Providing real relief and fulfilment for the soul.

By Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur

Dr. Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace Prizes.

The following is an English translation of a passage in Saraswatī Jayaśrī, the primary Bengali language biography of Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur.

In the month of Bhādra of 1331 (August 1924) the Gauḍīya Maṭh’s anniversary festival began. On Sunday 1 Bhādra on the occasion of the appearance festival of Śrī Baladev, Śrīla Prabhupād gave a lecture amongst a grand assembly on the identity of Śrī Baladev (Baladeva-tattva) and service to others (paropakāra). Deep by nature and sorrowful at the sorrow of others, Śrīla Prabhpād began to cry that day at the sorrow of the conditioned souls, and even extremely hard hearts were melted by the heart-touching language with which he spoke about Śrī Hari. Given below is the gist of Śrīla Prabhupād’s lecture:

Giving others a couple handfuls of food, providing famine relief, and so on can never be the highest ideal of service to others (paropakāra—para-upakāra). That method of service to others can be seen even amongst monkeys, bees, and other species. If we raid into the zenana[1] of such service to others, then mundane interest ‘unseen even by the sun’[2] can be seen. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Chaitanyadev did not speak of such meagre service to others. He called all souls by saying,

bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya-janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā: 9.41)

[“Those who have received a human birth in the land of Bhārat should make their lives successful and engage in service (upakāra) to others (para).”]

Para means ‘best’ and ‘another’, that is, a person other than me. “Even if we are not able to offer the best service, then we have still helped someone.” This notion is true, but by it people are actually cheated, and I both become cheated and become a cheater.

The altruism of this world is founded on the principle of ‘killing a cow to give a shoe’[3]. By going to help one person, we end up having to harm another person. By going to prepare chhāgalādya ghṛta[4] for a sick person, we have to kill an entire goat. By discovering dynamite, Dr. Alfred Nobel on the one hand greatly helped the world and on the other hand served as a priest in a destructive sacrifice of numerous species of life[5]. It seems also that as his atonement for this he donated a large sum of money to try to catch the chimera[6] of temporary world peace and advancement in material knowledge and science as at present he has become a great icon in the history of world civilization. Modern materialists say that even in the midst of a little harm, when a great service to others can be performed, then such service to the greater number of people is necessary even if a little harm to others has to be accepted, or they say that serving a superior species, human beings, even by harming other species, is necessary.

Such narrow-minded selfishness passes under the name of service to others in the world market, but how can we say the measuring stick of service to others for the majority or service to others for the higher is unerring? Did the last world war[7] no prove what sort of harm can be done in the name of service to others only for the majority? And what is the lifespan of that sort of service to others? Grab a clock and watch its lifespan reach its end. When human beings intensely hold the body to their all-in-all, intensely consider the body to be the self, intensely pursue enjoyment, and reject those who oppose that, then they consider these meagre methods of service to others to be great and condemn the true and best service to others offered by those dedicated to the highest good (pāramarthikas)[8].

Thus the Bhāgavata from its outset has said that the sincere service to others of the non-envious is uprooting the three miseries[9] and propagating the fifth end of life[10]. Śrīman Mahāprabhu Himself demonstrated this ideal of non-deceitful service to others: He personally went from door to door through the South and performed real service to others by making averse souls Kṛṣṇa conscious (Kṛṣṇonmukha). He sent Śrī Rūpa and Sanātan to Vṛndāvan to engage in such service to others amongst the residents of Northern Bhārat, and He sent Śrī Nityānanda to Gauḍa to engage in this highest service to others for the people there who had become beset by worry over meagre societal ups and downs and crazed by songs about Maṅgal Chaṇḍī[11] and worship of Viṣahari[12].

By hearing the message of Śrī Gaurasundar, persons engaged in worldly affairs like Mahārāj Pratāparudra have given up talk of their wives, children, and so on. Scholars who had conquered the directions like Keśava Bhaṭṭa have given up vainly boasting about scripture. Aṣṭāṅga-yogīs have given up the artificial process of breath exercises (prāṇāyām), concentration (dhāraṇā), meditation (dhyān), and so on. Ascetics such as those living only on milk have given up their austere rites, regulations, and so on, and the greatest of the jñānīs like Sārvabhauma and Prakāśānanda have given up the glamour of jñān as described in verses like Vedānta-vākyeṣu sadā ramantokaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ[13].

