Bruce Springsteen famously sang – “Everybody has a Hungry Heart”. It explores the search to fill that inner emptiness most people experience at different times and to different degrees. A few of the lines in the song go: “Everybody needs a place to rest, Everybody wants to have a home, Don’t make no difference what nobody says, Ain’t nobody like to be alone”
In this talk we examine how this inner hunger may manifest and what is its real cause, and how it is driven by a deep and almost unconscious desire to reconnect with our eternal soulmate, to find and experience (in multiple ways) the highest perfection.
Some of the verses I quote are:
Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor. – Bhagavad-gita 10.41
‘One who possesses all these six divine and inconceivable excellences known as “bhaga” to the utmost degree, namely opulence, power, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thus known as Bhagavān.’ – Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.47
Only the purified soul can attain the perfection of associating with the Personality of Godhead in complete bliss and satisfaction in his constitutional state. Whoever is able to renovate such devotional perfection is never again attracted by this material world, and he never returns. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 2.2.31
Formerly, great sages, through the sacrifice of Vedic knowledge and spiritual enlightenment, worshiped Me within themselves, knowing Me to be the Supreme Lord of all sacrifice and the Supreme Soul in everyone’s heart. Thus coming to Me, these sages achieved the supreme perfection. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.19.6
My devotees always see the smiling face of My form, with eyes like the rising morning sun. They like to see My various transcendental forms, which are all benevolent, and they also talk favorably with Me. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 3.25.35
By chance, two birds have made a nest together in the same tree. The two birds are friends and are of a similar nature. One of them, however, is eating the fruits of the tree, whereas the other, who does not eat the fruits, is in a superior position due to His potency.
The bird who does not eat the fruits of the tree is the Supreme Soul, who by His omniscience perfectly understands His own position and that of the conditioned living entity, represented by the eating bird. That living entity, on the other hand, does not understand himself or the Lord. He is covered by ignorance and is thus called eternally conditioned, whereas the Personality of Godhead, being full of perfect knowledge, is eternally liberated. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 11.11.6-7
Upon seeing the charming forms of the Lord, smiling and attractive, and hearing His very pleasing words, the pure devotee almost loses all other consciousness. His senses are freed from all other engagements, and he becomes absorbed in devoted and loving transcendental service. Thus in spite of his unwillingness, he attains liberation without separate endeavor. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 3.25.36
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So tonight the talk is going to be actually somewhat connected to last week’s talk. And what I would like to begin with is a little bit of a story, a short story, and it concerns, or it’s about my initiating spiritual master Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad.
When he first came to America in the late 60s he had taken really an extraordinary voyage. He got free passage on a boat and arrived in America with about six dollars and a couple of trunks, and his first year in America, not knowing anyone, was extremely difficult. And one of the first places that he sort of established was in a very low-class and very seedy neighborhood in New York. The area was called the Bowery because it was on Bowery street. And in those days things were, in that area, very run down, and the street had a lot of derelicts and winos, as they used to call them in those days, on the street, people that just slept on the street and begged money, and with whatever money they got they would generally go and buy cheap wine or other forms of alcohol and drink it until they—and they just endeavored to stay in a state of almost oblivion. And you see it in these days in many developed parts of the world where it’s all drug takers, drug addicts, just living on the street.
So it was it’s a pretty depressing sort of neighborhood, but the price was right I guess, and he moved into a small place there, which some people commented—Allen Ginsburg thought it was rather extraordinary because most of the swamis that had come to America out of India had sort of established themselves in what was called the Upper East Side, there was the classy neighborhood with multi-million dollar apartments, and they saw people in those circles. Whereas Bhaktivedanta Swami, he had moved in to one of the lowest kind of areas. And it was at the onset of the hippie era so there were a lot of young people beginning to gather in some of these areas as well.
So he used to like taking a walk in the morning, because he had suffered two heart attacks on his way out from India on the boat and thought that he might die if a third one was to come; so after that he would always exercise very regularly because he—for him the importance of his work was so great he had to do whatever was within his capabilities to make it so that he had as much time as possible.
