Every ISKCON devotee and millions outside ISKCON have a unique relationship and longing for the lotus feet of Sri Radha Shyamsundar of ISKCON Vrindavan. They are one of the beautiful deities on planet earth. I am sure we all have our unique feelings when we stand in front of Them, mesmerised by their beauty and mercy and feeling goosebumps as we pray.
Let me share something personal today.
We have a picture of Sri Radha-Shyamsundar inside our altar at home. On the left wall of the altar we also have a single frame with three pictures of Radha Madanmohan, Radha Govindadev and Radha Gopinath, original Deities from Vrindavan and now residing at Jaipur and Karauli — all in Rajasthan). These three deities are the presiding deities of Sambhanda , Abhidheya and prayojana for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
Every day after chanting my morning Gayatri I first offer my pranams to all three of Them then I turn towards the front of the altar. Many times when I would offer my pranams to all three of the Deities in the single picture frame and then turn my face towards Radha Shyamsundar, I would feel that all these three deities, Radha Madanmohan, Radha Govindadev, and Radha Gopinath have manifested Themselves as one in Radha Shyamsundar.
I felt that manifesting from the heart of Srila Prabhupada, Radharani’s Shyamsundar attracts new visitors and devotees in the temple and confirms our eternal relationship with Him within our heart (sambhandha).
Then His darshan and mystical smile inspire thousands of souls to progress in devotional service and He gradually starts accepting our service (abhidheya).
And finally, as our devotion matures, then some fortunate souls serve Him by their spiritually purified senses and fulfill the desires of Lord (prayojana).
So as Shyamsundar Krishna is manifesting and reciprocating as all three- Madanmohan, Govindadev and Gopinath – in one form. Suchare the mysterious dealings of Sri Radha Shyamsundar.
Let us try to learn the fundamentals of chanting of the Holy Name from Srila Prabhupada as our founder acharya explains its importance, the dos and don’ts and also the remedy if we commit offenses while chanting.
How should we do chant the Holy Name?
It is recommended that such chanting be performed very loudly. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada Muni says that without shame he began traveling all over the world, chanting the holy name of the Lord. Similarly, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has advised:
tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving more humbly than the grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honor from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy name of the Lord.
Who can Chant the Holy Name?
The process of transcendental chanting can be easily performed by anyone. Even if one is physically unfit, classified lower than others, devoid of material qualifications or not at all elevated in terms of pious activities, the chanting of the holy name is beneficial. An aristocratic birth, an advanced education, beautiful bodily features, wealth and similar results of pious activities are all unnecessary for advancement in spiritual life, for one can very easily advance simply by chanting the holy name.
Our disqualification is our qualification
It is understood from the authoritative source of Vedic literature that especially in this age, Kali-yuga, people are generally short-living, extremely bad in their habits, and inclined to accept methods of devotional service that are not bona fide. Moreover, they are always disturbed by material conditions, and they are mostly unfortunate. Under the circumstances, the performance of other processes, such as yajña, dāna, tapaḥ and kriyā — sacrifices, charity and so on — are not at all possible.
Chanting of the Holy Name is the only way
Therefore it is recommended:
harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one advances perfectly in spiritual life. This is the best process for success in life. In other ages, the chanting of the holy name is equally powerful, but especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is most powerful. Kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: simply by chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, one is liberated and returns home, back to Godhead.
Therefore, even if one is able to perform other processes of devotional service, one must adopt the chanting of the holy name as the principal method of advancing in spiritual life. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ: those who are very sharp in their intelligence should adopt this process of chanting the holy names of the Lord. One should not, however, manufacture different types of chanting. One should adhere seriously to the chanting of the holy name as recommended in the scriptures: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, KrishnaKrishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Easy process but remain vigilant
While chanting the holy name of the Lord, one should be careful to avoid ten offenses. From Sanat-kumāra it is understood that even if a person is a severe offender in many ways, he is freed from offensive life if he takes shelter of the Lord’s holy name. Indeed, even if a human being is no better than a two-legged animal, he will be liberated if he takes shelter of the holy name of the Lord. One should therefore be very careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of the Lord’s holy name.
