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.
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.
We frequently hear that such and such exalted Vaishnava is an eternal associate of Krishna or Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some other terms used for an eternal associate of Lord are Sangi or pāriṣada. Let’s hear from Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura what is the real significance of being called an eternal associate of Lord and what is the qualification needed to be called one.
The Gauḍīya: Ṭhakura [Narottama dasa] Mahāśaya writes, gaurāṅgera saṅgi-gane, nitya-siddha kari māne, se yāya brajendra-nanda pāśa: “Anyone who is preaching the saṅkīrtana movement is an associate of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” So whom should we accept as gaurāṅgera saṅgī, Lord Gaurāṅga’s associates or companions?
Srīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: Only those who support Śrī Gaurāṅga’s mood of separation are actual associates of Gaurāṅga; they are His saṅgī. Those who fulfill Gaura’s mission, who serve His inner desire, are His associates. Those who eternally remain present with Gaurāṅga in order to serve Him are gaurāṅgera saṅgī.
While traveling in South India, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu converted people in village after village to Vaiṣṇavism, but those who did not engage constantly in His mission –who did not associate with Mahāprabhu at all times by dedicating everything to Him –how can they be called His “associates”?
The word saṅgī derives from the word saṅga, which means “one who approaches completely.” Those who did not associate with the Lord constantly cannot be called His saṅgī. They can be called His bhaktas, but not His saṅgī.
Another word for saṅgī is pāriṣada. Even though Ṭhākura Narottama did not appear when Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was having His pastimes, he is still Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s saṅgī because he appeared in this world only to fulfill Mahāprabhu’s mission and is eternally absorbed in His service –totally overwhelmed by Mahāprabhu’s internal mood. He nourishes the Lord’s mood of separation and is therefore a nitya-siddha devotee.
I hope we understood a little bit about the exalted position of someone who is an eternal associate of Lord- someone who is sold-out to the mission of Krishna, dedicating everything for Krishna’s service.
The above would also imply that there is a window of opportunity available for every soul to go back to Godhead and become an eternal associate of Lord by following the path shown to us by previous acharyas – Narad, Dhruv Maharaj, Prahalada Maharaj, our own acharya – Srila Prabhupada. What is needed is a burning desire and a heart that is sold out to the service of Sri Guru and Gauranga. Srimad Bhagavatam says-
O Lord, who resemble the shining sun, You are always ready to fulfill the desire of Your devotee, and therefore You are known as a desire tree [vāñchā-kalpataru]. When ācāryas completely take shelter under Your lotus feet in order to cross the fierce ocean of nescience, they leave behind on earth the method by which they cross, and because You are very merciful to Your other devotees, You accept this method to help them.
This human form of body is a most valuable boat, and the spiritual master is the captain, guru-karṇadhāram, to guide the boat in plying across the ocean of nescience. The instruction of Krishna is a favorable breeze. One must use all these facilities to cross over the ocean of nescience. Since the spiritual master is the captain, one must serve the spiritual master very sincerely so that by his mercy one will be able to get the mercy of the Supreme Lord.
In response to my last blog ‘Turning distress into an opportunity‘, I received a few calls from devotees on taking shelter of Krishna in times of distress. In all the calls the crux was the same- Should we trouble Krishna with our material problems? Shouldn’t bhakti should be practiced without any motivation. My response was- of course bhakti should not be motivated, which means we practice bhakti for no other purpose than to please Krishna. But when faced with challenges in our lives then whose shelter should we take? Should we place our faith in Krishna’s hands or should we put it in the hands of some demigod, doctor, lawyer, money deposits, etc.?
As a small child depends exclusively upon his father similarly we, aspiring devotees, should practice keeping our faith only in Krishna. We do whatever else needed to be done but we should have the firm faith that the final decision is in the hands of Krishna and hence take shelter of Krishna only. Of course, as a dependent servant, we accept with love whatever Krishna finally decides to do about it.
This morning I read a beautiful verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and in his purport, Srila Prabhupada speaks about the importance of taking shelter of Krishna. I am sharing the same with you all of you.
Everyone, including the rulers of the various planets, was extremely distressed because of the severe punishment inflicted upon them by Hiraṇyakaśipu. Fearful and disturbed, unable to find any other shelter, they at last surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu.
“The sage who knows Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is actually the best friend of everyone. In a condition of distress or misery, one wants to seek shelter of a well-wishing friend. The well-wishing friend of the perfect order is Lord Sri Krishna. Therefore all the inhabitants of the various planets, being unable to find any other shelter, were obliged to seek shelter at the lotus feet of the supreme friend. If from the very beginning we seek shelter of the supreme friend, there will be no cause of danger. It is said that if a dog is swimming in the water and one wants to cross the ocean by catching hold of the dog’s tail, certainly he is foolish. Similarly, if in distress one seeks shelter of a demigod, he is foolish, for his efforts will be fruitless. In all circumstances, one should seek shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then there will be no danger under any circumstances.
There are innumerable examples – Gajendra, Kunti Maharani, Pandavas, all the Vrajavasis practiced it -Nanada Maharaj, gopas and the gopis. In all their challenges, they would call out only one person- Krishna!
Nanda Maharaj took shelter of Krishna
While Nanda Maharaja was returning home, he considered Vasudeva’s warning that there might be some disturbance in Gokula. Certainly the advice was friendly and not false. So Nanda thought, ”There is some truth in it.” Therefore, out of fear he took shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is quite natural for a devotee in danger to think of Krishna, because he has no other shelter. When a child is in danger, he takes shelter of his mother or father. Similarly, a devotee is always under the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but when he specifically sees some danger, he remembers the Lord very rapidly.
Since it was almost night and all the inhabitants of Vrindavan, including the cows and calves, were very tired, they decided to take their rest on the riverbank. In the middle of the night, while they were taking rest, there was suddenly a great forest fire, and it quickly appeared that the fire would soon devour all the inhabitants of Vrindavan. As soon as they felt the warmth of the fire, they immediately took shelter of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He was playing just like their child. They began to say, ”Our dear Krishna! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Our dear Balarama, reservoir of all strength! Please try to save us from this all-devouring and devastating fire. We have no shelter other than You. This devastating fire will swallow us all!” Thus they prayed to Krishna, saying that they could not take any shelter other than His lotus feet. Lord Krishna, being compassionate upon His own townspeople, immediately swallowed up the whole forest fire and saved them.
