Published on June 17th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


The Roads of the Foolish and the Wise

Despite being looked after well by the father, the fool still disobeys him. One is foolish and low on the human scale if he persists in being punished.

Krsna is thus explaining Himself as He is. Yet we are not attracted to Him. Why is this? The reason is given by Krsna Himself:

daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Bg. 7.14)

The material world is pervaded by the three qualities of material nature. All living entities are influenced by these qualities. If they are primarily influenced by the mode of goodness, they are called brahmanas, and if they are influenced by the mode of passion, they are called ksatriyas. If they are influenced by the modes of passion and ignorance, they are vaisyas, and if they are influenced by ignorance, they are sudras. This is not an artificial imposition due to birth or social status but is according to guna, or the mode of nature under which one is operating.

catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Bg. 4.13)

It is not that this system refers to the perverted caste system in India. Sri Krsna specifically states: guna-karma-vibhagasah: men are classified according to the guna or the mode under which they are operating, and this applies to men all over the universe. When Krsna speaks, we must understand that whatever He says is not limited but is universally true. He claims to be the father of all living entities—even the animals, the aquatics, the trees, plants, worms, birds and bees are all claimed to be His sons. Sri Krsna asserts that the entire universe is illusioned by the interactions of the three qualities of material nature, and we are under the spell of that illusion; therefore we cannot understand what God is.

What is the nature of this illusion, and how can it be overcome? That is also explained in Bhagavad-gita:

daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered to Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Bg. 7.14) No one can get rid of the entanglement of the three qualities of material nature by mental speculation. The three gunas are very strong and hard to overcome. Can’t we feel how we are in the grip of material nature? The word guna (mode) also means rope. When someone is bound by three strong ropes, he is certainly very tightly secured. Our hands and legs are all bound by the strong ropes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Are we therefore to abandon hope? No, for here Sri Krsna promises that whoever surrenders unto Him is at once free. When one becomes Krsna conscious—whether in this way or that way—he becomes free.

We are all related to Krsna, for we are all His sons. A son may have a disagreement with his father, but it is not possible for him to break that relation. In the course of his life he will be asked who he is, and he will have to reply, “I am the son of so and so.” That relation cannot be broken. We are all sons of God, and that relationship with Him is eternal, but we have simply forgotten. Krsna is all-powerful, all-famous, all-wealthy, all-beautiful, all-knowledgeable, and He is full of renunciation as well. Although we are friends of such a great personality, we have forgotten it. If a rich man’s son forgets his father, leaves home and becomes mad, he may lie on the street to go to sleep, or he may beg money for food, but all of this is due to his forgetfulness. If someone, however, gives him information that he is simply suffering because he has left his father’s home and that his father, a very wealthy man and owner of vast property, is anxious to have him return—the person is a great benefactor.

In this material world we are always suffering under threefold miseries—the miseries arising from the body and the mind, from other living entities, and from natural catastrophes. Being covered by illusion, by the modes of material nature, we do not take account of these miseries. However, we should always know that in the material world we are undergoing so much suffering. One who has sufficiently developed consciousness, who is intelligent, inquires why he is suffering. “I do not want miseries. Why am I suffering?” When this question arises, there is chance for becoming Krsna conscious.

As soon as we surrender ourselves to Krsna, He welcomes us very cordially. It is just like a lost child who returns to his father and says, “My dear father, due to some misunderstanding I left your protection, but I have suffered. Now I return to you.” The father embraces his son and says, “My dear boy, come on. I was so anxious for you all the days you were gone, and now I’m so happy you have come back.” The father is so kind. We are in the same position. We have to surrender to Krsna, and it is not very difficult. When the son surrenders to the father, is it a very difficult job? It is very natural, and the father is always waiting to receive the son. There is no question of insult. If we bow down before our Supreme Father and touch His feet, there is no harm for us, nor is it difficult. Indeed, it is glorious for us. Why should we not? By surrendering unto Krsna we come immediately under His protection and are relieved of all miseries. This is validated by all scriptures. At the end of Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krsna says:

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

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Bg. 18.66)

