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…


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