When the Keśī demon was assassinated by Kṛṣṇa, Kaṁsa became hopeless. He said, "Keśī-daitya was as dear to me as my own life, but he has been killed by some cowherd boy who is crude, uneducated and ignorant in fighting. Even though I have defeated the King of heaven without difficulty, still I do not know the value of life." Because this hopelessness has a slight touch of attraction for Kṛṣṇa, it is considered to be a reflection of ecstatic love in hopelessness.
Value of life (Books)
- 1 Bhagavad-gita As It Is
- 2 Srimad-Bhagavatam
- 3 Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Bhagavad-gita As It Is
BG Chapters 1 - 6
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
In the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Arjuna's lamentation for his kinsmen is certainly unbecoming, and therefore Kṛṣṇa expressed His surprise with the word kutaḥ, "wherefrom." Such impurities were never expected from a person belonging to the civilized class of men known as Āryans. The word Āryan is applicable to persons who know the value of life and have a civilization based on spiritual realization. Persons who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is realization of the Absolute Truth, Viṣṇu, or Bhagavān, and they are captivated by the external features of the material world, and therefore they do not know what liberation is. Persons who have no knowledge of liberation from material bondage are called non-Āryans. Although Arjuna was a kṣatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight. This act of cowardice is described as befitting the non-Āryans. Such deviation from duty does not help one in the progress of spiritual life, nor does it even give one the opportunity to become famous in this world. Lord Kṛṣṇa did not approve of the so-called compassion of Arjuna for his kinsmen.
SB Canto 1
Modern civilization and economic development are creating a new situation of poverty and scarcity with the result of blackmailing the consumer's commodities. If the leaders and the rich men of the society spend fifty percent of their accumulated wealth mercifully for the misled mass of people and educate them in God consciousness, the knowledge of Bhāgavatam, certainly the age of Kali will be defeated in its attempt to entrap the conditioned souls. We must always remember that false pride, or too high an estimation of one's own values of life, undue attachment to women or association with them, and intoxication will divert human civilization from the path of peace, however much the people clamor for peace in the world. The preaching of the Bhāgavatam principles will automatically render all men austere, clean both inside and outside, merciful to the suffering, and truthful in daily behavior. That is the way of correcting the flaws of human society, which are very prominently exhibited at the present moment.
SB Canto 2
The genitals and the pleasure of begetting counteract the distresses of family encumbrances. One would cease to generate altogether if there were not, by the grace of the Lord, a coating, a pleasure-giving substance, on the surface of the generative organs. This substance gives a pleasure so intense that it counteracts fully the distress of family encumbrances. A person is so captivated by this pleasure-giving substance that he is not satisfied by begetting a single child, but increases the number of children, with great risk in regard to maintaining them, simply for this pleasure-giving substance. This pleasure-giving substance is not false, however, because it originates from the transcendental body of the Lord. In other words, the pleasure-giving substance is a reality, but it has taken on an aspect of pervertedness on account of material contamination. In the material world, sex life is the cause of many distresses on account of material contact. Therefore, the sex life in the material world should not be encouraged beyond the necessity. There is a necessity for generating progeny even in the material world, but such generation of children must be carried out with full responsibility for spiritual values. The spiritual values of life can be realized in the human form of material existence, and the human being must adopt family planning with reference to the context of spiritual values, and not otherwise. The degraded form of family restriction by use of contraceptives, etc., is the grossest type of material contamination. Materialists who use these devices want to fully utilize the pleasure potency of the coating on the genitals by artificial means, without knowing the spiritual importance. And without knowledge of spiritual values, the less intelligent man tries to utilize only the material sense pleasure of the genitals.
The brahmacāri, or a boy from the age of five years, especially from the higher castes, namely from the scholarly parents (the brāhmaṇas), the administrative parents (the kṣatriyas), or the mercantile or productive parents (the vaiśyas), is trained until twenty-five years of age under the care of a bona fide guru or teacher, and under strict observance of discipline he comes to understand the values of life along with taking specific training for a livelihood. The brahmacārī is then allowed to go home and enter householder life and get married to a suitable woman. But there are many brahmacārīs who do not go home to become householders but continue the life of naiṣṭhika-brahmacārīs, without any connection with women. They accept the order of sannyāsa, or the renounced order of life, knowing well that combination with women is an unnecessary burden that checks self-realization. Since sex desire is very strong at a certain stage of life, the guru may allow the brahmacārī to marry; this license is given to a brahmacārī who is unable to continue the way of naiṣṭhika-brahmacarya, and such discriminations are possible for the bona fide guru.
