One who is not satisfied with the mind must fall to degradation. One must conquer lusty desires, anger, greed, fear, lamentation, illusion, fright, unnecessary talks on material subjects, violence, the four miseries of material existence, and the three material qualities. That is the objective of human life. One who has no faith in the spiritual master, who is identical with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, cannot get any benefit from reading śāstra. One should never consider the spiritual master an ordinary human being, even though the members of the spiritual master's family may think of him as such. Meditation and other processes of austerity are useful only if they help in advancement toward Kṛṣṇa consciousness; otherwise, they are simply a waste of time and labor. For those who are not devotees, such meditation and austerity cause falldown.
Degradation (SB cantos 7 - 12)
SB Canto 7
Although Hiraṇyakaśipu was a great demon, he was not as foolish as the population of the modern world. Hiraṇyakaśipu had clear knowledge of the spirit soul and the subtle and gross bodies, but now we are so degraded that everyone, including the exalted scientists, philosophers and other leaders, is under the bodily conception of life, which is condemned in the śāstras. Sa eva go-kharaḥ: (SB 10.84.13) such persons are nothing but cows and asses.
The living entity is bound by the subtle body, consisting of the mind, intelligence and false ego. At the time of death, therefore, the position of the mind becomes the cause for the next body. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (8.6), yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram: at the time of death the mind sets the criteria for the spirit soul's being carried to another type of body. If a living being resists the dictation of the mind and engages the mind in the loving service of the Lord, the mind cannot degrade him. The duty of all human beings, therefore, is to keep the mind always engaged at the lotus feet of the Lord (sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayoḥ (SB 9.4.18)). When the mind is engaged at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, the intelligence is purified, and then the intelligence gets inspiration from the Supersoul (dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ tam). Thus the living entity makes progress toward liberation from material bondage.
Another point in this verse is that fathers and mothers have protective feelings for their children even in bird and beast society, not to speak of human society. Kali-yuga, however, is so degraded that a father and mother even kill their children in the womb on the plea of their scientific knowledge that within the womb the child has no life. Prestigious medical practitioners give this opinion, and therefore the father and mother of this day kill their children within the womb. How degraded human society has become! Their scientific knowledge is so advanced that they think that within the egg and the embryo there is no life. Now these so-called scientists are receiving Nobel Prizes for advancing the theory of chemical evolution. But if chemical combinations are the source of life, why don't the scientists manufacture something like an egg through chemistry and put it in an incubator so that a chicken will come out? What is their answer? With their scientific knowledge they are unable to create even an egg. Such scientists are described in Bhagavad-gītā as māyayāpahṛta jñānāḥ (BG 7.15), fools whose real knowledge has been taken away. They are not men of knowledge, but they pose as scientists and philosophers, although their so-called theoretical knowledge cannot produce practical results.
Gradually, throughout the entire world, human society is losing interest in the perfection of life. Indeed, men are living like cats and dogs, spoiling the duration of their human lives by actually preparing to transmigrate again to the degraded species among the 8,400,000 forms of life. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is anxious to serve human society by teaching people to perform devotional service, which can save a human being from being degraded again to animal life. As already stated by Prahlāda Mahārāja, bhāgavata-dharma consists of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam/ arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātma-nivedanam (SB 7.5.23). In all the schools, colleges and universities, and at home, all children and youths should be taught to hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, they should be taught to hear the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā, to put them into practice in their lives, and thus to become strong in devotional service, free from fear of being degraded to animal life. Following bhāgavata-dharma has been made extremely easy in this age of Kali.
Especially in the present age, every man is in darkness, in the bodily conception of life, not knowing anything of the spirit soul and its needs. Misguided by the blind leaders of society, people consider the body to be everything, and they are engaged in trying to keep the body materially comfortable. Such a civilization is condemned because it does not lead humanity toward knowing the real goal of life. People are simply wasting time and the valuable gift of the human form because a human being who does not cultivate spiritual life but dies like the cats and dogs is degraded in his next life. From human life, such a person is put into the cycle of continuous birth and death. Thus one loses the true benefit of human life, which is to become Kṛṣṇa conscious and solve life's problems.
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear." As soon as one surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa immediately relieves one of the reactions of sinful activities. Therefore one who is not surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord should be understood to be sinful, foolish, degraded among men and bereft of all real knowledge because of atheistic propensities.
