By HH Subhag Swāmī
ārādhyo bhagavān vrajeśa-tanayas tad-dhāma vṛndāvanaṁ
ramya kaścid upāsanā vraja-vadhu-varga-vīrya kalpita
śrīmad-bhāgavatam amalaṁ purāṇaṁ premā pum-artho mahān
śrī-caitanya mahāprabhor matam idaṁ tatradaraḥ na paraḥ
“It is the conclusive opinion of Lord Caitanya that the most worshipable form of the Lord is that of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is the topmost worshipable abode. The highest and most pleasing type of worship of Kṛṣṇa is done by the vraja gopīs. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless authority on everything. And kṛṣṇa-prema is the fifth and highest goal of life” [Caitanya-matta-mañjuṣā commentary on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura].
One who stays in Vṛndāvana Dhāma can make tremendous progress in his spiritual life. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is non-different from the spiritual realm of Goloka Vṛndāvana. Vṛndāvana Dhāma is not different from Kṛṣṇa Himself. This is what we understand from Śrīla Prabhupāda and the previous ācāryas. Lord Brahmā gives a description of Goloka Vṛndāvana as follows:
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhir abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakṣmīs or gopīs.”
Vṛndāvana is divine and the residents of Vṛndāvana, the Vrajavasīs, are also divine. Their love for Kṛṣṇa is unparalleled. In Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa is the central point of all the activities. The Vrajavasīs are always absorbed in the thoughts of Kṛṣṇa. Everybody in Vṛndāvana, Vṛndāvana’s rivers, air, trees, stone, birds, animals, Nanda Mahārāja, Mother Yasoda, cowheard boys, gopīs, Govardhana, everybody in Vṛndāvana is looking towards Kṛṣṇa, with a strong desire in their hearts which is ‘how can I please Kṛṣṇa?’ This is the Vṛndāvana mood.
By cultivating this mood, a service mood, where Kṛṣṇa is the centre of all our activities, any place, although being in this material world, can be transformed into Vṛndāvana.
There are twelve main ‘vanas‘ (forests) and several other ‘upavanas‘ (sub-forests) in this land of Vraja. These forests have been highly glorified in various Purāṇas. Devotees who visit these forests can attain to the supreme abode of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Seven of these primary forests lie on the western side of the Yamunā. These are Madhuvana, Tālavana, Kumudavana, Bahulāvana, Kāmyavana, Khadiravana and Vṛndāvana. The five on the eastern side of the Yamunā are Bhadravana, Bhāṇḍīravana, Bilvavana, Lohavana and Mahāvana. These twelve forests are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s most confidential playgrounds. Out of these forests, Vṛndāvana is extremely dear to Kṛṣṇa. It is the forest of the Tulasī plant. Tulasī-devī is an expansion of Śrīmati Vṛndā-devī. Vṛndāvan is named after Śrīmati Vṛndā-devī. Vṛndā-devī is the most exalted devotee of Kṛṣṇa. She organizes all the transcendental pastimes between Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī and Lord Kṛṣṇa. Without the mercy of Vṛndā-devī, it is not possible to enter into the pastimes of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa.
This land of Vraja is etched with the marks of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s footprints. It is highly worshipable, even from a tiny grain of dust to the beautiful vines and trees growing here, as well as the birds and animals living in Vraja Dhāma. We need to pay our most humble obeisances with love and devotion to Śrī Vṛndāvana Dhāma.
Can we visit this Vṛndāvana by buying a ticket? We may see Vṛndāvana to be just like some ordinary village. So, how to qualify to see this Vṛndāvana? Our ācāryas are showing us the way:
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings,
viṣaya chāriyā kabe śuddha ha‘be mana
kabe hāma herabo śrī-bṛndābana
“When the mind is completely purified, being freed from material anxieties and desires, then I shall be able to understand Vṛndāvana and the conjugal love of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and then my spiritual life will be successful.”
If we can give up sense gratification and clean our hearts, ‘ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ‘ by rendering devotional service to the Lord, by chanting His transcendental names and by following in the footsteps of our previous ācāryas, then only we will be able to realise this Vṛndāvana. Material world, is a world of ‘viṣaya‘ (sense objects), it is a plane of sense gratification. We need to give it up; then can we come up to the spiritual plane, a plane which is free from enviousness, where everyone is trying to please Kṛṣṇa. We must sincerely endeavour to purify our consciousness in order to unlock the huge storehouse of love, hidden in the core of our hearts; only then can we actually begin relishing the transcendental pastimes of Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa in Vraja.
Lord Brahmā prays,
premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love” (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.38).
Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotees can see Kṛṣṇa with their eyes anointed with a tinge of love. Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, ‘bhaktyā mām abhijānāti‘ (BG 18.55), ‘one can know Me in truth, only by pure, unmotivated devotional service.’ Kṛṣṇa is known as ‘ajita’ (unconquerable) but even Kṛṣṇa can be conquered, that is possible only through pure loving devotional service.
There is one devotee of Kṛṣṇa who excels every other devotee in her devotional service. She is Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī; the eternal consort of Kṛṣṇa. As energy cannot be separated from the energetic, in the same way Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa are inseparable. Rādhārāṇī is Kṛṣṇa’s internal pleasure potency. The word ‘Rādhā’ originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Ārādhana‘. ‘Ārādhana‘ means worship & service with love. Rādhārāṇī serves Kṛṣṇa in such a nice way that no one can excel Rādhārāṇī in her service to Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī is embodiment of devotional service. And ‘rāṇī’ means the Queen. Rādhārāṇī is Vṛndāvaneśvarī, the Queen of Vṛndāvana.
