13 Apr Introductory Lecture To Krishna’s Vrindavan Pastimes, Vrindavan, India, 13 November 2013
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KṚṢṆA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Ācārya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Welcome Lecture Given By His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami
Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvana Pastimes, Vṛndāvana, India, 13 November 2014
When and wherever we are with Kṛṣṇa, only then can we be truly happy.
māyā haya andhakāra
yāhāṅ Kṛṣṇa tāhāṅ nāhi
“Kṛṣṇa is compared to sunshine, and māyā is compared to darkness. Wherever there is sunshine, there cannot be darkness. As soon as one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the darkness of illusion (the influence of the external energy) will immediately vanish.”
[Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā: 22.31]
Kṛṣṇa is described as the ‘real’ sun. Kṛṣṇa is “sūrya” or the sun and “sama” means like, or denotes similarity. In contrast, māyā is described as darkness. “yāhāṅ Kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra” – wherever Kṛṣṇa is present, there is no room for māyā to exist. Can darkness be present when the sun is shining? No, since the sun dispels the darkness. Similarly when and wherever Kṛṣṇa appears and is present, māyā is automatically dispelled. This material world is a world of māyā and it is in darkness. In this material world we require the sun, moon or fire to dispel darkness. We are dependent on the sun as the primary source of light. The moon reflects the sun’s light while fire is the sun’s latent energy. The latent energy of the sun is present in various forms of fuel – such as wood, petroleum or coal. Wood is obtained from trees, which derive energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis – chlorophyll harnesses the sun’s energy and stores it as latent energy, which we later use as fuel. Coal is a fossil fuel formed from millions of years of dead plant matter compressed under high temperature and pressure. Yet again, this decaying plant matter contains the energy derived from the sun. The point thus is, that the sun is the primary source of energy and light in this material world. Can you imagine a world without the sun? Not only would this material world be plunged into complete darkness, but life would also cease to exist since the sun supports life in a myriad of ways.
The absence of light – a material phenomenon – is one type of darkness. However, there exists another kind of darkness – relating to spiritual phenomena: the darkness of ignorance. This darkness is caused by māyā, the illusory energy of the Lord, where we are overtaken by an ignorance of [knowledge of] Kṛṣṇa. In this darkness, we are forgetful of our eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, as eternal part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and His eternal servitors. We are tricked into believing that we can happily enjoy separately from Kṛṣṇa while existing in this material world, and exist happily and separately from Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual world. This darkness can only be removed by the light of knowledge – the “real” knowledge of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Just as the sun removes the darkness of this material world, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness removes the darkness of ‘spiritual ignorance’ [caused by the forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa and our eternal relationship with Him]. Thus, Śrīla Prabhupāda, out of his causeless mercy, came to this material world to give us the real knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The blazing torch of spiritual knowledge carried by Śrīla Prabhupāda is different from material knowledge offered by lamps. The light offered by the lamps of material knowledge can dispel only a limited amount of darkness, and that too, for a limited amount of time. In a dark room, the light from a small lamp functions no better than a firefly’s light – with its sparse light, it only enhances the darkness of the surrounding. However, the light offered by the blazing torch of spiritual knowledge [of Kṛṣṇa] dispels our ignorance, and drives away māyā. It is only through becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious that we become situated in real knowledge.
So how then do we become Kṛṣṇa conscious? How do we learn about Kṛṣṇa and how do we get to know who He is? Is it merely through seeing Him? One way of learning about a person is through seeing that individual. However, an even more effective means of learning about a person than seeing, is learning more about them – their activities, abilities, achievements and so forth. Take Bill Gates – for argument sake if he walked into this room right now, perhaps several of you would not recognize him. Perhaps some of you may not know either who Bill Gates is, or what he is famous for. Were someone to point out that he is the owner of Microsoft, you may not know much about the company Microsoft either. However, you would more fully appreciate the prominence of Bill Gates if you are told that Microsoft is the world’s largest PC software company that produces software programs and operating systems you use daily on your computer; or that his net worth is close to $82 billion. Only after learning these details about him, you may come to more fully appreciate the prominence of Bill Gates as being the world’s wealthiest person. Thus, merely seeing a person is not sufficient to deeply know or understand that person – to do so, you must know who he is, what he is, his achievements, activities, and so forth. Similarly, to know Kṛṣṇa we have to extensively learn about His name, His form, His qualities, His activities, His power, or His potency. Were someone to say that God created the material and spiritual worlds, by His arrangement all the universes are floating in stasis, and merely saying, ‘Let there be light’, He created light – it would be difficult to understand and relate to these facts. Just as relating to Bill Gates seems a stretch, until we learn more about what his net worth is, or how much he donated to charity. Similarly, when we hear how Kṛṣṇa is addressed through His munificent titles – Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme creator, the Supreme Maintainer and so forth – most often we can’t really understand or relate to who the Lord is through engaging with His glorious titles. However, Kṛṣṇa out of His causeless mercy actually helps us to understand Him, through revealing His Braja Līlā on this planet. Braja līlā, Braja means Vṛndāvana, and Līlā refers to pastimes – Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvana pastimes.