The offenses are described as follows: (a) to blaspheme a devotee, especially a devotee engaged in broadcasting the glories of the holy name, (b) to consider the name of Lord Śiva or any other demigod to be equally as powerful as the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (no one is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor is anyone superior to Him), (c) to disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, (d) to blaspheme the Vedic literatures and literatures compiled in pursuance of the Vedic literatures, (e) to comment that the glories of the holy name of the Lord are exaggerated, (f) to interpret the holy name in a deviant way, (g) to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name, (h) to compare the chanting of the holy name to pious activities, (i) to instruct the glories of the holy name to a person who has no understanding of the chanting of the holy name, (j) not to awaken in transcendental attachment for the chanting of the holy name, even after hearing all these scriptural injunctions.
What if I commit offences?
There is no way to atone for any of these offenses. It is therefore recommended that an offender at the feet of the holy name continue to chant the holy name twenty-four hours a day. Constant chanting of the holy name will make one free of offenses, and then he will gradually be elevated to the transcendental platform on which he can chant the pure holy name and thus become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Don’t be anxious, seek forgiveness
It is recommended that even if one commits offenses, one should continue chanting the holy name. In other words, the chanting of the holy name makes one offenseless. In the book Nāma-kaumudī it is recommended that if one is an offender at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava, he should submit to that Vaiṣṇava and be excused; similarly, if one is an offender in chanting the holy name, he should submit to the holy name and thus be freed from his offenses.
In this connection there is the following statement, spoken by Dakṣa to Lord Śiva: “I did not know the glories of your personality, and therefore I committed an offense at your lotus feet in the open assembly. You are so kind, however, that you did not accept my offense. Instead, when I was falling down because of accusing you, you saved me by your merciful glance. You are most great. Kindly excuse me and be satisfied with your own exalted qualities.”
One should be very humble and meek to offer one’s desires and chant prayers composed in glorification of the holy name, such as ayi mukta-kulair upāsya mānam and nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād. One should chant such prayers to become free from offenses at the lotus feet of the holy name.
I hope something touched your heart reading it as it did mine. I felt embarrassed thinking about the quality of my chanting but I also felt the encouraging hand of Srila Prabhupada guiding me gently.
The unique thing about the above post is that except for the questions, which I made up, and the introductory line, rest everything else is a word to word copy from Srila Prabhupada’s purport from the famous SB 7.5.23-24 (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ). I did not add or change a single word.
We can appreciate how methodically Srila Prabhupada wrote these purports for us. Answer to all our spiritual questions, steps to make further advancement in our spiritual journey, yardsticks to measure our spiritual progress and remedies for our offences/ mistakes in Krishna consciousness are all there in Bhaktivedanta purports– we simply need to open the books and read them.
Let us hear the glories of Yamuna, how dear she is to the devotees of Krishna and what amazing role she plays in Krishna’s Vraja pastimes. Simply hearing her glories can ignite the spark of love for Krishna in our barren hearts.
The Yamuna river passes through that forest and flows near Nandisvara Hill. It winds through Vraja in a very crooked course, searching for Sri Krsna, the moon of Vraja.
The Yamuna river is like a blue lotus flower garland, a sapphire necklace, or a blue sash worn by the goddess of Vrndavana.
Passing the seven seas and seven planetary systems, and breaking through the sevenfold covering of the universe, the Yamuna enters the spiritual Goloka planet and wanders here and there to serve Vrndavana by carrying water.
Many greedy men will wait at a rich man’s doorstep, hoping to meet him and benefit hundreds of thousands of times over. In the same way the Yamuna flows in a very winding course, greedy to get some of the wealth of Vrindavan forest.
They who offer respectful obeisances to her or bathe in her waters, the Yamuna, which is like a moat of black mascara encircling Vrndavana, transforms into pure devotees carrying Lord Krsna in their hearts.
(Sri Vrjaja Riti Cintamani, chapter 2, verse 39 )
There are many ways we can offer our respectful obeisances to Yamuna, a good way is to pray to her. One prayer I can share is Yamunastakam, written by Srila Rupa Goswami. Coming from the heart of Srila Rupa Goswami we can understand its potency. And he requests her to flood that person with pure devotional service who recites these eight prayers with a cheerful heart.
