Lecture, "What is Religion?" , London , 1973-08-23
Prabhupāda: Today's subject matter is "What is Religion?" So we are reciting some verses from the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, where the subject matter, dharma, is discussed. It is said that dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam [SB 6.3.19]. Dharma, it is Sanskrit word, and the English translation, generally it is made as "religion." Religion is accepted as a kind of faith. But faith may be wrong or right, according to the different time, persons, climate, condition---so many consideration. But Śrīmad-Bhāgavata says, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam. Dharma, or religion, means the law given by God. Simple formula. As there are laws given by the state, similarly, the supreme state, supreme governor is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
God means the supreme being, supreme person. So... Or the supreme authority. Supreme means the greatest authority. As in a state the greatest authority is the government, similarly, throughout the cosmic manifestation, throughout the whole creation, there must be some supreme authority. So that supreme authority is God, and whatever He gives, the rules and regulation, that is called religion. You cannot change it. That the law whimsically, you cannot change. Then you will be punishable. Similarly, the laws or the words are the regulative principles given by God. That is religion. And if you do not follow it, then you'll be punished.
Actually, the Sanskrit word dharma means the constitutional position. We may try to understand what is the meaning of dharma. Just like fire. Fire means there must be heat and light. Without heat and light, there is no meaning of fire. If you say that "We have got fire," but there is no heat and no light, so what kind of fire it is? So that fire and light of..., heat and light of fire is to be understood as dharma. You cannot change it. This is no possibility. Otherwise, there will be no meaning. And water, water is liquid. Any water, any parts of the world, when you take water it is liquid; therefore this liquidity is the dharma of water. You take anything. Actually, dharma means characteristic---anything you take. Just like I am speaking before this microphone. So if it does not produce the sound, then what kind of microphone it is? The sound production from the microphone is the dharma, is the religion, natural characteristic.
So what is the natural characteristic of human being? The natural characteristic is that we serve the superior. That is natural characteristic. Either you become Christian or Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist, nobody can say that "I do not serve any superior." Nobody can say. One must serve. That is dharma. Faith, ritualistic---I am today Hindu; I can accept the ritualistic process tomorrow of the Christian faith; or a Christian may take another ritual---but his business, to serve the superior, that does not change. Either you become Christian or Muslim or Hindu, it doesn't matter. It is not that Hindus, they only serve in the office; the Christian do not. No. The service is there. So actually the service is his dharma, not this rubber stamp, "Hindu," "Muslim," "Christian." No. That is designation. Actual dharma means the characteristic. If you take sugar, if you taste sugar, it is sweet. The sweetness is the characteristic of sugar. That is dharma. If you take chili, it is very hot. If you take a chili and if it is sweet, you immediately say, "Eh, this is not good chili," because there is no dharma.
So dharma means characteristic. So here in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that,
hy adharmas tad-viparyayaḥ
vedo nārāyaṇaḥ sākṣāt
svayambhūr iti śuśruma
Therefore we have to understand dharma from scriptures. Veda, veda means the book of knowledge. Veda means knowledge. Vetti veda vido jñānam. Jñāna. So we have to take knowledge from authorized scriptures, authorized law book. A big lawyer means who is quite aware of the laws of the state. Similarly, a religious person means who knows completely, at least---partially also---the laws of God. That is dharmic. That is dharma. So what is God, you have to understand. Then what does He say, you have to understand. Then you can execute actually what is religion. If you do not know what is government, what is the laws of the government, how you can become a good citizen? That is not possible. A good citizen, good citizen means who abides by the laws of the state. Similarly, a religious person means who abides by the order of God. This is dharma.
So this question was raised by the servants of Yamarāja in the matter of Ajāmila Upākhyāna. And the Yamarāja, who's known as Dharmarāja, master of understanding the religious principle, so he explained what is dharma. He said, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam.
