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How to see God

by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


Sometimes people say that they want to see God, but that God is not perceivable to them. But the real question is: do we have the proper eyes to see God? Are we qualified to see the Supreme Lord?

As it is said in the Padma Purana: "One cannot understand the form, name, quality, or paraphernalia of God with one’s material senses." Our senses are imperfect, so how can we see the Supreme Person? It is not possible.

Then how is it possible to see Him? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: If we train our senses, if we purify our senses, those purified senses will help us see God. It is just as if we had cataracts on our eyes. Because our eyes are suffering from cataracts, we cannot see. But this does not mean that there is nothing to be seen—only that we cannot see. Similarly, now we cannot conceive of the form of God, but if our cataracts are removed, we can see Him.

The Brahma-samhita says: premanjana-churita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hridayeshu vilokayanti: [Bs. 5.38] "The devotees whose eyes are anointed with the love-of-God ointment see God, Krishna, within their hearts twenty-four hours a day.” So, we require to purify our senses. Then we’ll be able to understand what the form of God is, what the name of God is, what the qualities of God are, what the abode of God is, and what the paraphernalia of God are, and we’ll be able to see God in everything.

We cannot understand God by our own endeavor, but God can reveal Himself to us. Trying to see God by our own efforts is just like trying to see the sun when it is dark outside. If we say, “Oh, I have a very strong flashlight, and I shall search out the sun,” we will not be able to see it. But in the morning, when the sun rises out of its own will, we can see it. Similarly, we cannot see God by our own endeavor, because our senses are all imperfect. We have to purify our senses and wait for the time when God will be pleased to reveal Himself before us. This is the process of Krishna consciousness. We cannot challenge, “Oh, my dear God, my dear Krishna, You must come before me. I shall see You.” No, God is not our order-supplier, our servant. When He is pleased with us, we’ll see Him.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad (4.20) explains “The Lord's form of beauty is imperceptible to mundane senses. No one can see Him with material eyes. Only those who realize, through deep pure-hearted meditation, this Supreme Personality, who resides in everyone’s heart, can attain liberation.”

"No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krishna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234)1.2.234]

"Krishna isn't perceivable by our blunt material senses." The word namadi means "beginning with His name." With our material senses we cannot understand Krishna's names or His form or His qualities or His paraphernalia or His activities. It is not possible.

Then how are they to be understood? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: "When we render transcendental loving service to the Lord with our senses, beginning with the tongue, the Lord gradually reveals Himself."

Eyes To See God

An excerpt from
"On the way to Krishna"
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Sri Krishna says: "You cannot see Me without your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes, so that you can behold My mystic opulence" (Bhagavad-Gita 11.8)

How can we get the eyes to see God? How can we become God conscious, Krishna conscious, in every step of our life? Actually, Krishna makes it very easy for us: “O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability to man” (B.G. 7.8)

In this verse Sri Krishna is describing how we can become Krishna conscious fully, in all stages of our lives. For instance, all living entities must drink water. The taste of water is so nice that when we are thirsty, nothing but water seems to do. No manufacturer can create the pure taste of water. We can thus remember Krishna when we drink water. No one can avioid drinking water every day in his life, so God conscious is there-how can we forget?

There are nine different processes for associating with God, and the first method of association is sravanam - hearing. By reading Bhagavad-Gita we hear the speeches of Sri Krishna, which means that we are actually associating with God. (We should always remember that when we speak of Krishna, we refer to God.) Inasmuch as we associate with God, and as we go on hearing the words of Krishna and His names, the contamination of material nature is reduced. If we understand that Krishna is sound, illumination, water, and so many other things, we cannot avoid Him. If we can remember Krishna in this way, our association with Him is permanent.

Association with Krishna is like association with sunshine. Where there is sunshine, there is no contamination. As long as one is out in the ultraviolet rays of the sun, he will not be diseased. Western medicine recommends sunshine for all kinds of diseases, and the Vedas say a diseased man should worship the sun to be cured. Similarly, if we associate with Krishna - and we can see Krishna in the sun and the moon, and we can hear Krishna in sound and taste Him in water.

It is especially useless to speculate about God. Therefore Shrimad-Bhagavatam recommends that one give up all sorts of speculation. Instead, one should become submissive, realizing not only that he is an insignificant creature, but also that this earth is only one small point in a great universe. New York City may seem very large, but when one realizes that the earth is such a small spot, and that on the earth the United States is another small spot, and that in the USA, New York is but a small spot, and that in New York the individual is only one out of millions, then one can understand that he is not so very important after all. Realizing our significance in the face of the universe and God, we should not be artificially puffed up but should be submissive.