This struggle of birth and death in different species may be called the evolutionary process, but in the Western world it has been wrongly explained. Darwin's theory of evolution from animal to man is incomplete because the theory does not present the reverse condition, namely evolution from man to animal. In this verse, however, evolution has been very well explained on the strength of Vedic authority. Human life, which is obtained in the course of the evolutionary process, is a chance for elevation (svargāpavarga) or for degradation (tiraścām punar asya ca). If one uses this human form of life properly, he can elevate himself to the higher planetary systems, where material happiness is many thousands of times better than on this planet, or one may cultivate knowledge by which to become free from the evolutionary process and be reinstated in one's original spiritual life. This is called apavarga, or liberation.
The word tiraścām refers to degraded life. Human life, of course, provides an opportunity for the best living conditions. As Western people think, from the monkeys come the human beings, who are more comfortably situated. However, if one does not utilize his human life for svarga or apavarga, he falls again to the degraded life of animals like dogs and hogs. Therefore a sane human being must consider whether he will elevate himself to the higher planets, prepare to free himself from the evolutionary process, or travel again through the evolutionary process in higher and lower grades of life. If one works piously one may be elevated to the higher planetary systems or achieve liberation and return home, back to Godhead, but otherwise one may be degraded to a life as a dog, a hog and so on. As explained in Bhagavad-gītā (9.25), yānti deva-vratā devān. Those interested in being elevated to the higher planetary systems (Devaloka or Svargaloka) must prepare to do so. Similarly, if one wants liberation and wants to return home, back to Godhead, he should prepare himself for that purpose.
These reactions are called pāpa and puṇya—sinful and pious. By pious activities one is elevated to the higher planetary systems, and by impious activities one is degraded to lower species of life, in which he is punished by the laws of nature. In the lower species of life there is an evolutionary process, and when the term of the living entity's imprisonment or punishment in the lower species is finished, he is again offered a human form and given a chance to decide for himself which way he should plan. If he again misses the opportunity, he is again put into the cycle of birth and death, going sometimes higher and sometimes lower, turning on the saṁsāra-cakra, the wheel of material existence. As a wheel sometimes goes up and sometimes comes down, the stringent laws of material nature make the living entity in material existence sometimes happy and sometimes distressed. How he suffers in the cycle of happiness and distress is described in the next verse.
Money is undoubtedly coming in great quantities, but we should not be attached to this money for sense gratification; every cent should be spent for spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, not for sense gratification. There is danger for a preacher when he receives great quantities of money, for as soon as he spends even a single cent of the collection for his personal sense gratification, he becomes a fallen victim. The preachers of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement should be extremely careful not to misuse the immense quantities of money needed to spread this movement. Let us not make this money the cause of our distress; it should be used for Kṛṣṇa, and that will cause our eternal happiness. Money is Lakṣmī, or the goddess of fortune, the companion of Nārāyaṇa. Lakṣmījī must always remain with Nārāyaṇa, and then there need be no fear of degradation.
As soon as one comes to the platform of bhakti-yoga, one understands fully the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva, is the goal of life (vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ). This is the instruction of all the Vedic literature (vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ (BG 15.15), sarva dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (BG 18.66)). There is no use in praising someone for material qualifications or blaspheming him for material disqualifications. In the material world, good and bad have no meaning because if one is good he may be elevated to a higher planetary system and if one is bad he may be degraded to the lower planetary systems. People of different mentalities are sometimes elevated and sometimes degraded, but this is not the goal of life. Rather, the goal of life is to become free from elevation and degradation and take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore a saintly person does not discriminate between that which is supposedly good and supposedly bad; rather, he desires for everyone to be happy in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is the ultimate goal of life.
These are the different occupational duties by which men should earn their livelihood, and in this way human society should be simple. At the present moment, however, everyone is engaged in technological advancement, which is described in Bhagavad-gītā as ugra-karma—extremely severe endeavor. This ugra-karma is the cause of agitation within the human mind. Men are engaging in many sinful activities and becoming degraded by opening slaughterhouses, breweries and cigarette factories, as well as nightclubs and other establishments for sense enjoyment. In this way they are spoiling their lives. In all of these activities, of course, householders are involved, and therefore it is advised here, with the use of the word api, that even though one is a householder, one should not engage himself in severe hardships.
