1: Characteristics of Pure Devotional Service
2: The First Stages of Devotion
3: Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service
4: Devotional Service Surpasses All Liberation
5: The Purity of Devotional Service
6: How to Discharge Devotional Service
7: Evidence Regarding Devotional Principles
8: Offenses to Be Avoided
9: Further Considerations of Devotional Principles
10: Techniques of Hearing and Remembering
11: Aspects of Transcendental Service
12: Further Aspects of Transcendental Service
13: Five Potent Forms of Devotional Service
14: Devotional Qualifications
15: Spontaneous Devotional Service
16: Spontaneous Devotion Further Described
17: Ecstatic Love
18: Character of One in Ecstatic Love
19: Devotional Service in Pure Love of God
20: Transcendental Mellow
21: Qualities of Çré Kåñëa
22: Qualities of Kåñëa Further Explained
23: Kåñëa's Personality
24: Further Traits of Çré Kåñëa
25: Devotees of Kåñëa
26: Stimulation for Ecstatic Love
27: Symptoms of Ecstatic Love
28: Existential Ecstatic Love
29: Expressions of Love for Kåñëa
30: Further Features of Ecstatic Love for Kåñëa
31: Additional Symptoms
32: Symptoms of Continuous Love
33: Indirect Expressions of Ecstatic Love
34: The Nectar of Devotion
35: Neutral Love of God
36: Transcendental Affection (Servitude)
37: Impetuses for Kåñëa's Service
38: Indifference and Separation
39: Ways of Meeting Kåñëa
40: Reverential Devotion of Sons And other Subordinates
41: Fraternal Devotion
42: Fraternal Loving Affairs
44: Devotional Service in Conjugal Love
45: Laughing Ecstasy
46: Astonishment and Chivalry
47: Compassion and Anger
48: Dread and Ghastliness
49: Mixing of Rasas
50: Further Analysis of Mixed Rasas
51: Perverted Expression of Mellows
Nectar of Devotion Preface
The Nectar of Devotion is a summary
study of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, which was written in Sanskrit
by Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda. He
was the chief of the six Gosvämés, who were the direct disciples
of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu. When he first met Lord Caitanya, Çréla
Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda was engaged as a minister
in the Muhammadan government of Bengal. He and his brother Sanätana
were then named Dabira Khäsa and Säkara Mallika respectively,
and they held responsible posts as ministers of Nawab Hussain Shah. At
that time, five hundred years ago, the Hindu society was very rigid, and
if a member of the brähmaëa caste accepted the service of a Muhammadan
ruler he was at once rejected from brähmaëa society. That was
the position of the two brothers, Dabira Khäsa and Säkara Mallika.
They belonged to the highly situated särasvata-brähmaëa
community, but they were ostracized due to their acceptance of ministerial
posts in the government of Hussain Shah. It is the grace of Lord Caitanya
that He accepted these two exalted personalities as His disciples and raised
them to the position of gosvämés, the highest position of brahminical
culture. Similarly, Lord Caitanya accepted Haridäsa Öhäkura
as His disciple, although Haridäsa happened to be born of a Muhammadan
family, and Lord Caitanya later on made him the äcärya of the
chanting of the holy name of the Lord: Hare Kåñëa, Hare
Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa,
Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya’s principle is universal. Anyone who knows the science of Kåñëa and is engaged in the service of the Lord is accepted as being in a higher position than a person born in the family of a brähmaëa. That is the original principle accepted by all Vedic literatures, especially by Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam. The principle of Lord Caitanya’s movement in educating and elevating everyone to the exalted post of a gosvämé is taught in The Nectar of Devotion.
Lord Caitanya met the two brothers Dabira Khäsa and Säkara Mallika in a village known as Rämakeli in the district of Maldah, and after that meeting the brothers decided to retire from government service and join Lord Caitanya. Dabira Khäsa, who was later to become Rüpa Gosvämé, retired from his post and collected all the money he had accumulated during his service. It is described in the Caitanya-caritämåta that his accumulated savings in gold coins equaled millions of dollars and filled a large boat. He divided the money in a very exemplary manner, which should be followed by devotees in particular and by humanity in general. Fifty percent of his accumulated wealth was distributed to the Kåñëa conscious persons, namely the brähmaëas and the Vaiñëavas; twenty-five percent was distributed to relatives; and twenty-five percent was kept against emergency expenditures and personal difficulties. Later on, when Säkara Mallika also proposed to retire, the Nawab was very much agitated and put him into jail. But Säkara Mallika, who was later to become Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé, took advantage of his brother’s personal money, which had been deposited with a village banker, and escaped from the prison of Hussain Shah. In this way both brothers joined Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu.
Rüpa Gosvämé first met Lord Caitanya at Prayäga (Allahabad, India), and on the Daçäçvamedha bathing ghäöa of that holy city the Lord instructed him continually for ten days. The Lord particularly instructed Rüpa Gosvämé on the science of Kåñëa consciousness. These teachings of Lord Caitanya to Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda are narrated in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Later, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda elaborated the teachings of the Lord with profound knowledge of revealed scriptures and authoritative references from various Vedic literatures. Çréla Çréniväsa Äcärya describes in his prayers to the six Gosvämés that they were all highly learned scholars, not only in Sanskrit but also in foreign languages such as Persian and Arabic. They very scrutinizingly studied all the Vedic scriptures in order to establish the cult of Caitanya Mahäprabhu on the authorized principles of Vedic knowledge. The present Kåñëa consciousness movement is also based on the authority of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda. We are therefore generally known as rüpänugas, or followers in the footsteps of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda. It is only for our guidance that Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé prepared his book Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, which is now presented in the form of The Nectar of Devotion. Persons engaged in the Kåñëa consciousness movement may take advantage of this great literature and be very solidly situated in Kåñëa consciousness.
Bhakti means “devotional service.” Every service has some attractive feature which drives the servitor progressively on and on. Every one of us within this world is perpetually engaged in some sort of service, and the impetus for such service is the pleasure we derive from it. Driven by affection for his wife and children, a family man works day and night. A philanthropist works in the same way for love of the greater family, and a nationalist for the cause of his country and countrymen. That force which drives the philanthropist, the householder and the nationalist is called rasa, or a kind of mellow (relationship) whose taste is very sweet. Bhakti-rasa is a mellow different from the ordinary rasa enjoyed by mundane workers. Mundane workers labor very hard day and night in order to relish a certain kind of rasa which is understood as sense gratification. The relish or taste of the mundane rasa does not long endure, and therefore mundane workers are always apt to change their position of enjoyment. A businessman is not satisfied by working the whole week; therefore, wanting a change for the weekend, he goes to a place where he tries to forget his business activities. Then, after the weekend is spent in forgetfulness, he again changes his position and resumes his actual business activities. Material engagement means accepting a particular status for some time and then changing it. This position of changing back and forth is technically known as bhoga-tyäga, which means a position of alternating sense enjoyment and renunciation. A living entity cannot steadily remain either in sense enjoyment or in renunciation. Change is going on perpetually, and we cannot be happy in either state, because of our eternal constitutional position. Sense gratification does not endure for long, and it is therefore called capala-sukha, or flickering happiness. For example, an ordinary family man who works very hard day and night and is successful in giving comforts to the members of his family thereby relishes a kind of mellow, but his whole advancement of material happiness immediately terminates along with his body as soon as his life is over. Death is therefore taken as the representative of God for the atheistic class of men. The devotee realizes the presence of God by devotional service, whereas the atheist realizes the presence of God in the shape of death. At death everything is finished, and one has to begin a new chapter of life in a new situation, perhaps higher or lower than the last one. In any field of activity—political, social, national or international—the result of our actions will be finished with the end of life. That is sure.
Bhakti-rasa, however, the mellow relished in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, does not finish with the end of life. It continues perpetually and is therefore called amåta, that which does not die but exists eternally. This is confirmed in all Vedic literatures. Bhagavad-gétä says that a little advancement in bhakti-rasa can save the devotee from the greatest danger—that of missing the opportunity for human life. The rasas derived from our feelings in social life, in family life or in the greater family life of altruism, philanthropy, nationalism, socialism, communism, etc., do not guarantee that one’s next life will be as a human being. We prepare our next life by our actual activities in the present life. A living entity is offered a particular type of body as a result of his action in the present body. These activities are taken into account by a superior authority known as daiva, or the authority of God. This daiva is explained in Bhagavad-gétä as the prime cause of everything, and in Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated that a man takes his next body by daiva-netreëa, which means by the supervision of the authority of the Supreme. In an ordinary sense, daiva is explained as destiny. Daiva supervision gives us a body selected from 8,400,000 forms; the choice does not depend on our selection, but is awarded to us according to our destiny. If our body at present is engaged in the activities of Kåñëa consciousness, then it is guaranteed that we will have at least a human body in our next life. A human being engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, even if unable to complete the course of bhakti-yoga, takes birth in the higher divisions of human society so that he can automatically further his advancement in Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore, all bona fide activities in Kåñëa consciousness are amåta, or permanent. This is the subject matter of The Nectar of Devotion.
This eternal engagement in bhakti-rasa can be understood by a serious student upon studying The Nectar of Devotion. Adoption of bhakti-rasa, or Kåñëa consciousness, will immediately bring one to an auspicious life free from anxieties and will bless one with transcendental existence, thus minimizing the value of liberation. Bhakti-rasa itself is sufficient to produce a feeling of liberation, because it attracts the attention of the Supreme Lord, Kåñëa. Generally, neophyte devotees are anxious to see Kåñëa, or God, but God cannot be seen or known by our present materially blunt senses. The process of devotional service as it is recommended in The Nectar of Devotion will gradually elevate one from the material condition of life to the spiritual status, wherein the devotee becomes purified of all designations. The senses can then become uncontaminated, being constantly in touch with bhakti-rasa. When the purified senses are employed in the service of the Lord, one becomes situated in bhakti-rasa life, and any action performed for the satisfaction of Kåñëa in this transcendental bhakti-rasa stage of life can be relished perpetually. When one is thus engaged in devotional service, all varieties of rasas, or mellows, turn into eternity. In the beginning one is trained according to the principles of regulation under the guidance of the äcärya, or spiritual master, and gradually, when one is elevated, devotional service becomes automatic and spontaneous eagerness to serve Kåñëa. There are twelve kinds of rasas, as will be explained in this book, and by renovating our relationship with Kåñëa in five primary rasas we can live eternally in full knowledge and bliss.
The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy. At the present moment the human society teaches one to love his country or family or his personal self, but there is no information where to repose the loving propensity so that everyone can become happy. That missing point is Kåñëa, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Kåñëa and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life.
In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and sisters, and as he daily grows up he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity is not satisfied even by loving all human society; that loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved. Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Kåñëa. This theme is the sum and substance of The Nectar of Devotion, which teaches us how to love Kåñëa in five different transcendental mellows.
Our loving propensity expands just as a vibration of light or air expands, but we do not know where it ends. The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Kåñëa. We have failed to create peace and harmony in human society, even by such great attempts as the United Nations, because we do not know the right method. The method is very simple, but one has to understand it with a cool head. The Nectar of Devotion teaches all men how to perform the simple and natural method of loving Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we learn how to love Kåñëa, then it is very easy to immediately and simultaneously love every living being. It is like pouring water on the root of a tree or supplying food to one’s stomach. The method of pouring water on the root of a tree or supplying foodstuffs to the stomach is universally scientific and practical, as every one of us has experienced. Everyone knows well that when we eat something, or in other words, when we put foodstuffs in the stomach, the energy created by such action is immediately distributed throughout the whole body. Similarly, when we pour water on the root, the energy thus created is immediately distributed throughout the entirety of even the largest tree. It is not possible to water the tree part by part, nor is it possible to feed the different parts of the body separately. The Nectar of Devotion will teach us how to turn the one switch that will immediately brighten everything, everywhere. One who does not know this method is missing the point of life.
As far as material necessities are concerned, the human civilization at the present moment is very much advanced in living comfortably, but still we are not happy, because we are missing the point. The material comforts of life alone are not sufficient to make us happy. The vivid example is America: the richest nation of the world, having all facilities for material comfort, is producing a class of men completely confused and frustrated in life. I am appealing herewith to such confused men to learn the art of devotional service as directed in The Nectar of Devotion, and I am sure that the fire of material existence burning within their hearts will be immediately extinguished. The root cause of our dissatisfaction is that our dormant loving propensity has not been fulfilled despite our great advancement in the materialistic way of life. The Nectar of Devotion will give us practical hints how we can live in this material world perfectly engaged in devotional service and thus fulfill all our desires in this life and the next. The Nectar of Devotion is not presented to condemn any way of materialistic life, but the attempt is to give information to religionists, philosophers and people in general how to love Kåñëa. One may live without material discomfiture, but at the same time he should learn the art of loving Kåñëa. At the present moment we are inventing so many ways to utilize our propensity to love, but factually we are missing the real point: Kåñëa. We are watering all parts of the tree, but missing the tree’s root. We are trying to keep our body fit by all means, but we are neglecting to supply foodstuffs to the stomach. Missing Kåñëa means missing one’s self also. Real self-realization and realization of Kåñëa go together simultaneously. For example, seeing oneself in the morning means seeing the sunrise also; without seeing the sunshine no one can see himself. Similarly, unless one has realized Kåñëa there is no question of self-realization.