We should be very careful not to fall prey to frog philosophy. Once there was a frog in a well, and upon hearing of the Atlantic Ocean from a friend, he asked,

“Oh what is this Atlantic Ocean?”
“it is a vast body of water,” his friend replied.
“How vast? Is it double the size of this well?”
“Oh no-much larger.”
“How much larger? Ten times the size?”

In this way the frog went on calculating. But how could he ever understand the depths and far reaches of the great ocean? Our faculties, experience, and powers of speculation are always limited. We can give rise only to such frog philosophy.

After giving up speculation, what should we do? Bhagavatam recommends that we become humble and hear God’s message submissively. We may hear His message also from the Bhagavad-Gita and other vedic literatures. The only qualification is that we receive the transcendental message from a realized soul-a pure devotee of God.

In the 17th Chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna gives additional ways to perceive Him in every step of life: “I am the heat of the fire. I am the life of all the lives, and I am the penaces of all ascetics” (B.G. 7.9).

Only Krishna can create flowers and fragrances. We may synthetically create some scents or fragrances but these are not as good as the originals that occur in nature. When we smell a good natural fragrance, we can think “Oh, here is God, here is Krishna.” Or when we see natural beauty we can think, “Oh here is Krishna.” Or when we see any form of life, whether it be in a plant or animal, or in a part and parcel of Krishna, for as soon as the spiritual spark, which is a part of Krishna, is taken away from the body, the body disintegrates. “O son of Prtha, know that I am the original seed of all existence, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men” (B.G 7.10).

Here again it is obvious that Krishna is the life of all that lives. Thus at every step we can see God. People may ask, “Can you show me God?” Yes, of course. We can see God in so many different ways. But if one closes his eyes and says, “I shall not see God” then how can he be shown?

The easiest way to see God is to chant Hare Krishna always. Never mind whether you are in a factory or in a hell, in a shack or in a skyscraper - it doesn’t matter. Just go on chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. There is no expense, there is no impediment, there is no caste, there is no creed, there is no color-anyone can do it. Just chant and hear. Then, by Krishna’s grace, you will always have the eyes to see Him everywhere and always.

This is a continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.

Reporter 3: Your Divine Grace, you're saying we can see the Lord only by consulting the scriptures and the succession of bonafide spiritual masters. But supposedly, Lord Krsna is eternal, or indestructible. So surely He must be existing today. Which means we should be able to see Him now.

HDG A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami
: Yes, Krsna is existing. For instance, the sun is existing, but at night you have no eyes to see the sun. That does not mean the sun does not exist. It is your deficiency -- at night you cannot see the sun... although the sun is always existing, you require qualification to see the sun at night. Similarly, although Krsna always exists, you must be qualified to see Him in the night of this material world. That qualification is described in the Brahma-samhita:

santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

"I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Syamasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee." - Sri Brahma Samhita Chapter 5, "Hymn to the Absolute," Mantra 38.

Those who are saintly persons and in ecstatic love with Krsna -- they are seeing Him twenty-four hours a day. That is not very difficult to understand. If you love somebody, you are seeing him or her always. Is it not?

Reporter 3
: That's so.

HDG A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami: So seeing Krsna requires the qualification of love. Then Krsna will be visible twenty-four hours a day. He'll talk with you. These things are described.

tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te

"To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." -Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 10 “The Oppulence of the Absolute’, Text 10.
That means He talks. "I give intelligence." Unless He talks, how can He give intelligence -- "You do this"? So you have to qualify yourself to see and hear Krsna. But Krsna is always present.


How to know Krishna

Krishna's lila or His pastimes are eternally going on in the spiritual world, whereas they appear to be happening only at certain points in time within the material energy. However, one who has purified his or her consciousness can still witness these activities even while in the material body. This can especially happen at the holy places (dhamas) where the spiritual and material energies overlap, and where the spiritual world appears with this material domain. Such places include Vrindavana, Mathura, Jagannatha Puri, Dwaraka, etc. And when the Lord is pleased with your service, He can reveal Himself to you. In this way, many greatly elevated and pure devotees of Krishna have been able to have personal darshan of the Lord and witness His pastimes even while in the material body. Then they may leave instructions for the rest of us to follow so that we can do the same. This is verification that the process of devotion, bhakti-yoga, works.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.29) continues with this point. “My Lord, if one is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet, one can understand the greatness of Your Personality. But those who speculate to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years.”

The Katha Upanishad (1.2.23) also relates “The Supreme Soul can neither be attained by studying the Veda, nor by sharp intelligence, nor by hearing many discourses on the scriptures. However, the Lord reveals His original transcendental form to the soul who embraces Him within the heart as the only Lord and Master. That soul alone can attain Him--the Supreme Soul, the Personality of Godhead, the Lord of the heart.”

