On January 30,
1973, in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada speaks to the Bharata
Chamber of Commerce, a group of the region's leading
businessmen. "We should not be satisfied with becoming a big
businessman. We must know what our next life is.... If you
cultivate this knowledge and at the same time go on doing your
business, your life will be successful."
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for
kindly inviting me. I'll serve you to the best of my ability.
Today's subject is "Culture and Business." We understand
business to mean "occupational duty." According to our Vedic
culture, there are different types of business. As described in
Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam
guna-karma-vibhagasah. The four divisions of the social system,
based on people's qualities and types of work, are the brahmanas
[intellectuals and teachers], the ksatriyas [military men and
state leaders], the vaisyas [farmers and merchants], and the
sudras [laborers]. Before doing business, one must know what
kinds of work there are and who can do what kind of work. People
have different capabilities, and there are different types of
work, but now we have created a society where everyone takes up
everyone else's business. That is not very scientific.
Society has natural cultural divisions, just as there are
natural divisions in the human body. The whole body is one unit,
but it has different departments, also--for example, the head
department, the arm department, the belly department, and the
leg department. This is scientific. So in society the head
department is represented by the brahmana, the arm department by
the ksatriya, the belly department by the vaisya, and the leg
department by the sudra. Business should be divided
scientifically in this way.
The head department is the most important department, because
without the head the other departments--the arm, the belly, and
the leg--cannot function. If the arm department is lacking,
business can still go on. If the leg department is lacking,
business can go on. But if the head department is not there--if
your head is cut off from your body--then even though you have
arms, legs, and a belly, they are all useless.
The head is meant for culture. Without culture, every type of
business creates confusion and chaos. And that is what we have
at the present moment, because of jumbling of different types of
business. So there must be one section of people, the head
department, who give advice to the other departments. These
advisors are the intelligent and qualified brahmanas.
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance,
honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness--these are the
natural qualities by which the brahmanas work." [Bhagavad-gita
The brahmanas, the head of the social body, are meant to guide
society in culture. Culture means knowing the aim of life.
Without understanding the aim of life, a man is a ship without a
rudder. But at the present moment we are missing the goal of
life because there is no head department in society. The whole
human society is now lacking real brahmanas to give advice to
the other departments.
Arjuna is a good example of how a member of the ksatriya
department should take advice. He was a military man; his
business was to fight. In the Battle of Kuruksetra he engaged in
his business, but at the same time he took the advice of the
brahmanya-deva, Lord Krsna. As it is said,
govindaya namo namah
"Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krsna, who is
the worshipable Deity for all brahminical men, who is the
well-wisher of cows and brahmanas, and who is always benefiting
the whole world. I offer my repeated obeisances to the
Personality of Godhead, known as Krsna and Govinda." (Visnu
In this verse the first things taken into consideration are the
cows and the brahmanas (go-brahmana). Why are they stressed?
Because a society with no brahminical culture and no cow
protection is not a human society but a chaotic, animalistic
society. And any business you do in a chaotic condition will
never be perfect. Business can be done nicely only in a society
following a proper cultural system.
Instructions for a perfect cultural system are given in
Srimad-Bhagavatam. At a meeting in the forest of Naimisaranya,
where many learned scholars and brahmanas had assembled and
Srila Suta Gosvami was giving instructions, he stressed the
varnasrama social system (atah pumbhir dvija-srestha
varnasrama-vibhagasah). The Vedic culture organizes society into
four varnas [occupational divisions] and four asramas [spiritual
stages of life]. As mentioned before, the varnas are the
brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra. The asramas are the
brahmacari-asrama [celibate student life], grhastha-asrama
[family life], vanaprastha-asrama [retired life], and
sannyasa-asrama [renounced life]. Unless we take to this
institution of varnasrama-dharma, the whole society will be
And the purpose of varnasrama-dharma is to satisfy the Supreme
Lord. As stated in the Visnu Purana (3.8.9),
purusena parah puman
visnur aradhyate pantha
According to this verse, one has to satisfy the Supreme Lord by
properly performing one's prescribed duties according to the
system of varna and asrama. In a state, you have to satisfy your
government. If you don't, you are a bad citizen and cause chaos
in society. Similarly, in the cosmic state--that is, in this
material creation as a whole--if you do not satisfy the Supreme
Lord, the proprietor of everything, then there will be a chaotic
condition. Our Vedic culture teaches that whatever you do, you
must satisfy the Supreme Lord. That is real culture. Sva-karmana
tam abhyarcya siddhim vindati manavah. You may do any
business--the brahmana's business, the ksatriya's business, the
vaisya's business, or the sudra's business--but by your business
you should satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You may
be a merchant, a professional man, a legal advisor, a medical
man--it doesn't matter. But if you want perfection in your
business, then you must try to satisfy the Supreme Personality
of Godhead. Otherwise you are simply wasting your time.
In Bhagavad-gita (3.9), Lord Krsna says, yajnarthat karmanah.
