I am sharing below the transcript of a lecture by Srila Prabhupada where he mentions how anyone can see God! He reveals that we have Television in our heart!
Sila Prabhupada: So we are worshiping Govindam, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original person. So this sound, govindam adi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi, is reaching Him. He is hearing. You cannot say that He is not hearing. Can you say? No. Especially in this scientific age, when television, radio messages are broadcast thousands and thousands of miles away, and you can hear…. Why Kṛṣṇa cannot hear your prayer, sincere prayer? How can you say? Nobody can deny it.
So, premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (Bs. 5.38). Just like thousands and thousands miles away you can transfer the television picture or your radio sound, similarly, if you can prepare yourself, then you can see always Govinda. It is not difficult. This is stated in Brahma-saṁhitā, premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena. Simply you have to prepare your eyes, your mind in that way. Here is a television box within your heart. This is the perfection of yoga. It is not you have to purchase one machine or television set. It is there, and God is also there. You can see, you can hear, you can talk, provided you have got the machine. You repair it, that’s all. The repairing process is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Otherwise, everything is supplied, complete, complete set of machine you have got within you.
And just like for repairing, an expert mechanic required, similarly, you require the help of someone expert. Then you’ll see that your machine is working. It is not difficult to understand. Nobody can say that it is not possible. In the śāstra we hear also. Sādhu śāstra, guru vākya, tinete kariya aikya.
Spiritual realization can be perfected by three parallel process. Sādhu. Sādhu means saintly persons, who are realized souls, sādhu. And śāstra. Śāstra means scriptures, authoritative scriptures, Vedic scriptures, śāstra. Sādhu, śāstra and guru, a spiritual master. Three parallel lines. And if you place your car or vehicle on these three parallel lines, your car will go direct to Kṛṣṇa.
Please read it 2-3 times and we may get a sense of what Srila Prabhupada is telling us. And it is not just a theory, being an acharya he himself is experiencing it and then sharing the same with us. Let us delve deeper within us and get the Television in our heart repaired!
In the next blog, I will share Srila Prabhupada explaining in detail- how to see Krishna in our heart!
p.s. – Below is the short audio clipping of the above lecture.
As we progress in Krishna Consciousness it is important to check whether our train is going on the right track. And ours is a special train that runs on three parallel tracks- sādhu śāstra and guru!
Why is it important to me?
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura states that one has to ascertain the right path for his activities by following in the footsteps of great saintly persons and books of knowledge under the guidance of a spiritual master (sādhu-śāstra-guru-vākya). A saintly person is one who follows the Vedic injunctions, which are the orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word guru refers to one who gives proper direction under the authority of the Vedic injunctions and according to the examples of the lives of great personalities. The best way to mold one’s life is to follow in the footsteps of the authorized personalities.
Sādhu, whose character is spotless, he’s called sādhu. Śāstra means scripture, and guru, guru means spiritual master. They are on the equal level. Why? Because the medium is scripture. Guru is considered to be liberated because he follows the scripture. Sādhu is considered to be honest and saintly because he follows scripture. Sādhu-śāstra-guru-vākya. Nobody can become a sādhu if he does not accept the principles of scripture. Nobody can be accepted as guru, or spiritual master, if he does not follow the principles of scripture. This is the test.
Spiritual realization can be perfected by three parallel process. Sādhu. Sādhu means saintly persons, who are realized souls, sādhu. And śāstra. Śāstra means scriptures, authoritative scriptures, Vedic scriptures, śāstra. Sādhu, śāstra and guru, a spiritual master. Three parallel lines. And if you place your car or vehicle on these three parallel lines, your car will go direct to Kṛṣṇa. Tinete kariyā aikya.
Just like in the railway line you see two parallel lines. If they are in order, the railway carriages are carried very smoothly to the destination. Here also, there are three parallel lines—sādhu, śāstra, guru: saintly person, association of saintly person, acceptance of bona fide spiritual master, and faith in the scriptures. That’s all. Then your carriage will be going nicely, without any disturbance. Sādhu śāstra guru vākya, cittete kariyā aikya.
So here in the Bhagavad-gītā, the Supreme Personality of Godhead explaining Himself, Kṛṣṇa. So if you say, “How can I believe that Kṛṣṇa said? Somebody has written in the name of Kṛṣṇa that ‘Kṛṣṇa said,’ ‘God said.’ ” No. This is called disciplic succession. You will see in this book, Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa, what Kṛṣṇa said, and how Arjuna understood. These things are described there.