The Nectar of Devotion is specifically presented for persons who are now engaged in the Kåñëa consciousness movement. I beg to offer my sincere thanks to all my friends and disciples who are helping me to push forward the Kåñëa consciousness movement in the Western countries, and I beg to acknowledge, with thanks, the contribution made by my beloved disciple Çréman Jayänanda brahmacäré. My thanks are due as well to the directors of ISKCON Press, who have taken so much care in publishing this great literature. Hare Kåñëa.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
13 April 1970
3764 Watseka Ave.
Los Angeles, California
Invoking auspiciousness: Lord Çré
Kåñëa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause
of all causes, the reservoir of all rasas, or relationships, which are
called neutrality (passive adoration), servitorship, friendship, parenthood,
conjugal love, comedy, compassion, fear, chivalry, ghastliness, wonder
and devastation. He is the supreme attractive form, and by His universal
and transcendental attractive features He has captivated all the gopés,
headed by Tärakä, Pälikä, Çyämä, Lalitä,
and ultimately Çrématé Rädhäräëé.
Let His Lordship’s grace be on us so that there may not be any hindrance
in the execution of this duty of writing The Nectar of Devotion, impelled
by His Divine Grace Çré Çrémad Bhaktisiddhänta
Sarasvaté Gosvämé Prabhupäda.
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhupäda and of Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé Prabhupäda, by whose inspiration I have been engaged in the matter of compiling this summary study of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu. This is the sublime science of devotional service as propounded by Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, who appeared five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, to propagate the movement of Kåñëa consciousness.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé begins his great book by offering his respectful obeisances unto Çré Sanätana Gosvämé, who is his elder brother and spiritual master, and he prays that Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu may be very pleasing to him. He further prays that by residing in that ocean of nectar, Çré Sanätana Gosvämé may always feel transcendental pleasure in the service of Rädhä and Kåñëa.
Let us offer our respectful obeisances to all the great devotees and äcäryas (holy teachers), who are compared to sharks in the great ocean of nectar and who do not care for the various rivers of liberation. Impersonalists are very fond of merging into the Supreme, like rivers that come down and merge into the ocean. The ocean can be compared to liberation, and the rivers to all the different paths of liberation. The impersonalists are dwelling in the river water, which eventually comes to mix with the ocean. They have no information, however, that within the ocean, as within the river, there are innumerable aquatic living entities. The sharks who dwell in the ocean do not care for the rivers which are gliding down into it. The devotees eternally live in the ocean of devotional service, and they do not care for the rivers. In other words, those who are pure devotees always remain in the ocean of transcendental loving service to the Lord and have no business with the other processes, which are compared to the rivers that only gradually come to the ocean.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé prays to his spiritual master, Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé, for the protection of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu—“The Ocean of the Pure Nectar of Devotional Service”—from the argumentative logicians who unnecessarily meddle in the science of service to the Lord. He compares their arguments and logic to volcanic eruptions in the midst of the ocean. In the midst of the ocean, volcanic eruptions can do very little harm, and similarly, those who are against devotional service to the Lord and who put forward many philosophical theses about the ultimate transcendental realization cannot disturb this great ocean of devotional service.
The author of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé, very humbly submits that he is just trying to spread Kåñëa consciousness all over the world, although he humbly thinks himself unfit for this work. That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Kåñëa consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous äcäryas, and simply by following in their footsteps we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity.
Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu is divided into four parts, just as the ocean is sometimes divided into four parts, and there are different sections within each of these four divisions. Originally, in Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, the ocean is divided like the watery ocean into east, south, west and north, while the subsections within these different divisions are called waves. As in the ocean there are always different waves, either on the eastern side, the southern side, the western side or the northern side, Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu similarly has different waves. In the first part there are four waves, the first being a general description of devotional service. The second concerns the regulative principles for executing devotional service, and the third wave, devotional service in ecstasy. In the fourth is the ultimate goal, love of God. These will be explicitly described along with their different symptoms.
The authorized descriptions of bhakti, or devotional service, following in the footsteps of previous äcäryas, can be summarized in the following statement by Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé: “First-class devotional service is known by one’s tendency to be fully engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, serving the Lord favorably.” The purport is that one may also be in Kåñëa consciousness unfavorably, but that cannot be counted as pure devotional service. Pure devotional service should be free from the desire for any material benefit or for sense gratification, as these desires are cultivated through fruitive activities and philosophical speculation. Generally, people are engaged in different activities to get some material profit, while most philosophers are engaged in proposing transcendental realization through volumes of word jugglery and speculation. Pure devotional service must always be free from such fruitive activities and philosophical speculations. One has to learn Kåñëa consciousness, or pure devotional service, from the authorities by spontaneous loving service.
This devotional service is a sort of cultivation. It is not simply inaction for people who like to be inactive or devote their time to silent meditation. There are many different methods for people who want this, but cultivation of Kåñëa consciousness is different. The particular word used by Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé in this connection is anuçélana, or cultivation by following the predecessor teachers (äcäryas). As soon as we say “cultivation,” we must refer to activity. Without activity, consciousness alone cannot help us. All activities may be divided into two classes: one class may be for achieving a certain goal, and the other may be for avoiding some unfavorable circumstance. In Sanskrit, these activities are called pravåtti and nivåtti—positive and negative action. There are many examples of negative action. For instance, a diseased person has to be cautious and take medicine in order to avoid some unfavorable illness.
Those who are cultivating spiritual life and executing devotional service are always engaged in activity. Such activity can be performed with the body or with the mind. Thinking, feeling and willing are all activities of the mind, and when we will to do something, the activity comes to be manifest by the gross bodily senses. Thus, in our mental activities we should always try to think of Kåñëa and try to plan how to please Him, following in the footsteps of the great äcäryas and the personal spiritual master. There are activities of the body, activities of the mind and activities of speech. A Kåñëa conscious person engages his words in preaching the glories of the Lord. This is called kértana. And by his mind a Kåñëa conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord—as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra or engaging in His various pastimes in Våndävana with His devotees. In this way one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is the mental culture of Kåñëa consciousness.
Similarly, we can offer many services with our bodily activities. But all such activities must be in relationship with Kåñëa. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master, who is the direct representative of Kåñëa in disciplic succession. Therefore, the execution of Kåñëa conscious activities with the body should be directed by the spiritual master and then performed with faith. The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Kåñëa and a person cultivating Kåñëa consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Kåñëa consciousness is never performed.
This cultivation of Kåñëa consciousness is not material. The Lord has three general energies—namely the external energy, the internal energy and the marginal energy. The living entities are called marginal energy, and the material cosmic manifestation is the action of the external, or material, energy. Then there is the spiritual world, which is a manifestation of the internal energy. The living entities, who are called marginal energy, perform material activities when acting under the inferior, external energy. And when they engage in activities under the internal, spiritual energy, their activities are called Kåñëa conscious. This means that those who are great souls or great devotees do not act under the spell of material energy, but act instead under the protection of the spiritual energy. Any activities done in devotional service, or in Kåñëa consciousness, are directly under the control of spiritual energy. In other words, energy is a sort of strength, and this strength can be spiritualized by the mercy of both the bona fide spiritual master and Kåñëa.
In the Caitanya-caritämåta, by Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja Gosvämé, Lord Caitanya states that it is a fortunate person who comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kåñëa. One who is serious about spiritual life is given by Kåñëa the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then by the grace of the spiritual master one becomes advanced in Kåñëa consciousness. In this way the whole jurisdiction of Kåñëa consciousness is directly under the spiritual energy—Kåñëa and the spiritual master. This has nothing to do with the material world. When we speak of “Kåñëa” we refer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His many expansions. He is expanded by His plenary parts and parcels, His differentiated parts and parcels and His different energies. “Kåñëa,” in other words, means everything and includes everything. Generally, however, we should understand “Kåñëa” to mean Kåñëa and His personal expansions. Kåñëa expands Himself as Baladeva, Saìkarñaëa, Väsudeva, Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Räma, Nåsiàha and Varäha, as well as many other incarnations and innumerable Viñëu expansions. These are described in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam to be as numerous as the uncountable waves. So Kåñëa includes all such expansions, as well as His pure devotees. In the Brahma-saàhitä it is stated that Kåñëa’s expansions are all complete in eternity, blissfulness and cognizance.
Devotional service means to prosecute Kåñëa conscious activities which are favorable to the transcendental pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Kåñëa, and any activities which are not favorable to the transcendental favor of the Lord cannot be accepted as devotional service. For example, great demons like Rävaëa, Kaàsa and Hiraëyakaçipu were always thinking of Kåñëa, but they were thinking of Him as their enemy. This sort of thinking cannot be accepted as bhakti, or Kåñëa consciousness.
The impersonalists sometimes misunderstand devotional service in such a way that they divide Kåñëa from His paraphernalia and pastimes. For example, the Bhagavad-gétä is spoken on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, and the impersonalists say that although Kåñëa is of interest, the Battlefield of Kurukñetra isn’t. The devotees, however, also know that the Battlefield of Kurukñetra by itself has nothing to do with their business, but in addition they know that “Kåñëa” does not mean just Kåñëa alone. He is always with His associates and paraphernalia. For instance, if someone says, “Give something to eat to the man with the weapons,” the eating process is done by the man and not by the weapons. Similarly, in Kåñëa consciousness, a devotee may be interested in the paraphernalia and locations—such as the Battlefield of Kurukñetra—which are associated with Kåñëa, but he is not concerned with simply any battlefield. He is concerned with Kåñëa—His speech, His instructions, etc. It is because Kåñëa is there that the battlefield is so important.
This is the summary understanding of what Kåñëa consciousness is. Without this understanding one is sure to misunderstand why the devotees are interested in the Battlefield of Kurukñetra. One who is interested in Kåñëa becomes interested in His different pastimes and activities.
The definition of a pure devotee, as given by Rüpa Gosvämé in Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, can be summarized thus: his service is favorable and is always in relation to Kåñëa. In order to keep the purity of such Kåñëa conscious activities, one must be freed from all material desires and philosophical speculation. Any desire except for the service of the Lord is called material desire. And “philosophical speculation” refers to the sort of speculation which ultimately arrives at a conclusion of voidism or impersonalism. This conclusion is useless for a Kåñëa conscious person. Only rarely by philosophical speculation can one reach the conclusion of worshiping Väsudeva, Kåñëa. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gétä itself. The ultimate end of philosophical speculation, then, must be Kåñëa, with the understanding that Kåñëa is everything, the cause of all causes, and that one should therefore surrender unto Him. If this ultimate goal is reached, then philosophical advancement is favorable, but if the conclusion of philosophical speculation is voidism or impersonalism, that is not bhakti.
Karma, or fruitive activities, are sometimes understood to be ritualistic activities. There are many persons who are very much attracted by the ritualistic activities described in the Vedas. But if one becomes attracted simply to ritualistic activities without understanding Kåñëa, his activities are unfavorable to Kåñëa consciousness. Actually, Kåñëa consciousness can be based simply on hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. Described in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam are nine different processes, besides which everything done is unfavorable to Kåñëa consciousness. Thus, one should always be guarding against falldowns.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has also mentioned in this definition of bhakti the word jïäna-karmädi. This karmädi (fruitive work) consists of activities which are unable to help one attain to pure devotional service. Many forms of so-called renunciation are also not favorable to Kåñëa conscious devotional service.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has also quoted a definition from the Närada-païcarätra, as follows: “One should be free from all material designations and, by Kåñëa consciousness, must be cleansed of all material contamination. He should be restored to his pure identity, in which he engages his senses in the service of the proprietor of the senses.” So when our senses are engaged for the actual proprietor of the senses, that is called devotional service. In our conditional state, our senses are engaged in serving these bodily demands. When the same senses are engaged in executing the order of Kåñëa, our activities are called bhakti.
As long as one identifies himself as belonging to a certain family, a certain society or a certain person, he is said to be covered with designations. When one is fully aware that he does not belong to any family, society or country, but is eternally related to Kåñëa, he then realizes that his energy should be employed not in the interests of so-called family, society or country, but in the interests of Kåñëa. This is purity of purpose and the platform of pure devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness.
NoD 1: Characteristics of Pure Devotional Service
Characteristics of Pure Devotional Service
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Third Canto, Twenty-ninth Chapter, verses 12 and 13, Çréla Kapiladeva, while instructing His mother, has given the following characteristics of pure devotional service: “My dear mother, those who are My pure devotees, and who have no desire for material benefit or philosophical speculation, have their minds so much engaged in My service that they are never interested in asking Me for anything—except to be engaged in that service. They do not even beg to live in My abode with Me.”
There are five kinds of liberation, namely to become one with the Lord, to live with the Supreme Lord on the same planet, to have the same features as the Lord, to enjoy the same opulences as the Lord and to live as a companion of the Lord. A devotee, what to speak of rejecting material sense gratification, does not even want any of the five kinds of liberation. He is satisfied simply by discharging loving service to the Lord. That is the characteristic of pure devotion.
In the above statement by Kapiladeva from Çrémad-Bhägavatam, the actual position of a pure devotee is described, and the primary characteristics of devotional service are also defined. Further characteristics of devotional service are described by Rüpa Gosvämé with evidences from different scriptures. He states that there are six characteristics of pure devotional service, which are as follows:
(1) Pure devotional service brings immediate relief from all kinds of material distress.
(2) Pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness.
(3) Pure devotional service automatically puts one in transcendental pleasure.
(4) Pure devotional service is rarely achieved.
(5) Those in pure devotional service deride even the conception of liberation.
(6) Pure devotional service is the only means to attract Kåñëa.
Kåñëa is all-attractive, but pure devotional service attracts even Him. This means that pure devotional service is even transcendentally stronger than Kåñëa Himself, because it is Kåñëa’s internal potency.
