"The Supreme Brahman is the cause of all causes because He originally existed before the creation. He is the original cause of everything, both material and spiritual, and His existence is independent. However, the Lord has a potency called avidyā, the illusory energy, which induces the false arguer to think himself perfect and which induces the illusory energy to bewilder the conditioned soul. That Supreme Brahman, the Supersoul, is very affectionate to His devotees. To bestow mercy upon them, He discloses His form, name, attributes and qualities to be worshiped within this material world.
- 1 Srimad-Bhagavatam
- 2 Sri Caitanya-caritamrta
- 3 Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
SB Canto 1
A living being cannot help but render service because he is constitutionally made for that purpose. The only function of the living being is to render service to the Lord. The Lord is great, and living beings are subordinate to Him. Therefore, the duty of the living being is just to serve Him only. Unfortunately the illusioned living beings, out of misunderstanding only, become servants of the senses by material desire. This desire is called avidyā, or nescience. And out of such illegitimate desire the living being makes different plans for material enjoyment centered about a perverted sex life. He therefore becomes entangled in the chain of birth and death by transmigrating into different bodies on different planets under the direction of the Supreme Lord. Unless, therefore, one is beyond the boundary of this nescience, one cannot get free from the threefold miseries of material life. That is the law of nature.
SB Canto 2
The material body is the symbol of the gross and subtle form of forgetfulness; therefore the whole atmosphere of the material world is called avidyā, or nescience, whereas the whole atmosphere of the spiritual world is called vidyā, or full of knowledge. There are different stages of avidyā, and they are called dharma, artha and mokṣa. The idea of mokṣa, or liberation, held by the monist in the matter of oneness of the living entity and the Lord by ultimate merging in one, is also the last stage of materialism or forgetfulness. Knowledge of the qualitative oneness of the self and Superself is partial knowledge and ignorance also because there is no knowledge of quantitative difference, as explained above. The individual self can never be equal to the Lord in cognizance; otherwise he could not be placed in the state of forgetfulness. So, because there is a stage of forgetfulness of the individual selves, or the living entities, there is always a gulf of difference between the Lord and the living entity, as between the part and the whole. The part is never equal to the whole. So the conception of one hundred percent equality of the living being with the Lord is also nescience.
In the field of nescience, activities are directed toward lording it over the creation. In the material world, therefore, everyone is engaged in acquiring material opulence to lord it over the material world. Therefore there is always clash and frustration, which are the symptoms of nescience. But in the field of knowledge, there is devotional service to the Lord (bhakti). Therefore there is no chance of being contaminated by the influence of nescience or forgetfulness (avidyā) in the liberated stage of devotional activities. The Lord is thus the proprietor of the fields both of nescience and of cognition, and it remains the choice of the living entity to exist in either of the above regions.
SB Canto 3
He is always present in the past, present and future, like electricity. One can remember incidents from his past and can conjecture about his future also on the basis of past experience. He never forgets his personal identity, even though he is placed in awkward circumstances. How then can the living entity become forgetful of his real identity as pure spirit soul and identify with matter unless influenced by something beyond himself? The conclusion is that the living entity is influenced by the avidyā potency, as confirmed in both the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The living entity is mentioned in Bhagavad-gītā (7.5) as parā prakṛti, and in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa he is mentioned as the parā śakti. He is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord as potency and not as the potent. The potent can exhibit many potencies, but the potency cannot equal the potent at any stage. One potency may be overcome by another potency, but to the potent, all potencies are under control. The jīva potency, or the kṣetrajña-śakti of the Lord, has the tendency to be overpowered by the external potency, avidyā-karma-saṁjñā, and in this way he is placed in the awkward circumstances of material existence. The living entity cannot be forgetful of his real identity unless influenced by the avidyā potency. Because the living entity is prone to the influence of the avidyā potency, he can never equal the supreme potent.
