A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


The following is a class from the Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 6, chapter 9, text 52, given by His Grace Jananivas Prabhu on the 9 March 2007 at Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha Mandir, Chowpatty, Mumbai.

Indra is probably the most desirable position in the material world.  The position of Indra affords the most material enjoyment because Indra is king of the heavenly planets.

The Hari Bhakti Vilas provides a beautiful meditation on Krishna.  It describes how His shark-shaped earrings reflect on His shiny cheeks; the masses of His black, curly hair; how He is lying on a couch, playing His flute.  The demigods appear before Krishna (in his majestic feature).  They are offering prayers to Him.  The Gandharvas are there also.

There are 8,400,000 different types of bodies in this world – all based on different combinations of material desires.

The bulls and the cows come and see Krishna.  That is called santa rasa (love of God in neutrality).  There are also the babies, with bells on their ankles, the cowherd boys and the elder gopis.  The gopis faces are half-covered and their eyes are half-closed.   They are trying to see Krishna.  They are trembling uncontrollably.  They try to suppress their trembling, so the bells around their waists and ankles won’t ring. 

These are meditations for pujaris (priests of the Deity).

The neophyte devotee’s objective is to see the Deity form of Krishna in the Temple.  Ideally, we should also see Krishna in everyone’s heart.

Srila Prabhupada was on Juhu beach with one of his disciples, Dravida Maharaja.  They were looking at the ocean.  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘What do you see?’  Dravida replied, ‘Krishna.’  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘How?’  Maharaja answered, ‘I am the taste of water.’  Prabhupada looked a the salty water, ‘See.  This is the energy of Krishna.’

Sometimes you look at Radha-Gopinath (the Deities at the Mumbai Temple) and you see it’s Krishna.  You don’t have to analyze.  The gopis see a black tamala tree.  Radharani embraces the tamala tree.  All Her friends laugh at Her.  It’s not that they don’t see a tree – but they see Krishna (the tamala tree is black like Him).  They see things, but they see Krishna present in them.

The demigiods are not pure, unalloyed devotees.  Even in Vaikuntha.  In Vaikuntha they are pure, but they are not unalloyed.  The residents of Goloka Vrindavan are unalloyed.  The devas or demigods are devotees, but they are thinking of their desires.  Pure, unalloyed devotees only want Krishna’s pleasure.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach that.

Indra will kill Vritrasura with the bones of Dadici.  Vritrasura knows this.  When Indra drops his weapon, Vritrasura says, ‘Pick up your weapon and kill me.  It is Vishnu’s will that you kill me.’

The demigods fear death because they do not want to lose their position.  Srila Prabhupada, ‘Do you believe in reincarnation?’  The devotees, ‘No.  We are going back to Godhead.’  Prabhupada, ‘Lord Caitanya’s waiting for the devotees with a Sankirtan party.’

The Srimad Bhagavatam will bring out the particular relationship we have with Krishna.  The Bhagavatam gives all the different relationships you can have with Krishna.

The devotees do not want anything.  For example, Hanuman.  If Lord Rama wants Hanuman to have liberation, he’ll take it.  But, if it interferes with his service, he’ll reject it.

Who has come to give this essence of what Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give? Krishna came 5,000 years ago.  He performed divine pastimes.  He left instructions, sarva-dharman parityajya – just surrender unto Me.  People couldn’t follow such a high standard in the Age of Kali.  So, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came – with no demands.  Just giving.  Freely giving vraja-prema.  Mahaprabhu’s our hero.

There is a prediction.  All the different sampradayas (disciplic traditions in India) will fall under Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Sankirtan mission.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared, ‘I will give them the opportunity to taste vraja-prema.  This is the maha-mantra.’

We are eternal.  We have an eternal relationship with Krishna.  Simultaneously, we have come from Krishna – aham sarvasya prabhavo.  ‘Make an eternal change!’   You can change your eternal relationship.  There is the example of Shymananda.  He had a relationship of friendship with Krishna, but obtained a relationship in the conjugal rasa.  He changed his attitude in the association of Jiva Goswami, Narrottama and Srinivas.  His guru beat him with a stick, ‘Why are you crying in ecstasy hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna?  You don’t know what pleasure you’re missing in sakhya rasa.  You’re taking something lower!’

You cannot change you eternal position as servant of God or Krishna – jivera svarupa haya krisnera nitya das.  Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains different relationships.  If you want material relationships – even with your own family.  When you’re realized, you can even have an eternal planet with your own family!  This is called satya sankalpa.  When you are pure, everything you desire becomes manifest. If you want to be a friend of Krishna, you can take birth in a family of gopas (cowherds), where their association will draw that relationship out.  You will get the association of nitya-siddhas (eternally perfect souls) and take birth as a gopi with gopis – if that is your pure desire.  The mood has to be empowered by devotees.  Thereafter, you go to the Spiritual World or the Kingdom of God.

You can change your body in the material world, so why not spiritually?

