madly striving for sense gratification and doing all kinds of sinful activity are not good. Atheists may say, “Suppose we get a material body and it’s a little miserable. What is wrong with that? It will be finished. Then there will be no more pains and pleasures.” That is also the Buddhist theory: The body is a combination of matter producing pains and pleasures. So make this body zero; then there will be no more pains and pleasures.

So Rsabhadeva answers this point: “No, although this body will be finished, you’ll have to accept another body. And as long as you continue to accept one body after another, your miserable condition of material existence will continue.”

In the beginning of his instructions Rsabhadeva said that the human body is not to be misused simply for sense gratification like the dogs and hogs. So now he says, parabhavas tavad abodha-jato yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam: “These rascals do not know that for want of knowledge of the soul (atma-tattvam), everything they are doing will be defeated.” They are thinking, “Now, by scientific advancement we are able to go to the moon. This is our achievement.” Of course, I do not know whether they can go—at least they are trying. But Rsabhadeva says, “That is not your achievement. That is your defeat.” Why? Because they are simply wasting their time.

Even if they go to the moon, they’ll be driven away. What is the use of such an attempt? They cannot stay there. So this endeavor to go there by so-called scientific advancement is simply defeat. What have they achieved by these excursions? Nothing. No tangible achievement. But Russia and America have spent billions of dollars to go to the moon.
Even if they go there, they’ll still have to die—they’ll have to give up the body—and they do not know where they’ll be placed after death. That is in nature’s hands. No one can dictate, “After death I shall go to that planet or this planet.” No. You are completely under nature’s control.

Everyone is ambitious, but simply by becoming ambitious can one become a very rich man or a very respectable man? That is not possible. One must qualify himself. Similarly, to go and live on another planet one must be qualified. You have to act according to the higher laws. But they do not believe that there is higher authority, that there is judgment. They blindly think they can do whatever they like. That is not good. This is defeat (parabhava).

So as long as one is not inquisitive to understand what he is, he will be defeated in life. And this is the condition in today’s so-called civilization: Nobody is interested to know his real identity. From Sanatana Gosvami we get the perfect example of how to inquire into one’s identity. When he first approached Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he asked the Lord: ‘ke ami’, ‘kene amaya jare tapa-traya.’ This is a very nice question: “Kindly tell me what I am and why I am subjected to the threefold miseries of material existence. I do not want all these miserable conditions of life, but I am forced to accept them. Therefore, what is my position? Why am I forced to accept them?”

This is called atma-tattva jijnasa, inquiry into one’s real identity: “What am I?” Nobody knows what he is. Everyone thinks, “I’m this body.” Therefore he’s abodha-jatah: from his very birth he’s a fool. He does not know his identity. Someone’s thinking, “I’m an American,” someone’s thinking, “I’m an Indian,” someone’s thinking, “I’m a Russian.” All these identifications are doggish identifications.

The dog is thinking, “I am this body,” and the cat is also thinking, “I am this body.” So if a human being thinks like that, then he remains in ignorance. And if you remain in ignorance, whatever you believe to be to your credit is not an achievement: it is defeat. This is to be understood.

One should be inquisitive into who he is. Sanatana Gosvami has set the example. He went to Caitanya Mahaprabhu and said, “Sir, people say I am very learned, but actually I do not know what I am. Please instruct me on this topic.” Ask any so-called scholar, doctor, Ph.D. if he knows what he is. Professor Kotovsky in Moscow said, “After the body is finished, everything is finished.” He does not know what he is—an eternal soul. This is the position of everyone. Therefore, the so-called scholars, learned men, whatever they are doing, they’re being defeated because they do not know their identity. Unless you know your identity, how can you work toward the goal of your life? If you are mistaken about your identity, then whatever you are doing, you will be defeated.

Then Rsabhadeva says, yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah: “As long as your mind is absorbed in fruitive activity, you have to accept one material body after another.” Everyone has a different type of mentality. The word karmatmakam refers to the general mentality that “I shall work very nicely, I shall get money, and I shall enjoy life.” Those who are followers of Vedic ritualistic ceremonies are trying to enjoy in the next life also—by punya karya, or pious activities. But pious activities are also karmic or fruitive activities. Therefore, according to our philosophy, not only are we uninterested in impious activities, we are not even interested in pious activities. This is our position.

By pious activities you can take birth in a very aristocratic or rich family. You can become a very learned scholar. You can become beautiful. You American or Western people are supposed to be very learned, advanced in material science. You are also good-looking and richer than people in other countries. This is due to your past pious activities.

Suppose you have received these opportunities due to your past pious activities. Now, somebody else has taken birth in Greenland, where there is always snow and there are so many inconveniences. And someone else has taken birth somewhere in Africa where there are no facilities like those you have. From the spiritual point of view, all these situations are equivalent. In any birth, you have to enter within the womb of a mother to stay nine months in a packed-up condition. And nowadays they are killing the child within the womb. You may not even come out. Before you come out of your mother’s womb you might be killed by your very mother or father. So whether you are in the womb of a very rich mother or a poor mother, a black mother or white mother, a learned mother or a foolish mother, the pains due to staying within the mother’s womb are the same.

