Sometime we have confusion on the position of demigods. We also observe that Vaishnavas, especially Gaudiya vaishnavas, do not worship demigods whereas the spiritual master and acharya are worshiped thrice a day! Is it mere sentimentalism or is there a solid philosophy behind it. Srimad Bhagavatam answers this question in the below verse, as to whose shelter devotees should seek, and it’s very instructive purport on the position of demigods.
sarvato manaso ’saṅgam ādau saṅgaṁ ca sādhuṣu
dayāṁ maitrīṁ praśrayaṁ ca bhūteṣv addhā yathocitam
A sincere disciple should learn to dissociate the mind from everything material and positively cultivate association with his spiritual master and other saintly devotees. He should be merciful to those in an inferior position to him, cultivate friendship with those on an equal level and meekly serve those in a higher spiritual position. Thus he should learn to deal properly with all living beings.
High position of demigods
Śrīla Madhvācārya has quoted from the Garuḍa Purāṇa to demonstrate that within this universe those who take birth as demigods, great ṛṣis or pious human beings are all considered santaḥ, or saintly persons. According to Bhagavad-gītā,traiguṇya-viṣayā vedāḥ: the varṇāśrama culture described in Vedic literature deals mostly with the living entities who are struggling within the three modes of nature. The Vedic literatures teach such conditioned souls that material happiness can be achieved only through pious works. In this sense, the demigods are to be considered the most pious living entities within the three modes of material nature. The ṛṣis, or the great saintly mystics of the universe, who are able to travel at will to various planets and who cultivate mystic powers, are to be considered somewhat below the demigods. And those human beings on earth who perfectly execute the Vedic rituals are to be considered in the third or lowest category of santaḥ, or saintly persons.
Pure devotees transcends the material modes
But a devotee of the Lord is beyond the three modes of material nature. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gītā (14.26):
māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” Thus Lord Krishna clearly says that a Vaiṣṇava who does not fall down from the regulations of bhakti-yoga is beyond the three modes of nature. And Lord Krishna advised Arjuna, a Krishna-bhakta, to transcend the three material qualities of the illusory creation of māyā (nistraiguṇyo bhavārjuna).
What about demigods?
In the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā (18.40) the Lord says:
na tad asti pṛthivyāṁ vā divi deveṣu vā punaḥ
sattvaṁ prakṛti-jair muktaṁ yad ebhiḥ syāt tribhir guṇaiḥ
“There is no being existing, either here or among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, who is free from the three modes of material nature.” Thus the demigods are not exempt from the pollution of the three modes of material nature, whereas a pure devotee actually becomes guṇātīta, or transcendental to the influence of māyā.
Therefore, one should cultivate the association of the uttama-adhikārī, or pure devotee of the Lord, as stated previously (Bhāg. 11.3.21):
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
“Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.”…
One cannot be liberated without association with a pure devotee of the Lord.
All the Upanisads are like a cow, and the milker of the cow is Lord Shri Krishna, the son of Nanda. Arjuna is the calf, the beautiful nectar of the Gita is the milk, and the fortunate devotees of fine theistic intellect are the drinkers and enjoyers of that milk.
(Gita Mahatmya, verse 6)
Taking a cue from the above, if all the Upanishads are like a cow then
Srimad Bhagavatam is like a Surabhi cow, and the milker of this Surabhi cow is Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Parīkṣit’s Maharaj is the calf, the ‘rasa’ or mellow of devotional service is the milk, and the paramahaṁsas, devotees who are already on the liberated platform, are the drinkers and enjoyers of this milk.
One should learn how to associate with the devotees of the Lord by gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord. This process is most purifying. As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they feel mutual happiness and satisfaction. And by thus encouraging one another they are able to give up material sense gratification, which is the cause of all suffering.
Let us pray to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada as we try to churn every line of this verse, simply by his mercy may we be blessed with just a few drops from it!
One should learn how to associate with the devotees of the Lord: To be able to progress in Krishna consciousness and proceed towards the madhyam culture, we need to associate with devotees and develop friendship with them.This is not something which comes naturally to many of us. Bhagavatam knows our conditioning, so it is directing us to ‘learn it’. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Love for Krishna is reflected as friendship with devotees in the material world, they are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes we may excuse ourselves by saying ‘I am an introvert’ or ‘it isn’t my nature to mix with everyone’ but if we wish to make progress in spiritual journey then it is very important to develop friendship with other devotees. We can begin by regularly associating with like minded devotees. We have to shift towards our ‘real’ nature, what is practiced in Goloka.
By gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord: What do we do when we associate with devotees? Do we share some juicy gossip, of course about the devotees only, after all we are concerned with them only or do we share some tricky temple issue, where we ourselves have no influence, or discuss some scandal or ask about the weather or family or so many other topics? Bhagavatam is saying meet and chant the glories of the Lord.
A devotee once shared how he once saw two Mathura Brahmins who met after many years. When these two Brahmins saw each other from a distance they started pacing towards each other and then as they came closer the devotee saw that both of them were reciting Bhagavatam verses loudly! The devotee said he was very surprised to witness such an interaction where instead of talking about well being, family, kids, etc. they were spontaneously reciting Bhagavatam verses one after another.
We can appreciate as the strong attachment of Brahmins to Srimad Bhagavatam came out naturally. We can’t imitate them but we can definitely take an inspiration from them and also understand that such strong attachment for Srimad Bhagvatam verses is resulting from a strong attachment to daily reading of Srimad Bhagavatam.
This process is most purifying: Our bonafide process for internal purification is Sravanam Kirtanam. This has been stressed repeatedly in Srimad Bhagavatam and hundreds of times by Srila Prabhupada in his lectures and purports. Its a very simple and yet effective process.
These nine processes, of which the easiest is çravaëam, hearing the Bhagavad-gétä from the realized person, will turn one to the thought of the Supreme Being. This will lead to remembering the Supreme Lord and will enable one, upon leaving the body, to attain a spiritual body which is just fit for association with the Supreme Lord.
As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they feel mutual happiness and satisfaction: Srimad Bhagavatam is again stressing that we need to develop, and cultivate, loving friendship with devotees. It may not come naturally to us in the beginning therefore we need to practice it consciously (not artificially). We will then feel satisfaction, resulting in increased mutual enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness, a feeling of satisfaction and a happiness from within.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura describes the transcendental symptom of those devotees who have developed a real taste for hearing & chanting the glories of Krishna, in the association of other devotees, in his commentary of SB 1.5.11 –
The devotees hear, and having heard, sing, and having sung, again they hear, since they are not fully satiated. Or if a speaker is present, they hear the glories. If a hearer is present they speak the glories . And, otherwise, they spontaneously sing the glories.
And by thus encouraging one another they are able to give up material sense gratification, which is the cause of all suffering: At our level, one big reason for not progressing in Krishna consciousness is not our inability to chant additional rounds, memorise more verses, and so on but simply because we still have desires (consciously or subconsciously) to enjoy this material world. We very well know that the result of all such desires will be that we come back here again and again.
Now do we know of a more easier, and simpler process, to give up sense gratification than described above? What is aimed, and rarely achieved, by big big jnanis and yogis, can be very easily, and joyfully, achieved even by aspiring devotees. Sometimes our mind may find few solutions sound too easy to be true but then we underestimate the mercy of Krishna and the potency of Srimad Bhagavatam.
The result of such association with devotees is very sweetly described in the purport of this verse –
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has pointed out that glorification of the Supreme Lord is especially potent when performed in the association of pure devotees. When devotees engage in saṅkīrtana, chanting the glories of the Lord together, they experience the highest transcendental bliss and satisfaction. Thus they encourage one another to give up material sense gratification, which is based on illicit sexual connections with women. One devotee will say to another, “Oh, you have given up sense gratification. Starting today, I shall also give it up.”
Srila Prabhupada sums up!
A place immediately becomes Vaikuṇṭha whenever the holy topics of the Personality of Godhead are discussed by pure devotees. This is the process of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ, chanting and hearing about the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. As the Supreme Lord Himself confirms:
“My dear Nārada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuṇṭha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogīs, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.” Because of the presence of the Lord in the form of the transcendental vibration, the Vaikuṇṭha atmosphere is evoked.
I pray that by the mercy and potency of Srila Prabhupada we can all taste some butter from this milk we tried to churn today.
We all have our own experiences of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and getting better understanding of our philosophy, principles, etc. As we develop more faith, study his books more carefully, also hear them from the mouth of the pure devotees, then we get realisations in our heart. This blissful and transcendental process forever continues in the life a sincere and a faithful follower, anandambudhi-vardhanam.