Kṛṣṇa’s Braja Līlā is unique in several transcendental ways and set apart from His innumerable other pastimes enacted. In Vṛndāvana Kṛṣṇa does not assume His identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though He eternally exists as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Vṛndāvana Kṛṣṇa is a cowherd boy. Were Kṛṣṇa to exhibit His eternal identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the living entities would not be able to easily approach Him nor understand Him. For example, can you easily approach a king? Very difficult, indeed. Even if you were granted access to approach him, what would your mood be once before him? Finding it difficult to look up, with folded hands and lowered eyes you would approach him, offer daṇḍavats and remain on the ground for a long time, from being overwhelmed with emotion and respect. If the context changed and the king visited your village or city in disguised identity and lived as one of its inhabitants, would it then be difficult to approach him? For instance, was he to visit your next-door neighbor as a relative, what might you perceive? That your neighbor’s relative – not the king – is visiting and you are thus likely to deal with him in an informal and intimate manner. This would be very different from the way you would interact with him if you were aware of his real identity as the king. For argument sake, if you were travelling with the king and were attacked by twelve dacoits, or a tiger, and he singlehandedly defeated the dacoits, or battled and killed the tiger to save you, how do you think you would react? Yes, you would probably feel as if you owed him your life. You would be able to relate to him as a very special personality – not as the king – but as a personality whom you could surrender to as a servant, and accept as your master. This analogy illustrates how Kṛṣṇa performs His Braja līlā, or Vṛndāvana līlā. Through these līlās and the manner that He chooses to perform them, Kṛṣṇa allows us to develop an intimacy or closeness with Him, therefore helping us to relate with and understand Him. Mind you, in order to develop that closeness one had to forget that Kṛṣṇa is God. Remember the example of your next-door neighbor’s visiting relative, who is actually the king in disguise? The moment you would find out his actual identity, you are likely to lament your exchanges – how you perhaps joked with him, casually draped your arm around his shoulder, or even asked him to massage your head! With the king, of all people! This also happened to Arjuna when he realized that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He lamented and was repenting, “Oh! What did I do Kṛṣṇa? I addressed you as, ‘Hey Yādava!’ as if you were my friend. We lay in the same bed together, making jokes, and I asked you to perform so many menial tasks for me!” Thus, to give us the opportunity to approach Him closely and develop an intimate relationship with Him, Kṛṣṇa reveals His Braja līlā.
In Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa does not assume His eternal identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Rather, He is the cowherd boy, and those personalities present with Kṛṣṇa in His Vṛndāvana līlā simply treat Him as a cowherd boy – some as a friend, others as a son, while to others He is their lover. This is hence the uniqueness of Kṛṣṇa’s Braja līlā. Braja līlā has a further special aspect. The loving exchanges or relationships occur in four different ways. One is the loving exchange between the master and servant (dāsya rāsa); two, between friends (sakhya rāsa); the third is between parent(s) and child (vātsalya rāsa), and the fourth between the lover and beloved (mādhurya rāsa). In all of these four different transcendental relationships or rāsas, there exists transcendental love of God. However, the intensity of love and intimacy increases from dāsya to mādhurya rāsa. Merely from his love, the servant renders service to his master. The servant loves the master, who in turn also loves the servant and thus real servitorship occurs. However, more intimate than servitorship, is the loving relationship between friends, and more than that, the loving relationship between the mother or father and the child. In the fourth relationship, mādhurya rāsa, there is a transcendental exchange of conjugal love between the lover and the beloved. The servant – master relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the commonality that we all share. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Param Īśvara; He is the Supreme Master and all living entities are His servant. In the spiritual world, every living entity also shares this relationship with Kṛṣṇa. However, as discussed, there are other transcendental relationships as well; between friends, parent and child, and lover and beloved. We know that while these relationships exist in the material world, however, is it possible that they exist in the spiritual world as well? Given that friendship is shared between equals – is it possible that an individual can become equal to God and be His friend? Is it possible to become equal to God? No. While in the śakyā rāsa one associates with the Supreme on an equal level of love and respect, in the parental relationship the devotee instead of worshipping the Lord, as a parent of the Supreme becomes an object of worship for the Supreme Person. At this stage, the Lord depends on the mercy of His pure devotee and puts Himself under the control of the devotee to be raised. How can anybody become superior to God? Is this possible? Finally, in the relationship between lover and beloved is it practically possible or even thinkable that the Lord can become one’s paramour? Logically, it may seem that sharing these types of relationships with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not available to us. However, this material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world and if something exists as a reflection, should its actual form – the source of the very reflection – not also be in existence? For example, if you were to see the reflection of a tree with its red flowers and yellow fruits, is it possible that the red flowers and yellow fruits exist only in the reflection but not on the actual tree? Can this logically occur? No, since whatever exists as a reflection, must be present in the actual. Consider then that since the material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world, witnessing these three relationships in the material world, are reflections of their eternal and natural existence in the spiritual world.
The next important point of consideration is: “Where do these transcendental relationships occur?” and, “What is the mood of those personalities who share these transcendental relationships with Kṛṣṇa?” To understand these important points, we must consider the spiritual realm beyond Vaikuntha since these relationships do not take place in the Vaikuntha planets. This spiritual realm is known as Goloka Vṛndāvana, where these transcendental relationships are present, and where Kṛṣṇa does not assume His eternal identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here, Kṛṣṇa exhibits His identity as a cowherd boy; He is the son of Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yaśodā; the friend to the sakhās, Subala, Madhumaṅgala and others; and the lover of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and the gopīs. Goloka is a unique and special realm because here, another kind of Kṛṣṇa’s illusory energy also acts; yoga māyā subjects her influence over all the residents so that they forget that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Māyā is charged with causing forgetfulness. However, there are two kinds of forgetfulness; one is out of ignorance that we are all afflicted with in the material world, and the other is forgetfulness caused from intense love. I will provide an example to illustrate this important principle. When the prime minister of a country is elected, does the mother of the prime minister behave with him as a loyal citizen of the country, or as his mother, the person who birthed and raised him? Her relationship as his mother supersedes his social title and position as the prime minister – she remains first and foremost his mother, and he, her son. Why do you think so? From her intense love for her son, a special intimacy develops where all other titles and obligations outside of being her son, is of little or no consequence. Would the mother love her son because he is the prime minister of the country, or because he is her son? Out of her intense love for him as his mother, she is forgetful of her son’s role as the prime minister of the country. Thus in Goloka Vṛndāvana, due to their intense love for Kṛṣṇa, the residents forget that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They do not love Him because He is the Supreme Lord, rather because Kṛṣṇa is Kṛṣṇa: their friend, son or lover. In Vṛndāvana, the residents don’t care much about Kṛṣṇa’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though they know this, their mood is: ‘So what? Even if You were not the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we would still love You, as we do now.’ What is the predominating factor: Kṛṣṇa’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead or their intense love for Him? Just as, what is more important to the mother of the prime minister, his position as the prime minister or his position/relationship as her son? Yes, the defining factor is his relationship as her son, and the intense love that she feels for him. Thus, the mood of the residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana is one of intense, singularly focused, unalloyed love that causes their forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A further important point about the mood of the residents in Vṛndāvana is that māyā overwhelms them to the extent that they believe, Kṛṣṇa is mine, He belongs to me. Out of their intense love, the residents feel He (Kṛṣṇa) is my friend, He is my son, He is my lover, and He belongs to me. That Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not a consideration. Chalo ārati karenge! (Let’s perform ārati [for Kṛṣṇa]!) No, they don’t care for that. Of course Mother Yaśodā sometimes performs ārati for Kṛṣṇa, however not as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but as her son and the object of her love. Thus, this is the mood of the residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana: out of their intense love for Kṛṣṇa, they forget that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to them, He is Kṛṣṇa, their friend, son or lover, their only lovable object. The fact that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not factor into the intense love that they feel for Him, since even if He was not the Supreme, they would love Him no less. Their intense love for Kṛṣṇa also consumes them with the feeling of proprietorship over Him that ‘Kṛṣṇa belongs to me’, and importantly, Kṛṣṇa also reciprocates accordingly. In Goloka, Kṛṣṇa does act as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but relates reciprocally to the manner in which the residents relate to Him. Thus, the three predominating reciprocal relationships are friendship (śakyā rāsa), parental (vātsalya rāsa) and conjugal (mādhurya rāsa).
