Among the vast ancient Sanskrit writings known as the Vedas, the 108 Upanisads contain the philosophical essence. And among all the Upanisads, the Isopanisad is considered the foremost. In the following essay, based on talks Srila Prabhupada gave on the Isopanisad in 1968, we learn the truth about the Supreme Lord, the laws governing His material and spiritual energies, and how to break free of the bondage of karma.
The Isopanisad states that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is "perfect and complete." Part of the Lord's complete arrangement for this material world is his process of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Every living being in this material world has a fixed schedule of six changes: birth, growth, maintenance, the production of by-products, diminution, and destruction. This is the law of material nature. A flower is born as a bud. It grow, remains fresh for two or three days, produces a seed, gradually withers, and then is finished. You cannot stop this by your so-called material science. To try to do so is avidya, ignorance.
Sometimes people foolishly think that by advancement man will become immortal. This is nonsense. You cannot stop the material laws. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krsna says that the material energy is duratyaya, impossible to overcome by material means.
Material nature consists of three modes, or gunas: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna, or the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Another meaning of guna is "rope." Rope is made by twisting in three small strands, then three of them are twisted together, then again three of those are twisted together. In this way the rope becomes very strong. Similarly, the three modes of nature-goodness, passion, and ignorance-are mixed after which they produce some by-product. Then they are mixed again, and then again. Thus they are "twisted together" innumerable times.
In this way the material energy binds you more and more. By your own efforts you cannot get out of this bondage, which is known as pavarga. Pa-varga is the fifth set of letters in the Sanskrit Devanagari alphabet. It contains the letters pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma. Pa stands for parisrama, "hard labor." Every living entity in this world is struggling very hard to maintain himself and survive. This is called the hard struggle for existence. Pha stands for phena, "foam." When a horse works very hard, foam comes out of its mouth. Similarly, when we are tired from working hard, our tongue may become dry and some foam forms in our mouth. Everyone is working very hard for sense gratification-so much so that foam is coming from their mouth. Ba represents bandha, "bondage." In spite of all our efforts, we remain bound up by the ropes of the material modes of nature. Bha stands for bhaya, "fear." In material life, one is always in a blazing fire of fear, since no one knows what will happen next. And ma represents mrtyu, "death." All our hopes and plans for happiness and security in this world are ended by death.
So, Krsna consciousness nullifies this pavarga processes. In other words, by taking to Krsna consciousness one attains apavarga, where there is no hard struggle for existence and no material bondage, fear, or death. Pavarga symptomizes this material world, but when you add the prefix "a" to pavarga, that means it is nullified. Our Krsna consciousness movement is the path of apavarga.
Unfortunately, people do not know of these things, and therefore they are wasting their lives. This modern civilization is a soul-killing civilization; people are killing themselves because they do not know what real life is. They are simply living like animals. The animal does not know what life is, so he simply works under the laws of nature, undergoing gradual evolution. But when you get this human form of life, you have a responsibility to live in a different way. Here is a chance for you to become Krsna conscious and solve all problems. But if you don't-if you continue to act like animals-you will again have to enter the cycle of birth and death and transmigrate through 8,400,000 species of life. It will take many, many millions of years to come back to the human form of life. For example, the sunshine you are seeing now you will not see again until after twenty-four hours. Everything in nature moves in a cycle. So if you lose this opportunity of elevating yourself, then again you must enter the cycle of transmigration. Nature's law is very strong. Therefore we are opening so many centers so that people may take advantage of this International Society of Krishna Consciousness and elevate themselves.
It is important to take to Krsna consciousness immediately, because we do not know how much time is left before death. When your time in this body expires, no one can stop your death. The arrangement of material nature is so strong. You cannot say, "Let me remain." Actually, people sometimes request like that. When I was in Allahabad, an old friend who was very rich was dying. At the time he begged the doctor, "Can't you give me at least four more years to live? I have some plans which I could not finish." You see. This is foolishness. everyone thinks, "Oh, I have to do this. I have to do that." No. Neither the doctors nor the scientists can check death: "Oh, no, sir. Not four years, not even four minutes. You have to go immediately." This is the law. So before that moment comes, one should be very careful to become realized in Krsna consciousness. You should realize Krsna consciousness very quickly. Before your next death comes, you must finish your business. That is intelligence. Otherwise you will suffer defeat.
