Do devotees suffer karmic reactions?

7th April, 2017. Gurgaon.

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

I could not post the blog for a long time as life turned a bit busy, please forgive me for this laxity.

Yesterday morning I read the very beautiful, and famous, verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and now sharing the same with you. 

This particular chapter, SB 10.14, describes the Brahmā ji’s prayers to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Brahmā ji first praised the beauty of the Lord’s transcendental limbs and then declared that Krishna’s original identity of sweetness is even more difficult to comprehend than His opulence. And only by the devotional process of hearing and chanting transcendental sounds received from Vedic authorities can one realize the Personality of Godhead. It is fruitless to try to realize God through processes outside the scope of Vedic authority.

Brahmā  ji is praying to Lord Krishna:

My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.

O almighty Lord, in the past many yogīs in this world achieved the platform of devotional service by offering all their endeavors unto You and faithfully carrying out their prescribed duties. Through such devotional service, perfected by the processes of hearing and chanting about You, they came to understand You, O infallible one, and could easily surrender to You and achieve Your supreme abode.

(SB 10.14.4-5)

Then comes the gem of a verse wherein Brahmā ji reveals that to go back to Godhead a devotee simply has to patiently tolerate his past karmic reactions in this lifetime, while sincerely & seriously practicing Krishna consciousness! This may sound too good to be true or too easy but these are the words from Srimad Bhagavatam, Amala Purana, spoken by Brahmā ji, who also happens to be the head of our sampradaya. Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura said that this verse describes Bhakti.

tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk

My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.

(SB 10.14.8)

In his purport Srila Prabhupada too reveals an ‘inside’ secret as to how even those apparent karmic reactions are also actually a favour by the most merciful Krishna. Many of us may have read this verse before but as we read and reread it our conviction for the scientific process of Krishna consciousness, and the amazing journey we are in, goes few notches higher. It also helps us appreciate how compassionate is Krishna towards His devotees.  And that only is Krishna silently working to get us back home but He is very much looking forward to see us soon.
Purport

Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī explains in his commentary that just as a legitimate son has to simply remain alive to gain an inheritance from his father, one who simply remains alive in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, automatically becomes eligible to receive the mercy of the Personality of Godhead. In other words, he will be promoted to the kingdom of God.

The word su-samīkṣamāṇa indicates that a devotee earnestly awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord even while suffering the painful effects of previous sinful activities. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions. The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity’s tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord’s devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord’s special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead.

A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord’s abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord’s merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God, as indicated here by the words dāya-bhāk. Just as one cannot approach the sun without becoming fire, one cannot approach the supreme pure, Lord Kṛṣṇa, without undergoing a rigid purificatory process, which may appear like suffering but which is in fact a curative treatment administered by the personal hand of the Lord.

So we can appreciate how unique is our journey in Krishna Consciousness. How even the aspiring devotees remain under the direct shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna. We just need to remain sincere & serious, practice tolerance and be simple hearted. Then there is no faster route back to Godhead.

Now it is up to us to decide if sincerity, simplicity and tolerance are too high a price to pay for gaining the personal association of Lord?

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Who is a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, a madhyama-adhikārī and an uttama-adhikārī ?

Hare Krishna
27th Feb, 2015. Gurgaon

Vaishnava-Etiquette-3-Basic-Principles

This is the second last blog in the series of last few blogs on Vaishanava etiquette and Vaishanava Apradha. We will read about three categories of devotees and what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has to say on Vaishnava Apradha.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes in `Vaisnava Ninda’ (Sajjan Toshani, 1893) that If we neglect to show respect to the ordinary jivas, special honour to the religious jiva, and proper respect to brahmana-jivas and vaisnava-praya-jivas, then we invite sin upon ourselves. But to show disrespect or dishonour to a vaisnava-jiva is an aparadha. Performing ordinary penances can erase so many sins, but an aparadha is not dispelled so easily. Sins influence the gross and subtle bodies. Aparadha specifically affects the jiva’s very soul and causes him to fall down. Thus, whoever wishes to perform bhajana of the Lord must guard against committing aparadha.

Three kinds of Vaishnavas

In NoI verse 5 Rupa Goswami writes :

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā

One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.

Prabhupada writes in his purport that

The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is a neophyte who has received the hari-nāma initiation from the spiritual master and is trying to chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. One should respect such a person within his mind as a kaniṣṭha Vaiṣṇava.

A madhyama-adhikārī has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikārī should be considered to be situated midway in devotional service.