“May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me. She saves all, who touch her, from going to the realm of her brother Yamaraja, and enables even greatly wicked persons, who see her, to cross the ocean of their sinful deeds. Her attractive water charms the hearts of everyone.”
hari-vari-dharayabhimanditoru-khandava pundarika-mandalodyad-andajali-tandava snana-kama-pamarogra-papa-sampad-andhini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Yamunadevi adorns Indra’s great Khandava forest with her enchanting current, and upon her blooming lotus flowers, various birds are always dancing. Simply desiring to bath in her pleasant, crystalline waters frees one from even the greatest of sins. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
sikarabhimrista-jantu-durvipaka-mardini nanda-nandanantaranga-bhakti-pura-vardhini tira-sangamabhilasi-mangalanubandhini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Sprinkling a single drop of her water upon oneself destroys the reaction of most heinous crimes. She increases the flow of confidential devotional service (raganuga-bhakti) for Nandanandana within one’s heart and blesses everyone who simply desires to reside on her banks. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
dvipa-cakravala-justa-sapta-sindhu-bhedini sri-mukunda-nirmitoru-divya-keli-vedini kanti-kandalibhir indranila-vrinda-nindini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Yamunadevi is so powerful, that although she flows through the seven oceans which surround the earth’s seven islands, she never merges with them. Being witness to many of Sri Mukunda’s wonderful pastimes, she manifests these pastimes in the hearts of those who take shelter of her. Her dark, shimmering beauty defeats the splendour of precious blue sapphires. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
mathurena mandalena carunabhimandita prema-naddha-vaisnavadhva-vardhanaya pandita urmi-dor-vilasa-padmanabha-pada-vandini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Ornamented with the supremely enchanting land of Mathura-mandala, Yamunadevi skillfully inspires love of Godhead (prema) in the hearts of the Vaisnavas who bath in her. With playful waves, which are like her moving arms, she worships Padmanabha Sri Krishna’s lotus feet. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
ramya-tira-rambhamana-go-kadamba-bhusita divya-gandha-bhak-kadamba-puspa-raji-rusita nanda-sunu-bhakta-sangha-sangamabhinandini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Yamunadevi’s charming banks are further beautified by the fragrance from the flowers of kadamba trees and by loving cows. She is especially delighted when Nandalala’s devotees assemble on her banks. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
phulla-paksa-mallikaksa-hamsa-laksa-kujita bhakti-viddha-deva-siddha-kinnarali-pujita tira-gandhavaha-gandha-janma-bandha-randhini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Filled with the warbling of thousands of joyful swans, Yamunadevi is worshipable to demigods, Siddhas, Kinnaras and humans whose hearts are dedicated to the service of Sri Hari. Anyone who is touched by her gentle breezes is freed from the cycle of birth and death. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
cid-vilasa-vari-pura-bhur-bhuvah-svar-apini kirtitapi durmadoru-papa-marma-tapini ballavendra-nandanangaraga-bhanga-gandhini mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini
“Yamunadevi flows through the three worlds known as Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah and distributes her loving emotions. Singing her glories burns even the greatest sins to ashes. She has become fragrant by the scented ointments from the body of King Nanda’s son Sri Krishna, who enjoys to play in her waters. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”
“O Suryaputri! Devi! O Yamuna, whose waves are very purifying and who is surrounded by all the demigods! For those who recite with cheerful heart this prayers, please increase their bhakti for lotus-eyed Sri Krishna, who liberates all persons from their sins.”
In your recent prayers, you asked me, “My dear Krishna, mahatma is a common title these days. We have so many self-styled mahatmas in India. Then I see that many people fall from their spiritual quest or abandon it because they had chosen to follow someone only because of his appearance or popularity. Later the so-called mahatma didn’t behave as a genuine advanced spiritual teacher resulting in a crisis of faith. Can you please let me know whom we can call a mahatma and what are the external symptoms of such a personality, so that we can recognise one and try to get his association?”
I’m pleased with your question as asking questions and clarifying one’s doubts is a sign of intelligence. Different people with different levels of consciousness may call someone mahatma based on their own understanding or inclination. However, a mahatma cannot be manufactured by rubber-stamping an ordinary man. A mahatma is a rare soul, someone who is very dear to me. I’m happy to share with you my definition of a mahatma and his external symptoms-
O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā nitya-yuktā upāsate
Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of who is a mahatma. His preoccupation is only in spreading my glories hence he is always engaged in my service. Please associate with such mahatmas. I regularly send them to your planet to help all of you so that you can return back to me in a simple, natural and sure manner.
We frequently hear that such and such exalted Vaishnava is an eternal associate of Krishna or Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some other terms used for an eternal associate of Lord are Sangi or pāriṣada. Let’s hear from Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura what is the real significance of being called an eternal associate of Lord and what is the qualification needed to be called one.
