Devotional Service and Its Result

Hare Krsna,

CC Madhya 22.4 — “Now I shall speak about the characteristics of devotional service, by which one can attain the shelter of Kṛṣṇa and His loving transcendental service.

CC Madhya 22.5 — “A human being’s activities should be centered only on devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa. That is the verdict of all Vedic literatures, and all saintly people have firmly concluded this.

In Bhagavad Gita too, Lord Krsna says that only through devotional service can one understand Him.

BG 18.55: One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.

Devotional service is the only process to approach Krsna. This is the verdict of all Vedic literatures.

We should understand that bhakti is always distinct from karma and jnana. The accomplishments of results on the paths of jnana, karma, etc. are completely dependent on bhakti. This has been said by none other than Lord Brahma. He says that devotional service to the Lord is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble. (SB 10.14.4)

Why is this so? This is because devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the natural and eternal function of every living entity. Fruitive activity, mystic meditation and philosophical speculation are not direct methods of self-realization. They are indirect because without devotional service they cannot lead to the highest perfection of self-realization. Indeed, all paths to self-realization ultimately depend on the path of devotional service.

We can prove this through the example of Srila Vyasadeva. Even after compiling all the Vedic literatures, he was still despondent. Seeing his dejection, Narada Muni appeared. He is the spiritual master of Vyasadeva. Narada Muni explained the deficiency in Vyasadeva’s compilation of books. Narada Muni said that even pure knowledge does not look well unless it is complemented by transcendental devotional service. And what to speak of fruitive activities when they are devoid of devotional service? How can they be of any benefit to their performer? The following beautiful verses from Srimad Bhagavatam very beautifully highlights the supreme position of devotional service.

SB 1.5.8 — Śrī Nārada said: You have not actually broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is considered worthless.

SB 1.5.9 — Although, great sage, you have very broadly described the four principles beginning with religious performances, you have not described the glories of the Supreme Personality, Vāsudeva.

SB 1.5.10 — Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all-perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there.

SB 1.5.11 — On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.

SB 1.5.12 — Knowledge of self-realization, even though free from all material affinity, does not look well if devoid of a conception of the Infallible [God]. What, then, is the use of fruitive activities, which are naturally painful from the very beginning and transient by nature, if they are not utilized for the devotional service of the Lord?

In this way, Narada Muni instructed Vyasadeva to describe Supreme Lord’s glories in the form of Srimad Bhagavatam. I consider Sri Caitanya Caritamrta at the same level as Srimad Bhagavatam because it also glories the Supreme Lord who appeared as Lord Caitanya.

Thus without bhakti (devotional service), all other endeavors are fruitless. Karma, jnana and yoga cannot actually awaken love of Godhead. One has to take to the Lord’s devotional service.

CC Madhya 22.17 — “Devotional service to Kṛṣṇa is the chief function of the living entity. There are different methods for the liberation of the conditioned soul — karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti — but all the others are dependent on bhakti.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Talks between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sanatana Gosvami

Hare Krsna,

From the instructions of Lord Caitanya to Sanatana Goswami, we can understand the transcendental science of God. The initial part of the discussion between the two focused primarily on sambhanda-jnana – the knowledge of one’s constitutional relationship to God. Before one gets to that stage, one must have an honest inquiry such as who am I, what is the goal of my life, why am I suffering in this world, etc. This is called at athato brahma-jijnasa. This is the beginning of liberation from the material world. Unless one is disgusted with the enjoyment of this material world, he cannot aspire for liberation. Those who have given up the attempt to be happy in this material world can inquire about the Absolute Truth.

Srila Sanatana Goswami started his inquiry in the same manner.

Putting a straw in his mouth and bowing down, Sanātana Gosvāmī clasped the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and humbly spoke as follows. Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “I was born in a low family, and my associates are all low-class men. I myself am fallen and am the lowest of men. Indeed, I have passed my whole life fallen in the well of sinful materialism. I do not know what is beneficial for me or what is detrimental. Nonetheless, in ordinary dealings people consider me a learned scholar, and I am also thinking of myself as such. Out of Your causeless mercy, You have delivered me from the materialistic path. Now, by the same causeless mercy, please tell me what my duty is.” (CC Madhya 20.98 – 101)

This exchange between Lord Caitanya and Sanatana Goswami teaches us an important aspect of guru-sisya relationship. One should approach a spiritual master, humbly submit to him and inquire from him about one’s spiritual progress. It is the duty of a disciple to inquire about his constitutional position when approaching a spiritual master.