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto na vidyādhara-caraṇādayaḥ
There are different planetary system, and in each and every planetary system there are different types of living beings, or human beings. As we have got on this planet different parts of the world, different parts of this globe, we have got different types of persons. We are talking of persons only, human being. Other living entities we are not taking into consideration. Because the dharma is meant for the human being, not for the cats and dogs. Religious system is there in the human society. Any civilized human society there is a system of religion---it doesn't matter what is that religion. That is civilized human civilization. Dharmeṇa hīna paśubhiḥ samānāḥ.
In the human society, in the civilized human society, if there is no conception of God, if there is no conception of God's order or God's law, that is not human society; that is animal society. The cats and dogs or other animals, big, big animals, they have no sense what is the law of God, what is God, how to execute that. That is not expected there. Take, for example, in your country the law is "Keep to the left" while you drive your car. That is the order of the state.
But if you do not obey the state order, instead of driving on the left side, if you drive on the right side, you immediately become a criminal, punishable. But the same "right" and "left" consideration, if a dog or a cat or a cow violates---instead of going on the left side, if he passes---he has no fault. He's animal. He's animal. Or a child, if he violates law. If I take anything without your permission, that is called stealing. If I enter your house without your permission, that is trespassing. So these are laws, and it is applicable to the grown-up man, intelligent man, civilized man. It must be. If you want to enter somebody's house, and if you see the signboard, "No admission without permission," you'll never go there, because you are civilized. But a cat and dog will enter. A child will enter.
Therefore these laws of dharma, or religious system, is meant for the civilized human being, not for the uncivilized cats and dogs. No. Therefore when a civilized man, so-called civilized man, has no knowledge of God, no knowledge of the laws of God, it is simply animal society, that's all. Dharmeṇa hīna paśubhiḥ samānāḥ. They are animals. They are not to be considered as human being. This is dharma. This is religion. You cannot violate the laws of God. You cannot disobey the laws of God. You cannot say that "I do not know the laws of God." You must know. Just like a good citizen, you must know what is the law of the state. If you say in the court, "My lord, I did not know this law," that is not excuse. You'll not be excused. As a citizen, good citizen, you are expected. Similarly, we must know what is dharma, what is God. That is humanity.
So Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham [Bg. 4.7]. Kṛṣṇa says, God says, that when there is too much disobedience in the matter of law of the Supreme Lord, adharma, adharmasya abhyutthānam... Godlessness, without any knowledge of God, without any knowledge of the God's order, that is called dharmasya glānir, discrepancies in the matter of discharging the order of God. Tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham. At that time, God advents, or descends. He descends personally, He descends by His representative, by His son, or by His name also. Because they are all identical. God, His representative, His name, His form, His activities---everything in relationship to God, that is also God. This evening we are discussing.
Actually, this world is also God. Idaṁ hi viśvaṁ bhagavān ivetaro [SB 1.5.20]. Viśvam means the whole universal creation. Because it is creation of God---God has created---therefore the whole universe, the whole creation is also God, although it appears different from God. For example, just like the sun and the sunlight or sunshine. Although apparently different---sun is different from the sunshine---still, sunshine is also sun. Without sun, how there can be light in the sunshine?
So in broader sense there is nothing but God; everything God. This is explained in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa = eka-deśa sthitasyāgner jyotsnā vistāriṇī yathā sarvaiva brahmaṇaḥ śakti..., tathedaṁ brahmaṇaḥ śakti [Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.22.52]. As the fire is placed, is situated in one place, but it is distributing the heat and light, similarly, the Supreme Lord, although He's in His abode, the Goloka Vṛndāvana, still, by His energy, He is all-pervading. All-pervading. Everywhere there is God. The sunshine..., the sun is ninety millions miles away from us. But as soon as the sunshine is there, we can understand there is sun.
So if we are thoughtful, then we can understand what is God and how His energies are acting. That we can understand, exactly like that. As the fire is situated in one place but the heat and light is working, similarly, you can understand the existence of God by the energy of God, the energy, how the energy of God is working, you can understand God. And the energies are acting under certain laws given by God. Just like the sunshine. There is a particular time = at this hour, the sunshine will be visible. At night if you want sunshine, it is not possible.