The Isopanisad states that whatever emanates from the complete whole-the Supreme Lord-is also complete in itself. Therefore if you want to take advantage of your life and become Krsna conscious, there is complete facility. But you have to come to the point of taking up the practice. Krsna consciousness is not theoretical; it is practical. All experiments have already been performed. So, as indicated in the Isopanisad, there is a complete facility for the small complete units-ourselves-to realize the supreme complete, Krsna. We are complete units, but we are small. For example, in a big machine there is a small screw, and the perfection of the small screw is to be fitted in its proper place. Then it has value. But if it becomes unscrewed from the machine and falls down on the floor, it has no value. Similarly, we are perfect as long as we are attached to Krsna, otherwise we are useless.
To realize the complete means to realize what our relationship with the complete is. And all forms of incompleteness are experienced only on accounts of incomplete knowledge of the complete. We are thinking, "I am equal to God. I am God." This is incomplete knowledge. But if you know, "I am part and parcel of God, and therefore I am equal to God in quality," that is complete knowledge. The human form of life is a chance to revive the complete manifestation of the consciousness of the living being. You can revive this complete consciousness by the process of Krsna consciousness. But if you don't take advantage of this complete facility, you are killing yourself, committing suicide. As it is said in the Isopanisad, "The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance." So don't be the killer of your soul. Utilize the complete facility of your human life to become Krsna conscious. That is your only business.
The Isopanisad states, "Although fixed in His abode, the Personality of Godhead is swifter than the mind and can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He controls those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence." The Brahma-samhita says something similar: goloka eva nivasaty akilatma-bhutah. Although Krsna is always in Goloka Vrndavana, He is simultaneously in the hearts of all living beings.
Krsna has no duties to perform in Goloka. He is simply enjoying in the company of His associates-the gopis, the cowherd boys, His mother and father, His cows and calves, etc. He is completely free. And His associates are even freer that He is, because when they seem to be in danger, Krsna feels some anxiety about how to save them. But His associates feel no anxiety. They simply think, "Oh, Krsna is here. He will protect us." When Krsna enacted His pastimes five thousand years ago in Vrndavana, India, He would go every day with His cowherd boyfriends and their calves and cows to play in the forest on the bank of the Yamuna River. And often Kamsa would send some demon to try to kill Krsna and His friends. Yet the cowherd boys would continue enjoying their pastimes without anxiety because they were so confident of Krsna's protection. That is spiritual life, which begins with surrendering to Krsna.
Surrendering to Krsna means having the strong faith that Krsna will save us in any dangerous condition. The first step in surrendering is that we should accept whatever is favorable for devotional service. Then we should reject anything that is unfavorable for devotional service. The next stage is the confidence that in any situation Krsna will protect us and maintain us. Actually, He is already giving protection and maintenance to everyone. That is a fact. But in maya (illusion) we think that we are protecting ourselves, or that we are feeding ourselves.
For the devotees, Krsna personally takes charge of their protection and maintenance. And for the ordinary living entities, Maya-devi-Krsna's external energy-takes charge. Maya-devi is Krsna's agent for punishing the conditioned souls. The situation is like what we see in the state: good citizens are taken care of by the government directly, while criminals are taken care of by the government through the prison department. In the prison house the government takes care that the prisoners get sufficient food, and that they get hospital treatment if they become diseased. The government cares for them-but under punishment.
Similarly, in this material world Krsna has certainly, not only arranged for our care, but also for our punishment. If you commit this sin, then slap. If you commit that sin, then kick. This is going on under the heading of the threefold miseries-those caused by our own body and mind, those caused by other living entities, and those caused by natural calamities under the supervision of the demigods. Unfortunately, instead of understanding that we are being punished for sinful activities, under the spell of maya we are thinking that this kicking , slapping, and thrashing are accidental. This is illusion.
As soon as you take up Krsna consciousness, Krsna begins personally taking care of you. As He promises in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66), "I will take care of you. I will save you from all sinful reactions. Do not worry." Because we have had so many lives in this material world, we are suffering under heaps of sinful reactions. But as soon as you surrender to Krsna, He immediately takes care of you and nullifies all your sinful reactions. Krsna says, "Don't hesitate." Don't think, "Oh, I have committed so many sins. How can Krsna save me?" No. Krsna is all-powerful. He can save you. Your duty is to surrender to Him and without any reservation dedicate your life to His service. Then Krsna will save you without a doubt.