The uttama-adhikārī, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikārī is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

What does Srimad Bhagvatam says (Srila Prabhupada also quotes the same in his above purport of NoI verse 5) :

A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position. (SB 11.2.47)

An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikārī, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SB 11.2.46)

The most advanced devotee sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Consequently he sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord and understands that everything that exists is eternally situated within the Lord. (SB 11.2.45)

What does Mahāprabhu says :

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then finally advised, “One who is chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava; therefore you should offer all respects to him.” cc madhya 15.111

“A person who is always chanting the holy name of the Lord is to be considered a first-class Vaiṣṇava, and your duty is to serve his lotus feet.” cc madhya 16.72

The following year, the inhabitants of Kulīna-grāma again asked the Lord the same question. Hearing this question, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu again taught them about the different types of Vaiṣṇavas.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “A first-class Vaiṣṇava is he whose very presence makes others chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa.” cc madhya 16.74

krama kari’ kahe prabhu ‘vaiṣṇava’-lakṣaṇa
‘vaiṣṇava’, ‘vaiṣṇavatara’, āra ‘vaiṣṇavatama’

Translation:
In this way, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught the distinctions between different types of Vaiṣṇavas — the Vaiṣṇava, Vaiṣṇavatara and Vaiṣṇavatama. He thus successively explained all the symptoms of a Vaiṣṇava to the inhabitants of Kulīna-grāma.

So according to the above instructions of Mahaprabhu, simply by chanting Hare Krishna mantra, one attains the platform of a Vaisnava !

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, “Whoever chants the holy name of Kṛṣṇa just once is worshipable and is the topmost human being.
( CC Madhya 15.106)

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then finally advised, “One who is chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava; therefore you should offer all respects to him.” (CC Madhya 15.111)

Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to above verse that :
A properly initiated Vaiṣṇava may be imperfect, but one who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly is all-perfect. Although he may apparently be a neophyte, he still has to be considered a pure, unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. It is the duty of the householder to offer respects to such an unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. This is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s instruction

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura adds

O readers! Any faults that were previously in a Vaisnava before bhakti appeared within him should never be considered, unless there is some noble intention in doing so. A Vaisnava should never be criticized for the insignificant residue of his previous faults, which is why Sri Krsna has explained the following in Bhagavad-Gita:

Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination. He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes. (BG 9.30-31)

Through the influence of bhakti, all abominable activities that may have existed before the appearance of bhakti, which seemed to be one’s very own nature, are reduced day by day and are finally destroyed within a short time. Discussing the faults of a Vaisnava without a virtuous intention results in vaisnava-aparadha. If one sees some fault in a Vaisnava that appears due to divine providence, one should still not blaspheme that Vaisnava. In this regard, Karabhajana has said

One who has thus given up all other engagements and has taken full shelter at the lotus feet of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is very dear to the Lord. Indeed, if such a surrendered soul accidentally commits some sinful activity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated within everyone’s heart, immediately takes away the reaction to such sin. (SB 11.5.42)

Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura further emphaises in the end that :

Apart from well-intended discussions of those faults that may arise accidentally, one is liable to commit the offense of criticising a Vaisnava. The fundamental point here is that slandering and blaspheming a Vaisnava..leads to namaparadha, and if one commits namaparadha, then divine revelation (sphurti) of the Holy Name will never manifest. One cannot become a Vaisnava without such revelation of the Holy Name.

O readers! You must think carefully upon this serious subject matter. According to proper devotional conclusions, you must show honor to true Vaisnavas and without any hesitation whatsoever, abandon the company of non-devotees. If one blasphemes a genuine Vaisnava, then the transcendental truth concerning the Holy Name (nama-tattva) will never manifest within one’s heart.

So this is the punishment we receive if we blaspheme other devotees, the Holy Name withdraws the taste from us!

We can clearly see from the above that anyone who chants Krishna’s name is to be considered a vaisnava and he/she is worshipable. We also understood what are the serious consequences of criticism of a devotee on our bhajan and spiritual journey.

Please pardon any errors in the blog as I do not have too much realisations on this deep topic but I still felt inspired to share the same with devotees.

In the next blog, the final one in this series, we will find out what is the cause of Vaishnava Apradha? And how to avoid it!

All glories to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Anarthas and Anartha-Nivrtti

Hare Krishna
3rd, February, 2015, Gurgaon.

Quotes-by-Bhakti-Charu-Swami-on-Getting-Rid-of-the-Impurities-of-the-Heart

After the last blog on `demons in Krishna Lila‘ I thought let me share more anarthas as described in detail in Madhurya kadambini, I also took the help of VIHE book ‘demons in Vrindavana Lila’ to write this blog. This topic also connects with the earlier blog How to change our heart.

At one level we hear that bhakti is causeless meaning that there is no cause for bhakti (like pious deeds, austerity, penance, etc.), bhakti is independent. I heard a beautiful analogy by HH Bhakti Vijnana maharaj, he described how in the material world everything is cause' andeffect’ and this is what science does it focuses on finding cause and it’s effect. Bhakti, on the other hand, not being from the material wold is `causeless’ !

