“Ordinarily, if a king leaves the battlefield without fighting he is called a coward, but when Krishna enacts this pastime, leaving the battlefield without fighting, He is worshiped by the devotee. A demon always tries to measure the opulence of Krishna, whereas the devotee never tries to measure His strength and opulence, but always surrenders unto Him and worships Him.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 51)
Devotees and demons are polar opposites in their behavior. The biggest difference, the line of separation if you will, relates to the way the Supreme Lord is viewed. The devotee understands that every living entity, any life form with a spiritual spark residing within, is part and parcel of the Supreme Energetic Lord. Since individuals have an inherent relationship with the original Divine Being, those who firmly acknowledge His presence and His firm position as the only reservoir of pleasure take the necessary steps to ensure that such a relationship always remains intact and solid. When the bond exists in its purified state, the individual soul acts as the servant and the Supreme Lord remains the served. This is the natural order of things, and it leads to a supremely blissful condition. The demons, however, disregard the supremacy of God. Instead of serving Him, they challenge His very authority and always demand to see evidence of His opulences and His supreme dominion. In reality, however, God isn’t required to prove anything to anyone, as proof of His immeasurable potencies is all around us. The living entity, being inferior in quantitative powers, is ultimately fallible; a fact supported by the wonderful event known as birth.
Let us first review the evidence of God’s existence and His potencies. Scientists have studied nature and its creature population since the beginning of time. The two important concepts that have still eluded them are the origin of the universe and the reason for the ultimate death of every life form. As what goes up must come down, whoever takes birth must eventually die. We may hope that present life can remain in existence forever, but we know that no historical figure has managed to live perpetually within the same body. Every past person that we know of, including every person in our family ancestry, has died. Therefore death is inevitable. The origin of the universe is also completely unknown. Scientists posit guesses such as the Big Bang Theory and the evolution of the species to explain the genesis of the wonderful creation, but the driving force for such events remains a mystery. If a series of chemicals created the universe, where did the chemicals come from? If nature is responsible for the evolution of the species, who or what is controlling nature?
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Just as every movement within our body has an initial cause, so the movements of nature are driven by an initial, autonomous force. Every action that we take, either voluntary or involuntary, is instigated by the soul residing within the body. The presence of the soul is what gets ignored by the atheist scientists. Yet the symptoms indicating the presence of spirit are easily observed. As soon as the soul exits the body, a person is deemed dead. The life form starts to rot and decay immediately, and the further development ceases. By the same token, once a soul is placed inside of a body, the viable tissue mass gradually grows from a small pea inside the womb of the mother into a full blown adult. While the changes to the outer, visible covering are so subtle that they remain imperceptible to the individual residing within, there is no doubt the shifts do occur. An adult body is completely different from the form of a child, yet the identity of the owner of the morphing form doesn’t change.
In Vedic terminology spirit is known as purusha. That which spirit acts on, or dominates, is known as prakriti. Just as the spirit soul, or individual purusha, causes the dull matter known as the body, or individual prakriti, to move, the giant spiritual entity controlling the universe causes the sum total of all matter to function. Therefore we can deduce that nature’s movements are driven by intelligence. This giant soul, or the most powerful purusha, is God. The Vedas tell us that the most powerful Divine Entity has many manifestations and names, but that His original form is the one belonging to Shri Krishna. The devotees, through submissive hearing from authority figures on service to God and through reading sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, understand Krishna’s supremacy and thus are not bewildered by the workings of nature. One who knows Krishna has no interest in studying the “why” behind the seemingly inconceivable functions of the most powerful purusha. Instead, they are more interested in understanding how to get in His good graces and how to associate with Him.