The word yajna refers to Visnu, or Krsna, the Supreme Lord. You
have to work for Him. Otherwise you become bound by the
reactions of your activities (anyatra loko 'yam karma-bandhanah).
And as long as you are in the bondage of karma, you have to
transmigrate from one body to another.
Unfortunately, at the present moment people do not know that
there is a soul and that the soul transmigrates from one body to
another. As stated in Bhagavad-gita (2.13), tatha
dehantara-praptih: "When the body dies, the soul transmigrates
to another body." I've talked with big, big scientists and
professors who do not know that there is life after death. They
do not know. But according to our Vedic information, there is
life after death. And we can experience transmigration of the
soul in this present life. It is a very common thing: A baby
soon gets the body of a boy, the boy then gets the body of a
young man, and the young man gets the body of an old man.
Similarly, the old man, after the annihilation of his body, will
get another body. It is quite natural and logical.
Actually, we have two bodies, the gross body and the subtle
body. The gross body is made up of our senses and the bodily
elements--bones, blood, and so on. When we change our body at
death, the present gross body is destroyed, but the subtle body,
made of mind, intelligence, and ego, is not. The subtle body
carries us to our next gross body.
It is just like what happens when we sleep. At night we forget
about the gross body, and the subtle body alone works. As we
dream we are taken away from our home, from our bed, to some
other place, and we completely forget the gross body. When our
sleep is over we forget about the dream and become attached
again to the gross body. This is going on in our daily
So we are the observer, sometimes of the gross body and
sometimes of the subtle body. Both bodies are changing, but we
are the unchanging observer, the soul within the bodies.
Therefore, our inquiry should be, "What is my position? At night
I forget my gross body, and during the daytime I forget my
subtle body. Then what is my real body?" These are the questions
we should ask.
So you may do your business, as Arjuna did his business. He was
a fighter, a ksatriya, but he did not forget his culture,
hearing Gita from the master. But if you simply do business and
do not cultivate your spiritual life, then your business is a
useless waste of time (srama eva hi kevalam).
Our Krsna consciousness movement is being spread so that you do
not forget your cultural life. We do not say that you stop your
business and become a sannyasi like me and give up everything.
We do not say that. Nor did Krsna say that. Krsna never said, "Arjuna,
give up your fighting business." No, He said, "Arjuna, you are a
ksatriya. You are declining to fight, saying, 'Oh, it is very
abominable.' You should not say that. You must fight." That was
Similarly, we Krsna conscious people are also advising everyone,
"Don't give up your business. Go on with your business, but
simply hear about Krsna." Caitanya Mahaprabhu also said this,
quoting from Srimad-Bhagavatam: sthane sthitah sruti-gatam
tanu-van-manobhih. Caitanya Mahaprabhu never said, "Give up your
position." Giving up one's position is not very difficult. But
to cultivate spiritual knowledge while one stays in his
position--that is required. Among the animals there is no
cultivation of spiritual life. That is not possible; the animals
cannot cultivate this knowledge. Therefore, if human beings do
not cultivate spiritual knowledge, they're exactly like animals
(dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah).
So we should be very conscious about our eternal existence. We,
the spirit soul within the body, are eternal (na hanyate
hanyamane sarire). We are not going to die after the
annihilation of our body. This is the cultivation of knowledge,
or brahma-jijnasa, which means inquiry about one's self.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's first disciple, Sanatana Gosvami, was
formerly finance minister in the government of Nawab Hussein
Shah. Then he retired and approached Caitanya Mahaprabhu and
humbly said, "My dear Lord, people call me pandita." (Because he
was a brahmana by caste, naturally he was called pandita,
meaning "a learned person.") "But I am such a pandita," he said,
"that I do not even know who or what I am."
This is the position of everyone. You may be a businessman or
you may be in another profession, but if you do not know what
you are, wherefrom you have come, why you are under the
tribulations of the laws of material nature, and where you are
going in your next life--if you do not know these things, then
whatever you are doing is useless. As stated in
dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
notpadayed yadi ratim
srama eva hi kevalam
"The occupational activities a man performs according to his own
position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke
attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead."
Therefore our request to everyone is that while you engage in
your business, in whatever position Krsna has posted you, do
your duty nicely, but do not forget to cultivate Krsna
Krsna knowledge means God consciousness. We must know that we
are part and parcel of God (mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah
sanatanah). We are eternally part and parcel of Krsna, or God,
but we are now struggling with the mind and senses (manah
sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati). Why this struggle for
existence? We must inquire about our eternal life beyond this
temporary life. Suppose in this temporary life I become a big
businessman for, say, twenty years or fifty years or at the
utmost one hundred years. There is no guarantee that in my next
life I'm going to be a big businessman. No. There is no such
guarantee. But this we do not care about. We are taking care of
our present small span of life, but we are not taking care of
our eternal life. That is our mistake.
