Our Predicament

We have come to this world because we became envious of Krishna. We wanted to usurp Krishna’s position and become the purusa or enjoyer. We gave up our position as eternal servant of God to be lords of all we survey in the temporary world of matter.  The goal of life is Visnu – na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.31).

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur explains that, ‘Where there is love there can be no envy; and where there is envy there can be no love.’ Love is the opposite of envy.   What is love?  This principle is explained by Rupa Gosvami in Nectar of Devotionanyabhilasita sunyam/jnana karmady anavrittam/anukulyena krsnanusilanam/bhaktir uttama.  Bhaktivinoda Thakur also explains in Jaiva Dharma that the sastra or scriptures can only be understood in a meditative state of samadhi – achieved by chanting the Holy Names.

Love is more than an exchange: ‘You give something to me.  I give something to you.’  The Vedas explain that love is a far deeper relationship than a mere exchange.  But this world cannot offer us love…for so many reasons.  Anyabhilasita sunyam.   Love is free from any desire for return, fruitive gain or the desire for monistic impersonalism.  Love is favourable to the Supreme Lord.  In bhakti, or pure devotional service, there is no other motivation but to please the Lord.  Krishna-anusilanam means that devotional service is rendered exclusively to please the object of one’s worship, Krishna.  Krishna explains that he will accept the offering of His devotee when there is the presence of love – patram puspam phalam toyam/ bhaktya me prayacchati.  Krishna, after all, is self-satisfied.  He can have anything He wants.  Therefore it is the attitude that he wants – not so much the thing that is being offered.  Krishna is understood by devotion – bhaktya mam abhijanati. 

Pure devotional service is so powerful that it brings God/Krishna under the control of the devotee.  Therefore it is rarely given.

The great soul Bhismadeva explains in Bhagavata that love means to ‘Repose all your affection in one object.’

Why is there so much conflict in this world? Why is there so much suffering?  Why is there so much hatred?  There is so much suffering and pain because we have taken shelter of material qualities like lust, anger, avarice, madness, intoxication and envy. We have turned our backs on Krishna and chose Maya. Krishna bhuli sei jiva anadi-bahirmukha/ ataeva maya tare dya samsara-duhka.  Translation: ‘Forgetting Krishna, the living entity has been attracted to the external feature from time immemorial.  Therefore the illusory energy [maya] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence’ (Caitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 20.117).  It is explained when you try to lord it over Maya, you become her slave.  That is how the material energy works.  Therefore the heart has become the resting place of inauspiciousness. That is why we need to take shelter of Krishna. Another name of Krishna is Hari, ‘That Lord who takes away all inauspiciousness from the heart.’ What happens when this thief has stolen away all inauspiciousness from the heart? He leaves us with love, pure love of God. Pure love is eternally existing within our hearts. We simply have to awaken our loving propensity by hearing and chanting about Krishna – nitya-siddha krishna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya/ sravanadi-suddha cite karaye udaya.  ‘Pure love for Krishna is eternally established in the hearts of living entities.  It is not something to be gained from another source.  When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, the living entity naturally awakens’ (CC Madhya-lila 22.107).  Rupa Goswami, therefore, warns us: ‘If you are very much attached, and want to remain unattached – to the worldly pleasures of property, prestige, wealth, family – do not go to the Kesi Ghata, where standing on the bank of the Yamuna is the beautiful threefold bending form of Govinda, playing upon His flute.  When you hear that flute, and His glance of love touches your heart, He will take your heart as His own property.’

There is a progressive development of realization of love of Godhead.  This goes from sraddha, initial faith, to prema, fully developed love of God.  There is both Maya and Krishna.  There cannot be three.  The story of Mukunda Datta’s vision of Lord Caitanya illustrates the desire of the pure devotee (‘A Spiritual Vision’).

The Process Of Purification

This world is compared to a great forest-fire – samsara davanala lidha loka. How do we get out of this forest-fire of material existence?  The great devotee Prahlada Maharaja prays, ‘O my Lord, best of the givers of benediction, if You at all want to bestow a desirable benediction upon me, then I pray from Your Lordship that within the core of my heart there will be no material desires’ (SB  7.10.7).  Human life is meant for purification.  Therefore we are dependant on the mercy of the Lord and His devotees to become free of material desire.

The Vedas explain that the soul is part-and-parcel of Krishna. The soul is pure in nature and godly in quality. When we enter the material world we come in contact with the three modes of material nature and we forget our pure identity – as servants of God. This forgetfulness (avidya)is the root cause of all sinful activity. Forgetfulness of God, therefore, is the primal origin of sin.

