udīcīḿ praviveśāśāḿ

gata-pūrvāḿ mahātmabhiḥ

hṛdi brahma paraḿ dhyāyan

nāvarteta yato gataḥ

He then started towards the north treading the path accepted by his forefathers and great men to devote himself completely to the path of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and he lived in that way wherever he went.


Purport by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad:

It is understood from this verse that Maharaj Yudhistir followed the footsteps of his forefathers and the great devotees of the Lord. We have discussed many times before that the system of varna-ashram dharma as it was strictly followed by the inhabitants of the world specifically by those who inhabited the Aryavard province of the world emphasizes the importance of leaving all household connections at a certain stage of life. The training and education was so imparted and thus respectable person like Maharaj Yudhistir had to leave all family connection for self realization and going back to Godhead. No king or respectable gentlemen would continue family life till the end because that was considered suicidal in against the interest of the perfection of human life. In order to be free from all family encumbrances and devote oneself cent percent in devotional service of Lord Krishna this system is always recommended for everyone because it is the path of authority. The Lord instructs in Bhagavad-gita that one must become a devotee of the Lord at least at the last stage of one’s life. A sincere soul of the Lord like Maharaj Yudhistir must abide by this instruction of the Lord for his own interest. This specific words brahma param indicate Lord Shri Krishna. This is collaborated in the Bhagavad-gita 10:13 by Arjuna with reference to great authorities like Asita, Devala, Narada and Vyas. Thus Maharaj Yudhistir while leaving home to the north constantly remembered Lord Shri Krishna within himself following in the footsteps of his forefathers as well as the great devotees of all times.


A devotee performs his duty without any ego because ultimately Krishna is the doer:

Yudhistir Maharaj has left all of his responsibilities in this world in the hands of the newly coordinated King Maharaj Parikshit. Great personalities never perform their duties with a desire to be respected nor do they accept any position in a mood of a proprietor. They simply perform their occupation in the service of the Lord. In order to do Krishna’s work in this world and the consciousness must always be that ultimately Krishna is the doer. Krishna is empowering us for some time for a specific work. And in the same way he can empower another. It is His power, it is His free will. So in this way for Maharaj Yudhistir there was no difficulty in renouncing anything. Krishna gave him the power and the intelligence to rule the world and now it was time when Krishna was going to empower somebody else to do the same work. In this way a devotee performs his duty without any ego.

prakrteh kriyamanani

gunaih karmani sarvasah

ahankara vimudhatma

kartaham iti manyate

(BG 3.27) 

The bewildered souls under the influence of three modes of material nature think him or herself to be the doer of the activity. But one who understands the sublime truth of Krishna consciousness knows that Krishna is the doer.


Simply surrender to whatever way Krishna wants to use us in His divine plan and give all credit to Krishna:

Why should we want any credit for anything? If Krishna is doing something through us we should want to give Krishna all the credit for that. And if Krishna is doing it through someone else we should be just as happy that Krishna is doing what He wants to do. Whether it is through me or you or through him or through her as long as Krishna’s work is being done we should be jubilant and we should simply want to surrender to whatever way Krishna wants to use me in His divine plan. Then there is no false ego and there is no envy and there are no materialistic forms of competition. After all we cannot be the proprietor of any particular type of devotional service.


Real service means what Krishna wants us to do and how Krishna wants to use us:

We should not be distressed when we are asked to do one service instead of another service because after all the service is not mine. Krishna gives us the right to serve but real service means what Krishna wants us to do, how Krishna wants to use us. Maharaj Yudhistir was a very great powerful king. On behalf of Krishna he was accepting the worship of the whole world. But then it was Krishna’s plan that he be nobody. That he be in a place where nobody knows where he is. That he be in a place where nobody knows what he is doing, what he is be practically and virtually forgotten by all humanity. But for Maharaj Yudhistir there was no difference. He was simply acting according to the will of Krishna.


How Srila Prabhupad surrendered to the orders of his Gurumaharaj and Krishna:

Srila Prabhupad was ordered by his spiritual master to spread the message of Lord Chaitanya throughout the world. This was the order of Krishna.

