Grandmothers! Many of us would still cherish in some corner of our heart the special relationship we had with our grandmothers- maternal grandmothers were everyone’s favorite. In our quest for a career and better living, such relationships have been left far behind.
Yet, many of us, if not most, struggle in maintaining even a nuclear family without the support and guidance of our elders. We look back and wonder how our grandmothers managed multiple kids ( I mean grownup kids), managed complex relationships in a joint family, discreetly kept an eye on everything, counseled when requested and they always had time for all the grandkids. But most of all they were simply a bundle of love and affection, nourishing our childhood with joy and care.
What it has to do with me?
Let’s face it – trying to become a devotee in this faithless, fast, and quarrelsome age is very, very tough. If the mind is not making life difficult for us, it will be the neighbors, some authority figures, our bodies or our family. Actually, the list is endless. How to keep faith and focus in a world so obviously made for distraction? The real challenges come in our daily dealings in life. The philosophy sounds fine in the class atmosphere, but often we lose sight of it when dealing with the nitty-gritty practicalities of life. This often leads to “spiritual schizophrenia”. We have one sense of identity when at the temple and a very different one when we are at home or at work.
DS: You know, in the Vedic social system this role of a counsellor is in many ways institutionalized, in the sense that the qualities a brahmana is trained to cultivate engender trust and confidence naturally.
When I took sannyasa from Satsvarupa Maharaja, one thing he advised was to avoid politics and business, because our Society needs people one can trust. We need devotees who’ll concentrate on developing these qualities simplicity, honesty, self-control so that people will trust them.
Jayadvaita Swami: Such a great responsibility rests with sannyasis, gurus, temple presidents, leaders, senior devotees.
Badarayani Dasa: Because we’re human beings and we’re conditioned, even though we’re in Krsna consciousness, at every stage there are some difficulties. So, many devotees I’ve talked to feel that in the temples there should be a system where perhaps a couple of people who have had training could give counseling.
I think that if there was more of a formal system of Krsna conscious counseling within the temple, we’d be able to keep more devotees. We’ve had too high a percentage of “mortality,” of losing devotees, of devotees losing trust and confidence. And I think that if that kind of system was looked into, it would help. In the material world, there are counselors who are aloof from a person’s life, and people feel they can trust them because they are aloof.
Jayadvaita Swami: I think this movement needs grandmothers. It really does. There are times when you don’t need a sannyasi, you need a grandmother.
Karnamrta: Could you clarify that?
Jayadvaita Swami: When a problem comes up in your life, sometimes the best person to go to is your grandmother or your grandfather or your uncle or someone like that.
Because we’re such a young movement, those relationships haven’t really developed yet. But in a fully developed Krsna conscious family, they would be. Especially in Indian culture, you’ve got the extended family your father’s elder brother’s son and so on. You have all these people you can have a relationship with, people who’ve been through it, who have the experience, who have affection for you and concern for you and can help you out.
What’s bewildering to a batch of young turks may be old stuff for grandmothers who’ve seen two or three generations of it. So grandmothers.
We are very fortunate that in ISKCON we have affectionate grandmothers practically in every temple or congregation- experienced, loving and mature devotees, who have gone through the very challenges and difficulties in their spiritual lives what we may be going through and struggling. We simply have to look for them.
In my own inconsequential spiritual journey, I have had the privilege to meet some of these wonderful grandmothers. Two years back I became spiritually diseased. Struggling poorly in my sadhana, nothing seemed to work for me and I didn’t know what to do. Then out of blue, the lotus feet of HG Jaggatarini mataji appeared in my life. She healed me exactly as an affectionate and caring grandmother would have done. There are some more experiences but let’s save them for some future blog.
I am attaching below a document containing practical tips or ‘home remedies’ as she calls them from a very experienced grandmother- HG Srimati mataji. This document has 25 short stories based on scriptures or real-life incidents. Each story ends with her valuable comments. We can read them at leisure and gain practical insights to progress wisely in Krishna consciousness.
I hope it will be helpful for you as it has been helpful to me.
All the best!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
p.s.- We can right-click on the document and save it.
December is the month in which Krishna spoke Bhagavad gita to Arjuna. The exact day, also known as Gita Jayanti, falls on Moskshada Ekadasi. December is also the month in which book distribution exploded in the west in seventies. Since then devotees in ISKCON have worked hard to keep the same spirit alive. Come December and all over the world ISKCON devotees come out on the streets to distribute Bhagavad gita to the general public, its also called book marathon. As Gita Jayanti month comes to an end let me share a wonderful verse to meditate upon, which I recently heard in a lecture from HG Srimati Mataji. I am sharing brief excerpts from her lecture and the verse below.
The context of this verse is that Krishna has left the planet and Arjuna is feeling pangs of separation from Him.
HG Srimati mataji: If we are essence seekers then we should be aware that Krishna speaking Bhagavad gita to Arjuna is not the end of the story. There is a second advent of Bhagavad gita to Arjuna. When he is in separation from Krishna Bhagavad gita advents in his mind and guides him back home. That’s very very special for us, so as an essence seeker that’s where we should look next.
