Class on Bhagavad Gita – Part 1
August 22, 2007 Class on Bhagavad Gita -ISKCON of Silicon Valley San Jose, California
You can read part 2 here: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6468
By HH Radhanath Swami
Thank you Vaisesika Prabhu, for giving me this opportunity to serve you, as the servant of your servants. Haribol.
As the obedient servant of Vaisesika Prabhu and Satyadeva Prabhu, we will be speaking from the verse that they have selected, Second Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, text number 40:
nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti pratyavayo na vidyate sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat
“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.”
“Activity in Krishna consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krishna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krishna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krishna consciousness is incomplete. One percent done in Krishna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent, whereas in material activity without a hundred percent success there is no profit. Ajamila performed his duty in some percentage of Krishna consciousness, but the result he enjoyed at the end was a hundred percent, by the grace of the Lord. There is a nice verse in this connection in Srimad Bhagavatam (1.5.17):
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambhujam harer bhajan apaktvo ‘tha patet tato yadi yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim ko varta apto’bhajatam sva-dharmatah
‘If someone gives up his occupational duties and works in Krishna consciousness and then falls down on account of not completing his work, what loss is there on his part? And what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?’ Or, as the Christians say, ‘What profiteth a man if he gain the whole world yet suffers the loss of his eternal soul?’
“Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Krishna consciousness carries a person again to Krishna consciousness, even after the loss of the body. At least one is sure to have a chance in the next life of being born again as a human being, either in the family of a great cultured brahmana or in a rich aristocratic family that will give one a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Krishna consciousness.”[End of Purport]
This particular sloka, throughout history, has been cited by our beloved acaryas as a prominent teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, because it differentiates spiritual from material. Krishna is eternal, and devotional service is eternal.
In Caitanya Caritamrta, Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains that essentially there are three essential topics: Krishna, the devotee, and the process of devotional service.
And because devotional service is eternal, any act for the pleasure of the Lord can never be lost. Why is that? It is not because of some mechanical law. It is because that is the nature of Krishna’s heart.
One of the most essential qualities of a Vaisnava, is gratitude. How Srila Prabhupada demonstrated his gratitude!
At the time of the installation of Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda in Bhaktivedanta Manor in London, devotees came from all over Europe and many from parts of the world for this glorious occasion, for Janmasthami.
The next day was Prabhupada’s vyasa puja. One of the most well-attended of such events. It was the day when everyone came to glorify Srila Prabhupada as their guru. But during Srila Prabhupada’s lecture, he glorified all his devotees.
He quoted a verse from Caitanya Caritamrta, and then said, “This Caitanya Caritamrta has just been published and will be coming out.” And he said, “And all credit goes to Pradyumna” [chuckles] “who worked so hard to help make this happen. Therefore, I call him, Pradyumna Mahasaya.”
Do you know what a title that is, “Mahasaya”? Jiva Goswami awarded that title to Narottama Dasa Thakur, “Mahasaya”. Very exalted.
And he was praising Pradyumna. And then he started praising Pradyumna’s wife Arundhati for the unbelievable service and sacrifices she made, in helping with the proofreading, and transliteration, helping whatever she did.
And then he went, one by one to various devotees, who were doing such wonderful services. And Prabhupada was saying “I didn’t do anything. It was this devotee’s sacrifices, this devotee’s devotion, that have done it. Prabhupada was so . . . grateful.
George Harrison. He was not necessarily strictly following the four regulative principles. But he wanted to serve Prabhupada sincerely. And according to his capacity, he did. Prabhupada asked him, “You’re a Beatle, you’re a musician. Sing music. Use your fame, to bring people closer to Krishna.” And he sincerely tried.
What was Prabhupada’s gratitude? He said . . . One time they asked if he would get initiated, he said “He is already better than my disciple. He is my son. ‘Hari’s son.’”
And when Prabhupada was in his last days, on what we call a ‘death bed’, in Vrndavan, he took off his gold ring from his finger, that someone had given him, some years before perhaps. He took off his gold ring from his finger. He turned to Tamal Krishna Goswami, with tears in his eyes. He said “Give this to George, and tell him I love him.” Hare Krishna. That was Srila Prabhupada. So grateful!
Because, a pure devotee is a manifestation of Krishna’s love in this world. His Divine Grace means Krishna’s divine grace, that is perfectly and transparently flowing through the heart of one who serves Him unconditionally.
Yes, Krishna’s love is unconditional. He never, ever forgets anything we have done. Even if we fall to the lowest of the low positions. Krishna will give us whatever karmic reactions we need, to bring ourselves back up, but He’ll never forget, ever, ever, ever, what that devotee has done. And He’ll always be waiting to lift us up as soon as we just turn in His direction again.