Tad viddhi pranipatena

Pariprasnena sevaya

Upadeksyani te jnanam

Jnaninas tatva darsinah

(BG 4.34) 

We know what Krishna wants through guru. Krishna’s speaks through guru. He is the external manifestation of the Param-atma within our heart. So when Gurumaharaj Srila Bhaktisiddhant Saraswati Thakur gave him this instruction, he took it as his life and soul. And he was praying to Srila Bhaktisiddhant Saraswati Thakur and he was praying to Lord Krishna that now you can do as you like with me. I have come here because you have ordered me to come here. I have not come here to become the jagad guru. I have not come here to open 108 centers throughout the world. I have not come to translate so many dozens and dozens of books and make so many thousands and thousands of disciples. I have come here simply on your instruction to be an instrument of your mercy in any way you want to use me. And he prayed in this way. I am a puppet. Now you make me dance however you desire me to dance. If you want to give me the words to penetrate the hearts of these fallen soul then that is for you to decide how you use me. But now that I am surrendered to being used in any way you wish. That is the perfection of Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupad allowed himself to surrender to be the instrument of Krishna in any way Krishna desires.


Srila Prabhupad accepted failure in Jhansi as Krishna’s will:

In Jhansi when he started his league of devotees he was doing it with the same order of his spiritual master and by all material standards everything failed. He worked for so many long months, so much labor, so much planning, so much energy, so much preaching. He began to establish something and then everything was taken away. He had nothing left. But he was not disturbed at all. Krishna I am doing your will. If this is how you want to use me by making me a failure in the eyes of all then I am satisfied just to do Your will but I must keep trying.


Renunciation means to simply be the instrument and do the will of Krishna:

Until the last breath of our life we must keep trying to be an instrument in the hands of Krishna. So this is real detachment. Renunciation in the highest sense does not mean to give up eating and sleeping, does not mean to give up all material possessions, does not mean to expose one’s body and mind to extreme tortures conditions of life. This is not the true principle of renunciation. The true principle of renunciation is to be without false pride. To surrender to the principle that I am simply the instrument of Krishna and until the last breathe of our life to simply do the will of Krishna. And whatever we do we know it is Krishna’s will. He is using me. To be really renounced means to be free from envy because when you see another devotee doing something wonderful we are happy. We are thinking that Krishna is doing something wonderful through him. Now Krishna is doing something even more wonderful through her. Krishna’s will is being done. This is what makes us happy. And we are simply willing and ready waiting with enthusiasm to do whatever Krishna wants to do through me. Whether you be Hanuman or whether you be the little squirrel we are not concerned. Krishna can use us in any way he likes. That is renunciation.


Be attached to being the servant of the Lord and not to any mundane posts:

So yes Maharaj Yudhistir one day he is the king of the world, the object of everyone’s attention and the next day he is forgotten, nowhere to be seen. But in Maharaj Yudhistir heart he is always immersed in the thought of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And in this way he followed the path of the great forefathers who were not attached to any situation in this world. They were only attached to Krishna. Eventually whatever you are, you are going to have to give it up. We should not be attached to any post. We should not be attached to being a poojari. We should not be attached to being the book distributor. We should not be attached to being a preacher. We should not be attached to being the temple president or the cook. We should not be attached to being guru or sanyasi or brahmachari or father or mother or student. We should simply be attached to serving Krishna in whatever way Guru and Gauranga want us to serve. That is real renunciation because all of these designations within this world will be taken away in due course of time. And if we are attached to any of these designations we will have to take birth again in this material world. If we are attached to the designation of being a sanyasi or designation of being a poojari we will have to take birth again in this material world. But if we are being attached to being the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord abiding by the will of guru then we never have to take birth in this material world. And that is the perfection of our human existence to die to live, to die to all these material connections of designations and perform our duties with the true spirit of being the servant of the Lord, the servant of his devotees.


Give up grihasta-ashram when it starts getting comfortable:

It is very difficult after so many years in the grihasta-ashram to give up the comforts of home. And actually according to the varna-ashram system just at the point when grihasta-ashram is really getting good that’s when you have to give it up. Think about it.


Difficulties in grihasta-ashram:

When you first get married it’s a struggle. You have to establish yourself in society somehow or the other. First of all you have to learn to live with a man or a woman which is an austerity. So many egoistic problems, it’s an austerity, no doubt. Some sense gratification may be there but actually that sense gratification is quite frustrating because to actually be a good grihasta we are not supposed to be an animal. We are actually supposed to be self controlled. So it’s an austerity. And then you have to start working very hard. And then for most grihastas Krishna starts’ sending children and that means more expenditure and as they grow the expenditure grows. And as the family expands the cost of living expands so we have to make so many arrangements working, working, working somehow or the other worrying about how to make ends meet and all the children’s and wife and everyone else depending on you. The mother has to be so much involved in carrying babies, taking them out of Srimad-Bhagvatam class when they are just trying to hear about Krishna, trying to chant their japa and changing diapers between rounds not even between rounds, during rounds. It’s not a very pleasant life. And the father he is just worrying about what to do, my wife is in anxiety therefore I am in anxiety. And I have to make so much money, how am I going to do it. And I have to somehow or the other live in this situation, it’s very difficult, very difficult. And then as the children get older so many problems start happening, so many problems. They are so dependent on us. We have to worry about their school; we have to worry about their clothes, their food. We have to worry about their future; we have to worry about what type of association they are keeping. And it is working, working, working and working, very difficult situation.


