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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Which Brahma are you?

Monday, 01 April 2019 / Published in Articles, Karnamrita dasa / 8,766 views

The story of Lord Brahma going to visit Krishna at Dvarka is one of my favorite stories for reminding me of my insignificance. I think of this story when I am confused with other Karnamritas. I get email for Karnamrita dasi the singer, and I get asked if I wrote the biography of Gaura-kishora das Babhaji, or other books. I am reminded of my dear friend Dr. Garuda who has to distinguish himself from another Garuda who is active on-line.

By Karnamrita dasa

So which Karnamrita am I? That is a great question with superficial and deep answers. Who are any of us?

Prabhupada initiated 3 disciples with the name of Karnamrita das, and I am the middle one. So I could answer that I am the insignificant servant of Prabhupada
(with one big head of fluff) who was initiated in Los Angeles in August 1970, or I could say I am the husband of Archana-siddhi the well know devotee therapist and BTG author, or the I am the pujari, or I am the energy healer New Agy type devotee, etc. We all have so many ways in which we may be know or designated that are to our liking or not.

Ke ami? So which one are we? Which das or dasi are you—really? Let us remember this story of Brahma:

Lord Brahma is greeted by Krishna’s doorman at one of his palaces and asks,

‘What is your name so I may tell Lord Krishna who has come, desiring his audience.’

‘I am his devotee Brahma,’ was the reply.

Brahma may have wondered how the doorman didn’t recognize him by his four heads, but perhaps this doorkeeper was inexperienced. We assume that many other demigods came to visit Shri Krishna in Dvarka, so perhaps the doorkeeper wanted to make sure he didn’t make a mistake.

After some time, the doorman returned and asked another question to the anxious Brahma, ‘Which Brahma are you’?

With the appearance of the doorman Brahma was expecting to be let in. Thus he was taken back by the question, and puzzled over the meaning. His great intelligence from his four heads was bewildered. What kind of a question was this? As far as he knew he was the only Brahma, so were there others? Brahma is not a man of few words, yet he found himself speechless in confusion. Finally, he came up with a reply.

‘I am the four headed Brahma, the father of the four Kumaras.’

After some time he was escorted in through the incredibly opulent palace to the room where the regal Krishna was sitting comfortably on a royal throne.

Upon seeing Lord Krishna, Brahma offered him obeisances and appropriate worship, and then Shri Krishna honored him with welcoming words. He inquired from Brahma about the nature of his visit.

Brahma replied that he would tell him about the nature of his visit after Krishna helped with a doubt.

Brahma questioned the Lord thus, ‘Why did you ask which Brahma had come? Kindly tell me the purpose of such an inquiry. Are their other Brahmas besides me in this universe?

Krishna smiled at Brahma’s words and called all the Brahmas from the infinite universes. Immediately unlimited Brahmas arrived wth their various numbers of heads. Some had ten, some twenty heads, fifty, a hundred a thousand, some ten thousand, one hundred thousand, some ten million and one hundred million. Their was no counting the number of heads.

Also arriving from each universe were the various manifestations of Lord Shiva with unlimited heads, and King Indra with thousands of eyes on their bodies.

Beholding the unlimited opulenses of Krishna and feeling dwarfed by the manifestation of other Brahmas, our universes Brahma felt like a rabbit amidst many elephants.

I love what Brahma says, ‘There are people who say, ‘I know everything about Krishna.’ Let them think in that way. As far as I am concerned, I do not wish to say very much about this matter. O my Lord, let me say this much. As far your opulences are concerned, they are all beyond the reach of my mind, body and words.’ [SB 10.14.38]

The ‘Law of Contrast’ is very important for all of us. Thinking of those greater than our self can help us to realize our true position, as tiny and insignificant. We all have a little bit of ‘Isha’ or controlling power, yet in comparison to the many powerful people on this planet what is our position? Then there are the devas, and the Supreme Isvara, Lord Shri Krishna.

We are never the doer, but have to be empowered to do any even simplest thing’what to speak of large accomplishments? We may appear great or devout to others and have influence, power, bhakti, wealth, education, good looks etc, yet as devotees we have to remember that whatever opulence or Krishna consciousness we have been blessed with are given to us for service, not for any selfish purpose. We are all on the path of realizing this fact: We are givers or servants, not takers or masters.

As it is said in the Christian tradition, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ And for those of us living in America, Prabhupada told us something like, ‘What is the use of being American if you don’t do something wonderful.’ We could easily say that for all devotees. What is the use of being a devotee, unless we do something wonderful or become wonderful? Being wonderful means being a pure devotee imbued with Prema, or at least making steady progress in Bhakti and sharing what we have to our utmost capacity. The best use of our life energy is to chant Hare Krishna and engage in devotional service. We do our best and the results come by Krishna’s mercy.

So which Brahma are you?

Constructing an Approximate Time-line of Mahaprabhu’s Life Events in Gregorian Calendar
Draupadi – dishonored yet honorable

23 Responses to “Which Brahma are you?”

  1. Karnamrita.das says :

    As usual, after I write something I think of more things to be brought out. This is true even after I have waited some time before posting. It is the nature of the subject matter of Krishna consciousness, that we can never fully and completely discuss any part of Krishna’s incomparable, inconceivable nature, or our deep philosophy. We always fall short and more can always be said. Never-the-less we want to endeavor to our best capasity to glorify Krishna and his pure devotees for our own purification, and as service to our Gurus and the all the Vaishnavas.

    I was thinking further about what is called in some circles, “The Law of Contrast”. In the above post I could have mentioned the benefit of remembering Prabhupada or any of the superlative devotees in our line, all the way up to the residents of Braja. Regardless of our advancement, what are we in comparison to them?

