Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Solution to All Problems

Lord Rsabhadeva instructed His hundred sons before renouncing the kingdom to become an avadhuta



    From the small insects up to Brahma-loka, there are innumerable varieties of living entities at different levels of consciousness, but all of them share two common propensities: they want to avoid suffering and obtain happiness. The more living beings progress in the evolutionary cycle of consciousness, the more they use their intelligence to accomplish these two purposes. According to the species of life, the conception of happiness and suffering changes, as well as the methods to prevent one and get the other. Although the human form of life is specially endowed with higher intelligence and discriminative knowledge, usually they are misused due to a wrong understanding of what real happiness is and how to end suffering for good. However, with the proper use of these tools, it is possible to solve both problems.


            The existence of pain is admitted and experienced by everyone, therefore the solution to this problem has been the subject of thought in all religions and philosophical systems since the creation of the universe. Sankhya is considered one of the most ancient schools of thought and it starts exactly from this point:


duhkha-trayabhighataj jijnasa tad-apaghatake hetau

drste sapartha cen naikantatyantato’bhavat


“From the torment caused by the three kinds of misery proceeds a desire to inquire about the means for extinguishing them. If it be said that the inquiry is superfluous since visible means do exist, we reply: It is not so, because in the visible means there is no certainty nor permanency.” (Sankhya Karika 1)


If there were no suffering, there would be no inquiry, but once there is inquiry, there is the possibility to achieve a definite conclusion. Otherwise, one is baffled in life, as Lord Rsabhadeva declares:


parabhavas tavad abodha-jato

yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam

yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai

karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah


“As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.5


            The next questions would be: Is it possible to solve all kinds of suffering or only some? And for all the time or only temporarily? Are the means available to all or only to some selected people? Different people will find different answers and try to apply them in their lives. To combat adhyatmika-klesa, one may take medicines, but so far no medicine has been found that is able to counteract all bodily and mental suffering. To avoid adhibhautika-klesa is practically impossible, for even if one goes to live in a cave, still there will be insects and animals disturbing. And also adhidaivika-klesa is completely out of our control, as any natural calamity may happen at any moment. All attempts of science to fight these elements are just childishness, and suffering reigns supreme in the world.


            On the other hand, the search for happiness has also been a failure, since it is mostly based on sense gratification— gross or subtle— and the very nature of the senses and the mind is to remain insatiable. Huge enterprises are made to provide everything each sense may desire, but we have never heard of someone who became happy in this way. As Lord Vamanadeva says :


sri-bhagavan uvaca

yavanto visayah presthas

tri-lokyam ajitendriyam

na saknuvanti te sarve

pratipurayitum nrpa


“The Personality of Godhead said: O my dear King, even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one's senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 8.19.21


Less intelligent people will keep on trying, just like an ass running after a carrot hanging in front of its nose, but at a certain point one who is even a bit sober will inquire: “What is wrong here?” And if he is fortunate enough to take instructions from guru, sastra and sadhu, he will get the correct answer. That is given by Lord Rsabhadeva:


rsabha uvaca

nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke

kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye

tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam

suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam


“Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.1


The great danger of sense gratification is that it is immediately appealing— instant heaven— while the process of tapasya is very painful and may take a long time to fructify. But in due course of time, we can judge by the results— phalena pariciyate. As stated by Lord Krishna:


yat tad agre visam iva

pariname 'mrtopamam

tat sukham sattvikam proktam



“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”



yat tad agre 'mrtopamam

pariname visam iva

tat sukham rajasam smrtam


“That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion”.



>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 18.37-38


It is not very difficult to have a practical experience with both and then decide which one is the best course of action. From childhood, I had the strong impression that there must be something wrong in the way most people try to become happy, to the point that when I was fifteen I decided to take another direction, lest I end up on the same path. Although not properly guided externally, my first insight was that I needed to practise austerities in some way or other. Then I started to do fasting, sleep on the floor, take cold baths, and study religious books like Bhagavad Gita, The Bible, Dhammapada, Tao Te Ching, etc. Although not following any systematic program, the short-term result was that I was mentally much more satisfied than ever, and the long-term result was to come closer to the ultimate reality, or Krishna consciousness. Austerity is simply a means of purification, and after purification one is ready for the next step— accept instructions from a mahatma and serve him, as advised by Lord Rsabhadeva:


mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes

tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam

mahantas te sama-cittah prasanta

vimanyavah suhrdah sadhavo ye


“One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to highly advanced spiritual personalities. These personalities are impersonalists and devotees. Whether one wants to merge into the Lord's existence or wants to associate with the Personality of Godhead, one should render service to the mahatmas. For those who are not interested in such activities, who associate with people fond of women and sex, the path to hell is wide open. The mahatmas are equipoised. They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and are fully engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any abominable way. Such people are known as mahatmas.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.5.2


