Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj discusses his appreciation for Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, and Kṛṣṇa’s grant of freedom.
When I joined Śrī Chaitanya Sāraswat Maṭh I was given one year to spend full-time for reading. I was first impressed with Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā. That is my first book in missionary life. Before that I read so many material books, but after I joined the Maṭh the first book of knowledge that came to me was Bhagavad-gītā, and my teacher was Śrīla Swāmī Mahārāj Prabhupād. When I was with Śrīla Guru Mahārāj he would teach me—Guru Mahārāj was always teaching me something, his nature was like that, to discuss something with someone—and when I was in Kolkata Prabhupād would teach me.
The first impression that came to me about Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā was that such a clean and clear conception, as is presented there, is not given anywhere else. Kṛṣṇa Himself fearlessly, in a very determined and simple way, gives all His teachings in Gītā. No one has said, “I am God”, but without hesitation Kṛṣṇa says, “I am God. You are my friend; I am God. You do not know; I know. Everything that I know you cannot know, because you have a human brain and I am always infallible. Nāsato vidyate bhāvo, nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ (Bg 2.16), I am not entering into anything and not coming out from anything. I am in My own position.” I have not seen this type of clean and clear conception anywhere else.
If anyone will read Bhagavad-gītā the first impression they will get is how Kṛṣṇa fearlessly, openly, and without hesitation has told everything: “I am.” It is very difficult to find this type of mentality anywhere else. Then you must believe it. If you do not believe it that is another matter. But you must believe it, and Kṛṣṇa knows you must believe. But Kṛṣṇa is always in a neutral position, and always talking on a neutral platform.
Finally Kṛṣṇa also says, “I have given you freedom, and I will not take back your freedom. When I have once given it I will not take it back.” Bhīṣmadev’s conception is like that. Bhīṣmadev kept five arrows, and promised, “With these five arrows I shall kill the five Pāṇḍavas tomorrow.”
Kṛṣṇa wanted to steal these arrows, so He asked Yudhiṣṭhir, “Go and say to Bhīṣmadev, ‘Before the battle began I went to you and you gave me your boon, ‘Vijayi bhava, you be victorious’. You take back your boon. You gave a benediction that I will get victory, but now I am asking you to take back your benediction.’” Yudhiṣṭhir did this, and Bhīṣma asked, “Why?” Yudhiṣṭhir said, “Because if you will not die, how will we get victory? And no one can kill you, so it is not possible that I shall get victory. If you will not die, victory will not come to me, and no one can kill you, so victory will not come. Then why did you give that benediction? You should take it back.”
Bhīṣmadev said, “Who has said this, Kṛṣṇa? Kṛṣṇa is very clever. Anyhow, what I have once given I cannot take back. I will give you some clue about my death.” Then he said, “I shall not fight with a woman or anyone who was a woman in a previous life.” Yudhiṣṭhir considered whether Draupadī needed to come on the battlefield or not; Draupadī knew how to fight. Then he asked Bhīṣmadev, “Do you want to bring Draupadī on the battlefield?” Bhīṣma smiled and said, “You are foolish, go back to Kṛṣṇa, He will tell you everything. You cannot understand, you are foolish. I shall not say anything more. Kṛṣṇa sent you, so go back to Kṛṣṇa.”
Then Kṛṣṇa said, “Yes, what Pitāmaha, Grandfather Bhīṣma, has said is true: Śikhaṇḍī was a woman in his previous life, and this life she received a man’s body, after changing bodies with a demigod. Bhīṣma will not fight with Śikhaṇḍī, so make him your senāpati, your general, today. He will be the general today and Arjuna will protect him. He can kill Pitāmaha. Pitāmaha cannot kill Śikhaṇḍī because he will not shoot him, but Śikhaṇḍī can shoot Pitāmaha.” This is the policy Kṛṣṇa gave.
When once given, it will not be taken back: Kṛṣṇa’s nature is like that. Kṛṣṇa has given freedom to all jīva-souls and will not take it back. You can question, why has Kṛṣṇa given this freedom? Kṛṣṇa knows everything, so why has He given us freedom? The main reason that Kṛṣṇa has given freedom is so that you can make very nice food for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment. Kṛṣṇa has given a tongue, and the tongue can taste. The tongue can taste sweet, sour, chili, or bitter; you can taste everything through your tongue. The tongue has that capacity. This is the tongue’s freedom, and with that freedom you can taste so much opulent prasādam. Similarly, with your freedom you have the choice to make so many free services. You can choose so many services freely. Kṛṣṇa has given that freedom to you.
You want to enjoy with your freedom, and that is foolishness: you cannot enjoy, because you are not the Enjoyer. Enjoyment will come to you in the other way, by offering enjoyment to Kṛṣṇa. Use your freedom properly, and you will have no difficulty.
Spoken August 1999 in Italy, during His Divine Grace’s 14th World Tour