Such material engagements, however, do not help one in the actual fulfillment of the human mission. On the contrary, material engagements lead one to be attracted to many unnecessary necessities, which are accompanied by the risk that one may be born in a degraded condition. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (14.18):
- ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthā
- madhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ
- adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ
"Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds." Especially in this Kali-yuga, material advancement means degradation and attraction to many unwanted necessities that create a low mentality. Therefore, jaghanya-guṇa-vṛtti-sthā: since people are contaminated by the lower qualities, they will lead their next lives either as animals or in other degraded forms of life. Making a show of religion without Kṛṣṇa consciousness may make one popular in the estimation of unintelligent men, but factually such a materialistic display of spiritual advancement does not help one at all; it will not prevent one from missing the goal of life.
SB Canto 8
They were rājarṣis. In other words, although they held posts as kings of the world, they were as good as great saints. Svāyambhuva Manu, for example, was the emperor of the world, yet he had no desire for sense gratification. This is the meaning of monarchy. The king of the country or the emperor of the empire must be so trained that by nature he renounces sense gratification. It is not that because one becomes king he should unnecessarily spend money for sense gratification. As soon as kings became degraded, spending money for sense gratification, they were lost. Similarly, at the present moment, monarchy having been lost, the people have created democracy, which is also failing. Now, by the laws of nature, the time is coming when dictatorship will put the citizens into more and more difficulty. If the king or dictator individually, or the members of the government collectively, cannot maintain the state or kingdom according to the rules of Manu-saṁhitā, certainly their government will not endure.
When the disciple is awakened from ignorance to knowledge, he can see the Supreme Personality of Godhead everywhere because the Lord actually is everywhere. Aṇḍāntara-stha-paramāṇu-cayāntara-stham (Bs. 5.35). The Lord resides within this universe, He resides within the hearts of all living entities, and He resides even within the atom. Because we lack perfect knowledge, we cannot see God, but a little deliberation can help us to see God everywhere. This requires training. With a little deliberation, even the most degraded person can perceive the presence of God. If we take into account whose property is the vast ocean, whose property is the vast land, how the sky exists, how the numberless millions of stars and planets are set in the sky, who has made this universe and whose property it is, we should certainly come to the conclusion that there is a proprietor of everything. When we claim proprietorship over a certain piece of land, whether individually or for our families or nations, we should also consider how we became the proprietors. The land was there before our birth, before we came to the land. How did it become our property? Such deliberation will help us understand that there is a supreme proprietor of everything—the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In these verses it is assured that even if a person engaged in devotional service falls down, he is not degraded, but is placed in a position in which he will in due course of time remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As explained later, Gajendra was formerly King Indradyumna, and somehow or other in his next life he became King of the elephants. Now Gajendra was in danger, and although he was in a body other than that of a human being, he remembered the stotra he had chanted in his previous life. Yatate ca tato bhūyaḥ saṁsiddhau kuru-nandana. To enable one to achieve perfection, Kṛṣṇa gives one the chance to remember Him again. This is proved here, for although the King of the elephants, Gajendra, was put in danger, this was a chance for him to remember his previous devotional activities so that he could immediately be rescued by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who with the torchlight of knowledge has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance." Although one may struggle for existence in this material world, to live forever is impossible. One must understand, however, that this struggle for existence is due to ignorance, for otherwise every living being is an eternal part of the Supreme Lord. There is no need to live as an elephant or man, American or Indian; one should desire only to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Because of ignorance, we consider every life offered by nature to be happy and pleasing, but in the degraded life within this material world, from the life of Lord Brahmā down to that of an ant, no one can actually be happy. We are making so many plans to live happily, but there cannot be any happiness in this material world, however we may try to make a permanent settlement in this life or that.
"The living entity in material nature follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species." (BG 13.22) After thus rotating through many, many forms of life in the cycle of birth and death, the living being gets a chance for a human form. Therefore every human being, especially one belonging to a civilized nation or culture, must be extremely responsible in his activities. He should not risk degradation in the next life. Because the body will change (tathā dehāntara-prāptir), we should be extremely careful. To see to the proper use of life is the purpose of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The foolish living entity declares freedom from all control, but factually he is not free; he is fully under the control of material nature. He must therefore be most careful and responsible in the activities of his life.
SB Canto 9
O my daughter, who were born in a respectable family, how have you degraded your consciousness in this way? How is it that you are shamelessly maintaining a paramour? You will thus degrade the dynasties of both your father and your husband to hellish life.