BG 4.34: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

Lord Caitanya was pleased by Sanātana’s submissive behavior, and He replied, ““Lord Kṛṣṇa has bestowed His full mercy upon you so that all these things are known to you. For you, the threefold miseries certainly do not exist. Since you possess Lord Kṛṣṇa’s potency, you certainly know these things. However, it is the nature of a sādhu to inquire. Although he knows these things, the sādhu inquires for the sake of strictness.” (CC Madhya 20.104)

Approaching a spiritual master is a prime necessity for one who is seriously conscious of his material miseries and who wants to be free of them.  As I write this, I just remembered that today is Gita Jayanti. The Bhagavad Gita was spoken to Arjuna by Lord Krsna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra 5000 years ago. And how did it all start? Arjuna was perplexed, he was not sure what is true duty was. Finally out of frustration, he surrendered to the Lord in the following verse:

BG 2.7: Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.

“As with Lord Caitanya’s instructing Sanātana Gosvāmī, the Bhagavad-gītā is also a case of the supreme spiritual master instructing His disciple about the constitutional position of the living entity. In the Bhagavad-gītā we are informed that the constitutional nature of the individual entity is spirit soul. He is not matter. As spirit soul, he is part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. We also learn that it is the duty of the spirit soul to surrender to the Supreme Soul, for only then can he be happy. The last instruction of the Bhagavad-gītā is that the spirit soul should surrender completely unto the Supreme Soul, Kṛṣṇa, and in that way realize happiness.

Here also, Lord Caitanya, answering the questions of Sanātana, repeats the same truth. There is a difference, however. Here Lord Caitanya does not give the information about the spirit soul that is already described in the Bhagavad-gītā. Rather, He begins from the point where Kṛṣṇa ended His instruction. It is accepted by great devotees that Lord Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa Himself, and, as such, He begins His instruction to Sanātana from the point where He ended His instructions to Arjuna in the Gītā.” (Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 3)

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krsna instructs Arjuna that he is not the body, but the spirit soul and part and parcel of Krsna. Lord Caitanya takes this even further in his instructions to Sanatana Goswami. He highlights the sambandha (relationship) between the jiva and the Lord.

“It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa because he is the marginal energy of Kṛṣṇa and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Kṛṣṇa has three varieties of energy.” (CC Madhya 20.108-109)

This simultaneous oneness and difference always exists in the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Reflections on glories of Srimad Bhagavatam

Hare Krsna,

I had a very different realization while reading Caitanya Caritamrta recently. I couldn’t stop admiring the number of verses quoted from scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-Gita, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu quotes numerous verses from Srimad Bhagavatam in His teachings to Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami.

This made me wonder how glorious is Srimad Bhagavatam that Lord Caitanya Himself quotes from it. Through this, the Lord is teaching us two important lessons:

  1. Srimad Bhagavatam is the crest jewel of all Vedic scriptures
  2. One should support one’s preachings and teachings by citing from the scriptures. There is no place for mental speculation; every argument has to be backed up by the scripture.

A few words on the importance of Srimad Bhagavatam. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepts the Srimad-Bhagavata Puraṇa as the spotless literature for understanding the Lord because it contains the transcendental narration of the Personality of Godhead Sri Kṛṣṇa. (SB 1.1.1 Purport). The Srimad-Bhagavatam is also full of such narrations about the relationship between the Supreme Lord and His devotees; therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam is very dear to the devotees, as stated in the Bhagavatam itself (12.13.18). Śrīmad-bhāgavataṁ purāṇam amalaṁ yad vaiṣṇavānāṁ priyam.

SB 1.1.1 and SB 1.1.2 mention that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the sublime literature which surpasses all other Vedic scriptures due to its transcendental qualities. It is transcendental to all mundane activities and mundane knowledge. In this sloka it is stated that Srimad-Bhagavatam is not only a superior literature but is the ripened fruit of all Vedic literatures. In other words, it is the cream of all Vedic knowledge. Considering all this, patient and submissive hearing is definitely essential.

Srimad Bhagavatam is the highest source of knowledge. The philosophy taught by Srimad Bhagavatam and Lord Caitanya are non-different. This, therefore, proves that Lord Caitanya’s philosophy is the highest. Whatever He taught to Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami is the highest philosophy. If Srimad Bhagavatam were not the highest source of knowledge, why would our acaryas waste their time writing numerous commentaries on it? Srila Jiva Goswami wrote Sad-Sandarbha – a six-book commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam. Sridhara Swami is a significant acarya in our line of disciplic succession whose commentaries on Srimad Bhagavatam are widely referred and cited. And more recently, our very own Srila Prabhupada dedicated his entire life translating Srimad Bhagavatam. In fact, his sojourn to the West and preaching Krsna consciousness to western world started only after he completed translation of three volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam. The scripture is so important to him that he mandated Srimad Bhagavatam class every morning in every ISKCON temple in the world. Srimad Bhagavatam is non-different from Krsna Himself.

“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 1.3.43)

Just meditating on the supreme position of Srimad Bhagavatam among all Puranas gives me goosebumps, and also makes me think how fortunate we are to have received this knowledge through bonafide sources. This makes me very inspired to make study of Srimad Bhagavatam my life’s goal.