There is no reason to assert that the Supreme Brahman is overpowered by the illusory energy. The clouds, darkness and snowfall can cover only a very insignificant portion of the sun's rays. Similarly, the modes of material nature may react upon the raylike living entities. It is the misfortune of the living entity, certainly not without reason, that the influence of the material energy acts on his pure consciousness and eternal bliss. This covering up of pure consciousness and eternal bliss is due to avidyā-karmā-saṁjñā, the energy which acts on the infinitesimal living entities who misuse their minute independence. According to Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Bhagavad-gītā and all other Vedic literatures, the living entities are generated from the taṭasthā energy of the Lord, and thus they are always the energy of the Lord and are not the energetic. The living entities are like the sun's rays. Although, as explained above, there is no qualitative difference between the sun and its rays, the sun's rays are sometimes overpowered by another energy of the sun, namely by clouds or by snowfall.
This conception has no meaning, just as there is no meaning to seeing one's head being cut off. This is the process by which knowledge is covered. And because this artificial rebellious condition of the living entity gives him all troubles, it is to be understood that he should take to his normal life as a devotee of the Lord and be relieved from the misconception of being God. The so-called liberation of thinking oneself God is that last reaction of avidyā by which the living entity is entrapped. The conclusion is that a living entity deprived of eternal transcendental service to the Lord becomes illusioned in many ways. Even in his conditional life he is the eternal servant of the Lord. His servitude under the spell of illusory māyā is also a manifestation of his eternal condition of service. Because he has rebelled against the service of the Lord, he is therefore put in the service of the māyā. He is still serving, but in a perverted manner. When he wants to get out of service under material bondage, he next desires to become one with the Lord. This is another illusion.
In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, kāla-śakti is mentioned as avidyā. The symptom of the influence of the kāla-śakti is that one has to work in the material world for fruitive results. The fruitive workers are described in Bhagavad-gītā as mūḍhas, or foolish. Such foolish living entities are very enthusiastic to work for some temporary benefit within perpetual bondage. One thinks himself very clever throughout his life if he is able to leave behind him a great asset of wealth for his children, and to achieve this temporary benefit he takes the risk of all sinful activities, without knowledge that such activities will keep him perpetually bound by the shackles of material bondage. Due to this polluted mentality and due to material sins, the aggregate combination of living entities appeared to be bluish. Such an impetus of activity for fruitive result is made possible by the dictation of the external energy of the Lord, kāla.
The energy of the Lord called avidyā is the bewildering factor of the conditioned souls. The material nature is called avidyā, or ignorance, but to the devotees of the Lord engaged in pure devotional service, this energy becomes vidyā, or pure knowledge. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. The energy of the Lord transforms from mahāmāyā to yogamāyā and appears to pure devotees in her real feature. The material nature therefore appears to function in three phases: as the creative principle of the material world, as ignorance and as knowledge. As disclosed in the previous verse, in the fourth creation the power of knowledge is also created. The conditioned souls are not originally fools, but by the influence of the avidyā function of material nature they are made fools, and thus they are unable to utilize knowledge in the proper channel.
Here the word avidyā is very significant. Avidyā means forgetfulness of one's identity. Every one of us is a spirit soul, but we have forgotten. We think, "I am this body." This is called avidyā. Saṁśaya-granthi means "doubtfulness." The knot of doubtfulness is tied when the soul identifies with the material world. That knot is also called ahaṅkāra, the junction of matter and spirit. By proper knowledge received from the scriptures in disciplic succession and by proper application of that knowledge, one can free himself from this binding combination of matter and spirit. Brahmā assures Devahūti that her son will enlighten her, and after enlightening her He will travel all over the world, distributing the system of Sāṅkhya philosophy.
SB Canto 4
It is said that this impersonal Brahman is the distant realization of the Absolute Truth. Although apparently Brahman seems to be devoid of energy, factually it has different energies working under the headings of knowledge and ignorance. On account of these different energies, there is continually a manifestation of vidyā and avidyā. Vidyā and avidyā are very nicely described in Īśopaniṣad. It is said there that sometimes, due to avidyā, or a poor fund of knowledge, one accepts the Absolute Truth as ultimately impersonal. But in fact the impersonal and personal realizations develop in proportion to the development of devotional service. The more we develop our devotional service, the more closely we approach the Absolute Truth, which, in the beginning, when we realize the Absolute Truth from a distant place, is manifest as impersonal.