It is quite clear that according to Vedic culture a woman who accepts a paramour or second husband in the presence of the husband she has married is certainly responsible for the degradation of her father's family and the family of her husband. The rules of Vedic culture in this regard are strictly observed in the respectable families of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas even today; only the śūdras are degraded in this matter. For a woman of the brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya class to accept another husband in the presence of the husband she has married, or to file for divorce or accept a boyfriend or paramour, is unacceptable in the Vedic culture. Therefore King Śaryāti, who did not know the real facts of Cyavana Muni's transformation, was surprised to see the behavior of his daughter.
We actually see from modern history that monarchies have been abolished by various revolutions, but unfortunately the monarchies have been abolished to establish the supremacy of third-class and fourth-class men. Although monarchies overpowered by the modes of passion and ignorance have been abolished in the world, the inhabitants of the world are still unhappy, for although the qualities of the former monarchs were degraded by taints of ignorance, these monarchs have been replaced by men of the mercantile and worker classes whose qualities are even more degraded. When the government is actually guided by brāhmaṇas, or God conscious men, then there can be real happiness for the people. Therefore in previous times, when the ruling class was degraded to the modes of passion and ignorance, the brāhmaṇas, headed by such a kṣatriya-spirited brāhmaṇa as Paraśurāma, killed them twenty-one consecutive times.
Thereafter, Bṛhaspati, the spiritual master of the demigods, offered oblations in the fire so that the sons of Rajī would fall from moral principles. When they fell, Lord Indra killed them easily because of their degradation. Not a single one of them remained alive.
Because Nahuṣa, the father of Yayāti, molested Indra's wife, Śacī, who then complained to Agastya and other brāhmaṇas, these saintly brāhmaṇas cursed Nahuṣa to fall from the heavenly planets and be degraded to the status of a python. Consequently, Yayāti became the king.
Therefore a woman must take shelter of her father, as Devayānī did when under the care of Śukrācārya, and then the father must give the daughter in charity to a suitable man, or a suitable man should help the woman by placing her under the care of a husband. This is shown vividly by the life of Devayānī. When King Yayāti delivered Devayānī from the well, she felt great relief and requested Yayāti to accept her as his wife. But when Mahārāja Yayāti accepted Devayānī, he became too attached and had sex life not only with her but with others, like Śarmiṣṭhā. Yet still he was dissatisfied. Therefore one should retire by force from such family life as Yayāti's. When one is fully convinced of the degrading nature of worldly family life, one should completely renounce this way of life, take sannyāsa, and engage himself fully in the service of the Lord. Then one's life will be successful.
Both the Lord and the living entity, being qualitatively spirit soul, have the tendency for peaceful enjoyment, but when the part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead unfortunately wants to enjoy independently, without Kṛṣṇa, he is put into the material world, where he begins his life as Brahmā and is gradually degraded to the status of an ant or a worm in stool. This is called manaḥ ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛti-sthāni karṣati. There is a great struggle for existence because the living entity conditioned by material nature is under nature's full control (prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ (BG 3.27)). Because of his limited knowledge, however, the living entity thinks he is enjoying in this material world. Manaḥ ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛti-sthāni karṣati. He is actually under the full control of material nature, but still he thinks himself independent (ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate). Even when he is elevated by speculative knowledge and tries to merge into the existence of Brahman, the same disease continues.
SB Canto 10.1 to 10.13
Kṛṣṇa-kathā is compulsory for the rājarṣi, or executive head of government. This is also mentioned in Bhagavad-gītā (imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ (BG 4.2)). Unfortunately, however, in this age the governmental power is gradually being captured by third-class and fourth-class men who have no spiritual understanding, and society is therefore very quickly becoming degraded. Kṛṣṇa-kathā must be understood by the executive heads of government, for otherwise how will people be happy and gain relief from the pangs of materialistic life? One who has fixed his mind in Kṛṣṇa consciousness should be understood to have very sharp intelligence in regard to the value of life. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was rājarṣi-sattama, the best of all saintly kings, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī was muni-sattama, the best of munis. Both of them were elevated because of their common interest in kṛṣṇa-kathā. The exalted position of the speaker and the audience will be explained very nicely in the next verse. Kṛṣṇa-kathā is so enlivening that Mahārāja Parīkṣit forgot everything material, even his personal comfort in relation to food and drink. This is an example of how the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement should spread all over the world to bring both the speaker and the audience to the transcendental platform and back home, back to Godhead.