Relief from Material Distress
In Bhagavad-gétä, the Lord says that one should surrender unto Him, giving up all other engagements. The Lord also gives His word there that He will protect surrendered souls from the reactions of all sinful activities. Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé says that the distresses from sinful activities are due both to the sins themselves and to sins committed in our past lives. Generally, one commits sinful activities due to ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse for evading the reaction—sinful activities. Sinful activities are of two kinds: those which are mature and those which are not mature. The sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment are called mature. The many sinful activities stored within us for which we have not yet suffered are considered immature. For example, a man may have committed criminal acts, but not yet been arrested for them. Now, as soon as he is detected, arrest is awaiting him. Similarly, for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distresses in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment.
In this way there is a chain of sinful activities and their concomitant distresses, and the conditioned soul is suffering life after life due to these sins. He is suffering in the present life the results of sinful activities from his past life, and he is meanwhile creating further sufferings for his future life. Mature sinful activities are exhibited if one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is suffering from some legal implication, if one is born in a low and degraded family or if one is uneducated or very ugly.
There are many results of past sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment, and we may be suffering in the future due to our present sinful activities. But all of these reactions to sinful deeds can immediately be stopped if we take to Kåñëa consciousness. As evidence for this, Rüpa Gosvämé quotes from Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 19. This verse is in connection with Lord Kåñëa’s instruction to Uddhava, where He says, “My dear Uddhava, devotional service unto Me is just like a blazing fire which can burn into ashes unlimited fuel supplied to it.” The purport is that as the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Kåñëa consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities. For example, in the Gétä Arjuna thought that fighting was a sinful activity, but Kåñëa engaged him on the battlefield under His order, and so the fighting became devotional service. Therefore, Arjuna was not subjected to any sinful reaction.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé quotes another verse from the Third Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Thirty-third Chapter, verse 6, in which Devahüti addresses her son, Kapiladeva, and says, “My dear Lord, there are nine different kinds of devotional service, beginning from hearing and chanting. Anyone who hears about Your pastimes, who chants about Your glories, who offers You obeisances, who thinks of You and, in this way, executes any of the nine kinds of devotional service—even if he is born in a family of dog-eaters [the lowest grade of mankind]—becomes immediately qualified to perform sacrifices.” As such, how is it possible that anyone actually engaged in devotional service in full Kåñëa consciousness has not become purified? It is not possible. One who is engaged in Kåñëa consciousness and devotional service has without doubt become freed from all contaminations of material sinful activities. Devotional service therefore has the power to actually nullify all kinds of reactions to sinful deeds. A devotee is nevertheless always alert not to commit any sinful activities; this is his specific qualification as a devotee. Thus Çrémad-Bhägavatam states that by performing devotional service a person who was born even in a family of dog-eaters may become eligible to take part in the performance of the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. It is implicit in this statement that a person born into a family of dog-eaters is generally not fit for performing yajïa, or sacrifice. The priestly caste in charge of performing these ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas is called the brähmaëa order. Unless one is a brähmaëa, he cannot perform these ceremonies.
A person is born in a brähmaëa family or in a family of dog-eaters due to his past activities. If a person is born in a family of dog-eaters it means that his past activities were all sinful. But if even such a person takes to the path of devotional service and begins to chant the holy names of the Lord—Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare—he is at once fit to perform the ritualistic ceremonies. This means that his sinful reactions have immediately become neutralized.
It is stated in the Padma Puräëa that there are four kinds of effects due to sinful activities, which are listed as follows: (1) the effect which is not yet fructified, (2) the effect which is lying as seed, (3) the effect which is already mature and (4) the effect which is almost mature. It is also stated that all these four effects become immediately vanquished for those who surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viñëu, and become engaged in His devotional service in full Kåñëa consciousness.
Those effects described as “almost mature” refer to the distress from which one is suffering at present, and the effects “lying as seed” are in the core of the heart, where there is a certain stock of sinful desires which are like seeds. The Sanskrit word küöam means that they are almost ready to produce the seed, or the effect of the seed. “An immature effect” refers to the case where the seedling has not begun. From this statement of Padma Puräëa it is understood that material contamination is very subtle. Its beginning, its fruition and results, and how one suffers such results in the form of distress, are part of a great chain. When one catches some disease, it is often very difficult to ascertain the cause of the disease, where it originated and how it is maturing. The suffering of a disease, however, does not appear all of a sudden. It actually takes time. And as in the medical field, for precaution’s sake, the doctor injects a vaccination to prevent the growing of contamination, the practical injection to stop all the fructifications of the seeds of our sinful activities is simply engagement in Kåñëa consciousness.
In this connection, Çukadeva Gosvämé speaks in the Sixth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Second Chapter, verse 17, about the story of Ajämila, who began life as a fine and dutiful brähmaëa, but in his young manhood became wholly corrupted by a prostitute. At the end of his wicked life, just by calling the name “Näräyaëa [Kåñëa],” he was saved despite so much sin. Çukadeva points out that austerity, charity and the performance of ritualistic ceremonies for counteracting sinful activities are recommended processes, but that by performing them one cannot remove the sinful desire-seed from the heart, as was the case with Ajämila in his youth. This sinful desire-seed can be removed only by achieving Kåñëa consciousness. And this can be accomplished very easily by chanting the mahä-mantra, or Hare Kåñëa mantra, as recommended by Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu. In other words, unless one adopts the path of devotional service, he cannot be one-hundred-percent clean from all the reactions of sinful activities.
By performing Vedic ritualistic activities, by giving money in charity and by undergoing austerity, one can temporarily become free from the reactions of sinful activities, but at the next moment he must again become engaged in sinful activities. For example, a person suffering from venereal disease on account of excessive indulgence in sex life has to undergo some severe pain in medical treatment, and he is then cured for the time being. But because he has not been able to remove the sex desire from his heart, he must again indulge in the same thing and become a victim of the same disease. So medical treatment may give temporary relief from the distress of such venereal disease, but unless one is trained to understand that sex life is abominable, it is impossible to be saved from such repeated distress. Similarly, the ritualistic performances, charity and austerity which are recommended in the Vedas may temporarily stop one from acting in sinful ways, but as long as the heart is not clear, one will have to repeat sinful activities again and again.
Another example given in Çrémad-Bhägavatam concerns the elephant who enters into a lake and takes a bath very seriously, cleansing his body thoroughly. Then as soon as he comes onto shore he again takes some dust from the earth and throws it over his body. Similarly, a person who is not trained in Kåñëa consciousness cannot become completely free from the desire for sinful activities. Neither the yoga process nor philosophical speculations nor fruitive activities can save one from the seeds of sinful desires. Only by being engaged in devotional service can this be done.
There is another evidence in the Fourth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Twenty-second Chapter, verse 39, wherein Sanat-kumära says, “My dear King, the false ego of a human being is so strong that it keeps him in material existence as if tied up by a strong rope. Only the devotees can cut off the knot of this strong rope very easily, by engaging themselves in Kåñëa consciousness. Others, who are not in Kåñëa consciousness but are trying to become great mystics or great ritual performers, cannot advance like the devotees. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to engage himself in the activities of Kåñëa consciousness in order to be freed from the tight knot of false ego and engagement in material activities.”
This tight knot of false ego is due to ignorance. As long as one is ignorant about his identity, he is sure to act wrongly and thereby become entangled in material contamination. This ignorance of factual knowledge can also be dissipated by Kåñëa consciousness, as is confirmed in the Padma Puräëa as follows: “Pure devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness is the highest enlightenment, and when such enlightenment is there, it is just like a blazing forest fire, killing all the inauspicious snakes of desire.” The example is being given in this connection that when there is a forest fire the extensive blazing automatically kills all the snakes in the forest. There are many, many snakes on the ground of the forest, and when a fire takes place, it burns the dried foliage, and the snakes are immediately attacked. Animals who have four legs can flee from the fire or can at least try to flee, but the snakes are immediately killed. Similarly, the blazing fire of Kåñëa consciousness is so strong that the snakes of ignorance are immediately killed.
Kåñëa Consciousness Is All-auspicious
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé
has given a definition of auspiciousness. He says that actual auspiciousness
means welfare activities for all the people of the world. At the present
moment groups of people are engaged in welfare activities in terms of society,
community or nation. There is even an attempt in the form of the United
Nations for world-help activity. But due to the shortcomings of limited
national activities, such a general mass welfare program for the whole
world is not practically possible. The Kåñëa consciousness
movement, however, is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to
the entire human race. Everyone can be attracted by this movement, and
everyone can feel the result. Therefore, Rüpa Gosvämé
and other learned scholars agree that a broad propaganda program for the
Kåñëa consciousness movement of devotional service all
over the world is the highest humanitarian welfare activity.
How the Kåñëa consciousness movement can attract the attention of the whole world and how each and every man can feel pleasure in this Kåñëa consciousness is stated in the Padma Puräëa as follows: “A person who is engaged in devotional service in full Kåñëa consciousness is to be understood to be doing the best service to the whole world and to be pleasing everyone in the world. In addition to human society, he is pleasing even the trees and animals, because they also become attracted by such a movement.” A practical example of this was shown by Lord Caitanya when He was traveling through the forests of Jhärikhaëòa in central India for spreading His saìkértana movement. The tigers, the elephants, the deer and all the other wild animals joined Him and were participating, in their own ways, by dancing and chanting Hare Kåñëa.
Furthermore, a person engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, acting in devotional service, can develop all the good qualities that are generally found in the demigods. It is said by Çukadeva Gosvämé in the Fifth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eighteenth Chapter, verse 12, “My dear King, persons who have unflinching faith in Kåñëa and are without any duplicity can develop all the good qualities of the demigods. On account of a devotee’s high grade of Kåñëa consciousness, even the demigods like to live with him, and therefore it can be understood that the qualities of the demigods have developed within his body.”
On the other hand, a person who is not in Kåñëa consciousness has no good qualities. He may be highly educated from the academic point of view, but in the actual field of his activities he can be seen to be baser than the animals. Even though a person is highly educated academically, if he cannot go beyond the sphere of mental activities then he is sure to perform only material activities and thus remain impure. There are so many persons in the modern world who have been highly educated in the materialistic universities, but it is seen that they cannot take up the movement of Kåñëa consciousness and develop the high qualities of the demigods.
For example, a Kåñëa conscious boy, even if he is not very well educated by the university standard, can immediately give up all illicit sex life, gambling, meat-eating and intoxication, whereas those who are not in Kåñëa consciousness, although very highly educated, are often drunkards, meat-eaters, sexmongers and gamblers. These are practical proofs of how a Kåñëa conscious person becomes highly developed in good qualities, whereas a person who is not in Kåñëa consciousness cannot do so. We experience that even a young boy in Kåñëa consciousness is unattached to cinemas, nightclubs, naked dance shows, restaurants, liquor shops, etc. He becomes completely freed. He saves his valuable time from being extravagantly spent in the way of smoking, drinking, attending the theater and dancing.
One who is not in Kåñëa consciousness usually cannot sit silently even for half an hour. The yoga system teaches that if you become silent you will realize that you are God. This system may be all right for materialistic persons, but how long will they be able to keep themselves silent? Artificially, they may sit down for so-called meditation, but immediately after their yogic performance they will engage themselves again in such activities as illicit sex life, gambling, meat-eating and many other nonsensical things. But a Kåñëa conscious person gradually elevates himself without endeavoring for this so-called silent meditation. Simply because he is engaged in Kåñëa consciousness he automatically gives up all this nonsense and develops a high character. One develops the highest character by becoming a pure devotee of Kåñëa. The conclusion is that no one can truly have any good qualities if he is lacking Kåñëa consciousness.
Happiness in Kåñëa Consciousness
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has analyzed the different sources of happiness. He has divided happiness into three categories, which are (1) happiness derived from material enjoyment, (2) happiness derived by identifying oneself with the Supreme Brahman and (3) happiness derived from Kåñëa consciousness.
In the tantra-çästra Lord Çiva speaks to his wife, Saté, in this way: “My dear wife, a person who has surrendered himself at the lotus feet of Govinda and who has thus developed pure Kåñëa consciousness can be very easily awarded all the perfections desired by the impersonalists; and beyond this, he can enjoy the happiness achieved by the pure devotees.”
Happiness derived from pure devotional service is the highest, because it is eternal. The happiness derived from material perfection or understanding oneself to be Brahman is inferior because it is temporary. There is no preventing one’s falling down from material happiness, and there is even every chance of falling down from the spiritual happiness derived out of identifying oneself with the impersonal Brahman.
It has been seen that great Mäyävädé (impersonalist) sannyäsés—very highly educated and almost realized souls—may sometimes take to political activities or to social welfare activities. The reason is that they actually do not derive any ultimate transcendental happiness in the impersonal understanding and therefore must come down to the material platform and take to such mundane affairs. There are many instances, especially in India, where these Mäyävädé sannyäsés descend to the material platform again. But a person who is fully in Kåñëa consciousness will never return to any sort of material platform. However alluring and attracting they may be, he always knows that no material welfare activities can compare to the spiritual activity of Kåñëa consciousness.
The mystic perfections achieved by actually successful yogés are eight in number. Aëimä-siddhi refers to the power by which one can become so small that he can enter into a stone. Modern scientific improvements also enable us to enter into stone, because they provide for excavating so many subways, penetrating the hills, etc. So aëimä-siddhi, the mystic perfection of trying to enter into stone, has also been achieved by material science. Similarly, all of the yoga-siddhis, or perfections, are material arts. For example, in one yoga-siddhi there is development of the power to become so light that one can float in the air or on water. That is also being performed by modern scientists. They are flying in the air, they are floating on the surface of the water, and they are traveling under the water.
