Published on November 28th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


The Material World is a Prison. We Should Try to Escape…

In the prison house, if you think a first-class prison is very nice, but after all, it is prison house. Your independence is cut down. So similarly, here in this material world it is simply varieties. We call, This is first class. This is second class. This is third class. Actually, it is all third class…

Nitai: “Divided into varieties by her threefold modes, material nature creates the forms of the living entities, and the living entities, seeing this, are illusioned by the knowledge-covering feature of the illusory energy.”


gunair vicitrah srjatim
sa-rupah prakrtim prajah
vilokya mumuhe sadyah
sa iha jnana-guhaya

Living entities, they have knowledge. That is the difference between matter and living entities. Living entities, they have got knowledge. The dull matter still requires to be developed. They are also covered knowledge. There is knowledge, but it is covered. Just like the tree: it is also a living entity, but the knowledge is more covered than the moving living entities. There are two kinds of living entities: moving and not moving, sthavara-jangama. Sthavara means standing, cannot move. And jangama means moving. So jangama is better than this sthavara. And amongst the sthavara, there are varieties. The insects, ants, reptiles, serpents, they are also jangama. But one is better than the other, one is better than the other, and finally we come to this position, human being, moving, but better than all the lower animals, insects. Development, development of consciousness. But originally we are all pure living entities. We are contaminated by the modes of material nature. The more we are contaminated, our consciousness is covered. Therefore it is said, gunair vicitrah.

Vicitrah means varieties. Why there are varieties? The varieties are because according to our association with the different material modes of nature, therefore there are varieties. There are 8,400,000 varieties of forms simply on account of different type of association. Bhagavad-gita also says, karanam guna-sangah asya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu. So many varieties of living entities in this material world, they are due to gunair vicitrah, by the different qualities, mixture of qualities. So on the gross estimation the mixture is sattva, rajas, tamas, the first mixture. So this mixture has to be analyzed and separated. Just like in printing there is color separation process. It is also like that, color separation process. The sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna, now mixed up by expert management, by expert process they can be separated, and we can come purely on the sattva-guna platform. And as soon as we come to the sattva-guna platform, then we can see things as they are. Chindanti sarva-samsayah. When we are in the mixed-up qualities, then mumuhe, then we are bewildered.

Just like at the present moment the human society cannot understand what is God, cannot understand. Mumuhe. It is the chance, human form of life, to understand God, and therefore sastra, Vedanta, says atha, athato brahma-jijnasa: “Now you inquire about Brahman.” Uttisthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata: “Why you are sleeping again? This is a chance.” There is a very good example, that some people, they keep that kit-kit(?) bird, and they are trained up to walk on the field and again come in the cage. So the master gives him the chance, “Now, get out. Come in the free field.” So if he likes, he can go away, fly away. But his attraction is so acute that after some times, walking on the field, again the master says, “Kit, kit, kit, kit.” Again he enters. He could fly away. This is a chance.

Similarly, the mother material nature, or Durga-devi… Durga means the superintendent of this prison house, material, Durga. Dur-ga: “You cannot go out.” That is called durga. Durga means fort also. Very difficult, dur-ga, to go out. So the superintendent is called Durga. The mother Durga is the superintendent of this material world. Srsti-sthiti-pralaya-sadhana-saktir eka. Very powerful, she has got ten hands. Ten hands means ten direction: east, west, and north, south, and the four corners, eight, and up and down, ten direction, dik, dasa-dik. So she is watching all sides: “You cannot get out.” Therefore she is called Durga-devi. Or this material world is called Devi-dhama, “the place where the Devi, mother Durga, is the superintendent.” Daivi hy esa gunamayi, maya. She is called also Maya, Daivi-maya.

Maya…, whose maya? It is Krishna’s maya. Maya means something wonderful, mystic. Or maya means illusion. So many, there are meaning. Maya means affection also. So some way or other, this Durga-devi, Maya, is Krsna’s maya. Just like prison house. Prison house is also government house, but it is not as good as the government house. It is government, superin…, by… The proprietor is the government. It is looked after by the government. You can call it government house, but government house is different, raja-bhavan. Similarly, everything belongs to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Isavasyam idam sarvam. Everything belongs to Him. Therefore Krsna says, mama maya. Mama maya. Daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya. That is creation of Krsna. It is necessary.

Somebody… The question is asked, “Why Krsna created this material energy which is so miserable condition?” Duhkhalayam asasvatam. So it is not Krsna willingly created. But He gave the chance to the living entities who forgot Krsna. He forgot Krsna’s service and wanted to enjoy this material world. Indriya-tarpana(?) Indriya-pritaye. Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma. Here they are doing just against the law, kurute vikarma. Karma, vikarma, and akarma. So we have very good experience, especially in big, big cities. People, just to get money they are doing so many unlawful activities, vikarma. That is vikarma. They know that “If I do this, it is punishable by law,” but still, for getting money they do that. That is the nature of this material world. For sense gratification one can do anything, risking life also. The thief is stealing stealthily, hiding and risking life to get some money. Why money? The money will supply his sense gratification.

