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’
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.
Question : What were the three external reasons for appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ?
Ans: Srila Prabhupada writes in the summary of third chapter of Adi Lila :
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, after displaying His pastimes as Lord Kṛṣṇa, thought it wise to make His advent in the form of a devotee to explain personally the transcendental mellows of reciprocal service and love exchanged between Himself and His servants, friends, parents and fiancīes. only Kṛṣṇa Himself can explain the confidential loving service performed in the four principal varieties of loving affairs between the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore personally appeared, with His plenary portions, as Lord Caitanya.
CC Ādi 3.13: Lord Kṛṣṇa enjoys His transcendental pastimes as long as He wishes, and then He disappears. After disappearing, however, He thinks thus:
CC Ādi 3.14: “For a long time I have not bestowed unalloyed loving service to Me upon the inhabitants of the world. Without such loving attachment, the existence of the material world is useless.
CC Ādi 3.15: “Everywhere in the world people worship Me according to scriptural injunctions. But simply by following such regulative principles one cannot attain the loving sentiments of the devotees in Vrajabhūmi.
CC Ādi 3.16: “Knowing My opulences, the whole world looks upon Me with awe and veneration. But devotion made feeble by such reverence does not attract Me.
CC Ādi 3.17: “By performing such regulated devotional service in awe and veneration, one may go to Vaikuṇṭha and attain the four kinds of liberation.
CC Ādi 3.26: “My plenary portions can establish the principles of religion for each age. No one but Me, however, can bestow the kind of loving service performed by the residents of Vraja.
CC Ādi 3.28: “Therefore in the company of My devotees I shall appear on earth and perform various colorful pastimes.”
CC Ādi 3.29: Thinking thus, the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, descended at Nadia early in the Age of Kali.
According to the Vedic literature, the foremost occupational duty for humanity in this Age of Kali is nāma-saṅkīrtana, or congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Lord came as Yuga Avatara to inaugurate sankirtana movement.
CC Ādi 3.50: In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is repeatedly and clearly said that the essence of religion in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa.
CC Ādi 3.51: “O King, in this way people in Dvāpara-yuga worshiped the Lord of the universe. In Kali-yuga they also worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the regulations of the revealed scriptures. Kindly now hear of that from me.
CC Ādi 3.52: “In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.”
CC Ādi 3.58: “By performing the sacrifice of congregational chanting of the holy name, learned scholars in the Age of Kali worship Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is now nonblackish because of the great upsurge of the feelings of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. He is the only worshipable Deity for the paramahaṁsas, who have attained the highest stage of the fourth order [sannyāsa]. May that Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, show us His great causeless mercy.”
Advaita Ācārya felt sorry for the condition of the world because even after Lord Kṛṣṇa’s appearance, no one had interest in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. This forgetfulness was so overwhelming that Advaita Prabhu was convinced that no one but Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself could enlighten people about devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Therefore Advaita requested Lord Kṛṣṇa to appear as Lord Caitanya. Offering tulasī leaves and Ganges water, He cried for the Lord’s appearance. The Lord, being satisfied by His pure devotees, descends to satisfy them. As such, being pleased by Advaita Ācārya, Lord Caitanya appeared.
CC Ādi 3.96: Advaita Ācārya having appeared, He found the world devoid of devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa because people were engrossed in material affairs.
CC Ādi 3.97: Everyone was engaged in material enjoyment, whether sinfully or virtuously. No one was interested in the transcendental service of the Lord, which can give total relief from the repetition of birth and death.
CC Ādi 3.98: Seeing the activities of the world, the Ācārya felt compassion and began to ponder how He could act for the people’s benefit.
CC Ādi 3.108: Thinking of the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, He constantly offered tulasī buds in water from the Ganges.
CC Ādi 3.109: He appealed to Śrī Kṛṣṇa with loud calls and thus made it possible for Kṛṣṇa to appear.
CC Ādi 3.110: Therefore the principal reason for Śrī Caitanya’s descent is this appeal by Advaita Ācārya. The Lord, the protector of religion, appears by the desire of His devotee.
Question : What were the three confidential reasons for appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ?
CC Ādi 4.230: Desiring to understand the glory of Rādhārāṇī’s love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with Her emotions, appeared from the womb of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī, as the moon appeared from the ocean.”
