Know Thyself

Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj encourages everyone to confront the first and foremost problem in life.

We have a very high position in a most respectable quarter, but we are now fodder for Yamarāj, the god of death. This whole civilisation is fodder for death, and clearly so with this threat of atomic energy. Yesterday on the radio, I heard a gentleman say that if the atom bombs are thrown as they are at present, then the whole world will be reduced to ice. All the oxygen and heat will be drawn away, an ice age will begin, and every life-form on earth will be finished, even the trees, what to speak of the animals and human beings. So, we are threatened; such jaws of death are coming to devour us. Only Kṛṣṇa consciousness, consciousness of our soul above this mortal world can help us. Our soul does not want any material world to live in actually; it can live on the moon, in the sun, or anywhere.

nainaṁ chhindanti śastrāṇi nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na chainaṁ kledayanty āpo na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 2.24)

Water cannot rotten the soul, fire cannot burn it, the air cannot attract heat from it, and no weapon can cut it asunder. The soul is such, and you are to find out that you are such a soul. You are to get back your identification that you are above mortality. You are to find yourself. The soul has its own environment, its own soil, its own plane to live also. There are higher planes with so much prospect which are real as the sun, as the day we see. You should want to be guided there. That is the only duty a person should have in this mortal world. All else—all other attempts—are futile and suicidal. Only taking our soul towards Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a real friendly activity. All other energising is bogus.

Through faith, we can find our own self, the consciousness. I will explain the process.

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 3.42)

Consider, without consciousness, what value does the body or our senses have?

Indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur: if we are devoid of senses—the eye, the nose, the tongue, the ear, and so on—then do we have an external world? No. We experience nothing of it, no conception, feeling, sound, sight, or anything of the kind. What remains without the senses? Nothing.

Indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ: still, we have the mind. But if the mind is absent, then the senses do not work at all. The eye may see things but when asked what we have seen, we may reply, “Oh, I was unmindful. I did not notice.” So, the receiver is the mind, a more subtle thing.

Manasas tu parā buddhir: the intellect, reason, our judicious faculty, is higher than the mind. Without this, the mind has no value: we would be a madman. So, the intelligence is the most substantial and valuable thing within us. Without it, we cannot feel the value of anything. Without judgement, we would be blindfolded so to speak: we would have no self-consciousness, no consciousness of our self-interest, nothing of the kind.

Yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ: then go farther up and find that your self is there, the soul, a particle of light, consciousness. If that is withdrawn, then the whole body, the mind, the intelligence, everything is gone. The body is physical, and the mind is subtle, but if the soul is withdrawn, then the body and mind are nothing. They are simply dead matter. There is no feeling or conception.

In this way, you are try to find out your own self. Who are you? You are not this flesh and blood. Try find out who you are from within and with the help of scripture and the association of the sādhus.

Know thyself. This is a concrete thing. This is not concoction, not imagination, not indulgence in mere philosophy. This is dire necessity: how to live and how to dismiss mortality. At every moment we are being attacked; we are in the clutches of mortality. This is the fact. At every moment on everyone of us mortality is encroaching on us as we are, as we think ourselves to be at present. Always mortality is coming to swallow us. This is the problem, the common problem of all— the deadly poison for all. We must face it. We have to face it. We must have the courage to face it, to save ourselves and save others in that way. This is a concrete necessity. We can’t dismiss it. We are all fools if the danger is there and we continue to ignore it. We are madman if at the next moment we will be prey to death but decide to sleep over the problem. It is cowardice.


Spoken 8 January 1984.

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