Ordered by King Indra, all the dangerous clouds appeared above Vrindavan and began to pour water incessantly, with all their strength and power. There was constant lightning and thunder, blowing of severe wind, and incessant falling of rain. The rain seemed to fall like piercing sharp arrows. By pouring water as thick as pillars, without cessation, the clouds gradually filled all the lands in Vrindavan with water, and there was no visible distinction between higher and lower land. The situation was very dangerous, especially for the animals. The rainfall was accompanied by great winds, and every living creature in Vrindavan began to tremble from the severe cold.
Unable to find any other source of deliverance, they all approached Govinda to take shelter at His lotus feet. The cows especially, being much aggrieved from the heavy rain, bowed down their heads, and taking their calves underneath their bodies, they approached the Supreme Personality of Godhead to take shelter of His lotus feet. At that time all the inhabitants of Vrindavan began to pray to Lord Krishna. ”Dear Krishna,” they prayed, ”You are all-powerful, and You are very affectionate to Your devotees. Now please protect us, who have been much harassed by angry Indra.”
Today is Bhadra Purnima, a very auspicious and special day for all the devotees of lord Krishna.
Today is Visvarupa- mahotsava , the date on which Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s elder brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. We hear from Caitanya Caritamrta –
After this, Jagannātha Miśra got a son of the name Viśvarūpa, who was most powerful and highly qualified because He was an incarnation of Baladeva.
Viśvarūpa was the elder brother of Gaurahari, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. When arrangements were being made for the marriage of Viśvarūpa, He took sannyāsa and left home. He took the sannyāsa name of Śaṅkarāraṇya. In 1431 Śakābda Era (A.D. 1509), He disappeared in Pāṇḍarapura, in the district of Sholapur. As an incarnation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, He is both the ingredient and immediate cause of the creation of this material world. He is nondifferent from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, for the aṁśa and the aṁśī, or the part and the whole, are not different. As an incarnation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, Viśvarūpa belongs to the quadruple manifestation of catur-vyūha. In the Gaura-candrodaya it is said that Viśvarūpa, after His so-called demise, remained mixed within Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu.
Sri Narayana said to Brahma, O saintly brahmana! among all of my festivals, the celebration of the appearance of Srimad Bhagavatam is the best. I am subdued by persons who with devotion and love hear, decorate and worship Srimad Bhagavatam, with clothes, ornaments, flowers, incense and lamp during festivals, just as a chaste wife subdues her husband.
So Bhadra Purnima is a great day to gift Srimad Bhagavatam to someone close to us, including bringing Srimad Bhagavatam in our own home. We can also start reading Srimad Bhagavatam from today and even dedicate ourselves to read at least verse from SB daily. There are multiple ways we can serve the lotus feet of Srimad Bhagavatam this Bhadra Purnima and reap the benediction Krishna has kindly left for us.
Srila Sanatana Goswami prays to Srimad Bhagavatam ( and we can pray the same) –
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, I offer respectful obeisances unto You. By reading you one attains transcendental bliss, for Your syllables rain pure love of God upon the reader. You are always to be served by everyone, for you are an incarnation of Krishna.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O my only friend, O my companion, O my teacher, O my great wealth, O my deliverer, O my good fortune, O my bliss, I offer respectful obeisances unto you.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O giver of saintliness to the unsaintly, O uplifter of the very fallen, please do not ever leave me. Please become manifested upon my heart and my throat, accompanied by pure love of Krishna.
Sixty years ago, on this very day, Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa for us. He accepted the order of sannyasa from Sri Srimad Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja on September 17, 1959 at the Kesavaji Matha in Mathura.
I was sitting alone in Vṛndāvana, writing. My Godbrother insisted to me, “Bhaktivedanta Prabhu, you must do it. Without accepting the renounced order of life, nobody can become a preacher.” So he insisted. Not he insisted; practically my spiritual master insisted. He wanted me to become a preacher, so he forced me through this Godbrother: “You accept.” So, unwillingly I accepted.
Abhay sat on a mat of kuśa grass beside ninety-year-old Sanātana, also to receive sannyāsa that day. Sitting opposite the two candidates, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, Keśava Mahārāja’s disciple, prepared to conduct the ceremony of mantras and offerings of grains and ghee into the fire. Akiñcana Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī, Abhay’s Godbrother, known for sweet singing, played mṛdaṅga and sang Vaiṣṇava bhajanas. Sitting on a raised āsana, His Holiness Keśava Mahārāja presided. Since there had been no notices or invitations, only the maṭha’s few residents attended.
Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja chanted the required mantras and then sat back silently while Keśava Mahārāja lectured. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Keśava Mahārāja asked Abhay to speak. Abhay had not expected this. As he looked around at the gathering of devotees, he understood that the common language was Hindi; only Keśava Mahārāja and a few others spoke English. Yet he knew he must speak in English.
After Abhay’s speech, each initiate received his sannyāsa-daṇḍa, the traditional head-high staff made of four bamboo rods bound together and completely enwrapped in saffron cloth. They were given their sannyāsa garments: one piece of saffron cloth for a dhotī, one for a top piece, and two strips for underwear. They also received tulasī neck beads and the sannyāsa-mantra. Keśava Mahārāja said that Abhay would now be known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Mahārāja and that Sanātana would be Muni Mahārāja. After the ceremony, the two new sannyāsīs posed for a photo, standing on either side of their sannyāsa-guru, who sat in a chair.
Keśava Mahārāja didn’t impose any strictures on Abhay; he simply encouraged him to go on preaching. Yet Abhay knew that to become A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not mean merely that he was giving up family, home comforts, and business. That he had done five years ago. Changing from white cloth to saffron cloth, from Abhay Bābū to Bhaktivedanta Swami Mahārāja, had a special significance: it was the mandate he had required, the irrevocable commitment. Now it was only a matter of time before Bhaktivedanta Swami would travel to the West as Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had ordained. This was Bhaktivedanta Swami’s realization of his new sannyāsa status.