When we throw ourselves at the feet of God, we come under His protection, and from that time on there is no fear for us. When children are under the protection of their parents, they are fearless because they know that their parents will not let them be harmed. Mam eva ye prapadyante: Krsna promises that those who surrender to Him have no cause for fear. If surrender unto Krsna is such an easy thing, then why don’t people do it? Instead there are many who are challenging the very existence of God, claiming that nature and science are everything and that God is nothing. So-called advancement of civilization in knowledge means that the populace is becoming more mad. Instead of being cured, the disease is being increased. People don’t care for God, but they care for nature, and it is nature’s business to give kicks in the form of the threefold miseries. She is always administering these kicks twenty-four hours a day. However, we have become so accustomed to being kicked that we think it is all right and consider it to be the ordinary course of things. We have become very proud of our education, but we tell material nature, “Thank you very much for kicking me. Now please continue.” Thus deluded, we think that we have even conquered material nature. But how is this so? Nature is still inflicting upon us the miseries of birth, old age, disease and death. Has any one solved these problems? Then what advancement have we really made in knowledge and civilization? We are under the stringent rules of material nature, but still we are thinking that we have conquered. This is called maya.

There may be some difficulty in surrendering to the father of this body, for he has limited knowledge and power, but Krsna is not like an ordinary father. Krsna is unlimited and has full knowledge, full power, full wealth, full beauty, full fame and full renunciation. Shouldn’t we consider ourselves lucky to go to such a father and enjoy His property? Yet no one seems to care about this, and now everyone is making propaganda that there is no God. Why do people not seek Him out? The answer is given in the next verse of Bhagavad-gita:

na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah mayayapahrta jnana asuram bhavam asritah

“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Bg. 7.15)

In this way the fools are categorized. A duskrti is always acting against the scriptural injunctions. The business of current civilization is to break scriptural rules—that’s all. By definition, a pious man is one who doesn’t. There must be some standard to distinguish between duskrti (an evil doer) and sukrti (a virtuous man). Every civilized country has some scripture—it may be Christian, Hindu, Moslem or Buddhist. That doesn’t matter. The point is that the book of authority, the scripture, is there. One who does not follow its injunctions is considered an outlaw.

Another category mentioned in this verse is mudha, fool number one. The naradhama is one who is low in the human scale, and mayayapahrta jnana refers to one whose knowledge is carried away by maya, or illusion. Asuram bhavam asritah refers to those who are out and out atheists. Although there are no disadvantages to surrendering unto the Father, people who are thus characterized never do it. As a result, they are constantly punished by the agents of the Father. They have to be slapped, caned and kicked severely, and they have to suffer. just as a father has to chastise his unruly boy, so material nature has to employ certain punishments. At the same time nature is nourishing us by supplying food and other necessities. Both processes are going on because we are sons of the wealthiest Father of all, and Krsna is kind even though we do not surrender unto Him. Yet despite being furnished so well by the Father, the duskrti still performs unsanctioned actions. One is foolish if he persists in being punished, and one is low on the human scale if he does not use this human form of life to understand Krsna. If a man does not use his life to reawaken the relationship he has with his real Father, he is to be considered fallen in the human scale.

Animals simply eat, sleep, defend themselves, have sexual intercourse and die. They do not avail themselves of higher consciousness because that is not possible in the lower forms of life. If a human being follows the activities of the animals and does not avail himself of his ability to elevate his consciousness, he falls down the human scale and prepares for an animal body in his next life. By the grace of Krsna we are given a highly developed body and intelligence, but if we do not utilize them, why should He give them to us again? We must understand that this human body has developed after millions and millions of years of evolution and that in itself it is a chance to get out of the cycle of birth and death in which over eight millions species of life evolve. This chance is given by the grace of Krsna, and if we do not take it, are we not the lowest among men? One may be a degree holder—M.A., Ph.D., etc.—from some university, but the illusory energy takes away this mundane knowledge. He who is really intelligent will apply his intelligence to understand who he is, who God is, what material nature is, why he is suffering in material nature, and what is the remedy to this suffering.

