Time, Place and Circumstances

Hare Krsna,

The notion of time, place and circumstances exist in every aspect of life. I am reminded of an example Srila Prabhupada gave on this principle. He said that singing for entertainment is one thing; but singing next to a sick person is considered a wrong action or bad behavior. Serving ice cold drink at night in a cold place might be received by a person with a reluctant heart, but when the ice was served during the hot hours of sunny day it would be gladly welcomed.

(Lectures : Bhagavad-gita 7.1 — Fiji, May 24, 1975)

In sports, we see this principle applied all the time. The players and the coaches change the game strategy according to time, place and circumstances. In other words, this means adapting to the environment. A mountaineer adopts a different strategy when he climbs the highest mountain peak such as Mount Everest as compared a mountain requiring lesser intensity. As one climbs higher up the mountain much above the sea level, the level of oxygen in the air decreases. Putting even one step forward is an arduous task. Due to less oxygen, the lungs and heart exert greater pressure to breathe in and circulate oxygen within the body. People who are not adapted to high mountaineering most often than not lose their lives. Then there is the factor of extreme cold winter, chances of avalanches, running out of oxygen cylinders, falling through the ice crevasse, etc. Every step in high mountains is fraught with danger. It is said that the golden rule in high mountaineering is knowing when to turn around. This means a good and experienced mountaineer is aware of time, place and circumstances surrounding him. He knows when to proceed ahead and when to turn around.

The spiritual masters also apply the same principle. Srila Prabhupada introduced Krsna consciousness movement in the western world keeping in mind the time, place and circumstances. Since people are too busy, he regulated chanting 16 rounds minimum. Since people are too much into sinful activities, he strictly mandated following the four regulative principles. I do not remember coming across similar instructions being strictly enforced in India in pre-ISKCON days (may be because Indians were generally considered pious). Even in his preaching, Srila Prabhupada was an expert preacher. He perfectly knew how to preach depending on the time, place and circumstances. His preaching to a scientific community would be markedly different than preaching to a general audience. Most of his preaching to scientific community focused on proving that life does not come from matter; rather life comes from God. Unfortunately nowadays I see that some preachers are unable to apply this principle effectively. No offense meant to them; but I see them talking about very advanced philosophical concepts to an audience who are hardly familiar with the basics of the Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, thus leaving the audience confused. I remember reading somewhere where Srila Prabhupada said that Jesus Christ did not teach everything to his followers because they were not ready. This means the time, place and circumstances were not right at that time. Srila Prabhupada’s coming to America was not a random event. Lord Krishna arranged the time, place and circumstances in such a way that the conditions became ready for people to receive the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. Humble and pure devotees like him acknowledge this fact and do not forget to appreciate the Lord’s hand behind all these events.

Another example where the principle of time, place and circumstance have been rightly applied is engaging the devotees in ISKCON in today’s times. In early days of ISKCON, most of the devotees were brahmacharis (and vaishnavis) living in temples. And they were actively engaged in preaching and book distribution activities. Nowadays the devotee congregations mostly constitute grihastas (families working and living outside the temple). Hence the mood of ISKCON slowly shifted from preaching to more of maintaining the status quo. Therefore the rules and regulations surrounding the devotional practices had to be updated to keep this change in mind. The standards of devotional services started varying from one temple to another. The preaching strategy also changed to namahattas and bhakti-vriksa programs. People complain that ISKCON has changed so much in its activities, affairs and standards. I do not accept this because ISKCON had to change itself according to time, place and circumstances. If it had not done so, ISKCON would have become irrelevant to modern society.

It is therefore important that we accept a bonafide spiritual master who instructs according to time, place and circumstance. They know how to adjust things, at the same time keep pace with the spiritual interest. Lord Caitanya kept in mind the time, place and circumstances of the sinful age of Kali Yuga when He established the yuga-dharma of this age, which is, chanting the Holy Name of the Lord.