So this principle, how any act in devotional service is never lost, is actually simply a manifestation of the supreme opulence of gratitude, in Krishna.
Living entities, we can easily forget something nice a person has done to us, especially if they offend us. Yes. But a pure devotee never forgets, and Krishna never forgets. And they’re always making some orchestrated arrangement to somehow or other bring back that devotee back who once engages in bhakti.
There is an example that I was fortunate enough to personally eyewitness, to some extent. At the beginning of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, when he was in New York City, we know a story, how he had nothing and nobody. And he met some hippie boy, who took some interest. And that boy invited Prabhupada to stay in his loft, in the Bowery, and Prabhupada was so excited about it.
Did you ever read Prabhupada’s diary, when he was in New York City, in the Bowery? If two people came to one of his classes, he was ecstatic. He would write in his diary, “Today, I bought potatoes for . . .” you know, “. . .12 cents”, “And I bought some cabbage for …” you know, “…22 cents.” Every little thing. “I bought a stamp for 5 cents.” It was all in his diary.
And he said, “Tonight we had a program, and eight people came. And I played a tape of the Maha Mantra.” He played a reel to real tape of himself chanting the Maha Mantra. And he said, “And they enjoyed it. Now I understand for sure that Haridas Thakur’s prediction will come true, that everyone will be chanting Hare Krishna!”
He would just see any little glimpse of indication from Krishna as a great sign. And he would be enlivened by it!
Now, if us? If we have a program, and eight people come, we think … “Cha.” [Laughter] “What did I even go there for?” “Eight people?”
But for Prabhupada, “Eight people have come! Three people have come!” And he’s writing back to his godbrothers in Calcutta, “We have a center now, in New York City!!!”
It’s just a flat, in the Bowery. On the top floor. And you have to walk up, step after step, all these steps. And Janaki was telling me. She went up those steps, when she first went to see Prabhupada in that loft. The steps were damp, dingy. They smelled moldy, like anything, that hallway. And it was dark. Even in the daytime it was dark. And she went all the way up, floor after floor after floor to the top, and she came up to this room that had no furniture, nothing. And Prabhupada was just sitting on the floor, and the only light in the room was just one bulb, just hanging from a wire on the ceiling. No shades or anything like that like these opulent facilities you have here.
And Prabhupada was just sitting there, reading Bhagavad Gita, giving class. Hare Krishna. And he was enlivened. “We have a center!” He’s writing to his godbrothers, “We have a center in New York City!” “Come! Send some help, send some wealth!” You know, “Let’s expand it for the pleasure of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Bhaktivinode Thakur, Mahaprabhu!” But nobody took him seriously.
And after some time that person took some LSD, and threatened to beat Prabhupada, and kill Prabhupada. In the middle of the night. He came to Janaki, Mukunda Maha… Prabhu’s house at the time . . . now he’s Mukunda Maharaja. And he was just standing there. And he said, “Now I have no place to stay. Can I come stay with you?’
He left Vrndavan, Seva Kunj, Radha Damodar temple. To do this? They weren’t even devotees. They just happened to come to his class. They were the only other people he knew.
Why didn’t he go back to India?
So they didn’t know what to do. Because they really didn’t want him to stay with them, because they weren’t following regulative principles, and they were living together, and they weren’t even married, and he was like this highly esteemed Swamiji, from India.
It was an emergency, they had to somehow or another find something for him. So they found 26 2nd Avenue, a little storefront. And somehow amongst all their friends they raised the first month’s rent, and they told Prabhupada, “We won’t be able to pay after the first month’s rent. But here’s a place for you.” Haribol. A little apartment behind, across the courtyard.
So he started having classes…. put a little poster in the window, what time, what day the classes would be on Bhagavad Gita. But really hardly anyone was coming. And then one day he was just walking down the street. Where he was living, his typewriter was stolen, all his possessions were stolen, his life was at risk. He had just had two heart attacks. Stroke. Hare Krishna. He had nothing, nobody. But he kept preaching.
And he was walking down Houston Street, and one man, he happened to see him and ran across the street, and said, “Are you coming from India?” And Prabhupada said, “Yes. Are you?” [Laughter].
He’s an American man, very big, tall man. And they started talking. And Prabhupada brought him to this, at 2nd Avenue. And he said, you know, “Please come, and come to my classes, and bring your friends.” And then he asked him, “How do you like it?” “Do you have any suggestions?” “What I can do?” “What’s better?” Immediately, he very humbly, he was just asking for . . . for guidance. To engage him in his service . . . Krishna’s service. And later that became Hayagriva Prabhu.