In Kali-yuga, however, people have forgotten the essence. Mandāḥ sumanda-matayo manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ (SB 1.1.10). In this age, people are all bad and unfortunate, and they do not accept Vedic instructions to make their life successful. Nanda Mahārāja, however, did not want to neglect anything. To keep intact a happy society advanced in spiritual knowledge, he took full advantage of Gargamuni's presence to do what was necessary. How degraded society has become within five thousand years. Mandāḥ sumanda-matayo manda-bhāgyāḥ. The human life is obtained after many, many millions of births, and it is intended for purification. Previously, a father was eager to give all kinds of help to elevate his children, but at present, because of being misguided, people are prepared even to kill to avoid the responsibility of raising children.
Forgetting that however one may try to maintain the body, the body is subject to birth, death, old age and disease, such foolish rascals engage in sinful activities, one after another. Being duṣkṛtīs, they completely forget the existence of the supreme controller, who is sitting within the core of everyone's heart (īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe 'rjuna tiṣṭhati (BG 18.61)). That supreme controller is observing every bit of one's activity, and He rewards or punishes everyone by giving one a suitable body made by material nature (bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā (BG 18.61)). In this way, sinful persons automatically receive punishment in different types of bodies. The root cause of this punishment is that when one unnecessarily accumulates wealth, one becomes more and more degraded, not knowing that his wealth will be finished with his next birth.
The living entities are promoted and degraded by the laws of nature, but if one is very, very fortunate, by association with saintly persons he gets the seed of devotional service, and his life becomes successful. Nārada Muni wanted to bring Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva to the platform of devotional service through poverty, and thus he cursed them. Such is the mercy of a Vaiṣṇava. Unless one is brought to the Vaiṣṇava platform, one cannot be a good man. Harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇāḥ (SB 5.18.12). An avaiṣṇava never becomes a good man, however severely he is punished.
As for saṁskāra, or reformation, this is possible by good association, for by good association one develops good habits, and habit becomes second nature. Therefore, bhakta-sane vāsa: let people have the chance to live with bhaktas. Then their habits will change. In the human form of life one has this chance, but as Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings, hari hari viphale janama goṅāinu: if one fails to take advantage of this opportunity, one's human life is wasted. We are therefore trying to save human society from degradation and actually elevate people to the higher nature.
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
When this human body is used for Your devotional service, it acts as one's self, friend and beloved. But unfortunately, although You always show mercy to the conditioned souls and affectionately help them in every way, and although You are their true Self, people in general fail to delight in You. Instead they commit spiritual suicide by worshiping illusion. Alas, because they persistently hope for success in their devotion to the unreal, they continue to wander about this greatly fearful world, assuming various degraded bodies.
If a human being is engaged in sinful, irreligious activities, either because of bad association or because of his failure to control his senses, then such a person will certainly develop a personality full of material desires. He thus becomes miserly toward others, greedy and always anxious to exploit the bodies of women. When the mind is so polluted one becomes violent and aggressive and without the authority of Vedic injunctions slaughters innocent animals for sense gratification. Worshiping ghosts and spirits, the bewildered person falls fully into the grip of unauthorized activities and thus goes to hell, where he receives a material body infected by the darkest modes of nature. In such a degraded body, he unfortunately continues to perform inauspicious activities that greatly increase his future unhappiness, and therefore he again accepts a similar material body. What possible happiness can there be for one who engages in activities inevitably terminating in death?
The same activities that would degrade an elevated person do not cause falldown for those who are already fallen. Indeed, one who is lying on the ground cannot possibly fall further. The material association that is dictated by one's own nature is considered a good quality.
Happiness derived from the self is in the mode of goodness, happiness based on sense gratification is in the mode of passion, and happiness based on delusion and degradation is in the mode of ignorance. But that happiness found within Me is transcendental.
The last of the Kāṇvas, Suśarmā, will be murdered by his own servant, Balī a low-class śūdra of the Andhra race. This most degraded Mahārāja Balī will have control over the earth for some time.
Businessmen will engage in petty commerce and earn their money by cheating. Even when there is no emergency, people will consider any degraded occupation quite acceptable.
Men will no longer protect their elderly parents, their children or their respectable wives. Thoroughly degraded, they will care only to satisfy their own bellies and genitals.