Before I end, I want to include the following statements from Srila Prabhupada’s lecture:

“The Vaiṣṇava acaryas, just like our Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, and Nimbarka, and Viṣṇu Svami. They are all of the same movement. Ārādhyo-bhagavān vrajeśa-tanayaḥ, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam [SB 1.3.28]. That is their conclusion. There is no different conclusion. Although they have got varieties of methods—śuddhādvaita, dvaitādvaita, vaśiṣṭādvaita, like that—they present the same philosophy in clear way. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu presented the same philosophy, that acintya-bhedābheda. That is ācārya. Ācārya gives some way for simple understanding. The same conclusion, but according to the time, circumstances, they give a very easy method to understand. That is ācārya. Ācārya is following strictly the previous ācārya, but according to the circumstances, he may make little changes. That is… That change is not change from the original idea.” (Lectures : Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.12 — Mayapur, February 19, 1976)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Meditation on the Qualities of Kṛṣṇa

Hare Krsna,

CC Madhya 23.69 — Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then described the transcendental qualities of Krsna: “The transcendental qualities of Lord Krsna are unlimited. Out of these, sixty-four are considered prominent. The ears of the devotees are satisfied simply by hearing all these qualities one after the other.”

I like two of the four transcendental qualities that Krsna alone possesses; they are not manifested even in the personality of Narayana. (1) In His activities of conjugal love, He is always surrounded by His dear devotees who possess unequaled love for Him (2) His personal beauty and opulence are beyond compare. In simple terms, it is His prema and beauty that attracts me.

I grew up worshipping various demigods. We used to worship Krsna too but without realizing His supreme position. What I remember very clearly is that there was never any aspect of ‘love’ or ‘prema’ associated with the worship of demigods. We prayed to them out of fear rather than love. Contrastingly now, my worship of Lord Krsna is more out of love than fear. Love and devotion. That’s what we all are yearning for. There is something amazing about the loving aspect of Krsna. My sister, as soon as she took up Krsna consciousness recently, started worshipping the deities of Radha and Krsna. They are not formally installed. She just set them up on her altar. I find it extremely amazing and pleasing to hear that she bathes the Lords once a week. I never heard of she or my mother ever bathing the demigods. But Krsna consciousness is such that even a neophyte devotee can engage in loving devotional service with Krsna, as is proved by my sister’s devotion. That also proves Krsna’s another transcendental quality – His ability to attract everyone – even the self-satisfied souls. The desire to achieve Krsna prema is never satiated. The more we taste Krsna prema, the more we yearn to taste more. This naturally has a huge bearing in our devotional life. It gives us encouragement, motivation and the goal of our devotional life.

The second quality is Krsna’s personal beauty. His beautiful three-fold bending form and His pleasing smile are extremely captivating. There is a certain soothing effect upon seeing these form. In Bhagavad Gita, after Arjuna got frightened seeing the universal form of the Lord, we begged to see His two-armed original form. Then Krsna showed Arjuna that form. On seeing it, Arjuna prayed: “When Arjuna thus saw Kṛṣṇa in His original form, he said: O Janārdana, seeing this humanlike form, so very beautiful, I am now composed in mind, and I am restored to my original nature.” (BG 11.51).  In Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, Gopa Kumara met Krsna is His various forms. However he was not satisfied until he saw the two-armed form of Krsna in Goloka Vrindavana. As an aspiring devotee of the Lord, I too long to associate with Krsna in His two-armed original form. And that form is manifested only in Golaka Vrindavana. The beauty of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON movement is that be staying in his movement and following his instructions, we all can also go back to Godhead – to Goloka – where we can associate with the Lord in His original form. The process to achieve that goal is outlined by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad Gita.

BG 11.53: The form you are seeing with your transcendental eyes cannot be understood simply by studying the Vedas, nor by undergoing serious penances, nor by charity, nor by worship. It is not by these means that one can see Me as I am.

Bg 11.54 — My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.

Bg 11.55 — My dear Arjuna, he who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation, he who works for Me, who makes Me the supreme goal of his life, and who is friendly to every living being – he certainly comes to Me.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Love Makes the World Go Round

Hare Krsna,

Everyone in this material world is seeking love. There are songs, novels, movies and all kinds of dramatic productions written about love. Indeed “love makes the world go round.”

