12-08-2011, SB 11.20.4, Understanding What is Good and What is Bad, Durban, South Africa
vedac caknus tavecvara
creyas tv anupalabdhe ‘rthe
sadhya-sadhanayor api

pita—of the forefathers; deva—of the demigods; manunyaeam—of the human beings; vedau—the Vedic knowledge; caknuu—is the eye; tava—emanating from You; ecvara—O Supreme Lord; creyau—superior; tu—indeed; anupalabdhe—in that which cannot be directly perceived; arthe—in the goals of human life, such as sense gratification, liberation, and attainment of heaven; sadhya-sadhanayou—both in the means and the end; api—indeed.

My dear Lord, in order to understand those things beyond direct experience—such as spiritual liberation or attainment of heaven and other material enjoyments beyond our present capacity—and in general to understand the means and end of all things, the forefathers, demigods and human beings must consult the Vedic literatures, which are Your own laws, for these constitute the highest evidence and revelation.

One might argue that while human beings are certainly prone to ignorance, the elevated forefathers and demigods are considered to be all-knowing within universal affairs. If such superior beings would communicate with the earth, then everyone could bypass Vedic knowledge in achieving his personal desire. This concept is denied here by the words “vedas caknuu” Even the demigods and forefathers have at best an ambiguous conception of supreme liberation, and even in material affairs they are subject to personal frustration. Although the demigods are all-powerful in awarding material benedictions to inferior species such as human beings, they are sometimes thwarted in their personal programs of sense gratification. A rich businessman, for example, may have no difficulty paying the insignificant salary of one of his innumerable workers, but the same wealthy man may be completely frustrated in his dealings with his own family and friends and may also be defeated in his attempts to expand his fortune by further investments. Although a rich man appears to be all-powerful to his subordinate workers, he must personally struggle to fulfil his personal desires. Similarly, the demigods and forefathers encounter many difficulties in maintaining and expanding their celestial standard of living. They must therefore constantly take shelter of superior Vedic knowledge. Even in the administration of cosmic affairs, they strictly follow the guidelines of the Vedas, which are the laws of God. If such fabulous entities as demigods must take shelter of the Vedas, we can just imagine the position of human beings, who are frustrated at virtually every step of their lives. Every human being should accept Vedic knowledge as the highest evidence in material and spiritual affairs. Uddhava points out to the Lord that if one accepts the authority of Vedic knowledge, it is seemingly impossible to reject the concept of material piety and sin. Thus Uddhava persists in examining the Lord’s controversial statement at the end of the last chapter. (SB 11.20.4)

(Invocation prayers)

So at the end of the previous chapter, Lord Krishna gave extensive instructions about various subject matters basically, all sorts of different concepts, what is intelligence, what is tolerance, what is charity, heroism, what is really desirable in life and what is real gain in life and what is real education and so many things and then He concluded by saying “There is no need for a more elaborate description of these good and bad qualities, since to constantly see good and bad is itself a bad quality. The best quality is to transcend material good and evil.” (SB 11.19.45)

So this of course is very Krishna Conscious instruction, you could say coming from Krishna Himself to Uddhava, who is very exemplary and very outstanding amongst the devotees. The Lord in those, it’s about several or even 10 verses, something like that, pointed out many good things and on the other hand, many bad things which are there in material existence and then said, concluded as we just read that why go so much into this subject matter of what is desirable, undesirable; what is good, what is bad, what we should strive for, what we should avoid. All these types of ideas of good and bad of course because we should endeavour for Krishna Consciousness, we should endeavour for transcendence and in that regard all the different material considerations are bad. The bad of course is bad and the good is bad for people who really want to advance in Krishna Consciousness and get out of material existence.

In principle, this subject matter was raised at the beginning of the 6th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, when at the end of the 5th Canto, Sukadeva Goswami described the hellish planets and the very unfortunate conditions which exist there and what people go through when they are there. Maharaja Pariksit, as a great devotee, therefore a very soft hearted compassionate person, very concerned about how to help that, what can be done. So he then became very anxious. How can we save people, how can we help people from having to go through those things and Sukadeva Goswami initially actually in order to test Maharaja Pariksit, Sukadeva Goswami gave the wrong answer, not because he didn’t understand but because he wanted to test, he gave the wrong answer. And the answer that he gave, the wrong answer that he gave was that well, if someone is condemned to the hellish planets and their lot is going to be one of great, great suffering and just quite fantastic suffering actually, then what they should do is because they perform bad activities to get that destiny, they should now perform good activity to offset it. In this way make a balance, the balance has gone down too heavily, too much emphasis on the negative, the positive is just very weak. There is nothing really there so let’s get, put some weight, some emphasis on the positive and balance it out and then you will come to a neutral point and then it will okay because you won’t have to go to hell and you won’t suffer, the process is called prayascitta, atonement.