    The down side of comparison is if we become neurotic about out tiny position. We may feel so diminished in face of pure devotion, that we feel discouraged at how far we are from the goal. We may even feel like giving up the goal thinking it too far off. Two sides of the false ego are either thinking of our self as more advanced than we are, or thinking that we are too fallen to receive mercy. We may imitate the realized humbleness of the pure devotees. True humility is an impetus for service, not materially depressing or debilitating.

    We should be humbled by the Krishna consciousness of the great devotees, yet inspired that we too can become advanced by following in their footsteps. Although we have been given our sadhana or spiritual practices, ultimately we are only successful by mercy. It is said in the Chaitanya Bhagavat that Lord Chaitanya gave the mercy of KC to those who asked for it, and Nitai to those who didn’t. So we should always keep alive the great hope that we can be blessed by awakening our dormant KC. It is only a matter of time—-Krishna’s time!

    • Sankirtana Das says :

      It's a great teaching story. I just recently read this passage in your book "Give To Live" and I would say that anyone who likes Karnamrita's article shouldn't stop here – Get The Book! One way to catch hold of the reader's attention is to begin with a question. And you do this so well here. I personally love this pastime because there's so much humor in it. Actually, there is lots of humor in many of the scriptural stories in general. Lastly, (a plug) I've also used this story in my storytelling CD "Brahma's Song."

  2. ccd says :

    I know it became customary to quote Christian tradition, but I would protest about this particular interpretation, the fact is that Brahma is the person whom everything is forgiven. Difference between devotees and Christians is that devotees’ hearts are very soft, and even if they speak harsh words they forgive very quickly, and are forgiven in return. On the other hand some followers of Bible speak forgiving words, but hardly show quality of forgiveness and thier heart is not as soft. Not talking about everyone..

    The pastime of Brahma was primary a cosmological situation and awe of it as in the case of Lord Brahma and ALSO means to glorify devotees, Kumaras, thus to show that devotees are above the need to follow an order. Yes experience was humbling to Brahma, as usual.

    As Sri Rupa wrote on this pastime in LBhag:

    ekadā dvārakā-puryāṁ sudharmāyāṁ murāntake
    virājati tam āgatya dvārādhyakṣo nyavedayat
    didṛkṣr deva-pādābjaṁ brahmā dvāre’vatiṣṭhate
    āgataḥ katamo brahmā dvārīti paripṛccha tam
    ity acyuta-giraṁ śṛṇvan etya dvārādhipaḥ punaḥ
    pṛṣṭvā brahmānam āgatya kṛṣṇāgre ca tam abravīt
    āgataḥ sanakādīnāṁ janakaś caturānanaḥ
    ānayeti harer vācā tena brahmā praveśitaḥ
    praṇaman daṇḍavat pṛṣṭaḥ kṛṣṇena kim ihāgataḥ
    tvam iti prāha taṁ brahmā devāgamana-kāraṇam
    vakṣye paścād yadātthādya brahmā karama ity adaḥ
    jñātum icchāmi tan nātha brahmā nānyo’sti mad yataḥ

    One day, when Lord Krsna was in the Sudharma assembly house in Dvaraka city, the palace doorman approached the Lord and said that the demigod Brahma was waiting at the door, eager to see the Lord’s lotus feet.
    The Lord asked: “Which Brahma has come to the door? Please ask him. Hearing the Lord’s words, the doorman went again, asked him, returned, and said to Lord Krsna: “He is the four-headed Brahma, the father of the Four Kumaras.”

  3. ccd says :

    However in Laghu Bhagavatamrta Sri Rupa does an interesting thing, he make an example of how to see contraditions in the scriptures. While being careful as to interpret the pastime without first looking on how Rupa, Sanatana or Visvanatha Cakravarti did it, we may create so many contradictions without a real need- devotees normally become humble naturally? Are they?

    atha smitvā mukundena dvāravatyāṁ drutaṁ tadā
    smṛtvā brahmāṇḍa-koṭibhyo loka-pālāḥ samāgatāḥ
    aṣṭavakrāś catuḥṣaṣṭhi-vaktrāḥ śata-mukhās tathā
    sahasra-vaktrā lakṣāsyāḥ koṭi-vaktrā viriñcayaḥ
    rudrāś ca viṁśati-mukhās tathā pañcāśad-ānanāḥ
    śata-vaktrāḥ sahasrāsyā lakṣa-bāhu-śiro-bhṛtaḥ
    purandarāś ca lakṣālakṣā niyutākṣās tathāpare
    apare loka-pālāś ca vividhākṛti-bhūṣaṇāḥ
    kṛṣṇasya purataḥ prāptāḥ pāda-pĪṭham avānaman
    tān dṛṣṭvā vismayāt tasmin unmamāda caturmukhaḥ

    When Lord Hari said, “Bring him.” Brahma was brought in. Brahma fell down like a stick to offer obeisances. Krsna asked him, “Why did you come here?” Brahma replied, “Lord, later I will tell why I have come, but first I wish to know why You asked, ‘Which Brahma?’ Lord, there is no Brahma other than me.
    Lord Krsna smiled and meditated. The demigods from ten million universes then hurried to Dvaraka city. Among the many Brahmas some had eight heads, some sixty-four heads, some a hundred heads, some a thousand heads, some a hundred thousand heads, and some ten million heads. Among the many Sivas some had twenty heads, some fifty heads, some a hundred thousand heads and arms. Among the many Indras some had a hundred thousand eyes, and some had a million eyes. Many other demigods, with many kinds of forms and ornaments, also came. Then they all approached Lord Krsna and bowed down before His lotus feet. When the four-headed Brahma saw all this he became mad with wonder.

    kiṁ ca –
    viṣṇu-dharmottare proktaṁ sarve brahmāṇḍa-maṇḍalāḥ
    deśato jīvataś cāpi tulya-rūpa bhavanty amī

    tathā hi –
    eka-rūpās tathaivāṇḍāḥ sarva eva nareśvara
    tulya-deśa-vibhāgāś ca tulyajantava eva ca iti

    virodhe’tra samutpanne samādhānaṁ vidhīyate

    In Visnu-dharma Purana, Uttara-khanda, it is said that all the material universes have the same structure and the same kind of residents:
    “O king, all material universes have the same form. They have the same regions and the same kinds of living entities.”