Today morning I read a very heart touching purport from Srimad Bhagavatam, (SB 11.3.24p). I am sharing the same with you all, the bold portions are from the above mentioned purport.
Specifically one should study those books which increase one’s desire to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This touched my heart and also gave me an amazing guide on how to measure how is my reading. After reading a book I can look back and check “has my desire to serve Krishna increased or not?”
The purport then goes on to emphasize that Srila Prabhupada has written so many book for this purpose only –
‘when the principle of svādhyāyam, or Vedic study, is applied to these books, such as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, Caitanya-caritāmṛta and The Nectar of Devotion, the sincere reader becomes infused with the ecstatic determination to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’
Simply reading these lines increased my faith in regularly and carefully reading and studying only Srila Prabhupada books and our goal should be to get infused with bhakti, service to Krishna and His devotees.
The purport ends with these lines-
..nor should one try to read many books to increase his false prestige as a so-called scholar. One should read those books which inspire practical spiritual advancement in knowledge and renunciation, as exemplified by the books of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Our Acharaya says :
If you want to stay in Krsna Consciousness you will have to develop firm faith in Guru and Sastra. Therefore, you must study my books very scrutinizingly, follow the four regulative principles very strictly and chant 16 rounds daily avoiding the ten offenses. Don’t take this movement as something cheap.
(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Srutadeva, 30th Oct 1976)
As we come into Krishna consciousness then many a times we may get lost in the philosophy itself. The mind too likes newer subjects and intellect is also satisfied by gaining deeper understanding. However we should be careful not to feel satisfied remaining at these levels. Most of us do understand that our real position in the material world is not unlike that of a criminal put in a prison for reform. Criminals can also, rather they do, have high level of mental and intellectual capabilities!
The living entities who come in contact with the material world are meant to be corrected. All the living entities within this material world have revolted against the service of the Lord, and therefore they remain within this material world as ever conditioned, nitya-baddha, taking birth again and again.
Old habits die hard!
The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal. As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail. Although they know that if they commit theft they will go to jail, still they are forced to steal because of their unclean hearts. Therefore without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement. The thief and the murderer already know the law, yet they still commit violent crimes, due to their unclean hearts. So our process is to cleanse the heart. Then all the troubles of this material world will be solved.
(SSR chapter 6)
We may be surprised to know that the whole process of ‘sadhna bhakti’ is to change our heart!
The whole process of spiritual culture is aimed at changing the heart of the living being in the matter of his eternal relation with the Supreme Lord as subordinate servant, which is his eternal constitutional position.
It is expected by all means that by discharging regulated devotional service one must manifest the change of heart.
What exactly we mean by ‘change of heart’?
Change of heart means that my ‘Thinking, feeling and willing’ has changed. Which means what all I think, what is my reaction to various every day situations or circumstances and finally my actions have changed. It does not mean that we have simply learnt the art of what not to speak, especially when we are among the devotees, but inside our heart reactions to their behavior remains same. It means not just externals (my dress, a new name, my eating habits, my wake up time, etc. ) but I have changed, or changing, internally as well.
So what if change of heart has still not happened?
If there is no such change, the heart must be considered steel-framed, for it is not melted even when there is chanting of the holy name of the Lord.
So philosophy has its place but as an aspiring devotee we should be more interested in the culture not merely philosophy. And what is culture? Philosophy lived is culture. In simple words it means that we intelligently, under the shelter of a devotee not my own mind, applying whatever we are reading in Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc., or whatever we are hearing (from a right source!). Without contemplation and then application all of it remains mere knowledge and will not result in any spiritual realisation. Realisation does not mean mere understanding rather it means they have entered into my day to day life.
What are the symptoms of change of heart ?
So with the progress of devotional service, the reaction of change in the heart is exhibited by gradual detachment from the sense of material enjoyment by a false sense of lording it over the world and an increase in the attitude of rendering loving service to the Lord.
How do I change my stone like heart ?