And as soon as you accept some material body, you’ll have to suffer further bodily pains. Then, at the time of death, the same painful condition is there for everyone. So it doesn’t matter whether one is rich or poor, the material condition will cause one to suffer.

So, if you continue to absorb your mind in fruitive activities, nature will continue to give you material bodies life after life to try to fulfill your unfulfilled desires. This is going on. Therefore a life devoid of inquiry into your real identity is parabhava, defeat.

Your real business is to know that you are not this body; you are spirit soul, part and parcel of God, Krsna. Your real business is to become Krsna conscious, fully, and go back home, back to Godhead, to finish this business of repetition of birth and death. But who will understand this? Therefore it is said: krsna ye bhaje se bada catura. One who has understood the meaning of the Krsna consciousness movement must be very intelligent. Without being intelligent, nobody can understand the basic principle of this movement.

The basic principle of this movement is to understand Krsna. And if you understand Krsna, then after giving up this body, you go to Krsna. Devotional service—chanting Hare Krsna, worshiping Krsna in the temple, and so on—all these activities will help you understand Krsna. Although it is very difficult to understand Krsna, if you engage yourself in Krsna’s service as prescribed in the sastras or by the spiritual master, then Krsna will reveal to you what He is. And that is the perfection of your life. As soon as you understand Krsna, you become fit to go back home, back to Godhead, and finish this business of repeated birth and death. This is confirmed by Lord Rsabhadeva in the next verse:

evam manah karma-vasam prayunkte
avidyayatmany upadhiyamane
pritir na yavan mayi vasudeve
na mucyate deha-yogena tavat

“When the living entity is covered by the mode of ignorance, he does not understand the individual living being and the supreme living being, and his mind is subjugated to fruitive activity. Therefore, until one has love for Lord Vasudeva, who is none other than Myself, he is certainly not delivered from having to accept a material body again and again.”

So everyone has the wrong conception of life. But one can be saved if he somehow or other becomes a devotee of Vasudeva, Krsna. Rsabhadeva is an incarnation of Vasudeva. In this entanglement of birth and death, if someone comes in contact with a devotee and gets the seed of devotional service, that is the beginning of his rescue from the repetition of birth and death. We are giving opportunity to the people in general, opening centers in many parts of the world. Why? To give everyone a chance to become a devotee of Vasudeva, Krsna. Then they will be saved.

People are struggling, working hard for sense gratification—and suffering repeated birth and death. In this struggle for existence, if somehow or other one gets the seed of devotional service to Vasudeva, then he’s saved. Unless one becomes Krsna conscious, his repetition of birth and death—contacting one body after another—will continue. This understanding is the basic principle of Krsna consciousness.

Do not think that Krsna consciousness is a kind of religious faith. It is a science—the science of how to get release from the repetition of birth and death. It is not a system of religion, as people ordinarily accept some type of religion. Somebody’s a Hindu, somebody’s a Muslim, somebody’s a Christian. It is not like that. It is a science. We are teaching, “Somehow or other, enhance your love for God. Then you are saved.” And how do we enhance that love of Godhead? By our activities: rising early in the morning, chanting Hare Krsna, studying the Vedic scriptures, worshiping the Deity in the temple, observing festivals honoring the Lord. These activities in devotional service will save us from the repetition of birth and death. Otherwise, we are doomed. We’ll have to continue this repetition of birth and death.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that we are wandering throughout the universe from one body to another, one planet to another, due to avidya, ignorance. But if somebody comes in contact with this Krsna consciousness movement and tries to understand Krsna consciousness, he’s fortunate, because he’ll be saved from the repetition of birth and death.

Therefore Krsna personally comes, and He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: [Bg. 18.66] “Give up everything else and just surrender unto Me.” It is not Krsna’s interest for you to surrender. If you don’t surrender, Krsna does not lose anything. He’s omnipotent. He can create whatever He wants by His desire. He’s not canvassing, “You become My devotee, and I shall be very rich.” No. It is for your interest. If you become a devotee of Vasudeva, Krsna, then you are saved from the repetition of birth and death.

It is Krsna’s interest in this way: because we are part and parcel of Krsna, we are His sons. The rich father does not like to see his son become a crazy fellow loitering in the street. But if his son does not come home, there is no loss for the father. And if the son comes back to the home of his rich father, it is in the son’s interest.

So Krsna is canvassing: “Surrender unto Me.” Those who are fortunate will accept this offer of Krsna’s. And when we actually love Krsna, that is called priti. We love our beloved—our child or husband or wife—but that is not real love. That is a temporary sentiment. Actual love is possible only with Krsna. Once you love Krsna, that love cannot be broken at any time. Therefore, somehow or other we have to engage ourselves in loving Krsna. That is the success of life.
Thank you very much.


