In the revealed scriptures the Supreme Lord is described as sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (Bs. 5.1). Sat means eternal, cit means fully cognizant, ānanda means joyful, and vigraha means that He is a person. Thus the Lord, or the Supreme Godhead, who is one without a second, is a fully cognizant and eternally joyful personality with a full sense of His identity. No one is equal to Him or greater than Him. This is a concise description of the Supreme Lord.
The living entities (jīvas) are minute samples of the Supreme Lord, and being so they therefore find in their activities the desire for eternal existence, for complete knowledge, and for happiness. These desires are evident in human society, and in the upper planetary systems (Svargaloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Maharloka, Brahmaloka, etc.) the living entities enjoy a longer duration of life, an increased amount of knowledge, and a generally more blissful existence. But even in the highest planet in this material world, where the duration of life and standard of enjoyment are thousands and thousands of times greater than those on earth, there is still old age, disease and death. Consequently the level of enjoyment is insignificant in comparison to the eternal bliss enjoyed in the company of the Supreme Lord. Loving service to the Supreme Lord in different relationships makes even the enjoyment of impersonal Brahman as insignificant as a drop of water in comparison to the ocean.
Every living being desires the topmost level of enjoyment in this material world, and yet everyone is unhappy here. This unhappiness is present on all the higher planets, despite a longer life span, higher standards of enjoyment and comfort. That is due to the law of material nature. We can increase the duration of life and standard to the highest capacity, and yet by the law of material nature we will be unhappy. The reason for this is that the quality of happiness which is suitable for our constitution is different from the happiness which is derived from material activities. The living entity is a minute particle of the superior spiritual energy of the Lord, which is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (Bs. 5.1), and therefore he has the necessary propensity for joy which is spiritual in quality. Unfortunately for him, he is trying vainly to attain his enjoyment from the foreign atmosphere of material nature.
A fish that is taken out of the water cannot be happy by any arrangement on land. He must be supplied with water. In the same way, the minute sac-cid-ānanda living entity cannot be really happy through any amount of planning conceived by his illusioned brain in this material universe. He must therefore be given a different type of happiness which is spiritual in essence. Our ambition should be aimed at enjoying spiritual bliss and not this temporary happiness. Some philosophers claim that spiritual bliss is attained by negating material happiness and material existence. Theoretical negation of material activities as propounded by Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya may be effective for an insignificant section of mankind, but the best and surest way for everyone to attain spiritual bliss was propounded by Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu by means of devotional activities. These devotional activities can change the very face of material nature.
Hankering after material happiness is called lust, and lusty activities are sure to meet with frustration in the long run. The body of a snake is very cool, but if a man, wanting to enjoy this coolness, garlands himself with a venomous snake, he will surely be killed by the snake's venomous bite. The material senses are compared to snakes; indulgence in material happiness will surely kill our spiritual identity. Therefore a sane man should be ambitious to find the real source of happiness.
In order to find this source, however, we need some knowledge of what that happiness is. There is the story of the foolish man who had no experience with sugar cane. When he asked his friend about the characteristics of sugar cane, he was imperfectly informed that sugar cane resembles the shape of a bamboo stick. Consequently he began trying to extract juice from bamboo sticks, but naturally he was baffled in his attempts. This is the situation with the illusioned living entity who, in his search for eternal happiness, tries to extract happiness from this material world, which is not only full of miseries but is also transient and flickering. In Bhagavad-gītā (8.16) the material world is described as being full of miseries:
- ābrahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ
- punar āvartino 'rjuna
- mām upetya tu kaunteya
- punar janma na vidyate
"From the highest planet in the material world, down to the lowest, all are places of misery, where repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again."
The ambition for happiness is natural and good, but the attempt to derive it from inert matter by so-called scientific arrangements is an illusory attempt doomed to frustration. Those who are befooled cannot understand this. How a person is driven by the lust for material happiness is also described in Bhagavad-gītā (16.13):
- idam adya mayā labdham
- imaṁ prāpsye manoratham
- idam astīdam api me
- bhaviṣyati punar dhanam
"The demoniac person thinks: 'So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more."