And he started bringing his friends. And there was nobody there. Prabhupada said, “Why don’t you move in?” So they, just moved in. And they brought whatever they had, and decorated the walls with whatever they had.
Because they had been to India. Prabhupada came on the Jaladuta 1965. The return voyage Hayagriva and Kirtanananda Swami, the return voyage, they both went to India. But they didn’t find anything, except some pictures, in Calcutta. And they took it back.
And they put all these pictures they got in India on the walls. And they had no idea what these pictures were. They just thought they were “psychedelic”. Monkeys flying with mountains, and somebody with six arms. And Prabhupada. . . People laying on snakes… and they thought, “This is amazing!”
So Prabhupada was, he came… They surprised him. He came down to the storefront and it was all decorated. And he, he saw this one picture and he just bowed down and started offering prayers. . . And they were saying, “What is this?” He said “This is Sadbuja, Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His six-armed form, as Ram, Krishna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
And one day, Prabhupada asked Hyagriva, “Can you help me?” He said, “sure.” And Prabhupada said, “Come up to my room.” He came up to the room.
And Prabhupada said, “You are a professor of English?”
He said, “yes.”
“Can you edit something for me?” He said, “I’ll be happy to.”
He was expecting a page or an essay. [Laughter]. Prabhupada gave him like
800-page manuscript [laughter], tied together, with twine. You know, just tied. And he said, “You can start with this.” [Laughter]
And he said, “Alright Swamiji”, you know? And he said, and then, before. . . he was shocked, you know, he said, “How . . . ? You know, he could hardly carry it, like this . . . [gesturing]
And then Prabhupada looked at him and he said, “And when your done with that … we have some more.” And then he opened up these trunks with like thousands of pages of Prabhupada’s manuscripts. Hare Krishna. And he did it. He started doing it, to the best of his capacity.
Now, later on, due to his previous conditionings, he fell away from the regulative principles. He fell away from his sadhana. In fact, he was engaging in activities that devotees considered abominable.
But Srila Prabhupada, whenever he met any devotee who was from those olden times, he would ask, “Where is my Hayagriva? How is my Hayagriva?”
And one time in Hawaii, devotees told Prabhupada when he was there that, “He’s somewhere around here.” And Prabhupada said, “Please find him, tell him I really want to see him.” But he was so ashamed. He was just living somewhere in seclusion. But when he got the message, he went. And he fell at Prabhupada’s feet. This was after he had been away for some years. He fell at Prabhupada’s feet, and he was weeping and crying, “I’m so ashamed of myself, Prabhupada.”
Prabhupada lifted him up, and embraced him. And Prabhupada cried. And said, “You are my son. I will never forget you.” And he gave him another stack of manuscripts. [Laughter]
Now, Prabhupada already had editors at that time. It’s not that he desperately needed. But he just wanted to engage him. And he did. Prabhupada never forgets.
And he told some other senior devotees, when he was– when Prabhupada was on his deathbed, and Hayagriva was still, you know, a distance, in a fallen condition. Prabhupada told devotees, “I’m giving you the responsibility to bring my Hayagriva back to me.”
Years later, in around 1988, I was in India. That’s where I stay, in Bombay. And Hayagriva Prabhu came to our temple in Bombay, and he was extremely sick. He came to America and found that he had terminal cancer, of the spine, that had already spread all over his body, and there was no chance of his living.
When he got that message, he totally surrendered to Prabhupada and Krishna. And I saw him. He just was … humble like a blade of grass.
Sometimes I’d sit and read to him, and he would just be in rapt attention. So submissive. Anybody who was reading to him, he was just so submissive to the words in Prabhupada’s books, and so absolutely respectful and humble to all the devotees. He was manifesting such unbelievable qualities. He was totally, totally, totally repentant for all the . . . all the misdeeds he had performed.
He was taking shelter of the Vaisnavas, taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s books, taking shelter of the Deities. It was unbelievable to see the intensity of his devotion, and the genuineness.
He told me once, a story from the old days. Would you like to hear it? [“Haribol!”] Okay thank you. ‘Cause I don’t know how people are thinking about anything I say, unless I ask.
He said, “At one time, back in the 1960s, around ‘69 or something, Prabhupada wanted him to be the president of New Vrndaban. And Hayagriva was adamantly against being the temple president of New Vrindaban. But he had already heard from other sources that Prabhupada was going to ask him.