Comfortable part of grihasta-ashram:

And then after working to support like an ass for so many years finally your children grow up and then they say father mother now we will support you. They are grown up. No more responsibilities, they have their degrees in college and they have nice job. They are making money themselves. They are married. They have their own families. You are living at home with them. Joint family in India is the system. And actually everything is very nice. This is actually the only comfortable part of grihasta-ashram. Now everything I have invested in my children is going to come back to me. They are going to do the work, they are going to pay the bill, and they are going to do everything. I can just relax and be happy. So actually at the time when the children are grown ready to support you that’s when grihasta-ashram actually becomes tolerable.


Give up grihasta-ashram when it starts getting comfortable:

And it’s at that point that the Vedas say get out. If you stay on any longer you are in maya. Get out, very difficult. So it’s very difficult to renounce after living with your children and living with your wife and making so many relatives and so many friends and so many social arrangements. And usually that the point when your business or career is at the peak. When you are about 50 years old that’s when everything is practically going automatic. Everything is very good. At that point you have to give up your business, you have to give up your family and you have to go to the north. What does the north mean? North means the place where it’s very cold and lot of austerities. So human life is meant for self realization but this is difficult. But the Vedas tell us to do it.


Srila Prabhupad was truly an acharya:

yad yad acarati sresthas

tat tad evetaro janah

sa yat pramanam kurute

lokas tad anuvartate

(BG 3.21) 

But we must be exemplary if we want to do real service to the world. And Srila Prabhupad he is truly an acharya. He is teaching by his example. So many people talk. This was said about Haridas Thakur. Some people speak very nicely but they do not behave properly. And some people behave quite well but they do not speak properly. But Haridas Thakur said you speak nicely and also behave nicely according to the highest truth. And this is what is called an acharya: One who speaks the truth without interpretation and who lives by those principles. So Srila Prabhupad is very strongly here echoing the words of previous acharayas that at the certain stage of life we must actually prepare ourselves for death by detaching ourselves from all of these connections and entanglements of the world. And he actually did it. Srila Prabhupad was an acharya who was teaching us by his example how to perfect our life. And Krishna used him in this way.


Srila Prabhupad was an ideal Krishna conscious grihasta:

We understand that Srila Prabhupad was sent by Krishna. He was not an ordinary conditioned soul who became purified. He was a great personality who descended by the will of the lord for the highest purpose. And Krishna used him to teach certain examples. He was an ideal grihasta and at a certain age when he was about 50 even though there were so many commitments, so many entanglements, he had children, he had wife, he had all these things, and he left it all. He left everything. And in his leela when his Gurumaharaj appeared and told him to take sanyas, he wasn’t thinking how horrible What about my wife, what about my children, what about all the work I have done for so many years in my career? He was a perfect Krishna conscious grihasta but he was not attached to any of those designations or any of those duties. He was only attached to serving his guru in every phase of his life. And to test that he was actually attached to guru-seva and not his own position and prestige when he was asked to give it up he gave it up. He dedicated his life to the mission of preaching.


Meaning of going to the north:

For us this is what it means to go to the north. To be fully engaged in the mission of Shri Guru and Gauranga. Preaching the glories of the Lord and remembering Krishna by our very very attentive and intensified sadhna of hearing and chanting.


Varna-ashram system helps everyone perfect their life in Krishna consciousness:

So grihastas should actually be planning their grihasta-ashram from the very day of their marriage, in fact from the day of their engagement. They should be planning their grihasta-ashram in such a way that they can be perfectly Krishna conscious and at a certain stage be so detached that they could prepare for the final stage of life before death. This is intelligence. And for brahmachari’s what can I say. All I can say is be careful. You are already in that stage of giving up everything in the service of the Lord and in order to maintain that throughout life, throughout the turbulent years of youth and middle age you have to be severely strict and keep very very strong association. And in this way the varna-ashram system is meant so that everyone can perfect their lives in Krishna consciousness.

