Today is the divine appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of our dear Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was born in Sri Jagannatha Puri on 6 February 1874 as the son of Srila Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He was a great Vedic scholar, a revolutionary preacher and was popularly known as ‘lion guru’. He preached extensively against casteism, impersonalism and deviant philosophies in the name of Gaudiya Vaisvanism. I am sharing below part of a very illuminating conversation Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura with a visitor which ends with a spiritually enlivening definition of what is the meaning of bhajan (our whole sadhana). The copied portion starts in the middle of the conversation.
Śāstrī: Why do we have such a nature?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Our independence alone causes it.
Śāstrī: From where did the dependent living entities get such independence?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Because we are minute spiritual particles of the supremely independent God, we contain within us a minute portion of His complete qualities. Kṛṣṇa has full independence, and so the living entities have limited independence.
Śāstrī: When do covering and throwing potencies (maya) act on the living entities?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: As soon as the living entities become indifferent to serving God, the time for covering and throwing (maya) begins.
Śāstrī: What is that indifference?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Indifference means to remain neutral. Neutrality can pull human beings in one direction or another. It can attract us toward the Lord’s service or to become averse to that service. We call that state “marginal.”
Neutrality is achieved after all material objects are eliminated, at the stage called brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu (Bg 18.54). In that stage, if one is not attracted toward transcendental devotional service, then he is captured by aversion to God.
Aversion can be of two types: the inclination for material enjoyment, and the inclination for renunciation. There are two paths: the path leading to the kingdom of material enjoyment, and the path leading to the kingdom of spiritual pastimes. Therefore, the neutral state is very dangerous. Living entities cannot remain in a state of neutrality; they will either go toward māyā or toward serving God.
Śāstrī: Then how can we avoid being covered and thrown?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If one worships the Supreme Lord constantly with love and devotion, he will never be covered or thrown by māyā. But the worship has to be continuous. If there is a little gap in the continuity, then māyā’s covering potency takes advantage of it and covers us.
Śāstrī: What do you mean by bhajana?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Bhajana is the tie of love between the all-lover and the all-loved.
( from the book -Uncommon dialogues, conversation eight, Oct. 30, 1928 )
All glories Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
I am pleased to hear from you. In your recent prayers, you asked me ‘My dear Krishna sometimes I feel frustrated that I am so busy in my family and office life that I do not get much time left for you- to chant properly, to read about you, to hear about you. It seems coming back to you will remain just a pipe dream. Please guide me as to how can I please you under my present circumstances?’ Thank you for being sincere and honest, and for staying in regular touch. Do not be disheartened. I will share a little secret with you, knowing which, even while performing all your responsibilities, you can easily come back to me after this very lifetime. Here is the secret-
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform – do that as an offering to Me. In this way you will be freed from bondage to work and its auspicious and inauspicious results. With your mind fixed on Me in this principle of renunciation, you will be liberated and come to Me.
I recently read a very inspiring verse on dandavats. It spoke about unity among devotees. It was not only encouraging, as it pleases Krishna, it also gave a benediction to all the devotees who remain united despite differences in the group/society. Unity in diversity. let’s read the verse
śrī-bhagavān uvāca varaṁ vṛṇīdhvaṁ bhadraṁ vo yūyaṁ me nṛpa-nandanāḥ sauhārdenāpṛthag-dharmās tuṣṭo ’haṁ sauhṛdena vaḥ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation — devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.
Since the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat were all united in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the Lord was very pleased with them. Each and every one of the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat was an individual soul, but they were united in offering transcendental service to the Lord. The unity of the individual souls attempting to satisfy the Supreme Lord or rendering service to the Lord is real unity. In the material world such unity is not possible. Even though people may officially unite, they all have different interests.
In the United Nations, for instance, all the nations have their particular national ambitions, and consequently they cannot be united. Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually, in Krishna consciousness there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal: to serve Kṛṣṇa to one’s best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual. Those who are actually engaged in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be disunited in any circumstance. This makes the Supreme Personality of Godhead very happy and willing to award all kinds of benediction to His devotees, as indicated in this verse. We can see that the Lord is immediately prepared to award all benedictions to the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat.
