ISKCON Press


Toward a Peaceful Society

śrī bhagavan uvāca
idaṁ śarīraṁ kaunteya
kṣetram ity abhidhīyate
etad yo vetti taṁ prāhuḥ
kṣetrajña iti tad-vidaḥ

“The Supreme Lord said: This body, O son of Kuntī, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.” (Bg. 13.2) id1

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is instructing Arjuna about the knowledge of kṣetra and kṣetrajña. Kṣetra refers to the field, which is the body, and kṣetrajña refers to the knower of the field, who is the individual soul. If land is to be cultivated, there must be some cultivator, and if this body, which is likened unto a field, is to be cultivated, there must be a proprietor who can cultivate it. Now we have these material bodies, and it is our duty to cultivate them properly. That cultivation is called akarma, or work. A person may come to our place with a hoe to cultivate land, or he may come to simply drink coffee or tea. We have been given this particular type of body to cultivate and to attain required sense objects according to our desires. This body is a gift from God. God is very kind, and if someone wants something from Him, He allows it. “All right,” He says. “Take this.” His relationship to us is just like the relationship of a father to a son. The son may insist upon getting something from the father, and the father may try to convince him that what he wants is not for his good, saying, “My dear son, don't touch this. This is not good for you.” But when the boy insists upon it, the father will allow him to have it. The affectionate father gives the son just what he wants. Similarly, the Supreme Father gives His sons and daughters just what they want. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that all beings, in all species of life, are his children. id2

sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya
mūrtayaḥ sam bhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā

“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving Father.” (Bg. 14.4) id3

In this material world, the mother, prakṛti, which is material nature, supplies us with the body, and the Supreme Father impregnates this matter with living souls. There is an erroneous theory current that only human beings have souls and that other living entities do not, but we understand from Vedic authority that there are 8,400,000 species of bodies, including plants and trees, and that they all have souls, otherwise they would not be able to develop and grow. In this verse Śrī Kṛṣṇa claims that all living entities, regardless of the forms they take in this material world, are his sons, and that they are related to Him as a son is related to his father. id4

This Kṛṣṇa consciousness is especially meant for understanding the position of the soul and its relationship with God. id5

kṣetra-jñaṁ cāpi māṁ viddhi
sarva-kṣetreṣu bhārata
kṣetra-kṣetrajñayor jñānaṁ
yat taj jñānaṁ mataṁ mama

“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Bg. 13.3) id6

If we meditate upon this body and study whether or not we are actually the body, we will come to the conclusion that we are kṣetrajña, the knower of the body but not the body. If we study our finger and consider whether or not we are the finger, we will come to the conclusion that we are not the finger or any other part of the body, but that the finger, the arms, the legs, the head, etc. are our fingers, arms, legs, etc. In this way we can come to the conclusion that we are not these bodies but that the bodies belong to us. Therefore we say, “This is my body.” Unfortunately people in this modern civilization never stop to inquire what they are or who they are. They are simply laboring hard, working hard all day in an office or factory, under the impression that, “I am this body.” And if we ask people who they are, they reply, “I am Hindu, I am Moslem, I am Swedish, I am American, I am Christian, etc.” These are various identifications or designations of the body, but the fact is that we are not these bodies. The body is simply the field of our activities. We are no more the body than the cultivator of a field is the field. id7

There are different kinds of bodies and different activities in accordance to the different types of bodies. A dog enjoys one kind of activity, a cat enjoys another, and a human enjoys another. There are differences of activity due to differences of body. When we come to the platform of truth, however, and understand that we are not these bodies, then our activities change from material activities to spiritual activities. As long as we are operating under the bodily conception of life, our activities are material, but as soon as we understand, “I do not belong to this body, ahaṁ brahmāsmi, I am spirit soul,” our activities will be in accordance to that realization, that is to say that they will cease to be motivated from the material or bodily platform. Knowledge of our proper identity as separate from the body is real knowledge, but this knowledge is denied as long as we cling to bodily identification. id8

In the scriptures it is said that as long as we are in this bodily conception of life, all our activities will be defeated. A child is born into ignorance, and if as he grows older he remains under the bodily conception of life, he lives in darkness. His position is that of a śūdra. In the Vedic literatures we find that in this age everyone is born a śūdra; therefore everyone requires to be educated as to his real identity. If, however, we remain satisfied with our birth by our father and mother, we will remain in our condition as śūdra. We have to rise to the brahminical platform by following the purificatory processes. id9

