Gold is good. We all want it, or at least a facsimile thereof. A golden age refers to an era of goodness and plenty, acknowledged in Greek, Roman, and Indian cultures. If you have everything, you were born with "a golden spoon in your mouth." The Golden Rule is the epitome of cosmic justice, of fairness: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. As the saying goes, "As good as gold."
In Krishna Consciousness, too, we have a Golden Avatara, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and He is considered the best of divine incarnations. In fact, He is both Radha and Krishna combined, and it doesn't get any better than that. He is both female and male divinity in one, a particularly profound manifestation of the supreme. His golden complexion is emblematic of His intense beauty.
What's more, He brings with Him a snippet of the Golden Age. That is to say, within the darkness of Kali, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy in which we now find ourselves, there is a moment known as Prema-yuga, or the age of love. It is a facsimile of Satya-yuga, a time, millions of years ago, when all beings lived happy and prosperous lives. Mahaprabhu Himself initiated this newer Satya age when He appeared in India, some 500 years ago, and all who partake of His process -- the chanting of the holy name -- can avoid being victimized by the horrors of Kali. Instead, they can bask in the glories Prema.
Prema, or divine love, is itself compared to gold. The Chaitanya-caritamrta (4.164) tells us, "Lust and love have different characteristics, just as iron and gold have different natures." The text elaborates (4.165): "The desire to gratify one's own senses is kama [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krishna is prema [love].
One might compare lust to the misuse of gold. It can be seen as gold's "bad side," as it were. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.17.39), we learn that gold can encourage falsity, intoxication, prostitution, envy and enmity. How can something so pure lead to something so bad?
We might ask the same thing about "love" in the material world. How many countless books and songs have been written about the pains associated with love, about the horrors of being betrayed or deceived, as when one's love goes off with another?
The answer, of course, is that in this world, when love leads to hardship and pain, it is usually not really love at all. It is, rather, lust, or love's grossly materialistic counterpart. As in the Chaitanya-caritamrta verse already mentioned, we can understand the distinction between the two quite simply: when our love is egocentric, focused on our own gratification, it is merely lust -- that is to say, it is iron, not gold. And when it is theocentric, focused on God and a spirit of selflessness, it is true love. Indeed, it is gold.
Even in the material sphere, we can see that when we are selfless and giving in our relationships, they bear sweeter fruit. But still we can be exploited. The highest kind of love, then, is love of God. This is the true gold standard, for it takes us out of the world of exploitation and into the realm of dedication, where true love becomes the very fabric of our being: it is expressed towards God directly, and through Him, to all living entities, who are brothers and sisters under God's fatherhood.
Thus, the Golden Avatara brings with Him a golden process meant to help us distinguish between lust and love, to discern the difference between cheap iron and valuable gold. Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra -- Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare -- one can partake of this golden opportunity.
In fact, it is this chanting process that makes this age truly golden. As the Bhagavatam (12.3.51) says: "My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age. It is that simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the spiritual kingdom."
But chanting, like all other forms of meditation, must be executed in the proper way. The seed of the sacred sound comes through a bona fide preceptor. Thus, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my guru, came to the United States in 1965 and began sharing the goldmine of the holy name by initiating people into Krishna Consciousness. Through this process, he made people shine like molten gold. The Vaishnava text Hari-bhakti-vilasa (2.12) tells us: "As bell metal can be transformed into gold when treated with mercury, a disciple initiated by a bona fide guru immediately attains the position of a brahmana."
In other words, knowledge of Brahman, spiritual truth, descends into the heart of a sincere disciple through hearing from a self-realized spiritual master and committing to the process that he or she offers. This knowledge and commitment sprouts into divine love, making the disciple golden in every way. It is this that the Krishna Consciousness movement seeks to share with the world.
About the author: Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa) is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is also founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and associate editor of Back to Godhead magazine. He has published more than twenty-five books in numerous languages, including Essential Hinduism (Rowman & Littlefield 2008); The Yoga of Kirtan: Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting (FOLK Books, 2008); Krishna’s Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita (Praeger, 2010); The Jedi in the Lotus: Star Wars and the Hindu Tradition (Arktos Media, 2010); and Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions (Praeger, 2011).