This atheistic or godless civilization is a huge affair contrived for the gratification of our senses, and now we are all mad after money in order to maintain this empty shell. Money is sought after by everyone because that is the medium of exchange for objects for sense gratification. Obviously the expectation of peace in such an atmosphere of gold rush pandemonium is a utopian dream. As long as there is the slightest tinge of sense gratification or desire for sense gratification, peace will remain far, far away. This is because by nature we are all eternal servants of the Supreme Lord and therefore cannot enjoy anything for our personal interests. It is therefore necessary for us to learn how to employ our senses in the transcendental service of the Lord, and to utilize everything to serve His interest. This alone can bring about much desired peace. A part of the body cannot in itself be independently happy. It can only derive its happiness and pleasure out of serving the entire body. The Supreme Lord is the whole, and we are the parts, but we are all busily engaged in activities of self-interest. No one is prepared to serve the Lord. This is the basic cause for our conditioning in material existence and for our resultant unhappiness.
From the highest executive in his skyscraper office down to the coolie in the street - all are working with the thought of accumulating wealth, legally or illegally. Actually it is all illegal, for to work for one's self-interest is both unlawful and destructive. Even the cultivation of spiritual realization for one's own self-interest is unlawful and destructive. The point is that all activities must be directed to the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa and His service.
Those who are not engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord wrongfully think that they are accumulating so much money day after day(BG 16.12):
- āśā-pāśa-śatair baddhāḥ
- īhante kāma-bhogārtham
"Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification."
Consequently, although there is no lack of money in the world, there is a scarcity of peace. So much human energy is being diverted to making money, for the general population has increased its capacity to make more and more dollars, but in the long run the result is that this unrestricted and unlawful monetary inflation has created a bad economy all over the world and has provoked us to manufacture huge and costly weapons to destroy the very result of such cheap money-making. The leaders of the big money-making countries are not really enjoying peace but are making plans to save themselves from imminent destruction by nuclear weapons. In fact, huge sums of money are being thrown into the sea by way of experiments with these dreadful weapons. Such experiments are being carried out not only at huge costs but also at the cost of many lives. In this way the nations are being bound by the laws of karma. When men are motivated by the impulse for sense gratification, whatever money is earned is spoiled, being spent for the destruction of the human race. The energy of the human race is thus wasted by the laws of nature because of man's aversion to the Lord, who is actually the proprietor of all energies.
Wealth is worshiped and is referred to as Mother Lakṣmī, or the goddess of fortune. It is her position to serve Lord Nārāyaṇa, the source of all the naras, or living beings. The naras are also meant to serve Nārāyaṇa under the guidance of the goddess of fortune. The living being cannot enjoy the goddess of fortune without serving Nārāyaṇa, and therefore whoever desires to enjoy her wrongly will be punished by the laws of nature. These laws will make certain that the money itself will bring about destruction instead of peace and prosperity.
Unlawfully accumulated money is now being snatched from miserly citizens by various methods of state taxation for the future civil and international war fund, which is spending money in a wasteful and destructive manner. The citizens are no longer satisfied with just enough money to maintain a family nicely and cultivate spiritual knowledge, both of which are essential in human life. Now everyone wants money unlimitedly to satisfy insatiable desires. In proportion to the people's unlawful desires, their accumulated money is taken away by the agents of illusory energy in the shape of medical practitioners, lawyers, tax collectors, societies, constitutions, so-called holy men, famines, earthquakes, and many similar calamities. One miser who hesitated to purchase a copy of Back to Godhead spent $2,000 for a week's supply of medicine and then died. Another man who refused to spend a cent for the service of the Lord wasted thousands of dollars in a legal suit between the members of his home. There are innumerable similar instances occasioned by the dictation of illusory nature. Indeed, that is the law of nature; if money is not devoted to the service of the Lord, it must be spent as spoiled energy in the form of legal problems or diseases. Foolish people do not have the eyes to see such facts; therefore the laws of the Supreme Lord befool them.