However advanced you may be in science, however scientific machineries you have discovered, but you cannot get sunshine in this night, dark night. No scientist can say, "Now we have discovered a scientific method by which at night also sun will rise." No. That is not possible. Of course, they sometimes say like that, rascallike, but that is not possible. You cannot change the law of God. That is not possible. If you want sunshine, then you have to wait 'til morning, when by the grace of God, by the order of God, sun will rise; you'll get sunshine. Not by your scientific method.
Similarly, here it is stated, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ [SB 6.3.19]. Ṛṣaya, ṛṣaya means great sages. Ṛṣaya, great sages, great saintly person or great thoughtful philosophers, even scientists, they cannot create dharma. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād. Sākṣād: directly. Dharma is directly made by God. Not that because one is very great saintly person, great philosopher, great scientist, he can make a kind of religious system. No. That is not possible. That will not be religion. That may be something else, but that is not religion. Religion must be given by God. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād [SB 6.3.19].
Denied here in this verse = na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ. Vidur, vidur means knowing; ṛṣaya, great saintly person. Na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ. Devāḥ means demigods. There are very, very big, powerful demigods, just like Indra, Candra, the sun. Sun is also demigod. The sun is distributing the light, that is by the order of God, not independently. Anything you find, they are abiding by the laws of or by the order of God. The whole total cosmic manifestation, which is called material energy, that is also acting by the order of God. Many śāstras... We have to take knowledge from the śāstras. And if you judge from good sense and intelligence, you'll have to admit what is said in the śāstra.
Now just like in the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram [Bg. 9.10]. We are very much astonished to see the activities of the material nature wonderfully working. But we do not know that behind the material nature there is God. Under His direction the material nature is working. That is intelligence. Material nature, matter... Matter cannot act independently. That is not possible. Just like this microphone is a combination of material things---some iron, some other metals. But it has been adjusted, created by some living entity. Not that matter has automatically come into intermingling with this other and become a microphone. That is not possible. Take any machine. It may be very wonderful machine. Just like nowadays the wonderful machine is computer. What is called?
Prabhupāda: So it acts very wonderfully, but there must be a expert man to push the button. Otherwise, it will not act. Without that expert man, this wonderful machine is lump of iron. That's all. It has no value. Take any machine. Similarly, this huge, gigantic machine of cosmic manifestation, where innumerable planets are floating in the sky just like cotton swabs, don't think that it is so acting automatically. No. There is direction behind it, or there is brain behind it. And that brain, that big brain, is God. God is also like us, a being, but He is Supreme Being. As we are being, we have got our brain, we have got our creative power, we can do something, we can manufacture something like aeroplane, sputnik, but God has got big brain.
We may float one mechanic aeroplane in the air, but by the God's brain, millions and trillions of heavy planets are floating in the air. That is God's brain. He has got also brain. He has got also creative power. We have also creative power, but we have got little, and He has got supreme power. That is the difference. God means the supreme brain, the supreme powerful, and we are teenies, we are subordinate; therefore our position is to abide by the orders of God. That is actually religion. That's all. Less powerful men serve the more powerful. That is the nature. Nūnaṁ mahatāṁ tatra. Just like human being, they are misusing their brain by eating poor animals. Because human being is stronger, he's eating the weaker. So when a human being...
[break] ...the fingers are little, little fingers. So on my order the fingers are working, not by the order of finger I am working. Similarly, you cannot bring God in your business, but you must be engaged in God's business. That is religion. That is religion. It is very simple formula. So God is great and we are teeny, small living entities. Our only business is to serve God. We are serving, any one of us. That means if you do not serve God, then you have to serve māyā. You cannot be without service. Māyā is another agent of God. Just like if you do not obey the laws of the state as a free man, then you will be pushed into the prison house as a criminal, and you have to abide by the orders. You cannot say, "No, I'll not obey the orders of the state." That is not possible. If you voluntarily do not abide by the orders of the state, then you will be forced to abide by the state in the prison house.