    A resolution of the apparent contradiction is given here.

    ys Caitanya candrodaya

  4. Karnamrita.das says :

    Hare Krishna Chaitanya Chadrodaya: Pranams.

    It is always good to know devotees are reading what I have written and are thinking about it. I appreciate your taking the time to respond with your observations. Time is a precious commodity!!

    I am quite familiar with the Christian tradition, having studied it a great deal since becoming a devotee. I am in the habit of quoting from many different traditions, as I learned from Prabhupada and many of my Godbrothers. My preaching field is often the New Age crowd, and I find knowing the parralles between the various religions very helpful in being understood—even though it may sometimes be a bit of a stretch.

    You didn’t really explain what in my quote from the Bible you didn’t find approprite, though perhaps you were referring to how I have presented the lila since you have labored to quote it. I understand that it is important for all of us to find lessons in the lila that we can apply in our lives, and that is what I did by relating what Brahma might have been going through. There is a saying in the New Age world that people don’t see the world as it is, but as they are. Or as Prabhupada said, “atmavan manyate jagat”. So I have knowingly done that. Not that I have rewritten the lila, but I have found something there I drew out which has been helpful to me.

    Certainly Brahma is way beyond our understanding, yet in relation to Krishna’s earthly lila he becomes forgetful of Krishna’s position, and bewildered (something the Madhavas don’t accept). Therefore I have thought of Brahma in a way in which I could relate so I can see the importance of humility, knowing that in relation to Krishna we all are insignificant. I wasn’t in the mood of minimizing such a great devotee and demigod. I was just trying to go deeper into the meaning, and granted, that is not that deep.

    While I agree that many of the current followers of Christ are less that ideal from our Gaudiya perspective, that is also true of many of us. The majority of people in any group are kanisthas, and according to Bhaktivinode Thakur, the commentaries of the Gosvamis are mainly for them (most of us). The superlative devotees whom I assume you are referring to live and teach the ideal and they are far above the kanisthas. We try to follow and honor them even though we may fall far short, and not always deal with each other very well.

  5. ccd says :

    I will try to make it more clear. Its only time that we have really to offer.

    I was for years trying to get (my own) priorities right. It was a struggle because it’s easy to get swept to ones side or the other. One extreme or the other. You approach appears to be balanced and that is something to learn from and its attractive. I just want to place some additional weight to the foundation of all – bhaktiśāstra. While I welcome quotes from any tradition, we only quote statements that factually support Vaishnava scriptural conclusions, not the other way around. Just as it’s well known that only statements that support and do not contradict sattvic, vaisnava, puranas can be quoted from shaiva puranas, such as Scanda for example. Considering that, I will try to explain why that expression of special demand on seniors is not applicable in our tradition, and may lead to major difficulties if misapplied, in fact history of ISKCON and schisms speaks of it to one who can see it. (ie misapplication of the quoted principle: “To whom much is given, of him much shall be required”)

    It may sound condescending, but it took me sometime to understand it. So it may be hard to understand for someone who is in a constant new-age association, that the bhakti sastra as presented by parampara is the real basis of ones vision, and its not subjective. Just as it was said: śāstra-yonitvāt – one has to acquire pure knowledge from the authorized scriptures Vs 1.1.3. It also means that you should actually feel through it and experience it, not just repeat it. Of course any other scriptures, experiences and methods of self exploration, therapy or interpretation of all the above are most welcome, provided that they all support the same conclusion and do not contradict it. I’m sure that that was your intent on using the expression. ‘To whom much is given.’ There are small inconsistencies with application tough it seems to me, possibly not without misunderstanding.

  6. ccd says :

    I actually would support a limited use of this expression (Lk.12.48) for a private or introspective self analysis, but would be quite cautious of using it literary or as applicable to anyone else besides oneself, especially to seniors like Brahma (thank you for confirming that you use him as ‘example’ but still) Maybe that is what you have meant – but mainly because Brahmaji is our guru I will try to avoid using this example. I’m just careful with that. Maybe you can help me to explain that. If you look at the other instances, Brahma may appear hardly perfect. (SB 3.20.28-29; 3.9.28; 3.12.30-33; 4.7.30; 5.18.27) But we “worship him as the perfect beginning of the parampara” chain, even he was not an uttama-adhikari as Vyasadeva or Naradadeva. A good example for some who never noticed it and is an explanation for Madhvas motive.

    I personally quite like your approach of bringing up Brahma as an example of the humility and self-analysis. I think it’s an essential personal lesson to all leaders of all times, be it post factum or pre-emptive. However just as Madhvas we would not accept faults on the sampradāya head as real – even we accept that this brahma-vimohana-lila has taken place (unlike Madhva who did not). At the end of the chapter 13 of the Tenths canto Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments that the word locane indicates that with his two hands he (Brahma) wiped the two eyes on each of his four faces. That is an example to follow, but at the same time Madhva is our acharya who’s example we are to follow too. Not only Madhvas. Prabhupada story with his disciple Kṛṣṇadāsa reveals it too: (SPL, Return to America): “..Swamiji, you can see the tape inside.” Prabhupāda immediately hit his hand on the table loudly and yelled, “The spiritual master is never at fault! And even if he is, it’s your duty as his disciple to do whatever he asks.” He went on for at least half an hour about how one should be very observant of what the spiritual master says and not criticize.”