We may apply our intelligence to manufacture an automobile, radio or television for sense gratification, but we have to understand that this is not knowledge. Rather, this is plundered intelligence. Intelligence was given to man to understand the problems of life, but it is being misused. People are thinking that they have acquired knowledge because they know how to manufacture and drive cars, but before the car was here people were still going from one place to another. It is just that the facility has been increased, but along with this facility come additional problems—air pollution and over-crowded highways. This is maya; we are creating facilities, but these facilities in their turn are creating so many problems. Instead of wasting our energy to supply ourselves with so many facilities and modern amenities, we should apply intelligence to understand who and what we are. We do not like to suffer, but we should understand why suffering is being forced upon us. By so-called knowledge we have simply succeeded in manufacturing the atomic bomb. Thus the killing process has been accelerated. We are so proud to think that this is advancement of knowledge, but if we can manufacture something that can stop death, we have really advanced in knowledge. Death is already there in material nature, but we are so eager to promote it by killing everyone at one drop—this is called mayayapahrta—jnana knowledge carried away by illusion.

The asuras, the demons and proclaimed atheists, actually challenge God.

If it were not for our Supreme Father, we would not see the light of day, so what is the point of challenging Him? In the Vedas it is stated that there are two classes of men, the devas and asuras, the demigods and demons. Who are the devas? The devotees of the Supreme Lord are called devas because they also become like God, whereas those who defy the authority of the Supreme are called asuras or demons. These two classes are always found in human society. Just as there are four types of miscreants who never surrender to Krsna, there are four types of fortunate men who worship Him, and they are categorized in the next verse:

catur-vidha bhajante mam janah sukrtino ’rjuna arto jijnasur artharthi jnani ca bharatarsabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Bg. 7.16)

This material world is full of distress, and both the pious and impious are subject to it. The cold of winter treats everyone alike. It does not care for the pious or impious, the rich or the poor. The difference between the pious and the impious, however, is that the pious man thinks of God when he is in his miserable condition. Often when a man is distressed, he will go to church and pray, “Oh my Lord, I am in difficulty. Please help me.” Although he is praying for some material necessity, such a man is still to be considered pious because he has come to God in his distress. Similarly, a poor man may go to church and pray, “My dear Lord, please give me some money.” On the other hand, the inquisitive are usually intelligent. They are always researching to understand things. They may ask, “What is God?” and then conduct scientific research to find out. They are also considered pious because their research is directed to the proper object. The man in knowledge is called jnani—one who has understood his constitutional position. Such ajnani may have an impersonal conception of God, but because he is taking shelter of the ultimate, the Supreme Absolute Truth, he is also to be considered pious. These four types of men are called sukrti—pious—because they are all after God


tesam jnani nitya-yukta eka-bhaktir visisyate priyo hi jnanino ’tyartham aham sa ca mama priyah

“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Bg. 7.17)

Out of the four classes of men who approach God, he who is philosophically trying to understand the nature of God, who is trying to become Krsna conscious—visisyate—is best qualified. Indeed, Krsna says that such a person is very dear to Him because he has no other business than understanding God. The others are inferior. No one has to pray to God to ask for anything, and he who does so is foolish because he does not know that the all-knowing God is within his heart and is well aware when he is in distress or in need of money. The wise man realizes this and does not pray for relief from material miseries. Rather, he prays to glorify God and inform others how great He is. He doesn’t pray for his personal interest, for bread, dress or shelter. The pure devotee, when he is distressed, says, “Dear Lord, this is Your kindness. You have put me into distress just to rectify me. I should be put in much greater distress, but out of Your mercy You have minimized this.” This is the vision of a pure devotee who is not disturbed.