Srila Prabhupada sets the mood- unity in diversity
Now this displeasing of godbrothers has already begun and gives me too much agitation in my mind. Our Gaudiya Math people fought with one another after the demise of Guru Maharaja but my disciples have already begun fighting even in my presence. So I am greatly concerned about it.
Following in the footprints of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu: trnad api su-nicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniya sada harih “One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” We must always remember this verse and be as tolerant as the tree, as we execute the Krsna consciousness movement. Without this mentality we cannot be successful.
Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krsna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement, even though there are varieties of engagements. In the material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krsna in the center, then there will be agreement in varieties. This is called unity in diversity. I am therefore suggesting that all our men meet in Mayapur every year during the birth anniversary of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With all GBC and senior men present we should discuss how to make unity in diversity. But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform. Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful.
One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity, and remember the story in Aesop’s Fables of the father of many children with the bundle of sticks. When the father asked his children to break the bundle of sticks wrapped in a bag, none of them could do it. But, when they removed the sticks from the bag, and tried one by one, the sticks were easily broken. So this is the strength in unity. If we are bunched up, we can never be broken, but when divided, then we can become broken very easily.
Prabhupāda: Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself says, ekākī āmāra nāhi pāya bolo.
Prabhupāda: ….The purport of the verse is that even Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu—He is God himself, Kṛṣṇa Himself—He felt, alone, unable to do this task. He felt. So this is the position. You are cooperating; therefore I am getting the credit. Otherwise, alone what could I do? Ekākī āmāra nāhi pāya bolo. Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself wanted our cooperation. He is God, Kṛṣṇa. And therefore cooperation is very important thing. Nobody should think that “I have got so great ability. I can do.” No. It is simply by cooperation we can do very big thing. “United we stand; divided we fall.” This is our… So be strong in pushing on Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and Kṛṣṇa will help. He is the strongest.
Still, we must be combined together. Saṅkīrtana. Saṅkīrtana means many men combined together chanting. That is saṅkīrtana. Otherwise kīrtana. Saṅkīrtana. Bahubhir militvā kīrtayeti saṅkīrtana.. Bahu. Bahu means many; many combined together. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission: combined together. All nations, all persons, they should combine together. There is hope in our Society, combination. There are Hindus; there are Muslims; there are Christians; there are black, white. Combine them. That looks very beautiful, just like combination of many flowers. There is black flower also. It looks nice, very nice. Each and every flower take alone, it is not beautiful, but when they are combined together, it looks very beautiful. It is attractive. And that is wanted.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself sets the mood for all His followers. As His ‘senapati bhakta’ Srila Prabhupada practiced this principle all his life and he repeatedly encouraged devotees to follow this mood of cooperation with each other. This mood pleases Krishna so much that He readliy bestows His blessing upon us whenever we practice it. Now it is up to us to take advantage of it by applying it in our dealing with each other be it our temple, local center, Bhakti Vriksha group or home. The principle holds good, the choice is ours.
After the departure of Lord Krishna, all the Pandavas, unable to bear the separation from Krishna, decided to leave this world. Before they left, Maharaj Yuddhisthir appointed Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu, as the emperor of the whole world. Vajranabha, the great-grandson of Lord Krishna, son of Aniruddha, was made the king of Mathura.
Vajranabha missed Krishna very much. Many great personalities requested him to reestablish the glories of Vrindavan. Vrajanabha decided to excavate all those places in Vraja where Lord Krishna performed His pastimes. He sat under a tree on the banks of Yamuna and prayed to Krishna to reveal His divine pastimes places in Vraja. He received Krishna’s mercy, who revealed His Vrindavan pastimes in his heart. Vajranabha then called upon Vishwakarma, the architect of the demigods to install various Deities. The three principal Deities carved by him were Radha Madanmohana, Radha Govindadev and Radha Gopinath.