Human life is meant for self-realization – athato brahma jijnasa. If we are very fortunate, bhagyavan, we come in contact with a pure devotee of the Lord.  Brahmanda brahmite kona bhagyavan jiva/ guru-krishna prasade paya bhakti lata bija.  This marks the start of our spiritual life. The spiritual master teaches us how to develop love of God through the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna/ Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama/ Rama Rama, Hare Hare.  It is the duty of the spiritual master to teach us how to chant the Holy Names without offences.  The chanting of the Holy Names purifies the heart of ‘the dust’ of material life.  Material designations are called upadhis – ‘I am black’, ‘I am white’, ‘I am Hindu’, ‘I am South African’.  Ceto darpanam marjanam.  The chanting of the Holy Names cleanses the mirror of the heart of bodily misidentification, and re-awakens us to our spiritual nature.  This was nicely demonstrated by Lord Caitanya in the Gundica Marjana Pastime.  The process of purification can also be compared to making ghee out of butter.  Butter looks clean and pure when we look at it.  But when we boil it down, little black spots emerge.  When we separate the impurities from the butter, we get ghee.  Similarly, when we chant the Holy Name we are gradually purified. 

Spiritual Inquiry

Maharaja Parikisit enquires of Sukadeva Gosvami in the first Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam: yac chrotavyam aho japyam/ yat kartavyam nribhih prabho/ smartavyam bhajaniyam va/ bruhi yad va viparyayam (SB 1.9.38).  Translation: ‘Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do.  Please explain all of this to me.’  Sukadeva Gosvami’s answers constitute Srimad Bhagavatam.  Spiritual life begins with hearing (sravanam).  Sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam.  Maharaja Parikisit was eager to hear Srimad Bhagavatam from Sukadeva Gosvami.  This principle is explained in Bhagavad Gita: tad viddhi pranipatena/ pariprasnena sevaya/ upadeksyanti te jnanam/ jnaninas tattva darsin:ah (Bg. 4.34).  Translation: ‘Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master.  Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him.  The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.’

The word pariprasna means ‘inquiries’.  The student should approach a self-realized teacher or guru (a tattva-darsi).  This process is described in Mundaka Upanisadtad-vijnanartham sa gurun evabhigacchet/ samit-panih srotiyam brahma-nistham.  Translation:  ‘In order to learn the transcendental science one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.’  The student should surrender to him, serve him, please him and humbly ask questions on spiritual philosophy (tattva).  The self-realized teacher or acarya will bestow his mercy upon his disciple (sisya) by bestowing tattva-jnana upon him.  Caku dhana dilo jei janme janme prabhu sei/ divya-jnana hride prokasito.  When the disciple puts his faith in the words of guru, he will act accordingly.  When he acts according to the guru’s order, he will obtain his mercy or guru-kripa.  Yasya prasadad bhagavata prasado/ yasya prasadan na gatih kutoh pi. 

In Nectar of Devotion, Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada lists taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master – adau guru padasraya – as the very first item of devotion service.  We are Rupanugas, followers of Rupa Gosvami.  We therefore take this statement very, very seriously.

What are the results of the inquiries of the sincere disciple?  He will realize, ‘I am Krishna’s eternal servant.  I must surrender to Him.’  In Caitanya Caritamrta, Prabhupada explains that knowledge of self-realization can only be transmitted if the student is humble.  Humility is essential in our progress in Krishna consciousness.

How Do We Associate With The Acaryas Or Spiritual Masters?

The goal of our lives should be to associate with the acaryas.  His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami explained this principle in a lecture he gave in Vrindavan in Kartik, 1972.  This principle is called acarya-pasanam.  Prabhupada explained that if you read Nectar of Devotion regularyly and ‘try to understand’ its teachings that you are associating with Rupa Gosvami.  However, if you ‘act accordingly, then you are serving their lotus feet.’  Kavera carane sevi bhakata sunivasa.  Prabhupada explains in this lecture, however, that you can only understand Rupa Gosvami’s writings in the association of devotees.  That is why we pray kintu prabhor ya priya eva casya every morning during mangala-arati.  The guru is dear to Krishna because He is teaching us how to serve Krishna – not how to become Krishna.  He is dear to Krishna because he is preaching the same principles as Krishna (saksad haritvena samasta sastrair/ uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih).

Therefore, Prabhupada explains in Bhagavad-gita As It Is: ‘Bhagavad-gita accepted as it is is a great boon to humanity; but, if it is accepted as a treatise of mental speculation it is simply a waste of time.’  Bhagavad-gita must be accepted as it is in disciplic succession.  Prabhupada explains in a purport in the 6th Canto of Bhagavatam that the philosophy of the Bhagavata must be accepted ‘as it is’ not ‘as you like.’

Srila Prabhupada has endowed us with a great opportunity to go home, Back to Godhead.  He has also encouraged us to give this opportunity to others.  Nunam pramatta kurute vikarma.  Without doing so, they are doomed.  Janma karma ca me divyam.  By understanding Krsna, they can avoid perpetual suffering.