The Gauḍīya: Ṭhakura [Narottama dasa] Mahāśaya writes, gaurāṅgera saṅgi-gane, nitya-siddha kari māne, se yāya brajendra-nanda pāśa: “Anyone who is preaching the saṅkīrtana movement is an associate of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” So whom should we accept as gaurāṅgera saṅgī, Lord Gaurāṅga’s associates or companions?
Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Only those who support Śrī Gaurāṅga’s mood of separation are actual associates of Gaurāṅga; they are His saṅgī. Those who fulfill Gaura’s mission, who serve His inner desire, are His associates. Those who eternally remain present with Gaurāṅga in order to serve Him are gaurāṅgera saṅgī.
While traveling in South India, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu converted people in village after village to Vaiṣṇavism, but those who did not engage constantly in His mission –who did not associate with Mahāprabhu at all times by dedicating everything to Him –how can they be called His “associates”?
The word saṅgī derives from the word saṅga, which means “one who approaches completely.” Those who did not associate with the Lord constantly cannot be called His saṅgī. They can be called His bhaktas, but not His saṅgī.
Another word for saṅgī is pāriṣada. Even though Ṭhākura Narottama did not appear when Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was having His pastimes, he is still Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s saṅgī because he appeared in this world only to fulfill Mahāprabhu’s mission and is eternally absorbed in His service –totally overwhelmed by Mahāprabhu’s internal mood. He nourishes the Lord’s mood of separation and is therefore a nitya-siddha devotee.
I hope we understood a little bit about the exalted position of someone who is an eternal associate of Lord- someone who is sold-out to the mission of Krishna, dedicating everything for Krishna’s service.
The above would also imply that there is a window of opportunity available for every soul to go back to Godhead and become an eternal associate of Lord by following the path shown to us by previous acharyas – Narad, Dhruv Maharaj, Prahalada Maharaj, our own acharya – Srila Prabhupada. What is needed is a burning desire and a heart that is sold out to the service of Sri Guru and Gauranga. Srimad Bhagavatam says-
O Lord, who resemble the shining sun, You are always ready to fulfill the desire of Your devotee, and therefore You are known as a desire tree [vāñchā-kalpataru]. When ācāryas completely take shelter under Your lotus feet in order to cross the fierce ocean of nescience, they leave behind on earth the method by which they cross, and because You are very merciful to Your other devotees, You accept this method to help them.
This human form of body is a most valuable boat, and the spiritual master is the captain, guru-karṇadhāram, to guide the boat in plying across the ocean of nescience. The instruction of Krishna is a favorable breeze. One must use all these facilities to cross over the ocean of nescience. Since the spiritual master is the captain, one must serve the spiritual master very sincerely so that by his mercy one will be able to get the mercy of the Supreme Lord.
Recently I read an article written by Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura on the famous quote from Bible ‘Love God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul’. This amazing article not only gives us a proper understanding of how ‘To Love God’ means different to different people at different levels of consciousness but he also beautifully explains in brielf the whole Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. Here it is –
To Love God
It was Christ Jesus who first said “Love God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and love man as thy brother.” This is an absolute truth indeed; but different men put different interpretations to this noble expression. The expressions of all great men are nice but somewhat mysterious. When understood they bring the truth nearest to the heart otherwise they remain mere letters that ‘kill’. The reason of the mystery is that men, advanced in their approach to the Deity, are in the habit of receiving revelations which are but mysteries to those that are behind them. The stages of progress are very much the same as the circles of spiritualism which, though not true themselves, explain a great deal about the gradual development of the soul.
We have understood some spiritualists to maintain that matter when sublimated converts itself to spirit. This theory is indeed against any inward conviction. Matter is matter, and spirit is spirit; one of them cannot form the other. Spirit is certainly of a superior existence; though we cannot fully understand in our present state of material imprisonment, what relation Spirit does exactly bear to matter, space and time.
Metaphysics apart, we decide that the human soul rises higher and higher and can understand things of which we have no idea at present. Subject to this important rule, Christ Jesus of Nazareth received and uttered the words quoted above.
To readers who are a little above the scale of ordinary men, these expressions of Jesus teach that man should love God with all his heart (meaning the affections of the heart perceivable in all children as opposed to hate), with all his mind, (meaning the intellect which knows as opposed to ignorance of good things), with all his soul (meaning that principle of the human constitution which worships the Almighty and feels its own immortality), and with all his strength (meaning all active work). To the inspired, however, more things and better and more sublime meanings appear beneath these holy words of the inspired Jesus. He teaches man to love God and not to know, infer, hate, or think of God. He tells us that man in his absolute state is not the intellect or the body but is the pure soul itself.