SB Canto 4
My dear Lord, You are glorified by the selected verses uttered by great personalities. Such glorification of Your lotus feet is just like saffron particles. When the transcendental vibration from the mouths of great devotees carries the aroma of the saffron dust of Your lotus feet, the forgetful living entity gradually remembers his eternal relationship with You. Devotees thus gradually come to the right conclusion about the value of life. My dear Lord, I therefore do not need any other benediction but the opportunity to hear from the mouth of Your pure devotee.
This is a typical example of materialistic persons. At night they waste their time by sleeping more than six hours or by wasting time in sex indulgence. This is their occupation at night, and in the morning they go to their office or business place just to earn money. As soon as there is some money, they become busy in purchasing things for their children and others. Such persons are never interested in understanding the values of life—what is God, what is the individual soul, what is its relationship with God, etc. Things are degraded to such an extent that those who are supposed to be religious are also at the present moment interested only in sense gratification. The number of materialistic persons in this age of Kali has increased more than in any other age; therefore persons who are interested in going back home, back to Godhead, should not only engage in the service of realized souls but should give up the company of materialistic persons, whose only aim is to earn money and employ it in sense gratification. They should also not accept the objectives of materialistic persons, namely money and sense gratification. Therefore it is stated: bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktir anyatra ca (SB 11.2.42). To advance in devotional service one should be uninterested in the materialistic way of life. That which is the subject matter of satisfaction for the devotees is of no interest to the nondevotees.
King Prācīnabarhiṣat admitted this fact and frankly asked Nārada Muni how he could get out of this karma-bandha-phāṅsa, entanglement in fruitive activities. This is actually the stage of knowledge indicated in the first verse of Vedānta-sūtra: athāto brahma jijñāsā. When one actually reaches the platform of frustration in an attempt to discharge karma-bandha-phāṅsa, he inquires about the real value of life, which is called brahma jijñāsā. In order to inquire about the ultimate goal of life, the Vedas enjoin, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: (MU 1.2.12) "In order to understand the transcendental science, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master."
King Purañjana's coming home, taking bath and having an appropriate dinner indicate that a materialistic person must retire from sinful activities and become purified by accepting a spiritual master and hearing from him about the values of life. If one would do this, he would feel completely refreshed, just as one feels after taking a bath. After receiving initiation from a bona fide spiritual master, one must abandon all kinds of sinful activities, namely illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat-eating.
We do not find in Vedic literatures that they ever used contraceptive methods, although they were begetting hundreds of children. Checking population by contraceptive method is another sinful activity, but in this age of Kali people have become so sinful that they do not care for the resultant reactions of their sinful lives. King Purañjana lay down with his wife, Purañjanī, and begot a large number of children, and there is no mention in these verses that he used contraceptive methods. According to the Vedic scriptures the contraceptive method should be restraint in sex life. It is not that one should indulge in unrestricted sex life and avoid children by using some method to check pregnancy. If a man is in good consciousness, he consults with his religious wife, and as a result of this consultation, with intelligence, one advances in his ability to estimate the value of life. In other words, if one is fortunate enough to have a good, conscientious wife, he can decide by mutual consultation that human life is meant for advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and not for begetting a large number of children. Children are called pariṇāma, or by-products, and when one consults his good intelligence he can see that his by-products should be the expansion of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Foolish people do not know that every individual soul is responsible for his own actions and reactions in life. As long as a living entity in the form of a child or boy is innocent, it is the duty of the father and mother to lead him into a proper understanding of the values of life. When a child is grown, it should be left up to him to execute the duties of life properly. The parent, after his death, cannot help his child. A father may leave some estate for his children's immediate help, but he should not be overly absorbed in thoughts of how his family will survive after his death. This is the disease of the conditioned soul. Not only does he commit sinful activities for his own sense gratification, but he accumulates great wealth to leave behind so that his children may also gorgeously arrange for sense gratification.
