Removing the Scarcity of Pure Devotional Service
By Niranjana Swami
karnanandi-kala-dhvanir vahatu me jihva-maru-prangane
sri-caitanya daya-nidhe tava lasal-lila-sudha-svardhuni
O my merciful Lord Caitanya, may the nectarean Ganges waters of Your transcendental activities flow on the surface of my desert like tongue. Beautifying these waters are the lotus flowers of singing, dancing and loud chanting of Krsna’s holy name, which are the pleasure abodes of unalloyed devotees. These devotees are compared to swans, ducks and bees. The river’s flowing produces a melodious sound that gladdens their ears.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Our tongues always engage in vibrating useless sounds that do not help us realize transcendental peace. The tongue is compared to a desert because a desert needs a constant supply of refreshing water to make it fertile and fruitful. Water is the substance most needed in the desert. The transient pleasure derived from mundane topics of art, culture, politics, sociology, dry philosophy, poetry and so on is compared to a mere drop of water because although such topics have a qualitative feature of transcendental pleasure, they are saturated with the modes of material nature. Therefore neither collectively nor individually can they satisfy the vast requirements of the desertlike tongue. Despite crying in various conferences, therefore, the desertlike tongue continues to be parched. For this reason, people from all parts of the world must call for the devotees of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who are compared to swans swimming around the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu or bees humming around His lotus feet in transcendental pleasure, searching for honey. The dryness of material happiness cannot be moistened by so-called philosophers who cry for Brahman, liberation and similar dry speculative objects. The urge of the soul proper is different. The soul can be solaced only by the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His many bona fide devotees, who never leave the lotus feet of the Lord to become imitation Mahaprabhus but all cling to His lotus feet like bees that never leave a honey-soaked lotus flower.
Lord Caitanya’s movement of Krsna consciousness is full of dancing and singing about the pastimes of Lord Krsna. It is compared herein to the pure waters of the Ganges, which are full of lotus flowers. The enjoyers of these lotus flowers are the pure devotees, who are like bees and swans. They chant like the flowing of the Ganges, the river of the celestial kingdom. The author desires such sweetly flowing waves to cover his tongue. He humbly compares himself to materialistic persons who always engage in dry talk from which they derive no satisfaction. If they were to use their dry tongues to chant the holy name of the Lord-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-as exemplified by Lord Caitanya, they would taste sweet nectar and enjoy life.
PURPORT by Niranjana Swami
This is a very beautiful verse composed by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami. He is using graphic metaphors to describe the characteristics of the Lord’s pastimes and the devotees who relish hearing and chanting about the Lord’s pastimes. He compares the transcendental activities of the Lord to be like the nectarean Ganges water which continuously flows.
Out of humility Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says that his own tongue is like a desert. In a desert, drinking a few drops of water is not very beneficial. In the desert one requires large quantities of water in order to satisfy one’s need. Therefore he also uses this metaphor about his tongue to help us understand the necessity to take advantage of the continuous flow of the Ganges which is compared to the method for hearing the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Another metaphor he uses is that this river is beautified by the presence of many lotus flowers, which are compared to singing, dancing, and loud chanting of Krishna’s holy names. These are ornaments that make the river even more attractive. And these ornaments are the pleasure abodes for devotees. The devotees are compared to be like ducks, swans and bees.
In many places ducks and swans are compared to be like the beautiful ornaments on the body of water. They are often contrasted to crows who go to places much different than pleasure abodes. The bees are compared to those persons who are always very eager to drink the nectar of honey from the lotus feet of the Lord.
Therefore the devotees are described as persons who take shelter of these pleasure abodes, these ornamental places on the river and make them even more beautiful, because wherever these lotus flowers are, the devotees are also there very eager to drink the nectar of singing, dancing and loud chanting of the glories of the Lord.
Then Kaviraja Goswami uses another metaphor. The “flowing of this river produces a beautiful sound that gladdens the ears,” Such a transcendental sound vibration goes into the ear and enters into the heart. Lord Kapiladeva explains in His instruction to His mother, that by hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Lord in the association of devotees they enter into the ear and go into the heart. When one advances along the path of devotional service by the continuous hearing of these nectarean pastimes and gradually he loses his taste for dry topics. He loses his attraction to those things that have no connection to Krsna and becomes attached to Krsna and then, sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati (SB 3.25.25), pure devotional service begins to awaken in his heart.
