These are difficult times and we see suffering all around us. Especially we have seen Indians suffer severely in the second wave of COVID and our heart and prayers are with everyone at this time of difficulty. However, we see devotees also suffer during such times and sometimes as neophytes we may wonder why devotees suffer, I am already under the shelter of Krishna. However, as per scriptures, a devotee’s suffering is not the same as that of an ordinary person, devotees do not suffer karmic reactions, they may look same but are completely different. A karmi eats grains and vegetables and a devotee also eats the same, however, there is a completely different effect on both. One is under the control of material energy whereas the other is under the control of Krishna. Hence mature devotees accept their so-called suffering also as the mercy of Krishna and great devotees like Kunti maharani pray for more suffering as it facilitates deeper remembrance of Krishna.
Today I came across the below conversation which may help us understand why devotees suffer.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, sometimes people argue that if there is no God, it doesn’t matter what I do, and if there is a God, then He is controlling everything and it still doesn’t matter what I do, because everything is predetermined anyway. In either case, I am free to do anything I like.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but why do you suffer?
Devotee: Well, it’s all God’s plan. I suffer according to God’s plan.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It is not God’s plan that you suffer; you suffer because you violate God’s laws. He is controlling everything, but He has given you minute independence: you can either follow His laws or violate them. But you are so foolish that you do not understand you are suffering. Your position is like that of the cats and dogs, who also cannot understand that they are suffering.
Our point is that you are suffering because you have violated God’s laws, and if you become obedient to God you will not suffer. But you are such a fool, such a rascal, that you do not even know that you are suffering.
Devotee: But the devotees also seem to be suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they are not suffering like the nondevotees. Material life, which is the cause of suffering, is like a disease, and devotees are giving up this diseased condition of life for Krishna consciousness. If you are suffering from some disease, you cannot expect to be cured immediately. But one who is taking the medicine is very intelligent. His sufferings will soon be gone. But these nondevotee rascals will not even take the medicine—Krishna consciousness—so they will continue to suffer. To man
And for the most part, devotees enjoy. Why are you always chanting Hare Krishna and dancing unless you are enjoying?
Devotee: Sometimes I get a sick stomach, too.
Srila Prabhupada: That’s because you have a material body. But your suffering is just like the movement of a fan that has been switched off. The fan is still moving, but the switch is off; so it will soon stop. Similarly, your suffering will soon stop, because you are acting on the spiritual platform. And after giving up this body, you will have a completely blissful life. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], tyaktva deham punar janma naiti:
“After giving up the body, a devotee doesn’t take birth again in the material world.” You are not going to get another material body, full of suffering. That is your advantage.
But these nondevotee rascals are going to continue getting body after body, all full of suffering. They will have to accept one body and suffer, and then again they’ll have to give up that body and take another body and suffer. As long as one accepts a material body he will have to suffer, because having a material body means suffering. So those who are not Krishna conscious will change bodies one after another and continue to suffer the threefold miseries [those caused by the body and mind, those caused by other living beings, and those caused by natural calamities].
But devotees, even if they appear to be undergoing some suffering, will eventually give up the material body and remain in their spiritual body, free from all suffering.
Devotee: [taking the position of a materialist] That is simply your faith.
Srila Prabhupada: And it is your faith that you do not believe it. We are accepting the words of the Bhagavad-gita on faith, so we have a chance of getting promoted to the spiritual world. But you have no faith, so you are sure to continue suffering in the material world. We are at least willing to take the chance, but you are so foolish that you are not willing to take the chance. So your suffering is sure to continue.
Devotee: Indians often say, “Well, I will take the chance when Krishna wishes. His will is supreme, so whenever He wishes He will make me Krishna conscious.”
Srila Prabhupada: In the Bhagavad- gita [18.66], Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja: “Give up all your nonsense and surrender unto Me. Become Krishna conscious.” So, Krishna wishes that you surrender to Him. Why don’t you obey His wish?
Devotee: Why does Krishna arrange for the pleasures of sense gratification if they only bring us suffering?
Srila Prabhupada: Again, the same answer: Krishna has given us minute independence—we can use our senses for either sense gratification or for serving Him, which is the real pleasure of the senses. The senses are meant for enjoyment, but if you try to enjoy your senses in a diseased way—by gratifying them—that is your misfortune, and you will have to suffer. You have to cure your disease by becoming Krishna conscious. Then you will enjoy unlimitedly.
We are not like the Mayavadis [impersonalists], who want to destroy the senses and become senseless. That is not our program. We want to purify the senses (sarvopadhi- vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam). Suppose a man cannot see because he has glaucoma. The mayavada program is that if your eye is giving you trouble and you cannot see, pluck it out. That is not our program. We want to cure the disease so you can see very nicely. So, our senses should be cured of the material disease by our practicing Krishna consciousness. Then we will be able to enjoy real sense pleasure by using our senses in the service of Hrishikesha [Krishna], the master of the senses.
(Morning walk, April 1975, Mayapur)
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
The rivalry between Karna and Arjuna is one of the highlights of Mahabharata. Even today people debate who was better among the two great warriors- pitted against each other by destiny. It’s Karna Vs Arjuna.
Karna vs Arjuna
Karna is one of the most complex characters in Mahabharata. We see his virtuous side, he was well known for his charitable nature, his word, his archery skills, a great warrior, and amongst all this, being the son of the sun-god. On the other hand, we also see a person driven blindly by pride and personal ambition. It was Karna who prompted Duryodhana that Draupadi is dragged into the assembly and then further suggested that Draupadi should be disrobed publically in the court assembly. He asked Draupadi to select another husband because, being lost by Pandavas, she was rendered a slave of Kurus. Karna hid his urge for self-glory behind his so-called gratitude and friendship with Duryodhana.
Karna refused the advice of his own father sun-god, his mother Kunti, and even Krishna. He was envious of Pandavas, especially Arjuna. Overconfident, he often bragged about his prowess which made Duryodhana even more confident of his victory, leading to the disastrous war. He refused to fight under grandfather Bhishma, boasting that he can finish up the Pandavas within five days if Bhishma would not interfere with his plans. His arrogance and pride led him to earn curses from Parshurama, a brahmana and mother earth.
Duryodhana was bereft of his fortune and duration of life because of the intricacy of ill advice given by Karṇa, Duḥśāsana and Saubala.
On the other side is Arjuna. He is also the son of a demigod- Indra, who is the king of all the demigods. Arjuna is one of the greatest archers and a close friend of Krishna. He was a favorite disciple of his teacher Dronacharya, who, impressed with his dedication, sincerity and humility, lovingly bestowed upon him all the blessings of military science. All the Pandavas due to their virtuous behavior were favorites not only of their elders but also of all the citizens of the Hastinapur. Arjuna used his powers to protect dharma and never fought out of arrogance or false pride. As a result, he received boons from personalities like lord Siva, Indra, fire-god, Yamaraja, Varuna and Kuvera.