The Supreme Person (Bhagavān) said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy." Arjuna, the kṣatriya, was refusing to fight despite being directly ordered by the Supreme Lord. He was thus chastised by the Lord as belonging to a non-Āryan family. Anyone who is advanced in the devotional service of the Lord certainly knows his duty. It does not matter whether his duty is violent or nonviolent. If it is sanctioned and ordered by the Supreme Lord, it must be performed. An Āryan performs his duty. It is not that the Āryans are unnecessarily inimical to living entities. The Āryans never maintain slaughterhouses, and they are never enemies of poor animals. The Pracetās underwent severe austerities for many, many years, even within the water. Accepting austerities and penances is the avowed business of those interested in advanced civilization.
SB Canto 5
As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmātmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.
Through the disciplic succession the royal order was on the same platform as great saintly persons (rāja-ṛṣis). Formerly they could understand the philosophy of life and knew how to train the citizens to come to the same standard. In other words, they knew how to deliver the citizens from the entanglement of birth and death. When Mahārāja Daśaratha ruled Ayodhyā, the great sage Viśvāmitra once came to him to take away Lord Rāmacandra and Lakṣmaṇa to the forest to kill a demon. When the saintly person Viśvāmitra came to the court of Mahārāja Daśaratha, the King, in order to receive the saintly person, asked him, aihiṣṭaṁ yat tat punar janma jayāya. He asked the sage whether everything was going on well in his endeavor to conquer the repetition of birth and death. The whole process of Vedic civilization is based on this point. We must know how to conquer the repetition of birth and death. Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa also knew the purpose of life; therefore when Jaḍa Bharata put the philosophy of life before him, he immediately appreciated it. This is the foundation of Vedic society. Learned scholars, brāhmaṇas, saintly persons and sages who were fully aware of the Vedic purpose advised the royal order how to benefit the general masses, and by their cooperation, the general masses were benefited. Therefore everything was successful. Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa attained this perfection of understanding the value of human life; therefore he regretted his insulting words to Jaḍa Bharata, and he immediately descended from his palanquin and fell down at the lotus feet of Jaḍa Bharata in order to be excused and to hear from him further about the values of life known as brahma jijñāsā (inquiry into the Absolute Truth). At the present moment, high government officials are ignorant of the values of life, and when saintly persons endeavor to broadcast the Vedic knowledge, the so-called executives do not offer their respectful obeisances but try to obstruct the spiritual propaganda. Thus one can say that the former kingly government was like heaven and that the present government is like hell.
Although Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa was playing the part of a king, he had been informed by Jaḍa Bharata that be was not a king nor was Jaḍa Bharata deaf and dumb. Such designations were simply coverings of the spirit soul. Everyone must come to this knowledge. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (2.13): dehino 'smin yathā dehe. Everyone is encased within the body. Since the body is never identical with the soul, the bodily activities are simply illusory. In the association of such a sādhu as Jaḍa Bharata, Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa came to the awareness that his activities as a royal authority were simply illusory phenomena. He therefore agreed to receive knowledge from Jaḍa Bharata, and that was the beginning of his perfection. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). A person like Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa, who was very inquisitive to know the value of life and the spiritual science, must approach a personality like Jaḍa Bharata. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam (SB 11.3.21). One must approach a guru like Jaḍa Bharata, a representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to inquire about the goal of human life.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore says:
- enechi auṣadhi māyā nāśibāra lāgi'
- hari-nāma-mahā-mantra lao tumi māgi'
"I have brought medicine to awaken every living being from perpetual sleep. Please receive the holy name of the Lord, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, and awaken." The Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.3.14) also says, uttiṣṭha jāgrata prāpya varān nibodhata: "O living entity, you are sleeping in this material world. Please get up and take advantage of your human form of life." The sleeping condition means loss of all knowledge. In Bhagavad-gītā (2.69) it is also said, yā niśā sarva-bhūtānāṁ tasyāṁ jāgarti saṁyamī: "What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled." Even in the higher planets, everyone is under the spell of the illusory energy. No one is really interested in the real values of life. The sleeping condition, called kāla-sarpa (the time factor), keeps the conditioned soul in a state of ignorance, and therefore pure consciousness is lost. In the forest there are many blind wells, and if one falls down in one there is no chance of being rescued. In a state of sleep, one remains perpetually bitten by some animals, especially snakes.