Therefore, if we claim ourselves to be true disciples of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya, we must follow their instructions closely by studying Srimad Bhagavatam regularly (if not every day).

“One should conclude, therefore, that the serious student of the rasa should receive the message of Bhagavatam in the chain of disciplic succession from Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, who describes the Bhagavatam from its very beginning and not whimsically to satisfy the mundaner who has very little knowledge in transcendental science. Srimad-Bhagavatam is so carefully presented that a sincere and serious person can at once enjoy the ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge simply by drinking the nectarean juice through the mouth of Sukadeva Gosvami or his bona fide representative.” (SB 1.1.3 Purport)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada who gave us this transcendental literature called Srimad Bhagavatam!

All glories to Srimad Bhagavatam!

Why Mayavadi Impersonalists cannot chant the holy name of Krsna

Hare Krsna!!!

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu answered, “The Māyāvādī impersonalists are great offenders unto Lord Kṛṣṇa; therefore they simply utter the words ‘Brahman,’ ‘ātmā’ and ‘caitanya.’ Because they are offenders unto Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is identical with His holy name, the holy name ‘Kṛṣṇa’ does not manifest in their mouths. The Lord’s holy name, His form and His personality are all one and the same. There is no difference between them. Since all of them are absolute, they are all transcendentally blissful. There is no difference between Kṛṣṇa’s body and Himself or between His name and Himself. But as far as the conditioned soul is concerned, one’s name is different from one’s body, from one’s original form and so on.” (CC Madhya 17.129-132)

It is astonishing that Prakasananda Sarasvati could not utter the name ‘Krsna’. He chanted ‘Caitanya, Caitanya, Caitanya’ but not the holy name of Krsna. Mahaprabhu explained that since Prakasananda Sarasvati (and other mayavadis) do not believe in the transcendental nature of Krsna, they cannot chant His holy name. How can one chant something if he does not believe in it? The holy name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are non-different. Since the Mayavadis do not believe in the personal form of Krsna, the holy name of Krsna does not manifest in their mouths. It’s as simple as that.

Therefore, it is important to understand the true identity of the Holy Name. Unless we know what the holy name is and what it represents, we will not be able to appreciate it. Without true appreciation of the holy name, our chanting will just be mechanical. Therefore, Lord Caitanya quoted the following from Padma Purana:

“ ’The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.’”

Srila Prabhupada explains beautifully that the name of Krsna and Krsna the person are both identical and spiritual. Everything about Krsna is sac-cid-ananda (transcendental, blissful, and eternal). For a conditioned soul, the body is different from the soul. The name given to us by our parents is related to the body. Therefore we respond whenever someone calls our name in our physical presence. But if we are beckoned by someone when we are not around that person, we will not be able to hear that person. But this is not the case with Krsna. Krsna’s name and His person are identical. He is all-pervading through His various energies. If we utter the holy name of Krsna, Krsna is immediately present on our tongue. In the Padma Purāṇa, Kṛṣṇa says, mad-bhaktā yatra gāyanti tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada: “O Nārada, I am present wherever My devotees are chanting.” When the devotees chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — Lord Kṛṣṇa is immediately present.

“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued, “The holy name of Kṛṣṇa, His body and His pastimes cannot be understood by the blunt material senses. They are manifested independently. Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, transcendental qualities and transcendental pastimes are all equal to Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. They are all spiritual and full of bliss.” (CC Madhya 17.134-135)

“The material senses cannot appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, form, qualities and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Kṛṣṇa really is.” (CC Madhya 17.136)

Since Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental body, name, form, qualities, pastimes and entourage are all the Absolute Truth, they are as good as Kṛṣṇa Himself (sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha). In the material world, there is no conception of absolute. Our material name, form and qualities are different from one another. But this is not the case with Krsna. We have to understand that there is no material difference between Kṛṣṇa’s body and His names, activities and entourage. Only when we develop the understanding and steady faith in the Absolute Truth and its spiritual varieties — name, form, qualities and pastimes – will we be able to chant His holy name.

Lord Caitanya is so merciful that He delivered even the mayavadis and made them take up devotional service to Krsna. Such is the most-merciful nature of the Lord.

All glories to Sri Sri Gaur-Nitai!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Unlimited Female Forms in Vaikuṇṭha and Goloka Vrndavana

Hare Krsna,

The goddesses of fortune are all eternal associates of the Lord. Just as the original form of the Lord expands unlimitedly, Srimati Radharani also expands with consorts to accompany the various forms of the Lord. So there are no material desires or contamination in any of them.

CC Ādi 4.73 — Now please listen to how Lord Kṛṣṇa’s consorts help Him taste rasa and how they help in His pastimes.