People in general, who are under the influence of avidyā-śakti, or māyā, have neither knowledge nor devotion. But when a person who is a little advanced and is therefore called a jñānī advances even more, he is in the category of a jñāna-miśra-bhakta, or a devotee whose love is mixed with empiric knowledge. When he is still further advanced, he can realize that the Absolute Truth is a person with multienergies. An advanced devotee can understand the Lord and His creative energy.
Thus a learned man does not look upon the dresses that externally cover the living entity, but sees the pure soul within the varieties of dress and knows very well that the varieties of dress are the creation of nescience (avidyā-racitam). Being a śaktyāveśa-avatāra, empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Pṛthu Mahārāja did not change his spiritual position, and consequently there was no possibility of his viewing the material world as reality.
This condition of life is called avidyā. Opposed to this avidyā is real knowledge. Śrī Īśopaniṣad distinguishes between vidyā and avidyā, knowledge and ignorance. By avidyā (ignorance) one becomes conditioned, and by vidyā (knowledge) one becomes liberated. Purañjana admits herein that he is attracted by avidyā. Now he wishes to see the complete feature of avidyā and so requests the girl to raise her head so that he can see her face to face. He thus wishes to see the various features that make avidyā attractive.
SB Canto 6
Another specific feature of the knowledge given in this verse is that śabda-brahma is also a form of the Supreme Lord. In His eternal, blissful form, Lord Kṛṣṇa is accepted by Arjuna as paraṁ brahma. A living entity in the conditioned stage accepts something illusory as substantial. This is called māyā or avidyā—ignorance. Therefore according to the Vedic knowledge, one must become a devotee, and one must then distinguish between avidyā and vidyā, which are elaborately explained in the Īśopaniṣad. When one is actually on the platform of vidyā, he can personally understand the Personality of Godhead in His forms like those of Lord Rāma, Lord Kṛṣṇa and Saṅkarṣaṇa. The Vedic knowledge is described as the breathing of the Supreme Lord, and activities begin on the basis of Vedic knowledge. Therefore the Lord says that when He endeavors or breathes, the material universes come into existence, and various activities gradually develop. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā, praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu: "I am the syllable oṁ in all the Vedic mantras." Vedic knowledge begins with the vibration of the transcendental sound praṇava, oṁkāra. The same transcendental sound is Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Abhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ: (CC Madhya 17.133) there is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself.
SB Canto 7
The example given in this regard—vasukālavad aṣṭi-tarvoḥ—is very easy to understand. Everything exists in time, yet there are different phases of the time factor—present, past and future. Present, past and future are one. Every day we can experience the time factor as morning, noon and evening, and although morning is different from noon, which is different from evening, all of them taken together are one. The time factor is the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the Lord is separate from the time factor. Everything is created, maintained and annihilated by time, but the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, has no beginning and no end. He is nityaḥ śāśvataḥ—eternal, permanent. Everything passes through time's phases of present, past and future, yet the Lord is always the same. Thus there is undoubtedly a difference between the Lord and the cosmic manifestation, but actually they are not different. Accepting them to be different is called avidyā, ignorance.
SB Canto 8
The word anidram, meaning "always awake and free from ignorance," is very important in this verse. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (15.15), mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca: it is the Lord who gives intelligence to everyone and who causes everyone to forget. There are millions and millions of living entities, and the Lord gives them directions. Therefore He has no time to sleep, and He is never in ignorance of our activities. The Lord is the witness of everything; He sees what we are doing at every moment. The Lord is not covered by a body resulting from karma. Our bodies are formed as a result of our past deeds (karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa (SB 3.31.1)), but the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not have a material body, and therefore He has no avidyā, ignorance. He does not sleep, but is always alert and awake.
For material happiness, the conditioned soul involves himself in fruitive activities, which actually put him into material distress. Because the conditioned soul does not know this, he is said to be in avidyā, or ignorance. Because of a false hope for happiness, the conditioned soul becomes involved in various plans for material activity. Here Mahārāja Satyavrata prays that the Lord sever this hard knot of false happiness and thus become his supreme spiritual master.