After comparing all these mystic yoga-siddhis to materialistic perfections, we find that the materialistic scientists try for the same perfections. So actually there is no difference between mystic perfection and materialistic perfection. A German scholar once said that the so-called yoga perfections had already been achieved by the modern scientists, and so he was not concerned with them. He intelligently went to India to learn how he could understand his eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord by means of bhakti-yoga, devotional service.
Of course, in the categories of mystic perfection there are certain processes which the material scientists have not yet been able to develop. For instance, a mystic yogé can enter into the sun planet simply by using the rays of the sunshine. This perfection is called laghimä. Similarly, a yogé can touch the moon with his finger. Though the modern astronauts go to the moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties, whereas a person with mystic perfection can extend his hand and touch the moon with his finger. This siddhi is called präpti, or acquisition. With this präpti-siddhi, not only can the perfect mystic yogé touch the moon planet, but he can extend his hand anywhere and take whatever he likes. He may be sitting thousands of miles away from a certain place, and if he likes he can take fruit from a garden there. This is präpti-siddhi.
The modern scientists have manufactured nuclear weapons with which they can destroy an insignificant part of this planet, but by the yoga-siddhi known as éçitä one can create and destroy an entire planet simply at will. Another perfection is called vaçitä, and by this perfection one can bring anyone under his control. This is a kind of hypnotism which is almost irresistible. Sometimes it is found that a yogé who may have attained a little perfection in this vaçitä mystic power comes out among the people and speaks all sorts of nonsense, controls their minds, exploits them, takes their money and then goes away.
There is another mystic perfection, which is known as präkämya (magic). By this präkämya power one can achieve anything he likes. For example, one can make water enter into his eye and then again come out from within the eye. Simply by his will he can perform such wonderful activities.
The highest perfection of mystic power is called kämävasäyitä. This is also magic, but whereas the präkämya power acts to create wonderful effects within the scope of nature, kämävasäyitä permits one to contradict nature—in other words, to do the impossible. Of course, one can derive great amounts of temporary happiness by achieving such yogic materialistic perfections.
Foolishly, people who are enamored of the glimmer of modern materialistic advancement are thinking that the Kåñëa consciousness movement is for less intelligent men. “I am better off being busy with my material comforts—maintaining a nice apartment, family and sex life.” These people do not know that at any moment they can be kicked out of their material situation. Due to ignorance, they do not know that real life is eternal. The temporary comforts of the body are not the goal of life, and it is due only to darkest ignorance that people become enamored of the glimmering advancement of material comforts. Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura has therefore said that the advancement of material knowledge renders a person more foolish, because it causes one to forget his real identity by its glimmer. This is doom for him, because this human form of life is meant for getting out of material contamination. By the advancement of material knowledge, people are becoming more and more entangled in material existence. They have no hope of being liberated from this catastrophe.
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya it is stated that Prahläda Mahäräja, a great devotee of the Lord, prayed to Nåsiàhadeva (the half-lion, half-man incarnation) as follows: “My dear Lord, I repeatedly pray unto Your lotus feet that I may simply be stronger in devotional service. I simply pray that my Kåñëa consciousness may be more strong and steady, because happiness derived out of Kåñëa consciousness and devotional service is so powerful that with it one can have all the other perfections of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and even the attainment of liberation from material existence.”
Actually, a pure devotee does not aspire after any of these perfections, because the happiness derived from devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness is so transcendental and so unlimited that no other happiness can compare to it. It is said that even one drop of happiness in Kåñëa consciousness stands beyond comparison with an ocean of happiness derived from any other activity. Thus, any person who has developed even a little quantity of pure devotional service can very easily kick out all the other kinds of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and liberation.
There was a great devotee of Lord Caitanya known as Kholävecä Çrédhara, who was a very poor man. He was doing a small business selling cups made from the leaves of plantain trees, and his income was almost nothing. Still, he was spending fifty percent of his small income on the worship of the Ganges, and with the other fifty percent he was somehow living. Lord Caitanya once revealed Himself to this confidential devotee, Kholävecä Çrédhara, and offered him any opulence he liked. But Çrédhara informed the Lord that he did not want any material opulence. He was quite happy in his present position and wanted only to gain unflinching faith and devotion unto the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. That is the position of pure devotees. If they can be engaged twenty-four hours each day in devotional service they do not want anything else, not even the happiness of liberation or of becoming one with the Supreme.
In the Närada-païcarätra it is also said that any person who has developed even a small amount of devotional service doesn’t care a fig for any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification or the five kinds of liberation. Any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, liberation or sense gratification cannot even dare to enter into the heart of a pure devotee. It is stated that as the personal attendants and maidservants of a queen follow the queen with all respect and obeisances, similarly the joys of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and liberation follow the devotional service of the Lord. In other words, a pure devotee does not lack any kind of happiness derived from any source. He does not want anything but service to Kåñëa, but even if he should have another desire, the Lord fulfills this without the devotee’s asking.
The Rareness of Pure Devotional Service
In the preliminary phase of spiritual
life there are different kinds of austerities, penances and similar processes
for attaining self-realization. However, even if an executor of these processes
is without any material desire, he still cannot achieve devotional service.
And aspiring by oneself alone to achieve devotional service is also not
very hopeful, because Kåñëa does not agree to award devotional
service to merely anyone. Kåñëa can easily offer a person
material happiness or even liberation, but He does not agree very easily
to award a person engagement in His devotional service. Devotional service
can in fact be attained only through the mercy of a pure devotee. In the
Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya 19.151) it is said, “By the mercy
of the spiritual master who is a pure devotee and by the mercy of Kåñëa
one can achieve the platform of devotional service. There is no other way.”
The rarity of devotional service is also confirmed in the tantra-çästra, where Lord Çiva says to Saté, “My dear Saté, if one is a very fine philosopher, analyzing the different processes of knowledge, he can achieve liberation from the material entanglement. By performance of the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas one can be elevated to the platform of pious activities and thereby enjoy the material comforts of life to the fullest extent. But all such endeavors can hardly offer anyone devotional service to the Lord, not even if one tries for it by such processes for many, many thousands of births.”
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is also confirmed by Prahläda Mahäräja that merely by personal efforts or by the instructions of higher authorities one cannot attain to the stage of devotional service. One must become blessed by the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee, who is completely freed from the contamination of material desires.
In the Fifth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Sixth Chapter, verse 18, Närada also says to Yudhiñöhira, “My dear King, it is Lord Kåñëa, known as Mukunda, who is the eternal protector of the Päëòavas and the Yadus. He is also your spiritual master and instructor in every respect. He is the only worshipable God for you. He is very dear and affectionate, and He is the director of all your activities, both individual and familial. And what’s more, He sometimes carries out your orders as if He were your messenger! My dear King, how very fortunate you are, because for others all these favors given to you by the Supreme Lord would not even be dreamt of.” The purport to this verse is that the Lord easily offers liberation, but He rarely agrees to offer a soul devotional service, because by devotional service the Lord Himself becomes purchased by the devotee.
The Happiness of Becoming One with the Supreme
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé says that if brahmänanda, or the happiness of becoming one with the Supreme, is multiplied by one trillionfold, it still cannot compare to an atomic fraction of the happiness derived from the ocean of devotional service.
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya Prahläda Mahäräja, while satisfying Lord Nåsiàhadeva by his prayers, says, “My dear Lord of the universe, I am feeling transcendental pleasure in Your presence and have become merged in the ocean of happiness. I now consider the happiness of brahmänanda to be no more than the water in the impression left by a cow’s hoof in the earth, compared to this ocean of bliss.” Similarly, it is confirmed in the Bhävärtha-dépikä, Çrédhara Svämé’s commentary on the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, “My dear Lord, some of the fortunate persons who are swimming in the ocean of Your nectar of devotion, and who are relishing the nectar of the narration of Your pastimes, certainly know ecstasies which immediately minimize the value of the happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and liberation. Such a transcendental devotee regards any kind of happiness other than devotional service as no better than straw in the street.”
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has stated that devotional service attracts even Kåñëa. Kåñëa attracts everyone, but devotional service attracts Kåñëa. The symbol of devotional service in the highest degree is Rädhäräëé. Kåñëa is called Madana-mohana, which means that He is so attractive that He can defeat the attraction of thousands of Cupids. But Rädhäräëé is still more attractive, for She can even attract Kåñëa. Therefore devotees call Her Madana-mohana-mohiné—the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.
To perform devotional service means to follow in the footsteps of Rädhäräëé, and devotees in Våndävana put themselves under the care of Rädhäräëé in order to achieve perfection in their devotional service. In other words, devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is directly under the control of Rädhäräëé. In Bhagavad-gétä it is confirmed that the mahätmäs, or great souls, are under the protection of daivé prakåti, the internal energy—Rädhäräëé. So, being directly under the control of the internal potency of Kåñëa, devotional service attracts even Kåñëa Himself.
This fact is corroborated by Kåñëa in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 20, where He says, “My dear Uddhava, you may know it from Me that the attraction I feel for devotional service rendered by My devotees is not to be attained even by the performance of mystic yoga, philosophical speculation, ritualistic sacrifices, the study of Vedänta, the practice of severe austerities or the giving of everything in charity. These are, of course, very nice activities, but they are not as attractive to Me as the transcendental loving service rendered by My devotees.”
How Kåñëa becomes attracted by the devotional service of His devotees is described by Närada in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Seventh Canto, Tenth Chapter, verses 48 and 49. There Närada addresses King Yudhiñöhira while the King is appreciating the glories of the character of Prahläda Mahäräja. A devotee always appreciates the activities of other devotees. Yudhiñöhira Mahäräja was appreciating the qualities of Prahläda, and that is one symptom of a pure devotee. A pure devotee never thinks himself great; he always thinks that other devotees are greater than himself. The King was thinking, “Prahläda Mahäräja is actually a devotee of the Lord, while I am nothing,” and while thinking this he was addressed by Närada as follows: “My dear King Yudhiñöhira, you [the Päëòava brothers] are the only fortunate people in this world. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has appeared on this planet and is presenting Himself to you as an ordinary human being. He is always with you in all circumstances. He is living with you and covering Himself from the eyes of others. Others cannot understand that He is the Supreme Lord, but He is still living with you as your cousin, as your friend and even as your messenger. Therefore you must know that nobody in this world is more fortunate than you.”
In Bhagavad-gétä when Kåñëa appeared in His universal form Arjuna prayed, “My dear Kåñëa, I thought of You as my cousin-brother, and so I have shown disrespect to You in so many ways, calling You ‘Kåñëa’ or ‘friend.’ But You are so great that I could not understand.” So that was the position of the Päëòavas; although Kåñëa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the greatest among all greats, He remained with those royal brothers, being attracted by their devotion, by their friendship and by their love. That is the proof of how great this process of devotional service is. It can attract even the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is great, but devotional service is greater than God because it attracts Him. People who are not in devotional service can never understand what great value there is in rendering service to the Lord.
The First Stages of Devotion
The three categories of devotional
service which Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé describes
in Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu are listed as devotional service in
practice, devotional service in ecstasy and devotional service in pure
love of Godhead. There are many subheadings in each of these categories.
Generally it is understood that in the category of devotional service in
practice there are two different qualities, devotional service in ecstasy
has four qualities, and devotional service in pure love of Godhead has
six qualities. These qualities will be explained by Çréla
Rüpa Gosvämé later on.
In this connection, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé suggests that the person eligible for Kåñëa consciousness, or devotional service, can be classified by his particular taste. He says that devotional service is a continual process from one’s previous life. No one can take to devotional service unless he has had some previous connection with it. For example, suppose in this life I practice devotional service to some extent. Even though it is not one-hundred-percent perfectly performed, whatever I have done will not be lost. In my next life, from the very point where I stop in this life, I shall begin again. In this way there is always a continuity. But even if there is no continuity, if only by chance a person takes interest in a pure devotee’s instruction, he can be accepted and can advance in devotional service. Anyway, for persons who have a natural taste for understanding books like Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam, devotional service is easier than for those who are simply accustomed to mental speculation and argumentative processes.
To support this statement there are many authoritative assertions by the learned scholars of bygone ages. According to their general opinion, a person may become governed by certain convictions derived by his own arguments and decisions. Then another person, who may be a greater logician, will nullify these conclusions and establish another thesis. In this way the path of argument will never be safe or conclusive. Çrémad-Bhägavatam recommends, therefore, that one follow in the footsteps of the authorities.
Here is a general description of devotional service given by Çré Rüpa Gosvämé in his Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu. Previously, it has been stated that devotional service can be divided into three categories—namely devotional service in practice, devotional service in ecstasy and devotional service in pure love of God. Now Çré Rüpa Gosvämé proposes to describe devotional service in practice.
Practice means employing our senses in some particular type of work. Therefore devotional service in practice means utilizing our different sensory organs in service to Kåñëa. Some of the senses are meant for acquiring knowledge, and some are meant for executing the conclusions of our thinking, feeling and willing. So practice means employing both the mind and the senses in practical devotional service. This practice is not for developing something artificial. For example, a child learns or practices to walk. This walking is not unnatural. The walking capacity is there originally in the child, and simply by a little practice he walks very nicely. Similarly, devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the natural instinct of every living entity. Even uncivilized men like the aborigines offer their respectful obeisances to something wonderful exhibited by nature’s law, and they appreciate that behind some wonderful exhibition or action there is something supreme. So this consciousness, though lying dormant in those who are materially contaminated, is found in every living entity. And, when purified, this is called Kåñëa consciousness.