But still in this causeless realm there is a way, described by Srila Rupa Goswami in his famous verse in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11, there are nine stages a devotee pass through as we advance in Krishna consciousness.

adau sraddha tatah sadhu- sango-‘tha bhajana-kriya
tato’nartha nivrttih syat tato nistha ruci’s tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah pradhurbhave bhavet kramah

These stages are:
1. Shraddha — faith
2. Sadhu-sanga — association with devotees
3. Bhajana-kriya — trying to seriously take up the process of devotional service
4. Anartha-nivrtti — becoming free of all unwanted things
5. Nistha — steadiness in Krishna consciousness
6. Ruchi — a deep taste for Krishna consciousness
7. Asakti — attachment for Krishna
8. Bhava — ecstasy, the first rays of the sun of love for Krishna
9. Prema — pure love for Krishna

Out of all the above stages anartha-nivrtti is a very important and one of the most bumpy/bouncy/stormy stage to be crossed. There is relative calm before and after this stage but this stage is really choppy waters and troubles devotees most. This is a very important milestone in our spiritual journey and we must make all endeavour to cross it, it won’t happen `automatically’.

Srila Prabhupada wrote in the purport of CC madhya-lila 23.13: “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thaura summarizes this growth of love of Godhead as a gradual process. A person becomes interested in devotional service by some good fortune. Eventually he becomes interested in pure devotional service without material contamination. At that point, a person wants to associate with devotees. As a result of this association, he becomes more and more interested in discharging devotional service and hearing and chanting. The more one is interested in hearing and chanting, the more he is purified of material contamination. Liberation from material contamination is called anartha-nivrtti, indicating a diminishing of all unwanted things. This is the test of development in devotional service….. When one is freed from all material contamination, his firm faith awakens in devotional service. When firm faith develops, a taste arises, and by that taste, one becomes attached to devotional service. When this attachment intensifies, the seed of love of Krsna fructifies…”

Hence, once one has passed through the stage of anartha-nivrtti one is able to advance more quickly.

Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura explains that there are four types of anarthas, recognized according to their origins:

  1. Anarthas arising from previous sin
  2. Anarthas arising from previous pious activities
  3. Anarthas arising from imperfectly performed bhakti
  4. Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service

Anarthas Arising From Previous Sinful Activities:

Anarthas arising from previous sin are the five types of klesas, or material sufferings:
A. Avidya — ignorance (mistaking impermanent to be permanent etc.)
B. Asmita — false ego (bodily identification and the tendency to only accept sense perception)
C. Raaga — attachment (the desire for material happiness and the means to achieve it)
D. Dvesa — hatred (of unhappiness and the causes of it)
E. Abhinivesa — acquired nature (absorption in bodily existence, including fear of death)

Anarthas Arising From Previous Pious Activities:
Anarthas arising from previous pious activities are attachments to the enjoyments which arise from pious action.

Anarthas Arising From The Improper Performance Of Bhakti:
Anarthas arising from improper performance of devotional service are a little more subtle, Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura says that, just as, along with the main plant, many weeds grow, similarly, by the cultivation of bhakti there appears acquisition of material wealth and other facilities, worship and respect by others, a comfortable position, fame etc. By their very nature, they have the power to influence the heart of the devotee, grow in size,and cover up the main plant intended for cultivation, bhakti. (these do not include seva aparadhas).

Anarthas Arising From Offenses:

Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service are the ten offenses against the chanting of the holy names: These are standard 10 offenses against the Holy Name, which most of us read every day before starting our rounds. I am not writing them here to save the space.

Seva aparadhas do not fit into this category, because they are normally overcome in the course of the performance of one’s devotional service, due to the potency of the devotional activities. Some example of seva aparadhas are entering the temple with shoes, not offering the arti or bhoga in time to the deities, etc.

However, if one commits seva aparadhas knowingly, that becomes the seventh offense against the chanting of the holy names.

A person who commits nama aparadha loses the mercy of the Lord in the form of His name, and therefore suffers in many ways, but if such a person humbly takes the appropriate remedial methods for his offenses (there are recommended remedies for each of the ten types) then he is able to gradually get the mercy of the name again, and his diseased condition is relieved.

The last and the most damaging aparadh is vaishanava Apradha. I will write about it in a separate blog, it commands top position in apradhas, and can even destroy our bhakti.

On a positive note this is what Srila Prabhupada writes we should do when we cross the stage of anartha-nivrtti :
`By His practical activity, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu informed us how to cleanse our hearts. Once the heart is cleansed, we should invite Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa to sit down, and we should observe the festival by distributing prasādam and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to teach every devotee by His personal behavior. Everyone who spreads the cult of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu accepts a similar responsibility…The Lord was very pleased with those who could cleanse the temple by taking out undesirable things accumulated within. This is called anartha-nivṛtti, cleansing the heart of all unwanted things. Thus the cleansing of the Guṇḍicā-mandira was conducted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to let us know how the heart should be cleansed and soothed to receive Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and enable Him to sit within the heart without disturbance.’

All glories to Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.