In this verse Kaviraja Goswami created this metaphor which describes the whole process of devotional service, which ultimately gives satisfaction to the thirsty soul who is hankering for more than just a few drops of water in the desert.
In contrast, Srila Prabhupada explains that the transient pleasure which is derived from mundane topics of art, culture, politics, sociology, dry philosophy, poetry and so on are compared to be like a drop of water in the desert. They cannot satisfy the need of the desert-like tongue, just as a few drops of water cannot satisfy the need of a person who requires large quantities of water to revive his health and his well-being.
Therefore Kaviraja Goswami here emphasizes that one has to hear the nectarean pastimes of Lord Caitanya . “The nectarean Ganges of the water, of transcendental activities flows on the surface of my desertlike tongue.”
There’s a very important pastime of Lord Caitanya in this connection. Hearing this pastime of the Lord is for our benefit – for both the audience and for the speaker. Although such pastimes are compared to the flowing of the Ganges, I am not sure I can make them flow nicely enough to alleviate the needs of my own desert-like tongue and of anyone else who may require a large quantity of water. Nonetheless this pastime is very relishable.
This pastime takes place over a span of different occasions, but it begins with Lord Caitanya’s Mahaprakasa-lila as described in Caitanya Bhagavat. Lord Caitanya was very eager to bestow benedictions upon His devotees during this lila, otherwise known as His sata-prahariya-bhava, or the ecstasy of twenty-one hours.
During this particular time, the Lord changed His disposition towards His devotees. Although He descended to assume the role of a devotee, during His ecstasy of twenty-one hours, He assumed the position of the Supreme Lord. In order to reciprocate with His devotees, He stood upon the altar and one by one called His devotees before Him and requested them to ask Him for a benediction. In this way the devotees who were hankering so much to experience the Lord in their presence were given that opportunity.
The Lord was also very eager to satisfy the innermost desires within the hearts of His devotees by giving them benedictions that were very pleasing to them. He called each devotee individually and revealed to each and every one of them how He had previously manifested Himself to them before He had even appeared in this world. The devotees could then understand that only the Lord could reveal something like that to them.
One by one the Lord called His devotees who all appeared in this world before Him. To each and every devotee He described how He had previously manifested Himself to them.
He called Haridasa Thakura and told him that when he was being beaten through twenty-two market places, Lord Caitanya personally came to protect him. The reason why he didn’t feel any pain is because Lord Caitanya personally laid on his back and accepted the blows Himself.
He called Gangadas and said, “Do you remember when you were fleeing out of fear of the attack of the Muslims? You and your family went to the Ganges and thought, ‘How will it be possible to cross?’ Do you remember that all of a sudden there was a boatman who came and asked you to come into the boat and then carried you across the water?” Gangadas was shocked, thinking “How did He know that a boatman came?” “I was that boatman”, Lord Caitanya declared. Gangadas was overwhelmed with ecstasy.
One by one He called His devotees and spoke in this way. When He called Srivasa He asked, “Srivasa, do you remember that time when you were walking along and heard one person, Devananda Pandit reciting Srimad Bhagavatam? Because of your desire to relish Srimad Bhagavatam, knowing that every syllable of Srimad Bhagavatam is pure ecstatic love for the Lord, you entered that place to hear Srimad Bhagavatam from him. You sat and listened to Srimad Bhagavatam from Devananda realizing the full meaning of Srimad Bhagavatam and you began manifesting ecstatic symptoms of love. But this Devananda was a dry speculative philosopher. Although he was speaking from Srimad Bhagavatam, he never mentioned anything about pure devotional service.”
Devananda Pandit was known by everyone as such a knowledgeable speaker of Bhagavatam. His students would come every day and hear him speak, but it was simply dry philosophy. Although he was austere and knowledgeable and all his students would come and listen attentively to everything he had to say, he was not glorifying pure devotional service. He could not glorify pure devotional service due to some offence he had previously committed, and therefore his students also did not know the glories of pure devotional service.