The laws of nature do not allow us to accept more money than is required for proper maintenance. There is ample arrangement by the law of nature to provide every living being with his due share of food and shelter, but the insatiable lusts of human beings have disturbed the arrangement set forth by the Almighty Father of all species of life. By the arrangement of the Supreme Lord, there is an ocean of salt because salt is so necessary for the living being. God has, in the same manner, arranged for sufficient air and light, which are also essential. Anyone can collect any amount of salt from the natural storehouse, but constitutionally we cannot take more salt than what we need. If we take more salt, we spoil the broth, and if we take less salt our food becomes tasteless. On the other hand, if we take only what we require, our food is tasty and we are healthy. Presently there is a great deal of concern over the fact that our natural resources are becoming polluted and exhausted. Actually there is ample supply, but due to misuse and greed everything is being spoiled. What conservationists and ecologists do not understand is that everything will continue to be spoiled by the insatiable lusts of mankind unless this Kṛṣṇa consciousness process is taken up. It is impossible to have peace on any platform of existence without Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Man is therefore suffering due to his insatiable desires and lusts. Not only is man suffering, but the planet on which he resides, his mother earth, represented in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by mother cow, is also suffering. Once a well-known swami in India was asked whether God or providence is responsible for the sufferings of humanity. The swami replied that these sufferings were all God's pastimes or līlā. The questioner continued to ask why a living entity should be put under the dictations of the law of karma. The swami could not answer these questions to the satisfaction of his inquirers. The monists and impersonalists who think only in terms of the oneness of the living entities with the Supreme Lord cannot give satisfactory answers to such questions. Such an imperfect reply can hardly satisfy the heart of a living entity.
The Lord is described in all scriptures as līlā-puruṣottama, or the Personality of Godhead, who is by His own nature always engaged in transcendental pastimes. In the Vedānta-sūtra He is also described as ānandamayo 'bhyāsāt (Vedānta-sūtra 1.1.12). The monists and impersonalists try with great difficulty to explain this sūtra in diverse ways in order to support their imperfect theory of oneness and impersonality. However, the fact remains that ānanda, pleasure, cannot be enjoyed alone. That variety is the mother of enjoyment is a well-known fact. Cities, for instance, are known to be attractive if they contain a variety of things. Living entities are naturally attracted by variety, by attractive streets, buildings, cinemas, parks, conveyances, businesses, employments, foodstuffs, etc. Despite all this variety, the English poet Cowper once said, "The city is made by man, but the country is made by God." The countryside is also full of natural variegatedness in a crude form, whereas in the city this variegatedness is displayed in a modernized scientific manner. Poets like Cowper are attracted to the variegatedness of the country, and prosaic people who live in the city are attracted by the colorful varieties manufactured by man. In any case, it is variegatedness which attracts people both to the country and the city. This is the proper explanation of the verse of the Vedānta-sūtra.
Many so-called swamis who are so frequently attracted by the cities often seek a kind of pleasure in society and feminine friendship. Generally they are not attracted by the natural beauty of the woods, although they may assume the dress of a man who is meant to live in the woods. Such swamis are seeking varieties of enjoyment in matter because they have no information of the variegatedness of spiritual life. On the one hand they enjoy variegatedness in matter, and on the other they deny spiritual variegatedness to the Absolute. Because they are pledged to the theory of monism and impersonalism, they deny that whatever pertains to matter can pertain also to spirit. According to them, spirit is the denial of matter. The fact is, however, that spirit is not a negation of matter, but matter is a perverted reflection of spirit.
The real pleasure of variety exists in spirit without deluding relativity. On the other hand, inert matter, in association with dynamic spirit, manifests a false representation or a perverted reflection of that very spiritual variegatedness which is so adamantly denied by the monist class of so-called swamis.