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
Encircling the Lord and worshiping Him were Nanda, Sunanda and His other personal attendants; Sanaka and the other Kumāras; Brahmā, Rudra and other chief demigods; the nine chief brāhmaṇas; and the best of the saintly devotees, headed by Prahlāda, Nārada and Uparicara Vasu. Each of these great personalities was worshiping the Lord by chanting sanctified words of praise in his own unique mood. Also in attendance were the Lord's principal internal potencies—Śrī, Puṣṭi, Gīr, Kānti, Kīrti, Tuṣṭi, Ilā and Ūrjā—as were His material potencies Vidyā, Avidyā and Māyā, and His internal pleasure potency, Śakti.
The material potency is the energy of darkness, or complete ignorance of spiritual activities. In the material potency, the living entity engages himself in fruitive activities, thinking that he can be happy through expansion in terms of material energy. This fact is prominently manifest in this Age of Kali because human society, not understanding the spiritual nature, is busily expanding in material activities. The men of the present day are almost unaware of their spiritual identity. They think that they are products of the elements of the material world and that everything will end with the annihilation of the body. Therefore they conclude that as long as one has a material body consisting of material senses, one should enjoy the senses as much as possible. Since they are atheists, they do not care whether there is a next life. Such activities are described in this verse as avidyā-karma-saṁjñānyā.
This is called ignorance. From the Bhagavad-gītā it is understood that one does not die with the annihilation of his body (na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre (BG 2.20)). The annihilation of one body involves changing to another (tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ (BG 2.13)). Therefore, to perform irresponsible activities in the material world is very dangerous. Without knowledge of the spirit soul and its transmigration, people are allured by the material energy to engage in many such activities, as if one could become happy simply by dint of material knowledge, without reference to spiritual existence. Therefore the entire material world and its activities are referred to as avidyā-karma-saṁjñānyā.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, in Śrī Kṛṣṇa's discourse on the kṣetra and the kṣetra-jña, it is clearly stated that the kṣetra-jña is the living entity, who knows his field of activities. The living entities in the material world are forgetful of their eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This forgetfulness is called avidyā, or nescience. The avidyā-śakti, the avidyā potency of the material world, provokes fruitive activity. Although this avidyā-śakti (material energy, or nescience) is also an energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is especially intended to keep the living entities in a state of forgetfulness. This is due to their rebellious attitude toward the Lord. Thus although the living entities are constitutionally spiritual, they come under the influence of the potency of nescience. How this happens is described in the following verse.
O King, the kṣetra-jña-śakti is the living entity. Although he has the facility to live in either the material or spiritual world, he suffers the threefold miseries of material existence because he is influenced by the avidyā (nescience) potency, which covers his constitutional position.
It is the practice of Vaiṣṇavas while taking prasādam to chant the holy name of Lord Hari at intervals and also sing various songs, such as śarīra avidyā-jāla. Those who are honoring prasādam, accepting the remnants of food offered to the Deity, must always remember that prasādam is not ordinary food. Prasādam is transcendental. We are therefore reminded:
- mahā-prasāde govinde nāma-brahmaṇi vaiṣṇave
- sv-alpa-puṇya-vatāṁ rājan viśvāso naiva jāyate
Those who are not pious cannot understand the value of mahā-prasādam or the holy name of the Lord. Both prasādam and the Lord's name are on the Brahman platform, or spiritual platform. One should never consider prasādam to be like ordinary hotel cooking. Nor should one touch any kind of food not offered to the Deity. Every Vaiṣṇava strictly follows this principle and does not accept any food that is not prasādam. One should take prasādam with great faith and should chant the holy name of the Lord and worship the Deity in the temple, always remembering that the Deity, mahā-prasādam and the holy name do not belong to the mundane platform. By worshiping the Deity, eating prasādam and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, one can always remain on the spiritual platform (brahma-bhūyāya kalpate (BG 14.26)).
‘O King, the kṣetra-jña-śakti is the living entity. Although he has the facility to live in either the material or the spiritual world, he suffers the threefold miseries of material existence because he is influenced by the avidyā (nescience) potency, which covers his constitutional position.
