Speaking in Boston before the International Student Societ, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada provides a practical, simple, and profound solution for world peace and harmony. Noting the increasing number of flags at the United Nations building in New York, he states that inter-nationalism is failing because “your international feeling and my international feeling are overlapping and conflicting. We have to find the proper center for our loving feelings.”
Right Center of Affection
Your society is known as the International Student Society. There are many other international societies, such as the United Nations. The idea of an international society is very nice, but we must try to understand what should be the central idea of an international society. If you throw a stone into the middle of a pool of water, a circle will expand to the limit of the bank. Similarly, radio waves expand in a circle, and when you capture the waves with your radio you can hear the message. In the same way, our loving feeling can also expand. At the beginning of our life, we simply want to eat. Whatever a small child grabs, he wants to eat. Then, as he grows a little, he tries to participate with his brothers and sisters. This is an increase in the feeling of fellowship. Then, as he grows up, he begins to feel love for his parents, then for his community, for his country, and at last for all nations. But unless the center is right, that expansion of feeling—even if it is national or international—is not perfect.
You feel for other Americans because they are born in this country. You may even sacrifice your life for your countrymen. But there is a defect. If the definition of national is “one who is born in a particular country,” then why are the animals born in America not considered Americans? We are not expanding our feelings beyond the human society because we don’t think animals are our countrymen; we send them to the slaughterhouse.
The center of our national or international feeling is not fixed on the proper object. If the center is right, then you can draw any number of circles around that center and they will never overlap. They will simply keep growing, growing, growing. They will not intersect with one another if the center is all right. Unfortunately, although everyone is feeling nationally or internationally, the center is missing. Therefore your international feeling and my international feeling, your national feeling and my national feeling, are overlapping and conflicting. So we have to find the proper center for our loving feelings. Then we can expand our circle of feelings and it will not overlap or conflict with others’. That center is Krishna.
Mahatma – A Great Soul
Our society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is teaching the people of all countries that the center of their affection should be Krishna. In other words, we are teaching people to be mahatmas. You may have heard this word mahatma before. It is a Sanskrit word that is applied to a person whose mind is expanded, whose circle of feelings is very much expanded. He is a mahatma. Maha means big or great, and atma means soul. He who has expanded his soul is called a mahatma.
The Bhagavad-gita, an ancient Indian spiritual text, gives a description of the person who has widely expanded his feelings:
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma su-surlabhah
The first idea in this mantra is that one can become a mahatma only after many births. The soul is transmigrating through many bodies, one after another. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and we evolve through them until at last we come to the human form. Only then can we become a mahatma. This is why Krishna says “After many, many births one may become a mahatma.”
A similar mantra is labdhva su-durlabham idam bahu-sambhavante: “After many births you have achieved a human body, which is difficult to get.” This human form of life is not cheap. After being born in at least 8,000,000 different species, we get this human form.
Highest Spiritual Platform
If one is actually cultivating spiritual knowledge—not in one, but in many lives—one eventually comes to the highest platform of knowledge and is called jnanavan, or the possessor of true knowledge. Then, Krishna says, “He turns toward Me, Krishna, the all-attractive Supreme Personality.”
Now, why does a man in knowledge turn toward Krishna? Because he knows that Krishna is the central point of all loving feelings. After cultivating knowledge for many births, a person who expands his consciousness up to the point of loving God—he is a mahatma, a great soul. God is great, and His devotee is also great. But, Krishna says, sa mahatma su-durlabhah: “That great soul is rarely to be seen.”
Now, we have expanded our feelings of love to various objects. We may love our country, our community, our family, our cats and dogs. In any case, we expand our love according to our knowledge. And when our knowledge is perfect, we come to the point of loving Krishna. That is the perfection. Love of Krishna is the aim of all activities, the aim of life.
Symptoms of a Great Soul
Now, suppose a man says, “I have expanded my feelings of love widely.” That is all right, but he must show the symptoms of how his feelings of love are expanded. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva svapake ca
If one is actually a pundit, someone who is elevated to the stage of perfect wisdom, then he must see everyone on an equal platform. Because the vision of a pundit is no longer absorbed simply with the physical body, he sees a learned brahmin as a spirit soul, he sees a dog as a spirit soul, he sees an elephant as a spirit soul. There are many social classes in human society, but if a man is really learned he sees everyone, every living entity, on the same level. That is the stage of true learning.
We are trying to expand our feelings socially, communally, nationally, internationally, or universally. That is our natural function—to expand our consciousness. But my point is that if we actually want to expand our consciousness to the utmost, we must find out the real center of existence. That center is Krishna.
Whatever we see is made up of various energies of God. It is said, “The Supreme Absolute Truth has many varieties of energies.” And these energies are acting so nicely that it appears they are working automatically. For example, we have all seen a blooming flower. We may think that it has automatically blossomed and become so beautiful. But no, the material energy of God is acting. Similarly, Krishna has a spiritual energy, and a mahatma, one who is broad-minded, is under the protection of that spiritual energy; he is not under the spell of the material energy. What is the symptom of that protection? “A mahatma is always engaged in devotional service to Me.” That is the main symptom of a mahatma. Does he engage in this devotional service blindly? No. Krishna says “He knows perfectly that I am the source of everything.”
First Enlightenment, Then Unity
The nations are trying to be united. In your country there is the United Nations. Unfortunately, instead of the nations becoming united, the flags are increasing. Similarly, India was once one country, Hindustan. Now there is also Pakistan. And some time in the future there will be Sikhistan and then some other “stan.” Instead of becoming united we are becoming disunited, because we are missing the center. Therefore, my request is that you please try to find out the real center of your international movement. Then your international movement will be perfect.
In the Fourteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita it is said,
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita
Here Krishna says, “I am the father of all forms of life. The material nature is the mother, and I am the seed-giving father.” Without a father and mother, no one can be born. The father gives the seed, and the mother supplies the body. In this material world the mother of every one of us—from the highest being down to the ant—is the material nature. Our body is matter; therefore it is a gift of the material nature, our mother. But I, the spirit soul, am part and parcel of the supreme father, Krishna.
If you want to broaden your feelings of fellowship to the utmost limit, please try to understand this teaching of the Bhagavad-gita. You will get enlightenment; you will become a real mahatma. You will feel affection even for the cats and dogs and reptiles. We cannot become enlightened unless we come to the point of understanding Krishna. Therefore we are teaching Krishna consciousness all over the world. The Krishna consciousness movement is not new. It is based on the principles of the Bhagavad-gita, an ancient scripture. Try to understand Bhagavad-gita as it is. The words of the Bhagavad-gita are sufficient to give you enlightenment.