There are certain prescribed methods for employing our senses and mind in such a way that our dormant consciousness for loving Kåñëa will be invoked, as much as the child, with a little practice, can begin to walk. One who has no basic walking capacity cannot walk by practice. Similarly, Kåñëa consciousness cannot be aroused simply by practice. Actually there is no such practice. When we wish to develop our innate capacity for devotional service, there are certain processes which, by our accepting and executing them, will cause that dormant capacity to be invoked. Such practice is called sädhana-bhakti.
Every living entity under the spell of material energy is held to be in an abnormal condition of madness. In Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is said, “Generally, the conditioned soul is mad, because he is always engaged in activities which are the causes of bondage and suffering.” Spirit soul in his original condition is joyful, blissful, eternal and full of knowledge. Only by his implication in material activities has he become miserable, temporary and full of ignorance. This is due to vikarma. Vikarma means “actions which should not be done.” Therefore, we must practice sädhana-bhakti—which means to offer maìgala-ärati (Deity worship) in the morning, to refrain from certain material activities, to offer obeisances to the spiritual master and to follow many other rules and regulations which will be discussed here one after another. These practices will help one become cured of madness. As a man’s mental disease is cured by the directions of a psychiatrist, so this sädhana-bhakti cures the conditioned soul of his madness under the spell of mäyä, material illusion.
Närada Muni mentions this sädhana-bhakti in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Seventh Canto, First Chapter, verse 32. He says there to King Yudhiñöhira, “My dear King, one has to fix his mind on Kåñëa by any means.” That is called Kåñëa consciousness. It is the duty of the äcärya, the spiritual master, to find the ways and means for his disciple to fix his mind on Kåñëa. That is the beginning of sädhana-bhakti.
Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu has given us an authorized program for this purpose, centered around the chanting of the Hare Kåñëa mantra. This chanting has so much power that it immediately attaches one to Kåñëa. That is the beginning of sädhana-bhakti. Somehow or other, one has to fix his mind on Kåñëa. The great saint Ambaréña Mahäräja, although a responsible king, fixed his mind on Kåñëa, and similarly anyone who tries to fix his mind in this way will very rapidly make progress in successfully reviving his original Kåñëa consciousness.
Now this sädhana-bhakti, or practice of devotional service, may also be divided into two parts. The first part is called service according to regulative principles: one has to follow these different regulative principles by the order of the spiritual master or on the strength of authoritative scriptures, and there can be no question of refusal. That is called vaidhi, or regulated. One has to do it without argument. Another part of sädhana-bhakti is called rägänugä. Rägänugä refers to the point at which, by following the regulative principles, one becomes a little more attached to Kåñëa and executes devotional service out of natural love. For example, a person engaged in devotional service may be ordered to rise early in the morning and offer ärati, which is a form of Deity worship. In the beginning, by the order of his spiritual master, one rises early in the morning and offers ärati, but then he develops real attachment. When he gets this attachment, he automatically tries to decorate the Deity and prepare different kinds of dresses and thinks of different plans to execute his devotional service nicely. Although it is within the category of practice, this offering of loving service is spontaneous. So the practice of devotional service, sädhana-bhakti, can be divided into two parts—namely, regulative and spontaneous.
Rüpa Gosvämé defines the first part of devotional practice, or vaidhi-bhakti, as follows: “When there is no attachment or no spontaneous loving service to the Lord, and one is engaged in the service of the Lord simply out of obedience to the order of the spiritual master or in pursuance of the scriptures, such obligatory service is called vaidhi-bhakti.”
These principles of vaidhi-bhakti are also described in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Second Canto, First Chapter, verse 5, where Çukadeva Gosvämé instructs the dying Mahäräja Parékñit as to his course of action. Mahäräja Parékñit met Çukadeva Gosvämé just a week before his death, and the King was perplexed as to what should be done before he was to pass on. Many other sages also arrived there, but no one could give him the proper direction. Çukadeva Gosvämé, however, gave this direction to him as follows: “My dear King, if you want to be fearless in meeting your death next week (for actually everyone is afraid at the point of death), then you must immediately begin the process of hearing and chanting and remembering God.” If one can chant and hear Hare Kåñëa and always remember Lord Kåñëa, then he is sure to become fearless of death, which may come at any moment.
In the statements of Çukadeva Gosvämé it is said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Kåñëa. Therefore Çukadeva recommends that one should always hear about Kåñëa. He does not recommend that one hear and chant about the demigods. The Mäyävädés (impersonalists) say that one may chant any name, either that of Kåñëa or those of the demigods, and the result will be the same. But actually this is not a fact. According to the authorized version of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, one has to hear and chant about Lord Viñëu (Kåñëa) only.
So Çukadeva Gosvämé has recommended to Parékñit Mahäräja that in order to be fearless of death, one has to hear and chant and remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, by all means. He also mentions that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sarvätmä. Sarvätmä means “the Supersoul of everyone.” Kåñëa is also mentioned as éçvara, the supreme controller who is situated in everyone’s heart. Therefore, if some way or other we become attached to Kåñëa, He will make us free from all danger. In Bhagavad-gétä it is said that anyone who becomes a devotee of the Lord is never vanquished. Others, however, are always vanquished. “Vanquished” means that after getting this human form of life, a person does not come out of the entanglement of birth and death and thus misses his golden opportunity. Such a person does not know where he is being thrown by the laws of nature.
Suppose one does not develop Kåñëa consciousness in this human form of life. He will be thrown into the cycle of birth and death, involving 8,400,000 species of life, and his spiritual identity will remain lost. One does not know whether he is going to be a plant, or a beast, or a bird, or something like that, because there are so many species of life. The recommendation of Rüpa Gosvämé for reviving our original Kåñëa consciousness is that somehow or other we should apply our minds to Kåñëa very seriously and thus also become fearless of death. After death we do not know our destination, because we are completely under the control of the laws of nature. Only Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is controller over the laws of nature. Therefore, if we take shelter of Kåñëa seriously, there will be no fear of being thrown back into the cycle of so many species of life. A sincere devotee will surely be transferred to the abode of Kåñëa, as affirmed in Bhagavad-gétä.
In the Padma Puräëa, also, the same process is advised. There it is said that one should always remember Lord Viñëu. This is called dhyäna, or meditation—always remembering Kåñëa. It is said that one has to meditate with his mind fixed upon Viñëu. Padma Puräëa recommends that one always fix his mind on the form of Viñëu by meditation and not forget Him at any moment. And this state of consciousness is called samädhi, or trance.
We should always try to mold the activities of our lives in such a way that we will constantly remember Viñëu, or Kåñëa. That is Kåñëa consciousness. Whether one concentrates his mind on the four-handed form of Viñëu or on the form of two-handed Kåñëa, it is the same. The Padma Puräëa recommends: somehow or other always think of Viñëu, without forgetting Him under any circumstances. Actually this is the most basic of all regulative principles. For, when there is an order from a superior about doing something, there is simultaneously a prohibition. When the order is that one should always remember Kåñëa, the prohibition is that one should never forget Him. Within this simple order and prohibition, all regulative principles are found complete.
This regulative principle is applicable to all varëas and äçramas, the castes and occupations of life. There are four varëas, namely the brähmaëas (priests and intellectuals), the kñatriyas (warriors and statesmen), the vaiçyas (businessmen and farmers) and the çüdras (laborers and servants). There are also four standard äçramas, namely brahmacarya (student life), gåhastha (householder), vänaprastha (retired) and sannyäsa (renounced). The regulative principles are not only for the brahmacärés (celibate students) to follow, but are applicable for all. It doesn’t matter whether one is a beginner—a brahmacäré—or is very advanced—a sannyäsé. The principle of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead constantly and not forgetting Him at any moment is meant to be followed by everyone without fail.
If this injunction is followed, then all other rules and regulations will automatically fall into line. All other rules and regulations should be treated as assistants or servants to this one basic principle. The injunctions of rules and regulations and the resultant reactions are mentioned in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fifth Chapter, verses 2 and 3. Camasa Muni, one of the nine sages who came to instruct King Nimi, addressed the King and said, “The four social orders, namely the brähmaëas, the kñatriyas, the vaiçyas and the çüdras, have come out of the different parts of the universal form of the Supreme Lord as follows: the brähmaëas have come out from the head, the kñatriyas have come out from the arms, the vaiçyas have come out from the waist, and the çüdras have come out from the legs. Similarly, the sannyäsés have come out from the head, the vänaprasthas from the arms, the gåhasthas from the waist and the brahmacärés from the legs.”
These different orders of society and grades of spiritual advancement are conceived in terms of qualification. It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä that the four social orders and the four spiritual orders are created by the Lord Himself, in terms of different individual qualities. As the different parts of the body have different types of activities, so the social orders and spiritual orders also have different types of activities in terms of qualification and position. The target of these activities, however, is always the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä, “He is the supreme enjoyer.” So, whether one is a brähmaëa or a çüdra, one has to satisfy the Supreme Lord by one’s activities. This is also confirmed in Çrémad-Bhägavatam by a verse which reads, “Everyone must be engaged in his particular duty, but the perfection of such work should be tested by how far the Lord is satisfied with such activities.” The injunction herein is that one has to act according to his position, and by such activities one must either satisfy the Supreme Personality or else fall down from one’s position.
For example a brähmaëa, who is born out of the head of the Lord, has as his business to preach the transcendental Vedic sounds, or çabda-brahma. Because the brähmaëa is the head, he has to preach the transcendental sound, and he also has to eat on behalf of the Supreme Lord. According to Vedic injunctions, when a brähmaëa eats it is to be understood that the Personality of Godhead is eating through him. It is not, however, that the brähmaëa should simply eat on behalf of the Lord and not preach the message of Bhagavad-gétä to the world. Actually, one who preaches the message of the Gétä is very dear to Kåñëa, as is confirmed in the Gétä itself. Such a preacher is factually a brähmaëa, and thus by feeding him one feeds the Supreme Lord directly.
Similarly, the kñatriya has to protect people from the onslaughts of mäyä. That is his duty. For example, as soon as Mahäräja Parékñit saw that a black man was attempting to kill a cow, he immediately took his sword, wanting to kill the black man, whose name was Kali. That is a kñatriya’s duty. Violence is required in order to give protection. In Bhagavad-gétä Lord Kåñëa directly gave His order to Arjuna to commit violence on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, just to give protection to the people in general.
The vaiçyas are meant for producing agricultural products, trading them and distributing them. And the working class, or çüdras, are those who haven’t the intelligence of the brähmaëas or the kñatriyas or the vaiçyas, and therefore they are meant to help these higher classes by bodily labor. In this way, there is full cooperation and spiritual advancement among all the different orders of society. And when there is no such cooperation, the members of society will fall down. That is the present position in the Kali-yuga, this age of quarrel. Nobody is doing his duty, and everyone is simply puffed up by calling himself a brähmaëa (intellectual) or a kñatriya (soldier or statesman). But actually such people are without status. They are out of touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead because they are not Kåñëa conscious. Therefore, the Kåñëa consciousness movement is intended to set the whole of human society in proper condition, so that everyone will be happy and take profit from developing Kåñëa consciousness.
Lord Çré Kåñëa instructed Uddhava that by following the injunctions of the social and spiritual orders of human society, one can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as a result of such satisfaction the whole society gets all the necessities of life amply and without difficulty. This is because, after all, the Supreme Personality of Godhead maintains all other living entities. If the whole society performs its respective duties and remains in Kåñëa consciousness, there is no doubt that all of its members will live very peacefully and happily. Without wanting the necessities of life, the whole world will be turned into Vaikuëöha, a spiritual abode. Even without being transferred to the kingdom of God, by following the injunctions of Çrémad-Bhägavatam and prosecuting the duties of Kåñëa consciousness all human society will be happy in all respects.
There is a similar statement by Çré Kåñëa Himself to Uddhava, in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Twenty-seventh Chapter, verse 49. The Lord says there, “My dear Uddhava, all persons are engaged in activities, whether those indicated in the revealed scriptures or ordinary worldly activities. If by the result of either of such activities they worship Me in Kåñëa consciousness, then automatically they become very happy within this world, as well as in the next. Of this there is no doubt.” We can conclude from this statement by Kåñëa that activities in Kåñëa consciousness will give everyone all perfection in all desires.
Thus the Kåñëa consciousness movement is so nice that there is no need of even designating oneself brähmaëa, kñatriya, vaiçya, çüdra, brahmacäré, gåhastha, vänaprastha or sannyäsé. Let everyone be engaged in whatever occupation he now has. Simply let him worship Lord Kåñëa by the result of his activities in Kåñëa consciousness. That will adjust the whole situation, and everyone will be happy and peaceful within this world. In the Närada-païcarätra the regulative principles of devotional service are described as follows: “Any activities sanctioned in the revealed scriptures and aiming at the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are accepted by saintly teachers as the regulative principles of devotional service. If one regularly executes such service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, then gradually he rises to the platform of serving in pure love of God.”
Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service
On account of his association with
mahätmäs, or great souls one hundred-percent in the devotional
service of the Lord, one may attain a little bit of attraction for Çré
Kåñëa. But at the same time one may remain very much
attached to fruitive activities and material sense enjoyment and not be
prepared to undergo the different types of renunciation. Such a person,
if he has unflinching attraction to Kåñëa, becomes an
eligible candidate for discharging devotional service.
This attraction for Kåñëa consciousness in association with pure devotees is the sign of great fortune. It is confirmed by Lord Caitanya that only the fortunate persons, by the mercy of both a bona fide spiritual master and Kåñëa, will get the seed of devotional service. In this connection, Lord Kåñëa says in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Canto, Twentieth Chapter, verse 8, “My dear Uddhava, only by exceptional fortune does someone become attracted to Me. And even if one is not completely detached from fruitive activities, or is not completely attached to devotional service, such service is quickly effective.”