And the sādhu, saintly person, beginning from Vyāsadeva, Nārada, down to many ācāryas, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, and latest, Lord Caitanya, in this way, they have accepted, “Yes. It is spoken by Kṛṣṇa.” So this is the proof: if saintly persons have accepted. They have not denied. Authorities, they have accepted, “Yes.” This is called sādhu. And because sādhu, saintly persons, have accepted, therefore it is scripture. That is the test. Just like . . . it is common sense affair. If the lawyers accept some book, then it is to be understood that this is law book. You cannot say that “How can I accept this is law?” The evidence is the lawyers are accepting. Medical . . . if the medical practitioners accept, then that is authoritative medical book. Similarly, if saintly persons are accepting Bhagavad-gītā as scripture, you cannot deny it.
So sādhu śāstra: saintly person and scriptures, two things, and with spiritual master, three, three parallel lines, who accept the sādhu and the scripture. Sādhu confirms the scripture and spiritual master accept the scripture. Simple process. So they are not in disagreement. What is spoken in the scripture is accepted by saintly person, and what is spoken in the scripture, the spiritual master explains only that thing. That’s all.
So via media is the scripture. Just like lawyer and the litigants—via media is the law book. Similarly, the spiritual master, the scripture . . . saintly person means who confirms the Vedic injunction, who accepts. And scripture means what is accepted by the saintly person. And spiritual master means who follows the scripture.
So things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. This is axiomatic truth. If you have got hundred dollars, and another man has got hundred dollar, and if I have got hundred dollar, then we are all equal. Similarly, sādhu śāstra guru vākya, when these three parallel lines in agreement,then life is success.
When a man comes into good consciousness and accepts a saintly person as a spiritual master, he hears many Vedic instructions in the form of philosophy, stories, narrations about great devotees, and transactions between God and His devotees. In this way a man becomes refreshed in mind, exactly like a person who smears scented sandalwood pulp all over his body and decorates himself with ornaments. These decorations may be compared to knowledge of religion and the self……. One cannot return to Kṛṣṇa consciousness unless he is favored by the instructions of a saintly person. Therefore Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings, sādhu śāstra guru vākya, cittete kariyā aikya. If we want to become saintly persons, or if we want to return to our original Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we must associate with sādhu (a saintly person), śāstra (authoritative Vedic literature) and guru (a bona fide spiritual master). This is the process.
So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is giving chance to everyone to hear from the authoritative sources, from the śāstra. Sādhu śāstra guru. These are authorities. So instead of hearing from the unauthorized persons….
Vāsudeva is always ready to help us, provided we want to take help from Him. And He, not only internally He is helping, externally also, He’s sending His representative to teach us. And there is śāstra, just like this Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Sādhu, śāstra, guru. Guru is there, śāstra is there, saintly persons are there. You take advantage. And the Lord is there within yourself. So why don’t you take? This is intelligence.
That is wanted, that all of you will take upon yourselves the responsibility of preaching widely everywhere the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. By that responsible commitment to your spiritual master, that is your qualification for getting Krsna’s blessing upon you. And only in this way will you be able to make your spiritual progress rapidly.
Therefore if we want to please Kṛṣṇa, we have to take this risk. Kṛṣṇa, guru. My spiritual master took this risk, preaching work, and he inspired us also to do that preaching work. And we are also imploring you to take this preaching work.
I was maintaining the establishment simply depending on Krishna and then Krishna sent me everything—men and money. Similarly, if a sincere soul goes out and opens a center in any part of the world Krishna will help him in all respects. Without being empowered by Krishna, nobody can preach Krishna Consciousness. It is not academic qualification or financial strength which helps in these matters, but it is sincerity of purpose which helps us always…. In this way you will follow my example as I did in the beginning at 26 2nd Ave. That is preaching, cooking, writing, talking, chanting everything one man’s show. I never thought about the audience. I was prepared to chant if there were no man to hear me. The principle of chanting is to glorify the Lord and not to attract a crowd. If Krishna hears nicely then he will ask some sincere devotee to gather in suchplace.
The best example is Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He’s Kṛṣṇa Himself, but He’s playing the part of mahā-bhāgavata. He never discussed Kṛṣṇa’s rasa-līlā publicly. Never discussed. You won’t find any time that Caitanya Mahāprabhu is discussing rasa-līlā publicly. No. Never. He simply dealt with ordinary persons by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, and whenever there were scholars, there were philosophers—just like Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī—He talks with some philosophy, Vedānta-sūtra. And when there was high-class devotee like Rāmānanda Rāya, He discussed about Kṛṣṇa’s līlā. You’ll find this. Not that with everyone He discussed Kṛṣṇa’s līlā. No.