Rādhārāṇī has a very soft heart. Whatever service we do, we offer it to Lord Kṛṣṇa through the ‘guru-paramparā‘, which in turn reaches Kṛṣṇa through Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. If She sees some nice devotee, She at once recommends him to Kṛṣṇa, saying, “Look Kṛṣṇa, here is a very nice devotee, performing very nice, humble service. I am unable to do such nice service. Kindly accept his service”. And Kṛṣṇa cannot deny Her request. But on the other hand she is also very strict. She doesn’t let the non-devotees and offenders to stay in the dhāma. The devotees in ‘Vraja’ try to humbly glorify Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. One who receives Her mercy can advance wonderfully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Just like Rādhārāṇī. She thinks always Herself as the lowest of the devotees. She thinks always, She sees always that the gopīs, other gopīs are better qualified to serve Kṛṣṇa, and that She is not qualified, not so much qualified. Therefore, in Vṛndāvana, you’ll find the devotees approach Rādhārāṇī, “Jaya Rādhe,” because if Rādhārāṇī advocates for him to Kṛṣṇa, it is very easily accepted. And Rādhārāṇī says… If Rādhārāṇī’s pleased, then She represents the devotee’s case that “Here is a devotee. He’s better than Me. Kindly accept his service, Kṛṣṇa.” So, Kṛṣṇa cannot deny. So, mahā-bhāva. Rādhārāṇī is mahā-bhāva.”(Śrīla Prabhupāda lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, 23 Oct. 1972, Vṛndāvana)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is Kṛṣṇa himself, advented with this mood of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī always feels intense pangs of separation for Kṛṣṇa. Even Kṛṣṇa himself cannot understand the attitude of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī; therefore He took Her position and appeared as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, just to understand Her transcendental feelings. The mahā-bhāva, which is the mood of the highest transcendental ecstasies, is especially prerogative of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and of the one who played the part of Rādhārāṇī, although He’s Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu taught us this mood of separation for Kṛṣṇa. It is the highest perfection of devotional life. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, the direct disciples of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited the feelings of gopīs love for Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said that we are the followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Our ultimate goal is to develop this mood of separation as exhibited by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and as taught by the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana. Attaining this spontaneous love for Kṛṣṇa is the highest perfection of life.
The Mood of the Six Gosvāmīs
The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana are the direct disciples of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Taking instructions from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, they rediscovered Vṛndāvana and wrote huge amount of transcendental literature to spread his teachings for the benefit of the whole world. They very scrutinizingly studied all the Vedic scriptures in order to establish the cult of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu on the authorized principles of Vedic knowledge. Their books acted as the foundation of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava philosophy.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura desires for the day when he will be able to qualify to understand their literature. He is teaching us. He prays,
rūpa-raghunātha-pade hoibe ākuti kabe hāma bujhabo se jugala-pīriti
“When shall I be very much eager to study the books left by the six Gosvāmīs, headed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī. By their instruction, I shall be able to properly understand the loving affairs of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Do not try to understand Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa with these blunt eyes and senses; try to understand through the instruction of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī” (SP lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 18, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
The Gosvāmīs are the eternal associates of the Lord. Internally, the Gosvāmīs were always immersed in the ecstatic ocean of the gopīs love for Kṛṣṇa which they elaborated in their books. Śrīla Śrīnivāsa Ācārya, an ācārya of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, beautifully explains their mood in his composition Śrī Śrī Ṣad Gosvāmī Aṣṭakam as follows,
he rādhe vraja-devīke ca lalite he nanda-sūno kuṭaḥ
śrī-govardhana-kalpa-padapa-tale kalindī-vāne kutaḥ
“The Gosvāmīs kept calling out very loudly everywhere in Vṛndāvana, shouting, “O Queen of Vṛndāvana! O Lalitā! O son of Nanda Mahārāja! Where are You all now? Are You just on the hill of Govardhana, or are You under the trees on the bank of the Yamunā? Where are You?”
The Gosvāmīs were absorbed with the gopīs mood of separation for Kṛṣṇa. But the Gosvāmīs; they were the ācāryas. For the benefit of the neophytes, they discussed elaborately, all the progressive steps in devotional life, beginning from the practicing stage to the advanced stages of spontaneous Bhakti. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī specifically discussed all the fine details of devotional life in his book ‘Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu’, for the benefit of the aspiring devotees. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī explains that the first step in devotional life is of ‘sādhana-bhakti’, wherein an aspiring devotee practices to employ both his mind and the senses in practical devotional service. He says that one should always try to mold the activities of his life in such a way that he is able to constantly remember Kṛṣṇa and anyone who tries to fix his mind on Kṛṣṇa will very rapidly make progress in successfully reviving his original Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is practical Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrīla Prabhupāda says that the persons engaged in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement may take advantage of this great literature and be very solidly situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
All of these principles as explained by the Gosvāmīs were based on the authorized teachings of the scriptures. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes in his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu,
aikantiki harer bhaktir
“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, Nārada Pañcarātra, etc., is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society” (Brs. 1.2.101).
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given us so many books, especially Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which we have translated into English as Nectar of Devotion, to understand the science of devotional service. This is the greatest contribution of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī = how to become a devotee. How to become a devotee. It is not sentiment; it is science. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is a great science.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.4, March 28, 1975, Māyāpur).
The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana were the ideal followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The way the Gosvāmīs spent their lives in Vṛndāvana was exemplary. These Gosvāmīs in Vṛndāvana, they were engaged almost twenty-four hours daily in rendering service to the Lord. They were ‘aniketa‘; they had no particular place of residence. The Gosvāmīs spent each day under a different tree. They usually slept an hour and a half; and on some days, when they continuously chanted Lord’s holy names, they didn’t sleep at all. After a whole day of service, they used to eat very little. Rūpa Gosvāmī took one or two chapatis (an unleavened flatbread) with a little channa (chickpeas); no salt, no spice, no sabjī (a vegetable preparation), nothing. Sanātana Gosvāmī used to eat few dry chapatis with some salt and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī simply drank some buttermilk in a leaf cup once in the evening. Over and above, the Gosvāmīs were also very popular among the local people. They were always kind and merciful, free from any enviousness. They were equally dear to both the sober and the ruffians.
Renunciation is the basic principle sustaining the lives of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s devotees. Seeing this renunciation, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is extremely satisfied. The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana had renounced completely their high-class material lives. Rūpa and Sanātana, both brothers, were earlier very high-ranking officials under the Nawab of Bengal. The Nawab relied on both of these brothers to administer whole of Bengal. Rūpa Gosvāmī was the finance minister and Sanātana was the chief minister. Rūpa and Sanātana enjoyed a lot of power and associated with the top aristocratic class of Bengal. Also Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī came from one of the richest families in Bengal. But they kicked out in a moment their luxurious lifestyles to enjoy the association of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet. They not only wrote books, but chanted, danced, discussed Kṛṣṇa-lĪlā and remembered Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastimes. Thus, they executed devotional service in Vṛndāvana.
