“If it is not possible with our limited senses to perceive a material thing like the sun [after it has set], how is it possible to perceive the nonmaterial? We cannot find out or understand Krishna by our own endeavor. We have to qualify ourselves through Krishna consciousness and wait for Him to reveal Himself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Raja-vidya, Ch 4)
After the sun sets at night, there is no way to realize its presence until the next morning, when it appears again by the meticulously timed workings of nature. One can travel across the earth to try to maintain daylight, but this requires much time and effort that will not be worth the sacrifice for most. The sun is always there and in its fixed position, but there is a limitation on perception present on the living entity’s end. Whether we actually see the sun or not has no bearing on its existence. Similarly, the Supreme Lord, who most everyone is searching for in the visual form, cannot be found just by insistence or wishing for His presence. The situation, time and circumstance must be favorable, and a proper conditioning that allows for recognition must also be present. We can wait for the sun to rise again the next morning, but if we keep our eyes closed, we won’t see it. If our consciousness is not purified in the spiritual sense, there is no way to perceive the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His accompanying names, forms, qualities and pastimes.
How is the proper qualification acquired? What steps can we take in preparation for seeing the Supreme Lord, who is addressed as Krishna by many around the world because of His unmatched attractiveness? The key is to shift consciousness, to direct all thoughts and desires towards that hopeful meeting. Without a shift in the primary thought processes of the mind, the living entity will remain ready to perceive everything else; things like the sun, food, water, cinema, sports, beautiful members of the opposite sex, and a host of other allures aimed at providing stimulation to the senses. These objects, when bearing no relation to the ultimate goal of connecting with God, are considered maya, or illusion. They are labeled as such because their association keeps the individual completely in the dark as to the existence of the Supreme Lord and the need for connecting with Him. This should make sense after all, for if we derive tremendous enjoyment from objects of the phenomenal world, what need is there for a higher taste? If our time is occupied in eating, sleeping, mating and defending, why would our thoughts stray towards any other engagement?
Under the mindset driven by material enjoyment, the wonders of nature such as the sun and the moon are seen as objects that facilitate the further dive into sense gratification. The sun is required to grow the food that satisfies the urges of the tongue and the stomach. Water is needed to nourish the same food and to prepare tasty beverages. Sight is required to enhance the enjoyment of association with the opposite sex. Touch is required for a similar purpose. In this way the living entity remains conditioned to perceive the wonders of nature which come of their own accord and in a timely fashion.
Even while operating under this mindset, where sense gratification is taken as the ultimate aim, there is little control over the interactions with nature. We may want to see the sun very badly, but we still have to wait for the morning sunrise, an event which actually represents the full rotation of the earth and not the movement of the sun. Regardless, we are totally powerless in the matter, though we may not think so. For spiritual life, we are equally as feeble; therefore it is foolish to think that we can just approach someone and ask them to show us God. The Supreme Lord, who is much more powerful than the sun, will reveal Himself to the proper person at the proper time.
To qualify ourselves, to become candidates for the Lord’s audience, we can regularly chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Why chant these names over the sacred syllable “om”? Why can’t we just sit quietly and not say anything and have the Lord appear before us? While God is formless and nameless, He is addressed by an unlimited number of names by those who love Him. Krishna refers to God’s all-attractive nature; Achyuta references His infallibility; Govinda His ability to give pleasure to the cows and the senses; Madhava His position as husband of the goddess of fortune; Keshava His defeat of the powerful demon Madhu; and Rama His wonderful incarnation of Lord Ramachandra, who defeated the wicked demon-king Ravana. In this way there are so many names that accurately address the Supreme Lord.
“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.25)
When we speak of God, we speak of a person, or a personality. Although He is sometimes described as formless in the Vedas, this doesn’t mean that He is lacking a spiritual form. The mind cannot fully grasp God’s wonderfully gigantic and spiritually infused vigraha, or body; therefore it is sometimes said that God is alakshya, or invisible, and nirguna, or without attributes. Yet, just as the sun exists perpetually even when we can’t see it, the Supreme Lord, who is also known as Bhagavan, remains forever blissfully situated in knowledge and truth within a transcendental body.
Calling out the names of God, especially the sound vibration Krishna, places us in the proper mindset because with the holy name come all the qualities, pastimes and forms. With Krishna’s form comes a sportive tendency, a desire to perform pastimes for His own pleasure. When, where and why these pastimes take place is up to Him, for Krishna is not beholden to anyone’s demands or wishes. One person may insist on seeing God, but unless the Lord decides they are worthy of His audience, that meeting will never occur.
The secret known to the bhaktas, or devotees, is that the name of Krishna is non-different from the Supreme Person it represents. This seems a little silly upon first glance, for we can chant the name of a celebrity or an object and not have their presence, but Krishna is God, so He is all-pervading. Just as we enjoy a painting by seeing it, a sweet dish by tasting it, a soft piece of fabric by touching it, and a musical composition by hearing it, we can interact with the Supreme Lord through any of our senses. There is no requirement that we only see God and not perceive His presence in any other way.