Similarly, those who have declared independence, so-called independence---nobody can be independent---that "I do not believe in God. I do not want any type of religion or serving God," they, such persons will be under the guidance or under the influence or power of the material nature, māyā. Māyā-mohita. Tribhir guṇa-māyāir bhāvair [Bg. 7.13]. We are now illusioned by the influence of māyā, material energy, in three ways = by goodness, by passion and by ignorance. But instead of serving God, we are now serving māyā. And so long we shall be going on serving māyā, or serving in the prison house, we cannot be happy.
So this material world is the prison house of God. Anyone who is living in this prison house, they are all prisoners. It may be demigod, as it is said, deva. Na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ [SB 6.3.19]. We are human being. There are other beings, they are called asuras. They are very powerful, asuras, but godless. Just like nowadays some portion of the world is occupied by the asuras. They are materially very powerful, but they are asuras because they do not believe in God. Take, for example, Russia. Of course, the mass of people, they are not like that. A fragmental portion of Russian people, they are godless. So you cannot be godless. If you become godless, if you become without religion, if you become without any intention to abide by the orders of God, then you will be punished. This is nature's law.
Therefore in the Bhagavad-gītā we learn that daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā [Bg. 7.14]. Every one of us is serving under the order of māyā, illusory energy, material energy, and we are becoming tired, sometimes very much fatigued, every one of us. Nobody is satisfied, cannot be satisfaction. Because in the prison house you cannot expect any comfortable life. That is not possible, because it is meant for reformation, and there is punishment and there is injunction. You have to abide by that. Similarly, in this material world also, all of us, we are prisoners because actually we have disobeyed the orders of God. That is our position.
Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā that sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66]. This is dharma. We have created so many dharmas or duties, so-called duties---social duty, political duty, humanitarian duty, so many. But we are violating God. So many humanitarians, philanthropist, they are thinking of good welfare for the human being, but they are not thinking any welfare for the poor animals. They are being sent to the slaughterhouse under some plea. So they are all punishable, because every living being is the son of the Supreme Person. Bhagavad-gītā says.
We also address the Supreme Being, God, as "Father." Father means every one of us, we are son. But we are disobedient son. One who is obedient son, he is perfect. One who is disobedient son, he is imperfect. Therefore we have to ask. Father is giving food even to the disobedient son. He is so kind. So God is always kind upon us. But we are suffering because we have forgotten God. This is our position. Therefore God comes, Kṛṣṇa comes, and teaches us Bhagavad-gītā, how to become God conscious, how to become obedient to God. And at last He says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66].
Now this śaraṇāgati, how to surrender to God, you have to learn. Therefore, as you have to learn something from a superior person, therefore it is recommended that how to learn. It is said, svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ [SB 6.3.20]. In the śāstra it is recommended that twelve great personalities, you have to learn from them what is actually dharma, how to become obedient to the principles laid down by God. So they are described in the śāstra as twelve principal authorities. Who are they? Svayambhū, Lord Brahmā. Nārada, Nārada Muni. Then Śaṁbhu, Lord Śiva. Kumāra, the four Kumāras, Sanat-kumārādi. Kapila, the great sage Kapila. Manu. Manu, the original Manu, is the emperor of the universe. That Manu.
Then Prahlāda Mahārāja, Hiraṇyakaśipu's son, he is also mahājana. We have to learn how to execute dharma from these great personality. Prahlādo janako bhīṣmaḥ. King Janaka and Bhīṣma, the grandfather Bhīṣma, and Bali Mahārāja and Vaiyāsaki, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, like that. Just like if you want to learn something, you have to approach some expert in the matter, similarly, if you want to learn what is dharma, how to execute it, then you have to approach such gurus or their representative. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum eva abhigacchet samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham [MU 1.2.12].
So you cannot approach anyone else. As they are recommended... Just like government department. If you want to get some information, you have to go to a particular department and you have to learn it. Similarly, if you actually want to know what is dharma, then you have to accept the disciplic succession of either of these great twelve personalities. That is dharma.