“The Krishna consciousness movement is not that we are asking everyone to become a sannyāsī like me, and give up everything. No. That is not our program. You act as a brāhmaṇa, as a kṣatriya or a vaiśya or a śūdra. It doesn’t matter. But you try to satisfy Krishna. That is the program.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, December 30, 1972)
Srila Prabhupada’s special relationship with Bhagavatam
When asked, “Are you going to America?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “No, Srimad-Bhagavatam is going to America—I am going with it.”
Today I am sharing a wonderful verse and its stunning purport which touches, or should touch, the very core of every devotee’s heart and soul as this purport accommodates the very essence of Gaudiya philosophy and in a very simple to understand language. This unique purport has the potency to bestow upon any sincere and serious devotee a set of master keys to access and open multiple closed doors within our heart. What better day than Radha Ashtami to try to open the close doors within our heart. All the best!
jīvañ chavo bhāgavatāṅghri-reṇuṁ na jātu martyo ’bhilabheta yas tu śrī-viṣṇu-padyā manujas tulasyāḥ śvasañ chavo yas tu na veda gandham
The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body. And the person who has never experienced the aroma of the tulasī leaves from the lotus feet of the Lord is also a dead body, although breathing.
According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, the breathing dead body is a ghost. When a man dies, he is called dead, but when he again appears in a subtle form not visible to our present vision and yet acts, such a dead body is called a ghost. Ghosts are always very bad elements, always creating a fearful situation for others. Similarly, the ghostlike nondevotees who have no respect for the pure devotees, nor for the Viṣṇu Deity in the temples, create a fearful situation for the devotees at all times. The Lord never accepts any offering by such impure ghosts.
There is a common saying that one should first love the dog of the beloved before one shows any loving sentiments for the beloved. The stage of pure devotion is attained by sincerely serving a pure devotee of the Lord. The first condition of devotional service to the Lord is therefore to be a servant of a pure devotee, and this condition is fulfilled by the statement “reception of the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee who has also served another pure devotee.” That is the way of pure disciplic succession, or devotional paramparā.
Mahārāja Rahūgaṇa inquired from the great saint Jaḍa Bharata as to how he had attained such a liberated stage of a paramahaṁsa, and in answer the great saint replied as follows (Bhāg. 5.12.12):
rahūgaṇaitat tapasā na yāti na cejyayā nirvapaṇād gṛhād vā na cchandasā naiva jalāgni-sūryair vinā mahat-pāda-rajo-’bhiṣekam
“O King Rahūgaṇa, the perfectional stage of devotional service, or the paramahaṁsa stage of life, cannot be attained unless one is blessed by the dust of the feet of great devotees. It is never attained by tapasya [austerity], the Vedic worshiping process, acceptance of the renounced order of life, the discharge of the duties of household life, the chanting of the Vedic hymns, or the performance of penances in the hot sun, within cold water or before the blazing fire.”
In other words, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the property of His pure, unconditional devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Kṛṣṇa to another devotee; Kṛṣṇa is never obtainable directly. Lord Caitanya therefore designated Himself as gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ, or “the most obedient servant of the servants of the Lord, who maintains the gopī damsels at Vṛndāvana.” A pure devotee therefore never approaches the Lord directly, but tries to please the servant of the Lord’s servants, and thus the Lord becomes pleased, and only then can the devotee relish the taste of the tulasī leaves stuck to His lotus feet. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is said that the Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee. In Vṛndāvana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the pleasure potency of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Rādhārāṇī is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.
(Note: Some doors, having rusty locks, may not open in one go, however if we pray to Srimati Radharani and then read the above purport three times then we may be surprised to hear within our heart the sound of those rusty locks opening up this Radha Ashtami.)
Today I am posting a letter by Srila Prabhupada to India’s then prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru – highlighting India’s unparalleled spiritual knowledge and heritage and urging the prime minister to help kick start a worldwide revolution based on spiritual realisation rather than simply desiring material prosperity.
Bombay 4 August, 1958
Pandit Sri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, New Delhi-2
My dear Pandit Ji,
Please accept my respectful Namaskar. I beg to inform you that your speech on 2/8/58 at the Gurukul University Haridwar, has given me some inspiration to inform you something about Indian culture. The basic principle of Indian culture is spiritualism which defies the external attraction of phenomenal materialism.
You are thinking of adjusting western ways of material adjustment with Indian culture of spiritualism and I beg to give you herewith the clue that materialism conducted with an aim of reaching spiritual perfection, is the right adjustment of human activity.
If the aim of spiritual realisation is missed, the whole plan of materialism is sure to be frustrated and that is the law of Nature. The law of nature is so made by a superior authority and no body can surpass the intricacies of material nature simply by partial adjustment of material science. The history of the West beginning from the time of the Greeks and the Romans down to the modern age of atomic war—is a continuous chain of sense gratificatory materialism and the result is that the westerners were never in peace within the memory of 3000 years of historical records. Neither it will be possible for them at any time in future to live in peace till the message of spiritualism just suitable to the present age does not reach their heart.
Therefore India may not waste her time in imitating the western way of life. You have admitted it that the position of India’s culture is of very high order. But at the same time you want to bring in material prosperity of India by scientific advancement of knowledge. And what is that scientific Knowledge? Spiritualism is also advanced scientific knowledge. Material advancement of scientific knowledge cannot give even the desired material prosperity to the people in general without spiritual help. Swaraj of Mahatma Gandhi was adjusted in spiritualism more than materialism. Do you think that horseless carriage or telephonic or radio communication or any other such ephemeral facilities of life, can bring in material prosperity? No it cannot. Material prosperity means that the people must have sufficient to eat or to maintain the body and soul together in sound health for further development in spiritual consciousness which is conspicuous by its absence in the sense gratificatory life of the animal. Do you think that your different plans have brought in that standard of material prosperity or that modern western civilization can bring in that ideal prosperity? Even they are given all the facilities of material need yet the unrest will continue to go on till there is spiritual satisfaction of life. That is the secret of peace.
Both the Americans and the Russians are better materially advanced and although they have different political philosophy of life till they are not materially happy and peaceful because both of them are unconciously hankering after spiritual realisation as the child cries for the mother without expression by language. You can help the people of the world for satisfying their spiritual hankering as the true Indian messenger of peace. The world has recognized your sincere effort for endeavouring peace in the world and this is the suitable time to help your friends and at the same time glorify the standard of Indian spiritual advancement of knowledge for world peace. Please take up the matter in cool brain.