Therefore, when one is after sense gratification, he is mad, he becomes mad. Balavan indriya-grama durdanta. Indriya-grama, these are the adjectives. Durdanta indriya-kala-sarpa-patali. These are the description. Indriya, the senses, are just like snakes, kala-sarpa-patali. As the snake, as soon as it bites, immediately there is death, so similarly, our indriyas, the material senses, are like durdanta indriya-kala-sarpa-patali, and we are using it. These sense are being used in this material world. Therefore it is said, nunam pramattah. They have become mad, mad after sense gratification. The sublime sense gratification is sex. Therefore it is advised that,

matra svasra duhitra va
naviviktasano bhavet
balavan indriya-gramo
vidvamsam api karsati

So we shall be very much careful about the senses. The whole yogic process means to control the senses. Yoga indriya-samyamah. Indriyas are so powerful that it drags us to the hellish condition of life. It is very difficult. So this material world means all crazy, mad fellow after sense gratification. Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma. Why they are acting unlawful things, either stately unlawful or according to scripture unlawful? Yad indriya-pritaye, only for sense gratification. Yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti.

So sastra says… It is the statement of Rsabhadeva. He says, na sadhu manye: “No, no. It is not good.” Na sadhu manye yata atmano ‘yam. Atmanah, the soul. Asann api klesada asa dehah. The atma is covered by this material body, although it is temporary. Sometimes it is for ten years or sometimes twenty years, sometimes hundred years, sometimes millions of years, but it is limited. Either you get the body of Lord Brahma or the body of the poor ant, they are all temporary. It will be finished. So although it is finishable…

nunam pramattah kurute vikarma
yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti
na sadhu manye yata atmano ‘yam
asann api klesada asa dehah

Asann api. Asann means “will not”; it is temporary. But so long you have got this body, klesada, it is painful always, miserable. Adhyatmika, adhibhautika, adhidaivika–some kinds of miserable condition must be going on.

So this is our position. Therefore atma-darsana, one must know what he is. He is spiritual being. Spiritual being, he has nothing to do with this material world, but somehow or other, we have fallen in this material world. Anadi karama-phale, padi’ bhavarnava-jale. It is just like ocean. So just like if you fall down from the boat or the ship, then it is struggle for existence. You may be very nice swimmer, but that does not mean in the water you will be comfortable. That is not possible. Similarly, we living entities, part and parcel of God, we are as pure as God. Krsna, God, is pure. Param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan. Pavitra. So similarly… Pavitra means without material contamination. That is pavitra.

So the…

apavitrah pavitro va
sarvavastham gato ‘pi va
yah smaret pundarikaksam
sa bahyabhyantara-sucih

This is the process, that you may be pure or impure. Material condition means impure, contaminated, conditioned. So to get out of this contaminated condition, the sastra says, yah smaret pundarikaksam: “If you always constantly think of Pundarikaksa, the lotus-eyed Krsna or Visnu,” yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahyabhyantara-sucih, “he becomes externally and internally suci, purified.”

So at the present moment our position is contaminated position by the contact of the three modes of material nature. Gunair vicitrah. Gunair vicitrah. You see so many varieties of life, different varieties of life. Uccavaca. Some of them are higher, in higher position; some of them are lower position. But this vicitra, soul, is pure. That is one quality. But this vicitra quality, why? Vicitra means variety. Because gunaih. Karanam guna-sango ‘sya. Why one has become dog and one has become god? God means demigod. They are also living entities within this material world, but they live in higher planetary system. Just like here also we see some of them are living in high skyscraper building, very comfortable apartment, and some are living in the huts, jhupari. In Bombay you can see. Both things are there. Similarly, these demigods–Indra, Candra, Varuna, and many others–they are also living very comfortably in higher planets. They are also living entities. But they are in the, mostly in the sattva-guna. And here, in this planet or lower than this planet, they are mostly in rajo-guna and tamo-guna.

That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah. If you develop sattva-guna, then gradually you can be elevated to the higher planetary system where the demigods live. Madhye tisthanti rajasah. If you are affected by the rajo-guna, then the middle planetary system, means bhur bhuvah svah… Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya. So…, and lower planet, then Tala, Atala, Vitala, Patala, Rasatala, Talatala–there are so many down planetary system. There are fourteen planetary system, seven down, seven up.

