First Annual North American Patron-Leaders Weekend of Bhakti
Date: June 23, 2007
Verse: Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43
Speaker: HH Radhanath Swami
Location: ISKCON New Vrindaban [www.newvrindaban.com] Occasion: First Annual North American Patron-Leaders Weekend of Bhakti ______
krsne sva-dhamopagate dharma-jnanadibhih saha kalau nasta-drsam esa puranarko ‘dhunoditah
TRANSLATION: This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna 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 Purana.
PURPORT: Lord Sri Krsna has His eternal dhama, or abode, where He eternally enjoys Himself with His eternal associates and paraphernalia. And His eternal abode is a manifestation of His internal energy, whereas the material world is a manifestation of His external energy. When He descends on the material world, He displays Himself with all paraphernalia in His internal potency, which is called atma-maya. In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord says that He descends by His own potency (atma-maya). His form, name, fame, paraphernalia, abode, etc., are not, therefore, creations of matter. He descends to reclaim the fallen souls and to reestablish codes of religion which are directly enacted by Him. Except for God, no one can establish the principles of religion. Either He or a suitable person empowered by Him can dictate the codes of religion. Real religion means to know God, our relation with Him and our duties in relation with Him and to know ultimately our destination after leaving this material body. The conditioned souls, who are entrapped by the material energy, hardly know all these principles of life. Most of them are like animals engaged in eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. They are mostly engaged in sense enjoyment under the pretension of religiosity, knowledge or salvation. They are still more blind in the present age of quarrel, or Kali-yuga. In the Kali-yuga the population is just a royal edition of the animals. They have nothing to do with spiritual knowledge or godly religious life. They are so blind that they cannot see anything beyond the jurisdiction of the subtle mind, intelligence or ego, but they are very much proud of their advancement in knowledge, science and material prosperity. They can risk their lives to become a dog or hog just after leaving the present body, for they have completely lost sight of the ultimate aim of life. The Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna appeared before us just a little prior to the beginning of Kali-yuga, and He returned to His eternal home practically at the commencement of Kali-yuga. While He was present, He exhibited everything by His different activities. He spoke the Bhagavad-gita specifically and eradicated all pretentious principles of religiosity. And prior to His departure from this material world, He empowered Sri Vyasadeva through Narada to compile the messages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and thus both the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam are like torchbearers for the blind people of this age. In other words, if men in this age of Kali want to see the real light of life, they must take to these two books only, and their aim of life will be fulfilled. Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of the Bhagavatam. And Srimad-Bhagavatam is the summum bonum of life, Lord Sri Krsna personified. We must therefore accept Srimad-Bhagavatam as the direct representation of Lord Krsna. One who can see Srimad-Bhagavatam can see also Lord Sri Krsna in person. They are identical. [End of purport] [Invocatory prayers]
I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve all of you, trying to speak something on this illustrious verse which was selected today by Malati Prabhu and Rukmini Prabhu.
In 1922, Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, on the rooftop of 1 Ultadanga Junction Road in Calcutta. At the first instance of meeting his Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada was given the order, “You are an intelligent young man. You should take this message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and teach it to the to world in the English language.” Srila Prabhupada prepared for this mission for many years to come. Eleven years later he took initiation at Rupa Gaudiya Math in Prayag. In 1944 he began writing Back to Godhead magazine, then in the 1950’s he retired from his family life and went to Vrindavan. He had already written his comments on Bhagavad-gita and after taking sannyasa, while residing at Radha-Damodar temple, he commenced what he considered the most important mission of his life: to translate and write commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Why specifically he gave so much of his energy to this purpose we find in this verse today. Krsna descended to this world from Goloka Vrindavan, he appears only once in a day of Brahma in his original form which is approximately 4 billion 320 million years and his night is equal to that. Krsna reveals his Vrindavan lila in this way only once in 8 billion years. And at the commencement of Kali-yuga, Krsna incarnated in his literary incarnation in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam which the acaryas tell us is absolutely non-different from Krsna. Srila Prabhupada explains here that by attentively hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam we can gain the same experience as in the direct personal presence of Krsna. All the blessings of being with Krsna directly are accessible simply by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is the essence, the cream of all Vedic literatures. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna tells Arjuna:
traigunya visaya veda nistrai-gunya bhavarjuna
That the Vedas mainly deal with the three modes, in fact all the scriptures in the world mainly deal with this, how to improve our sense gratification, the karma-kanda system and how to abandon sense gratification by knowledge, jnana-kanda. Krsna says the Vedas mainly deal with this subject, but rise above them, be free from the dualities and the anxieties for gain and safety and be established in the self.