One who directly associates with the Supreme Lord by hearing of His activities cleanses the dirt from his mind and very soon comes to Kåñëa consciousness. Süta Gosvämé confirms this in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.17):
çåëvatäà sva-kathäù kåñëaù puëya-çravaëa-kértanaù
hådy antaù-stho hy abhadräëi vidhunoti suhåt-satäm
The Supreme Lord within everyone’s heart becomes very pleased when a person hears narrations of His activities, and He personally cleanses the dirt from the mind of the listener. Hådy antaù-stho hy abhadräëi vidhunoti: He washes off all dirt from the mind. Material existence is caused by dirty things within the mind. If one can cleanse his mind, he immediately comes to his original position of Kåñëa consciousness, and thus his life becomes successful. Therefore all the great saints in the devotional line very strongly recommend the process of hearing.
Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu introduced the congregational chanting of the Hare Kåñëa mantra to give everyone a chance to hear Kåñëa’s holy name, for simply by hearing Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare, one becomes purified (ceto-darpaëa-märjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12]). Therefore our Kåñëa consciousness movement is chiefly engaged in chanting the Hare Kåñëa mantra all over the world.
As stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.18):
nañöa-präyeñv abhadreñu nityaà bhägavata-sevayä
bhagavaty uttama-çloke bhaktir bhavati naiñöhiké
“By regularly hearing the Bhägavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.” In this way, simply by hearing of the powerful activities of the Lord, the devotee’s heart becomes almost completely cleansed of material contamination, and thus his original position as an eternal servant who is part and parcel of the Lord becomes manifest.
There are two kinds of çruti, or scripture. One is spoken by the Lord, and the other is spoken about the Lord and His devotees. Bhagavad-gétä is the former and Çrémad-Bhägavatam the latter. One must hear these scriptures repeatedly from reliable sources in order to become fixed in serious devotional service. Through engagement in such devotional service, one becomes freed from the contamination of mäyä. It is stated in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam that hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead cleanses the heart of all contamination caused by the influence of the three modes of material nature. By continuous, regular hearing, the effects of the contamination of lust and greed to enjoy or lord it over material nature diminish, and when lust and greed diminish, one then becomes situated in the mode of goodness. This is the stage of Brahman realization, or spiritual realization. In this way one becomes fixed on the transcendental platform. Remaining fixed on the transcendental platform is liberation from material entanglement.
Can my heart change just by hearing?
Çåëvatäà sva-kathäù kåñëaù. So we don’t say that “You change your profession, you change your position or occupation,” no. Please come and hear. Please… If you don’t chant, please hear. That hearing process also will cure you. Çravaëam kértanam. So people should come to our temple and hear this chanting, this… We are not taxing. We are not asking any… If you give some contribution, there is temple and management, there is expenditure, heavy expenditure, in this country. If you so kind… It is very kind of you. Even if you do not pay, you don’t like, please come. Please come and hear. Please bring your friends if you are really friend. So it is very nice thing. Sthäne sthitaù çruti-gatäà tanu-väì-manobhir. You remain what you are. We don’t say that you change, but you hear.
(Room conversation, 16th July 1968, Montreal)
What are the chances of success for a fallen soul like myself?
All the great äcäryas strongly recommend that people be given a chance to hear about the Supreme Lord. Then success is assured. The more we cleanse the dirt of material attachment from our hearts, the more we will be attracted by Kåñëa’s name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and activities. This is the sum and substance of the Kåñëa consciousness movement.
We must always remember that hearing and chanting are the basic principles of discharging devotional duties, and if they are properly performed there will follow the reactional ecstasy with signs of tears in the eyes and standing of the hairs on the body. These are natural consequences and are the preliminary symptoms of the bhäva stage, which occurs before one reaches the perfectional stage of prema, love of Godhead.
End Result : A stone like heart transforms into a fish! A fish that can swim in an ocean of love, love for our dear most Sri Sri Radha Shyama.
And where is such an ocean?
In conclusion to your letter you have asked as to where is the ocean of love? And I think that you may know that it is in your heart.
(Letter to Himavati — Los Angeles 12 December, 1968)
So it may not be such a bad idea to pray to Lord Balarama today, on His appearance day, to beg him for spiritual strength, so that we may feel inspired to daily, and carefully, read Bhagavad Gita & Srimad Bhagavatam and that we at least make an endeavor to chant without offences. Lord Balarama is the killer of Dhenukasura (the ass demon). So this ass who is with in us, who still does not listen to instructions of acharaya, can be very easily killed by Lord Balarama. A short and sincere prayer at His lotus feet today can be a good beginning today in our journey of change of heart!