The essence of the soul is wisdom and its action is love absolute. The absolute condition of man is his absolute relation to the Deity in pure love. Love then alone is the religion of the soul and consequently of the whole man. The pupil asks here, “What have I to do with the heart? — My heart loves ‘to see the sun smile, to eat the sweetest dish and to see a dance.’ Jesus profoundly replies “Yes, you must love God with all thy heart, your heart now runs to things other than God, but you must, as you train a bad horse, make your feelings run to the loving God.” This is one of the four principles of worship or what they call in Vaisnava literature, santa rasa.
Then the pupil says, “My Lord, the intellect takes me elsewhere from God, that is, it wants to take me to positivism; please instruct me what am I to do?” “Yes,” replies Jesus, “You must love God with all your mind, that is, when you perceive, conceive, remember, imagine and reason, you must not allow yourself to be a dry thinker but must love. Love alone can soften the dryness of the intellect, you must develop the intellect on all good and holy things by means of love of truth, spiritual beauty and harmony.” This is the second phase of Vaisnava development which passes by the name dasya rasa.
The pupil then inquires whether development of the affections and the intellect is quite enough for him. Then says the Lord “You must love God with thy soul also, that is, you must perceive yourself in spiritual communication with the Deity and receive holy revelations in your sublimest hours of worship.” This is called the sakhya rasa of the Vaisnavas — the soul approaching the Deity in holy and fearless service.
The disciple apprehends that he will be lost in such a position and will be unable to act. Then the Saviour tells him these words, “You must love God with all thy strength or will — you are wrong in concluding that you will loose your active existence — you will get it the more. Work for God and work to God, proceeding from no interested views but from a holy free will (which is alone the strength of man) and identifying with pure love, it will fully engross your attention.” This is a description of bhakti in general.
Then Jesus proceeds to tell us, “You must love man as thy brother.” From this is inferred the fourth phase of love which is a feeling that all men are brothers and God is their common Father. This is vatsalya rasa in its first stage of development.
Bhakti (love) is thus perceived in the very first development of man in the shape of heart, then in the shape of mind, then in the shape of soul and lastly in the shape of will. These shapes do not destroy each other but beautifully harmonize themselves into a pure construction of what we call the spiritual man or the ekanta of Vaisnava literature.
But there is another more sublime truth behind this fact which is revealed to a few that are prepared for it. We mean the spiritual conversion of the soul into a woman. It is in that sublime and lofty state in which the soul can taste the sweetness of an indissoluble marriage with God of Love. The fifth or the highest stage of Vaisnava development is this, which we call madhurya rasa, and on this alone the most beautiful portion of the Vaisnava literature so ably expatiates.
This phase of human life, mysterious as it is, is not attainable by all, nay, we should say, by any but “God’s own“. It is so very beyond the reach of common men that the rationalists and even the ordinary theists cannot understand it. Nay, they go so far as to sneer at it as something unnatural. Oh God! Reveal Thy most valuable truths to all so that “Your own” may not be numbered with the fanatics and the crazed and that the whole of mankind may be admitted as “Your own.”
(Reprinted from a Journal of Tajpur dated Friday, 25th August, 1871)
I hope we liked the illuminating peek, which Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mercifully allow us, into a heart which is sold-out to the teachings and instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We may scratch our head at some of the above topics, fortunately, our way of gaining access into higher topics is by first praying and then reading it repeatedly.
In response to my last blog ‘Turning distress into an opportunity‘, I received a few calls from devotees on taking shelter of Krishna in times of distress. In all the calls the crux was the same- Should we trouble Krishna with our material problems? Shouldn’t bhakti should be practiced without any motivation. My response was- of course bhakti should not be motivated, which means we practice bhakti for no other purpose than to please Krishna. But when faced with challenges in our lives then whose shelter should we take? Should we place our faith in Krishna’s hands or should we put it in the hands of some demigod, doctor, lawyer, money deposits, etc.?
As a small child depends exclusively upon his father similarly we, aspiring devotees, should practice keeping our faith only in Krishna. We do whatever else needed to be done but we should have the firm faith that the final decision is in the hands of Krishna and hence take shelter of Krishna only. Of course, as a dependent servant, we accept with love whatever Krishna finally decides to do about it.
This morning I read a beautiful verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and in his purport, Srila Prabhupada speaks about the importance of taking shelter of Krishna. I am sharing the same with you all of you.