Today, misinterpretation and misuse of the Vedic mantra Nāyam Ātmā bala-hīnena labhyaḥ[14] is occurring. Virochan and Indra together received instructions from Jagad-guru Brahmā[15] but understood the Vedic mantras in opposite ways: one demonically considered the body to be all-in-all and thought the body to be the self, and the other continued residing and listening at home of his Guru until he realised the true self. We are similarly trying in opposite ways according to our different levels of eligibility (adhikār) to understand the Vedic mantra Nāyam Ātmā! As we say bala (’strength’), we are focusing on bodily strength or mental strength! All such Chārvākian[16] theories have dressed themselves in the garb of virtuousness in many forms and entered amongst us. The meaning of bala is the bala (‘strength’) of Śrī Baladev, the expanded form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the bala of Śrī Nityānanda, and the bala of the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, but this conception is not entering into our averse conception[17]. Ṭhākur Narottam has given the explanation of the statement Nāyam Ātmā bala-hīnena labhyaḥ in a very simple verse:

hena nitāi vine bhāi rādhā-kṛṣṇa pāite nāi
dṛḍha kari’ dhara nitāira pāya

[“Without Nitāi, brother, you cannot attain Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. So, firmly grasp Nitāi’s feet!”]

Śrīla Kavirāj Goswāmī has similarly said (Cc: Antya, 16.60),

bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-śeṣa—ei tina sādhanera bala

[“The devotees’ foot-dust, the devotees’ foot-wash, and the devotees’ remnants—these three are the strength in one’s sādhana.”]


Saraswatī Jayaśrī, chapter 34.


1: A zenana (antaḥpura) is the inner portion of a traditional homestead in India kept secure for the seclusion and protection of women. 

2: The expression ‘unseen even by the sun’ (asūryampaśyā), refers to a women who remains concealed inside a zenana. 

3: This saying is drawn from the time when shoes were made of leather and thus it was not possible to give someone a pair of shoes without having killed, or contributed to the killing of, a cow. 

4: Chhāgalādya ghṛta is a traditional ayurvedic medicinal cream prepared from the fat of a castrated goat.

5: Dr Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and inventor  who became world-renown for his invention of dynamite in 1867 and numerous other explosives. He amassed a great fortune through his inventions (at the time of his death he held over 350 patents) and his investments in oilfields and armaments factories. In 1888, his brother passed away but a number of newspapers mistook news of this for the death of Alfred Nobel himself and published obituaries of him. One french newspaper entitled theirs, “The merchant of death is dead”, and wrote, “Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Reading this, he was appalled and decided to posthumously donate the majority of his fortune to the founding of a set of prizes that would be awarded yearly without distinction of nationality to persons of distinguished achievement in the fields of physical science, chemistry, medical science or physiology, literature, and international fraternity. These prizes are prestigious to this day in international society and known commonly as the ‘Nobel Prizes’. 

6: Chimera, meaning a thing which is hoped for but is illusory or impossible to achieve, is a rendering of  māyā-mṛga, a classical figure of speech which means literally an ‘illusory deer’. 

7: World War One. 

8: Those seeking the highest purely spiritual ideal. 

9: (1) Ādhyātmika-tāpa, suffering caused by one’s own self, esp. the body and mind, (2) ādhibhautika-tāpa, suffering caused by other living beings, and (3) ādhidaivika-tāpa, suffering caused by the gods who control the forces of nature. 

10: Śrī Kṛṣṇa-prema, pure selfless love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is taught by Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu to be the highest goal of life, over and above the four conventional ends of dharma, artha, kāma, and mokṣa: duty, prosperity, enjoyment, and liberation. 

11: Maṅgal Chaṇḍī is a form of Śrī Durgā Devī, Lord Śiva’s consort, who is worshipped in Bengal primarily out desire for worldly prosperity, victory in battle, and protection from diseases. 

12: Viṣahari, lit. ‘she who removes (the effects of snake) poison’, is a form of Śrī Manasā Devī, a goddess who propitiated Lord Śiva and Lord Kṛṣṇa and is known to protect people from snakes. 