So this is going on. This is going on. Therefore it is called gunair vicitrah. All these living entities and their living condition, their mode of life, standard of life, everything, they are simply contamination of the three gunas: tri-gunair vicitrah. Srjatim sa-rupah prakrtim prajah. Sa-rupah prakrtim. They are getting this form according to the tendency of the mind, sa-rupah. If I contaminate tamo-guna, then I get lower-grade life. If I contaminate rajo-guna, then middle-grade life. And if we contaminate… That is also contamination, but it is better than the other two.

So all of them are material qualities, and that is unwanted association of the living entity. That is not required, because in the Vedas it is said, asango ‘yam purusah: “The living entity has nothing to do with these material qualities.” But somehow or other, he has come in contact. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, anadi karama-phale, padi’ bhavarnava-jale. And the Caitanya Mahaprabhu also says like that, ayi nanda-tanuja patitam kinkaram mam visame bhavambudhau. “My dear Lord, Nanda-tanuja, the son Nanda Maharaja, Krsna, I am Your eternal servant.” Ayi nanda-tanuja patitam kinkaram mam: “I am… Somehow or other, I have fallen in this ocean of material existence. Kindly pick me up and make me the dust of Your lotus feet.” Just like if you are in the ocean, somehow or other, if you are taken one inch above the water, you immediately feel relief. So we have to become at least one inch above these material qualities. Then you are liberated, immediately.

So who can do that? That is done by Krsna. Not the demigods can do that. It is not possible. Only Krsna can give. Just like if you…, one is condemned to death, nobody can save him. Only the king can save him, the president can save him. Nobody can save him. It is not… By law, nobody can save him, one who is condemned to death.

Everyone knows that. By king’s mercy, by president’s mercy… So similarly, we are here in this material world just like condemned to death. Condemned… That’s a practical, condemned to death. Who is not condemned to death here? Who can say, “No, I am not condemned to death.” Can anyone say? Everyone is condemned to death. “As sure as death.” That is condemned to death. Why shall I die? If my nature, constitutional position, is na jayate na mriyate–I do not take birth; I do not die–then why I am dying? That is condemned to death.

So condemned to death, we are acting in such a way. That is nunam pramattah kurute vikarma. We have got one life, and there is… According to the body, the dog is working in a certain way, the cat is working in a certain way, the man is working in a certain way, the brahmana is working in a certain way, the sudra is working in certain way, according to the body. The child is working in a certain way. The grown-up young man is doing in certain way. So according to body, we are working in different way, vicitrah, but they are all contaminated activities. Therefore we have go take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, ayi nanda-tanuja patitam kinkaram mam: “I understand that I am Your eternal servant. My position is Your servant. But I prefer to become the servant of maya. Therefore this is my fallen position. If You kindly take me again.” And He is ready. Krsna is ready. Therefore He comes personally to canvass, that “Why you are rotting in this material world?” Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Just like fathers, sane father, request the bewildered son, “Why, my dear son, you are suffering in this way? Why don’t you come back to home, and live peacefully and blissfully?” But no, we are determined. We are determined. Although Krsna is canvassing, His devotees are canvassing, “No. No, sir. We shall enjoy here.” What is enjoyment? Birth and death, disease and old age–is that enjoyment? But they have no brain to understand. Dull, mudhah, duskrtina. Therefore Krsna says, na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. Krsna says, “Surrender unto Me. I give you protection.” But they will not do. Why? Because duskrtino mudhah naradhamah. That is the position.

So because we are duskrtinah, mudhah, naradhamah, therefore there are so many varieties of life. Gunair vicitrah srjatim. And that is being done by the material nature. Karanam guna-sango ‘sya sad-asad-janma-yonisu. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. Prakrti, nature’s law, it does not… It is so perfect machine… One… We have several times said. Just like there is perfect machinery: if you have contaminated the germs of cholera or smallpox, venereal disease, then you must suffer from that disease. The machine is working. Machine is working. Similarly, the machine of the prakrti is working very finely. As soon as you contaminate one kind of sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna, then you become contaminated, and your activities and your body and your mode of life–everything according to that contamination.

So in order to save ourself from this contamination, the only process is, as Krsna says,

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

Here the so-called pious activities, that is also sinful activities. That is our mental concoction. We have made, “This is pious and this is impious.” But to remain in this material world is itself impious, because it is contamination. So when you are diseased, contaminated, so where is the difference of pious activities and impious activities? It is simply imagination. In the material world there cannot be any pious activities–because the result is suffering birth and death and old age. Then where is your pious activities? So it is simply concoction.