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Teachings of Lord Caitanya
"The energy of the Supreme Lord is divided into three: parā, kṣetra-jña and avidyā." The parā energy is actually the energy of the Supreme Lord Himself, the kṣetra-jña energy is the living entity, and the avidyā energy is the material world, or māyā. It is called avidyā, or ignorance, because under the spell of this material energy one forgets his actual position and his relationship with the Supreme Lord. The conclusion is that the living entities represent one of the energies of the Supreme Lord. As infinitesimal parts and parcels of the Supreme, they are called jīvas. If the jīvas are artificially placed on the same level with the infinite Supreme because both of them are Brahman, or spirit, then bewilderment will certainly be the result.
Nectar of Instruction
The holy name, character, pastimes and activities of Kṛṣṇa are all transcendentally sweet like sugar candy. Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of avidyā (ignorance) cannot taste anything sweet, it is wonderful that simply by carefully chanting these sweet names every day, a natural relish awakens within his tongue, and his disease is gradually destroyed at the root.
The holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, His quality, pastimes and so forth are all of the nature of absolute truth, beauty and bliss. Naturally they are very sweet, like sugar candy, which appeals to everyone. Nescience, however, is compared to the disease called jaundice, which is caused by bilious secretions. Attacked by jaundice, the tongue of a diseased person cannot palatably relish sugar candy. Rather, a person with jaundice considers something sweet to taste very bitter. Avidyā (ignorance) similarly perverts the ability to relish the transcendentally palatable name, quality, form and pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. Despite this disease, if one with great care and attention takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, chanting the holy name and hearing Kṛṣṇa's transcendental pastimes, his ignorance will be destroyed and his tongue enabled to taste the sweetness of the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa and His paraphernalia. Such a recovery of spiritual health is possible only by the regular cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Such people never surrender to Kṛṣṇa, and they oppose the endeavor of those who wish to take Kṛṣṇa's shelter. When such atheists become leaders of society, the entire atmosphere is surcharged with nescience. In such a condition, people do not become very enthusiastic to receive this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, just as a diseased person suffering from jaundice does not relish the taste of sugar candy. However, one must know that for jaundice, sugar candy is the only specific medicine. Similarly, in the present confused state of humanity, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—is the only remedy for setting the world aright. Although Kṛṣṇa consciousness may not be very palatable for a diseased person, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī nonetheless advises that if one wants to be cured of the material disease, he must take to it with great care and attention. One begins his treatment by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra because by chanting this holy name of the Lord a person in the material condition will be relieved from all misconceptions (ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam (Cc Antya 20.12)). Avidyā, a misconception about one's spiritual identity, provides the foundation for ahaṅkāra, or false ego within the heart.
Thus a jñānī is considered superior to a karmī because he at least refrains from the blind activities of sense enjoyment. This is the verdict of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, although a jñānī may be liberated from the ignorance of the karmīs, unless he comes to the platform of devotional service he is still considered to be in ignorance (avidyā). Although one may be accepted as a jñānī, or one advanced in knowledge, his knowledge is considered impure because he has no information of devotional service and thus neglects the direct worship of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Easy Journey to Other Planets
According to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, the material energy is called avidyā, or nescience, and is exhibited in the fruitive activities of sense enjoyment. But although the living being has the tendency to be illusioned and trapped by the material energy for sense enjoyment, he belongs to the anti-material energy, or spiritual energy. In this sense the living being is the positive energy, whereas matter is the negative energy. Matter does not develop unless in contact with the superior spiritual, or anti-material, energy, which is directly part and parcel of the spiritual whole. The subject matter of this spiritual energy exhibited by living beings is undoubtedly very complicated for an ordinary man, who is therefore astounded by the subject. Sometimes he partially understands it through the imperfect senses, and sometimes he fails to know it altogether. It is best, therefore, to hear from the highest authority, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or from His devotee who represents Him in the chain of disciplic succession.