Not knowing the value of life, karmīs create situations whereby they suffer in this life and the next. Unfortunately, karmīs are very attached to material sense gratification, and they cannot appreciate the miserable condition of material life, neither in this life nor in the next. Therefore the Vedas enjoin that one should awaken to spiritual consciousness and utilize all his activities to attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord Himself says in Bhagavad-gītā (9.27):
SB Canto 9
Saubhari Ṛṣi was a great yogī. Yogic perfection makes available eight material opulences—aṇimā, laghimā, mahimā, prāpti, prākāmya, īśitva, vaśitva and kāmāvasāyitā. Saubhari Muni exhibited super-excellence in material enjoyment by dint of his yogic perfection. The word bahv-ṛca means "expert in chanting mantras." As material opulence can be achieved by ordinary material means, it can also be achieved by subtle means through mantras. By chanting mantras, Saubhari Muni arranged for material opulence, but this was not perfection in life. As will be seen, Saubhari Muni became very dissatisfied with material opulence and thus left everything and reentered the forest in the vānaprastha order and achieved final success. Those who are not ātma-tattva-vit, who do not know the spiritual value of life, can be satisfied with external material opulences, but those who are ātma-tattva-vit are not inspired by material opulence. This is the instruction we can derive from the life and activities of Saubhari Muni.
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
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Nectar of Devotion
Nectar of Instruction
In the śāstra it is said that of all types of fruitive workers, he who is advanced in knowledge of the higher values of life is favored by the Supreme Lord Hari. Out of many such people who are advanced in knowledge (jñānīs), one who is practically liberated by virtue of his knowledge may take to devotional service. He is superior to the others. However, one who has actually attained prema, pure love of Kṛṣṇa, is superior to him. The gopīs are exalted above all the advanced devotees because they are always totally dependent upon Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the transcendental cowherd boy. Among the gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the most dear to Kṛṣṇa. Her kuṇḍa (lake) is as profoundly dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa as this most beloved of the gopīs. Who, then, will not reside at Rādhā-kuṇḍa and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings (aprākṛtabhāva), render loving service to the divine couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, who perform Their aṣṭakālīya-līlā, Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa are the most fortunate people in the universe.
One should therefore be eager to understand the science of the soul (ātma-tattva). Unless one comes to the platform of ātma-tattva, by which one understands that the soul and not the body is oneself, one remains on the platform of ignorance. Out of thousands and even millions of ignorant people who are wasting their time simply gratifying their senses, one may come to the platform of knowledge and understand higher values of life. Such a person is called a jñānī. The jñānī knows that fruitive activities will bind him to material existence and cause him to transmigrate from one kind of body to another. As indicated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by the term śarīra-bandha (bound to bodily existence), as long as one maintains any conception of sense enjoyment, his mind will be absorbed in karma, fruitive activity, and this will oblige him to transmigrate from one body to another.
Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
Within the body there are five different departments of existence, known as anna-maya, prāṇa-maya, mano-maya, vijñāna-maya and, at last, ānanda-maya. In the beginning of life, every living entity is food conscious. A child or an animal is satisfied only by getting nice food. This stage of consciousness, in which the goal is to eat sumptuously, is called anna-maya. Anna means "food." After this one lives in the consciousness of being alive. If one can continue his life without being attacked or destroyed, one thinks himself happy. This stage is called prāṇa-maya, or consciousness of one's existence. After this stage, when one is situated on the mental platform, his consciousness is called mano-maya. The materialistic civilization is primarily situated in these three stages, anna-maya, prāṇa-maya and mano-maya. The first concern of civilized persons is economic development, the next concern is defense against being annihilated, and the next consciousness is mental speculation, the philosophical approach to the values of life.
Renunciation Through Wisdom
Those who seek the smaller values of life and thus take up yoga for selfish motives are not very noble, and even if they achieve success, they still remain inferior. But those who practice yoga for the benefit of others are truly worthy, for even if they personally do not attain perfection, they are very elevated souls. Devotees of the Lord practice the yoga called buddhi-yoga, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This yoga is meant to bless all humanity, as well as bring the practitioner to the perfection of life. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.17) aptly describes the great value of such yoga:
- tyaktvā sva-dharmaṁ caraṇāmbujaṁ harer
- bhajann apakvo 'tha patet tato yadi
- yatra kva vābhadram abhūd amuṣya kiṁ
- ko vārtha āpto 'bhajatāṁ sva-dharmataḥ
One who has forsaken his material occupations to engage in the devotional service of the Lord may sometimes fall down while in an immature stage, yet there is no danger of his being unsuccessful. On the other hand, a nondevotee, though fully engaged in occupational duties, does not gain anything.