    One needs now to adjust a contradiction. Just as with an example given by Srila Rūpa Gosvāmī in Laghu Bhagavatamrta (in the comment 2-3), conclusion is that in all universes all Brahmas have the same form, same number of heads, even if in that particular pastime, Brahma saw other forms of the multi-multi-headed Brahmas. Similarly we can and even must apply the method of “much is expected” to ourselves, but should be careful to applying it to others. .

  7. ccd says :

    Forgiveness and humility is the quality you can judge vaisnava or any other saintly person by (see: MBh. Udyoga Parva 33, 47), in this light I would not call majority kanistha – majority is actually madhyama vaisnavas, but its ‘me’ who is kanistha. I normally try to be careful with swiping statements like that for yet another reason, that’s of course, some may say that its too much of a complement for the follower of Christ, who do not worship any authorised Deity form, to be called ‘kanistha’? May be that was a principle not the detail that you talk. Of course there is a large quazy christian wing, who would want to make our founder-acarya into omnipotent christ, that makes them de facto members of a well known apasampradaya and hardly vaisnavas at all.

    Talking about vaisnavas: sakala-vaiṣṇavā eva guravaḥ – all Vaisnavas are considered as guru or the spiritual master. And according to Bhägavata, their hearts are very soft and tender for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa, thus both humility and forgiveness come natural, and not just in words. Thus this exchange is very inspiring, thank you prabhu, especially be it based on śāstra, śāstra-caksu.

    I humbly ask you to note a very serious inconsistency: Prabhupada would normally use Atmavan manyate jagat in a negative way, just opposite to what you did – not that you are wrong, but just to note – in Bhägavatam purports and other places, as for example in the discussion with Śyāmasundara he will use different or opposite meaning to what you put in it. Again I understand what you have said, but its rather the opposite; however bhāva-grāhī janārdana – your intent is very good and admirable, it must be appreciated, if it was using more of Vaishnava tattvas translated into modern new-age idioms, rather then the other way around, it will be even greater help to the fallen souls like me.

    To conclude – the context for the statement of 12.48, is often used by others is a form of condemnation, not a self analysis: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” That is not our philosophy, as shown by example of the Putana. Krsnas devotees are not judging as to how many “stripes” one should get in punishment and keep multiplying it proportionate to the position or awareness. Just as there is no condemnation in the Vaisnava heart, there is only a strong desire to help others, even to forgive others against a reason. ysccd

  8. Akruranatha says :

    I have been uncharacteristically quiet this time. So far, that is. . . . :-)

    It is a wonderful pastime, and it came up in our local Sunday feast lecture recently, just before Karmamrta posted about it. If Lord Krishna’s opulences are beyond the reach of even Lord Brahma and Lord Siva and Lord Indra, how can we insignificant humans think we have some mastery of the subject? On the other hand, we can marvel at how Krishna gives Himself to pure devotees, even if they are of humble socioeconomic standing.

    I never took anything Karnamrta said as disparaging Lord Brahma. I understood him only to be expressing personal humility in a proper perspective. I do enjoy Caitanya Candrodaya’s going deeper into the lila and other commentaries, though.

    As for more being expected from those who have more, that does not seem very controversial to me. For example, Prabhupada has said something like, a very rich man should not be satisfied to offer Krishna just a little water, leaf and flower. We should serve according to our capacity, even though Krishna is not in need of anything. We are in need of offering whatever we possess.

    The 50 percent principle expresses this. It is not that we can think that Kholavec Sridhar pleased the Lord with rusty water from an iron pot, so we can give inferior water. Kholavec gave according to his economic means, with great bhakti. Even though he had little, he still gave 50%, and those of us who have much should give that much greater.

    There is a lecture by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati I read a long time ago, and I do not know how to cite it. I just remember it was very sobering to read how he was sternly warning the devotees, that having been raised to some understanding of Krishna consciousness carried with it a great responsibility. For them to fall down was much more serious than for an ordinary person.

    There is a general ethical principle carried over into Christianity from Greek philosophy, but it is probably widely if not universally acknowledged, that one becomes morally responsible in proportion to one’s ability to appreciate right from wrong. Children under 5 years old are not responsible (remember how Mundak Muni was able to curse Yamaraja to take birth as Vidura?) And animals are not moral agents–they are simply enjoying and suffering past karmic reactions, not creating new ones.

    It may also be that, in the regime of material prayascitta, a spiritually advanced person sometimes . . . (cont’d)

  9. Akruranatha says :

    It may also be that, in the regime of material prayascitta, a spiritually advanced person sometimes needs less severe measures to properly atone for specific sins. For example, brahmanas do not have to grieve as long as sudras, after the death of a close relative, before they can enter the temple again. Similarly, some of the punishments in Manu’s codes (I think of them as sentencing guidelines used by judges) are less severe for brahmanas than for sudras.

    Most legal traditions recognize there must be both a “guilty act” (actus reus) and a “guilty mind” (mens rea) for someone to be punishable for a crime. If someone has an uncontrolable seizure that causes him to break something or hurt someone, he is not guilty. Anglo-American legal traditions also recognize a defense of “necessity”, acknowledging that in extreme, life threatening situations, people can be excused for doing things out of natural self-preservation which would otherwise be criminal. (Consider Visvamirta being allowed to eat meat for self-preservation.)

    (In the “Dudley and Stevens” case studied by first year law students, English sailors adrift for months in a small boat were excused for killing and eating one of the other sailors to survive. I do not know if Vaisnava judges would excuse them.)

    We also have the (enormously unpopular) defense of “not guilty by reason of insanity”. I think what makes it so unpopular is the sense that it is wrongly applied. Most would agree that a psychotic who really thought he was squeezing lemons is not actually guilty of murder by strangulation, as a sane man is who understood he was killing someone.