The principle in one sense at least is, if I stole a 100 Rands, so there will be some bad reaction for that, so now let me give a 100 Rands to someone, some charity, and in this way, it will come back to zero and I will be okay. So this was Sukadeva Goswami’s initial suggestion to Maharaja Pariksit but as we pointed out, he deliberately gave the wrong answer from at least the point of view of Krishna Consciousness; he deliberately gave the wrong answer in order to test Maharaja Pariksit, “Are you learning what I am talking about? I already spoke 5 Cantos. Are you getting the message yet or are you just sitting there you know, and it’s all going in one ear and out the other or something of that sort?” You know sometimes when we are giving classes; we do things like that say, “You know what the point was here or there? What did Prabhupada say? What did the verse say about this?” So, it is part of becoming Krishna Conscious that we have to learn, is not that we just come and sit in the class, it’s just some sort of recreational activity or the books are not just nice stories just but this is an educational process and the literatures and the discussions are very specifically focused on that educational aspect. So Sukadeva Goswami wanted to see “Are you getting the message or are you just going to sit there with a big smile and say “Yes, Guru Maharaja”. Prayascitta. Let us do it.

So Maharaja Pariksit, he responded very nicely of course, he didn’t just blurt out that, “No its wrong!”, he just said you know “I don’t really think that is the best idea for this reason and that” and he gave the example of, if in a forest, there is a fire everything is burnt to the ground and then you may think that, yes everything is levelled to the neutral, ground level, so the forest is destroyed but actually it is not, it doesn’t really work like that because you come back later and the forest will have grown up again and Ya. So in this way, it may be, there may be something of value in certain respects to prayascitta on a certain level but in terms of making a concrete and complete solution to this problem of sufferings which come, from as reactions to materialistic activities.

This idea of prayascitta will not have really solved the problem, certainly not permanently because the very things which gave rise to those material activities which we are now meant to suffer the reactions for, the very, the desires which are the causes of the activities they are still there. They are the roots of our material existences just like as in the forest, the roots are under the ground and everything maybe burnt to the ground but still things are going on under the ground and eventually it comes up and manifests. So sooner or later even though, the person may be saved for the time being, from going to hell and having to suffer so many consequences, but it will, the problem will recur and then again, and again and again. This is not the way to live, we want to make a permanent solution so we actually come to a wonderful blissful positive position and then our lives can develop very, very positively without hindrance.

So Uddhava’s point here, in principle is the same sort of point that how can you say that we should just give up all these different considerations of what to do, what not to do, be careful about doing the right thing be careful not to do the wrong thing, be careful to follow the Vedic injunctions and use them as the guidelines for our lives. How you can say, that we should not bother about these good and bad things because we see that even great, great people who are way beyond us, they follow these things. They have to follow these things and they cannot just disregard them. Even the fore fathers, even the demigods, even people like Yamaraja himself, who is the person who sends people to hell and makes all those arrangements for their futures in terms of their activities, even he has to take the consequences, so how can you say that we should over look these things.

So, of course, on the material level this is very true, that these principles apply to everyone on the material level. An interesting example is given in the purport of course; something that we can relate to, that some rich person may very easily pay the salary of his employee and it’s just pocket money, but so for the worker it may be the solution to his life’s problems in one sense, his life may be able to go on and he may be able to develop his life positively in material terms by receiving his relatively small pay from the very wealthy employer. So therefore, he may feel that this person, the rich person, how could he have problems, he just solved all of my problems, he just solved all of my problems, so he is obviously a person who has no problems but many of these rich people have many problems actually, personal problems, family, health and even financial problems. Sometimes they get into a certain situation they go bankrupt; they may end up owing so much money.