So walking one day down the Bowery with one or two new disciples, young guys, they passed a drunk on the street who was just totally out of it, and he had picked up this bottle that he had, and he looked at it. Then he tipped it up, and he peered into the bottle. And Bhaktivedanta asked his new disciple, “Do you know what he is looking for?” and the disciple was kind of like, is this a trick question? Then he said, “He’s looking to see if there is any more wine in the bottle,” and Bhaktivedanta shook his head and said, “No, he is looking for Krishna.” And it was one of the early disciples of Bhaktivedanta that relayed that story to me, and I was totally astonished when I heard it. It was the most extraordinary thing, I mean if I was asked the question, “What is he looking for?” the last thing I probably would have said is, “He’s looking for Krishna.”
Krishna was the name of the personality of Godhead that Bhaktivedanta would most commonly use, and one of the deeper meanings of this name is “the all-attractive,” all attractive, in the highest degree, and to the greatest extent and from so many different possible angles of vision, He is supremely attractive. And it really caused me to ponder what this meant.
The reality is, in this world everybody is suffering from tremendous emptiness. The fact that we are constantly in this state means that we become accustomed to it, but because we come accustomed to it, it doesn’t mean that it in any way lessens the magnitude of this emptiness. And so people are in—I mean it’s not just like the alcoholic in the street looking for shelter in alcohol, looking to remove the unhappiness and the misfortune and the emptiness through an alcoholic haze, or the case of a drug addict, a drug haze. Everybody is actually practically in this condition where we have this hope, we’re hoping to find fulfillment, we’re hoping to find love, we’re hoping to find that thing that will make us feel complete.
I remember when I first went to the Philippines in the early 70s, there was a cigarette brand called Hope, which, it’s just like—and it’s kind of amazing—I was talking with my daughter and my wife about the Philippine election that has just taken place. And people query. “Why are people voting for a particular candidate?” And it’s kind of like with the massive wave that carried Barack Obama into the presidency in the USA, and he was quite forthright in it. One of the big posters he would have was, on the bottom of his picture is the word hope. And I said to my wife and daughter, it’s because the candidate that most is able to sell hope quite often gets elected. Everybody, we’re holding out for this hope.
And of course, as I mentioned it always takes me back to this commercial. They had this really amazing commercial for a cigarette, Hope cigarette, and they had a woman’s voice—I mean it was a beautiful voice. It was like Karen Carpenter. It really sounded like Karen Carpenter. And the lyrics of the ad for the cigarette was, “There’s a kind of hope when you light a Hope. There’s a hope for you and me. At last you’ve found what you’ve been hoping for in Hope the luxury cigarette.” And it’s just like, oh my God, it’s just like so in your face and so blatant; the association of a cancer-causing, highly addictive substance in the form of a cigarette with nicotine, that—
There is a recognition, and this is foundational to advertising, they recognize that everybody feels this emptiness within, and we’re all sort of hoping for something to fill it up. We’re looking and longing for something to fill up that emptiness. And so the lyrics of that jingle is so classic, and it’s so shockingly—it’s just amazing. It worked so well, and it was so popular. And it’s because, politicians, advertisers, anybody that’s selling hope: you know, “At last you’ve found what you’ve been looking for,” one of the lines.
And that’s everything. This is the old, in the 70s, “Coke is it! Coke is it!” was just like—again they’re selling the “it”, that thing that you are looking for. And if advertisers can associate a product or an experience or a service with that hope that we all have, that quest that we’re all on to find that missing thing in our life, then they will really succeed.
And of course, that—then I was just thinking these things in my mind, and it led me to recollect the quite famous song of Bruce Springsteen, Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart. I don’t know how many people will remember that. Probably the older dudes. Younger people don’t. It’s kind of like [mimes lack of connection] but, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” and it’s just like, oh my God! that is such a powerful statement. And part of the of the lyrics in that song, it talks about somebody walking away from their wife and their child, and hitting the road and not going back, and just constantly on a search, and finding people and trying to connect, and then that doesn’t work out, and they just keep moving on. So it was about this the search, this emptiness and this—the hungry heart and looking to find that which will satisfy, assuage, pacify, more than pacify, that which will actually fulfill this emptiness within.
And part of one of the verses of the song is,
“Everybody needs a place to rest.
Everybody wants to have a home.
Don’t make no difference what nobody says.
Ain’t nobody likes to be alone.”
That’s pretty hardcore, and that really says a lot.