We can never beat gita in terms of shastra, it is an amazing scripture. We always talk about Bhagavatam. In Bhagavatam we learn about names of Krishna, we learn about form of Krishna, we learn about pastimes of Krishna – that is wonderful but none of those things have any substance in terms of us having a relationship with the person if we don’t the mind of the person. What’s the value me knowing your form if we don’t know where we are at. How can I relate to him on real terms. So Krishna is revealing His mind in Bhagavad gita. And it is these instructions, its not all the amazing experiences that Arjuna had with Krishna that gave him actual solace. He remembered them but that wasn’t what that gave him the solace. What enlivened and illuminated his heart was the instructions Govindadev gave. I find that pretty amazing and for me personally celebration of Gita Jayanti is not complete unless we look at this. (pause)
Here is the special verse :
देशकालार्थयुक्तानि हृत्तापोपशमानि च । हरन्ति स्मरतश्चित्तं गोविन्दाभिहितानि मे ॥ २७ ॥
Now I am attracted to those instructions imparted to me by the Personality of Godhead [Govinda] because they are impregnated with instructions for relieving the burning heart in all circumstances of time and space.
Herein Arjuna refers to the instruction of the Bhagavad gita, which was imparted to him by the Lord on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The Lord left behind Him the instructions of the Bhagavad gita not for the benefit of Arjuna alone, but also for all time and in all lands. The Bhagavad gita, being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the essence of all Vedic wisdom. It is nicely presented by the Lord Himself for all who have very little time to go through the vast Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Vedānta-sūtras. It is put within the study of the great historical epic Mahābhārata, which was especially prepared for the less intelligent class, namely the women, the laborers and those who are worthless descendants of the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and higher sections of the vaiśyas. The problem which arose in the heart of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra was solved by the teachings of the Bhagavad gita. Again, after the departure of the Lord from the vision of earthly people, when Arjuna was face to face with being vanquished in his acquired power and prominence, he wanted again to remember the great teachings of the Bhagavad gita just to teach all concerned that the Bhagavad gita can be consulted in all critical times, not only for solace from all kinds of mental agonies, but also for the way out of great entanglements which may embarrass one in some critical hour.
The merciful Lord left behind Him the great teachings of the Bhagavad gitaso that one can take the instructions of the Lord even when He is not visible to material eyesight. Material senses cannot have any estimation of the Supreme Lord, but by His inconceivable power the Lord can incarnate Himself to the sense perception of the conditioned souls in a suitable manner through the agency of matter, which is also another form of the Lord’s manifested energy. Thus the Bhagavad gita, or any authentic scriptural sound representation of the Lord, is also the incarnation of the Lord. There is no difference between the sound representation of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One can derive the same benefit from the Bhagavad gita as Arjuna did in the personal presence of the Lord.
The faithful human being who is desirous of being liberated from the clutches of material existence can very easily take advantage of the Bhagavad gita, and with this in view, the Lord instructed Arjuna as if Arjuna were in need of it…. The Bhagavad gita is therefore meant for terminating all different types of miseries, and Arjuna took shelter of this great knowledge, which had been imparted to him during the Kurukṣetra battle.
HG Srimati mataji: ….That’s why Prabhupada gave us Bhagavad gita. How many of us read Bhagavad gita daily? We do not understand the preciousness or the potency of Bhagavad gita of what Prabhupada has given us. It’s not only because of the instructions that have been given, its because Bhagavad gita is the words of Govindadev, adi purusham Govindadev. Words of Govindadev are nondifferent from Govindadev. So just by associating with the words of Bhagavad gita we are directly associating with Govindadev.
And if you are chanting Bhagavad gita every day then it’s such an amazing thing , because you are not just chanting those words but they are Govinda’s words. And the potency of it is that immediately, just by the act of you repeating Govindadev’s words, you are properly situated as His servant. And just by the act of you chanting Bhagavad gita daily you get His shelter, you get His protection, you get His guidance, you get everything because you are properly situated in His service. Just by repeating His words! It’s amazing. We are not aware of the potency and the incredible depth what Prabhupada has given us.
How many people read Bhagavad gita daily? Who reads Gita daily? Nobody is interested in Gita. There are just so many other things. But Gita is where you start. As I said in the beginning, if we don’t know a person’s mind what’s so important about knowing what he looks like or what he does- it’s so shallow. Where is the relationship? How can you have a relationship with somebody if we don’t know their mind? We may be able to rattle of about everything they do and rattle of about what they look like but have you had any depth of relationship with that person? You can’t. Gita at so many levels is so amazing. (pause)
Hearing the self-illuminated verse, Prabhupada’s purport and Srimati mataji’s lecture all had a combined effect on my heart and I felt inspired to start reading one chapter of Bhagavad gita daily – verses and their translation.
We make so many new year resolutions or keep different vratas throughout the year. So it may not be such a bad idea to resolve to chant the words of Govindadev daily and get an opportunity to closer to Krishna’s lotus feet. It may well be the support we need to fill our heart with enthusiasm, determination and patience to progress solidly in Krishna consciousness.
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)
Since last many days few terms are coming again and again as I read and hear various lectures, become conscious in Krishna consciousness, shelter, surrender and ‘conscious cooperator’. Of course it helps that these days most of my hearing is from lectures from HG Srimati Mataji. These topics are too subtle for my conditioned heart but slowly they are entering my consciousness or let me admit that I trying to imbibe them, struggling but trying is my current state.
As I was trying to get a grip on what is actually meant by the term ‘conscious cooperator’, I wrote a mail to Srimati Mataji and received the below reply
Conscious cooperator’ is a multi-level and very subtle field. It begins with us taking into our heart the very essence of the teachings and mood of Srila Prabhupada and the acaryas he represents so wonderfully.
Then as luck would have it in the next session Mataji broached this topic briefly and I am sharing the same.