Neither He discussed philosophy with everyone. But for the general public, so long He remained at Jagannātha Purī, every evening He was simply organizing great saṅkīrtana party. And for four hours, at least, He was going on saṅkīrtana in four parties. We have studied this thing from Caitanya-caritāmṛta, or Teachings of Lord Caitanya, that from the dealings of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, because although He’s Kṛṣṇa Himself, He’s playing the part of ācārya, playing the part of devotee.
Yes, we shall base our preaching work on Lord Caitanya’s formula: sankirtana. After all, He is God, and if He recommends, what is the question of failure? that is not possible. If we simply stick to this programme as I have done it since the beginning, namely, kirtana, preaching, kirtana, distribution of prasadam—if you do like this only that will be sufficient. Of course, you may make the kirtana as nice as possible, with dancing, many kholes, karatalas, conches, and if you preach sincerely, anyone will listen and become convinced. The potency of Krishna Consciousness movement does not come from some outward showing, no, it is the transcendental sound vibration of Hare Krishna Mantra and the words of Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, like that. So now go on and develop the things in this spirit, that will be nice.
Such regular activities like attendance of Arati, chanting of rounds, study of literatures in the class will keep you fit for effective preaching work in the outer field. Our standard of purity must be kept, otherwise there will be loss of spiritual strength, and subsequent fall down. Everyone of you should be thoroughly convinced of the power of the Hare Krsna mantra to protect you in all circumstances and chant accordingly at all times without offense.
Simply introduce our Krsna Consciousness program anywhere and everywhere, without any compromise or deviation from the highest standard of devotional practice, as chalked out for us by our great predecessors. If you yourself remain always pure, then your preaching will have effect. As soon as there is little impurity, the whole thing will deteriorate and go to hell.
Anyone who preaches the gospel of Bhagavad-gītā to the people of the world is the dearest person in the world to Kṛṣṇa. So therefore our duty is to preach the principles of this Bhagavad-gītā, to make people Kṛṣṇa conscious. People are suffering for want of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore each and every one of us should be engaged in the preaching work of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for the benefit of the whole world.
If you feel at all indebted to me then you should preach vigorously like me. That is the proper way to repay me. Of course, no one can repay the debt to the spiritual master, but the spiritual master is very much pleased by such an attitude by the disciple.
Please hear this heart-touching incident which shows that there is no limit to the compassion of our dear Srila Prabhupada-
It was the beginning of 1977. Prabhupada was in the Bombay temple. He was very sick. He had stopped all food intake – he was taking 1/4 a cup of orange juice per day. His body had only bones left – there was no flesh. And yet, he was insisting that he wanted to go to London. The doctors had given up responsibility. But as always, he was adamant.
At this time, one Pancaratrika Pandit from Bangalore named Sampat Kumar Bhattacarya came to know about Srila Prabhupada’s situation. So, he took a flight from Bangalore to Bombay – which in those days was a huge thing for a Brahmin priest – and met Prabhupada, and asked for a private meeting. Generally, nobody was allowed a private meeting, but when he said that he specially came by flight from Bangalore to meet Srila Prabhupada, he was allowed a private meeting. So, everybody was asked to go out, and they talked.
The conversation was like this: Sampat Kumar: ‘Swamiji, I am feeling very pained that you are suffering like this.’
Prabhupada (laying down, in broken words): ‘The whole world is meant for suffering. Dukhalayam asavatam.’
Sampat Kumar: ‘But still Swamiji, there are so many people depending on you. So when you suffer, they suffer.
Prabhupada: ‘What can I do?’
Bhattacarya: ‘Swamiji, I want to tell you something. In Vrindavan temple, they are having your deity on the altar. And all kinds of people are coming and praying to it and offering flowers to it, and you are still living. According to Pancaratra, when the Acarya is living, if he puts his deity on the altar, then all the sufferings people are having come to his body through the deity. So you please tell your disciples to worship your deity only after you leave your body.’
He was speaking as if he was giving some information to Prabhupada, which Prabhupada did not note.
Prabhupada: ‘I know. I came here to take their suffering.’
Bhattacarya was shocked. He was not giving any new information. This was well known to Prabhupada, and he was determined to suffer for others.
Prabhupada: ‘Do you have anything else to say?’
Bhattacarya: ‘Swamiji, if that is your wish, what can I say? I am only a priest.’