“Do you remember what happened? When his students saw you manifesting ecstatic symptoms, they thought you were a disturbance to Devananda’s recitation. They could not appreciate your pure devotion because none of them knew anything about it. They never heard about pure devotion before. Neither did Devananda Pandit ever speak about it.”
“Thinking that it was more important to hear from Devananda Pandit, they picked you up and carried you outside. Do you remember how you felt? You went home, sat there and began reading Srimad Bhagavatam. While reading Srimad Bhagavatam tears of ecstasy began flowing from your eyes. Do you know why you felt this way? Because while you were reading Srimad Bhagavatam, I entered your heart. Because I entered your heart, you experienced such ecstatic love that you had never experienced before. Do you remember when that took place, Srivasa?” Of course, Srivasa remembered and understood that the Lord was so kind.
In this connection, I would like to read one verse Vrndavana das Thakur wrote within the context of this pastime and a small but very relevant commentary from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.
“Devananda did not stop them. As the guru was ignorant, so were his disciples.”[Commentary]
Since the students under the shelter of Devananda, their teacher, could not understand the fruits of Srivasa’s devotional service, they committed offenses at the feet of Srivasa because they were controlled by their material perception. Because the teacher, Devananda, did not check the actions of his ignorant students, he was also guilty of the offense. Devananda, who was ignorant of devotional service, gave no information about the exalted position of devotional service in his teachings to his students. Therefore since the guru had no qualification in devotional service, his disciples were also devoid of devotional service.
Upon seeing the merciful pure devotees’ method of preaching through chanting, many people nowadays say that it is better to worship the Lord at home in solitude. They say various obstacles such as false ego and pride attack one who preaches through chanting. But in this instance, if a person like Devananda Pandita remains ignorant about devotional service and does not preach the glories of devotional service, he commits an offense. This is the purport of this pastime. A scarcity of devotional service is seen in every activity of this world, but if one does not engage in glorifying the Lord to remove that scarcity, he is touched by offense.
Niranjana Swami: Very powerful words from the Acharya. He says that there’s a scarcity of glorification of pure devotional service and it’s seen in every activity of this world. If one does not glorify pure devotional service to remove that scarcity, he is influenced by that offence.
Srila Prabhupada also described in the purport to today’s verse that the soul is hankering, the tongue and ears are hankering, for the flowing river of nectar. In the desert a few drops of water, compared to the topics of art, culture, politics, sociology, etc., cannot satisfy the needs of the soul. The soul cannot be satisfied by a few drops. It needs relief from a flowing river.
In the Fourth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam Narada Muni states:
“My dear King, in the place where pure devotees live, following the rules and regulations and thus purely conscious and engaged with great eagerness in hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in that place if one gets a chance to hear their constant flow of nectar, which is exactly like the waves of a river, one will forget the necessities of life — namely hunger and thirst — and become immune to all kinds of fear, lamentation and illusion.” (SB 4.29.39-40)
That’s what the living entity needs. He needs to transcend the bodily concept of life. The way to transcend the bodily concept of life is to hear the glories of pure devotional service.
In the Eleventh Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam it is stated:
“Pure devotional service rendered to the Supreme Lord is spiritually so potent that simply by hearing about such transcendental service, by chanting its glories in response, by meditating on it, by respectfully and faithfully accepting it, or by praising the devotional service of others, even persons who hate the demigods and all other living beings can be immediately purified.” (SB 11.2.12)
That is the power of hearing about pure devotional service and Devananda suffered because he never spoke about pure devotional service even though he read Srimad Bhagavatam and spoke from it every single day. Lord Caitanya knew that.
Some time later, when Lord Caitanya was wandering through Navadvipa, He walked by Devananda Pandit’s asrama. He remembered what goes on there and what happened to Srivasa. He said, “In there is a person who never glorifies pure devotional service. He doesn’t know the glories of Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam is pure nectar. The four Vedas are like yoghurt and Srimad Bhagavatam is like butter. Sukadeva Goswami churned this yoghurt into butter and Pariksit Maharaja relished it. But this rascal thinks he speaks from Bhagavatam!” The Lord became very, very angry. He wanted to run in there and rip up Bhagavatam but the devotees stopped Him. “No, no, please, don’t do that.” The devotees were relishing seeing His anger but they had to stop Him. They didn’t want Him to go that far.