In the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam itself we read how Vedavyasa after compiling the four Vedas, Upanisads, Puranas and the summary of all them, the Vedanta Sutra, he was not satisfied as his existence in this world was only to show compassion. He gave so much spiritual literature, more than had ever been seen. While lamenting, Narada Muni approached him as and told him that as of now, all of these literatures are tainted with cheating, you have not explained exclusive unadulterated pure devotional service and revealed the Supreme Personality of Godhead and his beautiful pastimes and devotees.
No doubt there are many references to the Lord in the scriptures, but they are mixed with low levels of aspiration, therefore Bhagavatam begins, that all these lesser forms of spirituality are kicked out. Pure devotional service culminates in the love of the residents of Vrindavan for Krsna, and that culminates in Srimati Radharani’s ecstatic love in separation.
When Srila Prabhupada began this great endeavour to give these entire 18,000 verses of Bhagavatam in English, he wrote an elaborate introduction with a life sketch of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and explained why, that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who also only appears once in a day of Brahma, who is Krsna who comes to taste Srimati Radharani’s love for him and distribute love, Lord Caitanya’s life is the perfect manifestation of Srimad-Bhagavatam. His relationships with his devotees and compassion are literally the visualization of the teachings of the Bhagavatam. Lord Caitanya taught Srimad-Bhagavatam, amala puranam, that Srimad-Bhagavatam is the spotless Purana.
Srila Prabhupada explains that Vedavyasa studied the histories and took the essence of them, not only from this planet or universe but millions of planets and universes. Whatever histories were for the ultimate benefit of humanity he extracted exclusively that, and from the wide range of the Puranas he extracted only the essence and that is what we have here.
Simply by attentively hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada explains, one can achieve the level of a paramahamsa. To hear means to follow, and through this comes realization. Vedavyasa spoke this literature to Sukadeva Goswami. We know the story how Sukadeva Goswami was in the womb of his mother for twelve years, because he simply refused to leave the womb as he would rather be in the womb than be disturbed by all of these modes of nature. And this is before Kali-yuga. He was already liberated and Brahman realized, but when he heard the glories of Sri Krsna from his father he eagerly came out to hear more. Vedavyasa spoke Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sukadeva Goswami realized it.
When Pariksit Maharaja was cursed to die in 7 days, he made his choice. When I was a little boy there was a very famous TV show called “Run For Your Life”, hosted by a wealthy doctor who was going to die in a year. He wanted to really enjoy in this last year. Every week he was parachuting with a beautiful lady in people loved this show, he was a hero, after a year they had to extend his life for another year till the ratings went down.
But Pariksit Maharaja chose to give up his palace and family and fine foods and go to the bank of the Ganges with sadhus and fast till death hearing the glories of the lord. That was his eagerness. If you want to actually understand Srimad-Bhagavatam, you have to follow in the footsteps of Pariksit Maharaja. Following in the footsteps means understanding what is his spirit and imbibing that, it was the number one priority in this life to hear about Krsna. It was not just a regulation to come to Bhagavatam class, it was not just a form of spiritual entertainment because it feels good to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, it was urgent, there as a sense of great need. Unless you have hunger, you cannot digest properly, unless there is lobha, a desperation that I need Krsna, I need the mercy of the Vaisanava, then when it comes we can’t digest.
Pariksit Maharaja was starving, he didn’t want anything else, only hari-katha, so similarly many of us have been reading Srimad-Bhagavatam for many decades. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur says every word of the Bhagavatam, if you understand it attentively, you will know Krsna. We must follow in the footsteps of Pariksit Maharaja, we must feel a need. Austerity is important. If we’re feeling very comfortable with our material situation or distracted by our material complications, how much attention can we really give to the Srimad-Bhagavatam?
We must comprehend the reality: padam padam yad vipadam, that there is danger at every step in this material world. We should never be complacent, it’s an illusion. Terrorism is growing, nobody knows if they’ll be safe today or tomorrow. There is the breakdown of ecology, floods, droughts, entire cities could be washed away by the ocean.
It’s a very, very dim society we live in, what to speak of disease. I read a report that one out of two and a half people today will die out of cancer. Cancer doesn’t just come when you are old. In our congregation in Bombay a four year old girl had cancer. And there is a children’s cancer hospital full of patients.