For the benefit of the inhabitants of this planet, Srila Prabhupada revealed himself as the best and most accessible of the mahatmas. He is ‘sama-citta,’ completely equipoised, giving the same chance for everyone, everywhere, without any consideration of color, caste, creed or nationality; he is ‘prasanta,’ very peaceful, not disturbed even in the most adverse conditions, but simply absorbed in his bhajana; he is ‘vimanyu,’ devoid of material anger, being always satisfied in Krishna consciousness; he is ‘suhrda,’ a friend whose work is meant for the benefit of all, building a hospital where everyone can get the best treatment for the material disease; he is ‘sadhu,’ setting the standard of saintly behaviour in every small action.


            Now, one may argue that we may accept instructions from Srila Prabhupada, but could we serve him? Better to hear his own answer:


“To serve the topmost devotee means to hear from him about the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.22.22


“If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Adi 1.35


“To serve the Spiritual Master's word is more important than to serve him physically.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Syamasundara  --  Los Angeles 19 July, 1970


Thus Srila Prabhupada is giving to the world the opportunity to serve him by appreciating his words, following, and distributing them.

            Every object has its own purpose and only when it is specifically employed in its natural function— svadharma— it can be really attributed with value. The purpose of the human body is to attain self-realisation, therefore if it is employed in any other business, it will never lead one to happiness, but rather it will just be a source of constant misery, for oneself and for others too. Therefore, by taking to the process of devotional service to Krishna, as elaborately described in Srimad-Bhagavatam by Srila Prabhupada on the light of all acaryas of our parampara, we can at one stroke accomplish what everyone has been trying since time immemorial— to get rid of all miseries of material existence and to obtain eternal, transcendental, blissful life.



This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the fourth and last year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, Fifth Canto of Bhagavatam, in October of 2005.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The End of the Journey

             While travelling throughout innumerable universes in different forms of life, the conditioned living entities finally come to the human form of life on this Earth planet. The sastras praise such a birth, for it is a rare opportunity given to the jivas to go back to Godhead and thus solve all the problems of life. Unfortunately, even in such a wonderful opportunity as a human being, the jivas often become infatuated by the ‘facilities’ available in this world for sense gratification, and thus instead of elevating themselves, they simply waste the chance and keep on the wheel of samsara. However, if besides being blessed with a human body, one becomes bhagyavan, fortunate enough to have a bonafide guru and Krishna, and takes full advantage of that, then one’s history in this world may have a happy end.


            In the fourth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, we are instructed about the story of king Puranjana. One of the meanings of the word ‘puranjana’ according to the Sabda-kalpa-druma dictionary is ‘puram deha-ksetram janayatiti,’ one who produces a field of activities in the form of a material body. The soul is originally sac-cid-ananda and has no need at all to accept a material body, but if by misuse of his minute independence, he does so, the material world is a chance to fulfil his perverted desires and then go back home. Krishna also does not need this material world (although He can also enjoy it through His pastimes), but to help the jiva in his plans, He manifests the material universes through His multiple energies. Taking advantage of the material elements, the souls, according to their own desires, cause a material body to appear and enter it as a purusa, or enjoyer, as it is said:


sri-bhagavan uvaca

karmana daiva-netrena

jantur dehopapattaye

striyah pravista udaram

pumso retah-kanasrayah


“The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.31.1


Such a body will act just as a machine produced by the material energy, and Krishna, being our best friend, accompanies us in the body:


isvarah sarva-bhutanam

hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati

bhramayan sarva-bhutani

yantrarudhani mayaya

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 18.61


            Because of the spiritual nature of the living entity and its inherent identity as a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord (BG 15.7), the jiva cannot really enjoy this world due to its incompatibility, therefore maya covers its consciousness with ahankara so that the soul may temporarily forget its true nature and fully identify itself with a material body and its pains and pleasures. In the spiritual world, there is no difference between the body and the soul, but even though in the material world the body has really nothing to do with the soul, due to the false ego, the deluded living entity accepts a material body as the very self in whatever species of life one may be. This is called adhyaropa, superimposition. This principle of superimposition will not only work in relation to the body and the soul, but it will influence the consciousness of the conditioned jiva in all its aspects, for the jiva will see the world through a superimposed angle just as one with green glasses sees everything green. This fact is what makes the soul feel as if enjoying or suffering in this world, which would otherwise not be possible due to the soul’s nature. By looking at the world with this deluded vision, the soul will see everything, starting with its own body, as objects of enjoyment and will try to exploit the material resources to its best capacity. Its attempts, however, will meet the resistance of innumerable antagonistic elements, which may be classified into three: adhibhautika, adhidaivika and adhyatmika. Although the desire for pleasure is immanent in all beings and is actually a spiritual feeling in its original state, here we don’t have the proper atmosphere to fully satisfy this propensity, never mind how much we may try. This is also part of Krishna’s plan, for the idea is not to stay here forever but to come to our original senses and turn towards Him. This, however, would be very difficult if we had no inconveniences here. Nobody makes plans in such a way that they will get suffering, but in spite of their best efforts, suffering comes anyway:


tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido

na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah

tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham

kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa


“Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet [Brahmaloka] down to the lowest planet [Patala]. As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in course of time, just as in course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.5.18


All these inconveniences are indeed due to our obstinacy to have our own program for enjoyment without including Krishna in it. Srila Prabhupada used to tell one story to illustrate this fact. Once the fingers decided to conspire against the stomach, for after all, they were doing all the hard work and the stomach was just enjoying. So they decided to have a strike and stop supplying food to the stomach, and started trying to enjoy everything by themselves. Although they tried again and again to grasp all kinds of foodstuffs, they could not really enjoy them. On the other hand, they were becoming weaker and weaker. At last, they had a great idea— to give food to the stomach! So, our first duty in this world is to find out the stomach, or the root.  But only finding out the root is not sufficient— we must be very careful to know how to water it:


yatha taror mula-nisecanena

trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah

pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam

tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya


“As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.31.14


King Ambarisa is the perfect example of how one can do this. We also see how Prthu Maharaja and the Pracetas were fully dedicated to the Lord, even though externally performing their respective duties. The ninefold process of bhakti is recommended for all, but out of them, hearing from a self-realised soul is the most potent:


“We can increase our propensity for devotional service by hearing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam from realized souls. The more we hear from realized souls, the more we make advancement in our devotional life.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.22.25, purport


“The transcendental vibration from the mouth of a pure devotee is so powerful that it can revive the living entity's memory of his eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.20.25, purport


“The secret of success in the cultivation of Krsna consciousness is hearing from the right person.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase =>  SB 4.29.39-40, purport


            Prthu Maharaja heard from Sanat-kumara and became perfect; King Barhisat heard from Narada Muni and became liberated; and the Pracetas attained perfection after hearing from Lord Siva and Narada Muni. Although these great personalities are very merciful, they speak only to selected people. On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada is as powerful as Narada or the Kumaras, but much more merciful, for he is giving everyone the chance to hear from a pure devotee through his books and recorded lectures. And it just depends on us to utilize them according to our desire to advance.


            When Krishna is given His proper place in our lives, then automatically everything starts to work properly. Since Krishna is the one who fulfils the desires of all living entities, surrender unto Him is the surest way to obtain one’s wished object. But when a desire is really fulfilled in Krishna consciousness, the result is self-satisfaction, not only sensual or mental satisfaction. This is corroborated by the Manu-samhita (2.6):


vedo’akhilo dharma-mulam smrti-sile ca tadvidam |

acaras caiva sadhunam atmanas tustir eva ca ||



“The root of dharma is fourfold: the Vedas, the Smrtis, the rules of conduct of the saintly persons, and self-satisfaction.”


          To get rid of gross desires and contaminations may not be very difficult for one who is strictly following the regulative principles, but to remove the subtle ones, a person must be really determined and pray to Krishna very ardently. We may even cheat ourselves, but Paramatma knows what everyone really has in their heart. Especially if we voluntarily cultivate material desires, our going back home will be procrastinated, and the whole thing may be spoiled:


“As soon as personal motivation comes in it is not possible for one to understand our Krishna Consciousness philosophy.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Isana, Vibhavati  --  Calcutta 21 September, 1970


“We have worked very hard and established a great institution, but if we think for our personal benefit then it will become ruined. This is my only concern.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Cyavana:  --  Bombay 1 November, 1974

“The poison is personal ambition.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Satyabhama  --  Bombay 1 November, 1970


But even if one is fortunate enough to get rid of all material desires, while one is in the material world the possibility of contracting the same disease again is still present:


“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that even though one may become free from the desire for fruitive activity, sometimes the subtle desire for fruitive activity again comes into being within the heart. One often thinks of conducting business to improve devotional activity. But the contamination is so strong that it may later develop into misunderstanding, described as kuti-nati (faultfinding) and pratisthasa (the desire for name and fame and for high position), jiva-himsa (envy of other living entities), nisiddhacara (accepting things forbidden in the sastra), kama (desire for material gain) and puja (hankering for popularity).”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 12.135, purport