The first purpose was to relish the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the prime reciprocator of transcendental love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of transcendental loving transactions with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. The subject of those loving transactions is the Lord Himself, and Rādhārāṇī is the object. Thus the subject, the Lord, wanted to relish the loving mellow in the position of the object, Rādhārāṇī.
The second reason for His appearance was to understand the transcendental mellow of Himself. Lord Kṛṣṇa is all sweetness. Rādhārāṇī’s attraction for Kṛṣṇa is sublime, and to experience that attraction and understand the transcendental sweetness of Himself, He accepted the mentality of Rādhārāṇī.
The third reason that Lord Caitanya appeared was to enjoy the bliss tasted by Rādhārāṇī. The Lord thought that undoubtedly Rādhārāṇī enjoyed His company and He enjoyed the company of Rādhārāṇī, but the exchange of transcendental mellow between the spiritual couple was more pleasing to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī than to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī felt more transcendental pleasure in the company of Kṛṣṇa than He could understand without taking Her position, but for Śrī Kṛṣṇa to enjoy in the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī was impossible because that position was completely foreign to Him. Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental male, and Rādhārāṇī is the transcendental female. Therefore, to know the transcendental pleasure of loving Kṛṣṇa, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself appeared as Lord Caitanya, accepting the emotions and bodily luster of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Lord Caitanya appeared in order to fulfill these confidential desires, and also to preach the special significance of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare and to answer the call of Advaita Prabhu. These were secondary reasons.
CC Ādi 4.238 — Once Lord Kṛṣṇa considered within His heart, “Everyone says that I am complete bliss, full of all rasas.
CC Ādi 4.239 — “All the world derives pleasure from Me. Is there anyone who can give Me pleasure?
CC Ādi 4.240 — “One who has a hundred times more qualities than Me could give pleasure to My mind.
CC Ādi 4.241 — “One more qualified than Me is impossible to find in the world. But in Rādhā alone I feel the presence of one who can give Me pleasure.
CC Ādi 4.242-243 — “Although My beauty defeats the beauty of ten million Cupids, although it is unequaled and unsurpassed, and although it gives pleasure to the three worlds, seeing Rādhārāṇī gives pleasure to My eyes.
CC Ādi 4.244 — “The vibration of My transcendental flute attracts the three worlds, but My ears are enchanted by the sweet words of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
CC Ādi 4.248 — “Thus although I am the source of happiness for the entire world, the beauty and attributes of Śrī Rādhikā are My life and soul.
CC Ādi 4.249 — “In this way My affectionate feelings for Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī may be understood, but on analysis I find them contradictory.
CC Ādi 4.250 — “My eyes are fully satisfied when I look upon Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, but by looking upon Me, She becomes even more advanced in satisfaction.
CC Ādi 4.262 — “I am always eager to taste the joy that Rādhārāṇī derives from Me.
CC Ādi 4.263 — “In spite of various efforts, I have not been able to taste it. But My desire to relish that pleasure increases as I smell its sweetness.
CC Ādi 4.264 — “Formerly I appeared in the world to taste mellows, and I tasted the mellows of pure love in various ways.
CC Ādi 4.265 — “I taught devotional service that springs from the devotees’ spontaneous love by demonstrating it with My pastimes.
CC Ādi 4.266 — “But these three desires of Mine were not satisfied, for one cannot enjoy them in a contrary position.
CC Ādi 4.267 — “Unless I accept the luster of the ecstatic love of Śrī Rādhikā, these three desires cannot be fulfilled.
CC Ādi 4.268 — “Therefore, assuming Rādhārāṇī’s sentiments and bodily complexion, I shall descend to fulfill these three desires.”
CC Ādi 4.269 — In this way Lord Kṛṣṇa came to a decision. Simultaneously, the time came for the incarnation of the age.
CC Ādi 4.231 — All these conclusions are unfit to disclose in public. But if they are not disclosed, no one will understand them.
CC Ādi 4.232 — Therefore I shall mention them, revealing only their essence, so that loving devotees will understand them but fools will not.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
(All glories to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead! All glories to Lord Gauracandra, the life and soul of His devotees, CC Antya 14.2)
Some weeks back, in an emotional state of mind, I, foolishly, sent the below SMS to Guru Maharaj.