Arjuna was not itching to fight with his envious and irreligious cousins who had left no trick of the trade to kill his family. Unlike Duryodhana, who saw Pandavas as his enemies, Arjuna still saw them as his brothers and relatives. He had the compassion and strength to say:
‘How can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who are worthy of my worship? It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers.’
Life seemed unfair
It may seem that life was not fair to Karna. He was born out of wedlock, abandoned by his mother, brought up (lovingly) by a chariot maker, denied the respect due as a great warrior, etc. But the same is more true for Arjuna, who suffered far more. Bereft of a father, staying with envious cousins who were always plotting to insult and kill them, and had humiliated his wife in front of the whole assembly. They had to go to the jungle for 13 years after being cheated in a gambling match. Theirs is a much longer list.
Difference in Character
The difference is how they both reacted to those so-called unfavorable circumstances. Karna was brash, overconfident, bitter and became determined to fight against what destiny was rolling out for him. Arjuna, on the other hand, remained calm during all atrocities, accepted all injustices as the will of Lord and had complete faith in Krishna.
It is said that giving good counsel to a foolish person causes the fool to become angry, just as feeding milk to a snake only increases its venomous poison. Saint Vidura was so honorable that his character was looked up to by all respectable persons. But Duryodhana was so foolish that he dared to insult Vidura. This was due to his bad association with Śakuni, his maternal uncle, as well as with his friend Karṇa, who always encouraged Duryodhana in his nefarious acts.
According to Vedic civilization, a descendant of a brāhmaṇa family should never be heavily punished. This was exemplified in Arjuna’s treatment of Aśvatthāmā. Aśvatthāmā was the son of a great brāhmaṇa, Droṇācārya, and in spite of his having committed the great offense of killing all the sleeping sons of the Pāṇḍavas, for which he was condemned even by Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna excused him by not killing him because he happened to be the son of a brāhmaṇa.
Hence we can see that circumstances do not make us Krishna conscious but it is what we do in those circumstances which makes us Krishna conscious.
Who are Karna and Arjuna?
Mahabharata reveals that Karna was a demon called Dambodbhava in his previous life. He led a very sinful life and killed thousands of humans and rishi munis on the strength of a boon he received from sun-god. He was finally defeated by Nara- Narayana rishis but as he was about to be killed he took shelter of sun-god. This same demon took birth as Karna in his next birth.
Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associate devotees incarnate in order to serve the Lord in different capacities. Arjuna is one of these devotees.
So we can appreciate that Arjuna is an eternal associate of Lord Krishna, wherever Krishna’s pastimes manifest Arjuna participates in it. A soul worth taking shelter of. No wonder Krishna made Arjuna an instrument to speak Bhagavad Gita and also the hero of Mahabharata.
We daily post one Bhagavad Gita verse and its purport on our preaching whatsapp groups. Sometimes I share some impromptu thoughts on it. I will start sharing the same with you. Kindly tolerate them and also give your feedback. Here it goes
Today Krishna’s mood is the same as He openly declares that there is no servant more dear to Him than such a devotee who shares this supreme science with others.
Many a time older devotees struggle or get stagnate in their journey in Krishna consciousness. Among many other reasons, one very important reason is that we are not willing to take the next step forward and come out of our comfort zone to serve Krishna or we get disheartened with some bad experiences. But who said becoming a lover of God is easy.
We also stagnate because we become satisfied with a little sattava guna and auspiciousness which practicing bhakti-yoga brings in the initial stages of Krishna consciousness, but there is much more ahead.
Srimad Bhagavatam calls such a devotee who remains satisfied in serving the deity of Krishna at home, eating prasadam, etc. as a neophyte devotee. It’s not a bad stage, we all go through it but the main thing is that we should not remain there like everyone goes to grade 1 in school but we don’t remain in grade 1.
We must have some feelings and then think how else can I serve the Lord of my heart and finally act upon it.
Getting continuous favour of Krishna is not so cheap but it is easily available to a sold-out heart.
I recently read a very inspiring verse on dandavats. It spoke about unity among devotees. It was not only encouraging, as it pleases Krishna, it also gave a benediction to all the devotees who remain united despite differences in the group/society. Unity in diversity. let’s read the verse
śrī-bhagavān uvāca varaṁ vṛṇīdhvaṁ bhadraṁ vo yūyaṁ me nṛpa-nandanāḥ sauhārdenāpṛthag-dharmās tuṣṭo ’haṁ sauhṛdena vaḥ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation — devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.
Since the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat were all united in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the Lord was very pleased with them. Each and every one of the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat was an individual soul, but they were united in offering transcendental service to the Lord. The unity of the individual souls attempting to satisfy the Supreme Lord or rendering service to the Lord is real unity. In the material world such unity is not possible. Even though people may officially unite, they all have different interests.
In the United Nations, for instance, all the nations have their particular national ambitions, and consequently they cannot be united. Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually, in Krishna consciousness there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal: to serve Kṛṣṇa to one’s best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual. Those who are actually engaged in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be disunited in any circumstance. This makes the Supreme Personality of Godhead very happy and willing to award all kinds of benediction to His devotees, as indicated in this verse. We can see that the Lord is immediately prepared to award all benedictions to the sons of King Prācīnabarhiṣat.
Srila Prabhupada sets the mood- unity in diversity
Now this displeasing of godbrothers has already begun and gives me too much agitation in my mind. Our Gaudiya Math people fought with one another after the demise of Guru Maharaja but my disciples have already begun fighting even in my presence. So I am greatly concerned about it.
Following in the footprints of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu: trnad api su-nicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniya sada harih “One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” We must always remember this verse and be as tolerant as the tree, as we execute the Krsna consciousness movement. Without this mentality we cannot be successful.
Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krsna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement, even though there are varieties of engagements. In the material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krsna in the center, then there will be agreement in varieties. This is called unity in diversity. I am therefore suggesting that all our men meet in Mayapur every year during the birth anniversary of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With all GBC and senior men present we should discuss how to make unity in diversity. But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform. Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful.
One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity, and remember the story in Aesop’s Fables of the father of many children with the bundle of sticks. When the father asked his children to break the bundle of sticks wrapped in a bag, none of them could do it. But, when they removed the sticks from the bag, and tried one by one, the sticks were easily broken. So this is the strength in unity. If we are bunched up, we can never be broken, but when divided, then we can become broken very easily.
Prabhupāda: Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself says, ekākī āmāra nāhi pāya bolo.
Prabhupāda: ….The purport of the verse is that even Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu—He is God himself, Kṛṣṇa Himself—He felt, alone, unable to do this task. He felt. So this is the position. You are cooperating; therefore I am getting the credit. Otherwise, alone what could I do? Ekākī āmāra nāhi pāya bolo. Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself wanted our cooperation. He is God, Kṛṣṇa. And therefore cooperation is very important thing. Nobody should think that “I have got so great ability. I can do.” No. It is simply by cooperation we can do very big thing. “United we stand; divided we fall.” This is our… So be strong in pushing on Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and Kṛṣṇa will help. He is the strongest.