The scientists, and many religionists for that matter, completely ignore the wonders of spirit and its makeup. Those who don’t understand or know Krishna take the body to be the beginning and end of everything. This is surely faulty logic because we see that the body is destined for destruction. Additionally, the cells belonging to the many forms we occupy within a single lifetime also get discarded on a regular basis. All of us rested comfortably inside the womb of our mother prior to our birth. We have no memory of this experience, but we most certainly fit into that tiny area and lived there with a small body for many months. But what happened to that form? Why can’t we assume the size of a pea today and still live? Through this simple review we see that our previous bodies died, and yet we remained alive. Naturally it would stand to reason that after our current body is ultimately discarded and destroyed, our spirit soul will remain intact. The soul is a proven, dexterous space traveler, capable of entering and exiting bodies without impediment.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)
The workings of the soul can be realized through simple observation from the sober man. Fortunately for us, astute observations pertaining to the wondrous nature of spirit have already been recorded in written form by previous acharyas and saintly personalities. Additionally, the Supreme Lord has validated all the claims made by the devotees through His personal teachings. The nature of the soul and its relation to matter can be accepted as scientific facts which are available to anyone who wants to learn them. Religion certainly has an element of faith, but there must be philosophy as well; otherwise the resultant practice is merely sentiment. Philosophy without faith is mental speculation. The scientists therefore have taken shelter of their mentally concocted ideas, formulations guided by a brain which had to acquire knowledge through years and years of education. This same brain will then lose all of its accumulated information, theories and conclusions at the time of death.
Taking shelter exclusively of argument, logic and field research, the demons are always challenging the authority of God and the beliefs of the devotees. The scientists, however, have no clue how giant land masses known as planets can defy the laws of gravity and float on their own in outer space. We can’t even get a tiny feather, let alone something which is billions of pounds in weight, to levitate. Of all the collections of gross matter, nothing remains more of an enigma than the sun. The largest solar body produces heat and light the likes of which are not seen anywhere in the universe. No amount of electricity or fire can even come close to matching the intensity of the sun’s rays. When we create our own energy, we require human effort in conjunction with matter. For example, the automobile requires refined petroleum in the form of gasoline to operate. A fire needs fuel in the form of wood. Artificial lighting requires electricity which must be generated through some sort of physical effort. The sun, however, is self-illuminating. There are no oil companies driving to the sun and refueling it. The sun has been burning since the beginning of time and has yet to have a down year. It has not lost any intensity, nor does it plan to anytime soon.
The workings of nature and the properties of the sun are evidence enough of God’s powers. There should be no doubt to the Supreme Lord’s potencies; hence there is also no need to challenge Him. On the other side, the individual living entities have much to prove in the area of capability. The scientists have yet to find a cure for death. They may have made great strides in curing diseases, but old age and death have yet to be eradicated. Indeed, birth itself is indication enough of God’s superior position. The Supreme Lord is completely independent, while the conditioned living entities are entirely under the control of material nature. No one asked us where we wanted to take birth and to which parents; these things happened on their own. Just the fact that we took birth in a body which is destined for destruction is evidence enough of our fallibility.
The burden of proof lies with the living entities instead of with God. If anything needs to be measured, it is our own strength. Purusha is powerful because it can dominate matter, but we see that even this ability is checked. If we had complete control over nature, there would never be frustration, defeat, or heartache. We can only reach our full potential of spiritual strength when we channel our energy towards the right purpose. By using human effort to advance the plight of the material body, the strength of spirit is misused. It is not that the abilities of the soul increase or diminish, but rather, the natural, brilliant qualities of individual spirit get suppressed. By taking to spiritual activities, the jiva’s undying strength can come to the forefront at a full intensity level. The complete potential for ability can only be realized by taking to devotional service.
To help us understand the flaws of ignoring the needs of the soul more clearly, we can look to some of Krishna’s dealings with demons. The most fortunate miscreants are those who directly take to chastising and ridiculing the Lord in His personal form. Such fools are considered blessed because they are ultimately granted liberation from the cycle of birth and death as a reward for their role in teaching future generations a lesson. One such demon was Jarasandha, who took to harassing Krishna during His time on earth. Around five thousand years ago, Shyamasundara, the all-attractive and beautiful master of the spiritual sky, descended to earth personally to enact pastimes and root out the demoniac elements from society. During His adult years, Krishna lived in the town of Mathura, a place He took over after killing the previous ruler named Kamsa. Jarasandha was a king of the neighboring province of Magadha, and he was friends with Kamsa. Seeing that the Lord had killed his dear friend, Jarasandha decided to attack Mathura.
