The vibhūti, or opulences, offered by māyā are of many varieties. We experience different varieties of material enjoyment even on this planet, but if one is able to promote himself to higher planets like Candraloka, the sun or, still higher, Maharloka, Janaloka and Tapoloka, or even ultimately the highest planet, which is inhabited by Brahmā and is called Satyaloka, one will find immense possibilities for material enjoyment. For example, the duration of life on higher planets is far, far greater than on this planet. It is said that on the moon the duration of life is such that our six months are equal to one day. We cannot even imagine the duration of life on the highest planet. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that Brahmā's twelve hours are inconceivable even to our mathematicians. These are all descriptions of the external energy of the Lord, or māyā. Besides these, there are other opulences which the yogīs can achieve by their mystic power. They are also material. A devotee does not aspire for all these material pleasures, although they are available to him simply by wishing. By the grace of the Lord, a devotee can achieve wonderful material success simply by willing, but a real devotee does not do so. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu has taught that one should not desire material opulence or material reputation, nor should one try to enjoy material beauty; he should only aspire to be absorbed in the devotional service of the Lord, even if he does not get liberation but has to continue the process of birth and death unlimitedly. Actually, however, to one who engages in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, liberation is already guaranteed. Devotees enjoy all the benefits of the higher planets and the Vaikuṇṭha planets also. It is especially mentioned here, bhāgavatīṁ bhadrām. In the Vaikuṇṭha planets everything is eternally peaceful, yet a pure devotee does not even aspire to be promoted there. But still he gets that advantage; he enjoys all the facilities of the material and spiritual worlds, even during the present life span.
According to Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Rūpa Gosvāmī in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Nārada Muni in the Nārada Pañcarātra and Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā, a pure devotee never wants anything from the Lord. He does not even want liberation, to say nothing of material things. Generally, people want dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, in that order. First of all, people want to become religious (dharma) in order to attain material opulence (artha). People want material opulence in order to gratify their senses (kāma), and when they are frustrated in their attempt to gratify their senses, they want liberation (mokṣa). In this way, dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa are going on. However, a devotee is not interested in any of these. In the Christian religion, people pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," but a pure bhakta does not even ask for his daily bread. A pure devotee is kept in the hand of Kṛṣṇa just like a very precious jewel. When you hold something precious in your hand, you are very careful, and similarly, Kṛṣṇa holds the devotee and takes care of him.
One can just imagine his position if a very rich man says, "Don't worry. I will take care of everything for you." Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, is the proprietor of all opulence. There is no one more opulent than Kṛṣṇa; therefore if Kṛṣṇa says that He will take care of His devotee, there is no question of poverty. Most people want material opulence, but they do not know that Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor of all opulence. That is their misfortune. Although the proprietor of all opulence says, "Just surrender unto Me, and I will take care of you," people do not do it. Instead, they say, "I will take care of my own business. I will maintain myself. I will take care of myself, my family, my friends and my country." Arjuna was very intelligent because he simply chose Kṛṣṇa, whereas Duryodhana took Kṛṣṇa's soldiers. It is not possible to conquer Kṛṣṇa, but the devotee can capture Kṛṣṇa with bhakti, love.
It is impossible for people to understand the great opulence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu tells us to abandon speculating about God. There is a story of a frog in a well being approached by a friend who says, "My dear frog, I have just seen a huge body of water." "What is that water?" the frog asks. "The Atlantic Ocean," the friend replies. "Oh, the Atlantic Ocean! Is it bigger than this well? Is it four feet? Ten feet?"
Our attempt to speculate about God is very much like this. If we want to understand God, we have to try to understand from God Himself. We may have a neighbor who is very wealthy, influential, wise, strong and beautiful, and we may speculate about his opulence, but if we make friends with him, we can understand his position by listening to him speak about himself. God cannot be subjected to our imagination. Our imagination is limited, and our senses are imperfect. The process of bhakti-mārga is the process of submission. There is no question of subjecting God to our imagination. We simply have to become very humble and submissive and pray to Kṛṣṇa sincerely, "Kṛṣṇa, it is not possible for me to know You. Kindly explain how it is I can know You, and then it will be possible." This is the way Arjuna approached Kṛṣṇa in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā.
We can hardly understand or comprehend the innumerable universes. The word jagat refers to this universe, but there is more than one universe. Although we are seeing only one universe, there are millions of universes, and Kṛṣṇa is supporting all these millions of universes with a single fragment of Himself. This is also confirmed in many other Vedic literatures:
- yasyaika-niśvasita-kālam athāvalambya
- jīvanti loma-vilajā jagad-aṇḍa-nāthāḥ
- viṣṇur mahān sa iha yasya kalā-viśeṣo
- govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"Brahmā and other lords of the mundane worlds, appearing from the pores of hair of Mahā-Viṣṇu, remain alive as long as the duration of His one exhalation. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, of whose subjective personality Mahā-Viṣṇu is the portion of a portion." (Bs. 5.48)
This is the information given in Brahma-saṁhitā, the prayers offered by Lord Brahmā. This Brahma-saṁhitā was accepted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who copied it when He toured South India. Formerly there were no presses to print these literatures, and these important Vedic writings were written by hand. These literatures were not very cheap, and only highly qualified brāhmaṇas were able to keep them. They were worshiped in the temple as the śāstra Deity. It is not that they were available everywhere. Now, of course, the printing press has changed all this, but nonetheless we should always understand that the granthas, the scriptures, should be worshiped as God because they are the sound incarnation of God. One should not consider Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to be ordinary books, and one should take care of them just as carefully as one takes care of the Deity.