    An important lesson Caitanya Candrodaya gives us is we should not be quick to pounce on and deride our fellow devotees, especially those who have been our mentors and leaders, when they become victims of maya. Sometimes we rush to kick them when they are down, when we find our erstwhile idols have feet of clay, or we feel they exploited us by posing as more worshipable or worthy of our surrender than they really were. We should not do that, but should remain grateful for whatever true inspiration they gave us.

    Devotees are beyond prayascitta. If they sincerely take up devotional service again all will be forgiven. We must love our fallen senior godbrothers and pray for their swift return to unflinching bhakti. Krishna remains grateful to them, and so does Srila Prabhupada. Shouldn’t we?

  10. sam says :

    The “which Brahma?” story is certainly a personal favorite. The points about humility, forgiveness, and softness of heart are well taken ….

    Coming from a “Christ” tradition the passage “to those who much has been given, much is requested” got me thinking. From what I understand, the idea is that one must live up to the blessing he has mercifully received. For example, one who becomes a priest, or is awarded sanyas, would certainly be considered one to whom much has been given, and one from whom much is expected.

    In the Parable of the “Talents”, which was a Jewish currency and happens to be an interesting homophone, Jesus relates the story of three servants who are given three different tasks / budgets before their master takes his leave to conduct business for a certain period of time … Upon his return he asks his servants to come to him. The one who was awarded 5 talents, has done good work and earned an additional 5 coins, the second who received 3 coins, has also doubled his work, and now has 6 … The third servant however, who was given a single coin, approaches his master meekly saying, “Lord, a few months ago, I took that coin you had entrusted to me, and knowing that you are a demanding master, what I did is, I took it, and buried it, so as to keep it safe, and not lose it until your return.”

    To this, the master replies something along the lines: “In my absence you have proven yourself a poor and lazy servant. You knew that I would harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter seed? Should you not then have at least put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 25, 14-30)

    My understanding is that the coins, or talents, can be likened to faith and devotion – a spiritual wealth of sorts … And as we are told, although it may come across as harsh, the consequence of not responding to our eternal duty is unenviable suffering in the lower planets and the material world.

    For reference sake, Luc 19, 11-27 presents a slightly different variation of the same story.

  11. sam says :

    For further reference, I thought I would try to find the context that goes with the original passage. (

    In Luke 12:35-40 Jesus tells his disciples what is expected of faithful servants. Peter, one of prominent disciplines in the group asks for clarification.

    Luke 12:41-48

    [41] Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

    [42] The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? [43] It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. [44] I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [45] But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. [46] The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

    [47] “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. [48] But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

  12. sam says :

    Srila Prabhupada, the foremost exponent of the Krishna consciousness movement explains that Jesus is Krishna’s representative, son of God, and spiritual master.

    Below are excerpts from Srila Prabhupada’s books, lectures, and conversations about Jesus Christ and his relationship with Krsna.

    “If one loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus he must love Krishna too. If he says, “Why shall I love Krishna? I shall love Jesus,” then he has no knowledge. And if one says, “Why shall I love Jesus? I shall love Krishna”, then he has no knowledge either. If one understands Krishna, then he will understand Jesus. If one understands Jesus, you’ll understand Krishna too” (Srila Prabhupada – Room conversation with Allen Ginsberg, May 12, 1969 / Columbus – Ohio)

    As Lord Jesus Christ said, we should hate the sin, not the sinner. That is a very nice statement, because the sinner is under illusion. He is mad. If we hate him, how can we deliver him? Therefore, those who are advanced devotees, who are really servants of God, do not hate anyone. When Lord Jesus Christ was being crucified, he said, “My God, forgive them. They know not what they do.” This is the proper attitude of an advanced devotee. He understands that the conditioned souls cannot be hated, because they have become mad due to their materialistic way of thinking. In this Krsna consciousness movement, there is no question of hating anyone. Everyone is welcomed to come and chant Hare Krsna, take krsna-prasada, listen to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, and try to rectify material, conditioned life. This is the essential program of Krsna consciousness.
    (Path of Perfection Chapter 3: Learning How to See God)

    Christian, Muhammadan, Hindu-it doesn’t matter. If he is simply speaking on behalf of God, he is a guru. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance. He canvassed people, saying, “Just try to love God.” Anyone-it doesn’t matter who-be he Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, is a guru if he convinces people to love God. That is the test. The guru never says, “I am God,” or “I will make you God.” The real guru says, “I am a servant of God, and I will make you a servant of God also.” It doesn’t matter how the guru is dressed. “Whoever can impart knowledge about Krsna is a spiritual master.” A genuine spiritual master simply tries to get people to become devotees of Krsna, or God. He has no other business.
    (Sci Self Realization Chapter 2)

  13. ccd says :

    I will not argue whether the words of the 4th century writer quoted in Luke are a words of Christ. Of course not, but we have good record of our real gurus on the subject. Its a principle of what devotee should do if he should feel like judging others. and if yes why… Are they your disciples?

    For example should we judge by instructions on renunciation?

    Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s gave a key advice to Śrīla Das Goswami, in this connection as follows:

    grāmya-kathā nā śunibe, grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe
    bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe

    “Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely.