The Gosvāmīs were ‘paramahaṁsa‘, the most exalted among the Vaiṣṇavas. ‘Rāja-haḿsaḥ’ is a swan which lives in the crystal clear waters of the Māna-Sarovara Lake in Kailash. The nature of a rāja-haḿsaḥ (swan) is such that, if he is given a mixture of milk and water, he separates the milk portion from it. In the same way, those who are paramahaṁsa, they can separate the spiritual essence from this material world. They are only concerned with the topics related to the Lord and to self-realisation. They see everything in this world only in relation to Kṛṣṇa and His service. And, on other hand, they reject the mundane aspect of this material world, the world of sense gratification with no relation to Kṛṣṇa.
We cannot imitate the Gosvāmīs, but at least we can try to follow in their footsteps. They are eternal associates of the Lord. We need to learn from them. At least, we should first of all try to eat simple prasāda, rice, ḍāl and sabjī. We must follow the principle of living a very simple life in terms of eating, sleeping and dressing, and then endeavour to develop this mood of separation from Kṛṣṇa.
Srīla Prabhupāda has said, “But simply by imitating his loincloth one does not become Rūpa Gosvāmī. One has to follow the principles of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Then he’s called rūpānuga. Unless you become rūpānuga, you cannot understand the Gauḍīya philosophy” (SP lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 18, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
Cultivating a Proper Mood While Chanting ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa’
The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana and also other Mahāprabhu’s associates displayed an excellent character of utmost humility. One who is not humble and tolerant, he cannot chant the names of the Lord. Gradually, as our heart gets cleaned by feelingly chanting the names of the Lord, then, by Kṛṣṇa’s blessings, all the secrets of devotional life are automatically revealed within our hearts.
Everything related to bhakti is present within the ‘Mahāmantra’. At the very beginning, a proper mood while chanting the Lord’s names is of paramount importance. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that at least we must think ourselves to be most fallen, wretched; and one must be more tolerant than a tree, giving up all sense of false ego, “I am this; I am the top gun; I am the in-charge.” We shouldn’t think like that. Then, giving all respect to others−−we shouldn’t be doing it just externally but at heart, and we should not expect that ‘people will honor me’−−then, having such a feeling, one should chant “Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare; Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare” with a prayerful mood in the heart that, “O pleasure giving energy of the Lord! O Kṛṣṇa! You are all-attractive! You are the deliverer from the cycle of birth and death in this material existence of the 8 million 400 thousand species of life. You are the embodiment of topmost bliss and transcendental happiness. You are the supreme enjoyer. Please, please, please engage me in Your loving service and the service of a pure devotee, like Prabhupāda, so that I don’t serve Māyā.”
Birds are Singing ‘Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa! Rādhe, Rādhe!’
Did you ever carefully notice the chirpings of the birds in Vraja? What do you hear? We may be hearing their chirping to be some ordinary sound, but those who are siddha, spiritually inclined, and are on a higher platform, they hear something else. They hear these birds glorifying Rādhārạṇī and Kṛṣṇa, chanting ‘Rādhe! Rādhe!’, ‘Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!’ and in the same manner, the birds call out,’Gaura-Nitāi!’ in Śrī Māyāpur Dhāma. It is said in Vraja that when we call out ‘Rādhe! Rādhe!’, then Kṛṣṇa comes, and when we call out ‘Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!’ then Rādhārāṇī comes. There’s a famous saying in Vṛndāvana, “Just roam around Vṛndāvana and keep chanting Lord Kṛṣṇa’s names and Rādhārāṇī’s names.” This bestows one with an eternal spiritual benefit. Prabhupāda asked his disciples from the Western countries to simply come here and stay in India or Vṛndāvana, or some other dhāma, to make rapid advancement in their spiritual lives. So, the devotees come here and roll on the ground in the transcendental dust of Vraja. The devotees chant, dance, and smear this dust of Vṛndāvana over their heads, and the dust of other devotees, and feel themselves to be spiritually enlivened.
Opening the Curtain of Yogamāyā
Kṛṣṇa sometimes opens the curtain of his yogamāyā potency to let his devotees get a glimpse of the spiritual world, the eternal Vṛndāvana. The devotees are unable to believe it themselves what they sometimes experience. Whatever a devotee desires can at once be fulfilled. A devotee may desire some water, as he feels thirsty; then, at once, someone comes, “Please take this water.” “How did you know I needed water?” the devotee asks. “No, no. I didn’t know.” the man replies. But the Paramātmā inspired him from within. The Paramātmā told him to give water. “How is this happening?” the devotee wonders. This is the symptom of the spiritual world. Because the devotee has had past piety, he got a glimpse of the spiritual world. Many devotees can share such experiences. The longer a devotees stays in devotional life, the greater will be his realisations.
We have all heard the sweet pastimes when Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī reciprocated with their pure devotees. Gopāla, in the form of a cowherd boy in Vṛndāvana, brought a pot of milk for Mādhavendra Purī. And Gopīnātha of Remuna, Orissa, stole a pot of sweet rice for Mādhavendra Purī. We can remember how Rādhārāṇī approached Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the form of a small cowherd girl and delivered to him all the ingredients for preparing a feast, as he desired to feed his elder brother Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. The Lord Himself presented a Govardhana-śīla to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī with His personal footprints, the print of His stick, flute, etc., to stop him from going for Govardhana-parikramā at an advanced age. Rādhārāṇī personally came and stood nearby, covering Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī from the hot sun, when he was absorbed in his bhajana. They all are very elevated devotees. They incessantly served Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa keeps looking for a chance to serve His unmotivated devotees.
Early Days in ISKCON
During the early days, life in ISKCON was quite a lot different. The devotees lived an austere life. In Vṛndāvana too, at that time, the Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma temple was under construction. Vṛndāvana looked very different then. There were not many buildings around, almost nothing, except very few old buildings, which were also run-down, and a few shops which were concentrated around the well-known ‘Loi Bazaar’ area. The side towards our temple had no construction at all, except for a small tea thatch opposite our property. Not many people used to come to this side. ‘Nilgai‘, the blue cows from Kṛṣṇa’s time, were still roaming around our temple area. They are very shy; if they see you, they’ll run away. One could also find some sādhus living with the very bare necessities, wearing minimum clothing, unlike now in ISKCON, where we are getting all the nice facilities, nice dress, etc; of course, we carefully try to use all of these in the service of the Lord. I remember when I came to Vṛndāvana back in 1974. I had been in a foreign country for a long time; and although I was told by Śrīla Prabhupāda to go to India earlier, I was unable to come because of some reasons. After a few years, when Prabhupāda had brought with him some foreign devotees, I came, in 1974. Devotees were austere. We were taking only rice and ḍāl (a soup prepared from split pulses), ḍāl with some reddish leaves three times a day, and nothing else.
Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda was having his morning walk along the Chatikara Road. At that time, there was hardly any traffic. Rarely a car came from Delhi; most of the time, some ‘tongawala‘ with a horse-drawn cart plied on the road, ferrying people. Life at that time was very simple, reminiscent of Kṛṣṇa’s old times. One of the devotees asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, this dust, is it different from the dust of other places outside Vṛndāvana?” Prabhupāda replied, “This dust is non-different from the dust of the spiritual world.” We can understand this statement of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s, from the scriptures. Anything related to Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s dhāma, Kṛṣṇa’s tree, Kṛṣṇa’s dog, whatever there is here in Vṛndāvana, are not ordinary. So, the devotees asked Śrīla Prabhupāda to explain further. Prabhupāda said, “This dust is cinmaya; it is spiritual. You see this dust, it can fulfill all your desires.”
The trees and dust of Vṛndāvana are transcendental. They can fulfill all our desires. We can see this to be true in the case of the Gosvāmīs. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana used to spend each night under a different tree. As they changed their places of stay each day, by that time all of their previous desires, if any, were fulfilled, their transcendental desires in the loving service to the Lord.
Material vs Spiritual Plane
There are two kinds of existence; one is of the material world and the other is of the spiritual world. And correspondingly, there are two planes of consciousness, material and spiritual planes of consciousness. A kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, or a new devotee, has his consciousness situated in the material plane. But an advanced devotee, the ‘mahātmās, the Gosvāmīs, although living in this material world, have their consciousness situated in the spiritual plane. Being spiritually situated under the influence of ‘the daiviṁ prakṛtim’, as Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, they can witness the spiritual world.
There are symptoms for both of these devotees. How do you know that you are situated in the material plane? In this material world, where generally everyone is obsessed with the material plane of consciousness, a person tries to enjoy his senses and lord over this material nature; whereas, in the spiritual plane, a devotee tries to please the senses of Kṛṣṇa and tries to follows what his guru says.
A devotee in the spiritual plane can have a glimpse of the spiritual world. Thinking of Kṛṣṇa means you are associating with Kṛṣṇa. Chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names means association with Kṛṣṇa; and if your feelings for Kṛṣṇa are very intense, then you can feel Kṛṣṇa’s presence everywhere near you. This is the spiritual plane. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that if you are absorbed in serving Kṛṣṇa, twenty-four hours a day, then you can feel this Kṛṣṇa current, the presence of Kṛṣṇa, just as an electrician who can perceive the presence of an electric current flowing in a wire.
The material world means the three modes of material nature. One in the mode of passion and ignorance may be standing in front of the Deity but may not be thinking of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa but something else. One may be very happy to stay in a dhāma, but, “Sorry, sir. If you are not thinking of Kṛṣṇa, then you are not in the dhāma. You are not in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, maybe some other kuṇḍa.” It depends upon your consciousness. It is the consciousness which matters the most for a serious devotee.
So, what does the spiritual world mean? Which mode? Lord Śiva is instructing Devī Satī:
sattvaṁ viśuddhaṁ vasudeva-śabditam (Śrimad-Bhāgavatam 4.3.23)
This is the mode of pure goodness. In the spiritual plane, one is completely free from lusty desires. Kāma, krodha, lobha lead us to hell. Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna to go beyond these three modes, “trai-guṇya-viṣayā vedā nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna” (Bhagavad-gītā 2.45). We must know the ‘tattva’;then we need to ask ourselves, “Am I becoming free from these three modes of material nature?” At least try to come to the mode of goodness; that is the qualification of a Brahmin. Situated in the mode of goodness, you can experience a higher quality of ānanda (happiness). You all are getting up early in the morning and taking bath. Do you like it? This is the mode of goodness. Also, you chant and listen to harikathā. Does it cause you to feel very joyful? For performing real devotional service, one has to be at least brahminically qualified. One who is trying to become a pure Vaiṣṇava, he will automatically develop all the brahminical qualities. And only one, who strictly follows the instructions of his spiritual master can become a pure Vaiṣṇava.
There is a very nice, related pastime of Śrīla Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Bābājī Mahārāja was always absorbed in his bhajana in Navadvīp Dhāma. He was a true renunciant. Once, a new bābājī made a kuṭira (hut) and tried to copy Śrīla Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. He showed himself to be fully absorbed in his bhajana. Soon, he started getting a good number of audience bringing with them their offerings for his darśana. Some devotees approached Bābājī Mahārāja to ask him of the new Vaiṣṇava. Then Bābājī Mahārāja revealed that they may be hearing from his mouth, ‘Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!’, but from inside he is chanting, ‘Ṭākā, ṭākā‘, ‘Money money’. We all know what we desire from the core of our hearts. We must not cheat ourselves. Time will reveal everyone’s true identity. Soonenough, bābājī ‘s real identity got revealed before everybody.
Even though he was in the dhāma, the pretending bābājī’s consciousness was stuck in the material plane, occupied with the thoughts of earning material profits.
It is the Consciousness which Matters
Once, a devotee asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Prabhupāda, what does, ‘man-manā bhava‘, always think of Kṛṣṇa, means? Prabhupāda, you also ask us to think of Kṛṣṇa playing the flute, Kiśora-Kiśorī, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, all the time but we are not always able to think of Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda; you know that.” Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “In the absolute plane, thinking about Kṛṣṇa, which is the most confidential knowledge, and thinking about Kṛṣṇa’s service are one and the same. Are you not thinking of the ways to spread this movement as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said!”. “Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda” replied the devotee. “Yes, that is also as good. That’s alright.” assured Prabhupāda.