13: Śrīpād Śaṅkar Āchārya composed a poem entitled Kaupīna-pañchakam, ‘Five verses about the wearer of a loin-cloth’, which characterises the lives of advanced jñānīs, those who pursue liberation from saṁsāra by practising renunciation and cultivating knowledge and self-identification with undifferentiated spirit (brahma). The life of a bhakti-yogī enriched with selfless love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa and continuous service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s devotees is felt by the grace of Śrīman Mahāprabhu to be a far richer thing, but for reference Śaṅkar Āchārya’s glamorisation of a life of a jñānī as cited by Śrīla Prabhupād is reproduced here:

वेदान्तवाक्येषु सदा रमन्तो
भिक्षान्नमात्रेण च तुष्टिमन्तः
विशोकमन्तःकरणे चरन्तः
कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः १॥

vedānta-vākyeṣu sadā ramanto
bhikṣānna-mātreṇa cha tuṣṭimantaḥ
viśokam antaḥkaraṇe charantaḥ
kaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ [1]

Always delighting in the expressions of the Vedānta,
Satisfied simply with alms for food, and
Roaming free from lamentation within,
Fortunate indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

मूलं तरोः केवलमाश्रयन्तः
पाणिद्वयं भोक्तुममत्रयन्तः
कन्थामिव श्रीमपि कुत्सयन्तः
कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः २॥

mūlaṁ taroḥ kevalam āśrayantaḥ
pāṇi-dvayaṁ bhoktum amatrayantaḥ
kanthām iva śrīm api kutsayantaḥ
kaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ [2]

Sheltered simply at the foot of a tree,
Eating with two hands and without a bowl, and
Condemning of even wealth like a patched garment,
Fortunate indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

स्वानन्दभावे परितुष्टिमन्तः
अहर्निशं ब्रह्मसुखे रमन्तः
कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः ३॥

svānanda-bhāve parituṣṭimantaḥ
ahar-niśaṁ brahma-sukhe ramantaḥ
kaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ [3]

Satisfied fully with the bliss of the self,
Duly taming the functioning of all the senses, and
Delighting day and night in the joy of brahma,
Fortunate indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

देहादिभावं परिवर्तयन्तः
नान्तं न मध्यं न बहिः स्मरन्तः
कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः ४॥

dehādi-bhāvaṁ parivartayantaḥ
svātmānam ātmany avalokayantaḥ
nāntaṁ na madhyaṁ na bahiḥ smarantaḥ
kaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ [4]

Moving through the states of the body and mind,
Seeing the Self within his own self, and
Remembering neither the inner, nor the intermediate, nor the outer,
Fortunate indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

ब्रह्माक्षरं पावनमुच्चरन्तो
ब्रह्माहमस्मीति विभावयन्तः
भिक्षाशिनो दिक्षु परिभ्रमन्तः
कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः ५॥

brahmākṣaraṁ pāvanam uchcharanto
brahmāham asmīti vibhāvayantaḥ
bhikṣāśino dikṣu paribhramantaḥ
kaupīnavantaḥ khalu bhāgyavantaḥ [5]

Reciting the purifying syllables of Brahma (Om),
Fully perceiving, “I am Brahma”,
Partaking of alms, and roaming throughout the directions,
Fortunate indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth. 


nāyam ātmā bala-hīnena labhyo
na cha pramādāt tapaso vāpy aliṅgāt
etair upāyair yatate yas tu vidvāṁs
tasyaiṣa ātmā viśate brahma-dhāma
(Śrī Muṇḍaka-upaniṣad: 3.2.4)

“This Soul (the Supersoul) is attained neither by a lack of strength, nor by carelessness, nor by improper austerity, but the soul of a wise person who endeavours by these methods enters the abode of spirit (Brahma).” 

15: See Brahmā, Indra, and Virochana

16: Chārvāka is an ancient Indian philosophical school of materialism. It rejects divinity, spirit, revelation, and self-sacrifice and promotes uninhibited selfish enjoyment with total disregard for an afterlife. Its ethos is said to be encapsulated as follows:

yāvād jīvet sukham jīvet ṛṇaṁ kṛtvā ghṛtaṁ pibet
bhasmi-bhūtasya dehasya punar āgamanaṁ kutaḥ

“As long as you live, live happily. Take a loan and drink ghee. How will your cremated body ever return to life?”

In other words: “Eat, drink, and be merry. Only death is certain, and after it nothing remains.” 

17: Here ‘our averse conception’ refers to our mentality of being averse to Kṛṣṇa and His service.