He who is in Krsna consciousness does not care for material distress, insult or honor because he is aloof from all these. He knows well that distress, honor and insult pertain to the body only and that he is not the body. Socrates, for instance, who believed in the immortality of the soul, was condemned to death, and upon being asked how he would like to be buried, replied, “First of all you may have to catch me.” So one who knows that he is not the body is not disturbed, for he knows the soul cannot be caught, tortured, killed or buried. He who is conversant with the science of Krsna knows perfectly well that he is not the body, that he is part and parcel of Krsna, that his real relationship is with Krsna, and that somehow or other, although he has been put in the material body, he must remain aloof from the three qualities of material nature. He is not concerned with the modes of goodness, passion or ignorance, but with Krsna. One who understands this is a jnani, a wise man, and he is very much dear to Krsna. A distressed man, when he is put into opulence, may forget God, but a jnani, who knows the real position of God, will never forget Him. There is a class of jnanis called impersonalists who say that because worshiping the impersonal is too difficult, a form of God has to be imagined. These are not real jnanis—they’re fools. No one can imagine the form of God, for God is so great. One may imagine some form, but that is a concoction; it is not the real form. There are those who imagine the form of God, and there are those who deny the form of God. Neither is a jnani. Those who imagine the form are called iconoclasts. During the Hindu-Muslim riots in India, some Hindus would go to the Moslem mosque and would break statues and images of God, and the Moslems would reciprocate in like manner. In this way they were both thinking, “We’ve killed the Hindu God. We’ve killed the Moslem God, etc.” Similarly, when Gandhi was leading his resistance movement, many Indians would go to the street and destroy the mailboxes and in this way think that they were destroying the government postal service. people of such mentality are not jnanis. The religious wars between the Hindus and Moslems and Christians and non-Christians were all conducted on the basis of ignorance. One who is in knowledge knows that God is one; He cannot be Moslem, Hindu or Christian.

It is our imagination that God is such and such and such and such.

That is all imagination. The real wise man knows that God is transcendental. One who knows that God is transcendental to the material modes truly knows God. God is always beside us, present in our hearts. When we leave the body, God also goes with us, and when we take on another body, He goes with us there just to see what we are doing. When shall we turn our face towards Him? He is always waiting. As soon as we turn our face toward God, He says, “My dear son, come on—sa ca mama priyah—you are eternally dear to Me. Now you are turning your face to Me, and I am very glad.”

The wise man, the jnani, actually understands the science of God. One who only understands that “God is good” is in a preliminary stage, but one who actually understands how great and good God is, is further progressed. That knowledge is to be had in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. One who is actually interested in God should study the science of God, Bhagavad-gita.

idam tu te guhyatamam pravaksyamy anasuyave jnanam vijnana-sahitam yaj jnatva moksyase ’subhat

“My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bg. 9.1)

The knowledge of God imparted in Bhagavad-gita is very subtle and confidential. It is full of jnana, metaphysical wisdom, and vijnana, scientific knowledge. And it is full of mystery also. How can one understand this knowledge? It must be imparted by God Himself or a bona fide representative of God. Therefore Sri Krsna says that whenever there is a discrepancy on understanding the science of God, He incarnates Himself.

Nor does knowledge come from sentiment. Devotion is not sentiment. It is a science. Srila Rupa Gosvami says, “A show of spirituality without reference to the Vedic knowledge is simply a disturbance to society.” One must taste the nectar of devotion by reason, argument and knowledge, and then he must pass it on to others. One should not think that Krsna consciousness is mere sentimentality. The dancing and singing are all scientific. There is science, and there is also loving reciprocation. Krsna is very dear to the wise man, and the wise man is very dear to Krsna. Krsna will return our love a thousand-fold. What capacity do we finite creatures have to love Krsna? But Krsna has immense capacity—unlimited capacity—for love.

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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 The Roads of the Foolish and the Wise

  1. nick says:

    Just a thought….
    It is interesting to note that as a child grows he becomes less reliant on his father , he becomes educated , gets a job , leaves home and becomes independent, for all intense and purposes he forgets his home and father.
    It seems like we have become like that as a civilisation. We have grown up and become independent of our father and forgotten our roots, forgotten who we really are, meantime we have made a complete mess of our society externally and our internal worlds are just as disturbed.

  2. gemcyn says:

    hare krishna, you cannot defeat maya. but maya can always be kept under control through krishna consciousness. if you chant daily 16 rounds and read prabhupadas books then you will win in life.

  3. abhishek says:

    I’m abhishek I’m presently doing my B.E I’ve been following BHAGAVAD GITA also SRI MADBHAGAVATAM from a year ago I’m happy till now but for now I seem to lose control over my thoughts and actions I think the Maya is gaining ovet me again can you please help me out …. HARE KRISHNA

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