O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.
Hare Krishna dear devotees,
Please relish as we read, chew, nibble or rather simply feast upon the nectarean introduction of Srimad Bhagavatam by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura:
The cloud of Śrī-caitanya has rained a sweet shower of mercy, producing a river of devotion to himself where the jīvas play like elephants in the Gaṅgā. May the dark cloud of Lord Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, made golden with a flash of lightning, illuminate the sky of my mind!
I worship the one absolute truth, Kṛṣṇa, who is eternal bliss and supreme consciousness, (Nityānanda, Advaita-Caitanya), personified as the eternal Bhagavatam which is the complete form of Brahma-sutra, in its most embellished form and who resides with eternal bhakti and the eternal devotees in the eternal spiritual abode. I take shelter of the eternal form, name and qualities of Kṛṣṇa known from Bhagavatam, which I studied for a long time by the mercy of guru. After having studied the Vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī of Sanātana and after having understood the conclusions of Lord Caitanya from the Sandarbhas of Jīva, by the mercy of Śrīdhara Svāmī, I produce this commentary to show the essence of Bhagavatam. I am not learned. Oh! I am rash in this attempt! The cause, being either my own foolishness or the causeless mercy of the Lord, gives rise to its manifestation, even in an unqualified person. If its cause is my foolishness, it will produce mockery, and if its cause is mercy of the Lord, it will produce bliss with every word for the devotees.
I offer myself and everything I have to the absolute Lord who is dearer than life to all the cowherd men and women, and to the service of his dear devotees. It is not so surprising that this popularly read scripture has qualities of the absolute entity brahman, comparable to the fruit of a desire tree, a lamp and the sun. I praise this work which assumes the form of Mohinī in the assembly of devas and demons, giving the sweet topics of the Lord to the devotees, and denying them to the demons. Svayam Bhagavān, the sweet ocean of all auspicious qualities, the king holding the greatest power, the most splendid sun, shone and then disappeared at scheduled times over the earth. The meanings of the various scriptures, Purāṇas and Itihāsas, placed in three groups just as men are classified into three groups, are like night watchmen (guarding the treasure of satisfaction of the heart), but through time, destiny, the appearance of irregularity, and even laziness, some of the meanings have fallen into deep sleep. Consequently, the great treasure – satisfaction of the heart of all people and the authors of the works – has been stolen by those who have appeared like thieves and given wrong interpretations to those scriptures. This is understood from the following:
The people in general are naturally inclined to enjoy, and you have encouraged them in that way in the name of religion. This is verily condemned and is quite unreasonable. (SB 1.5.15)
However, under these conditions the Lord makes his appearance:
yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata |
abhutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham ||
Whenever there is destruction in dharma, O Bhārata, and a rise in adharma, I manifest my own body. (BG 4.7)
As well, according to the Gītā, the Lord comes to save the devotees and destroy the demons. (BG 4.8) Just as he appears for these purposes as Matsya among the fish, as Varāha among the animals, as Haṁsa among the birds, as svayam bhagavān Kṛṣṇa among humans, and as Upendra among the devatās, so the Lord has now appeared as the crown jewel of the scriptures, Śrīmad-bhāgavatam, among the Vedas, for restoring dharma and delivering the devotees.
kṛṣṇe sva-dhāmopagate dharma-jñānādibhiḥ saha |
kalau naṣṭa-dṛśām eṣa purāṇārko ’dhunoditaḥ ||
This Bhāgavata Purāṇa is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Kṛṣṇa to his own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purāṇa. (SB 1.3.4)
This indicates that Bhagavatam is another form of Kṛṣṇa, similar to the oneness of I and mine (Kṛṣṇa and the book about Kṛṣṇa). Thus, it bears no comparison with other works. Kṛṣṇa has appeared as Bhagavatam through Śukadeva and Parīkṣit, and like the sun among the planets, it shines among the Purāṇas. It has twelve forms (volumes), just as the sun has twelve forms for each of the months of the year. With eighteen-thousand verses like its leaves, it has appeared like a desire tree to fulfill the goals of the great devotees.
( Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary on the first verse of Srimad Bhagavatam)
If its description is so delightful and tempting then we can very well imagine how heavenly will be its taste if we were to serve Srimad Bhagavatam by carefully reading it every day for the rest of our life.