Since Krishna is the Supreme Being and source of all enjoyment, it is in our best interest to engage in His service, for that will also connect us to Him and give us that great pleasure and bliss that we are always trying to find. That is the point of devotional service, called bhakti-yoga, which is the process of connecting (yog) with the Supreme through devotion (bhakti). In this way, our inherent loving propensity is directed toward the supreme lover and natural object of love, God. There is no better way of finding God than this. In other words, through devotion we do not try to see God, but we act in such a way that God reveals Himself to us. Then everything is accomplished. There can be no greater achievement in the human form of life than that. Everything else is temporary; it comes and goes. Only our spiritual achievements last eternally because they are connected with the immortal soul. Therefore, reawakening our relationship with the Supreme is the highest goal in human existence.

Since it is established in the Vedic texts that the Absolute is a person, then meditating on the personal form of God rather than the impersonal feature is the highest form of meditation. This is verified in Bhagavad-gita (12.2): “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshipping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be the most perfect.’”

Herein, we can understand that realizing the Absolute Truth in the form of the Supreme Person is much easier and much more attractive than struggling to realize, meditate on, or merge into the great white light of the impersonal brahmajyoti, or some other non-personal aspect of God. By understanding the Supreme Personality, all other facets of the Absolute, such as the Brahman effulgence and Paramatma or Supersoul, are also understood. In fact, those who are absorbed in Brahman realization can easily become attracted to understanding the Supreme Personality as did such sages as Sukadeva Gosvami and the Kumaras, as noted in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the son of Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Gosvami. It is he who defeats all inauspicious things within this universe. Although in the beginning he was absorbed in the happiness of Brahman realization and was living in a secluded place, giving up all other types of consciousness, he became attracted by the most melodious pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna. He therefore mercifully spoke the supreme Purana, known as Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the bright light of the Absolute Truth and which describes the activities of Lord Krishna.” (Bhag.12.12.68)

Since Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality, then naturally there are certain ways in which to understand Him. This is a science, which we can more deeply explain later. But for now we can offer a summary of the instructions that point the way. The main point of consideration is that if we are trying to understand Lord Krishna, then we need to know what pleases Him, which is something that we can find from His direct instructions.

The key is explained directly by Lord Sri Krishna Himself when he says: “Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully. All of Me, namely My actual eternal form and My transcendental existence, color, qualities and activities--let all be awakened within you by factual realization, out of My causeless mercy.” (Bhag.2.9.31-32)

To start on this process, one needs to hear from one who knows and is acquainted with the qualities of Lord Krishna and can explain them to others. This is established in this famous verse:

yasya deve para bhaktir / yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthaha / prakashante mahatmanaha

“Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.23)

Lord Krishna also says, however, that “I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.” (Bg.9.25)

Lord Brahma concurs with this point and verifies the need for the performance of devotional service, in which he says to Lord Krishna, “My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.” (Bhag. 10.14.4)

As Lord Krishna establishes the foundation for attaining the means to understand Him, He also explains how to begin the process. “Only by practicing unalloyed devotional service with full faith in Me can one obtain Me, the Supreme Person. I am naturally dear to My devotees, who take Me as the only goal of their loving service. By engaging in such pure devotional service, even the dog-eaters can purify themselves from the contamination of their low birth.” (Bhag.11.14.21)

In his summary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Suta Gosvami also explains the above point: “Remembrance of Lord Krishna’s lotus feet destroys everything inauspicious and awards the greatest good fortune. It purifies the heart and bestows devotion for the Supreme Soul, along with knowledge enriched with realization and renunciation.” (Bhag.12.12.55)

Lord Krishna continues His instructions to Arjuna: “My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.” (Bg.11.54)

“The person who is searching after the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, must certainly search for it up to this, in all circumstances, in all space and time, and both directly and indirectly. O Brahma, just follow this conclusion by fixed concentration of mind, and no pride will disturb you, neither in the partial nor in the final devastation.” (Bhag.2.9.36-37)

Herein it is as if Lord Krishna is speaking directly to us, that if we follow through with this process, we will be successful even at the time of death, which is certainly the final test of life in whatever we may have done.

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Bg.12.6-7)

“All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.” (Bg.9.27-28)

“By regularly hearing, chanting and meditating on the beautiful topics of Lord Mukunda with ever-increasing sincerity, a mortal being will attain the divine kingdom of the Lord, where the inviolable power of death holds no sway. For this purpose, many persons, including great kings, abandoned their mundane homes and took to the forest [for performing spiritual pursuits].” (Bhag.10.90.50)

Here it becomes clear that, as it is further described, for those who hear and chant the holy name and topics of Krishna, millions of grievous sinful reactions become immediately burned to ashes. Of course, the most important time for remembering the Lord and chanting His name is at the time of death. That is why it is said that those who chant “Krishna, Krishna” at the time the body expires become eligible for liberation.