So, if we are thinking of our services to Kṛṣṇa, thinking of the ways to improve and increase our services, then it’s the same as remembering Kṛṣṇa’s form. We are naturally unable to think of Kṛṣṇa all the time; rather, our mind is disturbed to a larger extent by many other things. But if we are thinking of our services, like how to run and manage Kṛṣṇa’s temple or thinking about our preaching services, or else, if we are nicely engaged in any other service, like cooking for the Lord, cleaning the temple, etc., then these are the same as remembering Kṛṣṇa. And if you are able to do it always, then it is as good as you being in Vṛndāvana.
Śrīla Prabhupāda went to America following the orders of his spiritual master, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, to spread the message of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Prabhupāda was absorbed a hundred percent in fulfilling the desire of his spiritual master. Actually, he was always in Vṛndāvana.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Just like my residence is in Vṛndāvana—that is the place of Kṛṣṇa, when Kṛṣṇa advented Himself, He was there—so, now I am in America, in your country, but that does not mean that I am out of Vṛndāvana. Because if I think of Kṛṣṇa always, so it is as good as I am in India, in Vṛndāvana. I am as good as in New York, in this apartment. The consciousness is there. So, Kṛṣṇa consciousness means you already live with Kṛṣṇa in that spiritual planet. Simply you have to wait for giving up this body” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā 8.12–14, Oct. 26, 1966, New York).
It’s our choice whether we are keeping ourself absorbed in the Lord’s services or letting ourselves get affected by sense objects. These senses are very strong; they always pull one towards sense gratification. But if our sādhana is good, especially the early morning chanting, then we can win this war–Kṛṣṇa consciousness versus Māyā, a war in which our mind is sometimes overpowered by Māyā and at other times is absorbed in Kṛṣṇa’s service. If our ‘bhajana-bala‘, spiritual strength, is stronger, then we can fight Māyā.
There is a related pastime of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s. Once, one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples from the Melbourne temple wrote a letter to Śrīla Prabhupāda, which goes like this, “In Melbourne, Prabhupāda, as soon as we go outside the temple, so many things we see; Māyā is so strong. I feel very difficult to always remember Kṛṣṇa. It influences me so much.” Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Look, if you are in the temple, there is no difference between the temple and Vaikuṇṭha. The spiritual world is in the mode of pure goodness. Wherever the holy names of Kṛṣṇa are being sung twenty-four hours a day, that place is not in the material world. In Melbourne, in the temple, you have Rādhā-Gopīnātha, Jagannātha, Baladeva, Subhadrā and Gaura-Nitāi; some devotees are engaged in decorating the Lord; someone is performing ārati; someone is making a garland for the Lord; some are cooking for the Lord; twenty-four hours, everyone is engaged in serving Kṛṣṇa; continuous harināma saṅkīrtana is going on; the temple is purified with incense; the atmosphere is in the mode of pure goodness. If you are absorbed in this consciousness, then you are pure and free from Māyā. “
Offenses in the Dhāma
Practicing devotional life in a dhāma, like Vṛndāvana, gives a thousand times result; but if one does some offense and breaks the regulative principles in a dhāma, especially in Vṛndāvana, then he gets a thousand times reaction. Rādhārāṇī is Vṛndāvaneśvarī; She is the Queen of Vṛndāvana. She doesn’t let the non-devotees stay in the dhāma.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “We should be very much respectful to Vṛndāvana Dhāma; otherwise, we’ll be an offender, committing dhāmāparādha. If we remain in Vṛndāvana we should know that we are living with Kṛṣṇa….The Dhāma is also Kṛṣṇa. If in the dhāma we commit sinful activities, then we are, what it’s called, committing suicide. It is a fact.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 31, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
There is a need to guard against the offenses committed in a dhāma. Anyone living in a dhāma is not an ordinary soul; they must be treated very very respectfully. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that there is a reason behind everything. There is also a reason behind the animals, the birds and the aquatics like the turtles living in a dhāma. Actually, they are not ordinary animals or birds. They are the Lord’s devotees. But, possibly, due to some mistake of theirs, breaking of some prohibitive rules in their past life, they got such bodies. Monkeys, hogs, asses and some birds, like the sparrow, pigeon and dove, are very much sensually inclined. If someone living in a dhāma, while practicing devotional life, also breaks the regulative principles, engages in illicit sex, then Kṛṣṇa arranges for them such a facility. We can see some birds drinking caraṇāmṛta. The trees, birds and animals hear harināma in the dhāma and eat the remnants of mahāprasāda. Thus, they make spiritual progress.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Those who are living in Vṛndāvana and acting like monkeys, they’ll get a next life as a monkey to remain in Vṛndāvana; and then, in the next life, they will be liberated. In one life, all their sinful activities will be punished” (Room Conversation, Sep. 7, 1976, Vṛndāvana).
Regarding the above statement, Śrīla Prabhupāda pointed out that we cannot bear to lose one lifetime in animal bodies. One must follow the instructions of his spiritual master and must try to go back to godhead Godhead in this lifetime.
Overnight, we cannot become Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura. We will cheat ourselves. We must introspect. When we close our eyes, what comes spontaneously in the screen of our mind? It’s most probably sense objects. It’s better to consult with your spiritual master if you are looking forward to stay in a dhāma. More important is the service given by the spiritual master. Regularly visit the holy dhāma, like Vṛndāvana, Māyāpur, and Jagannātha Purī, to recharge your devotional life. Continue performing devotional service; and when you feel that your last time is approaching, then immediately shift to stay in a dhāma.
In this connection I’ll narrate one funny story related to Śrīla Prabhupāda regarding dhāma vās (residing in a dhāma) and our real attachment.
Once, a big, heavy, black American devotee came to stay in ISKCON Māyāpur campus. He chose to stay near the cows in the gośala. But whenever he was approached by the authorities for some service, he used to say that he was meditating on Kṛṣṇa and replied in Bengali ‘Ami mālai boṣichi’, ‘I am chanting my rounds.’ The concerned authority got frustrated and had to inform about this problem to Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda asked, “Is he punctual at the time of prasādam?” The devotee in-charge replied, “Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda, very punctual.” Prabhupāda then said, “Then tell him that as he is a very advanced devotee, he need not bother to come to the kitchen to take prasādam; instead, you will bring the prasādam to him. As he is relishing ‘nama-rasa’, (the taste in the holy name), he must be above the bodily platform. So you take for him some prasādam once in a day.” The devotee in-charge did as Śrīla Prabhupāda said. But astonishingly, the American devotee became very restless and anxious for his prasādam and couldn’t tolerate separation from it. Soon enough, he mended his ways and forgot his bhajana mood.