`Guru Maharaj, I wanted to share that that I am having extra marital affair and that too with not one but many. I have fallen in love with Krishna, with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, with Nityananad Prabhu, with Lord Jagannath, with you and with devotees like Shyamsundar Prabhuji and I have to only thank you for helping me establish this unique sambandh jnana with Lord, guru and devotees. I am most blessed to to have taken shelter in ISKCON and I promise that I will try my best to spread this love around.’
Reading it today I feel quite embarrassed at my childish attempt to use humour to drive home a simple point that inspite of my long list of disqualification, I am receiving a whole lot of unproportionally large volume of Love from so many channels around me.
As I take some baby steps in my spiritual journey, I find myself falling in love with an increasing number of devotees. And strangely, I observe that more the number of devotees I fall in love with, the more my love for Krishna increases automatically. When I make space for one more devotee in my heart, the heart acts on its own to make more space for Krishna and vice versa. Somehow the same very heart which could hardly accommodate only a few persons from family and friends circle ( looking back I think it only had one person in it, myself), now it seems be be getting bigger and bigger to make room for a large number of devotees, the quality of bonding and the intensity too has increased many times than what I ever increased in my material life.
In the past there was always a conscious and subconscious `give and take’ feeling, even with close friends. In fact the closer a person the higher used to be my expectations from him. Now, with devotees just the reverse is true. I don’t have any expectations from most of them and the only thing I long is to be in their association and, if possible, they speak about Krishna, but most of the time I am in a blissful state by just being near them.
Being a very introvert and dry person my list is still quite short and many a times the love is just one sided as the other devotee does not now how much love and respect I have for him. I wish I could name all but to name a few HH Gopala Krishna Goswami Maharaj, HG Rukmini Krishna Prabhu, HH Sacinanadan Maharaj, HG Karuna Prabhuji, Subir Prabhu, my dear friend Shyamsundar Prabhuji, HG Prasanto Mataji (what I would not give to have her as my mother), HH Giriraj Maharaj, HH Radha Govind Maharaj, HH Bhakti Vijnana Maharaj ( without even meeting Maharaj I feel so much connected to him), HG Radheshyam Prabhuji. I have fallen head over heels over HH Bhakti Charu Maharaj. And then all previous acharays, six Goswamis, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Nityanand, Sri Mayapur Dham, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Lord Balram and Sri Radha & Krishna and Their associates, Tulasi Maharani ( another case of head over heels), ISKCON Punjabi Bagh temple, in fact all ISKCON temples, Vrindavan Deities, Damodar Lila, Govardhan Lila, Bhagavad Gita, Vaishnava bhajans, MVT, deep soulful kirtans, ISKCON, preaching,….. the list gets longer by each passing month.
Three special names I would like to mention in the end are hearing Krishna katha (how I wish if somehow I could dedicate my one ear 24 hours a day plugged in listening it), Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (completely and madly head over heels) and Srila Prabhupada. I don’t know how and when my respect for Srila Prabhupada turned into love. It has primarily happened due to the causeless mercy of Guru Maharaj.
I fell in love with Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta after hearing it the first time itself, while not even knowing who is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu! I still remember that it was during my initial days at Punjabi Bagh temple, speaker was HG Swargapati Prabhuji. What he was reading and reciting was beyond any definition of sweetness known to me before. After prabhuji’s lecture got over I collected some courage and approached him and asked from which book he was reading these verses. Prabhuji replied me he was reading from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. I immediately went to the book store and asked for it. The Prabhuji in charge of the store Looked at me from head to toe and then politely advised me to buy the condensed version first. I brought it home and after few days I went to Sri Vrindavan Dhama, checked into the guest for the first time and finished more than quarter of the book, but somehow I never completed it. Then few months back after hearing `Rupa Siksha’ lecture recording by HH Radha Govind Maharaj I felt inspired to read it and from that day onwards I read a few verses almost daily. I love all three from the core of my heart.
I am copying the song `Thakura Vaisnava Pada by Srila Narottama Das Thakura below. Although I still remain judgmental about devotees and do not have any such feeling in my heart yet I pray to our guru parampara to kindly bless me that one day such feelings about devotees can blossom in my dry, and stone like hard, heart.