And so I’ve kind of framed the talk that I’m going to be doing, or I am doing tonight, within the context of that idea, that everybody’s got a hungry heart. There is this hunger. I mean one of the greatest hungers that people have, and it’s an obvious one, is for love, to find someone to love and to be loved by. But it’s more than to be just a little bit loved. People want that thing that’s going to last forever, “and they lived happily ever after.” That’s what people desire. This is not a light thing, even though we may make some jokes about it. This is a really serious subject matter. And if we were to be very realistic in our own personal life, with this inner craving, this desire to find that which will complete us, that will fill us up, if we were to pursue that intelligently, it will always eventually lead to a spiritual pursuit, because that emptiness, that hunger, that hungry heart, it is actually a spiritual emptiness.
A person can be surrounded by luxury; they can be mega-millionaires, billionaires; they can have everything, and yet still be haunted, absolutely haunted and plagued by the fact that in spite of all the flashing objects around I have this emptiness within. And in many ways that experience can be even more tragic for a person who has fame, who has wealth, who has achieved many of the things that we aspire for thinking that that will somehow fulfill us, because you get to that position where you have everything and none of it is doing anything for you.
I used to have a—there was a period in my life, in my attempts to support my family, but also to generate money for the programs that we run to reach people, I became partnered with the biggest jeweler in the world. I used to decorate palaces, and we developed a process of doing semi-precious stone mosaic, and so we used to decorate palaces. So I got—I had access to this very elite part of society where people are unimaginably wealthy, multi-million dollar yachts, private jets, massive mansions and palaces, not just one or two, dozens. And in traveling with him, meeting kings and queens, and royalty, and fabulously wealthy people, I got to see things that were just like a practical—it was like a living demonstration of the lessons I had learned from Vedic teachings when I had read and heard of so many amazing stories about people and their quest for fulfillment, for spiritual fulfillment. And here I’m seeing on a practical level.
And so I’m very fortunate in that I have lived the life of a monk, walking from place to place, living by begging when I lived in India first, and now all the way to the elite group of people in the world that live this way. And you get to see the practical realities of these things, and how everybody regardless of what material facility they have are all doing the same thing. Everyone has a hungry heart, and everybody’s looking for fulfillment.
People become attracted by beauty. One of the characteristics of the personality of Godhead is His extreme and awesome transcendental beauty. We have this attraction for beauty, whether it’s youthful beauty in a human form, whether it’s nature, a sunset, a beautifully cut diamond, an 18 or 20 carat diamond that’s just stunningly beautiful, or incredible sculptors, or paintings. That search for beauty—and then what happens is that the people that have money, they have this idea, everybody has this idea: if I see something really beautiful I feel the need to possess it, and so I try to buy it or acquire it. And I will pay hundreds, sometimes of millions of dollars for paintings or things of great beauty somehow wanting or hoping that this will fill up the emptiness.
People are searching for perfection in so many different ways. Some people see enormous beauty and perfection in mathematics, and of course, only a mathematician would agree with that. Everybody else is kind of like scratching their head, “What!? One plus one??” But it’s an area that’s very profound. People look for perfection in design, whether it’s industrial design, a vehicle, whether it’s a house or an architectural structure. People search for perfection in the field of athletics, in the bodily form and their execution of a particular field of endeavor, whether it’s the pole vault or the high jump or sprinting, the way the body moves, the execution of it. People look to enjoy and they seek perfection even in these things. In photographic or art composition people look for perfection in the way things are composed. You see some of the analysis that people do on the old masters and their use of the golden ratio and how the division of this golden ratio brought about extraordinary balance and beauty and perfection. People also look for perfection in relationships. And of course, that one never works out very well. And amongst the yogis, they sought a different type of perfection. The word in Sanskrit for perfection is siddhi, and they would seek these mystical siddhis, these perfections, asta siddhi, and acquire this power to control material nature in so many ways.
But this search for perfection in all these different fields that we’ve spoken of is a symptom of this hungry heart. And even if a person achieves what it is that they are seeking, or they think they achieve it, they rise to the highest perfection that can be attained, they experience that even this is still lacking, and it’s so temporary, particularly in athletic endeavors; or beautiful models who then begin to age, and nature takes over and begins to transform. And I try so hard and I spend money on trying to re-engineer the body to acquire this perfection or beauty. People seek this idea of permanent shelter where I am absolutely secure and protected.