Prabhupada: ‘Even when I leave, I will keep continuing taking their suffering, and make them free so they can keep chanting Hare Krishna.’
(Told by HG Atma Tattva Das in a Bhagavad Gita class on 9.34 in Los Angeles on the 20th of March 1993)
Yes. Those who are spiritually advanced, their photograph and ordinary photograph is different. Just like here is statue of Kṛṣṇa. He’s not different from Kṛṣṇa. The original person Kṛṣṇa and this statue of Kṛṣṇa is the same. Similarly, a spiritually perfect person and his photograph is the same. Because it is in the absolute stage. In the absolute stage there is no difference. In the material stage there is difference. Is that clear?
We can see that Srila Prabhupada has not disappeared. He is very much here- for us- in every temple, in every devotee’s home and in the heart of his dear followers. We simply need to put our prayer at his lotus feet- he is a unique combination of mercy and potency.
I am posting a blog after a long gap. What better to start by reading some nectar from Srila Prabhupada. I am sharing a very instructing excerpt from a lecture Srila Prabhupada gave in Vrindavan in 1972. Please read it carefully.
Prabhupada– So, in devotional service there are three stages,” “The kanistha-adhikari, the madhyam-adhikari, and the uttama-adhikari, or beginning, middle, and advanced stages. In the beginning, kanistha-adhikari, the devotee engages in Deity worship, makes offerings to the Deity, cleans the floor, etcetera. This isn’t to say that Deity worship is lower than meditation. It’s just the beginning stage.
“Sometimes the kanistha-adhikari thinks that he has realized Krishna just because he has worshiped the Deity nicely, but he must make further advancement. When we say ‘Krishna,’ we do not refer to Krishna alone, but to all of His energies and paraphernalia. When we say, ‘The king is coming’ we don’t mean that the king is coming alone. His ministers, secretaries, queens, soldiers—everyone is coming. Similarly, Krishna is the root of all emanations, and when He comes, His devotees also come with Him. When we recognize Krishna’s devotees and pay them respects, we are further advanced. If a pure devotee comes, the pujari can immediately stop the aratik and go to receive him. Krishna is satisfied more when His devotee is worshiped. That’s a fact.
“Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasya prasadan na gatih kuto’pi. The spiritual master is the representative of God because he’s engaged twenty-four hours daily in Krishna’s service. The spiritual master is considered as good as Hari because he’s Krishna’s most confidential servant. Worship of the spiritual master is not artificial or concocted: it’s recommended in all the Shastras. Advanced devotees accept this and treat the spiritual master accordingly.
“Although the spiritual master is offered respects like Hari, he doesn’t think himself Hari. He considers his disciples to be his spiritual masters. He thinks, ‘Krishna has sent me so many spiritual masters.’ He doesn’t even think of himself as a guru but as a servant to his disciples, because Krishna has given him the task to train them.
“When one is advanced, he can see the importance of other devotees. An advanced devotee never offends another devotee. That is a very serious offense. Therefore we address one another as ‘Prabhu.’ This should not simply be spoken with the lips. It should be realized. One should think of other devotees as his prabhus, his masters. Not that he should try to become master himself.
We should always be willing to offer respects not only to other devotees but to everyone. Everyone. Why? Because every living entity is originally a devotee of Krishna. Circumstantially, being covered by the modes of nature, he seems like a demon, but his original nature is that of Krishna’s servant.
“The process of bhakti really begins when one is self-realized. Before that, if one engages in Deity worship yet thinks that he is the body and does not give respect to devotees, he is at the first stage, kanistha-adhikari. Although seated on the material platform, he’s trying to improve his condition by following the directions of the spiritual master and Shastra.
“We should not remain perpetual neophytes. We should try to advance to madhyam-adhikari. On this platform, we distinguish between four different kinds of living entities: Krishna, Krishna’s devotees, innocent people, and atheists. We should not superficially say, ‘In my view, everyone is the same.’ Of course, that is the last stage, but because we are neophyte, this is not our vision. This vision of the maha-bhagavat should never be imitated. Imitation is artificial.
“In the second stage, that of madhyam-adhikari, one treats all types of men according to their position and tries to increase his love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead and also make friends with the devotees. He doesn’t envy the devotees. If a devotee is superior, we should take lessons from him; if equal, we should make friends with him; and if lower, we should try to help him.