Everyone, including the rulers of the various planets, was extremely distressed because of the severe punishment inflicted upon them by Hiraṇyakaśipu. Fearful and disturbed, unable to find any other shelter, they at last surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu.
“The sage who knows Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is actually the best friend of everyone. In a condition of distress or misery, one wants to seek shelter of a well-wishing friend. The well-wishing friend of the perfect order is Lord Sri Krishna. Therefore all the inhabitants of the various planets, being unable to find any other shelter, were obliged to seek shelter at the lotus feet of the supreme friend. If from the very beginning we seek shelter of the supreme friend, there will be no cause of danger. It is said that if a dog is swimming in the water and one wants to cross the ocean by catching hold of the dog’s tail, certainly he is foolish. Similarly, if in distress one seeks shelter of a demigod, he is foolish, for his efforts will be fruitless. In all circumstances, one should seek shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then there will be no danger under any circumstances.
There are innumerable examples – Gajendra, Kunti Maharani, Pandavas, all the Vrajavasis practiced it -Nanada Maharaj, gopas and the gopis. In all their challenges, they would call out only one person- Krishna!
Nanda Maharaj took shelter of Krishna
While Nanda Maharaja was returning home, he considered Vasudeva’s warning that there might be some disturbance in Gokula. Certainly the advice was friendly and not false. So Nanda thought, ”There is some truth in it.” Therefore, out of fear he took shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is quite natural for a devotee in danger to think of Krishna, because he has no other shelter. When a child is in danger, he takes shelter of his mother or father. Similarly, a devotee is always under the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but when he specifically sees some danger, he remembers the Lord very rapidly.
Since it was almost night and all the inhabitants of Vrindavan, including the cows and calves, were very tired, they decided to take their rest on the riverbank. In the middle of the night, while they were taking rest, there was suddenly a great forest fire, and it quickly appeared that the fire would soon devour all the inhabitants of Vrindavan. As soon as they felt the warmth of the fire, they immediately took shelter of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He was playing just like their child. They began to say, ”Our dear Krishna! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Our dear Balarama, reservoir of all strength! Please try to save us from this all-devouring and devastating fire. We have no shelter other than You. This devastating fire will swallow us all!” Thus they prayed to Krishna, saying that they could not take any shelter other than His lotus feet. Lord Krishna, being compassionate upon His own townspeople, immediately swallowed up the whole forest fire and saved them.
Ordered by King Indra, all the dangerous clouds appeared above Vrindavan and began to pour water incessantly, with all their strength and power. There was constant lightning and thunder, blowing of severe wind, and incessant falling of rain. The rain seemed to fall like piercing sharp arrows. By pouring water as thick as pillars, without cessation, the clouds gradually filled all the lands in Vrindavan with water, and there was no visible distinction between higher and lower land. The situation was very dangerous, especially for the animals. The rainfall was accompanied by great winds, and every living creature in Vrindavan began to tremble from the severe cold.
Unable to find any other source of deliverance, they all approached Govinda to take shelter at His lotus feet. The cows especially, being much aggrieved from the heavy rain, bowed down their heads, and taking their calves underneath their bodies, they approached the Supreme Personality of Godhead to take shelter of His lotus feet. At that time all the inhabitants of Vrindavan began to pray to Lord Krishna. ”Dear Krishna,” they prayed, ”You are all-powerful, and You are very affectionate to Your devotees. Now please protect us, who have been much harassed by angry Indra.”
We come into Krishna consciousness with a spiritual goal. Most of us are also looking a one-stop solution for all our material distress and anxieties and from one angle it is right to turn to Krishna for our material problems because Krishna is our only protector and shelter.
It is always challenging when devotees are visited by distress, but we can take these times to examine how much we’re able to apply the knowledge we have gained from reading and chanting.
What is Distress?
Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.
Krishna advises us to tolerate distress without getting disturbed
O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Even well placed devotees get surprised and bewildered when distress hits them. Why me? Why now? How can I go through it? How can I help others who may be going through it? We can see it from multiple angles.
Uttama (good) – philosophical understanding
There are two kinds of activities, namely pious and impious. By executing pious activities one can gain facilities for higher material enjoyment, but due to impious activities one has to undergo severe distress. A devotee, however, is not interested in enjoyment or affected by distress. When he is prosperous he knows, “I am diminishing the results of my pious activities,” and when he is in distress he knows, “I am diminishing the reactions of my impious activities.” A devotee is not concerned with enjoyment or distress; he simply desires to execute devotional service. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that devotional service should be apratihatä, unchecked by the material conditions of happiness or distress.