    Some do not follow this and still think themself sannyasis. Its an example but we also see a
    similar instructions given by gurus to their disciples, very strict instructions. Does it mean we all of a sudden should be judges? Is there such a thing as Vaisnava judges? That would be a contradiction in terms if you examine the following logic of the Mahabhagavata devotee who founded our preaching movement, in fact based on it we should stop others if we find them taking up position of judges:

    The mind is always working erroneously in looking upon this thing or that, either as good or bad. The Caritāmṛta sings [CC Antya 4.176]:

    ‘dvaite’ bhadrābhadra-jñāna, saba—’manodharma’
    ‘ei bhāla, ei manda,’—ei saba ‘bhrama’

    People are usually too much busy with mental speculations. They should relieve themselves of this and try to find out the real good of their own selves or souls. There is an adage to the effect that para-carccakera gati nāhi kona kale, “a man who is habituated to criticise others’ conduct will never prosper.” Let others do whatever they like, I have no concern with them. I should rather find fault with my own damned mind, and think like the Vaiṣṇava Mahajana who sings:

    Āmāra jīvana sada ape rata nāhika puṇyera leśa,
    para-sukhe duhkhi, sada mithya-bhasi,
    para-duhkha sukha-kara

    Ever engaged in vicious activity,
    And without the slightest trace of virtue in me,
    A liar as I am, always sorry at others’ pleasures
    And merry at others’ sorrows, troubles and cares.

    We should always remember this song and engage our mind ceaselessly in Hari-bhajan. We should not run about attacking others with dissuading policy; such conduct behooves only deceitful persons and not preachers.

    I would love to hear an opinion of the ‘legal team”

  14. Akruranatha says :

    The “legal team” recognizes we need judges in regulating society. If people were all brahminical we would need far fewer judges, but people are hurting each other, cheating each other, quarreling with each other, so wise judges are necessary as representatives of God to sort things out.

    I agree with Caitanya Candrodaya that looseness in the matter of unnecessarily judging devotees can be the death knell for our advancement in Krishna consciousness.

    If we fall down into sense gratification or some lack of properly regulated behavior, we can be rectified. There is no loss or diminution, and we will take up again from where we left off. Bhakti is very strong in purifying sinners and changing their bad habits.

    But woe unto us if we offend Krishna’s devotees. Without their blessings we will never be able to persist in the bhakti path. If we are fortunate enough not to be responsible for judging others, we should take advantage and not unnecessarily pick quarrels with devotees.

    It seems in the last 10 years or so whenever we discuss the “api cet suduracaro” verse, someone brings up the question of child molesters. How are we to consider such monsters as saintly?

    Well, we do have to question whether such persons could actually be “ananya bhak” devotees in the first place. But the more general principle is that, it is not an offense for those whose duty it is to protect society from criminals to mete out the appropriate punishments, and make whatever judgments are necessary in the course of carrying out such necessary social duties.

    A devotee who becomes a thief should recognize that when the law catches him and punishes him, it is part of Krishna’s program to rectify and purify him. If they cannot see this, what kind of devotees are they? We expect government to protect us from such miscreants. The victims may also be devotees.

    [I like the old Dylan song about Hattie Carol. Government has to punish wrongdoers properly]

    In olden times kings might have been able to handle administration of justice personally, but nowadays we have more complicated law enforcement, judicial and correctional systems. The Vaisnava Mahajana who sings “amara jivana…” was himself an exemplary judicial officer who brought certain rascals to justice.

    I suppose ultimately it requires some wisdom to distinguish when the situations demands us to condemn a criminal, and when we are just indulging our damned mind in faultfinding.

  15. Akruranatha says :

    I do not know much about the Bible, but the passage from Luke quoted by Sam seems very clear and perfectly in line with Vaisnava philosophy.

    We are servants of God, and we can nicely be compared to caretaker servants or trustees whose job it is to take care of everything for God. This is especially true for people with a lot of power, money or fame. We should not think we have a right to enjoy these “fruits”, but we must alwayts continue to do our duty to properly utilize everything in service to Krishna.

    So the parable of the caretaker servant who is entrusted with the responsibility of running the master’s estate is very appropriate.

    Whether Jesus actually said it or Luke picked it up from somewhere else is kind of beside the point. (I do not think the gospel of Luke was written in the 4th century, but it must have been some hundred years or so after Jesus, right? I am sure the historians have the dates of the four gospels pretty well nailed down)

    The key is, whoever wrote this passage had an essential understanding that parallels “karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana ma karma phala hetur bhur ma te sango ‘stv akarmani”

    The caretaker servant is not the owner, cause or enjoyer of the fruits. Because he was responsible, the real owner and enjoyer gave him some control over the property and the other servants. These “opulences” carry responsibilities. He still has to carry out his duties faithfully to the real master, or else he will lose his position.

    It is amazing how big demigods can so easily lose their minds, intoxicated by opulence. For example Indra actually tried to kill the vrajavasis with powerful storms and thunderbolts. He later realized his error and prayed to Govinda, but then soon afterwords tried to prevent Krishna from taking the parijata plant from heaven.

    We can talk about whether these lila were really just arranged by Krishna, and it is not our business to criticize superiors like Indra, but the lesson is there:

    Material opulence and being worshipped by subordinates is so intoxicating that even great personalities like Indra can completely forget themselves and oppose Krishna and His beloved devotees.

    It is much safer to remain a poor beggar with no followers, but Krishna wants devotees to take up responsible positions. He didn’t want Arjuna to renounce, but to win fame and a righteous kingdom. But those who win opulence have to remember they are still servants and caretakers for Krishna.

  16. ccd says :

    I know I should not be picking on Luke. There is no consistency on when it was written, I know it was before John and that the earliest manuscripts of the Luke are three extensive papyrus fragments dating from the late 2nd century or early 3rd century. So I just gave a ball figure, please do not judge me..

    There are services we are all lucky or not to get. I guess if Prabhupada left anyone a service to be a judge I would not mind. As far as I know he never did, and it was not because he was stupid, its because he was wise and knew that being a judge, means you should have a power over someone, like king, guru or father has.

    In most countries state has this power, I will leave it with it and would not involve Vaisnavas into it, unless there is specific sastric instruction for sadhakas to judge others, but I appreciate you trying to help to protect innocent ones, still I would leave it to the state. Any reasons why not?