Still, we must be combined together. Saṅkīrtana. Saṅkīrtana means many men combined together chanting. That is saṅkīrtana. Otherwise kīrtana. Saṅkīrtana. Bahubhir militvā kīrtayeti saṅkīrtana.. Bahu. Bahu means many; many combined together. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission: combined together. All nations, all persons, they should combine together. There is hope in our Society, combination. There are Hindus; there are Muslims; there are Christians; there are black, white. Combine them. That looks very beautiful, just like combination of many flowers. There is black flower also. It looks nice, very nice. Each and every flower take alone, it is not beautiful, but when they are combined together, it looks very beautiful. It is attractive. And that is wanted.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself sets the mood for all His followers. As His ‘senapati bhakta’ Srila Prabhupada practiced this principle all his life and he repeatedly encouraged devotees to follow this mood of cooperation with each other. This mood pleases Krishna so much that He readliy bestows His blessing upon us whenever we practice it. Now it is up to us to take advantage of it by applying it in our dealing with each other be it our temple, local center, Bhakti Vriksha group or home. The principle holds good, the choice is ours.
We come into Krishna consciousness with a spiritual goal. Most of us are also looking a one-stop solution for all our material distress and anxieties and from one angle it is right to turn to Krishna for our material problems because Krishna is our only protector and shelter.
It is always challenging when devotees are visited by distress, but we can take these times to examine how much we’re able to apply the knowledge we have gained from reading and chanting.
What is Distress?
Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.
Krishna advises us to tolerate distress without getting disturbed
O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Even well placed devotees get surprised and bewildered when distress hits them. Why me? Why now? How can I go through it? How can I help others who may be going through it? We can see it from multiple angles.
Uttama (good) – philosophical understanding
There are two kinds of activities, namely pious and impious. By executing pious activities one can gain facilities for higher material enjoyment, but due to impious activities one has to undergo severe distress. A devotee, however, is not interested in enjoyment or affected by distress. When he is prosperous he knows, “I am diminishing the results of my pious activities,” and when he is in distress he knows, “I am diminishing the reactions of my impious activities.” A devotee is not concerned with enjoyment or distress; he simply desires to execute devotional service. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that devotional service should be apratihatä, unchecked by the material conditions of happiness or distress.
Ati Uttama (better): An impetus to remember Krishna
The word hari conveys various meanings, but the chief import of the word is that He (the Lord) vanquishes everything inauspicious and takes away the mind of the devotee by awarding pure transcendental love. By remembering the Lord in acute distress one can be free from all varieties of miseries and anxieties. Gradually the Lord vanquishes all obstacles on the path of devotional service of a pure devotee, and the result of nine devotional activities, such as hearing and chanting, becomes manifested.
Sarvottama (best): Krishna is curing me with bitter juice
The fact is that everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, manifested in varieties of energy. Ekam evādvitīyaṁ brahma. There is no second existence.
Those who are truly vipaścit, learned, are those who have reached the platform of understanding and observing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in any condition of life. Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (BS. 5.38). Learned devotees accept even conditions of distress as representing the presence of the Supreme Lord. When a devotee is in distress, he sees that the Lord has appeared as distress just to relieve or purify the devotee from the contamination of the material world. While one is within this material world, one is in various conditions, and therefore a devotee sees a condition of distress as but another feature of the Lord. tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo (SB 10.14.8).
A devotee, therefore, regards distress as a great favour of the Lord because he understands that he is being cleansed of contamination. Teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā mṛtyu-saṁsāra-sāgarāt (Bg. 12.7). The appearance of distress is a negative process intended to give the devotee relief from this material world, which is called mṛtyu-saṁsāra, or the constant repetition of birth and death.
To save a surrendered soul from repeated birth and death, the Lord purifies him of contamination by offering him a little distress. This cannot be understood by a nondevotee, but a devotee can see this because he is vipaścit, or learned. A nondevotee, therefore, is perturbed in distress, but a devotee welcomes distress as another feature of the Lord. Sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A devotee can actually see that there is only the Supreme Personality of Godhead and no second entity. Ekam evādvitīyam. There is only the Lord, who presents Himself in different energies.
Those devotees who are in proper shelter, whose consciousness has evolved and who are steady and enthusiastic in their determination to advance in Krishna consciousness. Such devotees see all distress simply as a mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga upon them. They have firm faith that Krishna knows what is best for their spiritual progress.
Can I align my consciousness like this?
This is obviously a very high and evolved consciousness but there is very simple and sublime spiritual solution for it. If we have a desire to see all challenges and distress in our life simply as a mercy of Guru and Krishna upon us then one of the option, shared by HG Srimati mataji, is to daily sing the bhajan gopinath, mama nivedana suno by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. By humbly praying for it and then singing this bhajan our consciousness will slowly but surely evolve, our heart will soften and then we can gradually come to realise that all distress is simply mercy of Srila Gurudeva upon me and one welcomes it with all his heart.
The last verse which Arjuna speaks in Bhagavad Gita, has many gems for us.
नष्टो मोहः स्मृतिर्लब्धा त्वत्प्रसादान्मयाच्युत।
स्थितोऽस्मि गतसन्देहः करिष्ये वचनं तव।।18.73।।
Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now ﬁrm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.
Now let us try to churn this verse.
My dear Kṛṣṇa: Krishna is our dear friend , suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ , actually Krishna is our only real friend, and He never let’s His devotee down.
O infallible one:Krishna is known as Achytua .
He never fails in His affection for His devotees, and thus He is addressed herein as infallible…..In all circumstances, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Krishna is absolute and remains so under all conditions, Krishna is glorified in every single form or lila he manifests. Whether he takes birth inside a prison in Mathura and present Himself as a fully decorated newly born baby with four arms in front of his wonderstruck parents, or while playing games with his cowherd friends in Vrindavan or stealing butter from the homes of gopis, or running away from battle- ‘Ranchorh’, even when he manifest Himself as a stone, Shaligram, He is the same Krishna. Like an actor Krishna comes in various guises, sometimes as a bird (swan), as an animal (boar), as a fish or what’s more dramatic than bursting out of a pillar as half lion-half man! His supreme position is never challenged, He is the infallible master in all circumstances.
my illusion is now gone: What is my present consciousness? Am I still living under an illusion even after being in the movement for so long. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport – In illusion the living entity is serving in this material world. He is bound by his lust and desires, yet he thinks of himself as the master of the world. This is called illusion.
Am I living a life where I think that I am the controller, I am the master and I am the enjoyer? Am I gradually developing the consciousness of being a servant of Krishna, which should be my only identity, rest are simply the services Krishna has given me.