As stated before, the Supreme Lord is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (Bs. 5.1), joyful by nature, and therefore He expands Himself by His different energies, parts, and differentiated and plenary portions. The Supreme Lord is the Absolute Truth, and He is one without a second, but He also includes His diverse energies, parts, and plenary portions which are simultaneously one with and different from Him. Because He is joyful by nature, He expands Himself in diverse ways, and the activities of these expansions are called His transcendental pastimes or His līlā. These pastimes, however, are not blind and inert; they exhibit full sense, independence, and freedom of action and reaction. The complexities of the actions and the reactions of the diverse energies of the Absolute Truth constitute the subject matter of a vast science called the transcendental science of God, and the Bhagavad-gītā is the ABC or primary book of knowledge for students interested in that science. Every intelligent human being should become interested in this transcendental science; indeed, according to the opinions of the sages, human life is only meant for learning this science. The opening words of the Vedānta-sūtra proclaim: "Now is the time to inquire about Brahman."
Human life by nature is full of suffering, and lower life forms are even more miserable. Any sane man with properly discriminating senses can understand that life in the material world is full of miseries and that no one is free from the actions and reactions of such miseries. This is not a pessimistic view of life but is an actual fact which we should not be blind to. The miseries of life are divided into three categories, namely miseries arising from the body and mind, miseries arising from other living entities, and miseries arising due to natural calamities. A sane man must look to eliminate these miseries and thereby become happy in life. We are all trying to achieve peace and freedom from these miseries, at least unconsciously, and in the higher intellectual circles there are attempts to get rid of these miseries by ingenious plans and designs. But the power that baffles all the plans and designs of even the most intelligent person is the power of Māyā devī, or the illusory energy. The law of karma, or the result of all actions and reactions in the material world, is controlled by this all-powerful illusory energy. The activities of this energy function according to principles and regulations, and they act consciously under the direction of the Supreme Lord. Everything is done by nature in full consciousness; nothing is blind or accidental. This material energy is also called Durgā, which indicates that it is a force which is very difficult to surpass. No one can surpass the laws of Durgā by any amount of childish plans.
To get rid of the sufferings of humanity is simultaneously a very difficult and also a very easy affair. As long as the conditioned souls, who are themselves bound up by the laws of nature, manufacture plans to get rid of the three miseries, there will be no solution. The only effective solutions are those mentioned in Bhagavad-gītā, and we have to adopt them in our practical lives for our own benefit. The three miseries of material nature are not found in the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. As mentioned before, He is eternally joyful, and His transcendental pastimes are not different from Him. Because He is the Absolute Truth, His name, fame, form, qualities and pastimes are all identical with Him. His pastimes, therefore, cannot be equated with the sufferings of humanity as the so-called swami contends. The pastimes of the Supreme Lord are transcendental to the actual miseries and sufferings of human beings.
The sufferings of humanity are caused by the misuse of the discriminative power or the little independence which is given to individual souls. The fraudulent swamis or mental speculators, in order to remain consistent with the theory of monism, must pass off the miseries of mankind as the pastimes of God, but actually these miseries are only the enforced punishments of Māyā devī inflicted upon the misguided conditioned souls.
As living entities, we are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, we actually belong to His superior energy. As such, we may join His transcendental pastimes in our unconditioned state of life, but as long as we are conditioned by the laws of karma, in contact with the inferior energy, our sufferings are our own creations, born of a gross misuse of our little independence. The impersonalist monists only misguide people by contending that the threefold miseries are a part of the Lord's pastimes. Such impersonalists and monists have misguided their followers because they incorrectly think that the Supreme Lord and the individual souls are equal in all respects. True, the individual souls are equal in quality with the Supreme Lord, but not in quantity. If the individual soul were quantitatively equal to the Supreme Lord, he would have never been subjected to the laws of material nature. Material nature is subordinate to the will of the Supreme Lord, and therefore He cannot be subjected to the laws of material nature. It is contradictory for the Lord to be subjected to the laws of His own inferior energy (BG 7.7):
- mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
- kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
- mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
- sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva
"O conqueror of wealth (Arjuna), there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread."