CC Ādi 4.74-75 — The beloved consorts of Lord Kṛṣṇa are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens, and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Rādhikā.

CC Ādi 4.76 — Just as the fountainhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is the cause of all incarnations, so Śrī Rādhā is the cause of all these consorts.

CC Ādi 4.77 — The goddesses of fortune are partial manifestations of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and the queens are reflections of Her image.

CC Ādi 4.78 — The goddesses of fortune are Her plenary portions, and they display the forms of vaibhava-vilāsa. The queens are of the nature of Her vaibhava-prakāśa.

CC Ādi 4.79 — The Vraja-devīs have diverse bodily features. They are Her expansions and are the instruments for expanding rasa.

CC Ādi 4.80 — Without many consorts, there is not such exultation in rasa. Therefore there are many manifestations of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to assist in the Lord’s pastimes.

CC Ādi 4.81 — Among them are various groups of consorts in Vraja who have varieties of sentiments and mellows. They help Lord Kṛṣṇa taste all the sweetness of the rāsa dance and other pastimes.

NOTE TEXT 78 – “The goddesses of fortune are Her plenary portions, and they display the forms of vaibhava-vilāsa. The queens are of the nature of Her vaibhava-prakāśa.”

and Text 80 explains why they manifest: “Without many consorts, there is not such exultation in rasa. Therefore there are many manifestations of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to assist in the Lord’s pastimes.”

In essence, both the unlimited female forms in Vaikuntha and Goloka Vrndavana are all eternal associates of the Lord. Therefore, to make a judgement that one group of female associates is better than the other is faulty. They all exist to serve the Supreme Lord and fulfill His unlimited desires.

Brahma Samhita 5.29: I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakṣmīs or gopīs.

The Lord has unlimited desires and each associate of the Lord serves Him in his/her own rasa.

SB 1.1.3: In the revealed scriptures the following twelve varieties of rasas are enumerated: (1) raudra (anger), (2) adbhuta (wonder), (3) śṛṅgāra (conjugal love), (4) hāsya (comedy), (5) vīra (chivalry), (6) dayā (mercy), (7) dāsya (servitorship), (8) sakhya (fraternity), (9) bhayānaka (horror), (10) bībhatsa (shock), (11) śānta (neutrality), (12) vātsalya (parenthood).

SB 1.1.3 Purport: The sum total of all these rasas is called affection or love. Primarily, such signs of love are manifested in adoration, service, friendship, parental affection, and conjugal love. And when these five are absent, love is present indirectly in anger, wonder, comedy, chivalry, fear, shock and so on… the rasas were originally exchanged between the spiritual living being and the spiritual whole, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritual exchange or rasa is fully exhibited in spiritual existence between living beings and the Supreme Lord.

SB 1.1.3 Purport: The Supreme Personality of Godhead is therefore described in the śruti-mantras, Vedic hymns, as “the fountainhead of all rasas.” These śruti-mantras indicate that every living being has its constitutional position, which is endowed with a particular type of rasa to be exchanged with the Personality of Godhead. In the liberated condition only, this primary rasa is experienced in full. In the material existence, the rasa is experienced in the perverted form, which is temporary. And thus the rasas of the material world are exhibited in the material form of raudra (anger) and so on.

When Svarupa Damodara explained to Lord Caitanya why Laksmidevi, the goddess of fortune, could not be admitted to the pastimes of Vrndavana, I understand this as a pastime of the Lord. Laksmidevi showing anger after feeling neglected by her husband is also a sweet transcendental pastime between the Lord and she. Just as the gopis were left in lamentation after Lord Krsna suddenly left the rasa dance. There is no fault on the part of the Lord or the goddesses of fortune or the gopis. We should just consider them as manifestation of Lord’s inconceivable eternal pastime.

CC Madhya 14.154-157 — Dāmodara Gosvāmī said, “Kṛṣṇa is the master of all transcendental mellows and the taster of all transcendental mellows, and His body is composed of transcendental bliss. Kṛṣṇa is full of ecstatic love and always subordinate to the love of His devotees. The gopīs are very much experienced in pure love and in the dealings of transcendental mellows. There is no flaw or adulteration in the love of the gopīs; therefore they give Kṛṣṇa the highest pleasure.

In summary, all the eternal associates of the Lord, including the unlimited female forms in Vaikuṇṭha and Goloka Vṛndāvana, all fulfill the unlimited desires of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His own unlimited forms. They all are transcendental spirit souls.

Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supreme Brahman and Supersoul, is not at all interested in anything material. His activities with the gopīs are all spiritual and take place within the spiritual world. Lord Kṛṣṇa’s lusty desires and all His dealings with the gopīs are on the spiritual platform.