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About the Author

Founded the Hare Krishna Movement in 1966 in New York. In only 11 years he spread the movement all over the world. He wrote more than 80 books including Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Isopanisad. Prabhupada's books constitute a complete library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.

3 Responses to From Folly to Defeat

  1. Uma Sridhar says:

    Hare Krishna!

    Please accept my pranam Swamiji!

    I am grateful to you for your kind guidance for encouraging my spiritual practice even though its not very primitive stage. Here I want you to clear the following doubts.

    1) In your post If human being thinks like that he is not “I am this body” he is ignorant. And whatever you believe to be to your credit is not an achievement; it is defeat.. Suppose I think I I am a big officer and having big house, car and my children are well settled etc. is not achievement its defeat… In this world you will get respect because of your education, post, power money not otherwise. Can you please explain Swamiji?

    2) Practically, how is this possible? Suppose I am a lady and I think that I am not body and am soul… let whatever happen to this body let it happen thinking this way, I roam at night; definitely I will be in trouble; and some untoward incident happens, the society even my family won’t accept me back.. Kindly explain this Swamiji, some extent only we think we are not this body….

    3) As you have mentioned in many postings, we are suffering because of our past karma, as a Krishna Consciousness person, we should not feel we are suffering, instead of this, due to Krishna’s mercy our sufferings are less otherwise it would be more etc……In my opinion after reading Gurudeva’s books and your postings I am clear that I am a soul, my final destination is to back to godhead but simply thinking I am soul; I am not this body won’t work out; I should personally experience that is important; For this what is the step? See, As a sensitive person, I take each and every thing to my heart and easily get upset and worrying about bad/current situation. Somebody insulted me in front of all my colleagues; even though I am not at fault.. I feel very bad and feel why I am in bad position and not having power, post, wealth etc.. Each and every small incidents put me in distress situation daily; because of this I feel dishearten and stop chanting etc… Sometimes I wonder, why Krishna is silent? He should encourage and create pleasant situations in Devotees who are in a very beginning stage like me so that they can advance in spiritual life…This type of disturbances, is not good.. I give you example, I am like very tender small plant which cannot stand even a little storm… Krishna know this;.. You have given examples of Kunti and Sukhdev Goswami, they are great devotees, they are like big banyan trees… We protect small trees with lot of care till it grow enough to become a strong tree.. Similarly Krishna also should take care and encourage my spiritual life and clear my obstacles which I am facing in my life both in my family life and carrier.

    Please forgive me if I have mentioned anything wrong; kindly guide me by your reply.


    Uma Sridhar

    • Hare Krishna Uma

      Everything will become clear as you advance more and more in Krishna consciousness. It is not possible to understand everything in the beginning and it is not possible for me to explain everything in a few paragraphs here. It may take some time. And we have to become fixed up in Krishna consciousness ourselves and we need to have a realistic outlook on the material world. It is not a nice place and when we take seriously to Krishna consciousness maya will put so many obstacles and distractions on our path that, if we are to be successful, we have to overcome. So really it may not be easy to become Krishna conscious but that is the only thing that is worthwhile to do.

      You know it is also not easy to be successful and to advance in the material world, so rather than working very hard for temporary material benefits that we may not achieve anyhow it is far better to work hard to become Krishna consciousness. The smallest advancement in Krishna consciousness can save us from the greatest fear.

      The material world is full of storms, that is the nature of the material world. We have to just navigate through those storms. We can not expect Krishna to stop the storms for us.

      As far as realizing that we are not the body that realization has to be there. It is not just an intellectual thing, it has to be felt as you say, and you will feel it as you advance in Krishna consciousness. We still have to utilize our material body in the service of Krishna and we still have a material body, it is not that a devotee thinks he does not have a material body, he knows he has one, and he knows that he, as spirit soul, is separate from the materiel body, but he also knows that Krishna has given him this material body, it is actually Krishna’s body and it is meant to be used in the service of Krishna.

      So even though we realize we are not the material body we have to use the material body to serve Krishna, and in a woman’s body there are different considerations to being in a man’s body. So it is not the devotees do not consider these things and act accordingly. But they know they are not the body. That does not mean that they are unaware of the material body. They are aware of it and they use it in the service of Krishna.

      It is like if you have a motorcar. You know that you have the motor car and you take service from the car but you know that you are completely separate from the car.

      So we do not expect Krishna to do anything for us, rather we want to do everything we can for Krishna. Of course Krishna helps His devotees in so many ways, but maya also tests Krishna’s devotees to see how sincere they really are. That is just the way it is. We can not change that. That is the way things work in the material world. It is not a nice place. You can not expect it to be nice here in the material world…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  2. Bhakta Rajesh says:

    Awesome!!! Srila Prabhupada’s lecture can change the heart of even an aethist.

    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!!!

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