Anta kale ca mam eva

Smaran muktva kalevaram

(BG 8.5)

By fully immersing our consciousness in Krishna at the time of our death.


Question-Answer section:

Is there any questions?

  1. You just mentioned about grihasta-ashram. In this Krishna consciousness movement, movement of Lord Chaitanya we have been told that whether you are in the grihasta-ashram or brahmachari-ashram or vanaprastha-ashram stay wherever you are. For example the kurma brahman, he wanted to leave and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said you just stay where you are and whoever you meet just preach him about Krishna. And we are preaching about such things like when we read in books that one has to renounce everything and take to the vanaprastha or sanyas ashram. They are two conflicting statements. On one hand we are preaching to people that if you are inclined to grihasta-ashram, you want to get married you get married. On other hand we are saying we should be totally renounced and give away your family responsibilities when you grow old. When the right time comes you are supposed to leave everything and be renounced.


Maharaj: But for you the right time has not come. There is no contradiction. It is a matter of stages. And to live according to the prescribed instructions at each stage is perfect Krishna consciousness. If you are living within your grihasta-ashram according to the standards you are as good as the brahmacharis. But the standard is that you should be living in such a way that when that stage comes, when your household duties are complete at that time you should go on to another phase. In another words after your children are grown grihasta life is a struggle. Brahmachari life is always a struggle. Grihasta life is a struggle. It is a different type of struggle but if you do it in Krishna consciousness there is really not much difference. There is no difference if you do it in pure Krishna consciousness. But it’s a struggle but after your children’s are grown and all of these things then you are supposed to struggle in other way. You have done your duties; you have raised your children in Krishna consciousness. You have made money to support the Krishna consciousness movement. These are all the necessary services you have done. But you are not supposed to do it until you die. There is a cutoff point at which point you are supposed to completely attach yourself to the loving service of the Lord. If you are a pure devotee by that time for your own purification there is no need to cutoff anything but you do it as an example to others because that is what Krishna wants. And if you are not completely a pure devotee at that time through the realizations and the advancements you have made during your years in the grihasta-ashram you are supposed to be at that stage where you can quickly perfect your life through the process of complete detachment. So there is no contradiction what so ever. Varna-ashram dharma in that sense means to do the duty that Krishna wants you to do at each phase of your life. First 25 years as a brahmachari. Second 25 years as a grihasta. Third 25 years as a vanaprastha and the remaining years as a sanyasi. This is the system.

Catur varnyam maya srstam

Guna karma vibhagasah

Tasya kartaram api mam

Viddhi akartaram avyayam

(BG 4.14)

And this is the system that most of the population is meant to follow. It is the prescribed arrangement given by God Himself. But we have to be looking ahead at what we are preparing for. We should not think that where we are is the all in all. As we are raising our family in Krishna consciousness we should be very attached to doing it according to Krishna’s will but we should be planning ahead. We should know in some years I am going to have to leave it all. So I should do it as my duty to Krishna. I should do it to help these people all go back to Godhead. I should be attached to that service. I should not be attached to simply the company and the facility because we will have to leave it. And if you have that in mind you will actually be in proper consciousness throughout 25 years of grihasta-ashram. But materialistic people they think this is the all in all. So they are never planning ahead. They are not cultivating detachment.


  1. Especially in India those in the Krishna consciousness movement the society looks down upon those grihasta who don’t have children or who don’t want to have children. The husband and wife they want to lead perfect Krishna conscious life. The society doesn’t recognize them, doesn’t accept them especially the near and dear family members.