“A madhyam-adhikari does not simply give respect to other devotees: he teaches others to become devotees as well. This means preaching. A preacher should approach others and say, ‘You’re wasting your life in material activities. You should become Krishna’s devotee.’ This is preaching. One should preach Krishna consciousness to the innocent. The atheists should be avoided because as soon as an atheist hears about God, he becomes envious and vicious.
“At the last stage, that of maha-bhagavat or uttama-adhikari, one doesn’t see devotees and nondevotees. He sees everyone as a better devotee than himself. Nor does he pretend to have this consciousness. No. He actually thinks like this. He’s naturally humble: he wants to pay respects to everyone, and he wants no respect for himself. If one wants respect for himself, he’s still at the secondary stage. The maha-bhagavat is ready to give respect even to an ant.
“When one attains this highest platform, there’s no more friend, no more enemy, no more preaching. The maha-bhagavat sees everyone engaged in the Lord’s service, with the exception of himself. This platform, however, should not be imitated. It must be sincere, not superficial.
“Those who are preachers must remain on the second platform, that of madhyam-adhikari. Even when a maha-bhagavat wants to preach, he must come down to that second platform. He cannot remain on the highest and preach. He plays the part of second-class devotee. For instance, in the Bible, Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘I have many things to say, but you are not qualified to understand them.’
There are many gems in the above excerpt. However I wish to focus upon if we could see how Srila Prabhupada expects every ISKCON devotee to graduate to the level of a madhyam-adhikari, he does not want us to become complacent in Bhakti, which affects many of us. He also instructs us what qualities an aspiring devotee should develop to come to the platform of a madhyam-adhikari.
There is nothing bad in being in a primary school, everyone has to go through it but one does not remain in a primary school, one graduates to secondary school. The same is true for Krishna consciousness as well.
And lastly, we heard how important it is to be engaged in preaching service, which attracts even a Maha-bhagavat or an uttama-adhikari to come down to the level of a madhayam-adhikari. Like Srila Prabhupada did.
In the next blog, I will share from the above-quoted lecture, Srila Prabhupada’s instruction on how to preach properly.
I wrote about why devotees suffer in my last blog. Today I am sharing how devotees can find purpose in pain. A lifeline which the devotees can use to turn the negative into an uplifting experience. We can see the suffering of devotees from many angles of vision, this is just one of the ways to look at it, based upon our level of faith.
Find purpose in pain
1. Kindergarten: As a wake-up call, to understand that this world is a place of miseries, this body is an instrument to receive pain, I won’t find happiness here.
This material world is certified by the Supreme Lord, the creator, as duḥkhālayam. Duḥkhālayam means “the place of miseries.” And how you can make it comfortable? Can you make it comfortable by your so-called advancement of science? No. It is not possible. But we do not know what is duḥkha, or what is suffering. Real duḥkha is, real suffering is, birth and death, old age and disease. But we have set aside. Because we cannot make solution of these things, we don’t care for it.
2. Primary school: Helps us get a sense of urgency. It helps us to wake up from a sense of complacency, which may cover us after we have spent some time in Krishna consciousness. Our real home is somewhere else.
Sometimes Krsna may put us into some difficulty just to purify us and force us to advance in Krsna consciousness. The devotee should always see his difficulty in this light, that Krsna is so kind upon me for creating this condition of struggling, thus He is relieving me of so many billions of lifetime of sinful reactions by this very insignificant and temporary condition of suffering something.
One who possesses good intelligence can deliberate properly and save himself from many dangerous conditions. In material existence there is danger at every step. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.58) it is said: padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām. This material world is not actually a place of residence for an intelligent person or a devotee because here there is danger at every step. Vaikuṇṭha is the real home for the devotee, for there is no anxiety and no danger. Good intelligence means becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious.
3. Secondary school: Knowing something of nature of the material world and that Krsna is the cause of all causes devotees at this level stay focused on the goal and tolerate suffering
Everyone is suffering who has got this material body. That is the condition. If you have got material body, you must suffer. It is not the question of European, American or white, black. There is no such question. If you are animal or man, as soon as you have got this material body, you must suffer. This is condition. This is material condition. Therefore our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not meant for, I mean to say, mitigating the so-called sufferings of the body. When there is body, there must be suffering. So we should not be very much disturbed by the sufferings of the body.
4. Graduate: They understand the philosophy and by their own experience they have realised that Krishna is sending them a message. Krishna wants us to learn something or develop some quality we lack. Devotees at this level gladly accept any suffering as the mercy of Krishna. They find purpose in pain.