There’s a subject that I will talk about at some time in some detail, and it’s pornography. And what is it that drives people in the realm of consuming pornography? It’s just like the wino looking in the bottle who superficially wants to see if there’s any more wine, but as my spiritual master said they are looking for Krishna. They’re looking for that perfect shelter. They’re looking for that perfect love. They want the embrace of this perfection of everything, where I have come to the position of not wanting anything else. People that view pornography, it’s kind of like nobody can look at one thing and then that’s it. It’s always kind of like on to the next thing.
It’s like gambling where people bet. I was watching a documentary last night on these big, what did they call them, the? Huh? Yeah at casinos, the big players who—they show up, and they’ll spend, over a weekend, anything from 200,000 dollars up to a million dollars gambling in a casino. And it’s kind of like, so what’s driving the gambler? And it’s always maybe the next one. Just one more. Maybe the next one. And what is it that you’re looking for? It’s not just to win, because once you win it’s not like, “Okay that’s it. I’ve achieved my goal.”
Everybody’s looking for something more, and they’re seeking through these different means to fill up that empty space.
One of the things that we learned from last week’s talk was that the individual soul has, and is bound by, a bond of eternal kinship with the Supreme Soul, and this is part of our eternal spiritual condition, to be fully immersed in this most perfect bond of intimacy of love and friendship with that person that is infinitely lovable. And until we reach that state we will always have a hungry heart, and we will be always looking and trying to utilize different things to fill up that emptiness, that search for the all-attractive—Krishna.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna mentions in one verse in the 10th chapter, “Know,” He is speaking to Arjuna,
“Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.”
That’s quite a stunning thing to consider, that the most beautiful, the most majestic, the most opulent, the most wonderful things that one can experience within this world are coming from but a spark of My splendor, says Krishna. And so the aspiring transcendentalist, in observing this world and things of this world, being guided by these instructions from sastra, from these Vedic texts, is able to draw upon this knowledge to give them a perspective. And they realize and understand that even the most beautiful, the most glorious, the most wonderful things that one can experience in one way or another, are a glimmer of a higher and more wonderful transcendental reality. And it is only when one experiences that full realization, that full state of self and God-realization, that one’s hungry heart will no longer be hungry. It will be completely, not just pacified, but ecstatically happy.
There is a name that is given in the Vedas to the personality of Godhead. That name is Bhagavan, and it’s a very interesting term. There have been some so-called teachers that have used the name in recent years or decades, but they’re taking and using this word does not—it actually demeans the deeper meaning of the word. I mean one of the characteristics of a person who would be described as Bhagavan is that they would manifest limitless beauty, limitless beauty.
So the compiler of the Vedas, his name was Srila Vyasadeva, and 5000 years ago he took all of the Vedic teachings which were handed down in an oral tradition, and knowing that in this period of time known as Kali Yuga, that people’s memories are so bad that they would not be able to retain all this information, and so he undertook this monumental and heroic effort to commit all of these teachings to writing for the first time. He was—so he is a very great and extraordinary spiritual personality. He was considered a literary incarnation of God. His father, his name was Parasara Muni, who was an extraordinary transcendentalist, a great scholar, a great thinker, he was a great propounder also of Jyotish, the Ayurvedic Astrology. He wrote an extensive treatise on it. But he, in in the Visnu Purana, he laid out the meaning of this word Bhagavan, and the translation is:
“One who possesses all these six divine and inconceivable excellences known as “bhaga” to the utmost degree, namely opulence (or wealth), power, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thus known as Bhagavan.”
So when you add van to the end of a name or a term it means one who possesses. And so Bhagavan means one who possesses these great opulences to the greatest degree.
The transcendentalists know the secret of how to satisfy the hungry heart. They know that what it is that everybody is looking for in different ways and different means is they are feeling an urging from within. This lack of completeness arises from my having turned away from my eternal soul mate. And while I have turned away I can never experience fulfillment, but once I turn again to the Lord of my heart and become reunited with Him I can become utterly fulfilled and satisfied utterly, and be experiencing the highest forms of transcendental blissfulness, and this is considered perfection. The perfection of human life is to find an end to this journey, this searching, where I actually find what it is that I’ve been looking for in so many different places and in so many different ways.
So from the Bhagavata Purana there is a verse that states
“Only the purified soul can attain the perfection of associating with the Personality of Godhead in complete bliss and satisfaction in his constitutional state. [So this is the constitutional state of the soul itself is to be reconnected] Whoever is able to renovate such devotional perfection is never again attracted by this material world, and he never returns.”