ṭhākura vaiṣṇava pada, avanīra susampada,
śuno bhāi hoiyā eka mana
āśraya loiyā bhaje, tāre kṛṣṇa nāhi tyaje,
āra saba more akāraṇa
(O brother, please hear my words with rapt attention. The lotus feet of the Vaisnavas are the most valuable treasure of this world. These Vaisnavas continually take shelter of Lord Krsna and worship Him. They never abandon their Lord. They are liberated. They are free from the cycle of birth and death.)
vaiṣṇava caraṇa jala, prema bhakti dite bol,
āra keho nahe balavanta
vaiṣṇava caraṇa reṇu, mastake bhūṣaṇa vinu,
āra nāhi bhūṣaṇera anta
(The water that has washed the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas bestows devotional service in pure love of God. Nothing else is as effective for attaining this divine love. I place dust from the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas upon my head. I wear no other ornament.)
tīrtha jala pavitra guṇe, likhiyāche purāṇe,
se saba bhaktira pravañcana
vaiṣṇavera pādodaka, sama nahe ei saba,
yāte hoy vāñchita pūraṇa
(The purifying power of the waters at the various holy places of pilgrimage is described in the Puranas, although this is something of a deceptive trick. Actually there is not anything as purifying as the water that has washed the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas. This water fulfills all desires.)
vaiṣṇava sańgete mana, ānandita anukṣaṇa,
sadā hoy kṛṣṇa parasańga
dīna narottama kānde, hiyā dhairya nāhi bāndhe
mora daśā keno hoilo bhańga
(Moment after moment my mind finds pleasure in the association of the Vaisnavas. I always seek out the company of those who are devoted to Lord Krsna. Poor-hearted Narottama dasa breaks down and cries. How has this fallen condition come upon me?)
I beg devotees to kindly share their experience on falling in love with devotees.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I was sharing yet another mercy of Tulasi maharani at our home with ShyamSundar prabhu yesterday morning. While continuing our conversation over phone, as usual, our discussions went over from one topic to another and in the end we discussed how some devotees should have done such and such thing better and then the conversation ended. After ending our conversation I realised that from sharing a realisation and mercy I went into a judging mood about other devotees and that shows very poorly on my consciousness that even after reading and hearing so many instructions on this regard how easily I get into gossiping about devotees, prajapala. I immediately sent an SMS to ShyamSundar Prabhu requesting him to please stop me whenever I start discussing other devotee. In fact, I added that we should not even discuss other devotees behind their back. He heartily agreed. I felt much lighter.
In the evening I was deleting old mails from my phone when I saw that in one of the mails was a seminar done by HG Radheshyam Prabhuji and Chaitanya Charan Prabhuji, Pune. The title of the topic, you guessed it – Prajalapa !! Godsend for me ! I heard the complete lecture on my way to and from office and it contained a wonderful learning for me. I am writing some part of it for the pleasure of devotees and I hope and pray to Srila Prabhupada that I too will learn something from this lecture.
The seminar started with HG Radheshyam Prabhu’s lecture. Prabhuji started with giving a general view of what is prajalapa and what is not prajalpa.
Prabhuji then glorified how Nectar of Instructions is a great guide book for all serious devotees as it teaches sadhaks the control of the senses, avoiding the unfavourable, accepting the favourable things in bhakti and how to know different levels of Vaishanavas and how to associate with them. Prabhuji then defined some terms
Prajalpa means useless talk.
Jana sangha means association of non devotees.
Prabhuji then quoted the famous second verse from NoI
atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca prajalpo niyamāgrahaḥ
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati
One’s devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) over-endeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; and (6) being greedy for mundane achievements.
Prabhuji then explained how Srila Prabhupada and Srimad Bhagavtam use very strong words against prajalpa.
Prabhuji then added that when a Jiva comes into this world he does jana sangha, the result is laulayam- Material greed. He then does prayaas, works very hard. For what purpose ? for atyahaara to collect more than what he needs. For doing prayaas in jana sangha he does prajalpa !
Prabhuji then explained that we have to use our intelligence to say that not everything minus Krishna is parajalapa. Prabhuji explained how Sri Sanatana Goswami would often go to villages and talk to brajawasis and ask them about their health, how did the crops do and their general well being. The brajawasis too considered Sri Sanatana Goswami as their Guru because his inspiration brought them more close to Krishna. So such talk may sound mundane but it was not mundane talk.