Then it is said,
dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ
guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodhaṁ
yaṁ jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
The same word, amṛtam. In the modern civilization they do not know what is amṛtam. Amṛtam means immortality. If you execute dharma perfectly, under the direction of the authorities, then the result will be that you will get immortal life. Amṛtam aśnute. This very word is used. The matter is guhyam. Dvādaśaite vijānīmaḥ. These twelve personalities will... Yamarāja is speaking to the assistant of Yamarāja, that "All these twelve men, we..." He also included. Yamarāja is also one of the authority. So he says, "We twelve personalities," dvādaśaite vijānīmo dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ, "we know."
And dharmam means bhāgavataṁ dharma. Bhāgavatam means in relationship with God. Because, I already explained, dharma means the laws given by God. Therefore dharma's another name is bhāgavataṁ dharmam, means "activities or duties in terms of our relationship with God." That is called dharma. Dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ. Dharma means bhāgavata-dharma, no other dharma. In relationship with God. We must know, "Who is God, what is my relationship with God, how I have to act in that relationship and what is the perfection of life." These things we must know. Otherwise we are animals.
Therefore it is called dharmeṇa hīna paśubhiḥ samānāḥ. A person may be materially very qualified, but if he does not know what is God, what is his relationship with God, he has no qualification. That is stated. Harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā [SB 5.18.12]. Those who are unaware of God and His service, he cannot..., one cannot have any good qualification. That is not good qualification. So therefore it is said here that guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodham: very confidential. The activities of dharma, very guhyam, very confidential. Guhyaṁ viśuddham. Viśuddham means... Dharma does not mean any material activities. Dharma means spiritual activities; viśuddham, pure, pure of the contamination of the material qualities.
Guhyam viśuddhaṁ durbodham. Durbodham means very difficult to understand. Anything which is very difficult to understand, if you go to a superior authority, it becomes simplified. Just like you do not know law. Suppose you are in need of some legal protection, but you do not know, "Under which legal protection I will be safe." You have to approach a good lawyer. You cannot say that "I'll defend myself. I will do." No, that is not possible. When you are diseased, you have to consult the physician. Therefore if you want to know what is dharma, then you have to approach these twelve great personalities. Otherwise it will remain durbodham, very difficult to understand. Although it is very pure, because I am impure, I will not be able to understand. Guhyaṁ visuddhaṁ dur..., yaṁ jñātvā amṛtam aśnute. And if you are fortunate enough to understand what is religion, then you become immortal; next life is immortal life. This is the purpose of dharma.
We should not be satisfied that "I have got a dharma made by somebody, my some relative or somebody else." That is not dharma. Dharma means to understand God. It doesn't matter whether you are Christian or Hindu or Muslim. It doesn't matter. If you think that by your principle you have understood God and you have learned how to love God, and you have learned how to obey God, that dharma is perfect. That religious system is perfect. It may go on under any name; it doesn't matter.
But if you have achieved the result, that is wanted. Just like if you pass your M.A. examination, it doesn't matter whether you pass it from London University or Calcutta University or Berlin University. You have passed your examination. That will be taken into consideration. So similarly, sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje [SB 1.2.6]. That system of religion is perfect by which one can learn what is God and how to love God. That is perfect. But you are following very nicely dharma, your so-called dharma, but you have no knowledge of God, no love for God---it is simply wasting time. It is simply wasting time.
Therefore dharma means to understand God and to abide by His order. To learn this scientific method, one has to approach...
puṁsāṁ dharmaḥ paraḥ smṛtaḥ
So dharma means first-class dharma which teaches the followers how to know God, how to love Him. That is first-class religion. So etāvān eva loke 'smin puṁsāṁ dharmaḥ paraḥ smṛtaḥ. Paraḥ means superior, not inferior. Or transcendental. So what is that? Bhakti-yogo bhagavati. Bhakti-yoga. This bhakti-yoga, devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is dharma. Bhakti-yogo bhagavati tan-nāma grahaṇādibhiḥ. And it begins by chanting the holy name of God. This is dharma.
So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is preaching the saṅkīrtana movement just to make the whole world to know God and how to love God.
Thank you very much.
Devotees: Haribol... [end]