The conditioned soul has been entangled in materialism for so long that to remove such a covering from the consciousness may be quite hard. The jivas here are in a vicious cycle that produces reaction after reaction, desire after desire. The great advantage of Krishna consciousness is that we have a practical way to deal with the problem, or in other words, we can remove a thorn with another thorn. The impersonalists’ proposal of stopping action and become desireless is just a hallucination, for the soul is by nature active and conscious. But by following the path of the great acaryas we can engage all our senses and desires in the service of Krishna and His pure devotees, and if we manage to please Them, our trip back to Godhead is guaranteed.



This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the third year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, fourth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, on 18/10/04


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Karma or yajna?


            The symptom of the living entity, or life itself, is consciousness. Consciousness is manifested by intelligence, and intelligence is manifested by the activities of the mind: thinking, feeling and willing. The mind engages the five knowledge-acquiring senses and the five working senses to accomplish its different purposes. The activities performed by the mind, working senses and knowledge-acquiring senses, when done for self-centred interests, constitute karma. Those very same activities, however, when performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, are called yajna, sacrifice. The secret of Krishna consciousness is how to turn our karma into yajna, and for this purpose, Srimad-Bhagavatam gives us important instructions and examples.


            The word ‘karma’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘kr’ (to do). Thus ‘yat kriyate tat karma,’ whatever action one performs is karma. For whatever activities one performs, there is a beneficiary, who can be the author of the action himself or someone else. In the material field, all activities produce results— positive, negative and mixed— and the doer is bound by them, for he is forced to enjoy the so-called good results, suffer the so-called bad results, or experience a mixture of both.


            The word ‘yajna’ comes from the root ‘yaj,’ which means to offer, to sacrifice, to worship. Here the ultimate beneficiary cannot be any ordinary living being, but only the Supreme Lord Himself. When work is performed in a proper consciousness, Krishna consciousness, and with the sole purpose of pleasing Krishna, it does not produce material reactions of any kind, but rather, such transcendental activities burn all the reactions of material work into nil, provided they are properly executed according to the directions of guru, sadhu and sastra. Daksa’s sacrifice was meant to satisfy the Lord, but because there were discrepancies in its performance, it did not succeed immediately. Daksa’s first fault was personal motivation. Although externally he was conducting a sacrifice for the Lord’s sake, internally he was filled with pride for his material designations. The effect of pride in the consciousness is similar to intoxication and makes one lose all discrimination, ultimately bringing about one’s own ruin. That sacrifice aimed at the pacification of the universe (SB 4.2.1,p), but peace is not possible at all unless all selfish interests are given up for the sole cause of devotional service, as stated by Lord Krishna:


bhoktaram yajna-tapasam


suhrdam sarva-bhutanam

jnatva mam santim rcchati


“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 5.29


The real cause of enmity and war is envy— towards other living entities and towards Krishna Himself. Even though Daksa was posted in a very high and prestigious position, even though he was very learned and endowed with all material qualities, and even though he was engaged in offering sacrifices, his heart was not pure. Lust, anger, greed and envy are common infections in the heart of the conditioned souls, and they just wait for an opportunity to become manifested in different forms. For one who is not self-controlled, the object of these feelings may be anyone, at any moment. Even a materially exalted personality like Daksa could not curb a public display of his real mind. In the Hitopadesa there is a wonderful and very instructive story called ‘The Blue Jackal.’ Once a jackal was roaming here and there in search of food, and by accident it fell in a tube filled with blue ink. In some way or other, it managed to escape alive, but from the tail up to the ears it was completely blue. The other animals in the forest started wondering: “Which kind of animal is that?” “We have never seen such a creature before!” Taking the opportunity, the jackal introduced itself: “I was sent by God to rule over all of you. Accept me as your king and offer me your respects.” Upon hearing this, all the animals immediately bowed down to the jackal. In this way, the blue jackal spent a long time enjoying life, pretending to be a special creature. One day, however, its fellow jackals became indignant and decided to expose the farce. On a full-moon night, they gathered and started howling. The blue jackal could not resist and also joined them. Seeing that, the tigers and lions understood the whole thing and felt outraged, thus they killed the impostor immediately. So, the idea is that only an external show of devotional service will not do. Srila Prabhupada says:


“We will establish hundreds of temples, and they will all be very opulent. But if you do not follow the instruction of the spiritual master, they will just be show-bottle. Do you know what show-bottle means? It means coloured water in a bottle which looks just like medicine, but which does not work.”