Devotees may be divided into three classes. The devotee in the first or uppermost class is described as follows. He is very expert in the study of relevant scriptures, and he is also expert in putting forward arguments in terms of those scriptures. He can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way. He understands perfectly that the ultimate goal of life is to attain to the transcendental loving service of Kåñëa, and he knows that Kåñëa is the only object of worship and love. This first-class devotee is one who has strictly followed the rules and regulations under the training of a bona fide spiritual master and has sincerely obeyed him in accord with revealed scriptures. Thus, being fully trained to preach and become a spiritual master himself, he is considered first class. The first-class devotee never deviates from the principles of higher authority, and he attains firm faith in the scriptures by understanding with all reason and arguments. When we speak of arguments and reason, it means arguments and reason on the basis of revealed scriptures. The first-class devotee is not interested in dry speculative methods meant for wasting time. In other words, one who has attained a mature determination in the matter of devotional service can be accepted as the first-class devotee.
The second-class devotee has been defined by the following symptoms: he is not very expert in arguing on the strength of revealed scripture, but he has firm faith in the objective. The purport of this description is that the second-class devotee has firm faith in the procedure of devotional service unto Kåñëa, but he may sometimes fail to offer arguments and decisions on the strength of revealed scripture to an opposing party. But at the same time he is still undaunted within himself as to his decision that Kåñëa is the supreme object of worship.
The neophyte or third-class devotee is one whose faith is not strong and who, at the same time, does not recognize the decision of the revealed scripture. The neophyte’s faith can be changed by someone else with strong arguments or by an opposite decision. Unlike the second-class devotee, who also cannot put forward arguments and evidences from the scripture, but who still has all faith in the objective, the neophyte has no firm faith in the objective. Thus he is called the neophyte devotee.
Further classification of the neophyte devotee is made in the Bhagavad-gétä. It is stated there that four classes of men—namely those who are distressed, those who are in need of money, those who are inquisitive and those who are wise—begin devotional service and come to the Lord for relief in the matter of their respective self-satisfaction. They go into some place of worship and pray to God for mitigation of material distress, or for some economic development, or to satisfy their inquisitiveness. And a wise man who simply realizes the greatness of God is also counted among the neophytes. Such beginners can be elevated to the second-class or first-class platform if they associate with pure devotees.
An example of the neophyte class is Mahäräja Dhruva. He was in need of his father’s kingdom and therefore engaged himself in devotional service to the Lord. Then in the end, when he was completely purified, he declined to accept any material benediction from the Lord. Similarly, Gajendra was distressed and prayed to Kåñëa for protection, after which he became a pure devotee. Similarly Sanaka, Sanätana, Sananda and Sanat-kumära were all in the category of wise, saintly persons, and they were also attracted by devotional service. A similar thing happened to the assemblage in the Naimiñäraëya Forest, headed by the sage Çaunaka. They were inquisitive and were always asking Süta Gosvämé about Kåñëa. Thus they achieved the association of a pure devotee and became pure devotees themselves. So that is the way of elevating oneself. In whatever condition one may be, if he is fortunate enough to associate with pure devotees, then very quickly he is elevated to the second-class or first-class platform.
These four types of devotees have been described in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, and they have all been accepted as pious. Without becoming pious, no one can come to devotional service. It is explained in Bhagavad-gétä that only one who has continually executed pious activities and whose sinful reactions in life have completely stopped can take to Kåñëa consciousness. Others cannot. The neophyte devotees are classified into four groups—the distressed, those in need of money, the inquisitive and the wise—according to their gradations of pious activities. Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, a communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.
Lord Kåñëa, however, has explained in the Gétä that out of these four types of neophytes, the one who is wise is very dear to Him, because a wise man, if he is attached to Kåñëa, is not seeking an exchange of material benefits. A wise man who becomes attached to Kåñëa does not want any return from Him, either in the form of relieving distress or in gaining money. This means that from the very beginning his basic principle of attachment to Kåñëa is, more or less, love. Furthermore, due to his wisdom and study of çästras (scriptures), he can understand also that Kåñëa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä that after many, many births, when one becomes actually wise, he surrenders unto Väsudeva, knowing perfectly well that Kåñëa (Väsudeva) is the origin and cause of all causes. Therefore, he sticks to the lotus feet of Kåñëa and gradually develops love for Him. Although such a wise man is very dear to Kåñëa, the others are also accepted as very magnanimous, because even though they are distressed or in need of money, they have come to Kåñëa for satisfaction. Thus they are accepted as liberal, broad-minded mahätmäs.
Without being elevated to the position of a jïäné, or wise man, one cannot stick to the principle of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The less intelligent or those whose intelligence has been taken away by the spell of mäyä are attached to different demigods on account of the influence of the modes of nature. The wise man is he who has thoroughly understood that he is spirit soul and not simply a body. Because he realizes that he is spirit and Kåñëa is the supreme spirit, he knows that his intimate relationship should be with Kåñëa, not with this body. The distressed and the man in want of money are in the material concept of life, because distress and need of money are both in relationship with this body. One who is inquisitive may be a little above the distressed and the man in need of money, but still he is on the material platform. But a wise man who seeks Kåñëa knows perfectly well that he is spirit soul, or Brahman, and that Kåñëa is the supreme spirit soul, or Parabrahman. He knows that the spirit soul, being subordinate and finite, should always dovetail himself with the infinite and supreme soul, Kåñëa. That is the relationship of the wise man with Kåñëa.
It can be concluded that a person who is freed from the bodily concept of life is an eligible candidate for pure devotional service. It is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gétä that after Brahman realization, when one is freed from material anxieties and can see every living entity on an equal level, he is eligible to enter into devotional service.
As stated before, there are three kinds of happiness—material, spiritual and devotional. Devotional service and the happiness due to its execution are not possible as long as one is materially affected. If someone has desire for material enjoyment or for becoming one with the Supreme, these are both considered material concepts. Because the impersonalists cannot appreciate the spiritual happiness of association and the exchange of loving affairs with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their ultimate goal is to become one with the Lord. This concept is simply an extension of the material idea. In the material world, everyone is trying to be the topmost head man among all his fellow men or neighbors. Either communally, socially or nationally, everyone is competing to be greater than all others, in the material concept of life. This greatness can be extended to the unlimited, so that one actually wants to become one with the greatest of all, the Supreme Lord. This is also a material concept, although maybe a little more advanced.
However, the perfect spiritual concept of life is complete knowledge of one’s constitutional position, in which one knows enough to dovetail himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. One must know that he is finite and that the Lord is infinite. Thus it is not possible to actually become one with the Lord even if one aspires for this. It is simply not possible. Therefore, anyone who has any desire or aspiration for satisfying his senses by becoming more and more important, either in the material sense or in the spiritual sense, cannot actually relish the really sweet taste of devotional service. Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé has therefore compared possessing these bhukti (material) and mukti (liberation) desires with being influenced by the black art of a witch: in both cases one is in trouble. Bhukti means material enjoyment, and mukti means to become freed from material anxiety and to become one with the Lord. These desires are compared to being haunted by ghosts and witches, because while these aspirations for material enjoyment or spiritual oneness with the Supreme remain, no one can relish the actual transcendental taste of devotional service.
A pure devotee never cares for liberation. Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu prayed to Kåñëa, “My dear son of Nanda, I do not want any material happiness in the shape of many followers, nor immense opulence in wealth, nor any beautiful wife, nor do I want cessation from material existence. I may take birth many times, one after another, but what I pray from You is that my devotion unto You may always remain unflinching.”
The attention of a pure devotee is so much attracted to glorification of the Lord’s pastimes, name, qualities, forms, etc., that the devotee does not care for mukti. Çré Bilvamaìgala Öhäkura has said, “If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is concerned, I think liberation stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me.” To pure devotees, therefore, liberation and spiritual emancipation are not very important things.
In this connection, in the Third Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Chapter Twenty-five, verse 36, Kapiladeva has advised His mother, Devahüti, as follows: “My dear mother, My pure devotees are charmed by seeing My different forms, the beauty of My face, the structure of My body so enchanting. My laughing, My pastimes and My glance appear to them so beautiful that their minds are always absorbed in thoughts of Me and their lives are dedicated fully unto Me. Although such people do not desire any kind of liberation or any kind of material happiness, still I give them a place among My associates in the supreme abode.”
This evidence from Çrémad-Bhägavatam gives assurance to the pure devotee of being elevated to association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé remarks in this connection that one who is actually attracted by the beauty of the lotus feet of Çré Kåñëa or His service, and whose heart, by such attraction, is always full with transcendental bliss, will naturally never aspire after the liberation which is so valuable to the impersonalists.
A similar passage is also there in the Third Canto, Fourth Chapter, verse 15, of the same book, wherein Uddhava addresses Lord Kåñëa and says, “My dear Lord, for persons who are engaged in Your transcendental loving service there is nothing worth obtaining from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification or liberation—although happiness from these different sources can be very easily had by them. In spite of such facilities, my dear Lord, I do not aspire to achieve any such results. My only prayer is that I may have unflinching faith and devotion unto Your lotus feet.”
A similar passage appears in the Third Canto, Twenty-fifth Chapter, verse 34, wherein Kapiladeva instructs His mother and says, “My dear mother, devotees whose hearts are always filled in the service of My lotus feet and who are prepared to do anything for My satisfaction, especially those fortunate devotees who assemble together to understand My qualities, pastimes and form and thus glorify Me congregationally and derive transcendental pleasure therefrom, never desire to become one with Me. And what to speak of becoming one with Me, if they are offered a post like Mine in My abode, or opulence like Mine, or even personal association with Me with similar bodily features, they refuse to accept, because they are satisfied simply by being engaged in My devotional service.”
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fourth Canto, Ninth Chapter, verse 10, King Dhruva says, “My dear Lord, the transcendental pleasure derived by meditation upon Your lotus feet, which is enjoyed by the pure devotees, cannot be approached by the transcendental pleasure derived by the impersonalists through self-realization. So how can the fruitive workers, who at most can aspire to promotion to the higher heavenly planets, understand You, and how can they be described as enjoying a happiness similar to the devotees’ happiness?”
Devotional Service Surpasses All Liberation
How much a devotee is seriously attached
to the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be
understood from the statement of Mahäräja Påthu (Ädi-räja)
which is described in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fourth Canto,
Twentieth Chapter, verse 24. He prays to the Supreme Personality of Godhead
thus: “My dear Lord, if after taking liberation I have no chance of hearing
the glories of Your Lordship, glories chanted by pure devotees from the
core of their hearts in praise of Your lotus feet, and if I have no chance
for this honey of transcendental bliss, then I shall never ask for liberation
or this so-called spiritual emancipation. I shall simply always pray unto
Your Lordship that You may give me millions of tongues and millions of
ears, so that I can constantly chant and hear of Your transcendental glories.”
The impersonalists desire to merge into the existence of the Supreme, but without keeping their individuality they have no chance of hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord. Because they have no idea of the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord, there is no chance of their chanting and hearing of His transcendental activities. In other words, unless one is already beyond liberation, one cannot relish the transcendental glories of the Lord, nor can one understand the transcendental form of the Lord.
A similar statement is found in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fifth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 44. Çukadeva Gosvämé addresses Parékñit Mahäräja there and says, “The great soul King Bharata was so much attached to the service of the lotus feet of Kåñëa that he very easily gave up his lordship over the earthly planet and his affection for his children, society, friends, royal opulence and beautiful wife. He was so very lucky that the goddess of fortune was pleased to offer him all kinds of material concessions, but he never accepted any of these material opulences.” Çukadeva Gosvämé praises this behavior of King Bharata very highly. He says, “Any person whose heart is attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Madhusüdana, does not care even for that liberation which is aspired to by many great sages, what to speak of material opulences.”
In the Bhägavatam, Sixth Canto, Eleventh Chapter, verse 25, there is a similar statement by Våträsura, who addresses the Lord as follows: “My dear Lord, by leaving Your transcendental service I may be promoted to the planet called Dhruvaloka [the polestar], or I may gain lordship over all the planetary systems of the universe. But I do not aspire to this. Nor do I wish the mystic perfections of yoga practice, nor do I aspire to spiritual emancipation. All I wish for, my Lord, is Your association and transcendental service eternally.”
This statement is confirmed by Lord Çiva in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Sixth Canto, Seventeenth Chapter, verse 28, wherein Lord Çiva addresses Saté thus: “My dear Saté, persons who are devoted to Näräyaëa [Kåñëa] are not afraid of anything. If they are elevated to the higher planetary systems, or if they get liberation from material contamination, or if they are pushed down to the hellish condition of life—or, in fact, in any situation whatever—they are not afraid of anything. Simply because they have taken shelter of the lotus feet of Näräyaëa, for them any position in the material world is as good as another.”
There is a similar statement by Indra, the King of heaven, in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Sixth Canto, Eighteenth Chapter, verse 74. There Indra addresses mother Diti in this manner: “My dear mother, persons who have given up all kinds of desire and are simply engaged in devotional service to the Lord know what is actually their self-interest. Such persons are actually serving their self-interests and are considered first-class experts in the matter of advancing to the perfectional stage of life.”