Prabhuji gave some examples and stated that we should not behave like a crazy person at home – saying that I won’t talk anything else other than Krishna or don’t talk prajalpa with me to our family members, and we should be level headed. Level headed means that we behave according to time, place and circumstance. That means we ask children how are they doing in their studies, we ask well being of our family members, we help in all the daily chores of the home, etc. That is what Lord Caitanya told Raghunath Das Goswami that You manage your business externally, meditate on Krishna internally. That means externally we should look like a ‘karmi’ a materialistic person, speaking, behaving with our friends and relatives for the sake of pleasing them but internally we should meditate on Krishna. So we can do general talking with our friends and relatives and that may be considered all right but in the name of being practical a devotee should not go the extreme of becoming completely materialistic.
Srimad Bhagavatam is very strict on not using our senses for mundane things and Prabhuji quoted some very strong verses from Bhagavatam in this regard.
Prabhuji spoke how these days people want to speak every topic under the sun except spiritual topics. Prabhuji said that we are living in the times of media madness where so much global gossip through internet, TV, radio, all this is going on. So while living in the material world we should not develop tendency to do prajalpa with friends and relatives but at the same times among devotees we should know how to speak according to time, place and circumstances. Prabhuji said we can talk directly about Krishna, we can speak indirectly about Krishna (temple management issues, etc.) but there should not be any useless talk.
Prabhuji said that prajalpa is a very important topic because our tongue and mind are connected. The tongue has two activities, eating and speaking, so we should only eat prasadam and speak only glories of Krishna. And because tongue and mind are connected so if we speak about Krishna our mind gets filled with remembrance of Krishna. Similarly if we speak nonsense with tongue then the mind gets filled with nonsense. That is why we should try to speak about glories of Krishna, pastimes of Prabhupada, share with others what we have learned, etc. instead of using the tongue to vibrate useless things like gossip.
It was then the turn of HG Chaitanya Charan Prabhuji to speak.
Prabhuji started his lecture by stating that the path of virtue and path of vice is always open in all the times and similarly the path of prajalpa is also there throughout the ages, but in modern times there are three main differences :
Gossip is culturally glamourised. General knowledge about things which are absolutely irrelevant to people is glamourised today. There is a term called information junkie, it defines a person who knows a lot of junk information. Much of the information we acquire is useless but because of the social standards which are there, whenever there is a discussion between some people everybody basically wants to show of how `aware’ I am of current situations. So there is a culture of glamourisation of knowledge that is irrelevant if not harmful. That comes because everyone starts thinking that this is very good as I know so much.
Intellectually rationalised. This means that a person starts thinking that this knowledge must be useful for me. There are so many things I need to know. In the past the knowledge was primarily for action and application. People would learn about farming, how do you dig, how do you plough, etc. So knowledge was always connected with its utility, its functionality. Never before in the history of humanity people had so much information about which there was no action to be done.
Say we say how many daughter so and so film star has, how does this matter to anyone ! When we acquire so much knowledge not only does it swamp our mind but it also makes us feel helpless. E.g. a bomb exploded in Iraq or an American ambassador was killed in Africa or there was a hurricane in America. Now if we think how much information we read in daily newspapers is going to change what we are going to do on that day, or the next day or the next month, very little. So all the information we acquire its utility for us is near zero. But somehow oh, you should be aware of current affairs.' Prabhuji said certainly we should not be completely ignorant of the things, but is not that everything which happens everywhere, we need to keep abreast of it. So its intellectually rationalised oh! I have to be up to date, specially where general knowledge is just generaltrivial’ knowledge.
Technologically facilitated. Even 100 to 150 years ago news would travel at the speed of the fastest transport available. But from the invention of the telegraph onwards the availability of irrelevant news has increased so much that now, because of the internet, within moments we get information from every corner of the world. So what does this news do ? Sociologist say that news in nothing new, it’s the same old things are happening to new people !! What are things that happen in this world ? There is birth, old age, disease, death, someone loses, someone wins, someone has some happiness and someone has some distress, its the same old thing happening to new people and we call that news. Actually there is nothing new about the news. But because news from everything is so easily available that our tendency for prajalpa becomes technologically facilitated.