Srimati Mataji : As aspiring devotees we should see Krishna’s hand in our daily lives, that whatever is happening in our life, there is certain reason for it. It is there to teach us a certain lesson or redirect us in a certain way.
Another Devotee: When something happens to us many a times we feel we don’t deserve it, so we ask other devotees to pray for us! In a way this also means that Krishna is not intelligent enough that I am receiving something which I don’t need. We should know that everything which is happening to us has a purpose. We should not take on a victim’s mentality and think, even subconsciously, that we are victims. We should see Krishna’s hand in everything happening to us.
Srimati Mataji: Right. If there is something in our life which is causing us disturbance or difficulty, the first thing we should ask is that
Krishna what are You trying to tell me?What am I supposed to learn from this?
Because it will keep coming up again and again and again until we have learned the lesson.
Then Mataji asked another devotee to share her experience of Ouch ! This devotee shared that for a long time she has been praying to Krishna to make her remember His name under all situations. The devotee said that in past she has twice broken her wrist, an elbow and her hip but every time this happened only one word comes out of her mouth… Ouch! She admitted that she is unable to remember Krishna instinctively at such moments and her list of injuries continue!
Srimati Mataji : So there is always a reason why things are happening to us and unless we become a conscious cooperator it won’t help. Our mood should be that I want to learn, that I am trying to understand what I am supposed to learn under these circumstances. What change I am supposed to make in my consciousness and my life.
It is a good practice, if we do not understand the reason, to sincerely pray to Krishna to inspire us in our heart to make us understand what do You want me to learn from it?
I am quoting two paragraphs from the Prayer Srila Prabhupada wrote on board the ship Jaladuta to show the mood of our founder acharaya. This too is from a book Srimati mataji has written on Srila Prabhupada, Mataji entitled these paras as a
O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord, make me dance as You like.
bhakti nāi veda nāi nāme khub daro ‘bhaktivedānta’ nām ebe sārthak koro
I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. I have been designated as Bhaktivedānta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedānta.
(His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at Boston Harbor, September 17, 1965)
The principle here is that Srila Prabhupada is seeing this arrangement as Krishna’s arrangement. And actually we also have to try to develop this vision, to see Krishna’s plan in everything, to see Krishna’s arrangement in everything- that we have surrendered to Him, and so he is taking care of us.
Sometimes we may experience setbacks or disappointments ,but actually Krishna has some reason for giving them to us. We should try to understand that, and if we do we’ll never be disappointed in life.
Prabhupada’s complete surrender is amazing: “I am Your instrument. You can use me. You can engage me as You wish. I have no agenda of my own, no personal agenda. My agenda is whatever You desire. I am here to accept Your desire as my life and soul, to give everything to please You, to serve You.
(Markine Bhagavata-Dharma commentary by HH Giriraj Maharaj, Three rivers, CA-2002)
So we get some idea as to what should be the mindset of a devotee of Lord Krishna:
See Krishna’s hand in all our circumstances
Have complete faith and dependence on Krishna’s intelligence
Learn to become a ‘conscious cooperator’.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
PS : I have received many mails requesting me to share Srimati Mataji’s lectures. Many of her lectures are private but here is the link to an amazing seminar on the Holy Name mataji gave at Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple, Chowpatty, some years back. If we hear it sincerely and seriously then there is no reason why our quality of japa would not improve. Press here for the link.
I continue to hear the most amazing seminar given by HG Srimati Mataji on ‘demons in Krishna’s pastimes and the anarthas they represent’. four days back I heard a beautiful interactive discussion during the seminar with Srimati Mataji, HG Madhavananda Prabhuji and other very realised, and fortunate, devotees.
This particular discussion was part of ‘Krishna kills Kamsa’. The reference of pastime of Dakṣa and lord Siva came to discuss the anartha of pride, coming from karma and jnana.
Here is the relevant section from Srimad Bhagavatam to refresh that incident which led to Daksa cursing lord Siva.
When Daksa, the leader of the Prajäpatis, entered that assembly, his personal bodily luster as bright as the effulgence of the sun, the entire assembly was illuminated, and all the assembled personalities became insignificant in his presence. Influenced by his personal bodily luster, all the fire-gods and other participants in that great assembly, with the exceptions of Lord Brahmä and Lord Siva, gave up their own sitting places and stood in respect for Daksa.
Daksa was adequately welcomed by the president of the great assembly, Lord Brahmä. After offering Lord Brahmä respect, Daksa, by the order of Brahmä, properly took his seat.
Before taking his seat, however, Daksa was very much offended to see Lord Siva sitting and not showing him any respect. At that time, Daksa became greatly angry, and, his eyes glowing, he began to speak very strongly against Lord Siva. All sages, brahmanas and fire-gods present, please hear me with attention, for I speak about the manners of gentle persons. I do not speak out of ignorance or envy. Siva has spoiled the name and fame of the governors of the universe and has polluted the path of gentle manners. Because he is shameless, he does not know how to act. He has already accepted himself as my subordinate by marrying my daughter in the presence of fire and brahmanas. He has married my daughter, who is equal to Gäyatri, and has pretended to be just like an honest person. He has eyes like a monkey’s, yet he has married my daughter, whose eyes are just like those of a deer cub. Nevertheless he did not stand up to receive me, nor did he think it fit to welcome me with sweet words. I had no desire to give my daughter to this person, who has broken all rules of civility. Because of not observing the required rules and regulations, he is impure, but I was obliged to hand over my daughter to him just as one teaches the messages of the Vedas to a Sudra. He lives in filthy places like crematoriums, and his companions are the ghosts and demons. Naked like a madman, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying, he smears crematorium ashes all over his body. He does not bathe regularly, and he ornaments his body with a garland of skulls and bones. Therefore only in name is he Siva, or auspicious; actually, he is the most mad and inauspicious creature. Thus he is very dear to crazy beings in the gross mode of ignorance, and he is their leader. (SB 4.2.5-15)
“Daksa then cursed Lord Siva. Unable to tolerate this, Nandishvara, one of Lord Siva’s principal associate cursed Daksa and all the brahmanas present. Then, as a reaction the sage Bhrgu cursed the followers of Lord Siva.”