 Room conversation, July, 1970


            Daksa was doing well until he displayed his envy towards Lord Siva and thus exposed himself. Vaisnava-aparadha is compared to hati-mata, a mad elephant that destroys everything on its way. As a consequence of his offenses, Daksa lost everything, even his head. Srimad-Bhagavatam is not only full of instructions but also full of history. It is a fact that history repeats itself constantly, thus it is not a surprise to see something that happened millions of years ago happening again and again nowadays. Lord Caitanya introduced the process of yajna for this age, the sankirtana yajna. This is the most sublime method of sacrifice and at the same time the easiest and most inexpensive, as it can be practised anywhere, by anyone and in any condition. But if while engaged in this process one commits offences at the lotus feet of a great Vaisnava like Lord Siva, then his bhakti-lata will be trampled by the mad elephant of his sinful reactions.


            Srila Prabhupada is also the best of the Vaisnavas, and his transcendental qualities are quite similar to those of Lord Siva. Srila Prabhupada is ‘yasoghna’ (SB 4.2.10), he is famous in all the three worlds and his glories put to shame the fame of anyone on this planet. He is ‘nirapatrapa’(SB 4.2.10), the maintainer of those who have no other shelter; factually, he built a house in which everyone can live. He is ‘bhinna-setu’(SB 4.2.13), he is so magnanimous that he gave the essence of all Vedic knowledge to people who were less than sudras. He is the most beloved of all living entities; he has no rival (SB 4.4.11); he does not find fault with others’ qualities, but if someone has a little good quality, he magnifies it greatly (SB 4.4.12); he is always pure and his very name purifies one of all sinful activities (SB 4.4.15). Srila Prabhupada is so merciful that he preached to a class of people who were just like Lord Siva’s followers: hobgoblins, ghosts, devils, etc., and indeed turned them into human beings and engaged them in the service of Krishna. However, another famous story from the Hitopadesa is that of the mouse that after being turned into a tiger by a sage’s mercy, tried to eat him up.


            Daksa’s fault was to direct his envy towards Lord Siva. Similarly, some people showed their envy towards Srila Prabhupada. As early as 1969/70, it happened that some of his disciples were so envious of him that they wanted to take over ISKCON and get rid of him. One of them even demanded a sannyasa certificate from Srila Prabhupada just to secure name, fame and adoration right under the Acarya’s nose. In so many cases, people who were posted as temple presidents, sannyasi, GBC or guru, deviated from Srila Prabhupada’s instructions or became offensive towards him, and as consequence, they fell down very badly, gave up the process, went into jail, lost their so-called position or even the head…


            Lord Siva, Jesus Christ, Srila Prabhupada… the very same story: even though they are real friends of everyone and completely free from enmity, they are objects of envy for snakes who do not discriminate where to cast their poison. Srila Prabhupada sometimes used to refer even to some of his godbrothers  as ‘envious’ or ‘black snake.’ By the association of some of these so-called disciples and so-called godbrothers, many Sati-like devotees felt so disgusted that they gave up the body (ISKCON). Meanwhile, the Virabhadra of the reactions kept on destroying the sacrificial arena and hurting its members. And among the leaders, some were following Indra’s steps, pretending to be sannyasis:


viras casvam upadaya

pitr-yajnam athavrajat

tad avadyam hare rupam

jagrhur jnana-durbalah


“Then the great hero, Vijitasva, the son of King Prthu, again took the horse and returned to his father's sacrificial arena. Since that time, certain men with a poor fund of knowledge have adopted the dress of a false sannyasi. It was King Indra who introduced this.”

 >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.19.22


To call a thief a thief is no offence at all, but to call him otherwise is a deviation from the principle of truthfulness:


“If a man is a thief and if people are warned that he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. That is the definition of truth.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.4-5


“Of course to call a thief a thief is not faultfinding.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 16.1-3


Nevertheless, just because one is externally dressed as a Vaisnava, although proved to be a thief, some will protest when we call him so… I personally support Yuddhisthira when he refused to lie, even upon being requested by Lord Krishna Himself, and even though he had to see the hell for that, for otherwise I am afraid another class of ‘liars for Krishna’ would have sprung up after him, as in the case of Indra…  In the Manu Samhita (1.108), it is affirmed:


acarah paramo dharmah srutyoktah smarta eva ca |

tasmadasmin sada yukto nityam syadatmavan dvijah ||



“Both the sruti and the smrti state that character is the supreme religious principle, therefore a self-controlled twice-born should always behave according to the prescribed codes of conduct.”