Hence, in reality, our attachments clearly reflect our standing in spiritual life.
Sahajiyās are not Entertained
‘Sahaj’ means easy. One who takes everything to be very easy and cheap is called a sahajiyā . Unfortunately, in Vṛndāvana, there is a group of so called prākṛta-sahajiyās who want to begin their devotional life directly by discussing Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s conjugal loving pastimes. But, in reality, these topics are meant only for the liberated souls. Without first reading anything of the Bhagavad-gītā, that is, the first instruction of the Bhagavad-gītā, ‘I am not this body’, and realising it, they endeavour to understand Kṛṣṇa’s intimate dealings with the gopīs. Śrīla Prabhupāda told that these sahajiyās, they overnight want to imitate the Gosvāmīs, putting on gosvāmī clothes, but factually they are not gosvāmī but godāsa (servant of the senses). In reality, only the most elevated devotees, the mahājan’s like the four Kumāras, who are eternal brahmacārīs, can say something about Lord Kṛṣṇa’s dealings with the gopīs and Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī.
Śrīla Prabhupāda condemned the sahajiyās’ breaking of the regulative principles in the name of Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līlā. We can see that whatever they had left behind at their homes, again they are associating with those things in Vṛndāvana. Living in Rādhā-kuṇḍa has no meaning if a person’s consciousness is entrapped in the bodily platform. It is very dangerous for a person on the sensual plane to stay in Vṛndāvana. There is every chance of a fall down. Prabhupāda never recommended that. He did not allow his disciples to sit idle and talk big big words. We can see this from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s personal example. After trying very very hard in India to spread the movement of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Prabhupāda, at an advanced age of seventy years, took up the mammoth task of spreading this divine message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the western world. It is simply most amazing.
Kṛṣṇa is called ‘Adhokṣaja‘. It means that Kṛṣṇa is beyond sense perception. Kṛṣṇa cannot be realised by the sensual activities which these people think of. First of all, one has to give up sense gratification. And this is possible only if one gets a higher taste by serving the Lord, by doing our sādhana very nicely; then automatically one can have ‘vairāgya’, or renunciation.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said,
jihvāra lālase yei iti-uti dhāya
śiśnodara-parāyaṇa kṛṣṇa nāhi pāya
“One who is subservient to the tongue and who thus goes here and there, devoted to the genitals and the belly, cannot attain Kṛṣṇa”(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 6.227).
Forcibly one cannot have ‘vairāgya’; this is not our goal. It is artificial. Even great ṛṣis fell victim to the allurements of sense objects. Viśvāmitra Muni fell down. This can happen anytime to us. Many devotees, that is why, leave. Artificially practicing austerity, trying to copy another devotee who has been practicing for a very long time, will not help. You cannot make a raw mango ripe. It has to naturally become ripe. If you try to make it ripe overnight by using some chemicals, then it will not have any taste. As long as you have got this attachment of maithuna (sex desire), you cannot, cannot and cannot go back to Godhead, even if for millions and millions of lives you may be chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.
The first prerequisite for anyone who wants to begin his spiritual life is the practice to control and to purify one’s senses. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said,
ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
“Therefore, material senses cannot appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, form, qualities and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified and one gradually comes to understand who Kṛṣṇa really is” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 17.136).
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “The whole Kṛṣṇa consciousness process is reforming or purifying the senses” (SP lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 18, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
We have to purify our senses by engaging them in the service of the lord. Bhakti means devotional service. It’s not just an idle talk. The correct path is that which is enunciated by the mahājanas. Lord Kṛṣṇa tells the same thing to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā. We need to follow the bona fide path as exemplified by our previous ācāryas.
Śrīla Prabhupāda added, “The sahajiyās also say that writing books or even touching books is taboo. They feel that these transcendental books are meant for neophytes. They pose themselves as too elevated to exert energy for reading, writing and hearing. However, pure devotees under the guidance of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī reject this sahajiyā philosophy. To write books and publish them for the enlightenment of the general populace is real service to the Lord. That was Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s opinion” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 19.132, purport).
The Role of the Spiritual Master
The Gosvāmīs writings on the conjugal love between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is not meant for a neophyte devotee. It is a very confidential subject matter. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu discussed these topics only with his very confidential associates, like Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. So, in our present condition, we first of all need to understand that, ‘I am not this body’, which is the very first lesson of the Bhagavad-gītā. We are teaching to the world that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead that He is our supreme master and we are His eternal servants, and that our business is to simply serve Him with love and devotion. This is, in general, ISKCON’s philosophy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “You won’t find at any time that Caitanya Mahāprabhu is discussing rāsa-līlā publicly. No. Never. He was… He simply dealt with ordinary persons by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Neither did He discuss philosophy with everyone. But for the general public, so long as He remained at Jagannātha Purī, every evening He was simply organizing a great saṅkīrtana party” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 23, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
So, it is very essential to know our standing in spiritual life; and if we are honest, then there is every chance of improvement. There is a need to advance from the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī or neophyte stage of bhakti (devotion) to the higher standards of devotional life. Śrīla Prabhupāda has said that every devotee must try to come to the madhyama-adhikārī stage. The madhyama-adhikārī is defined as a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord’s devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature.
Bhakti is a gradual process, one cannot overnight become a pure devotee. Just like a student who wants to become a mathematician, cannot achieve it overnight. A young boy who studies mathematics in Class One in a primary school may stand first but that doesn’t make him a mathematician. He has a long way to go. As he grows-up he will study mathematics throughout his career, in school, in college, at university for a Master’s degree, but the level is different in each of the different standards, with enhanced complexity and a deeper level of understanding. Most of the students will be eliminated during the course and only a very few will be able to reach the doctorate course. A student has to sincerely learn under the guidance of a bona fide teacher, to progress to the higher classes. One who sincerely follows his teacher, he stays. In a similar manner an aspiring devotee requires the guidance of an experienced teacher who will guide him throughout his spiritual life. Such a teacher is called a ‘guru’ or the spiritual master. This is the verdict of all the scriptures.
