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The Highest Truth

"The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.2)

What is reality? This fundamental question of existence is so profound and in our face that it often just goes over everyone's head. Philosophers would occupy themselves for hundreds of years, contemplating this question, but some people try to convince us now that it is obsolete.

It isn't. It's very acute and so much more nowadays, when, especially in the West, the techno-economical and social advancement of civilization has reached its highest peak, at least according to what we are told about human history. Despite all this economic development, various forms of religion on one side and secularism on the other, arts, psychology, freedom and facility to move around, freedom of expression and seemingly boundless possibility to gratify the senses, people seem to carry within themselves anxiety and confusion that that reaches its peak simultaneously with such advancement, as its concomitant factors. The reason for that is our negligence of spiritual knowledge, the understanding of our own selves. We identify with that which flashes around for just few moments and we build our lives on a basis which will never remain stable - the material body.

In the ancient but timeless Srimad-Bhagavatam, a great saint, Prahlada Maharaja says: sada samudvigna-dhiyam asad-grahat (SB 7.5.5). "Any person who has accepted a temporary body and temporary household life is certainly embarrassed by anxiety..."

The root cause of all anxiety and confusion is our misidentification with the temporary, in essence, the non-existent. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, resolves the question about the nature of reality in His sacred song, the Bhagavad-gita. In four simple lines He distinguishes reality from illusion for the welfare of all. He says:

nasato vidyate bhavo nabhavo vidyate satah

ubhayor api drsṭo 'ntas tv anayos tattva-darsibhih

"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both." (Bg.2.16))

We live in the world of atoms. Particles. Miniscule strings of energy and force which binds it all together and manifests forms. Energy is eternal, the scientists admit that and postulate this law of nature in the laws of thermodynamics. But the forms which energy takes are obviously temporary. Energy doesn't cease to be, but forms have no endurance.

Just like your body. The form of a child that you once had is now gone. It doesn't exist, it became nonexistent. If you are now an adult, your teenage body is also gone. The body, the form you have now, was nonexistent yesterday, it exists now for a fraction of time and again it becomes nonexistent tomorrow, as a number of particles join this form from the outside environment (food, air, photons of sunlight etc.) and another group of particles leaves this form by detaching themselves from it (urine, stool, falling hair, bits of skin flying off etc.).

A random atom which is now hovering in Earth's stratosphere as particle of cosmic dust will tomorrow be in your salad, then it will stay in your system for a while, building up a blood corpuscle or a muscle cell or whatever and then again leave your system to become a part of another system, organic or inorganic. In this way countless particles, atoms and molecules comprised from and held together by eternal energy are simply moving around in countless universes, creating forms of temporary manifestation.

So, what about you? The "I"? You were there as a "child". Now the "child" is gone, but you are still here. The "teenager", which you once were is gone, but you are still here. And the "you" which is now here, which you see in the mirror, that will also be gone before long. But you always, constantly, changelessly, in fact eternally remain as consciousness observing all these passing forms of body. It is not only the body which changes its forms from one to another. The mind also constantly changes. We sometimes say; "I changed my mind". Today you think differently than ten years ago. On top of that, the very idea of who "you" are; "I am gay", "I am straight", "I'm a Christian.", "I'm a Muslim", "I'm black.", "I'm white.", "I'm this, I'm that". All this is ever changing, but the very "I", the concept of your own existence, that is transcendental. You always know that you exist. The body is changing. All its forms; the embryo, the child, the teenager, the adult and the old man come from nonexistence into existence and back. The mind is changing, a thought comes from nonexistence into existence and back. My idea of "who I am and how I am" changes as well. We regularly accept and reject different positions of "ourselves" in the world. But the pure notion of "I exist" is changeless and that is the energy of the actual self, the spirit soul.

By mistaken identification of the eternal, real self with the temporary, in fact unreal body, mind and false ego, the living entity tries to set his anchor in the realm of the ephemeral, where nothing stays. The body comes and goes, people around us; family, friends, enemies come and go, money comes and goes, governments that oppress or reward you come and go, scientific paradigms that tell you what to think of the world you live in come and go. Everything comes and goes. Only the observer remains. Only you remain.

Now, don't get this wrong. This is not to say that everything here is illusion. As was said before, energy is eternal. It's the forms that always change. And whatever has a beginning and an end, although existing in the moment or for a while, has no substance from the point of view of eternal time. Just like an infinitesimal bubble has no substance in the vast ocean. If I pinch you, you feel pain. But hey, pain comes and goes. The feeler remains.

So how do we reconcile this situation, where the eternal soul is embedded in temporary manifestation of the body and the world? Whatever we do or achieve here is also temporary. The effect of any action or achievement is, from this fundamental point of view, nonexistent. What to do?