Ati Uttama (better): An impetus to remember Krishna
The word hari conveys various meanings, but the chief import of the word is that He (the Lord) vanquishes everything inauspicious and takes away the mind of the devotee by awarding pure transcendental love. By remembering the Lord in acute distress one can be free from all varieties of miseries and anxieties. Gradually the Lord vanquishes all obstacles on the path of devotional service of a pure devotee, and the result of nine devotional activities, such as hearing and chanting, becomes manifested.
Sarvottama (best): Krishna is curing me with bitter juice
The fact is that everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, manifested in varieties of energy. Ekam evādvitīyaṁ brahma. There is no second existence.
Those who are truly vipaścit, learned, are those who have reached the platform of understanding and observing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in any condition of life. Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (BS. 5.38). Learned devotees accept even conditions of distress as representing the presence of the Supreme Lord. When a devotee is in distress, he sees that the Lord has appeared as distress just to relieve or purify the devotee from the contamination of the material world. While one is within this material world, one is in various conditions, and therefore a devotee sees a condition of distress as but another feature of the Lord. tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo (SB 10.14.8).
A devotee, therefore, regards distress as a great favour of the Lord because he understands that he is being cleansed of contamination. Teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā mṛtyu-saṁsāra-sāgarāt (Bg. 12.7). The appearance of distress is a negative process intended to give the devotee relief from this material world, which is called mṛtyu-saṁsāra, or the constant repetition of birth and death.
To save a surrendered soul from repeated birth and death, the Lord purifies him of contamination by offering him a little distress. This cannot be understood by a nondevotee, but a devotee can see this because he is vipaścit, or learned. A nondevotee, therefore, is perturbed in distress, but a devotee welcomes distress as another feature of the Lord. Sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A devotee can actually see that there is only the Supreme Personality of Godhead and no second entity. Ekam evādvitīyam. There is only the Lord, who presents Himself in different energies.
Those devotees who are in proper shelter, whose consciousness has evolved and who are steady and enthusiastic in their determination to advance in Krishna consciousness. Such devotees see all distress simply as a mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga upon them. They have firm faith that Krishna knows what is best for their spiritual progress.
Can I align my consciousness like this?
This is obviously a very high and evolved consciousness but there is very simple and sublime spiritual solution for it. If we have a desire to see all challenges and distress in our life simply as a mercy of Guru and Krishna upon us then one of the option, shared by HG Srimati mataji, is to daily sing the bhajan gopinath, mama nivedana suno by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. By humbly praying for it and then singing this bhajan our consciousness will slowly but surely evolve, our heart will soften and then we can gradually come to realise that all distress is simply mercy of Srila Gurudeva upon me and one welcomes it with all his heart.
Today is Bhadra Purnima, a very auspicious and special day for all the devotees of lord Krishna.
Today is Visvarupa- mahotsava , the date on which Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s elder brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. We hear from Caitanya Caritamrta –
After this, Jagannātha Miśra got a son of the name Viśvarūpa, who was most powerful and highly qualified because He was an incarnation of Baladeva.
Viśvarūpa was the elder brother of Gaurahari, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. When arrangements were being made for the marriage of Viśvarūpa, He took sannyāsa and left home. He took the sannyāsa name of Śaṅkarāraṇya. In 1431 Śakābda Era (A.D. 1509), He disappeared in Pāṇḍarapura, in the district of Sholapur. As an incarnation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, He is both the ingredient and immediate cause of the creation of this material world. He is nondifferent from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, for the aṁśa and the aṁśī, or the part and the whole, are not different. As an incarnation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, Viśvarūpa belongs to the quadruple manifestation of catur-vyūha. In the Gaura-candrodaya it is said that Viśvarūpa, after His so-called demise, remained mixed within Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu.
Sri Narayana said to Brahma, O saintly brahmana! among all of my festivals, the celebration of the appearance of Srimad Bhagavatam is the best. I am subdued by persons who with devotion and love hear, decorate and worship Srimad Bhagavatam, with clothes, ornaments, flowers, incense and lamp during festivals, just as a chaste wife subdues her husband.
So Bhadra Purnima is a great day to gift Srimad Bhagavatam to someone close to us, including bringing Srimad Bhagavatam in our own home. We can also start reading Srimad Bhagavatam from today and even dedicate ourselves to read at least verse from SB daily. There are multiple ways we can serve the lotus feet of Srimad Bhagavatam this Bhadra Purnima and reap the benediction Krishna has kindly left for us.