Since we are on the mundane platform, we find it difficult to fully understand the Lord’s transcendental pastimes. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, advises that one who is on the mundane platform must first purify himself by following the regulative principles. Only then can he try to understand the pastimes of Krsna with the gopis.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Cleansing the Guṇḍica Temple Compared to Cleansing One’s Heart

Hare Krsna,

Recently I studied Madhurya Kadambini (written by Srila Viswanatha Chakravarti Thakur). That book describes the nine stage of devotional progress starting from sraddha (faith), sadhu sanga (association with devotees), and so on. One of the stages is anartha-nivrtti (cleansing on unwanted habits). It is described that anartha-nivrtti stage is the make or break stage. This is the phase where spiritual practitioners get stuck at for the longest time.  Once this hurdle is crossed, devotional journey becomes easier and one becomes situated in steadiness (nishta). But devotees generally struggle with this stage (anartha-nivrtti). That’s because either they are not fully aware of their anartha, or, if aware, they do not work hard enough to remove them or not sure about the right way to remove them. All these anarthas reside in our heart, and that’s where impurity begins. Therefore our acaryas stressed upon removing these impurities.

Lord Caitanya demonstrates the importance of cleaning the heart through the service of cleansing the Gundica temple. He gave instructions on how one should receive Lord Krsna within one’s cleansed and purified heart. He also showed that by chanting the Holy Name, one can cleanse one’s heart.

“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krsna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence.” (Sri Siksastakam 1)

In Nectar of Instruction Verse 7, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The real disease is in the heart. If the mind is cleansed, however, if consciousness is cleansed, a person cannot be harmed by the material disease. To cleanse the mind and heart from all misconceptions, one should take to this chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. This is both easy and beneficial. By chanting the holy name of the Lord, one is immediately freed from the blazing fire of material existence.”

As a devotee, I have realized that often we are so engaged on the external aspects of devotional service that we neglect to focus on the internal aspects (cleansing of the heart). I am not a pure devotee because of the impurities and dirt in my heart. Unless I remove them, I will not be able to make progress in devotional journey.

Most of the time, we do not even notice our anarthas but someone else notices. For example: if I have a tendency to be critical of devotees; I may not realize that I am offensive to devotees. But others can point out that there is something wrong in my behavior to devotees. Hence my humble realization is that anarthas are very difficult to be dealth with individually; we need the guidance of senior devotees. Anarthas are like diseases. We cannot fight them alone; we need good doctors (devotees) and the Lord’s mercy to help us.

Over time, I have seen that new anarthas keep on surfacing. This could be due to conditioning from previous lives. It is very difficult to determine how many such anarthas are hidden in our hearts. The good thing about serious chanting is that these anarthas become revealed to us gradually; it is up to us to acknowledge the existence of these anarthas and address them one at a time.

Chanting of the Holy Name is the most effective way to cleanse our heart of all anarthas.

“If a devotee at all wants to cleanse his heart, he must chant and hear the glories of the Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa (śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ). This is a simple process. Kṛṣṇa Himself will help cleanse the heart because He is already seated there. Kṛṣṇa wants to continue living within the heart, and the Lord wants to give directions, but one has to keep his heart as clean as Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu kept the Guṇḍicā temple. The devotee therefore has to cleanse his heart just as the Lord cleansed the Guṇḍicā temple. In this way one can be pacified and enriched in devotional service.” (CC Madhya 12.133-135)

“Thus the cleansing of the Guṇḍicā-mandira was conducted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to let us know how the heart should be cleansed and soothed to receive Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and enable Him to sit within the heart without disturbance. (CC Madhya 12.133-135)

We must take shelter of Lord Krsna, our spiritual masters and scriptures. They collectively can help us address our anarthas. We need to pray to them sincerely to help us in this endeavor. My favorite prayer is to Lord Nrsimhadev (om namo bhagavate nrsimhaya..) to help me remove the anarthas from my hearts.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Revelations to Ramananda Raya

Hare Krsna,

In this post, I want to write about understanding Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya through disciplic succession as mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrta. Accepting the message of the Lord through the disciplic succession is the most bonafide way to receive instructions. In this chapter (Madhya Chapter 8), we see how Ramananda Raya received understood the philosophy directly from Lord Caitanya. And it is not a blind transmission of message from a superior authority. There is a beautiful inquiry between the two. Lord Caitanya put up questions to Ramananda Raya; Ramananda Raya answered the questions; the Lord refuted them and got to the real philosophy. So what exactly transpired?