The best way to destroy illusion is by daily reading Srila prabhupada’s books. How much is my daily reading?
I have regained my memory: Have I regained me memory as an eternal servant of Krishna? What is my consciousness while interacting with my family, my colleagues at work, …
Srila Prabhupada gives us a very simple solution to revive our lost memory
One’s memory of Kṛṣṇa is revived by chanting the mahā-mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. By this practice of chanting and hearing the sound vibration of the Supreme Lord, one’s ear, tongue and mind are engaged. This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord.
How sincerely am I trying to chant my 16 rounds?
by Your mercy: We should know by now that we cannot succeed by our own efforts alone. However if our efforts are sincere, and honest, then it will attract Krishna’s mercy. The two finger principle-
Thus although mother Yasoda, in her attempt to bind Krishna, added one rope after another, ultimately she was a failure. When Krishna agreed, however, she was successful. In other words, one must be in transcendental love with Krishna, but that does not mean that one can control Krishna . When Krishna is satisfied with one’s devotional service, He does everything Himself…He reveals more and more to the devotee as the devotee advances in service.
Krishna says in BG 15.15 mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca, from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.
Everything- remembrance, knowledge, forgetfulness is coming from Krishna, everything is in the lotus like hands of Sri Govindadev!
I am now ﬁrm: to make progress in bhakti we need to be firm in our enthusiasm, determination and patience! Without them it will be difficult to make progress. We have to be firm in following the process given by Srila Prabhupada, follow four regulative principles, try to chant 16 sincere rounds, everyday read Srila Prabhupada’s books and regularly associate with devotees who are senior than us.
and free from doubt: One way to become free from doubt is by asking questions. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. We should clear our doubts without hesitation or feeling embarrassed in front of others. Arjuna asked so many questions from Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Srimad Bhagavatam is all about questions and answers. This is the way to clear our doubts.
Guru Maharaj once told us that even if you do not have any question and may think I have understood everything, still we should ask question so that we can verify if I have understood correctly!
and am prepared: Our primary method to prepare ourselves is by regular Sravanam kirtanam but we should not forget the golden rule which Srila Prabhupada repeated multiple times sevonmukhe hi jihvādau.
To associate with the holy name and chant the holy name is to associate with the Personality of Godhead directly. In the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu it is clearly said, sevonmukhe hi jihvädau svayam eva sphuraty adaù [Brs. 1.2.234]. The holy name becomes manifest when one engages in the service of the holy name. This service in a submissive attitude begins with one’s tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvädau: One must engage his tongue in the service of the holy name. Our Krishna consciousness movement is based on this principle. We try to engage all the members of the Krishna consciousness movement in the service of the holy name. Since the holy name and Krishna are nondifferent, the members of the Krishna consciousness movement not only chant the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, but also do not allow their tongues to eat anything that is not first offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
(CC Adi 8.16p)
to act: Bhakti means action, action in knowledge and with love. That is why Srila Prabhupada translated bhakti as devotional service not devotion. Love means reciprocation, which naturally culminates in loving service. My actions, coupled with the consciousness with which I am doing it, will attract Krishna’s mercy.
according to Your instructions: To advance in Krishna consciousness we should receive instructions from our diksha/shiksha guru. Generally we may not receive any direct instructions from our guru because we may not have the qualification to follow them. We can, however, prepare ourselves to receive direct instructions by following the primary instruction given at the time of initiation – chant 16 rounds offenselessly!
In the Bhagavad-gétä (18.66) Lord Krishna instructs His disciple Arjuna, “Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all sinful reactions.” And Arjuna accepts Krishna’s instruction with the words kariñye vacanaà tava: “I will do as You say.” (Bhagavad-gétä 18.73) If we follow Arjuna’s example, we will be in direct contact with Krishna, and we will be able to surmount all difficulties in both our spiritual and material life. We hear the instructions of Krishna via the unbroken chain of disciplic succession (guru-paramparä). Acceptance of these instructions is called çikñä, or voluntarily following the instruction of the spiritual master. The independent nature of the living entity is that he does not want to follow the instructions of another living being, however pure. But when one voluntarily agrees to obey the orders of the spiritual master, one is following the orders of Krishna, and thus one’s life becomes perfect.
Today is the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada.
Few weeks ago a senior Vaishnava shared a revolutionary article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, which I am sharing with you below. It is deep and very insightful and can give us key(s) to make a very rapid progress in Krishna consciousness by changing our outlook towards the world and our selves.
“The world stands in no need of any reformer. The world has a very competent person for guiding its minutest happenings. The person who determines that there is scope for reform of the world, himself stands in need of reform. The world goes on in its own perfect way.
No person can deflect it even the breadth of a hair from the course chalked out for it by providence. When we perceive any change being actually effected in the course of events of this world by the agency of any particular individual, we must know very well that the agent possesses no real power at any stage. The agent finds himself driven forward by a force belonging to a different category from himself. The course of the world does not require to be changed by the agency of any person. What is necessary is to change our outlook on this world.
This was done for the contemporary generation by the mercy of Sri Caitanya. It can only be known to recipients of his mercy. The scriptures declare that it is only necessary to listen with an open mind to the name of Krishna from the lips of a bonafide devotee. As soon as Krishna enters the listening ear, he clears up the vision of the listener so that he no longer has any ambition of ever acting the part of a reformer of any other person, because he finds that nobody is left without the very highest guidance. It is therefore his own reform that he is increasingly able to realize, by the eternally continuing mercy of the Supreme Lord.”
(Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in The Harmonist, May 1932, issue no. 11)
At first go it may look like going against the preaching spirit of the devotees, but the above golden lines are like the light from the spiritual lighthouse by which all of us, preachers included, can seek the right direction, remain grounded and persist on the right track. If we carefully read above lines repeatedly, and contemplate on them, then we can unlock many a closed doors that may be blocking our progress in Krishna consciousness and receive profound wisdom available via disciplic succession.
As I sat relishing the above lines, trying, unsuccessfully, to seek entry to the above, the famous verse from Sri Isopanisad came into my consciousness.
The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
(Sri Isopanisad, invocation)
Srila Prabhupada imbibed this very mood!