Renunciation Through Wisdom
It is a mistake to identify the Mother with the lower Prakṛti and its mechanism of forces. Prakṛti here is a mechanism only, which has been formed for the evolution of ignorance. As the ignorant mental, vital, or physical being is not itself the Divine, although it comes from the Divine, so the mechanism of Prakṛti is not the Divine Mother. No doubt something of her is there in and behind this mechanism, maintaining it for the evolutionary purpose, but she in herself is not the Śakti of Avidya but the Divine consciousness, the Power, Light, and Para-prakṛti, to whom we turn for release and divine fulflllment...
This mantra offers a comparative study of vidyā and avidyā. Avidyā, or ignorance, is undoubtedly dangerous, but vidyā, or knowledge, is even more dangerous when mistaken or misguided. This mantra of Śrī Īśopaniṣad is more applicable today than at any time in the past. Modern civilization has advanced considerably in the field of mass education, but the result is that people are more unhappy than ever before because of the stress placed on material advancement to the exclusion of the most important part of life, the spiritual aspect.
In the language of the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15), people who are engaged in gross sense gratification are mūḍhas—asses. The ass is a symbol of stupidity. Those who simply engage in the profitless pursuit of sense gratification are worshiping avidyā, according to Śrī Īśopaniṣad. And those who play the role of helping this sort of civilization in the name of educational advancement are actually doing more harm than those who are on the platform of gross sense gratification. The advancement of learning by a godless people is as dangerous as a valuable jewel on the hood of a cobra. A cobra decorated with a valuable jewel is more dangerous than one not decorated. In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (3.11.12), the advancement of education by a godless people is compared to decorations on a dead body. In India, as in many other countries, some people follow the custom of leading a procession with a decorated dead body for the pleasure of the lamenting relatives. In the same way, modern civilization is a patchwork of activities meant to cover the perpetual miseries of material existence. All such activities are aimed toward sense gratification. But above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul. Any education which does not lead to such realization must be considered avidyā, or nescience. And to culture such nescience means to go down to the darkest region of ignorance.
The path of avidyā, or advancement of material knowledge for sense gratification, is the path of repeated birth and death. As he exists spiritually, the living entity has no birth or death. Birth and death apply to the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. Death is compared to the taking off and birth to the putting on of outward garments. Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of avidyā, nescience, do not mind this cruel process. Enamored with the beauty of the illusory energy, they undergo the same miseries repeatedly and do not learn any lessons from the laws of nature.
In our pure spiritual form, free from all material contamination, real enjoyment of the senses is possible. A patient must regain his health before he can truly enjoy sense pleasure again. Thus the aim of human life should not be to enjoy perverted sense enjoyment but to cure the material disease. Aggravation of the material disease is no sign of knowledge, but a sign of avidyā, ignorance. For good health, a person should not increase his fever from 105 degrees to 107 degrees but should reduce his temperature to the normal 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the temperature of the feverish material condition, which has reached the point of 107 degrees in the form of atomic energy. Meanwhile, the foolish politicians are crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge and the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Śrī Īśopaniṣad herein warns that we must not follow this dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must develop the culture of spiritual knowledge so that we may become completely free from the cruel hands of death.
Human activities diseased by a tendency toward sense gratification have been regulated in the Vedas under the principles of salvation. This system employs religion, economic development, sense gratification and salvation, but at the present moment people have no interest in religion or salvation. They have only one aim in life—sense gratification—and in order to achieve this end they make plans for economic development. Misguided men think that religion should be maintained because it contributes to economic development, which is required for sense gratification. Thus in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observance. But this is not the purpose of religion. The path of religion is actually meant for self-realization, and economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. A man should lead a healthy life with a sound mind just to realize vidyā, true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for working like an ass or for culturing avidyā for sense gratification.
Lord Viṣṇu, the Personality of Godhead, possesses different energies, known as parā (superior) and aparā (inferior). The living entities belong to the superior energy. The material energy, in which we are presently entangled, is the inferior energy. The material creation is made possible by this energy, which covers the living entities with ignorance (avidyā) and induces them to perform fruitive activities. Yet there is another part of the Lord's superior energy that is different from both this material, inferior energy and the living entities. That superior energy constitutes the eternal, deathless abode of the Lord.