First Ramananda Raya enunciated the system of the varṇasrama institution. He recited various verses about karmarpaṇa, stating that everything should be dedicated to the Lord. He then spoke of detached action, knowledge mixed with devotional service, and finally the spontaneous loving service of the Lord. The Lord refuted each item one by one until they got to the platform of pure devotional service. Lord Caitanya accepted the principle of pure devotional service devoid of all kinds of speculation. Lord Caitanya then asked Ramananda Raya to explain the higher platform of devotional service. Then Ramananda Raya explained unalloyed devotional service, love of Godhead, and serving the Lord in the moods of pure servitude, fraternity and parental love. Finally he spoke of serving the Lord in conjugal love. He then spoke of how conjugal love can be developed in various ways. This conjugal love attains its highest perfection in Srimati Radharaṇi’s love for Kṛṣṇa. Through this line of questions and answers, Ramananda Raya could understand the position of Lord Caitanya. This being the case, Lord Caitanya revealed His real form to Ramananda Raya. Ramananda Raya understood that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a combination of Radha and Kṛṣṇa. śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nahe anya

Thus we see that the truth about the Supreme Lord can come only from Him through the parampara system. In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1, it says tene brahma hrdya adi kavaye. The vedic knowledge is implanted unto the heart of Lord Brahma. Similarly here the real form and mood of Lord Caitanya is revealed to Ramananda Raya. Similarly Lord Caitanya directly empowered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami. They, in turn, encapsulated everything in their books that have been passed over to subsequent generations through the chain of bonafide disciples. And today, we are reading the same pastimes of the Lord through the translation of Srila Prabhupada who comes from the same line of disciplic succession.

Therefore sincere inquiry and hearing from bonafide disciplic succession is the way to understand the Supreme Lord.

tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā | upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. (BG 4.34)

In the purport, Srila Prabhupada writes that “the path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders.”

” The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is following as strictly as possible in the footsteps of the Gosvamis. The philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to become the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord. Whoever wants to understand the difficult subject matter of kṛṣṇa-katha should accept the disciplic succession.” (CC Madhya 25.271 purport)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Deity Forms of the Supreme Lord

Hare Krsna,

It is said that in the beginning of one’s Krsna consciousness, one is not able to see the Lord. We see Him by hearing about Him. Seeing Him through our material eyes is not possible. We have to spiritualize our eyes in order to see Him in person. Although the Lord is not visible in the beginning because of His glaring bodily effulgence, if a devotee sincerely wants to see Him, the Lord is revealed to him. It is said in Bhagavad-gita that the Lord cannot be seen by our imperfect eyes, He cannot be heard by our imperfect ears, and He cannot be experienced by our imperfect senses, but that if one engages in devotional service with faith and devotion, then God reveals Himself.

Therefore the Lord, out of His causeless mercy, appears in His arca-vigraha form. This form of the Lord is unlike any idols that we generally know of. The difference between the idols and archa-vigraha forms of the Lord are that in the case of latter, the forms are consecrated through elaborate Vedic mantras and rituals. It is called prana prathistha. It is a rite or ceremony by which the Lord is invited to come and reside in the idols. As part of this process, the eye is opened for the first time. Thus the arca-vigraha form of the Lord manifests in that idol. This is especially significant for us because the Lord allows Himself to be visible to our naked eyes through this form of His.

Hence it is an offense to consider the arca-vigraha forms as mundane or material. It is actually the real Lord appearing in front of us. Ask any senior devotee who has worshipped that form of the Lord for a considerable number of years. He/she will allude to numerous pastimes between him/her and the Lord.

For a neophyte devotee (like me), it takes a while to be cognizant that the Lord is present in the Deity forms. I am slowly acquiring that cognizance. The Lord reveals Himself according to the degree of our surrender, our service unto Him, and purity. Therefore utmost pure devotee are able to reciprocate with the Lord just as two normal persons would. I read a pastime of Srila Prabhupada recently (quoted by HH Sacinananda Swami Maharaj). He said that once when he was a brahmacari living in a temple, he was washing the Deity dishes. Srila Prabhupada happened to be at the temple during that temple. Suddenly the temple president came up to him and told him angrily that Srila Prabhupada is very angry. It seems the Deity told Srila Prabhupada that the offering plates are not very clean. Srila Prabhupada was furious upon hearing that. This is an example of how a pure devotee and the Lord, in His Deity form, can communicate to each other.

It is therefore not all astonishing about the pastimes of the Gopala and Saksi-gopala Deities.

“A pure devotee, even though he knows everything of the Supreme Lord, can speak with the Lord exactly as if He were a common man. Although the dealings between the Lord and His devotee are always very simple and open, there is formality. All these things happen because of the connection between the Lord and the devotee.” (CC Madhya 5.88-90 Purport)

“The conversation between Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the brāhmaṇa is proof that the Lord in His arcā-mūrti, or form made of material elements, is not material, for those elements, although separated from the Lord, are also a part of the Lord’s energy, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Because the elements are the Lord’s own energy and because there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the Lord can appear through any element. Just as the sun can act through the sunshine and thus distribute its heat and light, so Kṛṣṇa, by His inconceivable power, can appear in His original spiritual form in any material element, including stone, wood, paint, gold, silver and jewels, because the material elements are all His energy. The śāstras warn, arcye viṣṇau śilā-dhīḥ . . . nārakī saḥ: one should never think of the arcā-mūrti, the Deity within the temple, as stone, wood or any other material element. Because of his advanced devotional position, the younger brāhmaṇa knew that although the Deity of Gopāla appeared to be stone, He was not stone. He was the son of Nanda Mahārāja, Vrajendra-nandana Himself. As such, the Deity could act exactly as the Lord does in His original form as Kṛṣṇa.