Poverty means poverty of knowledge. Prime minister Canakya Pandit used to live in a thatched house or cottage but he was the dictator of India in the days of Emperor Candra Gupta. Mahatma Gandhi your political Guru voluntarily accepted the ways of the so called poor Indians and still he was the dictator of India’s destiny. But was he actually poverty sticken on account of his plain living with the primitive charkha? He was always proud of his spiritual knowledge. Therefore it is the spiritual knowledge which makes a man really rich and not the radio set or the motor car. Please therefore try to understand this position of Indian culture and try to give it to the western brothers in the prescribed standard method of the liberated persons and that will be an exchange of Indian culture with western material advancement and necessarily bring in a happy life in the peaceful world.
Here is a programme of spiritual movement (an appeal enclosed herewith). I am struggling alone very hard to give it an effective shape without any help from persons like you. You can help the movement a lot without the least difficulty or disturbances.
My humble advice to you, as I am your old friend from Allahabad, is that you should now take leave form you present responsibility of Prime ministership and as you are a popular gentleman of the world you can just engage the rest of your most valuable life in this organized spiritual movement to achieve the aim of your life which is yet to be known by the __ the world. By pushing on this authorized spiritual movement you can make a real adjustment of the western material science combined with Indian way of spiritual realisation.
Please therefore think over this proposal very seriously and let me know your reaction upon it and oblige. If you can spare a little time, I am sure to convince you about its importance more quickly. Thanking you in anticipation and awaiting your early reply.
Yours sincerely, A.C. B.
Private letter per registered post Enclosure:-1.
Srila Prabhupada didn’t receive reply to his letter.
But this letter, like it’s glorious author, is self-illumined. We can spend a couple of hours explaining deeper points put across in such a simple and easy to understand manner, the quality of analogies and examples used is simply outstanding. Srila Prabhupada’s conviction in India’s spiritual knowledge and values shines bright. And this is Srila Prabhupada in 1958!
An intelligent person should therefore discuss, contemplate and analyse this thought-provoking letter for its practical application. We can also use this letter as a yardstick to measure our own conviction in spiritual values and spiritual realisation. And finally to check what is my priority in life :- Spiritual realisation or material prosperity?
The more we read and glorify the great acharayas in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Gaudiya vaishnava paramapara, the more we can appreciate our own good fortune and the golden opportunity available to every single soul on this planet to return back home back to Godhead. It may also inspire us to carefully and with complete faith read every single word they have written for our benefit.
Jagannath Rath yatra started few days back and aptly the first article I am sharing was written by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in 1871 on the history temple of Jagannath at Puri, about superstitious and ignorance versus timeless principle of love of God, about love versus logic, about the glories of Mahaprasadam and how the temple of Lord Jagannath is the emblem of Supreme Absolute truth as explained in Vedanta Sutras. It is a little long so kindly remain patient as great spiritual riches await us. Here it goes-
There is not a Hindu who has not heard the name of this temple. The old and the young, the male and the female, the Rajah and the ryot, and the weak and the stout, all visit this temple out of a religious curiosity. Three hundred and one miles south-west of the Vice-Regal palace at Calcutta, stands this famous temple close to the seashore affording an object for a telescopic observation to the new-comer on broad the ship bound for Bengal. It stands on a platform measuring 20 cubits in height from the level of water. The platform itself is 375 cubits by 400 cubits made of huge stone cemented with a mortar composed of lime and sand. The temple itself is 92 cubits in height of a structure purely Indian. The pilgrims sees its towering head from the distance of 7 miles where the shrewd Panda takes a rupee from him by showing him the holy Chakra.
This temple was erected by Raja Ananga Bhimbdeb about 800 years ago in place of another one, then in state of dilapidation. In old accounts we find this temple styled Niladri or the blue hill. From this it appears that the former temple which was probably raised by the emigrating Rajah Indradyumna was a blue or dark coloured one. Otherwise we cannot account for the name Nilachala unless we take it for granted that the name was after the Nilgiri Hills, a small range which runs through this Province from one end to the other.
The Utkalakhanda in the Puranas, the Niladri Mahodadhi, and the Matla Panjee (an account regularly kept by the temple officers) declare that Jagannath is a very ancient institution amongst the Hindus. Whatever may be the value of the authorities quoted, we are inclined to believe that Puri was considered sacred even at the time when the Puranas were written, because we find in Wilson’s copy of the Vishnu Purana that one Kandu Rishi resorted to a place called Purushottama for the purpose of divine contemplation. At all events Rajah Indradyumna, to whom the whole affair is generally ascribed, lived a long time before Rajah Vikramaditya, the contemporary of Augustus Caesar of Rome. We are sure, that Puri is not so old as Benares and Gaya, of which repeated mention is made in all the Puranas and the Mahabharata, yet it is not a place of recent origin created after the commencement of the Christian Era. We cannot believe that the institution originated in pure stupidity of the religious sentiment; for we cannot but observe a great deal of wisdom in the man with whom the idea of Jagannath first originated. We do not profess to belong to any of the sects of religion under the sun, we believe the absolute Faith, founded upon instinctive love of God, natural in all human souls.
There are two great sects of religion all over the world who fight with each other without any advantage whatever. One of them holds that it is absolutely necessary to believe that God is without any form whatever and believers in the form are but, idolatrous. The other class maintains that God has out of kindness shown His form to the pious in order to be worshiped by them. Both of them are wrong, because both of them fight on a purely material point. The most unsectarian view of the point is, that God is neither a form nor a formless object but is purely spiritual. Matter alone can embrace the idea of form; consequently all positive and negative assertions with regard to it must naturally be material. Those who worship the form and those who describe God as formless, are both idolatrous and superstitious, and consequently can never form an idea of the spiritual Deity. Sectarians of the same class are expected to hate each other, but those, who have nothing in common with them, have no reason for hatred. We therefore cannot, like the fanatics of the formless class consider all idols as unsacred and hold the worship of a formless Deity (identifying Him with something like space and eternity) to be the natural worship of God. We go so far as to maintain that the worshiper of the spiritual God in an idol is infinitely superior to a mere believer in a formless existence who considers that formlessness is one of the attributes of the Spirit.