One time again when Lord Caitanya was wandering through Navadvipa, along with Srivasa, He saw Devananda walking and approached him. He had really some strong words to say to him. He said, “Devananda, you are a rascal! You speak from Srimad Bhagavatam but you never glorify pure devotional service. Do you know that Srivasa Thakura came into your assembly? Srivasa Thakura is such a pure devotee who relishes the topics of pure devotional service that even the Ganges descends from the spiritual world to take his darshan. And you didn’t say anything when your students removed him from your presence.” Lord Caitanya chastised him.
The important point, however, is that Devananda Pandit listened. He got some mercy, went home and thought about it. While he was thinking, he was feeling very distressed. Vrindavana das Thakura said that the reason why he was so distressed was due to his bad association.
Who was that bad association? In his commentary, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura explains that his bad association were his students. They had no interest in hearing about pure devotional service, because Devananda Pandit never spoke to them about it. Hence they were all materialistic and also the cause of his own distress.
Still, there’s a wonderful ending to this pastime. Devananda accepted this chastisement though it still took him time to fully digest it. He then received the mercy of a great devotee.
After Lord Caitanya took sannyasa, Vakresvara Pandit came to Devananda’s asrama. Vakresvara Pandit was like one of the swans, bees, or ducks who relishes the loud kirtan, singing and dancing the Holy name of the Lord. The word used here is utkirtana, loud chanting – he was always absorbed in loud chanting, singing and dancing.
Devananda Pandit became very attracted to Vakresvara Pandit and began thinking of ways he could render service to him. But because Vakresvara Pandit was always so absorbed, there was no way how he could ask him, “What can I do to serve you?” Devananda noticed that in his ecstasy, Vakresvara Pandit sometimes would fall to the ground. Devananda Pandit would be there to catch him whenever he would fall. He would stand around, watch and guard him very carefully. One time when Vakresvara Pandit was falling, Devananda Pandit was there to catch him, took the dust off Vakresvara Pandit’s body and began smearing it on his own body. By rendering service to this devotee he finally began to understand the glories of Lord Caitanya .
Previously, although Devananda Pandit saw Lord Caitanya he didn’t recognize the Lord’s glories. But now having seen and having served this devotee, he was able to understand the glories of Lord Caitanya .
In this connection Vrindavana das Thakura quotes one verse:
“There may be a doubt whether the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will attain perfection, but there is absolutely no doubt that those who are attached to serving the Lord’s devotees will attain perfection.” (Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.51)
As a result of the service he rendered to Vakresvara Pandit, Devananda Pandit was able to get the mercy of Lord Caitanya.
The next time he saw Lord Caitanya was in Kuliya. He approached Him and begged the Lord for His forgiveness. He said, “I am a fool. Previously everyone thought I was knowledgeable. I would speak from Srimad Bhagavatam. But I don’t know anything about Srimad Bhagavatam. Please instruct me how I should speak from Bhagavatam.” Lord Caitanya instructed, “Srimad Bhagavatam, at the beginning, middle, end – any way you open it up, only glorifies pure devotional service. Never speak about anything else but pure devotional service. And then you can speak from Srimad Bhagavatam.”
We understand from this pastime, which is like a nectar-flowing river, the significance of hearing and relishing the topics about the Lord and His pure devotees. Even though we may not fully understand them, even though we may not be able to fully comprehend the mercy of the Lord and His kindness to His devotees, and even though we may not be pure, if we hear about pure devotional service, speak about it, remember it, meditate on it, if we are respectful towards devotional service and praise the devotional service rendered by others, our hearts will become pure.
This is the greatest need for the hankering soul. None of the other topics Srila Prabhupada mentioned in his purport today [art, culture, sociology, etc.] can fulfill the need of the soul. Having once heard and understood the nature of such transcendental topics, one should be very careful. One who knows what pure devotional service is and how the glorification of pure devotional service can serve the needs of everyone, should not neglectful, and therefore touched by the offense of not removing the scarcity of pure devotional service.
Hare Krsna. Jaya Prabhupada!