The sage Maitreya said: When such cursing and counter cursing was going on between Lord Śiva’s followers and the parties of Dakṣa and Bhṛgu, Lord Śiva became very morose. Not saying anything, he left the arena of the sacrifice, followed by his disciples. (SB 4.2.33)
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport for the above verse : Here Lord Śiva’s excellent character is described. In spite of the cursing and counter cursing between the parties of Dakṣa and Śiva, because he is the greatest Vaiṣṇava he was so sober that he did not say anything. A Vaiṣṇava is always tolerant, and Lord Śiva is considered the topmost Vaiṣṇava, so his character, as shown in this scene, is excellent. He became morose because he knew that these people, both his men and Dakṣa’s, were unnecessarily cursing and counter cursing one another, without any interest in spiritual life. From his point of view, he did not see anyone as lower or higher, because he is a Vaiṣṇava. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (5.18), paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ: one who is perfectly learned does not see anyone as lesser or greater, because he sees everyone from the spiritual platform. Thus the only alternative left to Lord Śiva was to leave in order to stop his follower, Nandīśvara, as well as Bhṛgu Muni, from cursing and counter cursing in that way.
People’s association with karma and jnana is the result of attachment born from the prejudices of one’s nature that are produced from past karma and jnana…Karmis and jnanis disrespect Vaishnavas only due to this attachment for prejudices…Offenses at the feet of sadhus is due to being proud of one’s karma and jnana…(Such) worldly attachment is contrary to acceptance of Krishna’s undisputed supremacy, and it therefore does not allow the unfortunate living entity to fully surrender to the Lord. (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Bhaktyaloka, “Sanga-tyaga”)
Srimati Mataji then asked the devotees to share there realisation or understanding from the above hearing.
Devotee 1: She shared how when she read the same pastime in Harivamsa Purana there was no mention of how Sati gave up her body and how Siva was offended and how it is given in complete detail in Srimad Bhagavatam. And without these details one could miss the whole point from this pastime. So we are very fortunate to have Srimad Bhagavatam and Prabhupada commentaries.
Srimati Mataji then recounted the same day’s morning lecture which a Sanyasi, I couldn’t get the name, gave at the temple. Maharaj compared Srimad Bhagavatam to the other puranas. Maharaj stated that a major difference between other puranas and Bhagavata Purana is that the Bhagvata purana is concerned only with glorification of Krishna and His devotees. This is a very common thing which is happening throughout the Bhagavatam. Where as there are different emphasis in other puranas, they basically talk about God, they are not talking about Krishna and His associates. In Bhagavatam we get the essence of all things.
The devotee then shared how so many people who have read shastra they keep on arguing about what they read, how their own understanding is right, I know this and I have read that…. but it is only after reading Bhagavatam does one get complete understanding and knowledge.
Srimati mataji added that in the teachings of Lord Kapila Deva in SB 3.29, Lord Kapila states that devotional service is never contaminated but the people who perform are! And they can actually perform it in eighty one different ways, eighty one different modes. (SB 3.29.10). Mataji said this is where the quality of humility comes in.
Srimati Mataji said that these days humility is going out of the window, and we can see how it is going out. Mataji asked ‘Why in the Vedic times, in the gurukul, students would clean everything, they will clean the toilets, they will clean their ashram, wash their own clothes – didn’t send them to a Dhobi. Why ? Because if we want the knowledge to manifest in our heart in a pure and simple way then there has to be humility. And by doing those menial services we imbibe that mood.That we are not someone special. Not like everyone else can clean the ashram and I can read a book! not like that. Mataji said that’s how we see that the real sadhus in Vrindavan they don’t have cleaners. They do everything themselves, they wash their own clothes, they don’t have cooks. I am Thakurji’s servant… I am living here as a servant….servant does these things…servant cleans the house…servant cooks for Thakurji, this is the mood.
Devotee 2: She stated that her understanding from the above is that its Pride which leads one to his downfall. Daksa is expecting respect from Siva, similarly if we have this kind of expectation that people should respect me then it is a sure sign that we will fall down.
Srimati mataji : I really like the input given by Bhaktivinoda Thakura about this attachment to karma and jnana. Daksha was really like a karmi, a first class karmi! So his whole analysis of Siva is through those lenses, Siva doesn’t follow rules and regulations, doesn’t take his bath, and all this stuff. He is looking at him through karma yoga.
Devotee 1 : And Daksa may be he thinking that Siva is making his daughter fall down by not following all the rules, he is not taking bath and all, whereas Daksha had trained his daughter with such high standards!
Devotee 3: This devotee shared that she liked the first devotee’s point of Bhagavatam being so nice and we being so fortunate. She shared how in her initial days in ISKCON she had no ‘ruchi’ (taste) for reading Bhagavatam. Then one prabhuji told her that for increasing attachment, reading Bhagavatam, if we offer one Tulasi to Bhagavatam then Krishna becomes pleased because He is non different from Bhagavatam! And if you offer Tulasi every day then ‘ruchi’ will come. The devotee shared how she started doing it and she started getting taste. Within a short time she not only developed a ‘ruchi’ for bhagavatam but was also received association so many devotees who were all Bhagavatam lovers. Hari Bol !
Madhavanada Prabhuji : Srila Prabhupada writes that both his men and Dakṣa’s, were unnecessarily cursing and counter cursing one another, without any interest in spiritual life. Prabhuji quoted Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who stated that, when people cultivate ‘information-collection’, they cultivate ‘jnana’, they cultivate ‘karma’, some behavioral patterns, without cultivating service to the Vaishnavas, then what happens is that they think that’s spiritual life. And they think that they have become a judge of other people. Rather than they are trying to serve guru, it doesn’t mean that we should not read Bhagavatam- Prabhupada wanted every devotee to read it. But it is one thing to read Bhagavatam as a service to Prabhupada but many other people in the west, we used try to kind of ‘master’ a book. Prabhuji stressed that we can’t ‘master’ Bhagavatam, we can serve the Bhagavatam by serving ‘bhakt’ (devotee) Bhagavat, by preaching, by reading something and trying to help devotees with it.
Prabhuji cautioned that if we just read Bhagavatam only to gather some information, and not doing service, then the result is that we have something but what it turns into is pride! Prabhuji said that’s what it seemed to have happened here, Daksa was seeing that Siva is not auspicious, he wears skulls , doesn’t take bath and this and that. By some point of view of Shastra we can say that, the skulls are very inauspicious, not taking bath is very inauspicious and they have all this information. But because they are not doing service to the Vaishanavas they can’t understand it and they get involve in unnecessary quarrel!
Prabhuji said without service one may think that I am doing the same thing as this senior devotee. I am reading , he is reading, I am chanting, he is chanting but there is a difference in their mood. That devotees is doing it as a service to his guru. And if I am not doing it as a service then the result is I get very proud and then I start seeing faults in others, and feel that I have to correct others.
Devotee 4: This devotee said her that she felt inspired from the line ‘lord Siva felt morose and left the arena without saying any word to others or his disciples’. She shared that she thought that if we really know where we are, where do we want to go and what we want to cultivate then we should not get involve in such things. People can curse and counter curse and if they don’t have faith in you, obviously Daksa had no faith in lord Siva, then just don’t say anything, let them think what they wish to think and just leave.
Madhavanada Prabhuji shared how one acharya has explained that Krishna told the Vrajavasis to close their eyes in both the pastimes of forest fires. But the in the second forest time the next verse stated that the heat was very intense. Prabhuji shared that he thought it was very interesting that though Krishna told them to close their eyes they could still experience the pain and the fire. Prabhuji stated that in a Similar way we may close our eyes to all these arguments we are told to but sometime we still feel the ‘burning sensation’ but like Lord Siva we should just walk away. The ‘burning sensation’ may be there but we should just leave.
Prabhuji shared another gem that Fakir Mohan Prabhuji shared with him that `amanina manadena’ (one should offer all respects to others and expect nothing in return) this is the secret Mahāprabhu has given for our bhajan. Prabhuji said if we just tolerate when other people offend us and we offer them respect then they will leave us alone and ignore us. They won’t take us very seriously. Then we can chant peacefully. Others may think that O! he is not such a maha pandit we thought so, actually I am the maha Pandita. We don’t need a big titles or others to say that he is very knowledgeable to grow in bhakti.
Devotee 1: She shared how she heard in a lecture by HH Radha Govinda Maharaj that his (Siva’s) part (or share) in the sacrificial fire, lord Siva (in the above pastime), he really didn’t want it. Similarly at the time at the time of ‘churning of the milk ocean’ lord Siva didn’t come for drinking the Nectar. He is not interested.
Madhavanada Prabhuji added that when demigods first went to Krishna, how we are going to solve this problem- poison came out. Then Krishna said ‘go and ask lord Siva’. They approached lord Siva. Lord Siva told them why are you asking me ? You should ask Krishna. When demigods told him that Krishna told them to see him then lord Siva said Oh! I have service! He went with demigods and drank the poison instead of the nectar.
The devotee recounted how in the class HH Radha Govind maharaj exclaimed ‘What a nice person!’. He just drank poison for the benefit of everyone but for the nectar he didn’t come. He doesn’t need anything he has got the Amrit (holy name).
This whole discussion felt so nectarean to my ears that I heard it repeatedly. Every time I will hear it, I would catch something new. Then I felt inspired to share it with everyone. I am sorry that this blog went too long, I hope, somehow, I am able to funnel this nectar into my childish words and serve you all in a small way.
Since last few weeks I am hearing a most nectarean seminar on `demons in Krishna’s pastimes’ and what anarthas they represent with in us by HG Srimati Mataji. This seminar is very different, and way sweeter, than anything I have ever heard on this wonderful topic. I was particularly stuck by the prayers of Nāgapatnīs, wives of serpent Kaliya. Their prayers teach us in what mood to pray to Krishna in difficulty and we know the result of such prayers to Him.
The below content is from Srila Kavi-Karnpura’s Ananda Vrindavana Champu, which is very similar to the same pastime mentioned in Krishna book, and in the end are some comments from HG Srimati Mataji.
The ruthless steps of Vanamali Krishna’s tandava dance devastated the serpent. Blood streamed from Kaliya’s mouths, his eyes popped out, and his hoods completely collapsed. Seeing their husband vanquished and heart broken, the Nagapatnis felt sorry for him and cried piteously. Out of affection for him they thought, “Our husband will not survive unless he attains the mercy of the Lord.” Abandoning all fear and shyness, the Nagapatnis put their children on their laps and approached Krishna to petition Him on behalf of their husband.
The Nagapatnis offered prayers to Shri Krishna with sweet voices: “O Lord, all glories unto You! O crest-jewel on the head of the demigods! Who other than You can be the Supreme Brahman? Brahma and Siva constantly glorify You, the unlimited ocean of transcendental qualities. The yogis and paramahamsas happily praise and meditate upon Your lotus feet, which are forever massaged by the auspicious lotus hands of Goddess Laksmi. As a swan extracts milk from a watery mixture, the paramahamsas reject the four desirable goals of human life to immerse themselves in the bliss of Your service. “O Lord, extolled throughout the Vedas! Please hear our prayer. O Lord, You are the personification of eternity, bliss and knowledge! You assume a transcendental body to annihilate all the demons! You are the oldest, the origin of everything, and yet You are an ever-fresh youth. You are the fountainhead of all the Vishnu expansions! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Please give up Your anger and show us Your mercy!
“O Vasudeva, You are the life-giving Lord of all! O Sankarsana, You remove all the miseries of the universe! O Pradyumna, You are the treasure of love for all the Vrajavasis! O Aniruddha, Your Yogamaya potency prevents ordinary people from perceiving You! You are the Supersoul of all the demigods! Ah! You are the life and soul of the Vrajavasis. Be pleased with our prayers, O Lord, for the life of our husband is about to depart.
“Your lotus feet which delight the atmaramas, remove all mental anxieties, and are rarely achieved even in samadhi now stand on the hoods of our husband. O Lord, we have no idea how Kaliya has attained such a rare fortune. This wicked snake deserves to be punished. Only by Your mercy can one give up his wickedness and follow the righteous path. It is impossible for a living entity to do this on his own.
“O Lord! You alone maintain the entire universe created by the three modes of material nature by the mode of goodness, which purifies the mind. You create the world with passion and by ignorance, which is darker than night, You destroy the creation. O mighty armed! It is by name only that Vishnu, who rides on Garuda, is called the maintainer, and that Brahma, who sits upon a lotus, is the creator, and that Siva, who sits atop Nandi, is called the destroyer.
“O one who is dear to those who have nothing! Living entities appear by different combinations of the modes of nature. Being born in the mode of ignorance, it is natural for a snake like Kaliya to be crooked. As it is impossible to see a flower creeper in the sky, it also impossible to find gentle behavior or good manners in him. He does nothing good for anyone, and he has no power to overcome Your maya. This is the nature of one who lives in hole.
“His actions cannot be considered offensive because that is his very nature. So how can You, who are eternally liberated, the ocean of mercy, and full of all opulence, deny him Your mercy? You always treat everyone equally and all Your acts convey auspiciousness. Therefore, please quickly show Your mercy to our afflicted husband. It does not befit You to kill such a lowly living entity.
“Even Siva, Brahma, Laksmi, and the sannyasis who perform sadhana, meditation, and attentive service cannot understand You. Hence, how can Kaliya, who is bewildered by pride and ignorance, know You? Your playful kicks and dancing on his heads have practically killed him. Although he is a very powerful serpent, he is so weakened that only his life air remains. Indeed he is cruel and ill behaved, but nevertheless he is one of Your living entities. Alas! We hope he will not die. Please forgive his offense and return our husband so that we will not become widows.” The gentle beautiful Nagapatnis petitioned the Lord with piteous choked voices.
Krishna responded compassionately by dissipating His anger and reducing the punishment. Smiling sweetly, Krishna replied to the wives of Kaliya, “Do not fear. Although I am very angry, your sweet appeal has satisfied Me. As a monsoon shower extinguishes a forest fire, your pleasing prayers have removed My intense anger. As a result I will spare his life. Now I request you to take your husband and return to your original abode. Since your husband’s heads are now decorated with My bliss-giving lotus footprints, Garuda will feel blessed to see them. From now on you need not fear him.”His false pride broken like a person bent over from carrying a heavy mass of iron, Kaliya felt relieved and happy by the Lord’s assurance of protection. With fear, devotion, and submission Kaliya said, “O Lord! With all Your opulence You appear in this world to crush the demons and award the treasure of prema to Your devotees. As long as the sun and the moon remain, Your beautiful pastimes will give joy to the minds of Your devotees. You always bring immediate auspiciousness to the unfortunate. O abode of compassion!
“The River Yamuna is the ideal place for Your pastimes. Therefore You have rightly punished me for my offense of poisoning her waters. Who could have shown me more mercy than You? Your dancing has decorated my hoods with the splendid marks of Your lotus feet. Now my life has become completely auspicious. O younger brother of Baladeva! By Your order I will now return to Ramanaka Island. O Supreme Lord of all the demigods! Due to some misfortune I have offended You. O You who wear makara kunddla earrings! Please forgive me for my offensive behavior.”
Concluding his prayer, Kaliya took out some special jewels from his collection and presented a valuable ruby and pearl necklace to Krishna as a ‘gift. Then he and his family offered obeisances to the Lord and left the Yamuna. Immediately the water transformed into the sweetest nectar. After Kaliya left, the prince of Vraja, who ever enacts fresh and effulgent playful pastimes, climbed up on the bank of the Yamuna. The golden bangles on His lotus hands glistened attractively and His shimmering dhoti defeated the brightness of lightning.
HG Srimati Mataji : “It’s a wonderful way the wives of Kalilya deal with the situation. Important thing to remember here is that they are not approaching Krishna for their own benefit, they are approaching Krishna for somebody else. It’s interesting what they do, first they access the situation, without losing any time they approach Krishna. In a respectful and cultured way they offer their obeisances and surrender to Krishna. Their only desire was to save Kaliya by pleasing Krishna with their prayers. They didn’t cry, argue, lament or chastise Krishna. They admitted that Krishna’s punishment of Kaliya was exactly the right thing. They understood and said that Krishna’s mercy and punishment were non different. That everything Krishna does is for our good! Do we think like that ? They praised Kaliya’s good fortune, having Krishna’s lotus feet dance on his head. That although he was such a lowly creature, he received the highest mercy. Pleading for Krishna’s mercy upon them they beseech Krishna to kindly excuse Kaliya’s offenses because after all he is also one of His offspring! They acknowledge that they were his eternal servants and they offered their loving service. In Krishna Book Nagapatnis plead:
” Our dear Lord, we are offering our loving service unto You because we are all eternal servitors of Your Lordship. You can order us to do whatever You please. Every living being can be relieved from all kinds of despair if he agrees to abide by Your orders.”
Very amazing statement ! What they are basically saying here is that even if you decide to kill Kaliya, that’s Your prerogative, even if You do that we understand that its the best thing. How could Krishna not hear such prayers! Nagapatnis showed no malice towards Him or towards Kaliya and they prayed in full surrender to Krishna.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura tell us that the reason Krishna forgave Kaliya’s very sever offense to Garuda and to the Vrajavasis was because of the prayers of his wives. He also tells us that this pastime clearly shows that Krishna’s activities benefit both the victims of violence and those who inflict such violence, certainly there is no malice in our Krishna. Not that Krishna just looked after the wives and didn’t look after Kaliya. Both, those who commit the violence and those who suffer it, Krishna takes care of both. He deals with them differently but he deals with both. Krishna has no malice towards anybody.”
It was simply pure nectar to hear the above pastime, mentioned in various scriptures, which ran into more that 1.5hours. But the part which stuck me most were these amazing prayers of Nagapatnis and how they touch Krishna’s heart. I also learnt how Krishna’s mercy and punishment are both good for us. Of course, it is a different experience when we hear such pastimes from pure devotees of Lord, the way Mataji explained this whole mood of being surrendered in detail was definitely an eye opener for a neophyte like myself. We can read about this complete pastime in chapter 16 of Krishna Book.
Today, I sincerely believe that being in ISKCON, and always remaining under the shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet, our good fortune knows no bounds.
We read in the past few blogs (Blog1, Blog2) about serious repercussions of Vaishanava Aparadha. Few days back I was browsing through a book by HG Srimati Mataji on Srila Prabhupada and by sheer coincidence my eyes caught the page which mentioned what is the cause of vaishnava aparadha. HG Srimati Mataji quotes Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, mainly from his book Bhaktyaloka, and bind various quotations meticulously to bring the essence of this important topic. Here it goes.
When Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu was instructing Sanātana Goswami, He explained that the first business of a Vaishnava is to give up non-devotee association.
“A Vaiṣṇava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaiṣṇavas should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa.” (CC Madhya 22.87)
Mahāprabhu also explains the reason we should give up such association in next two verses.
“‘By association with worldly people, one becomes devoid of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, spiritual intelligence, shyness, austerity, fame, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, fortune and all opportunities. One should not at any time associate with a coarse fool who is bereft of the knowledge of self-realization and who is no more than a toy animal in the hands of a woman. The illusion and bondage that accrue to a man from attachment to any other object are not as complete as that resulting from association with a woman or with men too much attached to women.’ ( CC Madhya 22.88-90)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura further explains that if a devotee engages in non devotee association then gradually his material attachments will increase. And the more this attachment increases, the more his faith in the supreme goal will diminish.
Why is that ?
If one associates with non devotees, very quickly his intelligence will be polluted and his heart will be overcome by their propensities. If anyone desires to attain pure devotional service, he should carefully give up the association of non devotees. ( Sanga-tyaga, Sri Bhaktyaloka)
This raises another very important question.
Who is a non devotee ?
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura tells us that those are not subordinate to Sri Krishna are called non devotees. He continues on with a very thorough and wholistic explanation of what it means to give up the association of non-devotees. He even tells us that because of our prejudices and material attachments we can be classified as non devotees!
Let’s present what he says in a chart form to make things clear.
( I am writing in detail about only some of the categories to save on space)
Atheists : Those who do not accept the Supreme Lord, who is glorified by the Vedas, are called nastikas, or atheists. Their minds have been polluted by false arguments; therefore one’s devotion is lost in their association. Association with sense enjoyers is harmful. Those who are always busy associating with sense enjoyment are filled with blasphemy, envy, and violence. Quarrel, argument, and hankering for sense enjoyment is their life. The more they enjoy, the more their thirst for sense enjoyment increases. The sense enjoyers do not get time to speak or hear topics of Krishna. Whether they engage in pious activities or sinful activities, the sense enjoyers always remain far from knowledge of the self. Therefore in the Caitanya caritamrta (Antya 6.278) Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has said:
“viṣayīra anna khāile malina haya mana
malina mana haile nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa
“When one eats food offered by a materialistic man, one’s mind becomes contaminated, and when the mind is contaminated, one is unable to think of Kṛṣṇa properly.” Those persons who externally engage in sensual activities and accept sense objects just to maintain body and soul together but internally engage in their constitutional position as servants of Krsna are not counted amongst the sense enjoyers, who are attached the fruits of their activities.
Do not associate with women. On the other hand, when a woman is engaged in sadhana bhakti-, she should not associate with men. Associating with the opposite sex is very inauspicious for the advancing devotee. When a man and woman are married according to religious principles, there is no sin in their touching and talking with each other…. provided they are not illusioned by each other and they only engage in activities sanctioned under the prescribed duties.
The conditioned soul has been performing fruitive activities (karma) and endeavoring for knowledge (jnana) since time immemorial, and the prejudices that have developed in his subtle body as a result are called ancient prejudices. These prejudices are known as one’s nature. From ancient prejudices one develops association with karma and jnana.
Modern Prejudices : The prejudices or attachments for good and bad attained in this life due to association are called modern prejudices, one develops attachment for material assets by modern prejudices.
Due to this association with prejudices a living entity’s propensity for ignorance and passion becomes stronger. Whatever propensities for goodness, passion, and ignorance are seen in people’s eating, sleeping, and sensual activities are all due to association with prejudices.
Until one’s attachment to prejudices is destroyed, the ten offenses in chanting will not be uprooted. Offenses at the feet of sadhus is due to being proud of one’s karma and jnana.
Only sadhu sanga can reform the attachment to prejudices. Sadhu sanga is the only remedy for this disease. Unless one reforms his attachment to prejudices, one cannot attain perfection in devotional service by any means.
It has been seen that many fortunate souls have given up attachment for prejudices by the association of pure Vaisnavas. From the scriptures it is well known that by the association of Sri Narada Muni the hunter (Mrgari) and Ratnakara (Valmiki) attained auspiciousness. The foremost instruction of Sri Ramanujacarya is this: “If you cannot purify yourself by any endeavor whatsoever, then just go sit with the Vaisnavas and you will achieve all auspiciousness.”
By observing a Vaisnava’s quality of not uselessly wasting time, many people have easily given up anarthas such as laziness, oversleeping, useless talk, urge of speech, etc. We have also seen that by associating with Vaisnavas for some time someone’s cheating
propensity and desire for fame have been destroyed.
Please beware of Vaishnava aparadha
Srimati Mataji then adds that the above analysis is undoubtedly valuable and very interesting. But for those of us who have family and business or work responsibilities, it may also create in us a sense of anxiety. We are associating with non-devotees on a daily basis. Does this mean we have no spiritual future? Bhaktivinoda Thakura is very sensitive to such anxieties and has addressed the issue very wonderfully in the following text.
What is association and giving up association ?
Many people have doubts about this. Doubts may be there because if just by coming close to a materialist or material object is considered associating with them, then there is no way to give up this association. As long as the material body is there, how can one one give up the proximity of these things? How can a grhastha vaishnava give up his family members? Even is one is a renunciate, he can not give up the association of deceitful persons. One will have to come across materialists in one’s life, whether one is grahastha or a renunciate. Therefore, the limit for giving up the association of materialists is prescribed in Sri Upadeshamrita as follows:
Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in conﬁdence, inquiring conﬁdentially, accepting prasāda and offering prasāda are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains it with great clarity in his commentary:
O sadhakas! One must accept proximity with both bad and good people as one passes his life. This equally applies to householders and renunciates. Proximity must be there, nevertheless one should not engage in bad association. Giving in charity, accepting charity, revealing one’s mind, hearing one’s mind, accepting foods, and giving foods if done with love, these are called sanga, or association. Giving some foodstuffs to a hungry person and accepting some charity from a pious man is done out of duty, not out of love. Even if they are materialists, this type of engagement is not considered association. But if they are pure devotees, then such activities are performed out of love.
When acts are performed out of love, then it is association. Therefore giving charity to pure Vaisnavas and accepting items or wealth from them becomes sat sanga. Giving charity to a materialist or accepting charity from one, if done out of love, becomes asat sanga When a materialist approaches you, whatever is required to be done should be done only out of duty. One should not speak confidentially with a materialist. Generally there is some love involved in confidential speaking, therefore it is association. While meeting a materialistic friend, one should speak only what is extremely necessary. At that time it is better not to exhibit heartfelt love. But if that friend is a proper Vaisnava, then one should accept his association by speaking to him with love. This type of behavior with relatives and friends creates no hostility.
There is no association in ordinary talk. One should behave with ordinary people as one externally behaves with a stranger while buying something in the market. The same dealings with a pure devotee of the Lord should be done out of love. If one is obliged to feed hungry people, needy people, and teachers, he should do so as a host dutifully cares for his guest, there is no need to exhibit love. Care for them, but not out of love. One should feed pure Vaisnavas with love, and when required accept the remnants given by them with love. If one can behave in this way while giving in charity, accepting charity, speaking confidentially, hearing confidentially, feeding, and accepting food with one’s wife, children, servants, maidservants, strangers, and whoever else one meets, there will no unholy association, only good association. There is no hope of achieving devotion to Krishna until one gives up unholy association in this way.
And there is no hope for giving up unholy association until we develop genuine love and respect for the vaishnavas and their association. So please beware of vaishnava aparadha!