A wonderful aspect of Vṛndāvana is the beautiful, sweet loving exchange between Kṛṣṇa and the residents, which is also enacted as Kṛṣṇa subjecting His devotees to difficulty. This is an important point I would like to highlight here. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since becoming a devotee, your life will be smooth sailing henceforward. Don’t fall into this illusion. Rather, I can assure you that since becoming a devotee, your life will become extremely turbulent. Are you ready for that roller coaster ride? If you are afraid to be on this roller coaster, then better you get off it now! Consider more deeply, why would Kṛṣṇa subject his devotee to difficulty? Because only then will the excitement of this relationship manifest: only then will a devotee learn the mood of total surrender to Kṛṣṇa, and only then will Kṛṣṇa intervene and rescue His devotee from calamities, thus displaying His love for His devotee. In understanding this important point, let us consider the important stories of the lives of great devotees. Consider the Pāṇḍavas; the austerities, attempts on their lives, and how while Duryodhana enjoyed at ease in his palace with his friends and associates, the exiled Pāṇḍavas roamed in the forest, begging as brāhmaṇas from door to door, and were forced to live in disguise to protect their lives. Another important example is Jaḍa Bharata; in one of his lifetimes he was King Bharata the ruler of the Earth planet, who renounced his kingdom and chose instead to live in the forest to practice spiritual life. However, in the course of living as a spiritual renunciant in the forest he became attached to a baby deer. Consequently, due to this attachment and thinking about the baby deer at the time of his death, he assumed the form of a deer in his next life. In his life thereafter, he was born into a pious brāhmaṇa family and had the boon of remembering the details of all his previous lifetimes. Fully knowledgeable of his mistake in his previous lifetime, he did not want to commit the same mistake again and was careful not to develop any attachment. He thus pretended that he was retarded, deaf and dumb. People however, began taking advantage of him and exploiting him. When his father passed, his brothers deprived him of his inheritance and made him labor for them. Since he was strong and had a well-built body the general populace also began taking advantage of him, by making him labor like a bull, often with very little or no food. Jaḍa Bharata however, labored in this way without any concern for reward or appreciation. One night while guarding the field, he was captured by a band of dacoits who intended to sacrifice him as an offering to Mother Kali. Consider the seriousness and danger of the situation and how would you react or feel being in Jaḍa Bharata’s place instead? Hands and feet bound, and being prepared as a human sacrifice to Mother Kali, what would you be feeling during those moments – intensely scared, in extreme anxiety? How do you think Jaḍa Bharata felt in those moments? Scared? In intense anxiety, protesting, and thinking of how to escape? No, rather his mood was, “Whatever Kṛṣṇa desires [I will surrender to this].” Why do you think, he was not protesting? Jaḍa Bharata was a pure devotee, whatever Kṛṣṇa wants; if Kṛṣṇa desires that I should die in this way, so be it. This is devotee, this is the meaning of surrender – whatever Kṛṣṇa desires.