“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.55)
The sound vibration of the sacred maha-mantra is especially potent because it brings Krishna’s presence through the form of His name and it also addresses Him in a mood of love and affection. Since it is up to Krishna to decide when and where He will reveal Himself, it would make sense that He would choose to remain hidden from those who are envious of Him and want to challenge His authority. Why would anyone want to challenge God? Wouldn’t that be a stupid proposition? The existence of the material creation is actually rooted in this jealousy. Only through deference to maya can forgetfulness of God remain perpetually. The soul of the individual, which is the identifiable aspect, is intimately connected with the spiritual world; otherwise there would never be a tendency towards searching for a higher power. While the atheists may think religion was created by man as a way of dealing with death, the understanding of a superior force is ingrained within every soul. Even the non-believer is forced to accept a higher power in the form of nature and its agent of change: time. The atheist may say they don’t believe in God, but at the time of death they will be compelled to succumb to nature’s strongest force.
The attitude that gives full deference to maya essentially mounts a futile attack on the Supreme Lord’s position as the greatest enjoyer, the original proprietor of all objects and the best friend of every living entity. The question may be raised as to how one is supposed to learn these truths of spiritual life, especially considering that human beings are born ignorant. What if a child grows up and isn’t taught anything besides sense gratification? This is often the case, as irreligion is widespread today, and those who do preach the message of divine love so nicely explained in the Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam are considered sectarian, sentimentalists, or people just looking to annoy everyone else into not having any fun in life.
The circumstances of birth, however, are no accident. Past work and desires constantly take effect. Just as the fruits that fall off the tree are the result of the initial planting of the seed and its care by other people and nature, the predicaments and situations we regularly encounter, including the time and place of birth, are the result of past deeds. The original sin, if you will, is the desire to separate from Krishna’s company, to pretend that a higher taste can be found in His absence; hence the descent from the spiritual sky, the original home of the jiva soul, who is similar in quality to Krishna but vastly inferior to Him in quantitative powers. The jiva can choose between the spiritual energy and the material energy. For the Supreme Lord, the source of all energy, there is no such distinction. Wherever He goes and whatever He does, the spiritual energy always follows Him.
Through chanting Hare Krishna in a proper mood, the devotee becomes situated to perceive of the Lord’s presence through sound. Evidence of God’s existence and His personal presence is available to every single person and at every single second. God is with us right now, but we just don’t have the proper consciousness to notice it. The radio waves are travelling through the air at all times, but unless we have a device capable of receiving the signal and knowing what to do with it, we have no way of knowing that the waves are there. The air is filled with tiny molecules that can’t be seen without a microscope or direct sunlight that shows the different particles. In a similar manner, Shri Krishna is within every atom and every inch of space, but unless we have the proper consciousness, one that only thinks of the Lord in a mood of love, the presence of the Supreme Spirit cannot be appreciated.
Chanting Hare Krishna is not a sectarian process either. The information presented thus far about the properties of spirit and the workings of material nature don’t point to any limitations on time, space, geography, or family lineage. There is no such thing as a Hindu soul or an American soul. Sense gratification is the same for the dog as it is for the human being. Similarly, recitation of the name of Krishna is equally as effective in the beginning for one who has no familiarity with spirituality as it is for one who is born into traditions following Vedic culture. The name of the Lord is the ticket to freedom for every single living entity, even those who are not interested in high philosophy or acquiring a high level of intelligence on spiritual matters.
That chanting and hearing are the two most effective ways to perceive God shows that the Supreme Lord is the most benevolent person. God’s fixed position as the best friend of every living entity is evidenced in so many aspects of life, but especially in the fact that those things we really need in life remain relatively inexpensive, while those objects and experiences that we don’t need are fairly costly. Milk, fruit, water and grains are generally available in abundance and less expensive than elaborate preparations and animal flesh. In a similar manner, the mind can be satisfied and stimulated by activities on a small field without needing to spend so much money on travelling to exotic destinations.
In the arena of spiritual life, the proof of the Lord’s unmatched benevolence comes from the fact that the tools necessary for connecting with Him are not expensive to acquire nor are they difficult to practice. Chanting is something anyone can do, even the poorest man. The sound vibration of Krishna’s name is the gateway to spiritual freedom for every person, regardless of their level of education. Consciousness is a force present within every living entity, but only in the human being does it have the potential for being developed fully, and thus purified at the same time. Through adherence to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which has as its cornerstone the hearing of the sound vibrations that represent the Supreme Lord, the all-powerful spiritual sun, the one entity who never sets and who remains forever active in His vow to protect the surrendered souls, can be seen at all times, and His most inviting rays of spiritual energy consisting of bliss and knowledge can be basked in without impediment.