Spirit is not exactly the opposite of matter, but it is certainly something different from it. it is difficult indeed to decide what is the exact relation of the Spirit to matter, space and time, and it is not given to us to know. It would indeed be the height error to conceive that all the opposite qualities of matter, space and time are in Spirit. Hence we must look to some other attributes for Spirit. Love and wisdom are certainly spiritual attributes which are not opposite qualities of matter. Man must be wise and love God. This is the religion of the soul. All debates about the essence of God (e.g. God is formless or with a form) are but sectarian. Now we allow men to love God wisely, i.e. spiritually while their eyes are on idol as well as while they contemplating an Infinite thing like the space. When the soul worships, the mind also finds an employment. The mind can never conceive of anything that is not material. It is therefore exceedingly difficult for man in his present state to separate himself from idolatry. What man is obliged to do, is his lot and hence we must put off the meaning of idolatry to some other process. We therefore conclude that he that worship the idol as God (whether the idol be formless or form) is idolatrous, but he that worships the spirit in wise love (however near he may be to an idol of form or of no form) is a worshiper of Spirit. But we go further to tolerate all these classes if they be sincere.
God accepts the worship of all those who worship their highest ideal, whether it is form, formless or Spirit, and it is under some regular processes that the idea of God becomes purer and purer in every soul and not by fits and starts. That man has no heart for his brother and consequently for God also, who sneer at the highest ideal of another behind him, is idolatrous. A war against the idol worshipers either in words or action is not a crusade but a fit of rash, loveless and ambitious fanaticism of a very unphilanthropic character. We therefore, with all our due attempts at the spiritual reformation of our erring brothers, tolerate all classes of idolatry from the worshipers of formlessness to the worshipers of man, or matter as God.
We are opposed to the atheists alone who live and enjoy for themselves. Those who are anxious for the blessing of God are our brothers in faith, whatever error there may be in their ideas and forms of worship. Love of God, however misdirected it may be, does by force of its own natural strength, rise higher and higher in the scale of spiritual progress. Its want is the degradation of the soul alone. Those who do not love God have an opposite course from us and are objects of pity with all classes of theists. God save them. We were led to these remarks by a desire to show that we are candid examiners of the institution of Jagannath without that hatred to the idolatrous (who are not prepared to understand the philosophy of Purushottam Tattva) which is perceivable in the short sighted and rash reformers of our country.
The system of Jagannath is viewed in two different ways. The superstitious and the ignorant take it as a system of idolatry by worshiping the idols in the temple as God Almighty appearing in the shape of a carved wood for the salvation of the Orias. But the Saragrahi Vaishnavas find the idols as emblems of some eternal truth which has been explained in the Vedanta Sutras of Vyasa. Within the temples in which are to be found the idols of Bimala, Shiva, Ganesha and Surya, the big, towering temple of Jagannath stands in the middle of the compound. Those who examined the system of Hindu Theology with a philosophic eye, are well aware that there are five different forms of faith comprised therein.
* The first form of faith is Shaktaism or the worship of nature as God.
* The second is the worship of Surya or the sun which is identified with heat; the only active element in lifeless matter.
* The third teaches one to worship the Spirit in its most unsatisfactory form of development in the lower animals. In this form, the elephant-man or Ganesha is the object of worship.
* Man is the object of worship in fourth stage of Hinduism. The soul, well developed as it is in the man, is worshiped in Shiva in whom the human souls is said to be observed after salvation.
* In the fifth stage alone, the Infinite God distinct from the human soul, is perceived and worshiped. Here commences Vaishnavism.
In these five stage are shown the whole history of Hindu Theology, nay, the whole history of Theology in general. All sorts of creeds that have come to existence since the creation of man, are included in these five stages. Name any system of faith that man has discovered and we will find no difficulty in classing it with any one of the five, viz. Materialism, Elementalism, Fetishism, Man worship and God worship. This is summing up of all systems of faith philosophically and not instructing people to believe in any one of them except the last. The visitor of the temple of Jagannath will find a similar display of these systems in their proper places. Consequently we find the temple of Jagannath in the middle of the compound, and our remarks will now relate to Jagannath exclusively.
We have several times entered the shrine of Jagannath, and, approaching the sandal bolts, have observed in the middle room an elevated seat on which stand four different forms viz. Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra and Sudarshan. According to the Vedanta, God is without a second, but He has infinite energies and attributes which are not fully known to man. But then man perceives only three energies in God, because he has no other corresponding sides to understand the other powers. From one of the energies proceeds matter in all its different forms and properties and this energy is styled Maya Shakti of God. From the second energy proceeds all spiritual creation, in all its relations and phases. This power is entitled the Jiva Shakti of God. The third energy perceivable by man is the energy of Will, which is called Cit Shakti. God moving in creation is what is meant by this infinite energy.
Jagannathis the emblem of God having no other form than the eyes and the hands. They mean to show that God sees and knows and creates. Balaram is the source of Jiva Shakti of God; Subhudra, the Maya Shakti; and Sudarshana is the energy of Will. We cannot form any ideas of these energies and hence it is worship of Jagannath that depends upon the collection of these four forms on the same platform. Here we see God analyzed in the shape of forms for the sake of those who want to conceive of Him. It is the same thing to see Jagannath as to study the Vedanta in all its Branches. The temple and its institution appear to me to be a book for those who can read it, to the foolish the institution is useless except as a means of reminding them of the Deity who created the world.
There is one more thing in the temple which explains the philosophical superiority of Jagannath over all other Hindu institutions. We mean the Mahaprasad system. Rice dedicated to Jagannath is sold in the Bazaar to all pilgrims. Brahmins and the Khettries, Vaishnavas and Shaktas, the Sannyasis and the Grahastas, all accept it without any hesitation whatever. Brahminical aristocracy has no rule in the temple. This shows that when people get wise, they need not obey the foolish dictates of the Brahmins which are mainly intended for those who are unable to chalk out ways for themselves. When man admits the superiority of Love to God to all other systems of rule and ethics, he is not bound to work according to the Shastras intended for lower order of men. The common bonds of the inferior Dharma Shastras of Manu and Yagnavalkya have no influence on the free Vaishnavas who are God’s own soldiers in the crusade against evil.