Maharaj: You can perfect Krishna conscious life with children also. That is the normal recommended process of grihasta life. If you follow the proper instructions and train your children in Krishna consciousness and procreate for the purpose of having children this is as good as brahmachari as far as the shastras are concerned. So that is perfect Krishna consciousness. As far as near and dear ones sometimes our near and dear ones are not devotees. So they will have a different conception. Their conception is material enjoyment is the goal of life. And the near and dear ones who are devotees their conception of happiness is renunciation and devotional service. So we should not be influenced by the propaganda of those who are representing maya. We should be influenced by the propaganda of those representing Krishna. To have children in grihasta-ashram is perfectly natural if we do it right it is perfectly Krishna conscious. But one doesn’t have to have children. It will be Krishna conscious either way. But you see our relatives if they are not devotees they want us to have children simply so that they can enjoy grand children. It’s not that they want us to have children so that these children never have to take birth again in this material world. Devotee parents are like that. You have a child to raise in Krishna consciousness in such a way that the child will never take birth in this material world. Just like Srila Prabhupad his father Gour Mohan De he had so many children. But he was a pure devotee. And he would always invite sadhus to his house to bless his children. And he would feed the sadhus. He wasn’t a rich man but he would give them whatever he can to satisfy them and then before leaving he would ask them for blessing. And what was this blessing. He only asked for one blessing. Please bless my son Abhay that he would become a pure devotee of Shrimati Radharani. That is perfect grihasta life. But most of our parents when they want us to have our children the blessing they want is my child will be doctor, bless my child that he will be a doctor, or that she will be a PhD. She will expand the dynasty of our good name like that. But we aren’t concerned about that type of desires from our relatives. We are concerned when we have children that child becomes a pure devotee of Shrimati Radharani.


  1. If we are mentioning about the surrendered state of a devotee and you said that whatever way Krishna uses us a devotee remains satisfied. And he also derives great satisfaction upon seeing his God brothers or God sisters being utilized by Krishna in greater service than may be what he is serving. So this is a very higher state of consciousness actually. In between those who are struggling they have this knowledge but becomes difficult to practice it because they haven’t reached that stage. So they keep on becoming envious. So how to contract this or tolerate this.


Maharaj: They are envious of you because you are so empowered and so wonderful and so great. We should not think that anyone is envious of me because we are nothing. It is Krishna. So how to deal with the problem of envy and ego in the neophyte condition of Krishna consciousness this is your question? We must know what we are striving for. We must understand with our intelligence what the truth is and with that knowledge, with the sword of knowledge we could cut to pieces the darkness of ignorance within our own hearts. As soon as that tendency comes to think Oh see what I have done we must apply what we have heard in Srimad-Bhagavatam class and by reading of the scriptures and remind ourselves that actually I have not done anything. What can you do? Just like the other day in the Harinaam sankirtan procession, they asked me to dance. So I started dancing. And then the muscles in my leg went and I could not even walk so I was thinking who am I to dance. Krishna wants to take dancing away I cannot dance. If Krishna wants as a puppet to make me dance I can dance. We can do nothing without Krishna. Krishna can give; Krishna can take it away because the power is Krishna’s in every situation. So we should remember that always. We should not take credit for anything. And in the same way as Krishna is empowering us according to His will He can empower others. So when we see someone is excelling beyond ourselves especially in our own field of service that is when our ego is most pained. Somebody is doing another service from another place, we don’t mind. We can tolerate what they do well. Somehow or the other it’s tolerable. If you are a book distributor and a preacher is doing very well you can tolerate it. But if another book distributor distributes more books than you then it’s intolerable. How is it possible? At that time we have to remember is that Krishna is giving me the power, Krishna is giving him the power, its Krishna’s power and if I love Krishna I will love how Krishna is making his mission successful through whoever He wants however He wants. That’s love for Krishna. So when these tendencies of envy and pride come into our heart then we have to check it with knowledge. And at the same time with this knowledge we have to be so much determined and enthusiastic to follow the principles of purification by which we can actually come to that standard of realization. As we have said if we do something wonderful and then you take credit for it then in a certain sense you lose the credit of what you have done. But if you give the credit to Krishna, give the credit to Guru, give the credit to the blessings of the vaishnavas then whatever you have done becomes eternally, ever increasingly to your spiritual benefit. So today is the first day of Srila Prabhupad’s centennial. Today is January 1st 1996, the inaugural day of the 100th anniversary of Srila Prabhupad’s appearance in this world. So throughout the year people take new year resolutions that on this auspicious day, the first day of the year of the centennial of Srila Prabhupad we make the resolution within our hearts in the presence of their Lordships Shri Shri Radha Gopinath ji and Srila Prabhupad that we will truly live according to his instructions and in this way use our life individually as well as in the association of his movement to make his glories known to the benefit of all living beings. We should show our love to him by how we cooperate. We should show our love for him by seriously endeavoring together to purify our lives by the process that he has given us. And throughout this year in the most exemplary way we should be striving with extra enthusiasm and energy to help the world understand the mercy that Srila Prabhupad has descended to bestow upon all.


Srila Prabhupad ki jai!

Srila Prabhupad centennial ki jai!

Nitai Gaur premanande!

Haribol! Thank you very much.

Written by

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.

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About Me

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.