śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-4, Issue 12
Posted: 14 January, 2012

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Everyone Should Be Selfish
About Their Eternal Welfare

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda


(Photograph of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda)


Question 1: Is the path of supreme auspiciousness (śreya-paṭha) always full of obstacles?

Answer: Seekers of temporary material gain may not appear to be facing any immediate difficulties, while seekers of spiritual auspiciousness are found to be facing some difficulties. Those difficulties are to be assented to, for such acceptance is the definition of tolerance.

Question 2: What is vivarta (misconception)?

Answer: Vivarta means to perceive something as what it is not. For example, the illusion of seeing a snake in place of what is actually a rope is called vivarta.

Śrī Caitanyadeva never stated that “I am this body”. Rather, He has said that to consider the body as the self is vivarta.

The body (deha) and the embodied (dehi) are different. Dehi is the proprietor of the body, and the deha (body) is the property. There are two kinds of body: the subtle body (comprised of mind, intelligence and false-ego) and the gross, physical body. The soul is the owner of both of these bodies. The mind is a semblance of consciousness (cetena-ābhāsa) whereas the body is completely inert, as it is comprised of unconscious matter. We think of both of these bodies in terms of ‘me’. This is the sole meaning of vivarta – misperception, or illusion.

Question 3: What is the difference between conscious and unconscious entities?

Answer: Unconscious, material, inanimate objects cannot take initiative on their own. They are devoid of the capacity for knowing, willing or feeling. Unconscious, or inert, objects cannot actively respond to anything, but conscious objects can. Humans and animals possess consciousness, and even all forms of vegetation do to a smaller extent.

Question 4: Is it possible for a human being to describe the affairs of the transcendental plane?

Answer: Only a person who has descended from the spiritual world can speak about that place. One who belongs to the phenomenal world cannot actually report on matters of the transcendental plane. However, upon receiving the fortune of hearing hari-kathā from the lotus lips of a great personality who has descended from the spiritual world, one can obtain information about Vaikuṇṭha – the infinite Kingdom of God.

No transcendental entity can be comprehended through a worldly line of thought. It is not appropriate to consider the transcendent and the phenomenal to be one and the same. With good fortune, one may find a great person who has come from the other world. Śrī Caitanyadeva has therefore said:

kṛṣṇa yadi kṛpā karena kona bhāgyavāne
guru-antaryāmī rūpe śikhāye āpane

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.47)

When a soul becomes extremely fortunate, Śrī Kṛṣṇa showers mercy upon him by coming personally to teach him. He appears externally in the form of śrī guru, and internally in the form of the Supersoul.

Question 5: Why is it that the path to spiritual welfare cannot be comprehended by everyone?

Answer: How can one comprehend it if one is not fortunate enough? A person must have the appropriate impressions (saṁskāras) to do so. Those who are fortunate listen to spiritual topics submissively and are therefore able to understand the mercy of the Lord. But those who rely on their own hasty conclusions are unable to accept the true substance.

Such people are not even able to devote a little time to understanding the complete truth and cultivating it within them. We have been brought up in a society that is so influenced by materialism that people cannot spare even a moment to discuss the eternal life.

It is imperative for every human being to spend their whole day solely in spiritual discussions, yet our whole day is consumed in ordinary activities. Intelligent people must acknowledge that it is not the duty of any human being to spend their invaluable life in material sense gratification.

Everyone ought to be concerned about and seek out their eternal welfare. Everyone should be selfish in this matter, but most people in this world are engaged in activities that bring about the opposite result. Children busy themselves in playing, the youth in family life, and the old in constantly protecting their property and in taking care of their body. This indicates indifference towards one’s true purpose. Hence, due to the desire to accumulate material gain, the people of this world remain indifferent to their own eternal gain. How unfortunate!

Some say that there is no need to worry about one’s eternal welfare at the present, but this is not correct. If a person does not receive a proper education in his childhood, he will face many difficulties on account of it in his youth.

Those who desire the welfare of society, as well as their own welfare, will also be concerned for the welfare of others. It is our duty to endeavour in such a way that our service to God, which is the inherent purpose (dharma) of all living beings, is not hampered by the pursuit of material enjoyment.

Many explain that it is appropriate to give up sinful activities and engage in pious acts instead, but this alone is not the ultimate thing. If someone is truly intelligent, it is his duty to analyze, at every step, the relation between his current activity and his eternal position. We will find ourselves in great difficulty if we neglect to do this. Proper action at the proper time is most beneficial to our future welfare.

If a person does not earnestly utilize his time in this way, his actions will lead him to trouble. Those who desire to postpone spiritual cultivation until old age shall not gain anything, for at that time they will surely remain engrossed in worldly worries.

Question 6: Is varṇāśrama-dharma eternal?

Answer: Every conditioned living being considers the outer shell to be the self. But we are eternal servants of the Lord, and service to the Supreme Lord is our sole and eternal dharma. Since I do not eternally belong to any of the four varṇas (artisan, agriculturalist or businessperson, ruler, holy man) nor any of the four āśramas (student, householder, retired person or renunciant), how can following varṇāśrama-dharma be my eternal occupation?

If varṇāśrama-dharma is followed in its true sense, it is beneficial in this world as well as in the next. Varṇāśrama-dharma lasts as long as the body exists. It is useful for attaining worldly welfare, which is essential when one is situated in a temporary designation within the fourteen planetary systems (bhuvanas), but it has no significance in the eternal world.

Śrī Caitanyadeva has said, “I am not a brāhmaṇa (holy man), kṣatriya (ruler), vaiśya(agriculturalist or businessperson) or śūdra (artisan), nor am I a brahmacarī (celibate student), gṛhastha (householder), vanaprastha (retired person) or sannyāsī (renunciant). I am related to the Supreme Lord. I stand to gain if I, the servant, do not forget Him.”

The Supreme Lord is conscious and so is the living being. The living being – the individual, minute soul – is a part of the Supreme Lord. The minute soul is not vibhu-cetana, or unlimited consciousness, like the Supreme Lord. Rather, each living entity is aṇu-cetana – an atomic particle of consciousness – and is dependent upon Him.

Presently we, the living beings, have contracted a condition of adversity to Him by misusing our consciousness, that is, by misusing the independence He gave us. As soon as we become averse to serving the Supreme Lord, we invite our own misfortune, for engaging in serving Him stands alone as truly beneficial.


Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta 
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation


Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year-4, Issue 12 “Everyone Should Be Selfish About Their Eternal Welfare” by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.