One last consequence of this information bombardment ? As we said that when we are living in a society where information to action ratio is so low, we have so much information and so little action, and the consequence of this carries over into our spiritual life where we also want to acquire a lot of information but we don’t do any action about what we already know ! So we go on- what is said in this book, what is said in that book, what is said in that book. Prabhuji narrated an incident when HH Jayadvaita Maharaj was once asked a question. He was asked 3-4 things, what does this, this and this things mean ? Maharaj replied `that’s not a question that’s a quiz, next questions please !’ Prabhuji added, sure, we can be philosophically inquisitive and learn information but the point is here that often because of our infatuation with information we forget the application of the part and we just think that spirituality is about acquiring more and more information.
And over the period of time we will start feeling oh! there is no new information available in Krishna consciousness philosophy, whatever information is there, I know about it. And then we will start getting bored. But the boredom in because there is no newness. The information is for action, the action is developing a relationship with Krishna. So when we use the information in Krishna consciousness for developing a relationship with Krishna, the newness in Krishna consciousness will come not from the newness of the information but from the newness about our connection with Krishna. As we deepen our relationship with Krishna we are able to connect with Him deeper and deeper. And that will bring newness in our life.
HG Radhesyam Prabhuji later narrated how as recent as in Lord Chaitanaya’s time, devotees would talk only about Krishna while doing general things like plucking flowers, etc but. now it is just mundane talk, cricket scores, office gossip, basically awakening the material emotions of people instead of awakening their spiritual emotions.
Chaitanya Charan Prabhuji cautioned that in the name of avoiding prajalpa we should not become insensitive, we must follow general society courtesies and greetings. We should not get into unnecessary mundane discussions or gossips. What is to be given up is that information which is not relevant to our immediate material life, job, etc. or to Krishna consciousness.
HG Radheshyam Prabhuji said as devotees we should we careful about not wasting too much time debating topics on which we have no control like christian conversion or controversial topics like whether jiva fell from Vaikuntha or from Brahmjyoti, and so on. Whenever we have some doubt we should go to authority and they clarify the subject to us. By talking among fellow devotees nothing good will come out of it and one may start to have doubts in his mind mind about the whole philosophy itself. What good will come out by a discussion among two ignorant people, who do not know beyond each other’s level, will it help ? We should go to someone wise. Otherwise it is prajalpa discussing and arguing among our own selves. We should find and then go to senior devotees and sanyasis in ISKCON who know about such subject and get answer to our questions rather than indulging in such talk among ignorant people. So useless talk is just not about mundane discussions with general people but it could be among devotees also and we should avoid it.
Prabhuji then quoted BG 9.14
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā nitya-yuktā upāsate
Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.
Prabhuji added that when we waste our time in gossip then we are disapproving Krishna’s statement that My devotees always chant My glories, i.e., if we claim ourselves to be a Krishna devotee.
Prabhuji discussed in detail how in when Prabhupada was on this planet then in free time everyone would read Krishna book or talk about Srila Prabhupada or Krishna or discuss how to increase preaching.
Later, Chaitanya Charan Prabhuji said in a lighter vein that ISKCON is like a Kalpataru, whatever we want from it we will get it. If someone comes here for money he will get money, if someone come for power he will get power, if someone comes for prestige then in which organisation people come and offer obeisances to you! If somebody wants controversy then he will get more controversy than what is there in the material world! BUT if we want Krishna then we will get Krishna also. So all these controversial issues are there but ultimately it is up to us what do we want ? If we keep our focus clear on why I have come to Krishna consciousness then we will steer clear of all these things. There are so many intellectual misconceptions in the society, within and outside the movement also, so protecting our faith is our responsibility.
Prabhuji further explained that it is not that any argument is irrefutable, all arguments are refutable. But just like when a war is going on and there is an elephant warrior from the other side and there is a foot soldier from this side. The foot soldier will get crushed. So right now we are all like foot soldiers. So if we hear someone talking about fall of Jiva or sidha pranali and if we want to learn about these things then we can go to our own elephant warrior and not try to fight that elephant warrior, we will get crushed. So generally speaking if anyone starts propagating any ideas then that person will have some sort of logic, some sort of reasoning, and we when we are discussing we will not be able to find what is the flaw in it, although there will be lot of flaws in it, just like a foot soldier can not fight with an elephant warrior.