At that time there was no one other than Uttara, mother of Maharaj Parikshit, who had seen Krishna directly. The first Deity she saw was of Madanmohan. When Vajranabha showed this Deity to Uttara she said Madanmohan’s feet perfectly resemble Krishna’s feet. Next, when she saw the beautiful form of Govindadeva, she explained that the chest of Krishna was exactly like Him. Finally, when she saw the Deity of Gopinath, she explained that the beautiful smiling face of Gopinath exactly resembled Krishna’s face.
One can understand the importance of these three Deities of Vrindavan for the devotees. Krishnadas Kaviraj Gosvami declares that these three Deities of Vrindavan are the very life and soul of all Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
ei tina ṭhākura gauḍīyāke kariyāchena ātmasāt e tinera caraṇa vandoṅ, tine mora nātha
These three Deities of Vrindavan [Madana-mohana, Govinda and Gopīnātha] have absorbed the heart and soul of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas [followers of Lord Caitanya]. I worship Their lotus feet, for They are the Lords of my heart.
Srila Prabhupada explains the role these three special Deities of Vrindavan play in the lives of devotees in his purport of the above verse –
The author of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta offers his respectful obeisances unto the three Deities of Vrindavan named Śrī Rādhā-Madana-mohana, Śrī Rādhā-Govindadeva and Śrī Rādhā-Gopīnāthajī. These three Deities are the life and soul of the Bengali Vaiṣṇavas, or Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, who have a natural aptitude for residing in Vṛndāvana. The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas who follow strictly in the line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu worship the Divinity by chanting transcendental sounds meant to develop a sense of one’s transcendental relationship with the Supreme Lord, a reciprocation of mellows (rasas) of mutual affection, and, ultimately, the achievement of the desired success in loving service. These three Deities are worshiped in three different stages of one’s development. The followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu scrupulously follow these principles of approach.
Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas perceive the ultimate objective in Vedic hymns composed of eighteen transcendental letters that adore Kṛṣṇa as Madana-mohana, Govinda and Gopījana-vallabha. Madana-mohana is He who charms Cupid, the god of love, Govinda is He who pleases the senses and the cows, and Gopījana-vallabha is the transcendental lover of the gopīs. Kṛṣṇa Himself is called Madana-mohana, Govinda, Gopījana-vallabha and countless other names as He plays in His different pastimes with His devotees.
According to the Vedic principles, there are three stages of spiritual advancement, namely, sambandha–jñāna, abhidheyaand prayojana. Sambandha-jñāna refers to establishing one’s original relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, abhidheya refers to acting according to that constitutional relationship, and prayojana is the ultimate goal of life, which is to develop love of Godhead
So these three Deities of Vrindavan, each one of Them represent
Sri Radha Madanmohan are the presiding Deity of Sambanda – our eternal relationship with Krishna, we are His part and parcel.
Sri Radha Govindadev are the presiding Deity of Abhidheya – how to act in that relationship. devotional service.
Sri Radha Gopinatha are the presiding Deity of Prayojana– ultimate goal, love of Godhead.
Krishna willing, in our upcoming blogs, we will read in a little more detail about these special Deities of Vrindavanand try to understand and appreciatethe unique role They play in the lives of all the Gaudiya Vaisnavas.
All glories to the three main Deities of Vrindavan.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
P.S.: It is said that if one gets darshan of these three Deities of Vrindavan on the same day, especially on an Ekadasi, then it is accepted that one has taken full darshan of Krishna. I have posted Their pictures and today is Ekadasi.
December is the month in which Krishna spoke Bhagavad gita to Arjuna. The exact day, also known as Gita Jayanti, falls on Moskshada Ekadasi. December is also the month in which book distribution exploded in the west in seventies. Since then devotees in ISKCON have worked hard to keep the same spirit alive. Come December and all over the world ISKCON devotees come out on the streets to distribute Bhagavad gita to the general public, its also called book marathon. As Gita Jayanti month comes to an end let me share a wonderful verse to meditate upon, which I recently heard in a lecture from HG Srimati Mataji. I am sharing brief excerpts from her lecture and the verse below.