In this life I may be a very great businessman, but in my next
life, by my karma, I may become something else. There are
8,400,000 forms of life. Jalaja nava-laksani sthavara
laksa-vimsatih: There are 900,000 forms of life in the water,
and 2,000,000 forms of trees and other plants. Then, krmayo
rudra-sankhyakah paksinam dasa-laksanam: There are 1,100,000
species of insects and reptiles, and 1,000,000 species of birds.
Finally, trimsal-laksani pasavah catur-laksani manusah: There
are 3,000,000 varieties of beasts and 400,000 human species. So
we must pass through 8,000,000 different forms of life before we
come to the human form of life.
Therefore Prahlada Maharaja says,
kaumara acaret prajno
dharman bhagavatan iha
durlabham manusam janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam
"One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form
of body from the very beginning of life--in other words, from
the tender age of childhood--to practice the activities of
devotional service. The human body is most rarely achieved, and
although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because
in human life one can perform devotional service. Even a slight
amount of sincere devotional service can give one complete
perfection." (Bhag. 7.6.1) This human birth is very rare. We
should not be satisfied simply with becoming a big businessman.
We must know what our next life is, what we are going to be.
There are different kinds of men. Some are called karmis, some
are called jnanis, some are called yogis, and some are called
bhaktas. The karmis are after material happiness. They want the
best material comforts in this life, and they want to be
elevated to the heavenly planets after death. The jnanis also
want happiness, but being fed up with the materialistic way of
life, they want to merge into the existence of Brahman, the
Absolute. The yogis want mystic power. And the bhaktas, the
devotees, simply want the service of the Lord. But unless one
understands who the Lord is, how can one render service to Him?
So cultivating knowledge of God is the highest culture.
There are different kinds of culture: the culture of the karmis,
the culture of the jnanis, the culture of the yogis, and the
culture of the bhaktas. Actually, all of these people are called
yogis if they are doing their duty sincerely. Then they are
known as karma-yogis, jnana-yogis, dhyana-yogis, and bhakti-yogis.
But in Bhagavad-gita (6.47) Krsna says,
yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
Who is the first-class yogi? Krsna answers, "He who is always
thinking of Me." This means the Krsna conscious person is the
best yogi. As already mentioned, there are different kinds of
yogis (the karma-yogi, the jnana-yogi, the dhyana-yogi, and the
bhakti-yogi), but the best yogi is he who always thinks of Krsna
within himself with faith and love. One who is rendering service
to the Lord--he is the first-class yogi.
So we request everyone to try to know what he is, what Krsna is,
what his relationship with Krsna is, what his real life is, and
what the goal of his life is. Unless we cultivate all this
knowledge, we are simply wasting our time, wasting our valuable
human form of life. Although everyone will die--that's a
fact--one who dies after knowing these things is benefited. His
life is successful.
The cat will die, the dog will die--everyone will die. But one
who dies knowing Krsna--oh, that is a successful death. As Krsna
says in Bhagavad-gita (4.9),
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows in truth the transcendental nature of My
appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take
his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal
abode, O Arjuna."
So wherever we go all over the world, our only request is,
"Please try to understand Krsna. Then your life is successful."
It doesn't matter what your business is. You have to do
something to live. Krsna says, sarira-yatrapi ca te na
prasiddhyed akarmanah: If you stop working, your life will be
hampered. One has to do something for his livelihood, but at the
same time he has to cultivate knowledge for the perfection of
his life. The perfection of life is simple: try to understand
Krsna. This is what we are prescribing all over the world. It is
not very difficult. If you read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, you will
come to understand Krsna. Krsna explains everything.
For the neophytes, Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya prabhasmi
sasi-suryayoh: "My dear Kaunteya, I am the taste of water, and I
am the light of the sun and the moon." There is no need to say,
"I cannot see God." Here is God: the taste of water is God.
Everyone drinks water, and when one tastes it he is perceiving
God. Then why do you say, "I cannot see God"? Think as God
directs, and then gradually you'll see Him. Simply remember this
one instruction from Bhagavad-gita--raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh: "I am the taste of water; I am the
shining illumination of the sun and moon." Who has not seen the
sunlight? Who has not seen the moonlight? Who has not tasted
water? Then why do you say, "I have not seen God"? If you simply
practice this bhakti-yoga, as soon as you taste water and feel
satisfied you will think, "Oh, here is Krsna." Immediately you
will remember Krsna. As soon as you see the sunshine, you will
remember, "Oh, here is Krsna." As soon as you see the moonshine,
you will remember, "Oh, here is Krsna." And sabdah khe: As soon
as you hear some sound in the sky, you will remember, "Here is
In this way, you will remember Krsna at every step of your life.
And if you remember Krsna at every step of life, you become the
topmost yogi. And above all, if you practice the chanting of
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare
Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, you will easily remember Krsna.
There is no tax. There is no loss to your business. If you chant
the Hare Krsna mantra, if you remember Krsna while drinking
water, what is your loss? Why don't you try it? This is the real
culture of knowledge. If you cultivate this knowledge and at the
same time go on doing your business, your life will be
successful. Thank you very much.