Srila Rupa Goswami is known as a rasācārya – teacher of the mellows and relationships of love between the eternal soul and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is a master in the science of love and he has heard this science from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is intricate, involved and expansive, more than any conditioned soul in the material world could imagine. How can one so deeply covered by matter understand such a science? Because of the soul’s material conditioning it is not possible to understand real, eternal divine love.  But when one is purified through the process of bhakti-yoga beginning with chanting the holy names of the Lord, the natural tendencies of love begin to awaken.

It has been a humble experience going through this lesson. It has been humbling because we have been exposed to the various intricacies of divine love that I never knew. The love that we all are familiar with in the material world is truly superficial and mundane in the material world. It’s mostly dry nowadays. Married couples say ‘I love you’ to each other a number of times in a day, and after sometime they are no longer together. The rate of divorces happening nowadays is mindboggling to say the least. One reason is that people are unaware of true love. The love existing today is at bodily platform. People are not aware that the source of love is the Supreme Lord Krishna. He is the reservoir of all love and pleasure. He is always blissful (ananda). When we engage in His devotional service, we can also swim in that ocean of ever-expanding love.

While in the material world love for someone may increase or decrease with time, it only increases in the spiritual world. There is no duality in transcendental realm. Everything is absolute including love for Krsna. It is interesting to learn that love of Godhead has various development stages and symptoms. Love of Godhead increases and is manifested as affection (sneha), counterlove (mana), love (praṇaya), attachment (raga), subattachment (anuraga), ecstasy (bhava) and sublime ecstasy (mahabhava). The analogy of sugarcane is very beautiful analogy to remember them.  This development is compared to sugarcane seeds, sugarcane plants, sugarcane juice, molasses, crude sugar, refined sugar, sugar candy and rock candy. What is even more interesting is that this transcendental love of Godhead is directly connected to the five transcendental mellow.

“According to the candidate possessing these transcendental qualities, there are five transcendental mellows — neutrality, servitorship, friendship, parental love and conjugal love. These five transcendental mellows exist permanently (sthāyī bhāva). The devotee may be attracted to one of these mellows, and thus he becomes happy. Kṛṣṇa also becomes inclined toward such a devotee and comes under his control.” (CC Madhya 23.42-46)

As Dhruva prabhu rightly mentioned in the forum post, it is very difficult to understand this real, eternal divine love because of our conditioning nature. But we must consider ourselves extremely fortunate that we are able to hear and read about the various facets of this love through the mercy of Mahaprabhu and our acaryas. Otherwise how would we have ever known the nature of love in the spiritual world? I hope just by hearing and meditating on it is a purifying experience.

What really gives me hope is that this divine love can be awakened by the softening of the heart. As we continue with the bhakti-yoga process and the chanting of the holy names, this love can be awakened. Just like the sugarcane goes through the transformation process to become a rock candy, our heart will also go through similar transformation in order to awaken the pure love of Godhead as long as we follow the bhakti-yoga process and instructions of our acaryas sincerely.

“The real symptoms of the fructification of the seed of love (rati) are manifested because the heart is melted.” (CC Madhya 23.42-46 Purport)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!


The Bhakti-lata and Parallel Teachings to Sanatana Gosvami

Hare Krsna,

In His teachings to Rupa Goswami, Lord Caitanya explained that by the mercy of pure devotee, one gets Krishna, and by the mercy of Krishna, one gets the association of a pure devotee. The seed of devotional service received from the pure devotee is the Lord’s Holy Name. (guru-krishna-prasade paya bhakti-lata bija). When watered by continual chanting, the seed of devotion fructifies and grows, piercing through the universal covering and entering the spiritual sky, where it continues to grow until it reaches the lotus feet of the Lord, where it blooms in full flower of love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya explained how to nurture the bhakti-lata-bija. He cautioned to avoid the mad elephant offense or vaishnava aparadha, the 10 offenses against the Holy Name, neglect of regulative principles, etc. Then the Lord touched upon the different stages of devotional service such as the nine processes of bhakti-yoga, realization of service, and attainment of love of Godhead in different stages. By regularly rendering devotional service, one gradually becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When that attachment is intensified, it becomes love of Godhead. (CC Madhya 19.177) The Lord explained how the attainment of love of Godhead is achieved through different stages such as affection, abhorrence, love, attachment, further attachment, ecstasy, and great ecstasy. (CC Madhya 19.178). By giving the example of transformation of sugar, the Lord explained the different stages of development of love of Godhead. These stages are sthayibhava, vibhava, anubhava, sattvika and vyabhicari.