Srila Sanatana Goswami prays to Srimad Bhagavatam ( and we can pray the same) –
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, I offer respectful obeisances unto You. By reading you one attains transcendental bliss, for Your syllables rain pure love of God upon the reader. You are always to be served by everyone, for you are an incarnation of Krishna.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O my only friend, O my companion, O my teacher, O my great wealth, O my deliverer, O my good fortune, O my bliss, I offer respectful obeisances unto you.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O giver of saintliness to the unsaintly, O uplifter of the very fallen, please do not ever leave me. Please become manifested upon my heart and my throat, accompanied by pure love of Krishna.
Sixty years ago, on this very day, Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa for us. He accepted the order of sannyasa from Sri Srimad Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja on September 17, 1959 at the Kesavaji Matha in Mathura.
I was sitting alone in Vṛndāvana, writing. My Godbrother insisted to me, “Bhaktivedanta Prabhu, you must do it. Without accepting the renounced order of life, nobody can become a preacher.” So he insisted. Not he insisted; practically my spiritual master insisted. He wanted me to become a preacher, so he forced me through this Godbrother: “You accept.” So, unwillingly I accepted.
Abhay sat on a mat of kuśa grass beside ninety-year-old Sanātana, also to receive sannyāsa that day. Sitting opposite the two candidates, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, Keśava Mahārāja’s disciple, prepared to conduct the ceremony of mantras and offerings of grains and ghee into the fire. Akiñcana Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī, Abhay’s Godbrother, known for sweet singing, played mṛdaṅga and sang Vaiṣṇava bhajanas. Sitting on a raised āsana, His Holiness Keśava Mahārāja presided. Since there had been no notices or invitations, only the maṭha’s few residents attended.
Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja chanted the required mantras and then sat back silently while Keśava Mahārāja lectured. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Keśava Mahārāja asked Abhay to speak. Abhay had not expected this. As he looked around at the gathering of devotees, he understood that the common language was Hindi; only Keśava Mahārāja and a few others spoke English. Yet he knew he must speak in English.
After Abhay’s speech, each initiate received his sannyāsa-daṇḍa, the traditional head-high staff made of four bamboo rods bound together and completely enwrapped in saffron cloth. They were given their sannyāsa garments: one piece of saffron cloth for a dhotī, one for a top piece, and two strips for underwear. They also received tulasī neck beads and the sannyāsa-mantra. Keśava Mahārāja said that Abhay would now be known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Mahārāja and that Sanātana would be Muni Mahārāja. After the ceremony, the two new sannyāsīs posed for a photo, standing on either side of their sannyāsa-guru, who sat in a chair.
Keśava Mahārāja didn’t impose any strictures on Abhay; he simply encouraged him to go on preaching. Yet Abhay knew that to become A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not mean merely that he was giving up family, home comforts, and business. That he had done five years ago. Changing from white cloth to saffron cloth, from Abhay Bābū to Bhaktivedanta Swami Mahārāja, had a special significance: it was the mandate he had required, the irrevocable commitment. Now it was only a matter of time before Bhaktivedanta Swami would travel to the West as Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had ordained. This was Bhaktivedanta Swami’s realization of his new sannyāsa status.
“The Krishna consciousness movement is not that we are asking everyone to become a sannyāsī like me, and give up everything. No. That is not our program. You act as a brāhmaṇa, as a kṣatriya or a vaiśya or a śūdra. It doesn’t matter. But you try to satisfy Krishna. That is the program.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, December 30, 1972)
Srila Prabhupada’s special relationship with Bhagavatam
When asked, “Are you going to America?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “No, Srimad-Bhagavatam is going to America—I am going with it.”
In your recent prayers, you asked me ‘My dear Krishna what can I do to become dear to you.’ This thought in itself is very commendable so I’m sharing with you what qualities I would like in my children. If you try to sincerely inculcate these qualities then there is no doubt that you will become very dear to me.
One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisﬁed, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence ﬁxed on Me – such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.
He by whom no one is put into difﬁculty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.
My devotee who is not dependent on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains, and not striving for some result, is very dear to Me.
One who neither rejoices nor grieves, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things – such a devotee is very dear to Me.
One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contaminating association, always silent and satisﬁed with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is ﬁxed in knowledge and who is engaged in devotional service – such a person is very dear to Me.
Those who follow this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engage themselves with faith, making Me the supreme goal, are very, very dear to Me.