“Actually I am not worthy of any one of the words spoken by you but all of them are due to my Spiritual Master Who was so kind to me. In fact I am a worthless person because my Spiritual Master ordered me to take up this work in 1922 but I did not carry his order until 1958, when I was obliged to carry out His order by His arrangement only. This means although I was not very enthusiastic to carry out His order He forced me circumstantially to accept it. So this is His special mercy upon me and I always think about this with gratitude to this exalted personality coming directly from Vaikuntha World and we had the great fortune to meet Him. I think that is the only credit on our part that we happened to meet Him by some ‘ajnata sukriti’ or unknown auspicious activities. He is so kind upon me that when I came to your country, where I was completely unknown, He sent to me some good souls like you unsolicited. So I accept you all as assistants or representatives of my Guru Maharaja Who is still helping me because I am so feeble and unworthy. Anyway, the business which we have taken to work together is neither your business nor my business as far we are personally concerned, but it is the business of Lord Caitanya and His bona fide servants like my Guru Maharaja. Therefore it is the duty of all of us to execute it as nicely as far as possible within our capacity. In other words, we shall just try to discharge our responsible duties faithfully and seriously, then all facilities will come for our help.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva dasa, January 1, 1970)
“My Spiritual Master has given me the instruction to spread this movement all over the world and you are my good disciples, are helping me do this. Without your good help I could not have done anything, so practically you can take all the credit for spreading this Krishna Consciousness movement and fulfilling the prophecy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If there is some incident and I claim that no one is cooperating with me or no one will work with me, that is my defect, not theirs. The Vaisnava devotee must think like this. We should not find fault with others and criticize and go away, that is not the Vaisnava way. Better we should always be willing to offer all respects to others and consider them as our superiors always.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, August 26, 1972)
This is the ‘safest’ way to make real progress!
Devotee: You must be higher than the paramahamsa stage, Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: I am lower than you. I am lower than you.
Devotee: You are so beautiful. You are paramahamsa, but still, you are preaching to us.
Prabhupada: No, I am lower than you. I am the lowest of the all creatures. I am simply trying to execute the order of my spiritual master. That’s all. That should be the business of everyone. Try best. Try your best to execute the higher order. That is the safest way of progressing. One may be in the lowest stage, but if he tries to execute the duty entrusted upon him, he is perfect. He may be in lowest stage, but because he is trying to execute the duty entrusted to him, then he is perfect. That is the consideration.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Surat, December 19, 1970)
Srila Prabhupada’s secret- he knew who was actually doing it !
“Therefore sometimes, when people say in India, ‘Swamiji, you have done wonderful.’ And yes, I do not know. I’m not a magician. But, so far I am confident that I did not adulterate the words of Krishna. That’s all. That’s my credit. I did not like to take the position of Krishna. I remained a servant of Krishna, and I spoke what Krishna said. That’s all. This is my secret. So everyone can do that. There is nothing magic. The magic will act as soon as you become a pure devotee of Krishna. The magic will be done by Krishna, not by me or you. He will do it.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, May 19, 1972)
In the last blog we read about oneness. As I went on to read the next verse of Bhagavatam it was another condensed drop of nectar and, Gaura willing, I will write about it shortly. However as I was reading it I suddenly felt that as we read about oneness we should also know what is opposite to oneness.Sri Isopanishad says:
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.
— Sri Isopanisha, matra 11
So we should know about both, what is vidyā (knowledge) and what is avidyā (nescience) on this topic.
But before I write further on this subject let me clarify few points. What we are going to read is more for us as a devotee and not so much for karmis or jnanis. This knowledge is not to be used to judge others but to see our own self in a mirror. The purpose is to check if I am situated in devotional service in right consciousness. If not, then at whichever stage I am currently situated I make some adjustments to make progress towards pure unalloyed devotional service (which should be our goal) rather than being stuck in a particular stage of purification. I will again stress that we should be fully aware that the process of bhakti is purifying for every soul. An aspiring devotee may be stuck at a particular state but he is definitely making progress with time (even faster than us!) and hence we should never be judgemental about devotees, it is an offense. All devotees are under the direct shelter of Supreme Lord, Krishna.
The opposite to oneness is a separatist. This has been very precisely explained by Lord Kapila, who explains that devotion itself is pure but it is practiced by devotees in 81 different modes of nature depending on their nature. Here are the exact translations of the verses:
Lord Kapila, the Personality of Godhead, replied: O noble lady, there are multifarious paths of devotional service in terms of the different qualities of the executor.
Devotional service executed by a person who is envious, proud, violent and angry, and who is a separatist, is considered to be in the mode of darkness.
The worship of Deities in the temple by a separatist, with a motive for material enjoyment, fame and opulence, is devotion in the mode of passion.
When a devotee worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offers the results of his activities in order to free himself from the inebrieties of fruitive activities, his devotion is in the mode of goodness.
— SB 3.29.7-10
Please read the above verses again carefully and having digested them a little let’s hear what Prabhupada has to say in the purports of the above verses.
Who is a separatist ?
A separatist is one who sees his interest as separate from that of the Supreme Lord. Mixed devotees, or devotees in the modes of passion and ignorance, think that the interest of the Supreme Lord is supplying the orders of the devotee; the interest of such devotees is to draw from the Lord as much as possible for their sense gratification. This is the separatist mentality. (completely opposite to what we read in the last blog )
Devotion in mode of ignorance
If one has a motive for personal sense gratification, his devotional service is manifested differently. Such a man may be violent, proud, envious and angry, and his interests are separate from the Lord’s.
One who approaches the Supreme Lord to render devotional service but who is proud of his personality, envious of others or vengeful is in the mode of anger. He thinks that he is the best devotee. Devotional service executed in this way is not pure; it is mixed and is of the lowest grade, tāmasaḥ. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura advises that a Vaiṣṇava who is not of good character should be avoided. A Vaiṣṇava is one who has taken the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the ultimate goal of life, but if one is not pure and still has motives, then he is not a Vaiṣṇava of the first order of good character. One may offer his respects to such a Vaiṣṇava because he has accepted the Supreme Lord as the ultimate goal of life, but one should not keep company with a Vaiṣṇava who is in the mode of ignorance.
Devotion in the mode of passion
When the so-called devotee desires material enjoyment, without reference to the interest of the Supreme Lord, or he wants to become famous or opulent by utilizing the mercy or grace of the Supreme Lord, he is in the mode of passion.
Devotion in the mode of goodness
When such activities are performed and the results are offered to the Supreme Lord, they are called karmārpaṇam, duties performed for the satisfaction of the Lord….If this offering process is in the mode of goodness rather than in pure devotion, then the interest is different. The four āśramas and the four varṇas act for some benefit in accordance with their personal interests. Therefore such activities are in the mode of goodness; they cannot be counted in the category of pure devotion.
So what is pure devotional service?
Pure devotional service as described by Rūpa Gosvāmī is free from all material desires. Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam. There can be no excuse for personal or material interest. Devotional activities should be transcendental to fruitive activities and empiric philosophical speculation. Pure devotional service is transcendental to all material qualities.
Devotion is pure but I may not be!
Devotional service in the modes of ignorance, passion and goodness can be divided into eighty-one categories. There are different devotional activities, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, offering prayer, rendering service and surrendering everything, and each of them can be divided into three qualitative categories. There is hearing in the mode of passion, in the mode of ignorance and in the mode of goodness. Similarly, there is chanting in the mode of ignorance, passion and goodness, etc. Three multiplied by nine equals twenty-seven, and when again multiplied by three it becomes eighty-one. One has to transcend all such mixed materialistic devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service.