In the Seventh Canto of the Bhägavatam, Sixth Chapter, verse 25, Mahäräja Prahläda says, “My dear friends born into atheistic families, if you can please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, then there is nothing more rare in this world. In other words, if the Supreme Lord Kåñëa is pleased with you, then any desire you may have within the core of your heart can be fulfilled without any doubt. As such, what is the use of elevating yourself by the results of fruitive activities, which are automatically achieved in all events by the modes of material nature? And what is the use for you of spiritual emancipation or liberation from material bondage? If you are always engaged in chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord and always relishing the nectar of the lotus feet of the Lord, then there is no necessity for any of these.” By this statement of Prahläda Mahäräja it is clearly understood that one who takes pleasure in chanting and hearing the transcendental glories of the Lord has already surpassed all kinds of material benedictions, including the results of pious fruitive activities, sacrifices and even liberation from material bondage.
Similarly, in the same Seventh Canto, Eighth Chapter, verse 42, when the demigods are offering prayers to Lord Nåsiàha, Indra the King of heaven says, “O supreme one, these demons talk of our share of participation in the performances of ritualistic sacrifices, but simply by Your appearance as Lord Nåsiàhadeva You have saved us from terrible fears. Actually, our shares in the sacrificial performances are due to You only, because You are the supreme enjoyer of all sacrifices. You are the Supersoul of every living entity, and therefore You are the actual owner of everything. Long were our hearts always filled with fear of this demon, Hiraëyakaçipu. But You are so kind toward us that by killing him You have removed that fear from within our hearts and have given us the chance to place Your Lordship within our hearts again. For persons who are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Your Lordship, all the opulences which were taken away from us by the demons are counted as nothing. Devotees do not care even for liberation, what to speak of these material opulences. Actually, we are not enjoyers of the fruits of sacrifices. Our only duty is to always be engaged in Your service, for You are the enjoyer of everything.”
The purport of this statement by Indra is that beginning from Brahmä down to the insignificant ant, no living entities are meant for enjoying the material opulences. They are simply meant for offering everything to the supreme proprietor, the Personality of Godhead. By doing so, they automatically enjoy the benefit. The example can be cited again of the different parts of the body collecting foodstuffs and cooking them so that ultimately a meal may be offered to the stomach. After it has gone to the stomach, all the parts of the body equally enjoy the benefit of the meal. So, similarly, everyone’s duty is to satisfy the Supreme Lord, and then automatically everyone will become satisfied.
A similar verse is found in the Eighth Canto, Third Chapter, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, verse 20. Gajendra says there, “My dear Lord, I have no experience of the transcendental bliss derived from Your devotional service, so therefore I have asked from You some favor. But I know that persons who are pure devotees and have, by serving the lotus feet of great souls, become freed from all material desires, are always merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss and, as such, are always satisfied simply by glorifying Your auspicious characteristics. For them there is nothing else to aspire to or pray for.”
In the Ninth Canto of the Bhägavatam, Fourth Chapter, verse 67, the Lord of Vaikuëöha replies to Durväsä Muni thus: “My pure devotees are always satisfied being engaged in devotional service, and therefore they do not aspire even after the five liberated stages, which are (1) to be one with Me, (2) to achieve residence on My planet, (3) to have My opulences, (4) to possess bodily features similar to Mine and (5) to gain personal association with Me. So when they are not interested even in these liberated positions, you can know how little they care for material opulences or material liberation.”
There is a similar prayer by the näga-patnés (wives of the Käliya serpent), in the Tenth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Sixteenth Chapter, verse 37. The näga-patnés say there, “Dear Lord, the dust of Your lotus feet is very wonderful. Any person who is fortunate enough to achieve this dust does not care for heavenly planets, lordship over all the planetary systems, the mystic perfections of yoga, or even liberation from material existence. In other words, anyone who adores the dust of Your lotus feet does not care a fig for all other perfectional stages.”
There is a similar statement in the Tenth Canto, Eighty-seventh Chapter, verse 21, wherein the Çrutis, the Vedas personified, pray to the Lord as follows: “Dear Lord, it is very difficult to understand spiritual knowledge. Your appearance here, just as You are, is to explain to us this most difficult subject of knowledge of the spirit. As such, Your devotees who have left their domestic comforts to associate with the liberated äcäryas [teachers] are now fully merged in the devotional service of Your Lordship, and thus they do not care for any so-called liberation.”
In explaining this verse it should be noted that spiritual knowledge means understanding the self and the Supersoul, or Superself. The individual soul and the Supersoul are qualitatively one, and therefore both of them are known as Brahman, or spirit. But knowledge of Brahman is very difficult to understand. There are so many philosophers engaged in the matter of understanding the soul, but they are unable to make any tangible advancement. It is confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä that out of many millions of persons, only one may try to understand what is spiritual knowledge, and out of many such persons who are trying to understand, only one or a few may know what is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So this verse says that spiritual knowledge is very difficult to achieve, and so in order to make it more easily attainable, the Supreme Lord Himself comes in His original form as Çré Kåñëa and gives His instruction directly to an associate like Arjuna, just so that the people in general may take advantage of this spiritual knowledge. This verse also explains that liberation means having completely given up all the material comforts of life. Those who are impersonalists are satisfied by simply being liberated from the material circumstances, but those who are devotees can automatically give up material life and also enjoy the transcendental bliss of hearing and chanting the wonderful activities of Lord Kåñëa.
In the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Twentieth Chapter, verse 34, Lord Kåñëa says to Uddhava, “My dear Uddhava, the devotees who have completely taken shelter of My service are so steadfast in devotional service that they have no other desire. Even if they are offered the four kinds of spiritual opulences,* they will refuse to accept them. So what to speak of their desiring anything within the material world!” Similarly, Lord Kåñëa says in another passage of the Bhägavatam, Eleventh Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 14, “My dear Uddhava, a person whose consciousness is completely absorbed in My thought and activities does not aspire even to occupy the post of Brahmä, or the post of Indra, or the post of lordship over the planets, or the eight kinds of mystic perfections, or even liberation itself.” In the Twelfth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Tenth Chapter, verse 6, Lord Çiva says to Devé, “My dear Devé, this great brähmaëa sage Märkaëòeya has attained unflinching faith and devotion unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such he does not aspire after any benedictions, including liberation from the material world.”
Similarly, there is a statement in Padma Puräëa describing the ritualistic function during the month of Kärttika (October-November). During this month, in Våndävana it is the regulative principle to pray daily to Lord Kåñëa in His Dämodara form. The Dämodara form refers to Kåñëa in His childhood when He was tied up with rope by His mother, Yaçodä. Däma means “ropes,” and udara means “the abdomen.” So mother Yaçodä, being very disturbed by naughty Kåñëa, bound Him round the abdomen with a rope, and thus Kåñëa is named Dämodara. During the month of Kärttika, Dämodara is prayed to as follows: “My dear Lord, You are the Lord of all, the giver of all benedictions.” There are many demigods, like Lord Brahmä and Lord Çiva, who sometimes offer benedictions to their respective devotees. For example, Rävaëa was blessed with many benedictions by Lord Çiva, and Hiraëyakaçipu was blessed by Lord Brahmä. But even Lord Çiva and Lord Brahmä depend upon the benedictions of Lord Kåñëa, and therefore Kåñëa is addressed as the Lord of all benefactors. As such, Lord Kåñëa can offer His devotees anything they want, but still, the devotee’s prayer continues, “I do not ask You for liberation or any material facility up to the point of liberation. What I want as Your favor is that I may always think of Your form in which I see You now, as Dämodara. You are so beautiful and attractive that my mind does not want anything besides this wonderful form.” In this same prayer, there is another passage, in which it is said, “My dear Lord Dämodara, once when You were playing as a naughty boy in the house of Nanda Mahäräja, You broke the box containing yogurt, and because of that, mother Yaçodä considered You an offender and tied You with rope to the household grinding mortar. At that time You delivered two sons of Kuvera, Nalaküvara and Maëigréva, who were staying there as two arjuna trees in the yard of Nanda Mahäräja. My only request is that by Your merciful pastimes You may similarly deliver me.”
The story behind this verse is that the two sons of Kuvera (the treasurer of the demigods) were puffed up on account of the opulence of their father, and so once on a heavenly planet they were enjoying themselves in a lake with some naked damsels of heaven. At that time the great saint Närada Muni was passing on the road and was sorry to see the behavior of the sons of Kuvera. Seeing Närada passing by, the damsels of heaven covered their bodies with cloth, but the two sons, being drunkards, did not have this decency. Närada became angry with their behavior and cursed them thus: “You have no sense, so it is better if you become trees instead of the sons of Kuvera.” Upon hearing this, the boys came to their senses and begged Närada to be pardoned for their offenses. Närada then said, “Yes, you shall become trees, arjuna trees, and you will stand in the courtyard of Nanda Mahäräja. But Kåñëa Himself will appear in time as the foster son of Nanda, and He will deliver you.” In other words, the curse of Närada was a benediction to the sons of Kuvera because indirectly it was foretold that they would be able to receive the favor of Lord Kåñëa. After that, Kuvera’s two sons stood as two big arjuna trees in the courtyard of Nanda Mahäräja until Lord Dämodara, in order to fulfill the desire of Närada, dragged the grinding mortar to which He was tied and struck the two trees, violently causing them to fall down. From out of these fallen trees came Nalaküvara and Maëigréva, who had by then become great devotees of the Lord.
There is a passage in the Hayaçérña-païcarätra which states, “My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, I do not want any resultant benediction from my religious life, nor do I want any economic development, nor do I want to enjoy sense gratification, nor liberation. I simply pray to be an eternal servant at Your lotus feet. Kindly oblige me and give me this benediction.”
In the same Hayaçérña-païcarätra, after Nåsiàhadeva wanted to give benedictions to Prahläda Mahäräja, Prahläda did not accept any material benediction and simply asked the favor of the Lord to remain His eternal devotee. In this connection, Prahläda Mahäräja cited the example of Hanumän, the eternal servitor of Lord Rämacandra, who also set an example by never asking any material favor from the Lord. He always remained engaged in the Lord’s service. That is the ideal character of Hanumän, for which he is still worshiped by all devotees. Prahläda Mahäräja also offered his respectful obeisances unto Hanumän. There is a well-known verse spoken by Hanumän in which he says, “My dear Lord, if You like You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of these things. I do not want anything which diminishes my relationship with You as servant to master, even after liberation.”
In a similar passage in the Närada-païcarätra it is stated, “My dear Lord, I do not wish any perfectional stage by performing the ritualistic religious ceremonies or by economic development or by sense gratification or liberation. I simply pray that You grant me the favor of keeping me under Your lotus feet. I do not wish any kind of liberation such as sälokya (to reside on Your planet) or särüpya (to have the same bodily features as You). I simply pray for Your favor that I may be always engaged in Your loving service.”
Similarly, in the Sixth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 5, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Mahäräja Parékñit inquires from Çukadeva Gosvämé, “My dear brähmaëa, I understand that the demon Våträsura was a greatly sinful person and that his mentality was completely absorbed in the modes of passion and ignorance. How did he develop to such a perfectional stage of devotional service to Näräyaëa? I have heard that even great persons who have undergone severe austerities and who are liberated with full knowledge must strive to become devotees of the Lord. It is understood that such persons are very rare and almost never to be seen, so I am astonished that Våträsura became such a devotee!”
In the above verse, the most important thing to be noted is that there may be many liberated persons who have merged into the existence of the impersonal Brahman, but a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Näräyaëa, is very, very rare. Even out of millions of liberated persons, only one is fortunate enough to become a devotee.
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam, First Canto, Eighth Chapter, verse 20, Queen Kunté is praying to Lord Kåñëa at the time of His departure, “My dear Kåñëa, You are so great that You are inconceivable even to great stalwart scholars and paramahaàsas [fully liberated souls]. So if such great sages, who are transcendental to all the reactions of material existence, are unable to know You, then as far as we are concerned, belonging to the less intelligent woman class, how is it possible for us to know Your glories? How can we understand You?” In this verse, the particular thing to be noted is that the Personality of Godhead is not understood by great liberated persons, but only by devotees such as Queen Kunté in her humbleness. Although she was a woman and was considered less intelligent than a man, still she realized the glories of Kåñëa. That is the purport of this verse.
Another passage which is very important is in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, First Canto, Seventh Chapter, verse 10, and is called “the ätmäräma verse.” In this ätmäräma verse it is stated that even those who are completely liberated from material contamination are attracted by the transcendental qualities of Lord Kåñëa.* The purport of this verse is that a liberated soul has absolutely no desire at all for material enjoyment; he is wholly freed from all kinds of material desires, yet still he is irresistibly attracted by the desire to hear and understand the pastimes of the Lord. We may therefore conclude that the glories and pastimes of the Lord are not material. Otherwise, how could the liberated persons known as ätmärämas be attracted by such pastimes? That is the important point in this verse.
From the above statement it is found that a devotee is not after any of the stages of liberation. There are five stages of liberation, already explained as being (1) to become one with the Lord, (2) to live on the same planet as the Lord, (3) to obtain the same bodily features as the Lord, (4) to have the same opulences as the Lord and (5) to have constant association with the Lord. Out of these five liberated stages, the one which is known as säyujya, or to merge into the existence of the Lord, is the last to be accepted by a devotee. The other four liberations, although not desired by devotees, still are not against the devotional ideals. Some of the liberated persons who have achieved these four stages of liberation may also develop affection for Kåñëa and be promoted to the Goloka Våndävana planet in the spiritual sky. In other words, those who are already promoted to the Vaikuëöha planets and who possess the four kinds of liberation may also sometimes develop affection for Kåñëa and become promoted to Kåñëaloka.