The context of this verse is that Krishna has left the planet and Arjuna is feeling pangs of separation from Him.
HG Srimati mataji: If we are essence seekers then we should be aware that Krishna speaking Bhagavad gita to Arjuna is not the end of the story. There is a second advent of Bhagavad gita to Arjuna. When he is in separation from Krishna Bhagavad gita advents in his mind and guides him back home. That’s very very special for us, so as an essence seeker that’s where we should look next.
We can never beat gita in terms of shastra, it is an amazing scripture. We always talk about Bhagavatam. In Bhagavatam we learn about names of Krishna, we learn about form of Krishna, we learn about pastimes of Krishna – that is wonderful but none of those things have any substance in terms of us having a relationship with the person if we don’t the mind of the person. What’s the value me knowing your form if we don’t know where we are at. How can I relate to him on real terms. So Krishna is revealing His mind in Bhagavad gita. And it is these instructions, its not all the amazing experiences that Arjuna had with Krishna that gave him actual solace. He remembered them but that wasn’t what that gave him the solace. What enlivened and illuminated his heart was the instructions Govindadev gave. I find that pretty amazing and for me personally celebration of Gita Jayanti is not complete unless we look at this. (pause)
Here is the special verse :
देशकालार्थयुक्तानि हृत्तापोपशमानि च । हरन्ति स्मरतश्चित्तं गोविन्दाभिहितानि मे ॥ २७ ॥
Now I am attracted to those instructions imparted to me by the Personality of Godhead [Govinda] because they are impregnated with instructions for relieving the burning heart in all circumstances of time and space.
Herein Arjuna refers to the instruction of the Bhagavad gita, which was imparted to him by the Lord on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The Lord left behind Him the instructions of the Bhagavad gita not for the benefit of Arjuna alone, but also for all time and in all lands. The Bhagavad gita, being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the essence of all Vedic wisdom. It is nicely presented by the Lord Himself for all who have very little time to go through the vast Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Vedānta-sūtras. It is put within the study of the great historical epic Mahābhārata, which was especially prepared for the less intelligent class, namely the women, the laborers and those who are worthless descendants of the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and higher sections of the vaiśyas. The problem which arose in the heart of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra was solved by the teachings of the Bhagavad gita. Again, after the departure of the Lord from the vision of earthly people, when Arjuna was face to face with being vanquished in his acquired power and prominence, he wanted again to remember the great teachings of the Bhagavad gita just to teach all concerned that the Bhagavad gita can be consulted in all critical times, not only for solace from all kinds of mental agonies, but also for the way out of great entanglements which may embarrass one in some critical hour.
The merciful Lord left behind Him the great teachings of the Bhagavad gitaso that one can take the instructions of the Lord even when He is not visible to material eyesight. Material senses cannot have any estimation of the Supreme Lord, but by His inconceivable power the Lord can incarnate Himself to the sense perception of the conditioned souls in a suitable manner through the agency of matter, which is also another form of the Lord’s manifested energy. Thus the Bhagavad gita, or any authentic scriptural sound representation of the Lord, is also the incarnation of the Lord. There is no difference between the sound representation of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One can derive the same benefit from the Bhagavad gita as Arjuna did in the personal presence of the Lord.
The faithful human being who is desirous of being liberated from the clutches of material existence can very easily take advantage of the Bhagavad gita, and with this in view, the Lord instructed Arjuna as if Arjuna were in need of it…. The Bhagavad gita is therefore meant for terminating all different types of miseries, and Arjuna took shelter of this great knowledge, which had been imparted to him during the Kurukṣetra battle.
HG Srimati mataji: ….That’s why Prabhupada gave us Bhagavad gita. How many of us read Bhagavad gita daily? We do not understand the preciousness or the potency of Bhagavad gita of what Prabhupada has given us. It’s not only because of the instructions that have been given, its because Bhagavad gita is the words of Govindadev, adi purusham Govindadev. Words of Govindadev are nondifferent from Govindadev. So just by associating with the words of Bhagavad gita we are directly associating with Govindadev.