Marobi rakhobi-jo iccha tohara
“Slay me or protect me as You wish, for You are the master of Your eternal servant”
[Manasa Deho Geho: Saranagati, Songs of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura]
Jaḍa Bharata was completely composed, ready for the chopper to sever his head from his body, and had accepted that this would be end of his lifetime in this body. This is also the mood of a devotee – sober in the knowledge that the body will die, but that “I” the soul, am eternal. Being fully composed and surrendered to the situation – marobi rakhobi jo- iccha tohara – Jaḍa Bharata was ready to leave his body as a sacrifice to Mother Kali. However, it was Mother Kali who could not maintain her composure, or tolerate the mistreatment of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee! She manifested from her murti, and with the very chopper meant to sacrifice Jaḍa Bharata she chopped off all the dacoits’ heads! Thus consider, had Jaḍa Bharata not been placed in this predicament, would Mother Kali have had the opportunity to manifest and save him? If a devotee is not put into a crucial predicament can Kṛṣṇa have the opportunity to appear and protect His devotee, and thus display how above all else, He awards shelter and protection to His devotees? This is the reason that Kṛṣṇa subjects His devotee to trials, tribulations and difficult situations – so that He can glorify His devotee through showcasing His devotee’s surrender, and to also show how He always awards protection to His devotee. Most often, non-devotees live a relatively smooth life. However, Kṛṣṇa’s devotees will always experience difficulties in their lives, for which one must be prepared knowing that, “Kṛṣṇa I will surrender to whatever is Your desire because I know that You will protect me.” In this regard, a further example is illustrative of the mood of surrender. When a mother cat carries her kitten in her mouth, the young one is completely surrendered to the care of its mother, never once in anxiety or considering how razor sharp its mother’s teeth are and capable of severing its neck. These are the very teeth she uses to kill her prey, with which she also carries her offspring in her mouth. The kitten however, remains completely surrendered to the care of its mother. Similarly, a devotee is always secure in ones surrender to Kṛṣṇa, knowing that whatever situation presents itself is Krsna’s divine arrangement to bring me closer to Him and take me back to the spiritual world. Just as Haridāsa Ṭhākura, when dragged through twenty-one market places and mercilessly beaten in an effort to kill him, what was his mood? Simply maintaining his chanting – Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare – completely surrendered to the circumstances, and believing that this is Kṛṣṇa’s desire and best arrangement for him. This is the mood of a devotee; surrendering to whatever circumstance one faces in the faith and trust that Kṛṣṇa has arranged this for a particular purpose for my benefit and purification.
In Vṛndāvana līlā we especially read about how the devotees faced so many difficulties, as innumerable demons attacked and tried to kill them. Were you to face a similar situation with terrorists, who are actually modern-day demons, wouldn’t your gut fear be that they would shoot and kill you? But how would a devotee react? Kṛṣṇa created this arrangement so that I can better depend on Him, and thus I am ready to surrender to it. Marobi rakhobi – if Kṛṣṇa desires that I should die at the hands of these terrorists, then I will happily surrender to it. We thus read about how the residents of Vṛndāvana faced immensely powerful demons, all of whom Kṛṣṇa killed effortlessly. Seeing this, the devotees’ love for Kṛṣṇa intensified, and they glorified Him as the Supreme, the Greatest, and as their friend. Who wouldn’t want to have a friend like this, like Kṛṣṇa the invincible? Were you to witness these pastimes, how do you think you would feel? Won’t you feel that yes, Kṛṣṇa is so wonderfully present and active in my life? Kṛṣṇa is not only present in the books that I read about Him – but in ‘real life’! This is how Kṛṣṇa enhances His relationship with His devotee; subjecting one to difficulty and calamitous situations, coming to rescue His devotee from that calamity and offering all manners of shelter and protection. Wouldn’t it be wonderful [to be saved by Kṛṣṇa in this way]? Over the next few days, we will discuss Kṛṣṇa’s glorious Vṛndāvana līlā and how He always saved His devotees from all types of calamities and difficulty. Are there any questions?
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, it is almost a gut reaction or involuntary response, to defend oneself in the likelihood of being attacked. I am unable to completely surrender to Kṛṣṇa in the mood that you have been describing.