A devotee is naturally so humble and meek that he accepts any condition of life as a blessing from the Lord. Tat te ‘nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇaḥ (SB 10.14.8). A devotee always accepts punishment from anyone as the mercy of the Lord. If one lives in this conception of life, he sees whatever reverses occur to be due to his past misdeeds, and therefore he never accuses anyone. On the contrary, he becomes increasingly attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead because of his being purified by his suffering. Suffering, therefore, is also a process of purification.
5. Postgraduate: Give me more! The pain or suffering becomes an impetus to remember Krishna. We see it very clearly in the prayers of Kunti maharani, whom Srila Prabhupada called ‘the most intelligent woman’.
I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.
Constantly remembering the lotus feet of the Lord means preparing for liberation from birth and death. Therefore, even though there are so-called calamities, they are welcome because they give us an opportunity to remember the Lord, which means liberation.
Irrespective of our level of advancement or consciousness, we should have faith in Krishna. We should know that nothing is happening by chance, there is a reason behind it and Krishna is in control.
Krishna does not like to see His sincere devotee suffer or become frustrated or depressed. He will not stand idly by in any such case, so do not fear on that account. Krishna has got some plan for you, always think in that way, and very soon He will provide everything to your heart’s desire.
Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions. The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity’s tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord’s devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord’s special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead.
A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord’s abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord’s merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God.
My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.
Just as a legitimate son has to simply remain alive to gain an inheritance from his father, one who simply remains alive in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, automatically becomes eligible to receive the mercy of the Personality of Godhead. In other words, he will be promoted to the kingdom of God.
I hope and pray that the above compilation helps us to find purpose in pain, by turning our angle of vision. We should have firm faith that sincere and surrendered devotees do not receive karmic reactions rather they only receive Krishna’s mercy- bitter or sweet, both are good for us.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
p.s.- I will be happy to receive your comments or corrections.
These are difficult times and we see suffering all around us. Especially we have seen Indians suffer severely in the second wave of COVID and our heart and prayers are with everyone at this time of difficulty. However, we see devotees also suffer during such times and sometimes as neophytes we may wonder why devotees suffer, I am already under the shelter of Krishna. However, as per scriptures, a devotee’s suffering is not the same as that of an ordinary person, devotees do not suffer karmic reactions, they may look same but are completely different. A karmi eats grains and vegetables and a devotee also eats the same, however, there is a completely different effect on both. One is under the control of material energy whereas the other is under the control of Krishna. Hence mature devotees accept their so-called suffering also as the mercy of Krishna and great devotees like Kunti maharani pray for more suffering as it facilitates deeper remembrance of Krishna.
Today I came across the below conversation which may help us understand why devotees suffer.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, sometimes people argue that if there is no God, it doesn’t matter what I do, and if there is a God, then He is controlling everything and it still doesn’t matter what I do, because everything is predetermined anyway. In either case, I am free to do anything I like.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but why do you suffer?
Devotee: Well, it’s all God’s plan. I suffer according to God’s plan.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It is not God’s plan that you suffer; you suffer because you violate God’s laws. He is controlling everything, but He has given you minute independence: you can either follow His laws or violate them. But you are so foolish that you do not understand you are suffering. Your position is like that of the cats and dogs, who also cannot understand that they are suffering.
Our point is that you are suffering because you have violated God’s laws, and if you become obedient to God you will not suffer. But you are such a fool, such a rascal, that you do not even know that you are suffering.
Devotee: But the devotees also seem to be suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they are not suffering like the nondevotees. Material life, which is the cause of suffering, is like a disease, and devotees are giving up this diseased condition of life for Krishna consciousness. If you are suffering from some disease, you cannot expect to be cured immediately. But one who is taking the medicine is very intelligent. His sufferings will soon be gone. But these nondevotee rascals will not even take the medicine—Krishna consciousness—so they will continue to suffer. To man
And for the most part, devotees enjoy. Why are you always chanting Hare Krishna and dancing unless you are enjoying?
Devotee: Sometimes I get a sick stomach, too.
Srila Prabhupada: That’s because you have a material body. But your suffering is just like the movement of a fan that has been switched off. The fan is still moving, but the switch is off; so it will soon stop. Similarly, your suffering will soon stop, because you are acting on the spiritual platform. And after giving up this body, you will have a completely blissful life. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], tyaktva deham punar janma naiti:
“After giving up the body, a devotee doesn’t take birth again in the material world.” You are not going to get another material body, full of suffering. That is your advantage.