Nothing can be more artificial than a neophyte trying to play the maha-bhagavata:


“You can cheat all people for some time and some people for all time, but not all people for all time. That is not possible.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => His Divine Grace Srila Sac-cid-ananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Appearance Day, Lecture -- London, September 3, 1971


So, what is the status of all these people who are so well-dressed and so ill-behaved?


“Kanistha-adhikari. They are not devotees, but they are called bhaktabhasa. There is some signs of bhakti. Actually they are not bhakta. Bhaktabhasa. Abhasa. Abhasa means a simple, a little light.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk -- February 6, 1976, Mayapur


“Unfortunately, in this Age of Kali, there are many mundane persons in the dress of Vaisnavas, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has described them as disciples of Kali. He says, kali-cela. He indicates that there is another Vaisnava, a pseudo-Vaisnava with tilaka on his nose and kanthi beads around his neck. Such a pseudo-Vaisnava associates with money and women and is jealous of successful Vaisnavas. Although passing for a Vaisnava, his only business is earning money in the dress of a Vaisnava. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, therefore, says that such a pseudo-Vaisnava is not a Vaisnava at all but a disciple of Kali-yuga.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 1.220


And how to deal with people who don’t display Vaisnava qualities, but rather envy?


“A mundane person in the dress of a Vaisnava should not be respected but rejected. This is enjoined in the sastra (upeksa). The word upeksa means neglect. One should neglect an envious person. A preacher's duty is to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaisnavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaisnavas in this Krsna consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaisnava. When Narottama dasa Thakura says chadiya vaisnava seva nistara payeche keba, he is indicating an actual Vaisnava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaisnava.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 1.218


In his Bhakti-sandarbha (238), Srila Jiva Gosvami confirms:


tasya vaisnava-bhava-rahityenavaisnavataya avaisnavopadistenety adi-vacana-visayatvac ca


“If one is devoid of Vaisnava qualities, he is to be considered a non-Vaisnava.”


            The process of devotional service is scientific and gradual, but everyone should be honest enough to recognize his own level and work on it. In the construction and maintenance of a temple, innumerable people are paid to work. It would be ludicrous to say that they are performing devotional service, for their aim is something else than love for Krishna. A show of bhakti may convince many people, just as Daksa had many followers in his sacrifice, but unless Krishna is also convinced, everything fails. Srila Prabhupada used to condemn the professional Bhagavata reciters and those who hear them. Although Srimad-Bhagavatam is the amala-purana, if the reciter is not sincere and pure, the result in the form of transcendental knowledge will not be attained. The difference between karma and yajna is a subtle one. It is a matter of consciousness, not of work. Daksa’s sacrifice was externally perfect, but his consciousness was not. Similarly, in ISKCON we have many Daksas, very expert in management, speaking or whatever, but Krishna really knows what their motivation is and will surely recompense everyone accordingly. In any case, even those who fail to obey Srila Prabhupada, or even those who offend him, can still be forgiven by him just as Daksa was forgiven by Lord Siva— provided they rectify themselves— and then resume the process, for it is said:


'sadhu-sanga', ‘sadhu-sanga' -- sarva-sastre kaya

lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya


"The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 22.54


            Devotional service is a desire tree able to fulfil all the desires of all living entities. Daksa and Dhruva Maharaja had a personal motivation to take to devotional service. Yet just by the mercy of a pure devotee, they satisfied their personal ambitions and simultaneously pleased the Lord. Srila Prabhupada gave us a sacrificial arena called ISKCON, in which everyone can take part as a worker or as a sacrificer. It depends on us to decide which role we want to play. But ultimately Krishna will accept our sacrifice only if Srila Prabhupada is duly honoured and becomes pleased.



This essay was originally submitted for assessment during the third year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, fourth canto of Bhagavatam, on 27/08/04, and very badly criticized for criticizing…


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Science of Bhakti


            Nowadays, the word ‘science’ is used in such a way that it seems to mean something modern, a fruit of fertile brains, cultivated over the centuries by innumerable speculative processes and able to produce computers, spacecrafts, etc. Factually, science is as old as the universe, or even older than it. From the analytical point of view, there are different sciences for each branch of knowledge, and therefore if we speak about God and religion, we must assume that there must be a particular science that deals with these matters. This is called bhakti, and it is not just a branch, but the real science, and we may understand it by hearing from a book of science: Srimad-Bhagavatam, as it was spoken by the greatest scientist, Lord Kapiladeva.