In this regard, Śrīla Prabhupāda gives an example of a medical practitioner and a lawyer.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Nobody can be self-made anything. A medical practitioner, he cannot become self-made, that “I have studied all the medical books in my home.” No. “Have you ever gone to the medical college and taken instruction from the bona fide teachers?” Then, if you have got the certificate, then you are medical practitioner.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 30, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
A bona fide spiritual master is fully conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa. He knows well how to engage his disciple’s energy in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, and thus he engages a devotee in a specific devotional service according to his special tendency. A serious disciple must be very alert while selecting a bona fide spiritual master. Śrīla Prabhupāda has said that a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikārī as his spiritual master. Before taking shelter of such a spiritual master, the disciple must be ready to follow his instructions. The spiritual master also observes the inquisitiveness of the probable disciple and checks how much eager he is to understand the transcendental subject matter.
As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21):
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
“One who is inquisitive to understand the highest goal and benefit of life must approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto him.”
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura as well as Śrīla Prabhupāda said that one who acts independently is not performing bhakti. One must be obedient to his spiritual master; otherwise whatever one does in the name of bhakti is mere sentimentalism. It is said that by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa we meet a bona fide spiritual master and by the mercy of such a spiritual master we can get Kṛṣṇa. One should seek favor of both of them. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that one cannot overlap ācārya and go to Kṛṣṇa. That is not possible. Kṛṣṇa will not accept us.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (Cc. Madhya 19.151). By the…, by the double mercy…, Kṛṣṇa’s mercy and guru’s mercy. If one is serious, Kṛṣṇa is satisfied = “Now he’s serious about finding out, about knowing Me,” then Kṛṣṇa gives him direction that “Here is guru, My representative. You take shelter of him and you will get Me.” This is the way.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Oct. 30, 1972, Vṛndāvana).
Have you seen Kṛṣṇa- Balarāma? Balarāma is holding a plough; it means that the ‘guru‘, who is the representative of Balarāma, will help us to plough the land, to till the land, this land, the field of our activities; our body. As the farmers try to cultivate good produce from their land, in the similar manner, we also try to cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness in our lives. But the seeds sown by different farmers may be different. Someone may sow the neem seed, another sows a mango seed, both are sowing; but the seeds are different, and accordingly the result is different. The quality of the produce also depends upon how the farmer watered, how he fenced and took care of his crop. Accordingly he gets the result.
In a similar manner, our endeavours and desires are also different. If we cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we will become Kṛṣṇa conscious; otherwise, if we cultivate material consciousness, we will become a materialist.
Here is Balarāma, guru, holding a plough. He’ll help us to cultivate, he will help us to clean our heart, which has accumulated dust for innumerable lifetimes. Then we can see Kṛṣṇa and can realise His playing of the flute; in other words, we will be able to see the spiritual world, Vṛndāvana. This is the role of the spiritual master.
The spiritual master, or a ‘sad-guru‘, is the perfect doctor. He can check our pulse to give us the right medicine. The spiritual master rightly knows the way to clean our coal-like heart. A piece of coal cannot be cleaned by washing. It will become blacker. But it can be purified by putting it into a strong fire. We cannot clean on our own strength, the Himalaya-like dirt accumulated in our heart for innumerable lifetimes. But the spiritual master, a pure devotee, knowing the nature of a particular disciple, engages him in devotional service so that gradually his coal-like heart gets cleansed. We must endeavor to fully surrender at the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.
If we follow what Kṛṣṇa says and what the previous ācāryas say, then:
oṁ ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
“From a plane of nescience, where we are in ignorance and blind, he, the spiritual master, opens our eyes with the torch of knowledge, so that we can see things as they actually are” (Gautamīya Tantra).
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Without being self-controlled, without being disciplined and without being fully obedient, no one can become successful in following the instructions of the spiritual master; and without doing so, no one is able to go back to Godhead” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.5.24 purport).
It is certainly very clear now. We need to follow in the footsteps of our previous ācāryas, the mahājanas, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master in order to progress in our devotional life. This is called the paramparā system, the system of disciplic succession. Our foremost ācārya, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, states, “Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ”; if the ācārya, guru, is satisfied, then we must know certainly that Kṛṣṇa is satisfied.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “This is paramparā system. You cannot jump over. You must go through the paramparā system. You have to approach through your spiritual master to the Gosvāmīs; and through the Gosvāmīs, you will have to approach Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu; and through Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, you have to approach Kṛṣṇa. This is the way” (Lecture on Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.4, Mar. 28, 1975, Māyāpur).
Śrīla Prabhupāda asked every devotee to attend the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam classes in the morning and the Bhagavad-gītā classes in the evening. Every morning and evening, every devotee must chant and dance in front of the Lord by clapping hands in saṅkīrtana. Then, gradually, all the dirty things from the heart will get washed away; and ‘bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī‘, then one day, you will become a fixed-up devotee.
In a nutshell, Śrīla Prabhupāda told what bhakti is. It’s very simple: you are five feet; you require six feet of land to sleep; some mattress; some clothing, a few clothes just to cover yourself; keep clean; take bath; eat some food to keep your body fit, a little rice, ḍāl, a little sabjī; do your sādhana well; and as much as possible, try to do service to please Kṛṣṇa; then you will make advancement. This way, even in one life, you can go back to home, back to Godhead.
The Vedas assures all success for one who keeps strong faith in the words of Kṛṣṇa and his spiritual master. The Vedas declare,
yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
“Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23).
Preaching Is the Essence: The Special Blessings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu
We are goṣṭhyānandī. One who wants to increase the number of devotees is called a goṣṭhyānandī. Such a devotee wants to bring others to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Prabhupāda says that the more you increase the number of devotees, the more you become very much recognized by Kṛṣṇa because it is Kṛṣṇa’s business. Kṛṣṇa is very much pleased with the devotees trying to spread the glories of his holy names, chanting and dancing; following the instructions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “In other words, everyone should engage in preaching, following in the footsteps of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In this way, one will be very much appreciated by Lord Kṛṣṇa and will quickly be recognized by Him” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 7.152).
According to Śrīla Prabhupāda, barring some exceptions, those who preach to bring others to Kṛṣṇa consciousness can make swift progress in devotional life. Our movement is a preaching moment. One of the easiest methods of preaching and fulfilling the desires of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu is by doing book distribution. Even if we are unable to make devotees, still Śrīla Prabhupāda’s message in his books is extremely potent and it brings many people to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Śrīla Prabhupāda always encouraged his disciples to distribute books.