This article is dedicated to Inno, Emina, Simone, Wepener, Ingrid, the BYS students at Wits and UJ and all those who want to know the techniques of mantra meditation.

I first spoke to Hare Krishna devotees in Cape Town in February 1997. Most of the devotees were in their early twenties. They wore eastern clothes. And they seemed to be happy. They were always chanting which sometimes frustrated me because I wanted to speak to them. I had so many questions.

The devotees had something I had been ardently looking for – a method of self-realization that connected them to God twenty-four hours a day. What was this? The chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Yes. It was that simple: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama/Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Their spiritual lifestyle complemented their constant chanting of the mantra. They refrained from intoxicants, meat-eating, gambling and were celibate. Everything they seemed to know – the philosophy, wisdom and practices of Krishna consciousness – was attributed to a teacher named A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Aside from the obvious pleasure they derived from chanting, the devotees substantiated their practices with quotes from the Vedas. My second or third meeting with the devotees took place amidst the Parthenon-like architecture of the University of Cape Town (UCT). On this particular occasion, I approached a scholarly young woman named Rati. It was an incongruous situation. I was talking to a western girl, dressed in a sari, about the Ancient Indian spiritual culture. And this conversation was taking place amidst the neoclassical columns and steps of a university campus in Africa!

We philosophized on the Bhagavad-gita before Rati launched into an explanation of the chanting. I asked her, ‘How long should we chant?’ Rati answered matter-of-factly, ‘Twenty-four hours a day’. There was a distant look in her eyes as she quoted a verse from an ancient Sanskrit writing called the Brihad-aranyika Purana: harer nama harer nama/harer nama eva kevalam/kalau nasty eva nasty/eva nasty gatir anyatha. In this age of Kali the method for self-realization is the chanting of the holy names, the chanting of the holy names, the chanting of the holy names. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way’.

After reading Juan Mascaro’s Bhagavad-gita I was convinced that I could become ‘enlightened’ or ‘self-realized’ through spiritual knowledge and principled living. Impressed by my knowledge of Hinduism and my interest in the Vedas, Rati encouraged me to read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. We spoke again, a few days later, and she asked me if I had gained anything significant from the book. I replied, ‘Determination’. Prabhupada seemed, however, to be repeating the same thing over and over again in his ‘purports’ or commentaries to the Gita – chant Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama/Rama Rama Hare Hare. It was the same message and practice the devotees advocated.

Rati carefully pulled some wooden prayer beads from a cloth bag and, very gently, extolled the glories of chanting the mantra. ‘These are for you’, she said. There was no need for me to chant, I thought. I was quite happy reading the Bhagavad-gita. Sensing my apprehension, Rati said, ‘Just try’. ‘Okay’, I replied. That night I chanted on the beads for about half-an-hour. The chanting had a profound effect on me. Everything slowed down. The mantra seemed to open my perceptions and my ability to see the unity of God’s creation. All the knowledge in the Bhagavad-gita assumed a tangible form in the chanting of Hare Krishna.  Statements of Krishna like, ‘I am the light of the sun and the moon’, ‘I am the strength of the strong’ and ‘of bodies of water I am the ocean’ made perfect sense.  The chanting gave me a sense of God’s presence within and without myself.

I saw Rati the next day. ‘How was it?’ she said. ‘I feel like there is no need to read the Bhagavad-gita now. The chanting seems to encapsulate everything Krishna says in the Gita.’ ‘Well, the two go hand-in-hand’, she said. Rati was very convincing.

radha-krishna-pranaya-vikritir hladhini saktir asmad/ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau/caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam/ radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krishna-svarupam

‘The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krishna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency.  Although Radha and Krishna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally.  Now these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krishna Caitanya.  I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krishna Himself’ [Caitanya Caritamrita Adi-lila 1.5]

radha – of Srimati Radharani; bhava – mood; dyuti – the lustre; su-valitam – who is adorned with; krishna-svarupam – who is identical with Sri Krishna

‘Radha-Krishna is one.  Radha-Krishna is Krishna and Krishna’s pleasure-giving potency combined.  When Krishna exhibits His pleasure potency, He appears to be two – Radha and Krishna.  Otherwise, Radha and Krishna are one.  This oneness may be perceived by advanced devotees through the grace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  This was the case with Ramananda Raya.  One may aspire to attain such a position but one should not try to imitate the maha-bhagavata‘ [CC Madhya-lila 8.282 Purport]

We ascended the flight of stairs behind Braja Mohan prabhu’s house for the Sriji Mandir.  We stood on the top of the hill and admired the view of Varsana.  I followed Braja Mohan to the entrance of the Temple.  ‘You can leave your capalas here’, he said.  We took off our shoes and entered the crowded Temple.  I was the only westerner – something you would not find in a cosmopolitan ISKCON Temple.  Had I stepped back in time?  A group of local devotees, some in dhotis and some in western dress, huddled around a harmonium singing songs of praise to the Divine Couple.  Braja Mohan took me by the hand and led me through the crowd.  We wormed our way near to the front of the altar.

