December 20, 2011

What is Krishna Consciousness?

Excerpt from “Science of Self-Realization.”
[source: Hare Krishna Tronheim]

The following interview with freelance reporter Sandy Nixon took place in July 1975, in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s quarters at the Kṛṣṇa center in Philadelphia. This discussion serves as a superb introduction to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and covers such basic topics as the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the relationship between the spiritual master and God, the difference between genuine and fake gurus, the role of women in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the Indian caste system, and the relationship between Christ consciousness and Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Ms. Nixon: My first question is very basic. What is Kṛṣṇa consciousness?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa means God. We are all intimately connected with Him because He is our original father. But we have forgotten this connection. When we become interested in knowing, “What is my connection with God? What is the aim of life?” then we are called Kṛṣṇa conscious.

Ms. Nixon: How does Kṛṣṇa consciousness develop in the practitioner?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa consciousness is already there in the core of everyone’s heart. But because of our materially conditioned life, we have forgotten it. The process of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—revives the Kṛṣṇa consciousness we already have. For example, a few months ago these American and European boys and girls did not know about Kṛṣṇa, but just yesterday we saw how they were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and dancing in ecstasy throughout the whole Ratha-yātrā procession [an annual festival sponsored by the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement in cities around the world]. Do you think that was artificial? No. Artificially, nobody can chant and dance for hours together. They have actually awakened their Kṛṣṇa consciousness by following a bona fide process. This is explained in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22. 107)

nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-prema ‘sādhya’ kabhu naya
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya

Kṛṣṇa consciousness is dormant in everyone’s heart, and when one comes in contact with devotees, it is awakened. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not artificial. Just as a young boy awakens his natural attraction for a young girl in her association, similarly, if one hears about Kṛṣṇa in the association of devotees, he awakens his dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Ms. Nixon: What is the difference between Kṛṣṇa consciousness and Christ consciousness?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Christ consciousness is also Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but because at present people do not follow the rules and regulations of Christianity—the commandments of Jesus Christ—they do not come to the standard of God consciousness.

Ms. Nixon: What is unique about Kṛṣṇa consciousness among all religions?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Primarily, religion means to know God and to love Him. That is religion. Nowadays, because of a lack of training, nobody knows God, what to speak of loving Him. People are satisfied simply going to church and praying, “O God, give us our daily bread.” In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam this is called a cheating religion, because the aim is not to know and love God but to gain some personal profit. In other words, if I profess to follow some religion but I do not know who God is or how to love Him, I am practicing a cheating religion. As far as the Christian religion is concerned, ample opportunity is given to understand God, but no one is taking it. For example, the Bible contains the commandment “Thou shall not kill,” but Christians have built the world’s best slaughterhouses. How can they become God conscious if they disobey the commandments of Lord Jesus Christ? And this is going on not just in the Christian religion, but in every religion. The title “Hindu,” “Muslim,” or “Christian” is simply a rubber stamp. None of them knows who God is and how to love Him.

Ms. Nixon: How can one tell a bona fide spiritual master from a fake?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Whoever teaches how to know God and how to love Him—he is a spiritual master. Sometimes bogus rascals mislead people. “1 am God,” they claim, and people who do not know what God is believe them. You must be a serious student to understand who God is and how to love Him. Otherwise, you will simply waste your time. So the difference between others and us is that we are the only movement that can actually teach one how to know God and how to love Him. We are presenting the science of how one can know Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by practicing the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. They teach us that our only business is to love God. Our business is not to ask God for our necessities. God gives necessities to everyone—even to one who has no religion. For example, cats and dogs have no religion, yet Kṛṣṇa supplies them with the necessities of life. So why should we bother Kṛṣṇa for our daily bread? He is already supplying it. Real religion means to learn how to love Him. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.6) says,

sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
ahaituky apratihatā
yayātmā suprasīdati

First-class religion teaches one how to love God without any motive. If I serve God for some profit, that is business—not love. Real love of God is ahaituky apratihatā: it cannot be checked by any material cause. It is unconditional. If one actually wants to love God, there is no impediment. One can love Him whether one is poor or rich, young or old, black or white.

Ms. Nixon: Do all paths lead to the same end?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. There are four classes of men—the karmīs, the jñānīs, the yogīs, and the bhaktas—and each achieves a different goal. The karmīs work for some material profit. For example, in the city, many people work hard day and night, and their purpose is to get some money. Thus, they are fruitive workers, or karmīs. A jñānī is a person who thinks, “Why am I working so hard? The birds, bees, elephants, and other creatures have no profession, yet they are also eating. So why should I unnecessarily work so hard? Rather, let me try to solve the problems of life—birth, death, old age, and disease.” Jñānīs try to become immortal. They think that if they merge into God’s existence, then they will become immune to birth, death, old age, and disease. And yogīs try to acquire some mystic power to exhibit a wonderful show. For instance, a yogī can become very small: if you put him into a locked room, he can come out through any little space. By showing this kind of magic, the yogī is immediately accepted as a very wonderful man. Of course, modern yogīs simply show some gymnastics—they have no real power. But a real yogī has some power, which is not spiritual but material. So the yogī wants mystic power, the jñānī wants salvation from the miseries of life, and the karmī wants material profit. But the bhakta—the devotee—doesn’t want anything for himself. He simply wants to serve God out of love, just as a mother serves her child. There is no question of profit in a mother’s service to her child. Out of pure affection and love, she cares for him.

When you come to this stage of loving God, that is perfection. Neither the karmī, the jñānī, nor the yogī can know God—only the bhakta. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55), bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: “Only through the process of bhakti can one understand God.” Kṛṣṇa never says one can understand Him by other processes. No. Only through bhakti. If you are interested in knowing God and loving Him, then you must accept the devotional process. No other process will help you.

Ms. Nixon: What transformation does one undergo on the path…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No transformation—your original consciousness is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Now your consciousness is covered with so much rubbish. You have to cleanse it, and then—Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Our consciousness is like water. Water is by nature clear and transparent, but sometimes it becomes muddy. If you filter all the mud out of the water, it again comes to its original clear, transparent state.

Ms. Nixon: Could you explain the meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: It is very simple. Hare means, “O energy of the Lord,” and Kṛṣṇa means, “O Lord Kṛṣṇa.” Just as there are males and females in the material world, similarly, God is the original male (puruṣa), and His energy (prakṛti) is the original female. So, when we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, we are saying, “O Lord Kṛṣṇa, O energy of Kṛṣṇa, kindly engage me in Your service.”

Please click HERE to read the entire interview...

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