  17. Akruranatha says :

    After writing about it, I was remembering the Bob Dylan song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”. For those who don’t know it, it is about a rich, politically connected, 24-year-old tobacco farmer who kills a humble 51-year-old maid in a Baltimore hotel (striking her with a cane), without provocation, shows no contrition, and gets arrested and charged with first-degree-murder. The song powerfully conveys that, while the events of the murder are surely tragic, the greater tragedy was that the corrupt justice system let the criminal off with just a six-month prison sentence.

    It is a powerful song, and I could tell without hearing so that the song was based on a true story from out of contemporary newspapers, and that the victim must have been a Black woman. It does not say that in the song, but you do not have to know much about Baltimore in the early ’60s to figure that out. The song condemned a racist justice system favoring wealthy planters with “high office relations”, without ever directly mentioning racism.

    Anyway, I went on the internet to look it up, and sure enough there was a Wikipedia article about the real William Zantzinger (called “Zanzinger” in the song). How did he get off with a six-month sentence? Sure enough, it was a diminished capacity defense.

    Zantzinger was blind drunk, running around striking various Black employees of the hotel with a toy, 25-cent cane, and spewing filthy racial epithets. After he struck Hattie Caroll, he beat his own wife with a shoe.

    Hattie Carroll was apparently not killed by the impact of the cane (in the song you get the impression that he crushed her skull or something). According to the article the cane struck her shoulder and did not even leave a mark. The defense argued at trial that she died from high blood pressure and a brain hemorrhage which, though exacerbated by her emotional distress at being so rudely treated by Zantzinger, was not caused by the impact of the blow.

    Zantzinger said he could not remember anything that happened (he blacked out because he was so drunk). He was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and was given a light sentence ostensibly because he was so drunk he was hardly responsible for his actions.

    So, this is yet another instance of a kind of “insanity” (diminished capacity) defense leading to a terribly unpopular result, immortalized in the searing folk song.

    Not very related to “Which Brahma?” Intoxication is dangerous.

  18. Akruranatha says :

    I saw a humorous sign in a restaurant once, that said something like:

    “Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol may cause moronic utterances to emanate from your mouth.” :-)

    Still, it was shameful the kind of kid glove treatment the real William Zantzinger got from the Maryland court. Even if he did not bash her skull in with a heavy cane, he engaged in ugly conduct that resulted in the death of the innocent woman. If it had been a liquored-up Black man who killed a wealthy Baltimore social doyenne, he could never have gotten off so lightly. (The article I read suggested they gave him a short sentence because a sentence of 1-year or more would have landed him in State prison with a high population of Black inmates)

    So, in the normal corrupt state of government affairs, often less is expected from those who have much. The powerful class protects its own. If you are friendly with those who decide, and have their sympathy, they will treat you leniently. That is the way of the world in Kali yuga, though it sh0uld not be, and it may sometimes be so in ISKCON too.

    Responsible administration should treat all devotees with great mercy and understanding, considering them saintly, yet with due regard for protecting other devotees and for the feelings of the victims and their loved ones. It should not appear that leaders are showing favoritism to their own friends and cronies, even though it is probably natural for people to actually favor their cronies.

    Even though devotional service is superior to any karma kanda means of atonement, devotees who sincerely recognize the faults of their past criminal behavior might profitably accept some real penance as an example to others and as a sign of their true contrition. At the very least, they should do what is necessary to actually satisfy the hearts of the devotees they have harmed. Otherwise how can they expect to please Krishna?

  19. Akruranatha says :

    In answer to text 16, I would say that I agree 100% it is a much nicer life to be a “temple devotee” who has no responsibility other than to do direct service 24/7.

    I especially love meeting the public daily and introducing them to Prabhupada’s books. I really hanker to return to that life which I foolishly abandoned, but I’m afraid I am still unqualified to do so.

    Those who are qualified to remain in that situation are the most fortunate, even though foolish materialistic people may see them as having few comforts, being social parasites, etc. (Dhrtarastra had the offensive mentality that the sannyasis were dependent on him.)

    I feel embarrassed that I have written too much about law and equality and a Bob Dylan song and other mundane topics. For devotees who are basking in the sunlight of the holy name, such discussion must seem to belong in a dark, dirty basement.

    “Why should Vaisnavas be judges?” It is easier to look at it from the other end: Why shouldn’t judges be Vaisnavas?

    We go out on sankirtan and beg everyone to chant Hare Krishna. The electrician, the hairdresser, the garbageman, the florist. Everyone can be a Vaisnava. Why not?

    Now, in this age, we do need some real brahmanas to act as the head of society. It is a desparate situation. Those who occupy the post of religious leaders are not effectively giving spiritual life to the people. The scientists and literati are distracting everyone from spiritual knowledge and actively encouraging them in athiesm and sin. Prabhupada was training his qualified disciples to become real brahmanas to rectify the situation.

    Not everyone is qualified as a brahmana, however. Those without the requirements should not live on charity and pose as something they aren’t. Kali yuga excells in hypocrisy and deceit. If the public perceives hypocrisy among the Hare Krishnas, they won’t be attracted.

    Honesty is the last leg of dharma, and it is a wobbly leg. Better to be an honest street sweeper than a charlatan yogi.

    So nowadays we have devotees who are honest doctors, lawyers, businessmen, nurses, software engineers, salesmen. (Well, maybe “honest lawyer” is an oxymoron.) :-)

    To remain honest, they should all appreciate the spiritual leadership of the true brahminical class of devotees and of the important work they are doing. We can purify our occupations by giving a portion of our earnings to worthwhile ISKCON projects.

  20. Akruranatha says :

    Caitanya Candrodaya’s point is a very important one, that devotees should avoid judging each other unnecessarily.

    Lord Caitanya emphasized the “trnad api sunicena” verse, that we should wear it around our necks.