Śrīla Prabhupāda encouraged as follows, “Consequently, we always request members of the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, one can become a Rūpānuga devotee” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 19.132, purport).
We need to follow in the footsteps of our previous ācāryas.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was very much disturbed with his disciples fighting over rooms in his newly-built Kolkata temple. He told his favorite disciple, Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Look, whenever you get money, you print as many books in as many languages as possible and distribute profusely. I feel like taking out all this marble in the temple and selling it to print books and distribute.”
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Mahārāja said, “Do not try to see Kṛṣṇa. Render your service in such a nice way that let Kṛṣṇa see you. And when Kṛṣṇa sees us then our life is successful”. He means that we must always keep our self fully engaged in serving Kṛṣṇa, ‘sevonmukhe hi jihvādau‘. For one who is eager to serve Kṛṣṇa, for him, at the right moment, when he gets the required qualification, Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura didn’t try to live more in a dhāma. He stayed for some time in Jagannātha Purī, sometime in Navadvīp Dhāma, and in Vṛndāvana for a short while. But wherever he stayed, even outside a dhāma, he was always absorbed in serving the Lord. He rediscovered Māyāpur, wrote innumerable transcendental books, and was always engaged in spreading the glories of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He was a gṛhastha, but sannyāsīs used to come to learn from him.
So, we have to be at heart a pure devotee, neither a brahmacārī nor a sannyāsī; all these are external designations. Kṛṣṇa will not ask whether you were a brahmacārī, whether you were a sannyāsī, or whether you were a temple in-charge or how many books you distributed. Will He ask this? No. He will see whether we have become a pure devotee at heart; that’s all.
We may think ourselves to be qualified to chant twenty-four hours a day like a bābājī, but instead our mind hovers over the topics of sense gratification. In reality, one who is really getting taste in the holy name, a real Vaiṣṇava, he gives an opportunity to others to bring them to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A real Vaiṣṇava is one who feels for others’ distress; that is called ‘para-duḥkha-duḥkhī‘. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that one of the characteristics of a Vaiṣṇava is ‘jive doyā‘. He is compassionate towards other living entities; he understands their distress and tries to bring them to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is the panacea for all the problems. Prahlāda Mahārāja didn’t wanted to go back to Godhead alone but he wanted to take others with him. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu carefully directs everyone to first of all make their life successful by sincerely practicing all the rules and regulations of devotional life and then, by setting up their own example, try to preach to bring others to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Without first practicing devotional life ourselves, if we try to preach, then it will be ineffective. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that if we preach, then Kṛṣṇa will provide us with all the required facilities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “So, Kṛṣṇa, in His original status as Kṛṣṇa, and in His other status as Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in both ways, He’s insisting to preach. That is a very important business. Neither Caitanya Mahāprabhu nor Kṛṣṇa has recommended that you become a great devotee and sit down in a place and talk big, big words and simply eat and sleep. A brahmacārī, a sannyāsī, they are meant for preaching. There are very many big, big bellies in Vṛndāvana, but if they’re asked to preach Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission all over the world—melancholy” (Room Conversation, Sep. 5, 1976, Vṛndāvana).
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa in the mood of the perfect devotee, Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. He displayed the highest standards of devotion to Kṛṣṇa. He is ‘mahā-vadānyāya‘, the most munificent incarnation who advented Himself to freely distribute the fruits of devotional service, that is, the love of Godhead, among each and every one of us. He pioneered the saṅkīrtana movement and spread the glories of the Lord’s holy names. He personally sent Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura to go door to door to ask everyone to chant the names of Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda glorifies this hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. “It is imported from Vaikuntha world”, he said. ‘Golokera prema-dhana‘. Prema-dhana, it is the treasure of love of Godhead. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has sung, “Golokera prema-dhana, hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana rati nā janmilo kene tāy“. He says that the treasure of divine love in Goloka Vṛndāvana has descended as the congregational chanting of Lord Hari’s holy names but he laments for his misfortune as to why his attraction for that chanting never came about. He is teaching us. We should try to develop such a prayerful mood.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “Nobody knows what Godhead is. Nobody knows how to go back to Him. So to understand Kṛṣṇa and to become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, it is not very easy thing. Very, very difficult. But Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, mahā-vadānyāvatāra, He has distributed this Kṛṣṇa science and love of Kṛṣṇa in such a easy way that by His mercy even a most rude person can also understand, if He takes the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu” (Śrīla Prabhupāda lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.1, June 16, 1973, Māyāpur).
We should take shelter of Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. That is the blessing of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes in Vidagdha-mādhava (1.2), a drama compiled and edited by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
“May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī be transcendentally situated in the innermost core of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has descended in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 3.4).
It’s Mahāprabhu’s sweet will to spread the holy names of Lord Kṛṣṇa in every town and village throughout the world.
pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma sarvatra pracāra haibe more nāma
“In every town and village of the world, the chanting of My name will be heard (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya-khaṇḍa 4.126).”
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu desires that every person born on this planet, Bhārata-varṣa must make his life perfect and then distribute this knowledge of God Consciousness to others. Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa himself. His mission is to deliver all the fallen conditioned from a miserable life of birth, death, old age and disease towards an eternal blissful life by awakening them to their original spiritual consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If we are able to assist Mahāprabhu in this mission of his, then our lives will be successful. Śrīla Prabhupāda has said that his primary desire is to fulfill this desire of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Then, by Mahāprabhu’s mercy, we can all go back to Godhead, back to Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has said, “…certainly we will come out successful because Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself and whatever He desires will certainly be done. So, as parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we can become instrumental in carrying out the plan of the Lord and be benefited and be beneficial to all others by the progressive march Back to Godhead. So do not feel discouraged but carry on with perseverance and Krishna will help you. (SPL to Kirtanananda, Nov. 24, 1970, Bombay)
Chant, glorify and develop attachment to Lord Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities, beauty, pastimes, Kṛṣṇa’s dhāma, Kṛṣṇa’s devotees, Kṛṣṇa’s sevā (service), bhakta (devotee) sevā, then our life will become more and more joyful.
All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda!!!