            The word ‘science’ has its origin in the Greek language, and it means ‘awakeness’ or ‘knowledge’. The Sanskrit word for science is ‘vijnana,’ or ‘visesa-jnana,’ special knowledge, and because bhakti is the most special kind of knowledge, it is the supreme science per excellence and is thus defined:


sri-bhagavan uvaca

yoga adhyatmikah pumsam

mato nihsreyasaya me

atyantoparatir yatra

duhkhasya ca sukhasya ca


“The Personality of Godhead answered: The yoga system which relates to the Lord and the individual soul, which is meant for the ultimate benefit of the living entity, and which causes detachment from all happiness and distress in the material world, is the highest yoga system.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.13



In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.1.12), it is also stated:



tat-paratvena nirmalam

hrsikena hrsikesa-

sevanam bhaktir ucyate


            "Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the service of the Lord, one's senses are purified."

                From the word ‘science’ comes the word ‘conscience,’ ‘with science,’ implying that for science to exist, there must be one who understands or experiences science, in other words, a conscious being. For each scientific area there is a prominent expounder, so if we say that bhakti is the supreme science, its propounder must be the supreme conscious being by definition, as enunciated in the Katha Upanisad (2.2.13):


nityo'nityanam cetanas cetananam

eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

tam atmastham ye'nupasyanti dhiras

tesam santih sasvatam netaresam


“There is one eternal being among many eternal beings, one sentient being among many sentient beings, Who fulfils their desires. The wise who meditate on Him situated within the heart attain everlasting cessation of material existence, and not others.”


And this is the position of Lord Kapiladeva: He is ‘ajah,’ ‘bhagavan’ (SB 3.25.1), the greatest of all yogis and the supreme knower of the Vedas (SB 3.25.2), ‘adyah,’ ‘isvarah,’ the original Lord Who comes here to dissipate the darkness of the universe SB 3.25.9), and because He is paramatma, He knows everything that happens in all spheres of existence.


            In the materialistic scientific circles, nobody gets distinction and renown unless he is recognized as a great genius, a giver of valuable contributions to humanity. To corroborate the authority of the Supreme Lord, Srimad-Bhagavatam presents an elaborate description of the creation and the material nature as a wonderful device made by Krishna to fulfil the desires of all living entities. Thus Krishna is actually not only the biggest scientist and genius but also the greatest contributor to humanity and all species of life, for He is the one who is providing everything, even the brains of the so-called scientists. He is not just a creator and supplier, but being our ever-well-wisher, He Himself comes to teach us this supreme science for our benefit. Even if we don’t care for Him, He does care for us. This yoga system taught by the Lord is the most ancient (SB 3.25.14), and due to a long lapse of time, it became lost in human society (SB 3.25.37).


            When we analyse one drop of sea water we understand the quality of the whole ocean. Similarly, by understanding the spiritual nature of the individual soul, we understand the nature or quality of God. By analysing His creation with all its elements through the process of sankhya-yoga, one may ultimately understand that he is something distinct from these material ingredients. But still after understanding the spiritual existence of the soul and God, one has to understand how God is quantitatively different:


mad-bhayad vati vato 'yam

suryas tapati mad-bhayat

varsatindro dahaty agnir

mrtyus carati mad-bhayat


“It is because of My supremacy that the wind blows, out of fear of Me; the sun shines out of fear of Me, and the lord of the clouds, Indra, sends forth showers out of fear of Me. Fire burns out of fear of Me, and death goes about taking its toll out of fear of Me.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.42


Only after understanding both the quality and the quantity of the Lord, one may appreciate a particular relation with Him as a friend, relative, son, preceptor, benefactor and Supreme Deity (SB 3.25.38). This stage, however, is not easily attainable to the conditioned souls due to their being absorbed in the material nature since time immemorial. Therefore, one has to submit himself to a scientific process to be reinstated in one’s original, spiritual position, and for this purpose, the process must be necessarily spiritual. An example of improper means is how in the sixties, the idea of getting transcendental experiences through drugs was almost a fashion. Srila Prabhupada, however, strongly refuted all this nonsense as being illogical, for by no material means can one have access to bonafide spiritual feelings.