Yet we are complacent. The example is like a goat that is standing in the line of a slaughterhouse but keeps getting grass and doesn’t see what is in front and stepping forward. If we open our eyes we will see the need for spiritual life.
kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha
Prahlad Maharaja’s little friends were only five years old and told him that we are only children, now is the time for us to play study but Prahlad told them no, you don’t know when you’re going to die, this is the most important subject.
Once a woman went to see Aristotle and told him, “My son, is very young, I want him to study under you, please give him knowledge.” Aristotle asked her, “How old is he?”
“Oh, he’s very young, just five years old.”
“Madam, he is already five years too late.”
It’s serious. Srila Prabhupada with such emotion, and compassion and tears in his eyes would plead with us to please take this Krsna consciousness seriously, it is the most serious thing in creation. But maya is always trying to distract us away and give us some excuse for something else, the excuse of our needs, our health, or how devotees have mistreated me, but even if your excuses are accurate, the reality remains the same: that there is a great need, the soul is longing for God. In our human life, which is so rare, and is diminishing with every click of the second hand of the clock, it is so important.
Pariksit Maharaja taught us how to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam. He didn’t hear from the professional reciters, he heard it form parampara from Sukadeva Goswami, who heard it from Vedavyasa and lived it. Srila Prabhupada studied the Bhagavatam under the gurus and that’s what his purports are about, therefore when we give Srimad-Bhagavatam to others, they are directly hearing from Srila Prabhupada. Therefore Srila Prabhupada, out of his compassion, wanted us to read and distribute and live by theses books. It is so important.
ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
Krsna will reveal himself in his name, in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, according to how we surrender our hearts in him, how we make him a priority in our life. Lord Caitanya with his devotees showed how to taste and love Srimad-Bhagavatam. There were three devotees that Vrindavan Das Thakur says revealed certain essential spiritual qualities, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, although the Lord himself, took shelter of them.
One was Paramananda Puri, he was the Godbrother of Isvara Puri, Lord Caitanya’s spiritual master. Lord Caitanya worshipped him as he was a senior Vaisnava, to honour them the same as your own is guru is a part of Vaisnava culture that Lord Caitanya followed very strictly. Paramananda Puri in krsna-lila was Uddhava. We read how Uddhava was sent to Vrindavan by Krsna from Mathura to give a message to the gopis and gopas. He was thinking that “I will be so benevolent and give them relief from their separation of Krsna,” but when he saw their total absorption in Krsna, he realized in comparison “I have no love.” He prayed and performed tapasya-he was a prince and Krsna’s best friend-but his prayer was “Let me be even a bit of grass in Vrindavan so I can be there forever.” He meditated on Krsna in such a humble state that “Perhaps the gopis will step on my head.”
For those of you who have done the Govardhan parikrama, just behind Kusuma-sarovara, there is Uddhava’s abode, his baithak, that is where he is eternally residing where he is completely immersed in Krsna, in receiving the dust of the feet of the gopis. He was totally immersed in meditation on Krsna’s pastimes, form, name, and Lord Caitanya manifested his glories to the world.
The second devotee is Svarup Damodar, whose immersion was in kirtanam. In Vrindavan-lila he is Lalita Sakhi. Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami tells that when Srimati Radharani would be in intense separation from Krsna, Lalita knew her heart so well that she would sing songs to pacify her. In the same way Svarupa Damodar Goswami was the only one who truly knew Lord Caitanya’s heart.
When Lord Caitanya was dancing in Ratha-yatra, he offered a prayer in the mood of Srimati Radharani. Nobody understood the meaning of that prayer, but Rupa Goswami wrote an explanation and Lord Caitanya saw it and he went to Svarupa Damodar Goswami saying, “You’re the only person who knows my mind, how does he know?” Svarupa Damodar Goswami said, “Because you have given him your causeless mercy, there is no other way.”
Rupa Goswami was so humble. When he met Lord Caitanya at Ramakeli, with straw in his teeth he said, “I’m the lowest of the low, you’ve come to deliver the most fallen so our claim is first.” Lord Caitanya picked up them and embraced them and cried and bestowed his full mercy upon them.
Raghunath Das Goswami, our prayojana guru, who is teaching us the highest principles, Lord Caitanya put him under the care of Svarupa Damodar Goswami. Wherever state the Lord was in, Svarupa Damodar Goswami would sing kirtan accordingly. In Rathayatra Lord Caitanya almost like a puppet was enacting the beautiful songs of Svarupa Damodar Goswami with his eyes. Lord Caitanya would go completely out of his material existence when Svarupa Damodar Goswami would sing.