Lord Kṛṣṇa was talking to the young brāhmaṇa just to test his knowledge about the arcā-vigraha. In other words, those who have understood the science of Kṛṣṇa — Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities and so forth — can also talk with the Deity. To an ordinary person, however, the Deity will appear to be made of stone, wood or some other material. In the higher sense, since all material elements ultimately emanate from the supreme spiritual entity, nothing is really material. Being omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, Kṛṣṇa can deal with His devotee in any form without difficulty. By the mercy of the Lord, the devotee knows perfectly well about the Lord’s dealings. Indeed, he can talk face to face with the Lord.” (CC Madhya 5.97-100 Purport)

One should be very careful not to commit any offenses towards the arca-vigraha forms of the Lord. Even if the cognizance that the Lord exists in His Deity forms in not manifested within one’s heart yet, one should still humbly offer obeisances to the Deities. Just pretending (if one cannot accept) that the Lord exists in these forms will help us from committing any offense. Gradually the Lord will reveal Himself to us.

“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (BG 9.34)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Love in Separation Between Lord Caitanya and Mother Sacidevi

Hare Krsna,

I think I can relate, to some extent, this separation between Lord Caitanya and Mother Sacidevi to my personal life. I am very close to my parents, and especially to my mother who lives in India. When I was coming to US few years ago, there arose a feeling of separation between us. My mother was very sad that I would be away from home very far away. She has seen enough instances in the society where children leave home and go either abroad or different cities; first the children visit their parents once a year, then the visit comes down to once every couple of years. Gradually the frequency of visits dwindle and in some cases, the visits stop altogether. My mother went through the same anxiety too. What if I never come back? What if I forget her? There was a sense of separation and longing in her for me, just as Mother Sacidevi had for the Lord. I promised her that I would visit her every year. I was able to do that so far, but this year I do not think I can visit due to visa issues. But one thing I realized is that our love for each other grew stronger each year. I miss being away from my parents, and they miss me too. I live mostly alone here in US, and so I feel greater separation for them. I totally agree with what Dhruva prabhu wrote, “Absence make the heart grow fonder.”

While my sense of separation from my mother is on material and bodily platform, the separation between Lord Caitanya and Mother Sacidevi is totally transcendental. They are eternal associates. Even though Mother Sacidevi felt a deep sense of impending separation from the Lord, there is still a transcendental bliss that she enjoys. This is the beauty of Krsna consciousness; the separation between the Lord and His devotees is also a form of association. In his Padyavali Srila Rupa Goswami cites this verse:

If I have to choose between union with Krishna and separation from Him, I would choose separation, because when I am with Krishna I see only one Krishna, but when I am separated from Him, then I see Krishna coming toward me from every corner of the universe.

For devotees of the Lord, the world feels empty in the absence of their beloved Lord. Lord Caitanya says in Sri Siksastaka, verse 7:

O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, a moment feels like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.

Srila Prabhupada, in his purport to CC Adi 4.108, wrote, “Those under the shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu can understand that his mode of worship of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa in separation is the real worship of the Lord. When the feelings of separation become very intense, one attains the stage of meeting Sri Kṛṣṇa.”

Therefore transcendental separation is actually nice and must desired. Our conditioning nature may not help us appreciate it much, but we must learn this from the conduct of the Lord and His pure devotees. In truth, one is never separated from the Lord as long as He associates with His Holy Name or performs other forms of devotional service to Him. By chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare we can minimize the distress of separation from the Lord, and stay connected with Him at all times. In fact, separation is the best mood in which to perform devotional service.

We must also note the sacrifice both the Lord, and His mother and wife underwent. The Lord appeared to deliver us fallen conditioned souls from material miseries. So for Lord Caitanya, to stay home in the company of His mother and wife is not an option. He had to go out and preach Krsna consciousness to as many people as possible, He had to manifest the congregational chanting of the Holy Name – which is the only recommended form of yajna (sacrifice) in Kali-Yuga, He had to give pleasure to His devotees, He had to instruct Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami who would carry forward His movement in the future. There is a popular saying that states, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Therefore, the tremendous sacrifice made by the Lord, His mother and wife need to be sincerely appreciated. They made this sacrifice for the benefit of humanity  – for fallen conditioned souls like us. The soldiers sacrifice their lives for the welfare of their countrymen. Similarly the Lord and His associates made the sacrifice for the spiritual welfare of all humanity. Without their sacrifice, where would we be? We would still be drowning in the ocean of material sufferings and miseries. Let us, therefore, make the Lord’s sacrifice worthwhile by seriously practicing and preaching Krsna consciousness.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Lord Caitanya’s Return to Jagannatha Puri