We have mentioned before, when the financial crisis, one of the financial crises struck a couple, few years ago whenever it was. There was the richest man in Germany, he had assets worth 11 billion euros but most of it was in the form of money that people owed him but you can still count it as an asset on paper, but then all the people who owed him money went bankrupt. They couldn’t pay him the money. He himself owed people some money but now he couldn’t pay them because he could not get the money from the people that owed him, becomes complicated and he ended up owing 1 billion. He ended up owing one billion euros and he committed suicide. So none of us, even all of us put together we will not owe a billion euros in our lives. We will never encounter a problem like that; at least I really don’t expect it.
In Russia the communist government had a slogan “We will make everyone a millionaire”. This is one of their ideas. (Excuse me for saying that). Yes we will make everyone a millionaire, the idea being through communism, you know everyone, the standards of living and industrialisation, everything will increase and the people, even though they are not earning much, but everyone will become a millionaire cause all profits will be distributed to the people etc. In due course everyone that was when one Russian Ruble equalled one US dollar, in due course everyone did become a millionaire because like today, one US dollar equals approximately, well according to the old Ruble, 30,000 Rubles. So all you needed was 30 dollars, 35 dollars and you are a Ruble millionaire!

Ok anyway, so, yes this is what happened, that material solutions for a person on one level do not mean that on another level, the person has material solutions. He may have problems of his own on the other level and so therefore the point is being made here, the demigods are giving us whatever we require or at least whatever we deserve, they are giving us so many things. So many things are there, which we are receiving and so we may think, “ah the demigods, what an amazing position they must have, they are facilitating our lives completely so their position must be much better.” But the point being made here is that still, even though that may be the case in our terms on our levels, on another level on their own levels, they may also simultaneously have serious problems.

So therefore, as explained in the purport, it might appear that there is no need to follow the Vedic principles of right and wrong and good and bad because all we need to do is call on the demigods, “please come and help us “and if they come and help us, then we will be fine. Therefore we do not need to follow the Vedic literatures and do all the different sacrifices and so on. But the point being made here is that still the demigods, forefathers even great people like Brahma, Yamaraja, Lord Shiva, they are following the Vedic principles. So therefore Uddhava is saying, that how can you say that you don’t have to worry about the Vedic principles of right and wrong, and good and bad. Indeed Krishna said that in a certain sense, all these ideas of pious, impious, good, bad, all these ideas are bad. That it is bad to see things as good and bad. We shouldn’t do that; we should just act on the transcendental platform, so this is Uddhava’s point.

Of course, ultimately on the level of Krishna consciousness that’s true, ultimately at least. We can do, the devotee can do practically anything for Krishna. For example Krishna Himself, told the inhabitants of Vrndavana not to do the Indra yagna, don’t do it, worship Govardhana hill so that is negligence of important Vedic principle, but because of their Krishna Consciousness, it was actually the right thing to do. Although on the material level, it would be considered a wrong thing to do.

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna, well first of all Arjuna suggests to Lord Krishna that “I shouldn’t fight because it will be detrimental to the family system. It will be wrong because it will be disrespectful to seniors. It will cause degradation so therefore I shouldn’t fight.” But Lord Krishna of course told him, so strongly and repeatedly you should fight, you must fight on the transcendental level.
Even Krishna Himself broke His promise for his devotee, Krishna had promised not to fight, He took up a weapon; He took up that wheel and attacked Bhishma.

Even there was the incident, with Ashvatthama and the elephant, Lord Krishna was trying to induce Maharaja Yudhishtira to make an announcement on the battlefield that Ashvatthama is dead. Ashvatthama, being the son of Dronacarya, who was fighting so furiously at the time, it appeared that, the Pandavas would lose the battle just because of him. So Lord Krishna’s idea was, let us take away his inspiration and his enthusiasm by having, Maharaja Yudhishtira announce that his son Açvatthämä is dead, although he wasn’t dead and then Dronacarya would just become distraught and depressed. He could easily be killed and there would be no more danger from him. So Yudhishtira, Krishna’s idea was that Yudhishtira is so famous for being honest; if he just says it people will automatically believe him even though Ashvatthama is alive. But Ashvatthama perhaps, was on the other side of the battle field, and you know by the time he could have alerted Dronacarya to the fact that he wasn’t dead, it would have been too late for Dronacarya. But Yudhishtira refused, so Lord Krishna had to use the sort of roundabout method, of having one elephant named Ashvatthama killed and then Yudhishtira reluctantly announced that Ashvatthama is dead but he said “Ashvatthama, the elephant is dead”. Krishna blew His conch shell when he said “the elephant”, so it just sounded like “Ashvatthama is dead” and it worked. Dronacarya lost his inspiration and was then killed quickly.