One day they were doing kirtana in the streets of Puri. Lord Caitanya was so overcome with ecstasy that he danced into a well. Everybody knew that that well was deep and with no water. The devotees ran furiously to see the condition of the Lord and they thought they would find him lying in the dirt at the bottom, but when they got there they found it full to the top with sweet soft water, and Lord Caitanya was floating at the top. That was the power of Svarupa Damodar Goswami’s kirtan.
And the third person was Gadadhara. In Krsna-lila he is Srimati Radharani. Gadadhara’s absorption was in constant recitation of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In fact, during Lord Caitanya’s lila in Puri, Lord Caitanya would go every day to the temple to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam three hours daily from Gadadhara who would be absorbed in Bhagavatam all day. Lord Caitanya was so absorbed. It is explained in Caitanya Bhagavat that Gadadhara told the story of Dhruva Maharaja. This took many hours but after completing it Lord Caitanya would say read it again, repeatedly. Lord Caitanya would not allow him to go on to the next story till he had read the story of Dhruva a hundred times. And then after some days they came to the story of Prahlada Maharaja. This too is many chapters and after completing it Lord Caitanya would tell Gadadhara, “Read it again!” In Srila Prabhupada’s original publications, the story of Prahlada was several volumes. Again Gadadhara read the story a hundred times.
It is not that he was only speaking about the Tenth Canto. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was not only tasting the nectar, but he was teaching us in the role of a devotee, how seriously we should absorb ourselves in Srimad-Bhagavatam, how seriously to absorb ourselves in chanting the holy names and through Uddhava in remembering Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada, after working harder than all of his disciples, when we would go to sleep, he would be up for most of the night writing his purports to Srimad-Bhagavatam. He would call it his devotional ecstasies. In one purport in Caitanya-caritamrta, he writes that just as Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami is giving us the summary of the Lords’ lila knowing he could die before completing it, similarly I am very old, I have so many physical frailties, so in case I cannot complete the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Prabhupada took some time off to write Krsna Book so for all time to come devotees would have Krsna’s beautiful pastimes right from his heart.
And then in the midst of translating Srimad-Bhagavatam, he decided to write Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. That’s not just an essay in between. In the original publication it was seventeen volumes, and that’s right in the middle of the Bhagavatam. He understood that to really understand the Bhagavatam properly, we must understand Lord Caitanya’s life and associates. He began the Bhagavatam with the introduction of Lord Caitanya, and the Bhagavatam ends:
nama-sankirtanam yasya sarva-papa pranasanam pranamo duhkha-samanas tam namami harim param
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.”
We must take very seriously, our responsibility as human beings is to know God and to love God. The greatest gifts the Lord has given us is his holy name, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the association of devotees. Srila Prabhupada writes that we should hear Srimad-Bhagavatam with rapt attention, we cannot hear like this unless we are pure in mind and action. We cannot be pure in mind and action unless we are pure in eating, sleeping, mating and defending. We must live our life around the teachings of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, otherwise there will be no realization. We must simply learn Srimad-Bhagavatam from the proper source in the parampara. With that serious mood of need we must study according to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on how to live our life.
I would like to say one more thing that is important. The essence of the Bhagavatam is to always remember Krsna and the easiest process to do that is to chant the names of Krsna. Prabhupada said 99% of our advancement comes from chanting the holy names. That is Bhagavatam. Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught us this is how to live our lives.
But what does it mean to chant the holy names? There is one beautiful purport wherein Srila Prabhupada quotes Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, please listen carefully. Prabhupada says unless one is living a life in which one is meek and humble, one could chant the holy names of the Lord birth after birth after birth and not attain the goal.
We understand that all this comes by chanting, by performing devotional service, so there is an argument that simply by chanting all these qualities will come, but Prabhupada says here unless you are meek and humble you aren’t chanting properly. Part of the process of chanting is to follow the regulations, how to live, what our attitude should be. To be meek and humble means to have a service attitude towards God, the Vaisnavas, and all living beings. Unless we have that, our chanting will have minimal effect and many births may pass before we finally come to the conclusion.
In one purport of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada is explaining how in this world today, people are competing so much for sense gratification, money, profit, power, adoration, distinction, but a real devotee is one who has nothing to do with this competition any more.
Arjuna was fighting it for Krsna, not for sense gratification. Prabhupada explains devotees have to cultivate being free from envy, from pride, and a devotee should be everyone’s well-wisher, not trying to defeat others and be better than others but to serve others, that is Vaisnava. That is the spirit we find in all the great devotees of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta and that is how we will attract Krsna. That is what Srila Prabhupada has given us in all his books.
Thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jai! It is now time to end.