As mentioned before, there are four basic characteristics of an impure life—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. According to the Vedic principles, sex should not be indulged in outside of marriage. In human society there is therefore a system of marriage which distinguishes us from the cats and dogs. Whether we are Hindu, Moslem, or Christian, we acknowledge the system of marriage. The purpose of this system is to avoid illicit sex. According to the Vedic system, intoxication is also discouraged; nor is meat-eating advocated, for human beings should be nonviolent. We have been given sufficient grains, fruits, milk, and vegetables, and there is no necessity to kill poor animals. Some people argue that if we do not eat meat we will be undernourished, but we can see that the students of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement have given up meat and are very healthy, whereas people who are eating meat are still, despite their meat-eating, subject to so many diseases and unhealthy conditions. Gambling is also discouraged because it simply agitates the mind. id10

This then is the purificatory process by which one can become a brāhmaṇa. This path is open to everyone. A brāhmaṇa is one who is truthful and pure, tolerant and simple, full of knowledge and faith in God. He can control his mind and his senses also. At the present moment there is a great necessity for brāhmaṇas, because almost everyone is a śūdra, for almost everyone is wholly engaged in maintaining the body, eating, sleeping, mating and defending—all symptoms of animals and śūdrasid11

Society cannot be peaceful unless there are four divisions of human beings functioning in harmony with one another. These four divisions are comprised of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras. These are discussed by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā in this way: id12

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Bg. 4.13) id13

These four divisions of men in human society are natural, not artificial, because in the material world everything is operating under the influence of the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion and ignorance. As long as we are in the material world, it is not possible to classify everyone in the same category because each and every person is working under the influence of the modes of material nature. However, when we transcend the material plane, there is oneness. At that time, all the divisions fall apart. The question is therefore how to transcend the modes of material nature, and that transcendence is the very process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As soon as we become situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we become transcendental to the modes of material nature. id14

māṁ ca yo 'vyabhicāreṇa
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature, and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” (Bg. 14.26) id15

Thus one who is engaged in Kṛṣṇa conscious activity is at once elevated to the transcendental position. By nature we are not matter but Brahman (ahaṁ brahmāsmi). The philosophy of Śaṅkarācārya is mainly based on the principle that we should not think that we are products of this material nature. It is by some unfortunate accident that we are in contact with material nature. Actually our nature is that of spirit, Brahman, and that nature has to be invoked. This material life is a diseased condition; when we are situated in Brahman, we are in our healthy condition. That healthy Brahman condition is immediately attained as soon as we engage ourselves one hundred percent in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. id16

When we transcend material nature through the rendering of service unto Kṛṣṇa, what is our status? Do we become zero? Some philosophies maintain that after liberation from material life, after the nirvāṇa of this material body, we become zero, void. That is a dangerous theory. By nature the living entity is not attracted to zero. We may be diseased and suffering from so many elements, but if our doctor comes and says, “Let me finish your ailments by killing you,” we will immediately say, “No, no! Better let me suffer from the disease.” We do not want to be killed just to end our miseries. Thus the theory that after material life there is void is not at all attractive. Nor is it a fact. We are sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], eternal, blissful and full of knowledge, and part and parcel of the Supreme. The Supreme Lord is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, and we are qualitatively one with Him. Although very small, a drop of seawater is as salty as the sea, and although we are but spiritual atoms, we have the same properties as the supreme spirit whole. There is no question of being void, for as living entities our spiritual properties are all there in infinite variegatedness. If, however, out of the frustration of material existence we commit suicide, we do not end our miseries. We simply create other miseries. If one attempts suicide but does not succeed, or is somehow revived, he is subject to being punished under state law. Similarly, the laws of nature treat suicides as criminal acts. We are to end this material life only after finding out the true blissful life of eternity. We should not simply be trying to end the miseries of this life simply out of frustration, but we should engage ourselves in activities that will raise us to spiritual life. id17

The four divisions of human society were created by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in order to facilitate this process of elevation. Just as a student is elevated from a lower class to a post-graduate class, the divisions of labor (cātur-varṇyam) are created to elevate us from the lowest stages of consciousness to the highest stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This process is a process of cooperation. In the human body, the most important part is the head, then the arms, the belly and the legs. Although the head is considered to be the most important part, there is no question of neglecting the legs or any other part. Similarly, in the divisions of human society, no one division is important to the exclusion of the others. Of these divisions, the brāhmaṇas are considered to be the intellectual class, the class of teachers; the kṣatriyas are the administrative and military class; the vaiśyas are the mercantile and agricultural class; and the śūdras are the common laborer class. In a properly run society, all of these classes are required. If they cooperate in their progress toward Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there is no strife amongst them. id18