But these nondevotee rascals are going to continue getting body after body, all full of suffering. They will have to accept one body and suffer, and then again they’ll have to give up that body and take another body and suffer. As long as one accepts a material body he will have to suffer, because having a material body means suffering. So those who are not Krishna conscious will change bodies one after another and continue to suffer the threefold miseries [those caused by the body and mind, those caused by other living beings, and those caused by natural calamities].
But devotees, even if they appear to be undergoing some suffering, will eventually give up the material body and remain in their spiritual body, free from all suffering.
Devotee: [taking the position of a materialist] That is simply your faith.
Srila Prabhupada: And it is your faith that you do not believe it. We are accepting the words of the Bhagavad-gita on faith, so we have a chance of getting promoted to the spiritual world. But you have no faith, so you are sure to continue suffering in the material world. We are at least willing to take the chance, but you are so foolish that you are not willing to take the chance. So your suffering is sure to continue.
Devotee: Indians often say, “Well, I will take the chance when Krishna wishes. His will is supreme, so whenever He wishes He will make me Krishna conscious.”
Srila Prabhupada: In the Bhagavad- gita [18.66], Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja: “Give up all your nonsense and surrender unto Me. Become Krishna conscious.” So, Krishna wishes that you surrender to Him. Why don’t you obey His wish?
Devotee: Why does Krishna arrange for the pleasures of sense gratification if they only bring us suffering?
Srila Prabhupada: Again, the same answer: Krishna has given us minute independence—we can use our senses for either sense gratification or for serving Him, which is the real pleasure of the senses. The senses are meant for enjoyment, but if you try to enjoy your senses in a diseased way—by gratifying them—that is your misfortune, and you will have to suffer. You have to cure your disease by becoming Krishna conscious. Then you will enjoy unlimitedly.
We are not like the Mayavadis [impersonalists], who want to destroy the senses and become senseless. That is not our program. We want to purify the senses (sarvopadhi- vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam). Suppose a man cannot see because he has glaucoma. The mayavada program is that if your eye is giving you trouble and you cannot see, pluck it out. That is not our program. We want to cure the disease so you can see very nicely. So, our senses should be cured of the material disease by our practicing Krishna consciousness. Then we will be able to enjoy real sense pleasure by using our senses in the service of Hrishikesha [Krishna], the master of the senses.
(Morning walk, April 1975, Mayapur)
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
One morning Prabhupāda arrived in the park, stepped out of his car, and waited for the devotees who had come in another car to join him. Līlāvatī had difficulty getting out of the car because she had her baby, Subhadrā, in a carrier on her back. When she finally did get out of the car, Prabhupāda turned and laughed at her, saying, “Ah, burden of affection.” “Yes, Swamiji,” Līlāvatī replied. They all began to walk together along the path.
“So there are two ways to carry a baby,” Prabhupāda said, tapping his cane on the ground in time with his regular stride. “There is the monkey way and the cat way. Do you know this?”
“No, Swamiji,” said Līlāvatī.
“Well, which way do you think is better?” Prabhupāda asked her. “The monkey way or the cat way?” She couldn’t understand or imagine what he meant. Prabhupāda continued, “The monkey baby climbs on the back of the mother and holds on, and this is the way he travels. And the kitten is carried in the teeth of the mother. So which is better?”
Līlāvatī could still not understand which way could be better; they both sounded very difficult to her.
“Well,” Prabhupāda said, “the monkey baby is very small and very weak, and he is holding on to the mother by his own strength. But the kitten is being supported by the strength of the mother. So which way do you think is better?”
And then she understood. “The cat way is better.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda said, “that is the difference between the yogī and the devotee. The yogī is trying to climb on the back of the Absolute Truth by his own strength, but he is very weak, so he will fall. But a devotee, he cries out for Krishna” – and as he spoke the word Krishna, Prabhupāda held his arms up high and looked up at the clear morning sky – “A devotee cries out for Krishna, and Krishna picks him up.”
A few days back I heard a lecture by Srila Prabhupada where Prabhupada spoke about an essential quality of any disciple- inquisitiveness. We make progress in Krishna consciousness by asking questions, clarifying our doubts. This is a Vedic principle and a key part of guru-disciple relationship. Srila Prabhupada famously said ‘asking questions is a sign of intelligence’. I am sharing part of the transcription of the lecture below –
People should be engaged always inquiring about progress of spiritual life. That is advancement. Bodhayantaḥ parasparam. There should be constantly discussion. So this is jijñāsu.
And to dissipate this ignorance, get out of this ignorance, one has to approach a person who is not abodha but bodha, budhā. Budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ: one who has known what is the destination of life. That budhā . . . What is that? Bhajante ananya manaso budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ (BG 10.8). So one has to approach a budhā.