So he planned a whole strategy of arguments to convince Prabhupada that he could not be the president of New Vrindaban. He actually spent a week, just making his strategy, with all the arguments, scriptural quotes, social reasons, personal reasons. And he’s a professor.
So he went into Prabhupada’s room. He had memorized, he had prayed. He was armed. There was no way that he was going to be the president of New Vrindaban. Anything but that!
So Prabhupada says to him, “There’s a service I would like you to render.” And he says, “Yes, Prabhupada? What? What would you like?” [Laughter]
And Prabhupada said, “I want you . . . to take sannyas.” [Laughter] It was like a flaming arrow that just pierced his chest, went right into the core of his heart and set it on fire. He was totally bewildered and off-balance. He said, “Prabhupada, no. No! I am not qualified!” Prabhupada said, “No, no, you are qualified.” He said, “No, no, Prabhupada! I have so many lusty desires”. Prabhupada said, “Well you can be purified. Just keep chanting.” And he said, “Prabhupada, I . . .I . . I can’t do it.” Prabhupada said, “You should take sannyas. I have already decided. There is no arguments.”
And he was just dumfounded. And he cried, “Please, please! Please don’t make me take sannyas!” And Prabhupada said, “Well. . . you don’t have to take sannyas if you become the president of New Vrindaban.” [Laughter and clapping]
And Hyagriva said, “That’s just the service I wanted to do, Prabhupada.” [laughter] “I’ll be so grateful to be the president of New Vrindaban.” [Laughter]
So when he was on his deathbed he was telling me this story. And he thought, “I really, I should take sannyas. Because I am going to die, and Prabhupada gave me this instruction.”
So one of his godbrothers. . . He took sannyas. But he couldn’t walk. He was paralyzed. So I remember. . . I had the fortune of carrying the danda from the yajna to bring to him. And as soon as he saw that danda, it was as if he was seeing Prabhupada personally coming in the room. And he just lit up. Laying in his bed, he just lit up, and his eyes just started streaming with tears.
And he reached his arms up. And he said, “Prabhupada. Prabhupada.” He said, “Years . . . decades ago you asked me to do this. And you’ve been waiting so long for me, to surrender my life to you. You’ve waited so long, Prabhupada. And now I’m doing it for you.”
Then he wept even more. He said, “Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “All these years I could have done so much for you.” “I do not regret that I am in pain, 24-hours a day. I do not regret that I’m gonna die at any moment. I only have one regret: There’s so much I could have done for you all these years, but due to the weakness of my heart I didn’t do it.”
“But Srila Prabhupada, you’ve been waiting for me all this time.” And he took that danda and put it to his head, and embraced it. And he left this world, in such an amazingly wonderful state of Krishna consciousness.
What did I learn from that? Srila Prabhupada’s gratitude.
Nehabhikrama naso ‘sti pratyavayo na vidyate. He did some service, he pleased Srila Prabhupada, he pleased Krishna, and Krishna never forgot.
And ultimately, at the most . . . when it was the time of the most dangerous type of fear, Prabhupada and Krishna was there to reclaim him. That is the power of devotional service. That is the power of the grace of Krishna. Krishna does not see simply what we offer. He sees the sincerity of the purpose in which everything is offered. Srila Prabhupada writes this in Caitanya Caritamrta.
In fact, Hayagriva showed me a letter that Prabhupada wrote to him, when he was in his fallen state. Srila Prabhupada said, “Because you once chanted Hare Krishna sincerely in Vrindaban, Krishna is going to rescue you, and save you, and bring you home.” Haribol. That was Prabhupada’s faith.
So yes, sometimes we may see devotees who have done great service, and they do stupid things. They even fall down. Now there is svarup laksana and there is tatastha. There is the core, principle qualities, and then there is the more relative qualities. Whatever service we do is absolute, is eternal. Whatever maya we do is relative. And that is a fact.
So no doubt, if somebody is not exemplary in their Krishna consciousness, we may not want to associate with them, because they may criticize, or they may pull us into their maya. So we offer obeisances from a distance. But we should not lose perspective.
And what is the perspective? That, whatever offenses or sins a person does is relative within the laws of karma, and Krishna is going to beat them down, punish them, whatever has to be done. But through it all, the devotional service that they’ve rendered is always there.
Take an example like Hayagriva Prabhu. As far as I could see he went back home back to Godhead, by Prabhupada’s causeless mercy. So who cares, what stupid things and mistakes he did in this world, if he’s back home, back to Godhead?
Yes, Krishna sees our maya, and He’ll rectify us one way or another. But He also sees the service that we’ve rendered. And if that service is sincere in purpose, Krishna’s eternally grateful.[End of Part One]
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