"Nothing" is represented by the number zero. Let us analyze. Our body is temporary, it comes and goes. In the frame of eternal time its flash-like appearance has no substance. It is zero and everything connected with it is of the same nature, which is called "asat" - that which will not exist. Our bodily beauty; smooth skin or well shaped breasts, six-pack or sharp masculine cheekbones, all are zero. Our education, titles, honorary degrees - zero. Our bank account, may it be hundreds of thousands, it is zero. Our land of birth, our proud, prosperous and beautiful country - zero. Why do I say like that? Why this nihilism? It's not nihilism. It's a fact. It's all zero, because at the time of death we have to leave everything behind.

"Oh, I´m gonna leave something here for my kids, for the others." Well, first of all, "the others" don't care at all about what you left here for them (just like you have no idea what was the name and life-story of your great-great-great-great-grand-mother, unless you are a royal with a nicely preserved genealogy tree, which ultimately doesn't mean anything to you anyway), and second of all, all the "others" will also be kicked out from the position of enjoying what you left here for them by the very same process of death.

Whatever you do or achieve, at the end of the day only consciousness remains, just as it remained existent after your leaving the childhood body and entering the adulthood. Then again it leaves the adult body and enters into an old body. The ultimate transfer of consciousness from one body to another is called death itself. So what is the welfare for the consciousness there? What is the benefit? What is the purpose of our activities and pursuits? Is there any sense in them at all?

There is no sense to anything we do or achieve in this world unless we come to the soul platform and orient our actions and pursuits towards spiritual realization. The process is very simple. Just as you may pile up millions of zeroes one after another and they will forever remain a zero, if you put the one in front of them, then you can actually start counting: 10, 100, 1000. 10000...

That one is Krsna, the Supreme Lord a.k.a. God and the process of adding Him before all our zeroes is called "devotional service". Devotional service is the pure and eternal activity of the soul, the eternal occupation of the living entity, the essence and function of the self which cannot be separated from it, just like sweetness cannot be separated from sugar. We all want and tend to serve, to give pleasure to our beloved ones. But those ones will not exist, just like your first love doesn't exist anymore or your childhood friendships. By spending our energy and service propensity in these mundane relationships which never last, while forgetting our eternal relationship with Krsna, we simply waste our valuable time and become frustrated. By engaging ourselves in our constitutional activity of pleasing Krsna, the reservoir of all pleasure, we become satisfied and pleased in the self. Our activity aimed at pleasing the senses of the Supreme Enjoyer, Krsna, becomes spiritual activity and its results are eternal, because they pertain to the soul. There is no loss in engaging in devotional service, neither it is a foreign concept: We all cook. So, just cook for Krsna, unlimited varieties of preparations made of fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, milk, sugar and spices. We all eat. So, take Krsna prasadam - remnants of food prepared for, and offered with love to, Krsna. We all want to have relationships. So, make friends with devotees of the Lord, marry if you want and have a Krsna conscious family. We all work. Work for Krsna, offer your results for spreading of this wonderful spiritual movement of Krsna Consciousness. The list goes on, devotional service is all-inclusive and everything can be dovetailed in giving pleasure to the Lord. Everything starts with hearing about Krsna from His pure devotees and chanting His holy names: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.

This is the topmost welfare activity - to educate everyone willing to advance in the understanding of about the nature of reality and the nature of illusion. Thus the living entity gains an opportunity to utilize his limited time in the human form of life for the ultimate benefit in the form of liberating himself from the influence of material energy and escaping the ever-revolving cycle of birth and death, accompanied with old age and disease.

Prabhupada: You are requesting something... Veda says, "Come to the light." Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya: "Don't remain in darkness. Come to the light."

Indian reporter (2): We want more light.

Prabhupada: Yes.

Indian reporter (2): Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya.

Prabhupada: Yes, that is desirable in human. Otherwise the animals are in darkness. They do not know what is God. But a human being, because he has got this human form of body, he can come to the light. So all the sastras are for the human being, not for the cats and dogs. So if you do not take advantage of the sastras, then you remain in the darkness. This is our position. The light is here. Just like apart from all other sastras, if you take Bhagavad-gita, it is the very brilliant light. It is not that changing. Five thousand years ago Krsna said, what, that is still the same thing. Just like light. Millions of years ago, what was sun, the same sun is there. In the light there is no change. In the darkness there is change. If we do not accept the standard knowledge of Bhagavad-gita, then we shall continue to remain in darkness, and there will be no solution of the problems of life. This is our propaganda. Krsna consciousness movement means that we are asking everywhere, all over the world, "You come to this light and be happy." That's it.

(Press Conference -- December 16, 1976, Hyderabad)

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