The brahmana priests were engaged in concentrated worship of Radha and Krishna.  The bell above the Temple Room door clanged incessantly.  The Deities were brightly dressed and, when the pujari blew the  conch, the restless-looking crowd burst into  rapturous song.  I closed my eyes and lost myself in song.   The assembly had become one mouth in their spirited praise of the ultimate worshipper, Sri Radha.  No hype.  No spiritual celebrity.   Just a heartfelt offering of love from a congregation to their Deities.  When the singing stopped there was a press of devotees towards the altar, where old women and men-with-moustaches-and-pants stretched to reach the sacred ghee-lamps.  By Braja Mohan’s grace, I was able to get a nice view of the Deities and offer prayers to the Divine Couple.  We left the Temple and retraced our way down the ancient stairway.  I bade good night to my friend, and took rest.

Braja Mohan, who had appeared very relaxed, suddenly said, ‘Come, let’s go!’ Yes, I decided, I would.  Braja Mohan stopped at a chaiwalla and bought some chai.  We sat together as he drank his tea.  ‘I want you to come to my house’, he said.

We turned around the corner and arrived at a small house at the foot of Vrsabhanu’s Hill.  An old woman greeted us at the door.   Braja Mohan said, ‘This is my mother’.  The old woman humbly offered pranams.  I returned the gesture.  She couldn’t speak a word of English.  Like many Indian village houses, Braja Mohan prabhu’s family residence opened into a courtyard.  Inside the courtyard were two cows, flanked by huge piles of grain.  Braja Mohan looked at the cows and looked at me and proudly announced, ‘This is my mother!  And this!  This is my father!’  I felt most embarrassed.  Just under a year ago I would have thought nothing of eating a  hamburger.  And here were two healthy cows being offered respect in the way that you’d offer respect to your parents!   I may have changed my ways but did that make me pious?  Did that make me a Vaisnava?

I was warming to my host: The loving reception of his mother;  his beautiful infant daughter, Gunjin (named after the flower in Sri Radha’s hair); and his natural respect for the cow.   Braja Mohan took me to a room at the side of the courtyard and said, ‘This is your room.  My house is your house’.  I had heard Indian businessmen in South Africa make similar pronouncements to sadhus.  Braja Mohan, however, said this with so much sincerity I felt like I had become a member of his family!  The room was spotlessly clean and white.  There was a picture of a white-haired Indian gentleman above the single wooden bed.  ‘That is my father’, Braja Mohan said.   He left the room and returned with a handful of writings in Devanagari, impressed with my recognition of certain Bhagavad-gita verses.  He started speaking to me in Hindi but stopped when I said, ‘Hindi samasta nahi‘ – ‘I do not understand Hindi’.

We talked and talked and talked.  Night fell, and Braja Mohan continued talking – about his family, his job in the fan factory in Mathura, about the sadhus who had visited his house and so on.  It was pitch dark.  We couldn’t see each other.  There was only the sound of the crickets and Braja Mohan speaking to his new friend.   I would have to stay the night in Varsana.  This was Radharani’s wish.  I was reminded, in some way, of the episode in Krsna Book where Uddhava and Nandamaharaj talk throughout the night.

After some time Braja Mohan’s elderly mother came upstairs with a candle, like a figure out of a fairy-tale.  She spoke animatedly to her son, visibly pleased to have a guest.   She disappeared into the darkness, returning with some braja rotis and sabji.   We relished this simple meal.  I was thankful for all the love and hospitality my hosts had shown me.  This must be the mercy of Sri Radha.   ‘Come’, Braja Mohan said, ‘it is almost time for arati‘.

‘Let us know if there’s any more work’, I tell him. ‘I can take it back to Mott Street and type there’. ‘More? Yes’, he says, ‘There is lots more’. He opens a closet door and pulls out two large bundles in saffron cloth. Within, he shows me thousands of pages of single spaced, marginless manuscripts of literatures unknown in the western world. I stand before them astounded. ‘It’s a lifetime of typing!’, I protest. ‘Oh, yes!’, he smiles happily. ‘Many lifetimes’.
[Hayagriva Das, The Hare Krishna Explosion, p.24]

‘When a living entity is deceived, covered and thrown by the illusory energy [maya], he/she develops desires for material enjoyment, but when he surrenders unto the Supreme Lord, he is uncovered, and freed from the desires for material enjoyment; this is Lord Krishna’s non-duplicitous merciful glance’ – Caitanya Bhagavata A.3.2 Commentary, by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur

Avaranatmika-sakti – covers the living entity with ignorance, thinking ‘I am happy. I am alright’ in his ‘condemned life’ [see Srimad Bhagavatam 3.26.4 Purport, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.

Praksepatmika-sakti – keeps you in material consciousness [see Teachings of Lord Caitanya by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Ch.10]

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