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!

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!

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!

The Atmarama Verse Meditations

Hare Krsna,

My realization is multi-faceted.

In Chapter 4, Saunaka Rsi requested Suta Goswami to relate the pious message of Srimad Bhagavatam, which was spoken by the great and powerful sage Sukadeva Goswami. He also asked, “In what period and at what place was this first begun, and why was this taken up? From where did Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa, the great sage, get the inspiration to compile this literature?” (SB 1.4.2-3) The discussion in the current lesson is the answer to that question. This is how the verses preceding and after the Atmarama verses and Saunaka Rsi’s questions are related.

The atmarama verse leads me to another realization. We have studied that the supreme occupation for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the Supreme Lord. Devotional service to the Lord is the ultimate welfare activity for all souls – conditioned and liberated. We also know that bhakti (devotional service) cannot be forced. Every living entity is gifted with free will. Bhakti, therefore, is an execution of that free will. The question is, how can one perform devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krsna if he/she is not attracted to Him? At a neophyte stage, the Lord’s name, form, pastimes, qualitied do not easily attract a conditioned jiva. Therefore the ‘push’ mechanism (i.e. pushing oneself to become attracted to the Lord) may not be feasible. If ‘push’ doesn’t work, try ‘pull’. The Supreme Lord must ‘pull’ the conditioned souls to become attracted to Him. This means He should possess all-attractive qualities that can attract every type of living entity – whether conditioned, liberated, self-realized, etc. This is why, I believe, the Supreme Lord is called Krsna. Krsna means all-attractive. The atmarama verse actually states this aspect of the Absolute Truth.

All different varieties of ātmārāmas [those who take pleasure in the ātmā, or spirit self], especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.” (SB 1.7.10)

The all-attractive aspect of the Absolute Truth also extends to His holy name. Krsna and His name are non-different. This means His holy name also possesses all-attractive power just as Krsna does. We have practically witnessed the power of the maha-mantra. Srila Prabhupada’s public chanting at the Tompkins Square part is the beginning of Krsna consciousness movement in the Western countries. The holy name of Krsna has attracted millions of people across the world, and it is still attracting countless jivas to Krsna. This means the attractive power of the Holy Name is limitless and endless. As devotees, we must endeavor to spread this holy name everywhere so that more and more people can become attracted to Lord Krsna.

Next realization is about how this atmarama verse connects to Srimad Bhagavatam which is the topic of discussion in this narration. We studied that the seed of bhakti is nourished by the process of hearing and chanting. A key aspect of this process is hearing and studying Srimad Bhagavatam which describes the Supreme Lord in full glories including His name, form, qualities and pastimes. How can one understand Srimad Bhagavatam? The answer is found in Lord Caitanya’s concluding summary of His explanations of the atmarama verse. Lord Siva says:

On the whole, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the spotless Purāṇa, can be learned only through devotional service, not by material intelligence, speculative methods or imaginary commentaries.” (CC Madhya 24.313)

Srila Prabhupada also mentions in the purport that “Only one who has taken to devotional service can understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the spotless Purāṇa for a transcendentalist (paramahaṁsa)… All Vedic literatures maintain that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam has to be learned from the person bhāgavata, and to understand it one has to engage in pure devotional service. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam cannot be understood by so-called erudite scholars or grammarians. One who has developed pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness and has served the pure devotee, the spiritual master, can understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

My last realization is from Srila Prabhupada lecture on SB 1.7.10. He mentions a beautiful point. siddhānta baliyā citte nā kara alasa, ihā haite kṛṣṇe lāge sudṛḍha mānasa. Srila Prabhupada says ‘don’t be lazy’. Always try to understand Kṛṣṇa, siddhānta, by siddhānta, by Vedic conclusion, not by manufacturing ideas. Siddhānta. Don’t be lazy.” I have seen so many devotees who do not like to go into the philosophy aspect of Krsna consciousness. They say the philosophy is very deep and complex. They are happy chanting, hearing, doing services, but not eager to understand the philosophy. I think that’s what Srila Prabhupada is saying. Just because its philosophy, do not be lazy. Always try to understand Krsna. It is not possible to understand Krsna fully because Krsna is limitless. But the endeavor of trying to understand Krsna itself has a purifying effect. Lord Krsna promises this in BG 4.9: “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Meditations on SB 1.7.5-7

Hare Krsna,

In Srimad Bhagavatam texts 5-7 reveal the essence of what Śrīla Vyāsadeva saw in his meditations, the core purpose for his composing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the result of giving aural reception to this Vedic literature:

Text 5 — Due to this external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.

Text 6 — The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyāsadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth.

Text 7 — Simply by giving aural reception to this Vedic literature, the feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sprouts up at once to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness.

My humble realization is that Srila Vyasadeva is now providing a remedy from the material entanglement that people may have ended up after following the four purusarthas (dharma, artha, kama, moksa) mentioned in the Vedic scriptures that he compiled earlier. After his conversation with Narada Muni, Srila Vyasadeva understood that the ultimate welfare for all humanity is not the Vedic rituals but pure devotional service unto the Supreme Lord.

In Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 7, Prahlada Maharaja explains to his class friends that religion, economic development and sense gratification are described in the Vedas as tri-varga, or three ways to salvation. Within these three categories are education and self-realization; ritualistic ceremonies performed according to Vedic injunction; logic; the science of law and order; and the various means of earning one’s livelihood. These are the external subject matters of study in the Vedas, and therefore he considers them material.

This is also confirmed by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (2.45), where He says, traiguṇya-viṣayā vedā nistraiguṇyo bhavārjuna: “The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them.” To act on the material platform, even if one’s activities are sanctioned by the Vedas, is not the ultimate goal of life. The ultimate goal of life is to stay on the spiritual platform, fully surrendered to the Supreme Lord. This is the object of the human mission. In summary, the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies and injunctions are not to be discounted; they are means of being promoted to the spiritual platform. But if one does not come to the spiritual platform, the Vedic ceremonies are simply a waste of time. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.8):

dharmaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ puṁsāṁ

viṣvaksena-kathāsu yaḥ

notpādayed yadi ratiṁ

śrama eva hi kevalam

“Duties [dharma] executed by men, regardless of occupation, are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Lord.” If one very strictly performs the various duties of religion but does not ultimately come to the platform of surrendering to the Supreme Lord, his methods of attaining salvation or elevation are simply a waste of time and energy.

Now the question is, how can people surrender to the Supreme Lord if they do not know Him well? This is where the process of chanting and hearing about the Lord’s name, form, qualities and pastimes come in. By following this process of devotional service, the cloud of ignorance is gradually removed from the heart. The living entity in the material condition wanders through many varieties of life and many varieties of circumstances, but if he comes in contact with a pure devotee and is intelligent enough to take instructions from the pure devotee regarding the process of devotional service, he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead without difficulty.

The best scripture that describes the Supreme Lord’s name, form, qualities, pastimes is Srimad Bhagavatam. This Srimad Bhagavatam is the remedy to all the material miseries that one goes through due to falsely identifying with material nature.

SB 1.7.5: Due to this external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.

SB 1.7.6: The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyāsadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth.

SB 1.7.7: Simply by giving aural reception to this Vedic literature, the feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sprouts up at once to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion and fearfulness.

The conclusion is that simply by hearing the Vedic literature Srimad-Bhagavatam, one can have direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Kṛṣṇa, and thereby one can attain the highest perfection of life by transcending worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness. These are practical tests for one who has actually given a submissive hearing to the readings of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. (SB 1.7.7 P)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Bitnami