The system of Mahaprasad is not only emblematic of the superior life of the Vaishnavas, but it is a part of the worship which ordinary theists cannot fully understand. The ordinary men are very much inclined to preserve the superiority of Reason over intuitive feelings of man towards the God of Love. We must now proceed to show with healthy arguments that our intuitive feelings want us to offer everything we eat to the God of our heart. We must first examine the arguments of the antagonist. The Rationalists holds that God is infinite and without wants, and consequently it is foolish to offer eatables to such Being. It is sacrilege to offer created things to the Creator and thereby degrade the Divinity of God into humanity. These are reasonable arguments indeed, and one who has heard them will certainly be inclined to declare to others, “Down with the Mahaprasad.” These conclusions, however reasonable, are dry and destructive. They tend to separate us from all connections with God in the form of worship. When you say that the infinite wants nothing, you forbid all contemplation and prayer. The Infinite does not want your grateful expressions or, in other words, flattery. Utter a word to the Unconditioned and you are sure to degrade Him into a conditioned Being. Hymns, prayers and sermons are all over! Shut your temple door and the church gates , because our Rationalist has advised you to do so. Believe a creating principle and you have done your duty! Oh! What a shame! What a dreadful fall! Theists, beware of these degrading principles!
Now the Rationalists appears in another shape and admits prayers, sermons, psalms and church going, saying that these things are wanted for the improvement of the soul, but God does not want them at all. We are glad that the Rationalists have come towards us and will make further approaches in course of time.
Yes, the progressive Rationalists has admitted a very broad principle in Theology, viz. whatever we do towards God is for our own benefit and not for the benefit of God, who is not in want of any such thing. But the Rationalists is a Rationalists still and will continue to be so, as long as he will seek self-interest. We know for certain that religion promises to give eternal felicity to man and it is impossible to conceive of any religion which has not at its bottom self-interest. This view however, smells of utilitarianism and can never claim to be theistic. We must love God for God’s sake, however unreasonable our action may be. Our love must be without any object whatever that concerns ourselves. This must be a natural emotion to the Deity as our Lover without inference or experience. Salvation, dear as it is, should not be the object of this love: what then about other shapes of felicity? “Love of God” is its own reward. Salvation as a concomitant consequence, must be a hand-maid of Love, but we must not look on it as its main object.
If Rationalist be prepared to believe this, he becomes a Theist of the Vaishnava class; but the mere assuming of the name is of no consequence. Though fully aware that the unconditioned has no conditions whatever, yet our holy and sweet principle of love take a quite different view of the matter. Reason says one thing but Love prescribes its contrary. Reasontell me that God has no sorrow, but Love sees God in tears for those of His sons that are misled to evil. Reason tells me that the strict laws of God reward and punish me in a cold manner, but Love reveals that God slackens His laws to the repentant soul! Reason tells me that with all his improvements, man will never touch the Absolute God; but Love preaches that on the conversion of the soul into state of spiritual womanhood, God, the unconditioned as He is, accepts an eternal marriage with the conditioned soul of man! Reason tells me that God is in infinite space and time, but Love describes that the all-beautiful God is sitting before us like a respected relative and enjoying all the pleasures of society.
As a father in his amusements with his young children, God is spreading all sorts of delicious food all over the earth and expecting that His sons should gather all the scattered blessings and, without the exercise of reason in consequence of a strong feeling of love, offer all the blessing to the Father whom they love more than their lives. The Father again, in reply to their kind feelings, gives back the blessings to the children and tells them these kindlier words, “O! My children! These blessings intended for you! Out of your natural love you bring them to me for my enjoyment; but I have naturally no wants to supply. But then I have accepted that part of your offering which corresponds with me, viz. your unmixed love and disinterested affections for which alone I am exceedingly anxious. Take back these sweet things and enjoy them.”
This process of disinterested love, which dry reason can never brook, sanctifies the food we take, and leaves us to harmless enjoyment for all the days of our natural life! This is the system of sincere worship which theists of a higher class alone can act upon. We cannot express the joy we often felt when we took the holy Mahaprasad in the temple! The holiness we attach to it is its sweetness and often pray that all men may enjoy it. To the Saragrahi Vaishnava, the temple has such thrilling charms which the ordinary Rationalist can never understand. We do not mean to say that Reason is a foolish principle. On the contrary we do not find better admirers of Reason than our humble selves. We hold that man’s superiority amongst all created beings consist in man’s possessing the noble gift of Reason.
What we maintain in this, that independent of this noble principle there is another higher gift in man which goes by the name of Love. Reason helps Love to maintain its proper bounds in the Spiritual world. Love often tends to degrade itself by exercising its functions on objects other than God and converts itself into lust for woman, wine, meat and gold. Here Reason advises her to rise higher till she reaches her proper sphere above. Thus we find that the object of Reason is to help Love and not to create it. Reason may be properly styled as the servant of Love and must always be subject to her in all her hopes, aspirations and holy works. The Rationalist on the contrary considers Reason as all in all. This is degradation of humanity. The progressive Rationalist, on the other hand, believes in the principle of love, but attempts to make her the maid-servant of Reason. This is another error. He makes spiritual love sometimes a prisoner in the Jails of Reason. Love wants to soar on her spiritual wings to a realm where the Jailer (Reason) cannot go and the latter is sure to tie up her wings for fear lest she goes to an unworthy place. Love utters sounds of a spiritual character peculiar to herself, but Reason, having no previous experience of it, mistakes it for a disease and administers medicines for her cure. Thus it is that the natural strength of the Queen of our Soul is crippled by artificial administrations of the dry principle of Reason and she rests in us as if a bird taken in a cage.
Oh. What a havoc doth Reason commit by abuse of his power. Oh. Shame to the Rationalist. God, help the man. Theists take care of those amongst you who mix with you only by assuming the name of Theist but are in fact Rationalists of very dry character. They are divisible into two classes viz. the designing and the dupe. The designing Theist is he who is in fact a Rationalist but by assuming the name of a Theist want to degrade the sincere by his bad influence. He that calls himself a Theist in order to get rid of the name of a Rationalist but still holds Love in subjection to Reason is a dupe because he is unable to find out his own position. The sincere theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of Love over Reason and his comrades.