So it’s kind of interesting, the English word “renovate” here, which means to make, kind of like make usable again, make whole again, to rebuild to its original state. The material condition is not the original state or condition of the soul itself, and if one can renovate this, what’s described as a devotional perfection, that experience, it makes so a person is so utterly fulfilled that they never again are attracted by this material world.
In another verse from the Bhagavata Purana
“Formerly, great sages, through the sacrifice of Vedic knowledge and spiritual enlightenment, worshiped Me within themselves, knowing Me to be the Supreme Lord of all sacrifice and the Supreme Soul in everyone’s heart. Thus coming to Me, these sages achieved the supreme perfection.”
So the reason that I’m just referencing these verses is just a confirmation that this is the perfection that we’ve been seeking. At last, you’ve found what you’ve been looking for, or hoping for, and it’s not a luxury cigarette. It is the supremely lovable Personality of Godhead.
And in another verse:
“My devotees always see the smiling face of My form, with eyes like the rising morning sun. They like to see My various transcendental forms, which are all benevolent, and they also talk favorably with Me.”
These are the verses that confirm this state, this condition of spiritual attainment where perfection is to be found. I don’t know if you recall last week, I read two verses where the example was given in both the Puranas and the Upanisads, the example of two birds within the same tree, and I’ll re-read one of those verses. (No I won’t. I will reference them, and I’ll put it on the site. I don’t—I realized I didn’t have it with me, but it spoke of the birds. I’ll just locate it for you. So I’ve located it.) The two verses were:
“By chance, two birds have made a nest together in the same tree [referencing, of course, the body as being a tree]. The two birds are friends and are of a similar nature. One of them, however, is eating the fruits of the tree, whereas the other, who does not eat the fruits, is in a superior position due to His potency.”
So the eating of the fruits is the attempt by the individual soul to utilize the body to try and enjoy this world and to enjoy the different experiences of the senses. Reading on:
“The bird who does not eat the fruits of the tree is the Supreme Soul, who by His omniscience perfectly understands His own position and that of the conditioned living entity, represented by the eating bird. That living entity, on the other hand, does not understand himself or the Lord. He is covered by ignorance and is thus called eternally conditioned, whereas the Personality of Godhead, being full of perfect knowledge, is eternally liberated.”
So last week the subject being One with God – Different from God, the example of these two birds in the same tree, while they appear to be similar, actually have vastly different characteristics. One of them is omnipotent and the other one is limited, extremely limited. One is in full knowledge of themself and of the living being and everything, whereas the other one, the other bird, is lost to themself and is oblivious to their dearest friend who is there alongside them.
So for the yogis who came to the perfection of their meditation and spiritual practice, who became fully God-realized, it is not possible to describe how unlimitedly satisfying and fulfilling and ecstatically wonderful that experience was. But there is a verse from the Bhagavata Purana that describes that experience, or at least part of that experience of the transcendentalist:
“Upon seeing the charming forms of the Lord, smiling and attractive, and hearing His very pleasing words, the pure devotee almost loses all other consciousness. His senses are freed from all other engagements, and he becomes absorbed in devoted and loving transcendental service. Thus in spite of his unwillingness, he attains liberation without separate endeavor.”
So that last part might be a little bit—it was taken from a discussion about how the topmost transcendentalists do not even seek—I mean, they have become so selfless that they do not even seek liberation from the suffering material condition. They seek to simply become pleasing to their dear most friend and the Lord of their heart and become so utterly absorbed in that transcendental and loving service that they seek nothing else. And as stated here, “and in spite of his unwillingness, he attains liberation without separate endeavor.” So even though one was not willing to endeavor and to try even for any form of salvation or liberation that becomes automatically awarded.
So this is a rather lofty subject but I hope that you’ve enjoyed this discussion because it is truly transcendentally awesome. We all have this hungry heart, and this is the spiritual nutrition that our hungry heart seeks. And of course, the easiest and most effective way of attaining this goal is through this process of the chanting of these transcendental sounds, and so I will invite you to join with me. I’ll sing the mantra Aum Hari Aum. This name Hari means the Lord who relieves all the distress and the burden of the distress of those who are devoted to Him. it’s a very wonderful feature of the personality of Godhead to meditate upon.
Thank you very much.