At any rate, when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu returned from South India with a copy of Brahma-saṁhitā, He gave it to His disciples and told them that it was a summary of the Vedānta and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. We therefore accept Brahma-saṁhitā as authorized scripture, for it was authorized by the Supreme Person, Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Just as Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains in Bhagavad-gītā in so many ways that the entire material creation is resting on one of His portions, Brahma-saṁhitā explains the same subject. It is stated that from the skin pores of the Mahā-Viṣṇu, all the universes are emanating. In each universe there is a Brahmā, a supervisor, who is the supreme creature and manager. These managers live only as long as the Mahā-Viṣṇu exhales. When He exhales, all the universes are created, and when He inhales, they all return into His body. In this way so many universes and Brahmās are coming and going. The durations of these breaths, which constitute a life of a Brahmā, are described in Bhagavad-gītā as many trillions of earth years. One may say that this is all fictitious and imaginary, but unless one believes it, one has no right to touch Bhagavad-gītā.
Generally people are interested in going to the higher planetary systems in order to become more opulent. This is the process of karma-kāṇḍīya, and people perform yajñas and pious activities in order to be elevated to higher planets. The idea is that one will be able to enjoy himself more, have a longer life span, more opulence, more beautiful women, nice gardens and so on. Actually this is the case, but a devotee is not at all interested in these things because he accepts Kṛṣṇa. In Bhagavad-gītā (8.16) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says, ābrahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ punar āvartino 'rjuna: "From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place."
Even if we are promoted to the highest planet, Brahmaloka, the planet where Lord Brahmā lives, our situation there is still not eternal. So why should a devotee be interested in such a place? A devotee is simply interested in the supreme eternal, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Supreme Lord is the supreme leader of the nityas, the eternal living entities. We are all nityas, eternal, and Kṛṣṇa guides and plays with us. In the spiritual world, Kṛṣṇa and His devotees are friends, and they play together as cowherd boys. They are not interested in Brahmaloka or Candraloka, for these planets will ultimately be annihilated. There are some living entities that live only a few seconds, or, at most, a night. By the morning, they are all dead. Any life in the material world is comparable to that. Brahmā may live millions of years, but he ultimately has to die. Whether we go to the highest planet or the lowest planet, whether we are in the body of a Brahmā or a cat, we ultimately have to die. Kṛṣṇa presents Himself to atheists as death. He appeared in this way before Hiraṇyakaśipu, who said, "I am God. All the demigods are afraid of me. I am very powerful." Kṛṣṇa comes before such atheists as death and takes everything away - all power, opulence, money - everything. The theists worship God while they are living, and their only business in this life is serving God. After death, they render the same service; thus there is no difference between Vaikuṇṭha and a temple, for a devotee. In either case, his business is the same. Why, then, should he aspire to go to Vaikuṇṭha?
In the Vaikuṇṭha planets one attains opulence like Kṛṣṇa or Nārāyaṇa. There are five kinds of mukti, liberation, and one is sārṣṭi. This kind of liberation brings one opulence equal to the Lord. In the Vaikuṇṭha planets, everyone is four-handed like Nārāyaṇa, and everyone is equally opulent. In Goloka Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa and the cowherd boys are equally opulent. In Vṛndāvana, the cowherd boys do not know that Kṛṣṇa is God. They look on Kṛṣṇa as an equal. This is the opulence of their devotional position.
Nonetheless, the devotees do not aspire for all this opulence. Their only aspiration is to engage in the service of the Lord. In this way, they get everything. Nor are the devotees interested in attaining the mystic yoga siddhis. They do not need to be able to create a planet, for they can create Vaikuṇṭha by worshiping Kṛṣṇa in the temple. The temple is nirguṇa, transcendental to the guṇas. In the śāstras it is said that the forest is characterized by sattva-guṇa, goodness, and the city is characterized by rajo-guṇa, passion, because in the city there is a great deal of illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat-eating. Formerly, when people were aspiring for spiritual realization, they left the cities and went to the forests. That was the vānaprastha stage. The word vana means "forest." Before taking sannyāsa, a man would leave his family and go to the forest to begin practicing austerities. Vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta (SB 7.5.5).
Actually, superior to living in the forest is living in the temple because the temple is nirguṇa, above all the guṇas, even sattva-guṇa. The inhabitants of the temple are actually in Vaikuṇṭha.
Lord Kapiladeva next explains the nature of the special opulences of the devotees.