Hare Krsna,

CC Madhya 25.224-226 — When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu arrived at a place known as Āṭhāranālā, near Jagannātha Purī, He sent Balabhadra Bhaṭṭācārya to call for His devotees. Hearing news of the Lord’s arrival from Balabhadra Bhaṭṭācārya, hordes of devotees became so happy that they seemed to be getting their lives back. It was as though their consciousness had returned to their bodies. Their senses also became agitated. Being overwhelmed with great pleasure, all the devotees hastily went to see the Lord. They met Him on the banks of the celebrated lake called Narendra-sarovara.

CC Madhya 25.227-231 — When Paramānanda Purī and Brahmānanda Bhāratī met Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Lord offered them His respectful obeisances due to their being Godbrothers of His spiritual master. They both then embraced Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in love and affection. Devotees like Svarūpa Dāmodara, Gadādhara Paṇḍita, Jagadānanda, Kāśīśvara, Govinda and Vakreśvara all came to meet the Lord. Kāśī Miśra, Pradyumna Miśra, Dāmodara Paṇḍita, Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Śaṅkara Paṇḍita also came there to meet the Lord. All the other devotees also came and fell down at the Lord’s lotus feet. In return, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced them all with great ecstatic love. Thus they all merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss. Then the Lord and all His devotees proceeded toward the temple of Jagannātha to see the Deity.

Lord Caitanya’s return to Jagannath Puri is a sort of ‘homecoming’ for the Lord. It reminds me of the Lord Krsna’s pastime in Vrndavana when He and Lord Balarama left Vrndavana for Mathura with Akrura who came to take them. The Vrajavasis (the Lord’s friends, His parents, the gopis, and other residents of Vrndavana) all cried out in distress. The young gopīs were extremely upset to hear that Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma would be going to Mathurā. Lord Krsna promised them that He would return to Vrndavana soon. But as far as I have read and heard, He never returned to Vrndavana in this incarnation. (Of course, it is a fact that the Lord never leaves Vrndavana.). The gopis were immersed in deep separation and lamentation; they eagerly awaited the Lord’s arrival. But alas!

Therefore, when I read Lord Caitanya’s return to Jagannath Puri, I think of it as the continuation of the pastime from the Vraja-lila. In this incarnation, the Lord returns to Jagannath Puri aka Vrndavana. There is no difference between the two abodes; the Lord is Absolute and so are His various abodes. Any place is Vrndavana wherever His devotees reside and sing His glories.

Looking at this from another perspective, the associates of Lord Caitanya in Gaur lila are the same spiritual identities in the eternal pastimes of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in Golaka Vrndavana. For example. Svarupa Damodara is Vishaka. Gadadhara Pandit is Sri Radha and Lalita and Hari combined. Jagadananda is Satyabhama. Kasisvara is Shashirekha gopi. Vakresvara Pandit is Aniruddha. In this way, we see that the Lord’s associates are eternal – they are eternal. By returning to Jagannath Puri, the Lord is coming back to His pure devotees who have missed Him in deep separation; the Lord missed them too.

As devotees, it is important for us to accept the Lord’s associates as nitya-siddhas. Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura wrote:

gaurangera sangi-gane, nitya-siddha kari’ mane,

se yaya vrajendra-suta pasa

sri-gauda-mandala-bhumi, yeba jane cintamani

tara haya vraja-bhume vasa

“One who accepts the associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu as nitya-siddhas is certain to be elevated to the spiritual kingdom to become an associate of the Supreme Lord. One should also know that Gauda-mandala-bhumi—those places in Bengal where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed—are equal to Vrajabhumi, or Vrndavana. There is no difference between the inhabitants of Vrndavana and those of Gauda-mandala-bhumi, or Sridhama Mayapur.”

Srila Prabhupada writes that we should understand that as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Himself, is transcendental, similarly His personal associates are also nitya-siddha, or eternally transcendental. Se jay brajendra-suta-pas. Brajendra-suta means Krishna. Simply by accepting that the associates of Lord Caitanya are eternally free, one can immediately be promoted to the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna.

What did Lord Caitanya (who is Krsna in the mood of Radharani) do as soon as He saw Lord Jagannath? Think of it as Radharani meeting her Lord after a long time.

CC Madhya 25.232-233 — As soon as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu saw Lord Jagannātha in the temple, He was immediately overwhelmed with love and affection. He chanted and danced with His devotees for a long time. The priests immediately brought them flower garlands and prasādam. The temple’s watchman, who was named Tulasī, also came and offered his obeisances to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Source: Who’s Who of Gaura Lila in Krishna Lila

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