So Maharaja Yudhishtira had had the benediction up till that time, his chariot would ride two inches above the ground and so in other words “a very soft ride”, but immediately as soon he announced that, his chariot fell to the ground, never lifted above the ground. Some say, sort of the material moralists say it was because he became implicated even though he wasn’t dishonest actually, he was honest but he became implicated in dishonesty, he should have just refused to say anything. So as a result of becoming implicated indirectly, he lost that benediction. But the devotees say no, it was because he refused to do what Krishna ordered him.
Yes, so like this, there are incidents, here and there, where devotees have done things, materially, according to the Vedic material principles of good, bad, right, wrong, sinful and pious, etc. Devotees have done things which would be considered wrong in those terms but in Krishna Consciousness, on the transcendental level, they were the right things to do and they got the mercy of the Lord as a result. So there are cases, there are instances, it is not just like an everyday thing, and just everyone, all the devotees just do it, all the time and just like that, but there are instances, where this has happened because Krishna Consciousness is transcendental.

Many years ago, the devotees sort of embraced this concept and applied it extremely enthusiastically in book distribution; that you could tell people anything, as long as they take the book and then the end justifies the means and it is all good, but in the long run, of course many people got benefitted because there is you know a transcendental point there. But many devotees sort of became contaminated by developing dishonesty themselves and became spiritually corrupted, to some degree and certainly the movement, book distribution, it became such a common thing that people, whenever they would see a devotee on the street with books, they would think, “Here is a crook.” And so people got turned off, I mean the people on the streets particularly in America, turned off book distribution on such a huge scale it was amazing, truly amazing. And Prabhupada said, yes, it maybe, it is a type of transcendental principle but it is really only for the big experts in Krishna Consciousness, it should not just be the common every day practice.

But here in this regard Uddhava is examining Lord Krishna’s point, his conclusion, at the end of the previous chapter, that don’t worry about good and bad, if you worry about good and bad, its bad because on the transcendental level, anything done for the service of Krishna is good. Anything done for the service of Krishna is good, but still on the material level for people who are on the material level, the demigods, the forefathers, and everybody, basically everybody in the material world, the general standard, the general principle is follow the Vedic injunctions. Avoid impious activity. Perform pious activity. Do like that. It’s the general principle.

Any comments or questions?

Madhumangal Prabhu?

Madhumangal Prabhu: anyone else wants to ask a question?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: I don’t know. Didn’t seem so

Madhumangal Prabhu: The thing about good or bad, doesn’t the Nectar of Instruction tell us what is good and what is not good, accept those things favourable and those things unfavourable Maybe I am misunderstanding your point but….

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Well its transcendental, its Krishna Conscious.

Madhumangal Prabhu: Maybe I am just misunderstanding. Are you talking about we shouldn’t see things in good and bad in a material way or…..

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: That is what Krishna said.

Madhumangal Prabhu: but I am mean as a devotee?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: As devotees we should understand that anything material is bad.

Madhumangal Prabhu: Yes.

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Even good material things are bad for the devotees because, if you become attached to them and I am involved in them, then you get caught on the material platform. So for the devotees, we should, at least ultimately, the principle definitely is, in any situation is, we should first think, what is good for Krishna? How can we act here for the pleasure of Krishna and not just get into the whole Vedic concept of pious, impious and all these things. That is the principle involved.
But you should still try and distribute books, in such a way that when the people take the book, they feel happy about it and when they read the book, they feel happy about it. This is the ideal standard. Of course you know, however they get a book, ultimately it is good, but still on a practical level, we should try and do these things and everything, in ways which are nice and which are going to reflect nicely on Krishna, on the movement, on the devotees, on the institution.


Swarup Damodar Prabhu: On this point that you made, sometimes, well often, there is a conflict, between what is ultimately good and what is immediately good. Like in this context of book distribution, there used to be a controversy, I think that even went to Prabhupada. The devotees were saying all sorts of interesting things to people, that just wasn’t true about the books. They would tell people that this book is about this and it will help you in this way and when they read it, they got disturbed about it and they cast a bad light on the devotees.