For example if we see Madhava sampradaya, they refute mayavada philosophy. So they have to know about mayavada to refute mayavada to but for first 20 years of their training they would never read any mayavadi books, they would read only refutations of mayavadi philosophy written by their acharayas, so they would be equipped for refutation but they would not be exposed directly. And after 20 years of education when they are deeply rooted, thoroughly convinced, they have understood the tactics of the false arguments, then they would study the opponent books. And then they can refute that also. So this is a time-honoured strategy. So we are not avoiding or dodging issues, we are protecting our faith so that we can become equipped to deal with issues when the need arises and if the need arises. So if we have already heard some controversy then we can go to some authority and discuss that and get the answers. But just circulating misconceptions or discussing with ignorant only weakens our faith and then it drags us down.
Prabhuji added that Maya attacks us in two ways, one is doubt and the other is desires.
Doubts attack us at the level of our intelligence. Desires attack us at the level of our mind.
So when the doubts attack us at the level of our intelligence then intelligence becomes weak and then the mind takes over. That’s how we get lost.
In the end of first part HG Radheshyam Prabhuji said in our free time we can discuss what new learning we had recently, what tactic some other region is employing to increase preaching, discuss a new lecture we heard, a sanyasi we served, we can also talk
about health of the devotees and their concerns. A good question we can ask other devotees is how do they cope up when maya attacks them.
Part II of the lecture was on arguments, I am giving a very brief summary as the blog has become very long.
Chaitanya Charan Prabhuji quoted the below famous verse from Mahabharata which Srila Prabhupada regularly quoted
Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person.
Prabhuji emphasised that Absolute truth can not be understood just by logic and arguments, that’s why logic is considered inconclusive.
Prabhuji gave examples of how Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu defeated Prakashananda Sarawati and later Sarvabhauma in Puri. In both the cases Mahaprabhu first entered the heart and then His opponent’s head. So at first His humility touched their hearts and then He touched their head and was able to transform their lives.
Similarly we should not try to win over people by mere arguments. We should first see if the other person is open to listen to us and if not then we should see if there is any way we can open his heart and then give him the arguments. And if not then we should leave him alone and just pray for him.
Debating with outsiders.
When we meet some other people who claim to have scriptural knowledge or they claim to know a lot, then they present something and we present something and it goes on and on and on. And if we find that this person is just not ready to learn then at that time it may be a good idea to just leave it that. Because if in the process of arguing or debating we lose our temper or become angry then that anger will further alienate that person. Either it will make him feel victorious oh I have defeated that person and makes him think he is right or it will alienate that person as he may think that these people are so narrow-minded or so self-righteous about their ideas.
On the other hand if we find that things don’t work out then just end on a cordial note. We can say that you have some spiritual ideas and I have learned something else from my spiritual master. This is what my spiritual teachers have taught me is the conclusion of the vedic scriptures. Now ultimately you are a free soul and if this is what you want to believe then my best wishes are with you. And leave it that. Now at the least what has happened he has felt that devotees are gentlemanly people, they agree to disagree. Sometimes we have to leave it that.
Prabhuji added that Material life teaches us in two ways one is the spiritual master, he teaches us gently, warmly, gives us instructions, and the other is the school of hard knocks, maya, beats down a person. Eventually everyone has to come to Krishna. So later on when they learn from the school of hard Knocks, when they find out that their own intellect is not solving their problems, it still keep them in illusion, then at that time if they still have positive appreciation for devotees they will come to devotees, take shelter of lotus feet of Krishna. In general people who are intellectual have lot of pride, so when they meet another intellectual person who is very humble then It charms them, they may not admit it but it charms them.
Debate among devotees.
Prabhuji discussed this is in detail for 15 minutes, the summary was that we should avoid it and only if necessary for practical purpose or management then we must do in private. Prabhuji also stated that few things we can understand quickly, few after some debate and discussion, few things we can understand only after years of service and realisation and then again few things we may never understand as we are finite and Lord is infinite. Also different devotees can have different definition of success.
Prabhuji cautioned that gossip with devotees or non devotees takes our mind away from Krishna only for some time but debate among devotees creates aversion towards devotees and that is even more harmful. So in former case one is allured away from Krishna but in the later case we are repelled away from Krishna. So devotees should avoid such debates. Debates are useful only if they help people develop their conviction.
Readers can download and hear these wonderful lectures by clicking Part I and Part II
All glories to the wonderful preachers of ISKCON.
All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.