Too high for me! And isn’t this a motive too?
That is not actually a motive; that is the pure condition of the living entity.
(I don’t have to aim to reach out for some exalted, unattainable, lofty goal, it is within me. Doesn’t it feel better and encouraging to become aware that is MY natural state. That I am a pure spirit soul and this quality inherent inside me. I do not have to get it from any where outside of me but I have to endeavor to cleanse various layers of ignorance covering my pure consciousness. )
But right now I am a conditioned soul, so what should I do at this stage?
In the conditioned stage, when one engages in devotional service he should follow the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master in full surrender. The spiritual master is the manifested representation of the Supreme Lord because he receives and presents the instructions of the Lord, as they are, by disciplic succession.
(We should not act whimsically and must take each step under the guidance of our spiritual master, siksha guru or councilor, this is the safest and surest way to make progress.)
I hope and pray that we all understood a little bit about what is separatist consciousness. More importantly, we feel inspired to take some corrective steps and make rapid progress on this incredible path of Krishna consciousness.
I heard a wonderful lecture on Krishna Book by HG Srimati Mataji. I am quoting a small portion from the same lecture on how we should become a conscious cooperator in the hand of Lord.
Here is the text from ‘Krishna’ Book, chapter 4, where, having being warned by Durga Devi that the child who will kill Kamsa has already taken birth, Kamsa is now repenting and is also trying to justify all his past sinful actions, putting them behind the bars, killing their children, etc., as will of providence. In these lines lie some very enlightening lessons for an aspiring devotee like my own self.
“My dear sister Devakī, you are so gentle and kind. Please excuse me—don’t be aggrieved by the death of your children, which I have caused. Actually this was not done by me, because all these are predestined activities. One has to act according to the predestined plan, even unwillingly. People misunderstand that with the end of the body the self dies, or they think that one can kill another living entity. All these misconceptions oblige one to accept the conditions of material existence. In other words, as long as one is not firmly convinced of the eternality of the soul, one is subjected to the tribulation of being killer and killed. My dear sister Devakī and brother-in-law Vasudeva, kindly excuse the atrocities I have committed against you. I am very poor-hearted, and you are so great-hearted, so take compassion upon me and excuse me.”
Here is the translation of the exact verse from Srimad Bhagavatam on this incident
My dear sister Devakī, all good fortune unto you. Everyone suffers and enjoys the results of his own work under the control of providence. Therefore, although your sons have unfortunately been killed by me, please do not lament for them.
In the bodily conception of life, one remains in darkness, without self-realization, thinking, “I am being killed” or “I have killed my enemies.” As long as a foolish person thus considers the self to be the killer or the killed, he continues to be responsible for material obligations, and consequently he suffers the reactions of happiness and distress.
When Devakī saw her brother actually repentant while explaining ordained events, she was relieved of all anger. Similarly, Vasudeva was also free from anger. Smiling, he spoke to Kaṁsa as follows.
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport that Devakī and Vasudeva, both highly elevated personalities, accepted the truth presented by Kaṁsa that everything is ordained by providence. According to the prophecy, Kaṁsa would be killed by the eighth child of Devakī. Therefore, Vasudeva and Devakī saw that behind all these incidents was a great plan devised by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This is a very important point, Kamsa is seeing it as providence where as Devakī and Vasudeva are seeing providence as the plan of the Lord. This is a big difference between a materialist and a devotee. Materialist is going to be talking about providence but devotee can see the hand of the Lord. The more advance we are the more we can see the hand of the Lord. Advance devotees don’t worry about anything happening around them as they know Lord has got all the controls. He has some plans…to direct things. Now our position is to become a consciousness cooperator.
This is what we should aim for, become a Conscious cooperator, not whiner and griner! And also not just accepting, accepting, accepting or tolerating, tolerating, tolerating,..not like that also. We want to become consciousness cooperators.
Cooperate with Krishna. Okay! Krishna you have done this, You must have a plan. You are not envious of me so the plan must be for my betterment. So, please give me some insight so I can cooperate with Your plan.
Mataji said that bad things don’t happen to good people. Nothing is ever bad in Krishna consciousness. It’s just that sometimes we are just a little too thick, we keep on going in the same same groove. We can’t hear anything ( not get the subtle signals) and just remain in the same groove. So sometimes Krishna has to put a bomb under us to wake us up to the fact that there is something different that might be a better thing to do!
So this is interesting that Devakī and Vasudeva can see, these are highly elevated personalities, they can see that all the incidents are Krishna’s plan.
Let’s just see what those incidents were, locked up in jail for years, not just locked up but shackled…for years… and we are talking about a prince and princess, they were not ordinary persons. We are talking about someone who is used to all the luxuries, including respect and honour. So they are locked up, their children killed, year after year. And they are seeing all these incidents as indicator of plan of the Lord! That’s highly elevated personalities.
Prabhupada is writing Because the Lord had already taken birth, just like a human child, and was in the safe custody of Yaśodā, everything was happening according to plan, and there was no need to continue their ill feeling toward Kaṁsa. Thus they accepted Kaṁsa’s words.
So it’s interesting why they are giving up their ill feelings towards Kamsa? Because their ‘ishta deva’ is safe and sound so everything is fine. This is an insight into high their consciousness is. And Yashoda’s daughter didn’t get killed, that’s a relief for them, as they would have felt guilty about it.
We read further from Krishna Book chapter 4
Vasudeva told Kaṁsa, “My dear fortunate brother-in-law, what you are saying about the material body and the soul is correct. Every living entity is born ignorant, misunderstanding this material body to be his self. This conception of life is due to ignorance, and on the basis of this ignorance we create enmity or friendship. Lamentation, jubilation, fearfulness, envy, greed, illusion and madness are different features of our material concept of life. A person influenced like this engages in enmity only due to the material body. Being engaged in such activities, we forget our eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
This is a big statement: These types of activities make us forget our eternal relationship with Supreme Lord. So may be we don’t want all these activities as part of our mainstream activities.
Lets read the exact verse from Bhagavatam describing the same
Persons with the vision of differentiation are imbued with the material qualities lamentation, jubilation, fear, envy, greed, illusion and madness. They are influenced by the immediate cause, which they are busy counteracting, because they have no knowledge of the remote, supreme cause, the Personality of Godhead.
The key in the above verse is ‘They are influenced by the immediate cause, which they are busy counteracting’ (does this sound familiar to our daily life many a times!)
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport, it is really an amazing purport.
Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes (sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam), but one who has no connection with Kṛṣṇa is disturbed by immediate causes and cannot restrain his vision of separation or differences. When an expert physician treats a patient, he tries to find the original cause of the disease and is not diverted by the symptoms of that original cause. Similarly, a devotee is never disturbed by reverses in life. A devotee understands that when he is in distress, this is due to his own past misdeeds, which are now accruing reactions, although by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead these are only very slight. When a devotee under the protection of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is to suffer because of faults in his past deeds, he passes through only a little misery by the grace of the Lord. Although the disease of a devotee is due to mistakes committed sometime in the past, he agrees to suffer and tolerate such miseries, and he depends fully on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus he is never affected by material conditions of lamentation, jubilation, fear and so on. A devotee never sees anything to be unconnected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The highlighted portion is a very powerful key for us.
So three things a devotee can follow when he is in difficulty and he won’t be affected by the material conditions are :
he suffers, not just suffer but tolerates such miseries
he depends fully on Supreme Personality of Godhead
Mataji strongly stressed ‘Give it a try, it works’!
And we see how Haridas Thakura got beaten in 22 market places. So many great vaishanavas, there is so much distress. It’s not like that their life was a bed of roses, so much difficulty. We know how much Prabhupada went through. But it doesn’t deter them, because of the above three qualities.
So as aspiring devotees we have to realise and take these points very very seriously and practice them. We are not going to become a vaishanava, a properly situated vaishnava, by reading about it or talking about it, that’s helpful as we will be able to know what it is about but the main thing is that we practice. Prabhupada tells us in his purport to BG8.28 that ‘these books are not meant for armchair speculators’. They are for practice.
Srimati mataji pushed hard the serious devotees ‘We can feel really good knowing all the verses, we can feel really good knowing the philosophy, where is feeling good going to get you!! We won’t go very far without practicing it.
The key thing here is, as Prabhupada writes,
A devotee never sees anything to be unconnected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Mataji said that this is a very powerful thing on many many different levels. When we speak to highly evolved vaishanavas and we watch the way they interact with material energy, which for them is not material, it is very interesting. Because they only see Krishna’s plan! They don’t see their plan. So they have some idea what they want to do for Krishna today but if it doesn’t work out the way they expected, they don’t get disturbed by that. They just have a look, okay.. so what’s Krishna’s plan? And when one gets very very evolved he just loves Krishna’s plan! They are not here for their own plan, they are here for the boss’s plan! And that’s the most blissful platform, safest and most blissful.
And if we think we can be happy independent of Krishna… Forget it!!
So next time if something doesn’t work out the way we expected it to work out then instead of playing the controller, and doing yelling and screaming (internally or externally) instead of doing that we should just hold our breadth, hold our tongue and say okay, what’s Krishna wants me to do here. If we just try it we will be in a lot less anxiety.
Hence all these points are meant for application in our devotional practice and not just merely to store all this as information.
Now let me share a little application of the above principle.
Last week was quite a tight week one for me at work, home and the classes. I had receive a service, priority no.1 one for me, to assist a senior devotee with some search and editing work which I was to submit on 16th Jan. And Shyamsundar Prabhu had requested me to give a ‘serious’ class on Isopanishad, verse 17, on 14th Jan, This was a book I had read long time back and not studied seriously. Then there was a class at my own home on 15th Jan, and on top of all this I committed for a class on 13th Jan as well. This line up did not include some work for a weekend assignment which I had not even touched! And that my wife & son were away and I was to take care of my teenage daughter at home and work pressure for a new project was high. Phew!
So middle of the week on 13th Jan, under mental pressure, I thought I had taken up too much to chew. It was becoming clear to me that there is no way I can complete the service given by the senior devotee which was top priority for me. I also felt guilty that 13th January being ‘Lohri’ and a holiday for my daughter I should have thought about it and stayed home in the evening instead of committing myself to a class. I then wrote a SMS to Shayamsundar Prabhu that I can’t do the class at his home this week and let’s keep it for some other time. I was about to send the SMS but somehow I remembered that I am trying to handle everything using my own intelligence and ability. On one side I keep on praying for service and when the services have come I can’t refuse on my own, I need to take shelter.
I prayed to Srila Prabhupada for guidance and help, that let whatever he thinks is good for me spiritually let it happen and I will follow it.
The instant inspiration was not to send the SMS cancelling the class. I deleted the drafted SMS. I called up Sitarani mataji who gave me some excellent tips on how to have mood of bhakti and not ‘jnana’ for the Isopanishad class. I thought of reaching home early and complete my service for the editing for the senior devotee but got stuck in the office and could not leave early. I hurriedly came home in the evening, sheepishly said sorry to my daughter for not being able to spend to spend time with her and leaving her alone. I felt guilty for my action. I left home but as soon as I come out on the main road I found the whole road blocked with traffic. I thought of double checking it with Amit Prabhu, whose house was the class. Prabhuji replied that some of his family members are not there today and also there are not too many confirmations for the class so he politely suggested that we can drop the class today. I accepted it as will of Lord and hurriedly came back home thinking that I will not be leaving my daughter alone now and will also get some time to work on the editing work.
As I had not even entered the home Ravi prabhu called up. Prabhuji wanted to come over as he was in Gurgaon. I welcomed Prabhuji but told him that our meeting has to be short as I need some time to complete a service. By the time I changed, finished the evening arti and was about to open the work, Prabhuji walked in. We had early dinner prasadam together and during our discussion I shared how I was under pressure for a particular editing work which I had completed but all the alignment etc. in the soft copy was not all my forte and I don’t know how this will get complete by 16th. Prabhuji immediately offered to assist me in the same and said he can complete the same in a day! My anxiety level instantaneously came down by 90%! I profusely thanked Srila Prabhupada and Krishna for these sudden changes.
Next day I woke up early and for next 6 hours I prepared hard for the Isopanishad class. I wasn’t quite satisfied as I finally left for office. I thought of taking the day off from office but two urgent and very critical issues were at hand and I had to face them. I tried hard to reach home early but could not do so. On the way back I had the driver so I thought I will get time to prepare but my japa rounds were pending. After a moment of introspection I decided to first complete my rounds rather than prepare for the class. I prayed to Holy name to please help me concentrate on chanting and not on the anxiety for the unprepared class looming over my mind. I also prayed to Holy Name to help me serve the devotees in the evening as I had tried hard but failed to prepare well and now needed support of His mercy. I was able to chant without much anxiety as I left myself at the mercy of Holy Name.
As I reached home, I hurriedly read my notes. I was again anxious seeing the long length of my notes, no coherent flow in my mind for the class and my obvious lack of preparation. As I sat in the car to leave for the class I thought of letting go the whole preparation and just read Srila Prabhupada’s long purport of verse 17. I thought let me just keep on explaining each para a little bit and the class will be done nicely and I will not be under pressure to deliver a ‘serious’ class. Again I prayed to Srila Prabhupada and sought guidance. I clearly felt the message to give the class in the format I was struggling to prepare. I accepted it. At this time I still had three more round of chanting left, we faced some traffic and I was able to complete my last round as the car stopped outside Prabhuji’s home. I wanted to sit in the car for few more seconds and go over my notes one last time but some devotees were already outside Prabhuji’s home and they noticed me.