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Right?

Swarup Damodar Prabhu: At the same time, it ultimately benefitted them. So how, you know, sometimes it gets like hotly debated, what is ultimately good and what is immediately good. What should be like guidelines to determine what we should do for ultimate good or immediate good?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Well, it’s a fact; there is a conversation of Srila Prabhupada with Bhurijana Prabhu, where Bhurijana is really, fairly strongly, anyway, he is presenting that book distributors upset people sometimes which, which was true. Srila Prabhupada spoke very strongly, very strongly against that idea that the people are getting books, they are getting benefitted, and you for all your, you know” let’s be nice and socially acceptable” etc. “How many books are you distributing”? So yeah, but still if we can do it effectively but in such a way that it’s not just effectively they get the book that’s the effect. But effectively in the longer term they do get the book, not that they don’t but they do but in such a way that they are going to be positive, you know, it’s just going to encourage them, for example, to read the book and complete reading the book and then perhaps have an interest to inquire further like that. That’s the ideal thing, if we can do it.

You know, Prabhupada presented that particular point of view strongly to Bhurijana cause Bhurijana was coming from a particular background with Siddha Swarupa and them and they were really you know, it’s not just they were concerned about not making bad impressions. They had just another idea of how to spread Krishna Consciousness and they just and they really didn’t agree with the idea of mass distribution of literature. And it was very much more a, you know like creyas and preyas. Preyas means the immediate, I think very, very much that the people just get a good idea and not really so much concern about, what are we doing for their long term connection with Krishna Consciousness which the books, in that case the books are particularly good for immediate and long term.

So it wasn’t exactly that Prabhupada was simply advocating that it is just okay to say anything but He was also countering the whole culture that Bhürijana’s ideas were coming from. The ideal standard. But on the other hand, there was really a bad reaction from the public, to that sort of distribution of Krishna Conscious literature, that methodology. And if the devotees had been able to do it in ways which were also more socially acceptable, it would have been better. You know, later book distribution slowed down tremendously, because of the public reaction, you know like, not exactly the whole American nation but it was very, very wide spread.

So really the best thing would be to do it in such a way that you learn, as Prabhupada said “Krishna is so great you cannot exaggerate how great He is, you cannot exaggerate how wonderful He is”. In other words lie about Krishna in that sense; you can’t do it, so better to distribute the books like that by glorifying Krishna, rather than like get you know into this habit, it becomes like a systemic condition, that the process of book distribution is “Say anything” and it really doesn’t matter. So that sort of type of answer and Prabhupada gave an example that if you go to the shopping centre and the guards come and ask you “Have you got permission?” which of course you haven’t, and if you asked you wouldn’t get. But If you say, Oh yes I have got permission and then they are satisfied and go away, that maybe okay. But if it’s just you know, if it’s just your normal way of functioning, that you just lie to everyone, just in terms of the immediate circumstances, to deal with the immediate circumstances with no view of the creyas, the long term implications, it’s not a very good idea.

So anyway there has to be a balance of course, you know otherwise we may end up like the sort of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or people like that. When there was a lot of book distribution going on, we would laugh at the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they would stand right at the side, like against the wall, holding up the magazine, “Watch Tower”, I think and sort of you know, “would you like to buy a magazine”, and the devotees would be out there chasing the people around, and distributing so many more. I do not know, ten times or more than ten times more and while the people; the Jehovah’s Witnesses are still standing there, with the same copy of “Watch Tower” and the devotees found it amusing. And you know the idea that we should not be enterprising, we should be enterprising incognito and see, you know for example, how to connect people’s interests to Krishna Consciousness. Like you know just as an example nowadays, anxiety, stress is so prominent; it’s a fact Krishna Consciousness helps with that, so you know you can present in those types of terms. People will read the book with this idea in mind, you know this is to address this problem and then you know in some cases, in many cases, they will see, “Yes.” In that way it will lead to their further involvement in Krishna Consciousness. So that sort of creative thinking we want, not just how to creatively lie to people so they take the book, but then you know later on there is like this universal bad reaction. So we can do both, stimulate the people to take the books in large quantities, like you know like some of the big book distributors, they actually do after trying and thinking and desiring, they learnt how to actually distribute a lot books to people in nice ways. It can be done!

Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai!

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