Again, Śrī Kṛṣṇa states (BG 7.13):
- tribhir guṇamayair bhāvair
- ebhiḥ sarvam idaṁ jagat
- mohitaṁ nābhijānāti
- mām ebhyaḥ param avyayam
"Deluded by the three modes (goodness, passion, and ignorance), the whole world does not know Me who am above them and inexhaustible."
The individual souls, who are put into the miseries of the material world, are suffering the resultant reactions of their unsanctioned activities. This is the verdict of Bhagavad-gītā. (BG 16.19):
- tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
- saṁsāreṣu narādhamān
- kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
- āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
"Envious, mischievous, the lowest of mankind, these do I ever put back into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life."
The parts and parcels are meant to serve the whole, and when they misuse their independence they are subject to the miseries of the laws of matter, just as criminals are subject to police action. The state considers its citizens to be its parts and parcels, and when a citizen misuses his relative independence, the state puts him under police authority. The life of a citizen outside the prison and the life of a citizen within the prison are not the same. Similarly, the sufferings of the living entities within the prison of material nature cannot be equated with the pastimes of the Supreme Lord which exist in the absolute freedom of sac-cid-ānanda.
No government wants its citizens to act in such a way that they must go to prison and suffer tribulations. The prison house is undoubtedly constructed by the state government, but this does not mean that the government is anxious for its citizens to be put into it. Indirectly, the disobedient citizens force the government to construct the prison house. It is not done for the pleasure of the government, which has to spend a great deal of money in constructing and maintaining it. On the contrary, the government would be very glad to demolish prisons altogether provided that there are no disobedient citizens in the state. In the same way, this material world is created by the Supreme Lord, but the Supreme Lord does not will that living entities be put in it. The living entities themselves make that decision. The residents of this material world are therefore different from those who are eternally engaged in the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Lord.
The impersonal monists have no information of full-fledged independent life in the eternal spiritual realm. According to them, the spiritual realm is simply void. This is like prisoners thinking that there is no life outside the prison. Life outside of a prison is certainly free from prison activities, but is not devoid of activity. The soul is by nature eternally active, but the impersonalists try to negate the activities of the soul in the spiritual realm. Thus they misunderstand the miseries of prison life to be the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. This is due to their poor fund of knowledge.
The Supreme Lord never creates the actions and reactions of an individual soul. In Bhagavad-gītā (5.14-15) this matter is clearly defined in the following way:
- na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāṇi
- lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ
- na karma-phala-saṁyogaṁ
- svabhāvas tu pravartate
- nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ
- na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ
- ajñānenāvṛtaṁ jñānaṁ
- tena muhyanti jantavaḥ
"The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature. Nor does the Supreme Spirit assume anyone's sinful or pious activities. Embodied beings, however, are bewildered because of the ignorance which covers their real knowledge."
It is clear from these passages that the sufferings of humanity are not to be equated with the pastimes of the Supreme Being, nor is the Supreme Being responsible for them. The Lord is never responsible for anyone's vices or virtues. By vicious actions, we are put into more and more distressful conditions, whereas by pious actions we place ourselves on the path of happiness. Thus man is the architect of his own material distress or happiness. The Lord does not want the living entity to become entangled in the reactions of activities, be they good or bad. He simply wants everyone to go back home, back to Godhead. As long as we are not awakened to our pure eternal relation with God, we are certainly bewildered in our actions. Our actions, in respect to right and wrong, are all performed on the platform of ignorance. We must rise to the platform of pure knowledge, which is the pure realization that we are the eternal servitors of the Supreme Lord and enjoyers of His transcendental pastimes. The Supreme Lord is the master-enjoyer of those pastimes, and we are the servitor-enjoyers.
Transcendental knowledge is only attainable by transcendental devotional service, as described in Bhagavad-gītā (10.10):
- teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ
- bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
- dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
- yena mam upayānti te
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
By rendering such devotional service only, and not by merely acquiring a bulk of discriminative knowledge, can we know the Supreme Lord as He is. When we know the Personality of Godhead in reality, we can then enter into His pastimes. That is the verdict of all revealed scriptures.