With a little anxious heart I entered Prabhuji’s home, again prayed hard to Srila Prabhupada to help me serve the devotees by bringing them closer to his and Lord’s lotus feet. I gave the class in the same format I felt inspired.
By Srila Prabhupada’s, and Lord’s, mercy I managed to serve the devotees and did not know how the class went for almost two hours. I was very much relieved when Shyamsundar prabhu stated, as I was leaving his home, that he liked the content of the class. I thanked Srila Prabhupada and the Holy Name. I sang loud kirtan all the way back home. My faith in the power of shelter and prayer to Srila Prabhupada and the Holy Name had taken one step forward.
Thanks to Ravi Prabhu, I was able to complete the assignment from the senior devotee next day and submitted it on time and to the satisfaction of the senior devotee. The two critical pending issues at my office too got resolved with unexpected help. The class at home went fine as my parents came over to help and stay over the weekend. Mentally free, I was able to visit Vrindavan Dhama on Saturday, for a night, and got some much needed association, on the way as well in the Dhama!
Accept that all challenging circumstances are for my own benefit and improvement, they are in fact mercy of Lord.
Become a conscious cooperator, ‘align’ with what is happening and utilise these circumstances to build some ‘spiritual muscle’.
Always take shelter of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna and seek what lesson I am supposed to learn from these circumstances.
Try not to have mental blocks, that this is ‘spiritual’ and this is ‘material’! Everything is under the control of Lord Krishna and it is my contaminated consciousness which makes me see things or circumstances independent of Krishna. As an aspiring devotee I should practice to see Krishna’s presence in everything around me and there is no part of my life which I should see as being ‘material’.
All glories to the wonderful journey of being in Krishna consciousness.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
P.S.: I am surprised to share that this is the 200th blog since I started writing two years back. The blog was visited by 11,637 visitors, from 123 countries, last calendar year and has 320 subscribers. Thank you so very much for your support.
I offer my respectful obeisances to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. By the potency of the shelter of His lotus feet, even a fool can collect the valuable jewels of conclusive truth from the mines of the revealed scriptures. (CC Adi 3.1)
Please accept my good wishes for a very devotional Kartik month.
I had two small realisations around preaching recently and an important lesson, I am sharing the same.
As the month of Kartik approached this year, the enthusiasm within my own self was not so high. I did not know the reasons. Last Monday, 26th October, I had to give a class at a home program. At the office I thought that as Kartik is starting from the next so it may be a good idea to share a little about Kartik month with devotees, specially the new devotees. It was a tight day at office but I managed to prepare a small power point presentation, copying mostly from Iskcondesiretree, as I thought it will be nice to show it on a projector. Then I went through the contents quickly so that I would know what I have to speak about. As I read the contents I was a bit surprised to read so many benedictions about Kartik month, the last slide also hit me.
So in the evening we did last 45 minutes of the class on the glories of Kartik month and in the middle I realised that many of the things which I am speaking are coming from my heart not from my memory or whatever little I had prepared. The class ended at an enthusiastic note with everyone charged up for the the Kartik month, including my own self! As I drove back home after the class , the whole content and what all I spoke dawned heavily upon me and a small realisation came over me on the importance of Kartik month starting the next morning. I immediately mentally took note of what all I will try to do this Kartik, I was all excited!
In the morning out of nowhere (well not exactly out of nowhere but still it was first time that I actually did it), I felt inspired to read Nectar of Instruction verses and Manah Sikshah verses before starting my japa. Then in the evening I reached home early and started reading an amazing book called MahaPrabhu meditations, which was lying unread since months. Then the whole family sang Damodarashtakam as we all offered ghee lamp to Lord Damodar, a perfect day!
Though today is only the third day of Kartik but I can frankly confess that this has been the best start for a Kartik month in all the last few years that I have been struggling to practice Krishna consciousness.
Below is the PDF of the presentation I made, Kindly feel free to use it in any way or please mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org, in case you need it in a PPT format. Please move your cursor on the below picture you will see the menu on the bottom left side to browse to the next pages
I had a similar experience with my chanting earlier. At first I tried to improve my chanting by regulating my morning sadhana time. (It’s origin was the causeless mercy of HH Bhakti Prema maharaj, I write about it in detail some other time). Later in an impromptu decision I tried to help some sincere devotees improve their chanting, by making a whatsapp group to post our timings, almost immediately my own chanting improved dramatically.
In both the cases I experienced how, even while being a very neophyte preacher, it is me who is getting the most benefit!
An important lesson.
Last weekend I was sharing the same above experience about improvement in my chanting with a senior devotee, adding how recently I even took a class on how to improve our japa, something unthinkable for me just a few months back. As I was finishing my little talk another devotee walked in and he started asking some questions from the senior devotee. During the middle of that discussion the senior devotee gently spoke to him as to how some devotees get all excited when they get some reciprocation from the Holy Name, they start feeling that they have done some thing great as other devotees too start praising them but they forget that it is in fact simply the mercy of the Holy Name. The Holy Name becomes pleased when we try to serve Him. It hit me instantaneously, I knew it was meant for me only. Instead of thanking the Holy Name for showering mercy upon me, I mistakenly thought that because I helped others hence I got the results, it was all about me and my action. I thanked the senior devotee for correcting me, as I got the point, and admitted my incorrect and impersonal thought process. Later, I thanked the Holy name and Krishna for Their causeless mercy. I also prayed to Srila Prabhupada that may I always remember this important lesson all my life.
I am copying four verses from Damodarastkam for the pleasure of the Lord and His dear devotees.
varam deva mokṣam na mokṣāvadhim vā
na canyam vṛṇe ‘ham vareṣād apīha
idam te vapur nātha gopāla-bālam
sadā me manasy āvirāstām kim anyaiḥ
idam te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtam kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitam bimba-raktādharam me
manasy āvirāstām alam lakṣa-lābhaiḥ
namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ
Those super excellent pastimes of Lord Krishna’s babyhood drowned the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. To the devotees who are attracted only to His majestic aspect of Narayana in Vaikuntha, the Lord herein reveals: “I am conquered and overwhelmed by pure loving devotion.” To the Supreme Lord, Damodara, my obeisances hundreds and hundreds of times
O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon. My only prayer is that Your childhood pastimes may constantly appear in my mind. O Lord, I do not even want to know your feature of Paramatma. I simply wish that Your childhood pastimes may ever be enacted in my heart.
O Lord, the cheeks of Your blackish lotus face, which is encircled by locks of curling hair, have become reddened like bimba fruits due to Mother Yashoda’s kisses. What more can I describe than this? Millions of opulence are of no use to me, but may this vision constantly remain in my mind.
O unlimited Vishnu! O master! O Lord! Be pleased upon me! I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and am almost like a dead man. Please shower the rain of mercy on me; uplift me and protect me with Your nectarean vision.