And if you are chanting Bhagavad gita every day then it’s such an amazing thing , because you are not just chanting those words but they are Govinda’s words. And the potency of it is that immediately, just by the act of you repeating Govindadev’s words, you are properly situated as His servant. And just by the act of you chanting Bhagavad gita daily you get His shelter, you get His protection, you get His guidance, you get everything because you are properly situated in His service. Just by repeating His words! It’s amazing. We are not aware of the potency and the incredible depth what Prabhupada has given us.
How many people read Bhagavad gita daily? Who reads Gita daily? Nobody is interested in Gita. There are just so many other things. But Gita is where you start. As I said in the beginning, if we don’t know a person’s mind what’s so important about knowing what he looks like or what he does- it’s so shallow. Where is the relationship? How can you have a relationship with somebody if we don’t know their mind? We may be able to rattle of about everything they do and rattle of about what they look like but have you had any depth of relationship with that person? You can’t. Gita at so many levels is so amazing. (pause)
Hearing the self-illuminated verse, Prabhupada’s purport and Srimati mataji’s lecture all had a combined effect on my heart and I felt inspired to start reading one chapter of Bhagavad gita daily – verses and their translation.
We make so many new year resolutions or keep different vratas throughout the year. So it may not be such a bad idea to resolve to chant the words of Govindadev daily and get an opportunity to closer to Krishna’s lotus feet. It may well be the support we need to fill our heart with enthusiasm, determination and patience to progress solidly in Krishna consciousness.
Today is the divine disappearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada and an exalted acharya on our parampara. I am sharing a very enlightening quote by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur where he speaks about the position of acharya or jagad-guru and those who come after him as spiritual masters or diksha gurus.
Question: If Jesus Christ was a jagad -guru and his instructions are capable of bringing us deliverance, why do we need a spiritual master?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada: We accept both the universal spiritual master and the initiating spiritual master. By accepting only the jagad-guru, we may face many anarthas. If at present we want to follow Christ’s orders by accepting him as jagad-guru and we think we do not require an initiating spiritual master, we will certainly face doubt about how well we can follow Christ’s orders. The Supreme Lord or universal jagad-guru delivers his instructionsabout the absolute truthonly through the disciplic succession.
As I sit on the bank of the Ganga in Nabadwip, far from the Himalayas where the Ganga originates, and am able to touch her water here, the initiating spiritual master similarly brings the Ganga of pure devotional service, which emanates from the lord’s lotus feet, and places it in my hand and on my head. Because I am an ordinary, powerless, poor person, I am not able to climb the Himalayas to touch her water there. Similarly, if the flow of the Ganga from the Himalayas is interrupted on the way, I would have to face the danger of accepting a polluted flow instead of the pure Ganga.
If the instructions Jesus Christ gave two thousand years ago do not come to us through disciplic succession, or if we have to sort them out from books, then perhaps we may create a blunder and accept a perversion of the truth taught in the name of Christianity. We may even come to accept something opposite from what he taught, thinking it his actual philosophy.
The initiating spiritual master is also jagad-guru because he is a manifestation of the original jagad-guru. Out of his causeless mercy he delivers the message of the original jagad-guru through the disciplic succession. He does not cheat or flatter the disciple, nor does he yearn for any material gain. He is simply a messenger of the absolute truth.”
(Amrta Vani, p. 44, Touchstone Media)
I hope the above Q & A was enlightening for us and we can relate to it in the context of ISCON- understanding the position of Srila Prabhupada and the initiating spiritual masters or diksha gurus who will under him for generations to come. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur is sharing with us what should be the mood of a disciple towards his own diksha guru and the acharya. He is telling us that they are both different and yet the same because a bonafide initiating spiritual master is pure via media between the acharya and his disciple, the message remains the same.
And very importantly the connection with jagad-guru or an acharya is only via disciplic succession- not ‘direct’.
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.