    I have noted some advanced devotees who have learned techniques to avoid becoming involved in controversies. Even if they have opinions about controversial matters, you may have a hard time finding out what those opinions are. They are careful not to speak ill of anyone, and hate to even hear ill talk. These great souls are universally loved by all the devotees.

    When devotees start quarreling, the whole Vaikuntha atmosphere goes away. Devotees in responsible positions like Temple Presidents often find themselves beseiged by quarreling devotees who seek “judgment” in their favor. It must be very hard for them. Successful TPs have to develop techniques to deal with this problem.

    [I wince to think how we sometimes bothered Srila Prabhupada like quarelling children looking for our father’s favor.]

    To properly practice “amanina manadena” takes a little wisdom. Remember Narada Muni’s disciple the cobra? Even though he was ordered not to strike, he had to still show his hood, so people would fear and not abuse him. [Sometimes it might help seeming less tolerant and respectful than we really are.]

    Most of us have duties that require us to pass some judgments. Every endeavor is covered by some fault. Being able to make good judgments when the situation requires it, even between competing devotees, is a good quality. Shunning responsible service out of a fear that it may require us to judge devotees may be contrary to the Lord’s desire (Srila Prabhupada needs administrators and leaders who sometimes must make tough decisions).

    When a great, responsible position is thrust upon us, we have to take it up in a spirit of service. Chanting Hare Krishna will help us retain proper perspective and avoid becoming intoxicated by power, opulence, gross and subtle sense enjoyment. (Think of how Gopa Kumar was able to serve as Indra, Brahma, etc. without being distracted from chanting his mantra) It is healthy to be afraid of being intoxicated.

    But the “damned mind” wants us to go on judging everyone out of envy, all the time, even unnecessarily, foolishly thinking we are big, big Brahmas. This causes unnecessary quarrels and friction among devotees. We’ll never get anywhere in devotional service if we don’t learn to stop it.

  21. Akruranatha says :

    Maybe Karnamrta could say something further about the “Law of Contrast”. I have never heard that expression, and I am not sure what it means in the context of the article.

    Was it your wife Arcana-Siddhi who wrote that great BTG article about real and false humility about a year ago (or less)?

    The post-Hegelian atheist Feuerbach argued that man invents God out of what could be described as false humility. (Feuerbach is often noted as a major influence on Karl Marx, an important leader among a group of young radicals who had been immersed in Hegel but broke away from the attitudes that linked Hegel to the religious and political establishment). This rascal Feuerbach describes man’s faith in a personal God as an extension of our psychological needs and longings, contrasted against our own limitations.

    In a somewhat different way, some rascal Freudians see religion as an expression of pre-oedipal feelings of being protected and nurtured in a helpless condition.

    These atheists are fools and rascals, but there does seem to be something complicated going on with us pyschologically in comparing ourselves with father figures, kings, authorities, isvaras. Conditioned souls seem to vacilate between thinking themselves very important and placing great importance on leaders and gods.

    I read an interesting book many years ago by a Freudian anthropologist about the prevalence of human sacrifice in societies at a certain stage of proto-state social and political development. (I forget the author, but the title is “At the Dawn of Tyranny”) He analyzed (quite effectively I thought) the psychology of the importance of leadership to these emerging states (by divine kings for whose benefit humans were sacrificed), in terms of the psychological theories of the Freudian, Karen Horney.

    People do have psychological needs to be led, and to compare and contrast themselves to divine leaders. One thing the atheists like Freud and the devotees can agree on: conditioned souls are all a little crazy and dangerously disturbed. They have these turbulent conflicts regarding whether they ought to serve or alternatively be the isvara or authority figure. They have dark desires to usurp their fathers or gurus, which war with their higher consciences.

    I have no idea whether this has anything to do with Law of Contrast. Sorry for rambling.

  22. pustakrishna says :

    Dear Friends,
    Dandavat and Hare Krishna. All glories to Srila Prabhupad. Having been fortunate to have had Srila Prabhupad’s personal association, and having had His Divine Grace clarify some of these issues personally, I humbly offer you some thoughts on these issues.
    First, Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Complete Whole. His Instructions in His Bhagavad Gita are therefore most wonderful. Often, on walks with Srila Prabhupad, many disciples of Srila Prabhupad would challenge (in a nice way) Srila Prabhupad to find a synthesis between Vaishnava teaching and Christianity. He could do this regularly to help his disciples have more “faith”. However, and I am quite certain of this, Srila Prabhupad said directly, “there is no need to compare other scriptures to Krishna consciousness “if one has deep faith in Krishna”. This is not to criticize those who are trying to make connections between the scriptures. We can do this if it can be used in preaching for the benefit of others. Krishna does however recommend, Sarva Dharman parityajya…BG 18.66.
    Remember that our final goal is jnana-sunya bhakti. We shall someday aspire to serve Krishna and His devotees under the influence of His Yogamaya, whereby Krishna takes the greatest pleasure of exchange of love with His devotees. We are so fortunate to have come into connection with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. Devotees of faith can aspire for deeper faith to allow the melting of the heart in Krishna consciousness. And, remember that Sri Krishna is the Cause of all causes. His hand is behind everything. He is the Permitter (Eko bahunam yo vidhadhati kaman). Even when things seem incredibly difficult to understand, Krishna is controlling the material nature, the apara-prakriti. We are carried along by His grace. Our nature is of the para-prakriti. It is not so easy to be a vaishnava. It is a rare thing. Therefore, we aspire to worship and serve the real vaishnavas, always feeling ourselves to be aspiring servants.
    The process has been passed on to us, Sankirtan. Through this, the hridaya -granti, knot in the heart, will be cut, awakening the freedom and natural reality of Krishna consciousness. Krishna, by His mercy, may kindly causelessly grace the bhaktas as He likes. From our side, we can only surrender, and patiently await His mercy. Pusta Krishna das