We will now show that others, who have allowed their Love to degrade without caring for the proper instructions of Reason on the other hand, have gone down to a gross idolatry and superstition. The Temple of Jagannath is under the superintendence of the local Rajah of Puri whom the foolish men worship as an incarnation of the Deity. Under his superintendence there are 36 classes of servants at the temple who are styled the Chhatrisha Niyoga. There are six hundred families of Suars (Soopakars) or cooks in the temple. It is needless here to enumerate all these classes of servants. Several Pandas, Pariharis, Pashupals and Suars send their servants to different parts of India to collect pilgrims to the temple. These agents or Gomasthas (as they are called) visit the gentleman of the places they go to and give some sweetmeat Mahaprasad proposing that they are ready to take pilgrims to Puri under their care.
By this means, the agents collect a large number of souls (amongst whom the greatest number are woman of an advanced age) and march on with the sound of Haribol. We must admit that the Pandas and their Gomasthas (generally of the Kayestha class) take a great deal of trouble for the sake of their pilgrims and sometimes advance money for their expenses on the road. The Bengal Jattris generally visit Puri at the Snana Jattra and the Ratha Jattra festivals but the upcountry men come to Puri at all times in the year.
When the pilgrims arrive at Puri the Panda, whose agent brought them, visit them with some Mahaprasad near the Narendra Tank at the approach of the town. The pilgrims see Jagannath on the very day that they arrive and perform the ceremony of Pancha Tirtha on the following day or the day after that. By Pancha Tirtha is meant the business of bathing in the Tanks of Markandeya and Indradyumna and in the sea and, after performing Sradha in those three places, seeing the emblems of Jagannath and Balarama in the temple.
The Panda all along keeps silent, but on the last day he is sure to take everything that the pilgrim has and sometimes to take a bond for an amount according to the circumstances of the pilgrim. That day the Panda with all his usual gravity takes the pilgrim to an elevated roof in the northern part of the temple called Koili Vaikoontha and there utters his Mahabakya and Shufala in order to persuade the pilgrim to pay whatever he or she has with him or her. Thus the pilgrim returns to his native place without anything but a patara of sweetmeat Mahaprasada and a few slips of Jagannath’s likeness in rude paintings!
In fact the temple servants, one, and all, are not a bit a better than Brahminical priests who deal with the next world as a means of gain. They are rude in the extreme and quite ignorant of Hindu Theology. They never attempt to teach or learn, but often rove in quest of money. Most of them are fond of drinking a liquor prepared from Bhang and hence they have (nearly all of them) a swelling of their legs sometimes coming up to the stage of disease called elephantiasis. With all their gains, the temple servants can never store wealth because they are very careless. Besides the temple they generally keep a place called an Akhra where they meet together for the purpose of drinking Bhang and seeing the dance of young boys clad in the dress of females! We will try to give you an account of all the Akhras in Puri in my next paper, and as this paper has become much longer than we at first intended, we take leave of you for the present.
Krishna consciousness is an adventure, most devotee will vouch that there is never a dull moment in our spiritual journey. There are ups and downs, many a times we wish to do more, feel inspired to push our boundaries, while sometime we become morose as we see our shortcomings and feel lack of progress despite a strong and sincere desire to do so.
Sometimes devotees feel constrained by their circumstances, and start praying fervently to Krishna to change their situation. In extreme cases some devotees, in their immaturity, and lack of proper guidance even try to forcefully change their ashram, assuming it will help them practice Krishna consciousness steadily. Krishna consciousness however is not dependent upon our external circumstances, it is what we do in those circumstances which is more important, what is state of my internal consciousness.
We should also know that Krishna consciousness is a gradual process, it is a matter of change of heart, a heart surgery, and heart surgery is not performed in a hurry! Therefore Srila Rupa Goswami guides us in NoI 3 that for those devotees who practice Krishna consciousness enthusiastically, endeavoring with great confidence, but at the same time remain patient for the result, success in devotional service is assured.
There is a very wonderful verse in Srimad Bhagavatam which throws light on the simple process one needs to follow to become successful in Krishna consciousness. The process it offers a very simple and sublime. And it gives an amazing benediction that if we follow this simple process then we will be able to conquer Krishna!
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.
Our Krishna consciousness movement is being spread so that you do not forget your cultural life. We do not say that you stop your business and become a sannyasi like me and give up everything. We do not say that. Nor did Krishna say that. Krishna never said, “Arjuna, give up your fighting business.” No, He said, “Arjuna, you are a kshatiya. You are declining to fight, saying, ‘Oh, it is very abominable.’ You should not say that. You must fight.” That was Krishna’s instruction.
Similarly, we Krishna conscious people are also advising everyone, “Don’t give up your business. Go on with your business, but simply hear about Krishna.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu also said this, quoting from Srimad Bhagavatam: sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir. Caitanya Mahaprabhu never said, “Give up your position.” Giving up one’s position is not very difficult. But to cultivate spiritual knowledge while one stays in his position—that is required.
After his fourth proposal was rejected, Ramananda Raya said that devotional service rendered without any attempt at mental speculation or cultivation of knowledge is the highest stage of perfection. To support this view he gave evidence from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.14.3), wherein Lord Brahma tells the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
”My dear Lord, one should give up monistic speculation and the cultivation of knowledge altogether. He should begin his spiritual life in devotional service by receiving information of the Your activitiesfrom a realized devotee of the Lord. If one cultivates his spiritual life by adhering to these principles and keeping himself on the honest path in life, then although Your Lordship is never conquered, You become conquered by the devotee following such a process.”
When Ramananda Raya presented this proposal, Lord Caitanya at once said, ”Yes, this is right.” In other words, Lord Caitanya agreed that this process conforms to His mission. In this age there is no possibility of acquiring spiritual knowledge by discharging one’s duties in the varnashrama-dharma system, by devotional service mixed with fruitive activity, by renunciation, or by devotional service mixed with the culture of knowledge.
Because most people are fallen and because there is no time to elevate them by a gradual process, the best course, according to Lord Caitanya, is to let them remain in whatever condition they are in but to engage them in hearing of the activities of the Supreme Lord as those activities are explained in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. The transcendental messages of the scriptures should be heard from the lips of realized souls. In this way a person may continue to live in whatever condition he is in and still make spiritual progress. Thus one can surely advance and fully realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
My dear sons of the King, just execute your occupational duty as kings with a pure heart. Just chant this prayer fixing your mind on the lotus feet of the Lord. That will bring you all good fortune, for the Lord will be very much pleased with you.