In the present social status, we find that we are existing in these four divisions, but there is no cooperation. Everyone is dissatisfied. Today there is great strife between the capitalist class and laborer class because between them there is no compromise. There is only friction. All this strife amongst the classes is due to lack of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Indeed, there is not even a possibility of cooperation unless there is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is absolutely essential for harmonizing all facets of human society. Regardless of what class we belong to, if we cooperate in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there will be peace in the world. id19

Thus Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the utmost necessity for all divisions of society. Every chapter and every conclusion of Bhagavad-gītā aim toward Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is speaking Bhagavad-gītā, is always stressing devotion to His personal Self. id20

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo 'si me

“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Bg. 18.65) id21

Throughout Bhagavad-gītā we find this word mām stressed. Mām means “unto Me,” meaning unto Kṛṣṇa. But there are many miscreants who are interpreting this mām to mean “everyone.” When I say, “Bring me a glass of water,” does it mean that I want you to bring everyone a glass of water? The individuality is there, but by jugglery of words they interpret “me” or “I” to mean “everyone.” Consequently when Kṛṣṇa says “I,” the miscreants identify this “I” with themselves. This is a gross misinterpretation. Although Bhagavad-gītā is very popular in the world, due to this misinterpretation by mundane scholars, it has not been properly understood. id22

Bhagavad-gītā clearly explains that this cātur-varṇyam system was established by Kṛṣṇa, but He is outside of this system. When Kṛṣṇa comes as an incarnation, He does not come as a member of any social order, not as a brāhmaṇa or anything else. When Kṛṣṇa came, He came as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva. Vasudeva belonged to the royal family and was therefore a kṣatriya. As such, Kṛṣṇa played the part of a kṣatriya, but this does not mean that Kṛṣṇa belonged to the kṣatriya class. There are many incarnations of Kṛṣṇa in many forms of life. In one incarnation He appeared as a fish, as a member of the community of fishes, but this does not mean that He is a fish. If we think upon seeing a fish that it belongs to Kṛṣṇa's family, we are mistaken. Of course, from another point of view, everything is Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is aloof from everything. This is the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa, and if we understand it, we will be liberated from birth and death. Although Kṛṣṇa has established the four divisions of human society, He is not in any one of them (tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhy akartāram avyayam). As soon as we understand that although Kṛṣṇa was born into a kṣatriya family, He is not a kṣatriya, we actually become liberated. If we think that because Kṛṣṇa acts in a particular way—as on the battlefield He gave instructions to Arjuna to fight—He is bound by the reactions of His activities, we are mistaken. “Works do not defile Me,” Śrī Kṛṣṇa says (na māṁ karmāṇi limpanti [Bg. 4.14]). In conclusion, we must accept the fact that when Kṛṣṇa comes as one of us, He is not in actuality “one of us.” He is transcendental. This fact we must learn by submissive inquiry from authoritative sources, such as Bhagavad-gītā or a spiritual master who is fully realized in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. id23

Today all facets of human society are thinking that their self-interest is in maintaining this body. Consequently today's society is simply a society of cats, dogs and hogs. From Vedic literatures we can understand that we don't have to work hard all day simply to maintain this body. We are working very hard because we are trying to control material nature for the purposes of sense gratification. One who can come to understand that Kṛṣṇa is the root of everything, the origin of everything, can understand the meaning of īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ [Bs. 5.1]—Kṛṣṇa is the supreme controller. In the universe there are many īśvaras, or controllers, but Kṛṣṇa is the supreme among all of them. Kṛṣṇa consciousness gives us this knowledge. Without it, we will remain ignorant of our real self-interest. id24

Modern society is in dire need of intellectual persons or brāhmaṇas who can broadcast real spiritual knowledge all over the world. That is an absolute necessity for a society which is working hard simply to exploit nature. If people try to understand this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement scientifically and philosophically, with their best knowledge and judgement, and try to cooperate, there will be peace all over the world. In essence, the method is very simple. We need only chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare and follow the regulative principles mentioned before. By following the regulative principles, we will be avoiding the four pillars of sinful life, and by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, we will be associating with God constantly; thus there will be peace among all classes of men. id25

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