BCS: Yes, this is a very good point. The natural tendency to defend will always be present. However, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness teaches us how to give up this tendency. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is a process of deep programming; we learn to give up deeply ingrained tendencies or our conditioning(s) accumulated from millions of lifetimes. There are two ways of giving up these tendencies. The first is voluntarily through acquiring knowledge from the śāstras that for example, we must give up animal-like tendencies/material propensities to eat, sleep, mate and defend. However in practical everyday life circumstances we may try to defend ourselves innumerable times over – until we reach a point of realization that we are unable to sufficiently defend ourselves. Practical experience, and material nature will teach us that our only shelter is Kṛṣṇa, and at this point we surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Thus, there are two ways of giving up these materialistic tendencies; through acquiring transcendental knowledge, or via material nature that practically teaches us that Kṛṣṇa is our eternal shelter. We should surrender to Kṛṣṇa, depend on Him for His shelter, and let Him take care of us.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja you once told me that even if I were to be mistreated, I should always remain humble and tolerant. However no matter how much I endeavor to practice this, my mind still refuses to completely adopt this consciousness. Is this stemming from my false ego?
BCS: Yes, false ego is certainly a significant challenge, but we also need to further understand what does [having a] false ego mean? It is being in material consciousness, in bodily consciousness, or aligning with our false identity. Even though we have millions of lifetimes of conditioning from practicing sinful activities that will cause us to exhibit such false identity, we have to give it up. We must imbibe and practice that we are not this body, but spirit soul. This is how we deal with situations of battling with the false ego.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, in the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa asked Arjuna to fight. Thereafter he offered all the results to Kṛṣṇa …
BCS: Yes, and this is why a devotee must follow the process – chant a minimum of sixteen rounds daily, read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, listen to lectures, and associate with the devotees. Through associating with the devotees, you will learn from them, and this is also why taking [spiritual] guidance is important. In the preliminary stage of devotional service, we offer all results to Kṛṣṇa, which is karma yoga. However, as we progress in our devotional life, our surrender intensifies and we imbibe the mood, ‘Kṛṣṇa whatever You desire, I will do.’ This is the platform of pure devotional service, or bhakti yoga. Importantly, is that we must follow the process of devotional service prescribed by Lord Chaitanya Mahāprabhu and the previous ācāryas with enthusiasm and determination.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, you have taught us that devotees should accept all difficulties faced as Kṛṣṇa’s mercy and His best arrangement to protect His devotee and increase one’s faith in Him. Though, how do we understand these difficulties when they pose a hindrance to one’s spiritual life, for example, having a health problem and not being able to practice devotional service, or a lack of financial resources that prevents making pilgrimage trips to Vṛndāvana, or being able to serve the devotees using these resources?
BCS: Devotional service does not depend on any type of material condition – it is unconditional and to be rendered in this mood and/or manner as well. Thus, not only when my health is good, will I serve Kṛṣṇa. No – at all times and in all circumstances, I will offer service to Kṛṣṇa. And if one’s health is poor, then what of one’s mind? We should serve Kṛṣṇa in our mind. Deteriorating health is a reality that we will all face having a material body, but does that mean that we should give up our devotional service? No, because we can render service through our mind which will be even more blissful. However, if our body is still healthy and we do not use both our body and mind to serve Kṛṣṇa, this is simply cheating.
The next point you raised is lack of financial resources to visit the Holy Dhāma. Even in this circumstance one can continue rendering devotional service. One can sit anywhere – at home, at the ocean side, or under a tree and chant Mahā Mantra – Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare. Does this cost any money? Thus, devotional service is not dependent on material circumstances such as money or health. Sarvadā sarva kāleṣu. Under all circumstances, at all times we can render devotional service. Come to think of it, to be free from such material entanglements is better for our spiritual life. When a devotee does not have much or any money, then you can peacefully accept this reality and not crazily hanker for it, or invest great energy into acquiring it. Not having much or any money means that you will depend more on Kṛṣṇa, and focus more strongly on your devotional life and chanting. A devotee may have had the prior responsibility of overseeing one’s business, and all the associated responsibilities. Not having these kinds of material entanglements means that we can utilize our time to render devotional service and chanting the Holy Name.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, association with devotees is also very important for our spiritual lives…
BCS: Does it mean that devotees will associate with you only when you have money? No. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Devotees are our real friends, and we will experience this friendship best when we are in difficulty and they stand at our side. Those who are present only to share the good times are not friends. But real friends are those who will stand and offer support and assurance in our most challenging of times – and that is a devotee. Devotees are not “fair weather” friends.