The prayers offered by Lord Shiva are very authoritative and significant. Simply by offering prayers to the Supreme Lord one can become perfect, even though engaged in his occupational duty. The real purpose of life is to become a devotee of the Lord. It does not matter where one is situated. Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, American, Englishman, Indian, etc., one can execute devotional service anywhere and everywhere in the material existence simply by offering prayers unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Hare Krishna mahā-mantra is also a prayer, for a prayer addresses the Supreme Personality of Godhead by His name and invokes good fortune by petitioning the Lord to allow one to engage in His devotional service. The Hare Krishna mahā-mantra also says, “My dear Lord Krishna, my dear Lord Rāma, O energy of the Lord, Hare, kindly engage me in Your service.” Although one may be situated in a lowly position, he can execute devotional service under any circumstance, as stated, ahaituky apratihatā: “Devotional service cannot be checked by any material condition.” (Bhāg. 1.2.6) Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu also recommended this process:
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
One may remain situated in his own place or his own occupational duty and still lend his ear to receive the message of the Lord from realized souls.
Following in the footsteps of Lord Brahmā, any person, even up to this day, can attain the same perfection by following the path of the paramahaṁsa as recommended herein. Lord Caitanya also approved of this method of self-realization for men in this age. One should first, with all conviction, believe in the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, and without making efforts to realize Him by speculative philosophy, one should prefer to hear about Him from the Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā and later from the text of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One should hear such discourses from a person Bhāgavatam and not from the professional man, or from the karmī, jñānī or yogī. That is the secret of learning the science.
One does not need to be in the renounced order of life; he can remain in his present condition of life, but he must search out the association of a bona fide devotee of the Lord and hear from him the transcendental message of the Lord with faith and conviction. That is the path of the paramahaṁsa recommended herein. Amongst various holy names of the Lord, He is also called ajita, or one who can never be conquered by anyone else. Yet He can be conquered by the paramahaṁsa path, as practically realized and shown by the great spiritual master Lord Brahmā. Lord Brahmā has personally recommended this paramahaṁsa-panthāḥin his own words as follows:
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva jīvanti sanmukharitāṁ bhavadīya vārtām sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais trilokyām
Lord Brahmā said, “O my Lord Krishna, a devotee who abandons the path of empiric philosophical speculation aimed at merging in the existence of the Supreme and engages himself in hearing Your glories and activities from a bona fide sādhu, or saint, and who lives an honest life in the occupational engagement of his social life, can conquer Your sympathy and mercy even though You are ajita, or unconquerable.” (Bhāg. 10.14.3) That is the path of the paramahaṁsas, which was personally followed by Lord Brahmā and later recommended by him for attaining perfect success in life.
You remain in your position. Either in good or bad, it doesn’t matter. But you do one thing. sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir . You use your ear. That ear is bestowed upon everyone, either fool or learned. So use that ear, sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir, and hear attentively, and mold your life as you hear from the realized soul. sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir. One who remains like this, although he is imperfect fool, whatever he may be, he can conquer the ajita. Ajita means God. Nobody can conquer Him, but a devotee who sincerely hears about Him from the realized soul, he can conquer even Ajita, Krishna. Just like gopis. The gopis were women, and not very high class woman—cowherd’s men, in the village, not in town. Very educated, high society, brahmana, kshatriya—no. They all belonged to vaishya class. And they were woman, not Vedantist, not scholar. But they conquered Krishna. Why?… They heard about Krishna, and they became lover of Krishna. That is required. So that is the real qualification.
(SPL, 28th Feb 1975, Atlanta)
Prabhupada established ISKCON based upon this very principle
The Krishna conscious movement is based on this principle, and we are opening centers all over the world to give everyone a chance to hear the message of Lord Krishna in order to go back home, back to Godhead.
Arjuna was a friend of Krishna. How he conquered? Now, Krishna became his driver. The Personality of Godhead, who is the Supreme, everyone’s master, He became a menial servant of Arjuna. So God is so lovable, and He reciprocates His love in this way. So you can conquer. Just like Krishna became the son of Nanda Maharaja, and when He was child, He took the shoes of Nanda Maharaja on His head just like child play. You see? So these are symptoms of conquering God…. You are trying to become one with God? Oh, you can become father of God. You can become father of God. God has no father but He accepts His devotee, His lover, “Oh, you are My father.” So that is the question. So if this process is for simply hearing, aural reception, sincerely, then by this process, whatever position I may be, in whatever position I may be, I can conquer the Supreme Lord. He agrees to be conquered.
Conclusion – Simply Sravanam kirtanam
This is the best benediction that a devotee can ask of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu: sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhiḥ (Bhāg. 10.14.3) One may be in one position or another according to destiny, but in any case one must continue to hear about the activities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord, regardless of circumstances. A pure devotee does not pray for liberation or for cessation of the cycle of birth and death because he does not consider that important. The most important thing for a devotee is getting a chance to hear about the pastimes and glories of the Lord.
The devotees who engage in the service of the Lord in this world will have the same opportunity in the spiritual world also. Thus for a devotee, everything is in the spiritual world, for as long as he can hear about the pastimes of the Lord, or wherever he can chant, the Lord is personally present (yatra gāyanti mad-bhaktāḥ tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada). When the pure devotees assemble to chant, hear and talk about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the place where they assemble becomes Vaikuntha . For the devotee there is no need to pray to the Lord for transferal to the Vaikuntha world. A pure devotee can create Vaikuntha or Vrindavan anywhere simply by chanting the glories of the Lord without offense.
“The words of Krishna are so attractive that they can immediately change the heart of even His opponent. His words can immediately solve all of the questions and problems of the world. Although He does not speak very long, each and every word from His mouth contains volumes of meaning. These speeches of Krishna are very pleasing to my heart.”
So we read how without giving too much attention to our current circumstances and by simply dedicate our lives in reading, or hearing, the words emanating from the lotus like mouth of Sri Govinda deva personally, say Bhagavad Gita, or by his pure devotees, say Srimad Bhagavatam or Krishna Book, then we can conquer the unconquerable, Krishna Himself! What more can devotees wish for!