The Lord said to Rupa Goswami:

When one is situated in pure devotional service, he develops love of Godhead; therefore let me describe some of the symptoms of pure devotional service.” (CC Madhya 19.166)

Through the example of bhakti-lata-bija (devotional creeper), the Lord explained how to grow and nurture the seed of bhakti that is sown by the pure devotee of Krishna. It’s similar to planting a seed and nurturing it to grow into a tree. The fruits of the tree grow much later. In the beginning stages, we make sure that the seed is protected and cared for properly to grow, under the right conditions. Once the plant has reached its mature stage, it becomes a tree and starts giving the fruits. Lord Caitanya’s teachings to Rupa and Sanatana are exactly like this. He instructed Rupa Goswami how to grow the seed of bhakti. Once the creeper has fully matured, it fructifies into love of Godhead. How do we know that the tree has reached this stage? We know it through the symptoms.  In His teachings to Sanatana, the Lord explains in detail the symptoms of pure devotional service.

Love of Godhead is compared to the shining of the sun – it makes the devotee’s heart more and more lovely. It is attained when one is firmly convinced that the Lord is the only object of love and worship. Such a devotee feels an intimacy in his relationship with Krishna and with no one else. It is developed in nine stages (sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriya, etc.) The Lord then explained the nine symptoms of bhava which is the preliminary stage before prema. The nine symptoms of bhava are: forgiveness, concern that time should not be wasted, detachment, absence of false prestige, hope, eagerness, a taste for chanting the holy name of the Lord, attachment to descriptions of the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and affection for those places where the Lord resides — that is, a temple or a holy place like Vṛndāvana. These are all called anubhāva, subordinate signs of ecstatic emotion. They are visible in a person in whose heart the seed of love of God has begun to fructify. (CC Madhya 23.18-19)

In both these types of devotional service (vaidhi sadhana bhakti and raganuga bhakti), association of devotees, chanting and hearing are utmost important.

The spiritually powerful message of Godhead can be properly discussed only in a society of devotees, and it is greatly pleasing to hear in that association. If one hears from devotees, the way of transcendental experience quickly opens, and gradually one attains firm faith that in due course develops into attraction and devotion.” (CC Madhya 23.16)

Looking closely at Lord Caitanya’s teachings to Rupa Gosvami, we see that He began by describing the tiny living entities wandering in the material world…..how those who are fortunate receive the opportunity to render devotional service to the Lord (bhakti-lata bija)…..and how by following the process prescribed by the spiritual master love of God develops — all the way up to prema beginning with CC Madhya 19.177:

CC Madhya 19.177-179 — “By regularly rendering devotional service, one gradually becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When that attachment is intensified, it becomes love of Godhead. The basic aspects of prema, when gradually increasing to different states, are affection, abhorrence, love, attachment, further attachment, ecstasy and great ecstasy. The gradual development of prema may be compared to different states of sugar. First there is the seed of the sugarcane, then sugarcane and then the juice extracted from the cane. When this juice is boiled, it forms liquid molasses, then solid molasses, then sugar, candy, rock candy and finally lozenges.”
Lord Caitanya continued describing prema-bhakti almost until the end of the chapter…..thus, although it is not mentioned that these later stages are in the raganuga-bhakti category, it should be understood that they are from later descriptions imparted to Sanatana Gosvami.
The bottom line is that Lord Caitanya taught both Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami’s the same principles, but presented them slightly differently. An example that illuminates this is adding various numbers, but coming to the same conclusion; one can add 3+4 =7, but one can also add 6+1 = 7 or even 5+2 = 7………the conclusion remains the same in all examples, but the presentation to get there is slightly modified.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!