            As science comprehends both thesis and experiment, in the spiritual field we do not have only philosophy, but also a whole process of practice that may involve one’s life in all its aspects. This process does not depend only on one’s ability, but it is essentially dependent on the help of those who are advanced in this path:


satam prasangan mama virya-samvido

bhavanti hrt-karna-rasayanah kathah

taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartmani

sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati


“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.25


And the way this process works on the polluted consciousness is also described:


arayaty asu ya kosam

nigirnam analo yatha


“Bhakti, devotional service, dissolves the subtle body of the living entity without separate effort, just as fire in the stomach digests all that we eat.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.33


Another example may be given: just as the pulp within a coconut may detach itself even while remaining inside it, similarly by the process of devotional service, one’s subtle body is dissolved and thus one becomes jivan-mukta, liberated even while living in the material body, and finally one attains the real goal of bhakti:


asevayayam prakrter gunanam

jnanena vairagya-vijrmbhitena

yogena mayy arpitaya ca bhaktya

mam pratyag-atmanam ihavarundhe


“Thus by not engaging in the service of the modes of material nature but by developing Krsna consciousness, knowledge in renunciation, and by practicing yoga, in which the mind is always fixed in devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one achieves My association in this very life, for I am the Supreme Personality, the Absolute Truth.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.27


One who has gotten such a position must be recognized not by mundane votes, nor by show-bottle, but by evident symptoms:


titiksavah karunikah

suhrdah sarva-dehinam

ajata-satravah santah

sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah


“The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.21


            Now, one may argue that since most people are full of material desires and since one of the important elements in bhakti is detachment, it is not feasible for everyone. But this is not true:


atho vibhutim mama mayavinas tam

aisvaryam astangam anupravrttam

sriyam bhagavatim vasprhayanti bhadram

parasya me te 'snuvate tu loke

“Thus because he is completely absorbed in thought of Me, the devotee does not desire even the highest benediction obtainable in the upper planetary systems, including Satyaloka. He does not desire the eight material perfections obtained from mystic yoga, nor does he desire to be elevated to the kingdom of God. Yet even without desiring them, the devotee enjoys, even in this life, all the offered benedictions.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.37


Whether one is full of desires or has no desires, it does not matter, for nobody ever loses anything by dedicating himself to the Lord, but gains much more than he would obtain otherwise, as confirmed by the Lord :


vedesu yajnesu tapahsu caiva

danesu yat punya-phalam pradistam

atyeti tat sarvam idam viditva

yogi param sthanam upaiti cadyam


“A person who accepts the path of devotional service is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas, performing sacrifices, undergoing austerities, giving charity or pursuing philosophical and fruitive activities. Simply by performing devotional service, he attains all these, and at the end he reaches the supreme eternal abode.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 8.28


While practicing this process, I myself could experience that two things happened: first, those desires I had, which were not conducive to spiritual life, were to some extent eradicated, without any separate endeavour to reject them; second, other desires were adjusted in Krishna consciousness in such a way as not to hamper either my spiritual or my material life. Other processes, however, have doubtful results, even after long practice. For example, I know people who practiced Hatha-yoga the whole life without any tangible result, except perhaps some health improvement…


            In the last five hundred years, Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement has been spoiled by fanatics, sentimentalists and even debauches who claim to be bhaktas. But being a scientific process, real bhakti will not appear unless one follows it strictly, just as a diseased man will not be cured unless he abides by a physician’s prescriptions. Srila Prabhupada points out the cause of such failures:


“Without knowledge, one cannot have realization.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.18, purport


But knowledge alone will also not do:


“Simply by theoretical knowledge or study one cannot make any appreciable advancement.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.25, purport


We have to practice sravana, kirtana, smarana, vandana, pada-sevana, arcana, dasya, sakhya and atma-nivedana with the direction and association of a sadhu. To learn science one needs the help of a great scientist, and Srila Prabhupada proved to be so by exhibiting all the symptoms of a sadhu, by presenting the most scientific books on bhakti and by thus giving everyone the chance to take part in this process anywhere and under any condition by experiencing his association through his books:


“Hearing or associating with devotees is the most important function for self-realization.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.27, purport


And he remarked that no one needs a degree stating one’s advancement, but that one may know it oneself by perceiving two things: how detached one is from material influence, and how attached one is to Krishna.


            Bhakti is not something theoretical, described in books of literature, nor a system of rituals to be performed mechanically. Bhakti is the very science of God and the self, and is the natural function of the soul. Bhakti is the real meaning of dharma. It is meant for all living entities and it is not limited by any material condition. By following the path of the acaryas, one engages in one’s eternal activity, in this world and the next:



bhakti-yogena yoginah

ksemaya pada-mulam me

pravisanty akuto-bhayam


“The yogis, equipped with transcendental knowledge and renunciation and engaged in devotional service for their eternal benefit, take shelter of My lotus feet, and since I am the Lord, they are thus eligible to enter into the kingdom of Godhead without fear.”


>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.25.43




This essay was originally submitted for assessment in the second year of the Bhakti-vaibhava course at VIHE, third canto of Bhagavatam, on 23/09/03