Devotee: [Question inaudible]
BCS: A devotee accepts everything as Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement. Jaḍa Bhārata accepted everything as Kṛṣṇa’s divine arrangement and mercy upon him. He did not complain. Did he ever lament, “I was a king and I renounced everything to practice spiritual life, but Kṛṣṇa look at what You have done to me?” Or, “Kṛṣṇa did I renounce everything to assume a deer’s bodily form? Kṛṣṇa I don’t have faith in you!” Did he ever question Kṛṣṇa in this way? No, rather his mood was whatever Kṛṣṇa has arranged is for my benefit. By accepting the deer body and living a lifetime in that body, Kṛṣṇa arranged that he could actually burn all his karmas so that he could become a pure devotee in his next life.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, I was contemplating about how drastically material living conditions have deteriorated over time and that we are now faced with circumstances never before experienced. So we see how devotees are also experiencing such stressful lives. I feel that here in Vṛndāvana we are discussing topics such as states of consciousness and mood of surrender to Kṛṣṇa, that back in the countries we reside and once facing our everyday lives, we are unable to match up to. How do we reconcile this Guru Mahārāja?
BCS: Do you ever see me in stress? Why am I different? Devotees don’t feel the stress, because one takes everything in step as you live your life every day, knowing that Kṛṣṇa is taking care of you and making all arrangements that are best for you. Then you won’t feel any stress and you will feel that Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is actually blissful. Similarly, when I travel to different places I don’t feel stressed, but blissful. I am blissful here, talking with you all about Kṛṣṇa. Though devotees are complaining to me, Guru Mahārāja, why are you keeping such a fast-paced travelling schedule? Let me give you a snapshot of my travel schedule over the past few days; I flew from America to India for the Ujjain Ratha Yatra, and arrived in Ujjain on the day of the festival. After attending the festival, I remained in Ujjain for two days, and flew to Calcutta on the third day. At the temple in Calcutta, there were two programs daily, the morning program where I gave the class for two hours and the evening program which comprised of giving the class for one and a half hours, leading kīrtan and meeting devotees thereafter. The day I left Calcutta, I also attended their Ratha Yatra, and then flew from Bombay, to Dubai, to Milan. From the Milan airport I drove to Switzerland, returned to Milan for a day, spent a day in Radhadesh, and then a day in Rotterdam. From Rotterdam, I travelled to Malaga, Spain where I spent two days, and on the third day I flew back to India. And today, I am here with all of you. The schedule sounds crazy but I agreed to it.
Devotee: Guru Mahārāja, we know you are from the spiritual world!
BCS: I don’t know about that … but the main thing is feeling happy wherever you are, and in whatever you are doing. One important point of advice in avoiding stress is to rest whenever you feel tired and not to unnecessarily subject yourself to difficult situations, by succumbing to others’ expectations of you. For example, I have to get up for maṅgala ārati, otherwise what will everyone say? If you are tired and cannot manage to wake up for maṅgala ārati on one day, it’s alright, you can take the rest you need. However if you are younger than sixty years, then you must make it a point of attending maṅgala ārati! The point that I am making here is that you should not invite stress [through your decisions and actions]. Stress also arises when you feel forced or compelled to do something, usually from the requests or expectations of other people. If you feel a certain request made would put you into a stressful condition, refuse humbly and honestly, ‘I’m sorry Prabhu, but I cannot do this.’ The person may be initially upset but in this way you will avoid future unpleasantness. Importantly, is that leaders should also be careful that they do not subject their followers or those under their care, to stressful situations. Rather, a leader should inspire one’s followers to do things voluntarily and whole-heartedly, without feeling any pressure. When you are joyfully performing a service or activity, then it is easy and feels natural to continue with that service. However, performing a service from being pressurized is not sustainable and will eventually lead to stressful conditions. In my own practice, I always take rest when I need it. Certainly, I schedule my resting time so that it does not interfere with my program, for example if I am giving a class at 6:30 pm, I will take rest at 5:30 pm for half an hour and prepare for the class thereafter. You may also plan your resting and service schedules in this way – but don’t think, since Guru Mahārāja is saying that I should take rest, then I do not have to attend the classes. No – you must attend all the seminars, for this is the reason that you are here in Vṛndāvana.
Thank you very much. I hope that you take full advantage of your time here in the Holy Dhāma, Vṛndāvana and in attending the seminars, and learning about Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa!
Transcription: Sheetal Arora
Editing: Rādhā Kantaa devī dāsī, Rāmānanda Rāya Dāsa