Therefore Lord Buddha’s name is Buddha, from this bodha. He has understood everything. He was prince, and he never came out of the palace, and when he came out he saw one old man with a stick, with great difficulty walking. So inquired his servants, “What is this?” “This is old man. Everyone has to become like this.” That was the inspiration of understanding. “Why he should be like that? Why one should become old man? Why he should walk on sticks?” So these inquiries made him Buddha, Lord Buddha, by meditation. That is his pastime.
That means one should understand by nature study, why this man is diseased, why this man is old, why this man is suffering. Then bodhayantaḥ parasparam, then the inquisitiveness can lead him to the proper knowledge. And where to get that proper knowledge? That is guru. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). But if there is no inquiry, if one is dull like stone and tree, then how there will be inquiry?
So our education at the present moment is given just dull like stone and trees. Trees standing, cutting. No inquiry. “Why you are cutting?” He cannot. So dull. But this inquisitiveness should be enthused. People should be enthused to inquire: ādau gurvāśrayaṁ sad-dharma pṛcchāt. Sad-dharma pṛcchāt. That inquisitive must be . . . Guru means . . . To accept guru means the disciple should be very very eager to know. Sad-dharma pṛcchāt. Ādau gurvāśrayam. Why you accept a guru? “It is a fashion.” One should be very inquisitive: sad-dharma pṛcchāt.
And everywhere the same thing. Paripraśna. Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā (BG 4.34). But don’t make inquiries cheap: “Ah, here is my guru, and he’s meant for answering all my questions. Let me go on questioning, questioning, questioning.” No.Sevayā: you must serve him. You must be ready to serve him. Then you have got right to make question. Otherwise not.
Two things. First of all, you must find out a person where you can fully surrender, praṇipātena. And then you can inquire, and the inquiry should be compensated by seva. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasāda. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. The more you are inclined to render seva, the more the truth becomes revealed. yasya deve parā bhaktir, yathā-deve tathā gurau, tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ, prakaśante. It is a different science. The more you are inclined to render service, the more the spiritual truth becomes revealed.
And two things: if you are not inquisitive, don’t bother yourself to have a guru. Useless. There is no need. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta (SB 11.3.21). Tasmād, “therefore.” What is that? Jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam. If you are inquisitive about transcendental science, śreya uttamam.
I felt a bit embarrassed after hearing this lecture as I do not ask too many questions. I prayed to Srila Prabhupada to help me that I do not assume I have understood a particular point rather I should confirm it from senior devotees and develop the quality of inquisitiveness. At the same time I should be careful that I don’t treat senior devotees like an ATM machine to answer my questions at all the times, I should develop the mood to serve them as well.
Yesterday I came across an amazing insight into the Sankirtan mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu by HH Bhakti Vidyapurna swami. Maharaj shared a unique insight into why Caitanya Mahaprabhu came, how those three internal reasons are divided into Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana and much more. Here it goes-
The Sankirtan mission has three parts. They are the three parts why Lord Caitanya came. He came to taste:
The attraction to Krishna
What is gained by the experience of serving Krishna
What is the experience of love for Krishna
So the sambandha , abhidheya and prayojana , so you get Madana-mohana, Govinda and Gopinatha.
The Sankirtana as we define it generally is dealing with the Madana-mohana part. You are attracting others to Krishna. That is the within Madana-mohana, you are dealing with the Sankarshana aspect of establishing Krishna is God and we are not, so you are establishing that relationship and you are sparking that attraction, or Pradyumna aspect to Krishna. But once that is done, they take up the devotional service, but you still have to inspire that attraction. Because they are attracted this much now, but there is more to go: Krishna is unlimited. So it is eternally being inspired. So that Sankirtana mission is going on, that is doing it, so, therefore, you have your preaching, your festivals, these things, they are inspiring and creating more and more attraction. That is Caitanya, that is the life, that is the force. Then you have Vishvambhara, which means that you are cultivating and nourishing those that are in the process because they themselves have to be able to contemplate and take it deeper. And then in that they have to know the goal, you have Gaura. Because it is Radha-Govinda, means it is Radha and Krishna, worship of Radha and Krishna, that is what you are trying to get to. Then you see that is the complete mission. Because you have to have all those three.
By maharaj’s mercy we get a unique glimpse of how the Sankirtan mission has three aspects that relate to three aspects of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Please read it again carefully and I am sure we will get newer realisations.