So when Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya, sarva means “all.” What is that “all”? Because we have created something pious and impious, something good, something bad, so Krsna says, “You rascal, give up all this bad and good. Your so-called bad and good has no value. The only value is that you surrender unto Me.” And then that is value. Otherwise you concoct, “This is very good; this is very bad.” In the prison house, if you think a first-class prison is very nice, but after all, it is prison house. Your independence is cut down. So you may think that if it is actually first-class prison… Politicians, they are given first-class classification of prison house. Does it mean the politician want to remain there for good? Why they want to come out? So similarly, here in this material world it is simply vicitra, varieties. We call, “This is first class. This is second class. This is third class.” It is simply varieties. Actually, it is all third class. There is no first class, second class.

Gunair vicitrah. Just like you like some color. Somebody likes red color, somebody likes blue color, sometimes yellow color. But after all, it is color, you like this or that. Similarly, sattva-guna is yellow color, and tamo-guna is blue color, and rajo-guna is red color. So you may like this color or that color–after all, it is material color.

So you should become free from all this colorful life of material existence and you become pure. But how you can become pure? That is also given in the Bhagavad… Sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. Gunan. Here it is said, gunair vicitrah: “By the colorful mixture of these modes of material nature, there are so many varieties, varieties of the modes of nature.” But if you want to be out of this colorful material life and you realize yourself, aham brahmasmi, “I am Brahman, and I am the same quality as God,” then you have to engage yourself in devotional service.

mam ca yo ‘vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

So try to come to the platform of sattva-guna. Not sattva-guna–brahma-bhuta, transcendental, spiritual platform. Come to this brahma-bhuta; then your life will be successful. And if you want to live this colorful life–sometimes Brahma, sometimes dog, sometimes cat, sometimes human being, sometimes king, sometimes worm of the stool–in this way, if you like this colorful life… The colorful life is going by the modes of material nature. As we are contaminating different colorful life, we are having this body. So in order to… The Buddha philosophy gives little hint only, nirvana: “You just finish this colorful life.” But it does not give further enlightenment. Simply it gives the hint that “You finish, nirvana.Nirvana means “Finish this colorful life. Become zero.” He said zero, sunyavadi. But actually, we cannot be zero. Because we are eternal, how we can be zero? We have to enter another colorful life. That is spiritual life. That is spiritual life. Simply if you make zero, that is not… That is little better, that you understand that this colorful life of material existence is not good. But what is your positive engagement? Unless you are positively engaged in another superior colorful life, you cannot give up this base colorful life.

And that engagement into superior colorful life is devotional life. Just see superior. Bhagavan says in the Bhagavad-gita, susukham kartum avyayam. Susukham. Su means very nice, and sukham means happy. The devotional service is so nice and happy. You see this devotional service. You always engage…, you are always engaged in the Deity worship, bring nice cloth. Instead of dressing yourself with nice cloth, dress Krsna with nice cloth. Then your desire for dressing nicely will vanish. Param drstva nivartate. Bhakta is satisfied when Krsna is very nicely dressed. He doesn’t care for his own dress. Therefore this colorful life is diminishing. Here we are trying to become very nicely dressed, to be attractive by others. But when one becomes a Vaisnava, he is no more interested in this colorful life. But he is interested in the colorful life of Krsna. He is interested, param drstva nivartate. He is satisfied. Sri-vigraharadhana-nitya-nana-srngara-tan-mandira -marjanadau.

When he, the devotee, sees that Krsna is very nicely dressed, Krsna is very nicely ornamented with garland, with jewels, sri-vigraharadhana-nitya-nana, daily changing, and the temple is very cleansed, and Krsna is offered, catur-vidha-sri-bhagavat-prasada, carvya, cosya, lehya, peya, varieties of prasadam, his life becomes happy in that way, not by enjoying them, but offering to Krsna. This is another colorful life.

So if you change your colorful life of this material existence and if you take to the colorful life… If you simply make zero, then it will not be fruitful, because we cannot become zero. It is not possible. People say that you become desireless. That is impossible. How we can become desireless? That is the life, to desire. The desire has to be purified. That is wanted. That purified means in spite…, instead of desiring a very nice dress for yourself, when you desire the nice dress for Krsna, this is purified. This is purified. Instead of desiring yourself to eat very nice palatable dishes, if you offer Krsna nice palatable dishes, then you become desireless. This is desireless.

So you will not be bereft of the prasada. Whatever you offering to Krsna, Krsna is so kind, He will eat, and He will leave it again, the same, very tasteful. And you will eat it, and you become spiritualized. Krsna is not hungry, that because you will give Him very palatable dishes, He will eat everything. He is self-sufficient. He is being offered such nice dishes by many thousands of goddess of fortune, including Radharani, and so He has no need for your nicely prepared foodstuff. But He is so kind that He comes to accept it just to deliver you. Take it like that. That is Krsna consciousness.

Thank you very much. (end)

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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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.

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