The GopalaTapani Upanishad (1.6) states, “One who meditates on this Supreme Person, glorifies Him, and worships Him, becomes liberated. He becomes liberated.”

In conclusion, Lord Krishna simply explains that, “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do. Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit. Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bg.18.63-66)


Failing to have enough faith in Lord Krishna, or in getting to know Him, is not quite the same as you might find in some other faiths or religions wherein they say you will go to eternal hell if you are a non-believer, or you are an infidel worthy of death, or whatever. But failing to investigate Him and realize what is our final destination is considered a waste of this particular life. Lord Krishna Himself explains:

“One may be well versed in all the transcendental literature of the Vedas, but if he fails to be acquainted with the Supreme, then it must be concluded that all of his education is like the burden of a beast or like one’s keeping a cow without milking capacity.” (Bhag.11.11.18)

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Bg.9.25)

In this way we can begin to see the futility of following some materialistic path or a secondary spiritual method without the process for reaching an understanding of Lord Krishna. “Among all the eternal, conscious beings, there is One who supplies the needs of everyone else. The wise who worship Him in His abode attain everlasting peace. Others cannot.” (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13)

In this way, a person is allowed to proceed through life in the way he or she wants. Lord Krishna allows each person to develop in their own way, and to continue wandering throughout the universe and through various activities until they begin to wonder about the purpose of life, or become ready for a deep spiritual path. Materialistic activities are not the way to find everlasting peace, and most of us need to discover that for ourselves. However, a person cannot be helped until he or she is ready. So, until then, they may be offered the spiritual knowledge they need, but they must decide for themselves how much of it they wish to utilize. Just as when Sri Krishna spoke the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, at the end of it He asked Arjuna what he wished to do. He had to make up his own mind. He was not forced to do anything. In the same way, we can only offer this knowledge for the benefit of humanity, and they can decide what they wish to do, or how long they wish to continue their existence in the material worlds.

“They are truly ignorant who, while imprisoned within the ceaseless flow of this world’s material qualities, fail to know You, the Supreme Soul of all that be, as their ultimate, sublime destination. Because of their ignorance, the entanglement of material work forces such souls to wander in the cycle of birth and death.” (Bhag.10.85.15)

Therefore, regardless of what else we do, we should recognize how advantageous it is to add the process of engaging in devotional service to Lord Krishna in this lifetime. We may not even be able to become perfect at it, but it nonetheless accelerates our spiritual development. Otherwise, regardless of what else we have accomplished materially, our life remains incomplete. “Caught in the grip of ignorance, self-proclaimed experts consider themselves learned authorities. They wander about this world befooled, like the blind leading the blind.” (Katha Upanishad 1.2.5)

It is only through this spiritual education that we can understand our real identity and transcendental nature beyond the body and all material activities. Without that, we remain ignorant of our true potential and the final shelter that is awaiting us in the spiritual domain.


Then Srila Prabhupada said, 'Yes, I can see God.'

One of the things that struck me the most about Srila Prabhupada when he visited the Mexico City temple for the first time, and the first time I saw him personally and got initiated by him, in June 1972, was during the engagement at the University (UNAM) of Mexico City. You can imagine the setting; at this time there is a lot of convulsion and desire for change in the entire Status Quo from the youth in Mexico. Recently, back in 1968, the government had repressed the students sending the army and killing many students. So, many were skeptics, communists or leftists, rebellious, and of course, many seekers, so before this audience Srila Prabhupada spoke. At the end of the lecture there were questions and answers; one student asked: "Do you see God?", then, there was an absolute silence, everybody was expectant of the answer. You may know many philosophers and great personalities in history, but you cannot imagine of asking someone can you see God?

Do you imagine asking Plato, Socrates, Lenin, Marx or anyone whether they can see God? I don't know of anyone been asked this question with absolute seriousness. So everybody present, students, professors and devotees alike were concentrated in only one thing, Srila Prabhupada's answer. Then, with paused voice and that security and certainity of his, Srila Prabhupada answered: "If I say yes, would you believe it?". The student answered, "Yes." Then Srila Prabhupada said, "Yes, I can see God." He paused -- who else could say "Yes, I can see God"? -- then he added, "And you can see Him too," he quoted, "Premanjana churita bhakti vilocanena..." from Brahma-samhita, and explained on basis of this verse that for one who develops love of Godhead by practicing devotional service, his eyes anointed with the salve of love can see the Supreme Lord. Everybody was very happy with the answer. In the presence of Srila Prabhupada you knew that was truth, there was no doubt, and that was the impact to all the audience. There were even applauses.

Just to be in the presence of the pure devotee all sins fly away, that is the statement of Srila Bhaktivinode, and we all practically lived it.

Nandanandana das


- On the way to Krishna -
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada