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Hearing from Bhakti-vedāntas

Hare Krsna,

I have two realizations from hearing the purports and lectures on this topic given by our most beloved bhakti-vedanta – A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. These realizations are around the topic of impartiality and all-loving nature of the Supreme Lord, Krsna.

Impartiality of the Supreme Lord: At a neophyte stage, most of us are conditioned to think that the Supreme Lord is partial to His devotees and non-partial to the demons. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya duskrtam. (BG 4.8) It is commonly perceived that Lord Krsna is extremely partial to the Pandavas and not as much to others. In the very first lecture (SB 1.8.29), Srila Prabhupada clarifies that the Lord is partial to the sadhus. The sadhus are pure devotees who want to satisfy the Lord in all respects. In return, the Lord also wants to satisfy His pure devotees. There is an exchange of loving affairs. Its not that the Lord is more merciful to some and less to others. Rather because the pure devotees are situated on transcendental platform, they can receive the Lord’s mercy more. This seems to be impartial to the material eyes. Srila Prabhupada gives the example of the sun. Just as the sun is never partial to anyone, the Lord is also not partial to anyone.

By utilizing the sun rays, sometimes even the stones become valuable, whereas a blind man cannot see the sun, although there are enough sun rays before him. Darkness and light are two opposite conceptions, but this does not mean that the sun is partial in distributing its rays. The sun rays are open to everyone, but the capacities of the receptacles differ.” (SB 1.8.29 P)

Similarly, the Lord’s mercy is all pervading and equally available to all. How much one can receive the mercy depends on the receiving capacity of the receiver. Persons engaging in devotional service to the Lord can receive His mercy more. Srila Prabhupada explains that the Lord is merciful even to the demons. The deliverance of Putana, who came to poison baby Krsna, is a great example. Because the Lord is so-merciful, Krsna delivered her and bestowed on her the position of His mother in the spiritual world. Even in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, all persons who died in the fight before the presence of the Lord got salvation without the necessary qualifications because death before the presence of the Lord purifies the passing soul from the effects of all sins, and therefore the dying man gets a place somewhere in the transcendental abode. Somehow or other if someone puts himself open in the sun rays, he is sure to get the requisite benefit both by heat and by ultraviolet rays. Therefore, the conclusion is that the Lord is never partial. It is wrong for the people in general to think of Him as partial. (SB 1.8.29 P).

By engaging in devotional service to the Lord, especially by chanting His holy name sincerely and lovingly without any motives, we will be better situated to receive the mercy of the Lord.

All-loving nature of the Supreme Lord: This is the beauty of hearing from a bhakti-vedanta. It is especially very sweet to hear how beautifully Srila Prabhupada unravels the sweet loving nature of Lord Krsna. It is as if he is peeling the outer skin of a fruit. He is bringing out the actual rasa from the fruit for us to taste and relish. He advises us to go past the effort to understand Krsna. Krsna is unlimited and to understand Him fully is impossible. We have got limited perception, limited potency of our senses. It is better for us to get into the Vrndavana status of mind where we have no business to understand Krsna. We should simply learn how to love Krsna, unconditionally. “Because Krsna is God, therefore I love” – this should be our mood. A great quality of hearing from Srila Prabhupada is that he reveals that the ability to engage in loving exchange with the Lord is open to all of us. If we desire with determination, we also can be Krsna’s cowherd friends, His parents, His lovers. What more, we can also bind Krsna with our rope of love just as Mother Yasoda did. But Srila Prabhupada cautions us not to deal with Krsna in a mercantile mood.

“Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam [Brs. 1.1.11], free from all material gain. We should not love Kṛṣṇa for some material gain. It is not that “Kṛṣṇa, give us our daily bread, then I love You. Kṛṣṇa, give me this, then I love You.” There is no such mercantile exchange. That is wanted. Kṛṣṇa wants that kind of love.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Lecture on SB 1.8.31)

Srila Prabhupada finally concludes that our business is to simply love Krsna. The more we love Krsna, the more we become perfect.

Don’t bother very much to know Kṛṣṇa. That is not possible. Simply increase your unalloyed love for Kṛṣṇa. That is perfection of life.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Lecture on SB 1.8.31)

Personally, I have been contemplating over the past few weeks how to move from ‘tattva’ to ‘rasa’ in my relationship with Krsna. In other words, how do I bring more love in my dealings with Krsna than just understanding the philosophy of the Absolute Truth? This lesson and Srila Prabhupada’s lectures provide a clue. Whatever I do, I should do with love. This is the biggest realization for me from this lecture.

All glories to our bhakti-vedanta, Srila Prabhupada!

Materially Exhausted & Materially Impoverished

Hare Krsna,

Akincana-gocaram means one who is easily approached by materially exhausted man. Srila Prabhupada mention that being materially advanced means birth in an aristocratic family and possessing great wealth, an education and attractive personal beauty.          . What most people do not realize is that these so-called material opulences are entangling by nature. For example, let’s say a man is very wealthy. He may think that he has achieved a lot in his life as he can lead a comfortable life. My realization is that each earned cent has hundred cents worth of anxiety behind it. As soon as one has amassed some wealth, his misery starts. So-called friends, family, etc. are after him for his money. He is chased by non-profit organizations for charitable donations; he is chased by IRS for the taxes; he is chased by so-called demoniac investors who are after his money promising great returns for his investments in their financial products. The person thinks himself to be important because so may people are giving him respect. But he is under illusion because the respect is not for him, but for his wealth. Because of working so hard for earning wealth, the person, in all likelihood, has sacrificed his health and mental wellbeing. As a result, he is now chased by hospitals and doctors for his money – all in the name of treatment. In such an anxiety, how is it possible for him to think of the Supreme Lord, pray to Him, or take His shelter. His whole demeanor is, “Let me solve my material issues first. Then I will take to spiritual life.” Therefore, people who are materially advanced cannot take to Krsna consciousness so easily. They may still take it up but the sincere intensity and feeling will be lacking. Because of being puffed up, he cannot address the Lord feelingly. Material opulence is a stumbling block to spiritual life. Material life and spiritual life do not go other very well. They are just opposite to each other. If one is materially opulent, his spiritual life goes down. And vice versa. Of course, it is possible to be materially opulent and spiritually advanced if one dedicates all his opulence in the service of Lord Krsna. But such souls are very rare. Sa-mahatma su durlabha. In conclusion, Krsna cannot be easily approached by materially opulent man. The Lord is easily approached by materially exhausted man. I am writing this out of my own practical experience. There was a time when I went through extreme financial hardships. I had no job, no money and was barely making my ends meet. But somehow Krsna gave me shelter. I was able to take up Krsna consciousness with great seriousness, sincerity, and feeling. In other words, I could take up Krsna consciousness when I was almost materially exhausted.

 

On the other hand, akincana-vittaya means ‘unto the property of the materially impoverished.” This means Krsna is the property of the materially impoverished. When a man is under utter destitution, he is poor and has nothing, it is easier for him to take shelter of Krsna. He will think, “I possess nothing. No janmaiśvarya-śruta-śrībhir. No high birth, no wealth, no education, and no beauty. But the good news is that I possess Krsna.” This is the mood of one who is materially impoverished. I have seen so many poor people in India. They have no material wealth. But they have such love and devotion for Lord Krsna. They are happy with themselves. They think of everything as the Lord’s mercy. They are poor because the Lord has wanted it to be this way, and hence they are happy with his arrangement of the Lord. Nowadays our study group is reading ‘Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta.” In the book, the author narrates how Srila Prabhupada fell from a material convenient life to a state when he had nothing. His business failed, his family deserted him because they were not interested in his devotional service, he had no friends, disciples, temple, or a steady place to stay. Chapter Eight of the book is titled – “New Delhi – Crying Alone in the Wilderness.” This is so heart-breaking to read. That a personality who gave us and the humanity so much was alone in times of great need. Why weren’t we born earlier to assist him in his mission. Actually Lord Krsna wanted it this way. Coming back to the point, when Srila Prabhupada realized that he had lost everything, he was at peace as he remembered a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam 10.88.8:

śrī-bhagavān uvāca

yasyāham anugṛhṇāmi
hariṣye tad-dhanaṁ śanaiḥ
tato ’dhanaṁ tyajanty asya
svajanā duḥkha-duḥkhitam

The Personality of Godhead said: If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.

This is how one becomes akincana-vittaya. He loses everything and gains Lord Krsna. In this way, Lord Krsna becomes the property of materially impoverished.

Coming back to my story, by the Lord’s mercy I now have a materially comfortable life. I pray (even though somewhere within me is still afraid to say this) that let everything be taken away from me so that I can surrender fully to the lotus feet of the Lord and my spiritual master. I feel now my chanting is devoid of any feelings. I would rather be materially impoverished so that I can chant the holy name of the Lord with purity, sincerity, feeling, and separation. Akincana gocaram will not lead me anywhere – materially and spiritually. But with akincana-vitta, I will be able to gain Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada begins, “So, namaḥ akiñcana-vitta. Materially impoverished. This is the first qualification of a devotee. One who does not possess anything of this material world, he simply possess Kṛṣṇa, that is akiñcana-vitta. Akiñcana means one who has lost everything of material possession.”

This is my innermost desire of my heart. To be akincana-vittaya. Let Krsna fulfill this in due course of time.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Analyzing Queen Kuntī’s Desire For Calamaties to Happen Again and Again

Hare Krsna,

I always try to remember and follow this principle, “Always remember Krsna; Never forget Krsna.”

Why should we always remember Krsna?

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (BG 8.5)

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (BG 8.6)

The only way we can give up our material body and return back to Godhead is by remembering Krsna always – and especially at the time of death.

Therefore, liberated souls and advanced devotees always try to remember Krsna under all circumstances even though the situation may be favorable or unfavorable. They see everything from the end goal of remembering Krsna. By remembering Krsna, our material distress gets removed and we become situated in transcendental platform. Therefore, it is not surprising that Queen Kunti prayed for more calamities because they will help her to see Krsna again and again. Seeing Krsna means that she will no longer see repeated births and deaths.

I have seen two classes of devotees – one class is eternally grateful to Krsna in all circumstances. Their faith is so strong that they see any reverses in life as Krsna’s mercy. They consider themselves sinful and the reverses are the reaction to their sinful activities. The other class of devotees blame Krsna as soon as something unexpected and bad happens in their life. They react this way because their faith in Krsna is still not strong.

I want to narrate one incident that happened recently. My mother and sister, who live in India, went out for running some errands. There is a Hanuman temple in the vicinity of the place they visited. On their way back, they stopped at the temple to offer obeisance. They also stayed for some time to hear the Ram Katha (glories of Lord Rama) that was going on. After the program was over, they took a cycle rikshaw to the bus stand. Unfortunately, at a traffic light, a truck hit them from behind. They both fell off the rikshaw. They were badly bruised and hurt but fortunately nothing life threatening happened. If it was a moving traffic, things could have been fatal. They narrated this incident to me couple of days later. My sister asked me why the accident happened when just moments ago they were performing devotional service to Lord Rama. I replied that things could have been worse had it not been for their visit to see the Lord. Because of their visit to the temple, the Supreme Lord spared their lives with minor cuts and bruises. They were destined for bigger suffering but escaped with token injury. She should see this as His mercy.

The point of me narrating the above incident is to highlight different attitudes and emotions that arise in difficulties and apparent misfortunes. My family, being neophyte devotees, are conditioned to think that they are being punished by the Lord for something they did in the past. In contrast, mature devotees see these circumstances as minimizing of their sufferings by the Lord’s extraordinary mercy. They get just a token punishment instead of a full punishment.

The devotees welcome such danger because they can pray to Krsna with more intensity. I remember many years ago, I was in great distress. The quality of my surrender and prayer to Krsna was much intense than what it is now.

How do devotees handle unfortunate circumstances and calamities? They just tolerate and depend on Krsna under all circumstances. The benefits of tolerance cannot be understated. It opens the doors to liberation.

tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo

bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam

hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te

jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk

“My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.” (SB 10.14.8)

Devotees pray, “Due to my past activities, I was to suffer so much. But You are mitigating that suffering, giving me little suffering.” Just like a token punishment. Those who are in devotional service, those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, their sufferings are minimized, a token.

We should remember that every great devotee went through hardships in their lives. Hardships are inevitable. Prahlad Maharaja, Gajendra, Haridasa Thakura, and even our Srila Prabhupada. After facing these hardships, they came out more spiritually surcharged. It is as if an iron rod comes out with fire-like qualities from fire. We should not be afraid of such hardships. Rather we should learn how to depend on Krsna and surrender unto Him under all circumstances. Remembering Krsna means that I am not coming back to this material world. So we should see hardships as blessings in disguise by the all-merciful Lord. We should have firm faith that Krsna will always give us protection. Kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati [Bg. 9.31] Declare it boldly that my devotee never perishes.

I want to end with Srila Prabhupada’s beautiful quote at the end of lecture on SB 1.8.25, “So this is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We must take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness in… at all circumstances, even it’s the most dangerous position. We must keep our faith in Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet, and there will be no danger. “

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Meditation on Personal Features and Lotus-like Features of Kṛṣṇa

Hare Krsna,

I remember when I first started coming to ISKCON, the very first question I asked was, “what does ‘lotus feet’ mean? Why do we always associate Krsna with lotus feet? I received various answers from the devotees not none sounded convincing to me at that time. That could be because I was new in Krsna consciousness and did not have much understanding and appreciation of the philosophy. But as time went on, the meaning of ‘lotus feet’ got clearer and clearer.

My first understanding is that the lotus symbolizes transcendence. An example often quoted is that even though the lotus flower grows in water, it is unaffected by it. The beauty of the lotus shines forth irrespective of whether it grows in dirty water, muddy water, etc. Similarly the Supreme Lord is also transcendental. He is unaffected by the material qualities; He is unaffected by the jiva’s fruitive activities and the sinful reactions; He is unaffected by the impurities in the material world. On the contrary, an impure substance become purified when it comes in contact with the Supreme Lord. This is also why the Lord’s Deity is often placed on top of a multi-petalled lotus flower that basically conveys that though He may be in this world, He is not of it.

Another quality of the Supreme Lord is His sweetness and softness. We often say, “the lotus feet of the Lord.” The Lord’s feet are said to be soft like lotuses and marked with lotus flower. Therefore the usage “lotus feet” is not just symbolic.

I now realize that the best definition on lotus-flower-like features of the Lord is provided by Queen Kunti in the following prayer SB 1.8.22:

namaḥ paṅkaja-nābhāya

namaḥ paṅkaja-māline

namaḥ paṅkaja-netrāya

namas te paṅkajāṅghraye

My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus and whose feet are engraved with lotuses.

My next realization is how can we apply the lotus-like form of the Lord while chanting His holy name. Harinama Cintamani describes the stages of development in devotional service. First a devotee avoids the ten offenses and always chants and meditates on the holy name of the Lord. Chanting the holy name, he becomes steady and happy. Then he meditates on the Lord’s handsome dark form. With spiritual eyes he sees the truth of the holy name. Or, Lord Krsna’s graceful form standing before him, He gazes at Lord Krsna’s form and meditates on the holy name.  When Lord Krsna’s name and form become one, the devotee meditates on Lord Krsna’s transcendental qualities. When Lord Krsna’s name and form become one with His qualities, the devotee meditates on His pastimes. Then Lord Krsna’s name, for, and qualities become one with His pastimes. At that time the nectar of the holy name arises.

Thus we see in above that we must first meditate on the name of the Lord. Then we meditate on the form of the Lord. Then qualities. Then pastimes. There is a gradual progression from name to pastimes. After I read this, I wondered Lord Krsna has so many beautiful forms. What form do I meditate upon? Now I have the answer. The form of the Lord described by Queen Kunti in SB 1.8.22 is a good one to start with. We can meditate on Lord Krsna’s transcendental form with lotus like characteristics. We can think of His lotus-flower-like depression in His abdomen. We can meditate on His neck adorned with a garland of lotus flowers. We can meditate on His lotus petal-like eyes. And finally we can meditate on His feet which are soft like a lotus, marked with lotuses, and He standing on the whorl of a lotus-flower. It is amazing how a simple and beautiful lotus flower can reveal so many different characteristics of the Supreme Lord. It is all the more amazing how Queen Kunti composed such a beautiful prayer associating the lotus flower with the Supreme Lord. This prayer is so simple and beautiful that I have already memorized it after just a couple of recitations. I will not recite this prayer whenever I am in front of the Deity at the temple.

All glories to Mother Kunti Devi!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Queen Kuntī’s Relationship with the Lord & My Relationship with Him

Hare Krsna,

Queen Kunti’s relationship with the Lord: What is very special about Queen Kunti’s relationship with the Lord is her deep humility. She knew that her nephew, Lord Krsna, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But still she had no qualms in offering her respectful obeisance to the Lord. As a devotee, sometimes we show hesitancy in offering our obeisance to an advanced devotee although he/she is younger in age. But Queen Kunti displayed none of the hesitancy. She prayed, namasye puruṣaṁ tvādyam īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param [SB 1.8.18] = “You are īśvara. You are the controller.” She addressed the Lord not as any mundane controller but the controller of the material nature. Prakrteh param.

My second realization is that Queen Kunti had no remorse or anger against the Supreme Lord Krsna. She and her sons, the Pandavas, suffered a great deal for so many years. Her sons were denied their rightful claim to the throne; they were wrongfully defeated in the game of dice; her daughter-in-law was disrobed in the assembly; her family was conspired to be killed; they were sent to exile, and so on. As if that was not enough, their ordeal did not end even after the exile. They were subjected to a horrible war to win back their kingdom. Despite going through so much, not once did Queen Kunti blame the Lord. She did not say, “We have always been Your devotees. Why did we have to go through all the pain and suffering? Why did bad things keep happening to us?” As we will see later in the chapter, she prays to the Lord for more suffering because that will help her to remember the Lord always. She was so patient and tolerant to all the obstacles that came in her way. Despite all these, she did not lose faith in the Lord for one bit. This shows what an exalted devotee she is. She was so humble that she said to the Lord that she is not qualified to see the Lord. The Lord is meant for the paramahamsas. She prayed:

You Yourself descend to propagate the transcendental science of devotional service unto the hearts of the advanced transcendentalists and mental speculators, who are purified by being able to discriminate between matter and spirit. How then can we women know You perfectly?” (SB 1.8.20)

I cannot glorify Queen Kunti enough. She is at the same level as Mother Yasoda and the gopis. Srila Prabhupada writes that although she understands everything, but still she’s taking the position of an ordinary woman. That is real humility.

All glories to Queen Kunti devi!

My relationship with Krsna: Being still at a neophyte stage, I am still trying to establish my relationship with Lord Krsna. Spiritual advancement has three stages – sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana. Sambandha means establishing our relationship with the Lord. But I do realize now that I am an eternal servant of the Lord. Jivera swarupa hoye krsner nitya dasa. Therefore, before my japa every day, I pray the following sambandha prayer to the Lord:

jayatāṁ suratau paṅgor
mama manda-mater gatī
mat-sarvasva-padāmbhojau
rādhā-madana-mohanau

Glory to the all-merciful Rādhā and Madana-mohana! I am lame and ill advised, yet They are my directors, and Their lotus feet are everything to me. (CC Adi 1.5)

Being a conditioned soul, I do display a whole range of emotions towards the Lord. Most of the time I find Him loving, kind and caring. I think of Him as an eternal friend who I had forgotten for so many lifetimes. But there have been times when I get angry with Him; I get impatient and blame Him for not making advancement in bhakti. At times, I also find Him impersonal. Despite all the chanting, reading and other services, I still think that the Lord is not reciprocating enough. I cry that He is absent and does not care enough. Sometimes I do not get enough sleep as I have to wake up very early at brahma-muhurta to chant my japa. I feel as if He does not care. But then when my anger subsides and reflect with a calm mind, I realize that He, as the Supersoul, is seeing everything. He does not reveal fully yet because, firstly, I am not fully purified yet, and secondly, He wants me to yearn for Him more. Similar to what He said to Sri Narada Muni when He disappeared from Sri Narada’s view (SB 1.6.21). My anger or negative emotions towards Krsna does not mean anything. He does not need me. Rather I need Him the most. When I think back to my pre-Krsna consciousness days, I remember the tough times. No job, no money. Not enough food. But still I scraped through. If not for His mercy, what sustained me those days? He was looking out for me, giving me protection and shelter. If He took care of me when I was not a devotee, why wouldn’t He do so now when I am sincerely trying to seek and serve Him? I am much better-off now in terms of my emotional, financial, and spiritual needs. I am sure He is always there for Me. At the right time, He will reveal Himself to me. I just need to be patient, tolerant, and thankful as Queen Kunti. I need to cultivate the same mood as Mother Kunti. I need to be humble and feel insignificant in front of the Lord. Now as I write this, I remember the last verse of Siksastaka and happen to realize it more:

Let Kṛṣṇa tightly embrace this maidservant, who has fallen at His lotus feet. Let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still no one other than the worshipable Lord of My heart. (Siksastaka 8)

Yes, Krsna is my eternal Lord and master. And I am His eternal servant. I am eternally grateful to Him. I exist because He exists as we all are His parts and parcels. And therefore, my duty is to serve Him always beginning with the process of hearing and chanting about Him. Thank you, my Lord, for everything.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Meditations on Events After the Battle of Kurukṣetra

Hare Krsna,

The Supreme Lord is absolute and unlimited; His qualities and pastimes are also unlimited. We can observe this in each of the pastimes in this lesson.

Lord Krsna accompanies to deliver water to the dead relatives: Lord Krsna is always present among us as a friend, guide, teacher. As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. The fact that the Lord was present in the time of distress of the Pandavas is proof that He is always with us. We just have to turn to Him to acknowledge His presence and pray to Him. We have to have faith that He is with us and is looking after us.

Lord Kṛṣṇa and the munis pacifying those who were shocked and affected: This pastime showed that the Supreme Lord is above all stringent laws of material nature. He is unaffected by the actions and reactions of the living entities. He is therefore truly transcendental. The Pandavas were aggrieved but the Lord is never aggrieved. He is sac-cid-ananda -full of eternity, knowledge and bliss.

The performance of three aśvamedha-yajñas conducted by Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira: This pastime shows that the Supreme Lord is more interested to spread the glories of His devotees. He is not interested to take the credit upon Himself even though He is the cause of all causes. He gave the credit of the winning of Kuruksetra war to Arjuna; therefore Arjuna is known as a great warrior in history. Similarly He wants the Pandavas to rule their kingdom. He therefore encouraged Maharaja Yudhisthira to perform the asvamedha sacrifice to cause his virtuous fame to be gloried in all directions. Similarly Lord Caitanya caused Srila Prabhupada’s fame far and wide to spreading Krsna consciousness movement even though the Lord Himself could have done it. Such is the generosity of the Lord.

Lord Krsna’s preparation for His departure to Dvaraka: One of the six opulences of the Lord is renunciation. The Lord is not attached to any time, place and circumstances. A mortal living entity may have got attached to the Pandavas and the kingdom. But the Lord is just like the lotus flower; even though it is in the water it is untouched by it. Similarly Lord Krsna has His transcendental pastime to be performed elsewhere. He had to annihilate the miscreants and protect the devotees. Thus as soon as His Hastinapura pastime was over, He prepared to leave for Dvaraka.

Uttara’s plea for help: The Supreme Lord is the ultimate protector. A pure devotee knows this and is fully surrendered unto Him. The miserable condition of the living entities in the material world can be remedied only by the mercy of the Lord. Although there are so-called material protectors like Lord Brahmā and the other demigods, or even one’s own father, they are unable to do anything if one is neglected by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, one who has fully taken shelter of the Lord’s lotus feet can be saved from the onslaught of material nature. Therefore, every living entity should be unattracted by material so-called happiness and should take shelter of the Lord by all means. That is the mission of human life. This is what Uttara did; she took shelter of the Supreme Lord for her and her embryo’s protection.

The Lord says in BG 4.11, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajami aham. As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.

He reciprocates according to the degree of our surrender. Uttara surrendered fully unto the Lord, and hence the Lord is duty bound to protect her.

Lord Krsna knowing that Asvattama threw the brahmastra: The Lord is omnipotent; He knows the past, present and future. Thus, He also knew that the brahmastra was released by Asvatthama again.

The Lord neutralizing the strength of Brahmastra: This shows that the Lord is all-powerful. He is the cause of the entire creation. What is a mere brahmastra in front of Him? With His mere nails, He killed Hiranyakasipu. As Lord Varaha, He killed Hiranyaksa with a little slap on his ear. So what is impossible for the Lord?

The purport of SB 1.8.16 summarized Lord Krsna’s inconceivable power very well.

O brāhmaṇas, do not think this to be especially wonderful in the activities of the mysterious and infallible Personality of Godhead. By His own transcendental energy He creates, maintains and annihilates all material things, although He Himself is unborn. (SB 1.8.16)

Purport: The activities of the Lord are always inconceivable to the tiny brain of the living entities. Nothing is impossible for the Supreme Lord, but all His actions are wonderful for us, and thus He is always beyond the range of our conceivable limits. The Lord is the all-powerful, all-perfect Personality of Godhead. The Lord is cent-percent perfect, whereas others, namely Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā, Śiva, the demigods and all other living beings, possess only different percentages of such perfection. No one is equal to or greater than Him. He is unrivaled.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Draupadī’s Response to the Capture of Aśvatthāmā & Chapter Review

Hare Krsna,

Under the given circumstances, Draupadi’s behavior towards Asvatthama is exemplary. It must be noted that she is the same woman who was disrobed, for no fault of hers, in an assembly hall full of people. She was pawned by her five husbands in the game of dice against the Kauravas. Naturally she should have been very angry, scornful, and revengeful. All the more so towards the Kauravas for mistreating and humiliating her. As if that was not enough, she had to go through another painful agony of losing all her five infant sons – killed by the demoniac Asvatthama. A woman can tolerate insults heaped upon her, but as a mother she can never tolerate the harm done to her children. Despite these circumstances, she displayed exceptional generosity and maturity by not willing to harm Asvatthama who was the son of the teacher of the Pandavas.

In BG 10.34, Lord Krsna lists the seven qualities of women: “Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience.”

In its purport, Srila Prabhupada explains, “The ability to overcome unsteadiness is called firmness or steadfastness (dhṛti). And when one is fully qualified yet is humble and gentle, and when one is able to keep his balance both in sorrow and in the ecstasy of joy, he has the opulence called patience (kṣamā).”

I could see that Draupadi possessed all these qualities – especially steadfastness and patience. It is easy to lose these qualities under a state of sorrow and tragedy. But Draupada maintained them even in such a trying time when the killer of her sons was brought before her. Her sense of dharma dominated emotions of anger, rage, or revenge. This shows what a great personality she is.

Contrast this with today’s glorification of fueling these emotions in action thrillers, suspense or horror themes (quoted from our teacher’s forum topic question). Today’s motto is ‘An eye for an eye.’ Victims want to bring the perpetrators to justice – lawfully or unlawfully. Consider the #MeToo movement – a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Women are speaking up against their harassers and fighting together for justice. Deservedly so! Without undermining what they went through, I want to compare their’s and Draudapi’s ordeal. Which one is more heinous? Which one is more dreadful? Definitely Draupadi. Therefore, despite coming face to face with the perpetrator Asvatthama, she did not withdraw the due respect generally offered to a brāhmaṇa or to the son of a brāhmaṇa. Not only that, her motherly instincts took over and she could not imagine Krpi becoming motherless. She cannot not see Krpi crying for her dead husband and now for her son.

“Sympathetic good lady as she was, Śrīmatī Draupadī did not want to put the wife of Droṇācārya in the same position of childlessness, both from the point of motherly feelings and from the respectable position held by the wife of Droṇācārya.” (SB 1.7.47)

This pastime showed how a vaisnava and a pure devotee of the Lord must behave towards his/her enemy. A devotee of the Lord can tolerate all sorts of tribulation personally, but still such devotees are never unkind to others, even to the enemy. These are the characteristics of one who is a pure devotee of the Lord. Queen Draupadi displayed such amazing characteristics and proved worthy of being called a pure devotee of Lord Krsna.

This aspect of tolerance reminds me of Siksastaka 3:

tṛṇād api sunīcena

taror api sahiṣṇunā

amāninā mānadena

kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

“One can chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Śikṣāṣṭaka 3)

In Kali yuga, people are sitting on a pinprick and get agitated and revengeful even for extremely minor issues. There is a tremendous lesson to be learned from Queen Draupadi for us as devotees. If we are serious to progress in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, we must cultivate kindness, forgiveness, patience, equanimity towards all, and tolerance. It’s not easy but worth trying.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Initial Events Leading to the Appearance of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam

Hare Krsna,

A good analogy is a movie. In almost every movie, certain circumstances or situations are created first. It could be war, political, family, social, or economic issues. Some movies go as far as projecting that our planet is under threat from certain aliens from other planets. Then key characters are introduced. Finally the hero or heroine appears as the all-savior. Finally the protagonist wins. This is how the movie plots typically run.

I could see such similarity in transcendental subject matters too. When the Supreme Lord incarnates in the material world, certainly circumstances leading to that event are created. For example in Mahabharata, the conflict between Pandavas and Kauravas are created first that led to the great Kuruksetra war. In the midst of the war, Lord Krsna appears as Arjuna’s charioteer to deliver the eternal messages of Bhagavad Gita. Taking another example, currently I am studying Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 7 where the pastimes of Lord Nrsimhadeva and His pure devotee Prahlada Maharaja are described. The circumstance is created first. Hiranyakasipu appears as a great enemy of the Supreme Lord. He wants to avenge his brother Hiranyaksa’s death at the hands of Lord Varaha. Hiranyakasipu cannot tolerate his son Prahlada’s devotion to the Supreme Lord. He harasses his son and tries to kill him. The situation finally reaches such a point that Lord Nrsimhadeva had to appear to protect His dear devotee Prahlada.

The cause of the Supreme Lord’s appearance upon this earth is stated in Bhagavad-gītā (4.7-8) by the Lord Himself:

yadā yadā hi dharmasya

glānir bhavati bhārata

abhyutthānam adharmasya

tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham

 

paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ

vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām

dharma-saṁsthāpanārthāya

sambhavāmi yuge yuge

 

“Whenever and wherever there is a decrease in religious principles and a predominant rise in irreligion, at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” The Lord appears in order to execute two kinds of activities — to kill the demons and to protect the devotees.

The above verses describe the circumstances under which the Lord appears. It could be decline in religious principles, rise in irreligion, rise of demoniac influence, distress of devotees, or saving fallen souls in general. It is a fact that the Supreme Lord is causeless; He does not need any cause to appear or disappear.

Similarly in Srimad Bhagavatam, we can observe the initial events the leads to the appearance of Srimad Bhagavatam. As Dvapara-yuga reached its completion, signs of Kali-yuga’s advent became rampant. Ignorance prevailed; deviations from dharmic principles were prominent while quarrel and hypocrisy became second nature. Religious principles have almost disappeared. People are entangled in material and fruitive activities. People have forgotten their supreme occupation. Varnasrama system has disappeared. Demoniac mentality is prevalent. The leaders and the followers are all cheaters. Society is turning atheistic and people have forgotten their eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord. The biggest circumstance is that Lord Krsna has ended His earthly planets and returned to His abode. This diminishing of the brilliant light in the Vrsni dynasty signified the onslaught of the dark age of Kali. The all merciful, magnanimous and eternally the Lord and master of the pure devotees had seemed to pull a hiatus, just as when the world needed Him the most! Thus we see that certain unique circumstances are created first for the advent of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Next the key players are introduced. We know that Srimad Bhagavatam is basically a conversation between Sukadeva Goswami and Pariksit Maharaja. Therefore these two characters needs to be adequately introduced and glorified. We studied about Sukadeva Goswami earlier in the chapter 7. Now the circumstances leading to the birth of Pariksit Maharaja is described. And of course, for any story there must be narrators. Just like we had Sanjaya in Kuruksetra war who narrated everything to blind Dhritarastra. Similarly we have Suta Goswami as the chief narrator who narrates the discussion of Srimad Bhagavatam to the sages of Naimisaranya. All these events and personalities ultimate lead to the appearance of Srimad Bhagavatam.

SB 1.3.40: This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is compiled by Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect.

SB 1.3.41: Śrī Vyāsadeva delivered it to his son, who is the most respected among the self-realized, after extracting the cream of all Vedic literatures and histories of the universe.

SB 1.3.42: Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the son of Vyāsadeva, in his turn delivered the Bhāgavatam to the great Emperor Parīkṣit, who sat surrounded by sages on the bank of the Ganges, awaiting death without taking food or drink.

SB 1.3.43: This Bhāgavata Purāṇa is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Kṛṣṇa to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purāṇa.

SB 1.3.44: O learned brāhmaṇas, when Śukadeva Gosvāmī recited Bhāgavatam there [in the presence of Emperor Parīkṣit], I heard him with rapt attention, and thus, by his mercy, I learned the Bhāgavatam from that great and powerful sage. Now I shall try to make you hear the very same thing as I learned it from him and as I have realized it.

When I meditate and reflect on above deeply, I kind of reach the conclusion that everything happens by the plan of the Lord. The Kauravas may not be villains as typically depicted. Maybe they are playing a big part in the Lord’s transcendental plan to deliver Bhagavad-Gita. Similarly from that perspective, I do not see Asvattama as another murderer. Maybe it is organized by the Lord for him to play that role. Therefore from spiritual perspective, it leads me to think that no one, or nothing, is good or bad. We are just instrument in the hands of the Lord. This reminds me of a sentence from Srila Prabhupada’s purport of BG 11.33.

There is a specific plan being carried out in this material world. What is this plan? This cosmic manifestation is a chance for the conditioned souls to go back to Godhead, back to home. As long as they have the domineering mentality which makes them try to lord it over material nature, they are conditioned. But anyone who can understand the plan of the Supreme Lord and cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness is most intelligent. The creation and destruction of the cosmic manifestation are under the superior guidance of God. Thus the Battle of Kurukṣetra was fought according to the plan of God. Arjuna was refusing to fight, but he was told that he should fight in accordance with the desire of the Supreme Lord. Then he would be happy. If one is in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness and his life is devoted to the Lord’s transcendental service, he is perfect.”

In conclusion, I see that the events leading to the appearance of Srimad Bhagavatam as the Lord’s transcendental plan to reclaim conditioned souls and take them back home, back to Godhead.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

How Does The Absolute Truth Manifest?

Author: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura

The Absolute Truth manifests in five ways: as parä tattva, vyüha, vaibhava, antaryämé, and arcä. Each of these is the worshipable Lord.

Apart from these manifestations, everything and everyone else is in the category of servant. The Lord accepts offerings from His servants,  and each of these five manifestations of the Lord reciprocates with Their respective servants. There is no meaning to being dominant if there is no servitor over whom one predominates. Therefore each manifestation of the Absolute Truth has His own servants.

When one begins to worship a Deity , they use particular ingredients. Then they worships the Supersoul in the mind. Next, they worship
the Lord’s vaibhava incarnations. This is the progression.

For example, one may worship Lord Rama. Sri Rama appeared with His servants, notably Hanuman and Sugriva. One should worship
the vaibhava incarnations only as They appear before Their servants. After worshiping the vaibhava manifestation, one worships the vyühas.

There are four vyühas, namely Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. Ultimately one comes to the worship of the Absolute Truth, parä-tattva, Sri Krishna. To climb from the bottom of a hill to the top, we must go uphill, step by step. In our journey toward the Absolute Truth (parä-tattva) Krishna, we will find that worshiping the arcä will help us. Therefore Hari-bhakti-viläsa states:

yena janma-çataiù pürvaà,väsudevaù samärcita
tan-mukhe hari-nämäni, sadä tiçöhanti bhärata

“O descendant of Bharata, the holy names of Lord Visnu are always vibrating in the mouth of one who has previously worshiped Vasudeva perfectly for hundreds of lifetimes.”

Immanent (esoterically situated), pure, unalloyed conscience is called antaryämé or caitya-guru, the Supersoul. The antaryämé is
an internal entity. Because we have forgotten Krishna, we have come to this material world, far from our eternal home. We are meant to return. The first aid on our journey is Deity worship, then awareness of and focus on the antaryämé, then worship of the vaibhava (plenary) incarnations, then worship of the vyüha (expanded) forms, and finally, full consciousness of the parä-tattva, the Absolute Truth.

Even after worshiping the Supreme Lord for many births a materialistic person cannot make the kind of advancement made by those who
associate directly with guru and the Vaisnavas, hearing hari-kathä from them. The fortune we receive by faithfully hearing about Krishna from the most merciful spiritual master and the Vaisnavas cannot be achieved even if the Deity form reveals Himself to us due to immense compassion.

The Supersoul does not always speak to us
directly. Sastra states:

çikñä-guru ke ta’ jäni kåñëera svarüpa,
antaryämé, bhakta-çreñöha ei dui rüpa

One should know the instructing spiritual master to be the Personality of Krishna. Lord Krishna manifests Himself as the Supersoul and as the greatest devotee of the Lord. (Caitanya-caritämåta, Ädi 1.47)

jive säksät nähi täte guru caitya-rüpe,
sikçä-guru haya krsna-mahänta-svarüpe

Since one cannot visually experience the presence of the Supersoul, He appears before us as a liberated devotee. Such a spiritual master is none other than Krishna Himself. (Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi 1.58)

antaryämiisvarera ei riti haye,
bähire nä kahe, vastu prakäçe hådaye

The Supersoul within everyone’s heart speaks not externally but from within. He directs the devotees in all respects, and that is His way of instruction. (Caitanya-caritämåta Madhya 6.83)

The vaibhava incarnations like Sri Rama speak with, instruct, and guide the jivas, ascertaining what is for their benefit and what is not. The vyühas’ activities are of a different nature – more recreational and less instructive.

The supreme Absolute Truth, para-tattva, manifests in four ways, but one can only understand this science by the Lord’s mercy. Sastra states:

isvarera krpa-lesa haya ta’ yahare

sei ta’ isvara-tattva janibare pare

If one receives but a minuscule amount of the Lord’s favour, by dint of devotional service, they can understand the nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6.83)

We think that the Lord’s Deity is inanimate; but He is not a product of matter. He is sat-cit-ananda (eternal, blissful and fully cognizant). Sri Gaurangadeva said:

isvarera sri-vigraha sac-cid-anandakara,

se-vigrahe kaha sattva-gunera vikara

The transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is complete in eternity, cognizance, and bliss. However, you describe this transcendental form as a product of material goodness. (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6.166)

sri-vigraha ye namane, sei ta’ pasandi,

adasya aspasya, sei haya yama-dandi

One who does not accept the transcendental form of the Lord is certainly an agnostic. Such a person should be neither seen nor touched. Indeed, he is subject to be punished by Yamaraja. (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6.167)

Elsewhere in Sastra it is stated:

pratima naha tumi saksat vrajendra-nandana

vipra lagi’ kara tumi akarya-karana

My dear Lord, You are not a statue; You are directly the son of Maharaja Nanda. Now, for he sake of the old brahmana, please do something You have never done before. (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 5.96)

The spiritual master helps us as the intermediary so that there will be a guide between the Deity, the worship, and the worshiper. Otherwise, if the worshiper is not self-realized or if he lacks knowledge of the Deity form, his worship will turn into the idol worship of children. We do not need idol worship; we have a great need to worship the Lord.

The Deity is defined as that form that is offered worship. The Deity is non-different from the Lord. For our benefit the Supreme Lord manifests in the Deity. Ordinary people think the Deity only an idol because He cannot walk or take initiative. This is their illusion. If they learn to associate with pure devotees, their illusion can be removed. Cultivation of the Absolute Truth depends heavily on hearing and chanting. That is why the sastra states:

brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva,

guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija

mali hana kare sei bija aropana,

sravana-kirtana-jale karaye secana

Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.

When a person receives the seed of devotional service, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. If he systematically waters the seed by the process of sravana and kirtana [hearing and chanting], it will begin to sprout. (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 19.151-152)

It used to be that when the spiritual master glorified Krishna everyone listened. Nowadays it is just the opposite. Professional reciters sit on their guru’s raised dais (asana) to glorify Krishna without ever having become disciples themselves.

A real disciple should first learn what understanding his spiritual master has and in which spirit he worships Krishna. It is stated:

om ajnana-timirandhasya, jnananjana-salakaya

caksur unmilitam yenam tasmai sri-gurave namah

I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisance unto him.

When the material cataract on our spiritual vision is removed, we will be from all misconceptions. Don’t think that pretentious behavior when approaching a spiritual master will grant one perfection. It would be foolish to think that you have gained a coconut just because you are standing under a coconut tree. One must climb the tree, pick the coconut from the treetop, and break its shell. Then only can you take advantage of the coconut and drink its nourishing and tasty water.

You should also not think that performing devotional practices (bhajana) under the guidance of guru and the Vaisnavas and practicing mystic yoga are the same. If devotion is absent from a process, it is useless. If we simply live comfortably while studying Vedanta and logic, we will not make tangible spiritual advancement. Even if we become geniuses in logic and Vedanta, we will not go to Vaikuntha. The only path to spiritual fortune is to perform worship of the Lord (hari-bhajana) under the expert direction of a bona fide guru.

— Amrtavani » Nectar of Instructions of Immoratality » Compiled instructions of His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura » Touchstone Media.

 

The Shift of Topics & The Brahmāstra Hurled by Aśvatthāmā

Hare Krsna,

The narration in this lesson is the answer to Saunaka Rsi’s question on King Pariksit to Suta Goswami. In SB 1.4.9, Saunaka Rsi asks Suta: It is said that Mahārāja Parīkṣit is a great first-class devotee of the Lord and that his birth and activities are all wonderful. Please tell us about him.

This chapter is where the narration of King Pariksit’s life begins.

While meditating on this topic, I am amazed how wonderfully Srila Prabhupada weaves the glories of Srimad Bhagavatam in his purports. He writes that unlike other Puranas and Mahabharata where the activities of Lord Krsna are mentioned as supplementary facts, Srimad Bhagavatam is where the Lord plays a central part. This is the reason when Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommended Srimad Bhagavatam as the spotless Purana. Srila Prabhupada strictly cautions us that we should not jump to Tenth Canto directly. Rather we should go through the first nine cantos systematically first. Some people may claim to defend that the activities of Lord Krsna become central only in Tenth Canto.  In other cantos, other incarnations of the Lord such as Lord Visnu, Lord Varaha, Lord Vamana, Lord Nrsimhadeva take precedence. I think this line of thinking is wrong. There is no difference between Lord Krsna and His various incarnations. The name, form, pastimes and activities of His numerous incarnations are just as sweet as His glories as His svayam-rupa. As devotees, we do not reject anything related to Krsna and His incarnations. This is yukta-vairagya. If we reject things even though they are related to Krsna, it is called phalgu-vairagya.

My second realization is about the protective power of the Lord. There is a Bengali saying – rakhe hari maar eke, Maare hari rakhe ke. If Krsna wants to protect us, no one can harm us. And if Krsna wants to harm us, no one can protect us. Krsna specially protects His fully-surrendered devotees. Krsna tells Arjuna in BG 9.31, “…declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” Therefore it is no wonder that Arjuna took shelter of Lord Krsna when Asvatthama released the brahmastra (nuclear weapon). Arjuna (and the Pandavas) are fully convinced that without Lord Krsna’s guidance, it would have been impossible for them to win the Kurukshetra war against the Kauravas. On paper, the Kauravas had a larger and powerful army. But with Lord Krsna by their side, the Pandavas emerged victorious.

Talking about nuclear weapons, we live in dangerous times. Every other day, we see nations (and especially rascal irresponsible leaders) trying to use their nuclear power as a tool to dominate over other weaker nations. The US-Iran conflict has the topic of nuclear proliferation at the center. Same is the case with India & Pakistan. The developed western countries do not talk about their own nuclear capability. But they do not like to see other nations build such capability. One leader in the Middle East had been deposed and killed on the false accusation of possessing weapons of mass destruction. Such a hypocritic society we live in. There is a fear that the next world war may be the last war that will wipe out whole humanity because of someone using the nuclear weapon irresponsibly. We have already witnessed it in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I have read that there are some people who are so freaked out that they have built underground bunkers to protect themselves in case a nuclear war starts. But as devotees, we have nothing to worry about if we surrender to Lord Krsna. A devotee does not fear death. A devotee of the Lord is always fearless because of the protection given by the Lord. Rather he looks forward to death because he has a chance to go to a better place after death. No wonder, Arjuna prayed to Lord Krsna in the same mood:

“O my Lord Sri Krsna, You are the almighty Personality of Godhead. There is no limit to Your different energies. Therefore only You are competent to instill fearlessness in the hearts of Your devotees. Everyone in the flames of material miseries can find the path of liberation in You only.” (SB 1.7.21-22)

Even though the Supreme Lord is impartial, He is nevertheless partial to His devotees. He is more inclined to His own men and devotees. Therefore why shouldn’t we take shelter of His lotus feet? Why shouldn’t we fully surrender unto Him? Why shouldn’t we sing His glories by chanting His holy name? The process of Krsna consciousness is so simple.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (BG 18.66)

Yes, we need not fear. Krsna Himself is assuring us.

 

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Bitnami