Yet, every attack was thwarted by Krishna and His brother Balarama. The two brothers easily defeated Jarasandha’s gigantic army and left him to retreat home in shame. As a staunch believer in the material energy, Jarasandha continually came back with more and more vengeance, but each time he was defeated. Finally, during one particular attack, Krishna and Balarama voluntarily left the battlefield. They decided to hide in a mountainous area, where Jarasandha wouldn’t see them. The demon decided to set the mountain area on fire. Though he thought Krishna and Balarama were killed from the resulting blaze, the brothers climbed to the top of the mountain and simply jumped off to escape the unsafe situation.
Though Krishna is no one’s son, He kindly accepted parents like any other living entity. His father was Vasudeva, who belonged to the fighting order, the kshatriyas. According to the ethical codes of the warrior class, leaving a battlefield is considered a cowardly and impious act. But Krishna’s pastime of fleeing from battle against Jarasandha became celebrated. He acquired the name of Ranchor, which means “one who has left the battlefield”, and to this day millions of devotees kindly worship Him through this name, remembering His wonderful pastime of renouncing attachment to victory in His dealings with Jarasandha.
Jarasandha, the non-devotee king, always tried to measure Krishna’s opulence, and, thinking that he had finally won, he also thought that God was dead. Obviously, he thought wrong. Krishna would eventually arrange for Jarasandha’s death through the efforts of His cousin Bhimasena. The miscreants of today are the descendants of nefarious characters like Jarasandha, Ravana and Kamsa. They think that with each new scientific discovery they make they come closer and closer to killing God. Of course death, which arrives through the work of all-devouring time, will always foil their plans. The Supreme Lord can never die nor can His strength ever diminish.
The aim of human life is to reach our full potential of spiritual strength. The root cause of our conditioned state is the challenging attitude towards the Supreme Lord fortified over many lifetimes spent apart from the spiritual world. The inimical attitude is not allowed in the spiritual realm, so anyone who wants to challenge God’s authority or imitate His inconceivable activities must reside in a perishable land to do so. The material world fits this purpose, and it is a place where God’s presence is felt only in an impersonal manner. Krishna has no direct interest in the desires of those who want to challenge or imitate Him. Though there may be varying magnitudes of good and bad in the material sense, under the spiritual point of view both extremes are considered equal because they are devoid of devotional service.
If Krishna’s potencies are inconceivable, how can we study Him? How can we engage in His service if we can’t understand Him? When it comes to divine love there is no requirement for knowledge, renunciation, scientific analysis, or the measurement of strength. The love we feel for Supreme Spirit naturally exists inside all of us. It is our dharma, or essential characteristic, to harbor undying and unmotivated affection towards the Supreme Lord. Just as we automatically try to take care of our own interests, which are driven by our individuality, which in turn is tied to the soul, we also have a natural desire to love the soul’s eternal partner, Krishna.
In the conditioned state the dormant love for the Supreme Lord simply has to be rekindled rather than created. Just like the sun, the soul is self-illuminating in terms of knowledge and bliss. The constitutional position of the soul simply has to be allowed to shine. The uncovering of nescience is facilitated through constitutional activities represented by bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. While the ultimate discipline of spirituality can be multi-faceted, in this age, the simplest process of devotional life is the chanting of the non-different names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Krishna is celebrated as the Ranchor for fleeing the battlefield. In a similar manner, we can be hailed and praised for turning our back on material nature and the futile attempts to measure God’s powers and potencies. Just as Krishna’s renunciation is considered praiseworthy, our thumbing our nose at the illusory workings of dull matter will put us in the good graces of the only person whose opinion counts, the Supreme Lord, and allow us to reassume our true spiritual strength. When the power of spiritual love dominates, the cycle of birth and death ends.