So those who are in the four liberated states may still be going through different stages of existence. In the beginning they may want the opulences of Kåñëa, but at the mature stage the dormant love for Kåñëa exhibited in Våndävana becomes prominent in their hearts. As such, the pure devotees never accept the liberation of säyujya, to become one with the Supreme, though sometimes they may accept as favorable the other four liberated states.
Out of many kinds of devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the one who is attracted to the original form of the Lord, Kåñëa in Våndävana, is considered to be the foremost, first-class devotee. Such a devotee is never attracted by the opulences of Vaikuëöha, or even of Dvärakä, the royal city where Kåñëa ruled. The conclusion of Çré Rüpa Gosvämé is that the devotees who are attracted by the pastimes of the Lord in Gokula, or Våndävana, are the topmost devotees.
A devotee who is attached to a particular form of the Lord does not wish to redirect his devotion to other forms. For example, Hanumän, the devotee of Lord Rämacandra, knew that there is no difference between Lord Rämacandra and Lord Näräyaëa, and yet he still wanted to render service only unto Lord Rämacandra. That is due to the specific attraction of a particular devotee. There are many, many forms of the Lord, but Kåñëa is still the original form. Though all of the devotees of the different forms of the Lord are in the same category, still it is said that those who are devotees of Lord Kåñëa are the topmost in the list of all devotees.
NoD 5: The Purity of Devotional Service
The Purity of Devotional Service
All of the previous instructions imparted by Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé in his broad statements can be summarized thus: as long as one is materially inclined or desirous of merging into the spiritual effulgence, one cannot enter into the realm of pure devotional service. Next, Rüpa Gosvämé states that devotional service is transcendental to all material considerations and that it is not limited to any particular country, class, society or circumstance. As stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, devotional service is transcendental and has no cause. Devotional service is executed without any hope for gain, and it cannot be checked by any material circumstances. It is open for all, without any distinction, and it is the constitutional occupation of the living entities.
In the Middle Ages, after the disappearance of Lord Caitanya’s great associate Lord Nityänanda, a class of priestly persons claimed to be the descendants of Nityänanda, calling themselves the gosvämé caste. They further claimed that the practice and spreading of devotional service belonged only to their particular class, which was known as Nityänanda-vaàça. In this way, they exercised their artificial power for some time, until Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura, the powerful äcärya of the Gauòéya Vaiñëava sampradäya, completely smashed their idea. There was a great hard struggle for some time, but it has turned out successfully, and it is now correctly and practically established that devotional service is not restricted to a particular class of men. Besides that, anyone who is engaged in devotional service is already at the status of being a high-class brähmaëa. So Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura’s struggle for this movement has come out successful.
It is on the basis of his position that anyone can now become a Gauòéya Vaiñëava, from any part of the world or any part of the universe. Anyone who is a pure Vaiñëava is situated transcendentally, and therefore the highest qualification in the material world, namely to be in the mode of goodness, has already been achieved by such a person. Our Kåñëa consciousness movement in the Western world is based on the above-mentioned proposition of Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé Prabhupäda, our spiritual master. On his authority, we are claiming members from all sections of the Western countries. The so-called brähmaëas claim that one who is not born into a brähmaëa family cannot receive the sacred thread and cannot become a high-grade Vaiñëava. But we do not accept such a theory, because it is not supported by Rüpa Gosvämé nor by the strength of the various scriptures.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé specifically mentions herein that every man has the birthright to accept devotional service and to become Kåñëa conscious. He has given many evidences from many scriptures, and he has especially quoted one passage from Padma Puräëa, wherein the sage Vasiñöha tells King Dilépa, “My dear King, everyone has the right to execute devotional service, just as he has the right to take early bath in the month of Mägha [December-January].” There is more evidence in the Skanda Puräëa, in the Käçé-khaëòa portion, where it is said, “In the country known as Mayüradhvaja, the lower-caste people who are considered less than çüdras are also initiated in the Vaiñëava cult of devotional service. And when they are properly dressed, with tilaka on their bodies and beads in their hands and on their necks, they appear to be coming from Vaikuëöha. In fact, they look so very beautiful that immediately they surpass the ordinary brähmaëas.”
Thus a Vaiñëava automatically becomes a brähmaëa. This idea is also supported by Sanätana Gosvämé in his book Hari-bhakti-viläsa, which is the Vaiñëava guide. Therein he has clearly stated that any person who is properly initiated into the Vaiñëava cult certainly becomes a brähmaëa, as much as the metal known as kaàsa (bell metal) is turned into gold by the mixture of mercury. A bona fide spiritual master, under the guidance of authorities, can turn anyone to the Vaiñëava cult so that naturally he may come to the topmost position of a brähmaëa.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé warns, however, that if a person is properly initiated by a bona fide spiritual master, he should not think that simply by the acceptance of such initiation his business is then finished. One still has to follow the rules and regulations very carefully. If after accepting the spiritual master and being initiated one does not follow the rules and regulations of devotional service, then he is again fallen. One must be very vigilant to remember that he is the part and parcel of the transcendental body of Kåñëa, and that it is his duty as part and parcel to give service to the whole, or Kåñëa. If we do not render service to Kåñëa then again we fall down. In other words, simply becoming initiated does not elevate one to the position of a high-class brähmaëa. One also has to discharge the duties and follow the regulative principles very rigidly.
Çré Rüpa Gosvämé also says that if one is regularly discharging devotional service, there will be no question of a falldown. But even if circumstantially there is some falldown, the Vaiñëava need have nothing to do with the präyaçcitta, the ritualistic ceremony for purification. If someone falls down from the principles of devotional service, he need not take to the präyaçcitta performances for reformation. He simply has to execute the rules and regulations for discharging devotional service, and this is sufficient for his reinstatement. This is the mystery of the Vaiñëava (devotional) cult.
Practically there are three processes for elevating one to the platform of spiritual consciousness. These processes are called karma, jïäna and bhakti. Ritualistic performances are in the field of karma. Speculative processes are in the field of jïäna. One who has taken to bhakti, the devotional service of the Lord, need have nothing to do with karma or jïäna. It has been already explained that pure devotional service is without any tinge of karma or jïäna. Bhakti should have no tinge of philosophical speculation or ritualistic performances.
In this connection Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé gives evidence from Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Canto, Twenty-first Chapter, verse 2, in which Lord Kåñëa says to Uddhava, “The distinction between qualification and disqualification may be made in this way: persons who are already elevated in discharging devotional service will never again take shelter of the processes of fruitive activity or philosophical speculation. If one sticks to devotional service and is conducted by regulative principles given by the authorities and äcäryas, that is the best qualification.”
This statement is supported in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, First Canto, Fifth Chapter, verse 17, wherein Çré Närada Muni advises Vyäsadeva thus: “Even if one does not execute his specific occupational duty, but immediately takes direct shelter of the lotus feet of Hari [Kåñëa], there will be no fault on his part, and in all circumstances his position is secure. Even if, by some bad association, he falls down while executing devotional service, or if he doesn’t finish the complete course of devotional service and dies untimely, still he is not at a loss. A person who is simply discharging his occupational duty in varëa and äçrama, however, with no Kåñëa consciousness, practically does not gain the true benefit of human life.” The purport is that all conditioned souls who are engaged very frantically in activities for sense gratification, without knowing that this process will never help them get out of material contamination, are awarded only with repeated births and deaths.
In the Fifth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is clearly stated by Åñabhadeva to His sons, “Persons engaged in fruitive activities are repeatedly accepting birth and death, and until they develop a loving feeling for Väsudeva, there will be no question of getting out from these stringent laws of material nature.” As such, any person who is very seriously engaged in his occupational duties in the varëas and äçramas, and who does not develop love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Väsudeva, should be understood to be simply spoiling his human form of life.
This is confirmed also in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Chapter, verse 32, in which the Lord says to Uddhava, “My dear Uddhava, any person who takes shelter of Me in complete surrender and follows My instructions, giving up all occupational duties, is to be considered the first-class man.” In this statement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is understood that people who are generally attracted to philanthropic, ethical, moral, altruistic, political and social welfare activities may be considered nice men only in the calculation of the material world. From Çrémad-Bhägavatam and other authentic Vedic scriptures we learn further that if a person simply acts in Kåñëa consciousness and discharges devotional service, he is considered to be far, far better situated than all of those persons engaged in philanthropic, ethical, moral, altruistic and social welfare activities.
The same thing is still more emphatically confirmed in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Canto, Fifth Chapter, verse 41, in which Karabhäjana Muni addresses Mahäräja Nimi as follows: “My dear King, if someone gives up his occupational duties as they are prescribed for the different varëas and äçramas, but takes complete shelter, surrendering himself unto the lotus feet of the Lord, such a person is no more a debtor, nor has he any obligation to perform the different kinds of activities we render to the great sages, ancestors, living entities and family and society members. Nor has he any need to bother executing the five kinds of yajïäs [sacrifices] for becoming free from sinful contamination. Simply by discharging devotional service, he is freed from all kinds of obligations.” The purport is that as soon as a man takes his birth, he is immediately indebted to so many sources. He is indebted to the great sages because he profits by reading their authoritative scriptures and books. For example, we take advantage of the books written by Vyäsadeva. Vyäsadeva has left for us all the Vedas. Before Vyäsadeva’s writing, the Vedic literature was simply heard, and the disciples would learn the mantras quickly by hearing and not by reading. Later on, Vyäsadeva thought it wise to write down the Vedas, because in this age people are short-memoried and unable to remember all the instructions given by the spiritual master. Therefore, he left all the Vedic knowledge in the form of books, such as the Puräëas, Vedänta, Mahäbhärata and Çrémad-Bhägavatam.
There are many other sages, like Çaìkaräcärya, Gautama Muni and Närada Muni, to whom we are indebted because we take advantage of their knowledge. Similarly, we are obliged to our forefathers, because we take our birth in a particular family, where we take all advantages and inherit property. Therefore, we are indebted to the forefathers and have to offer them piëòa (prasäda) after they are dead. Similarly, to the people in general we are also indebted, as well as to our relatives, friends and even animals such as cows and dogs who render us so much service.
In this way, we are indebted to the demigods, to the forefathers, to the sages, to the animals and to society in general. It is our duty to repay them all by proper discharge of service. But by the one stroke of devotional service, if someone gives up all obligations and simply surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is no longer a debtor, nor obliged to any other source of benefit.
In Bhagavad-gétä also, the Lord says, “Give up all your occupations and just become surrendered unto Me. I give you assurance that I shall give you protection from all sinful reactions.” One may think that because he is surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead he will not be able to perform all of his other obligations. But the Lord says repeatedly, “Don’t hesitate. Don’t consider that because you are giving up all other engagements there will be some flaw in your life. Don’t think like that. I will give you all protection.” That is the assurance of Lord Kåñëa in Bhagavad-gétä.
There is additional evidence in the Agastya-saàhitä: “As the regulative principles of scripture are not required by a liberated person, so the ritualistic principles indicated in the Vedic supplements are also not required for a person duly engaged in the service of Lord Rämacandra.” In other words, the devotees of Lord Rämacandra, or Kåñëa, are already liberated persons and are not required to follow all the regulative principles mentioned in the ritualistic portions of the Vedic literature.
Similarly, in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Fifth Chapter, verse 42, Karabhäjana Muni addresses King Nimi and says, “My dear King, a person who has given up the worship of the demigods and has completely concentrated his energy in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has become very, very dear to the Lord. As such, if by chance or mistake he does something which is forbidden, there is no need for him to perform any purificatory ceremonies. Because the Lord is situated within his heart, He takes compassion for the devotee’s accidental mistake and corrects him from within.” It is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä in many places that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, takes a special interest in His devotees and declares emphatically that nothing can cause His devotees to fall down. He is always protecting them.
NoD 6: How to Discharge Devotional Service
How to Discharge Devotional Service
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé states that his elder brother (Sanätana Gosvämé) has compiled Hari-bhakti-viläsa for the guidance of the Vaiñëavas and therein has mentioned many rules and regulations to be followed by the Vaiñëavas. Some of them are very important and prominent, and Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé will now mention these very important items for our benefit. The purport of this statement is that Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé proposes to mention only basic principles, not details. For example, a basic principle is that one has to accept a spiritual master. Exactly how one follows the instructions of his spiritual master is considered a detail. For example, if one is following the instruction of his spiritual master and that instruction is different from the instructions of another spiritual master, this is called detailed information. But the basic principle of acceptance of a spiritual master is good everywhere, although the details may be different. Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé does not wish to enter into details here, but wants to place before us only the principles.
He mentions the basic principles as follows: (1) accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master, (2) becoming initiated by the spiritual master and learning how to discharge devotional service from him, (3) obeying the orders of the spiritual master with faith and devotion, (4) following in the footsteps of great äcäryas (teachers) under the direction of the spiritual master, (5) inquiring from the spiritual master how to advance in Kåñëa consciousness, (6) being prepared to give up anything material for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Çré Kåñëa (this means that when we are engaged in the devotional service of Kåñëa, we must be prepared to give up something which we may not like to give up, and also we have to accept something which we may not like to accept), (7) residing in a sacred place of pilgrimage like Dvärakä or Våndävana, (8) accepting only what is necessary, or dealing with the material world only as far as necessary, (9) observing the fasting day on Ekädaçé and (10) worshiping sacred trees like the banyan tree.
These ten items are preliminary necessities for beginning the discharge of devotional service in regulative principles. In the beginning, if a neophyte devotee observes the above-mentioned ten principles, surely he will quickly make good advancement in Kåñëa consciousness.
The next set of instructions is listed as follows: (1) One should rigidly give up the company of nondevotees. (2) One should not instruct a person who is not desirous of accepting devotional service. (3) One should not be very enthusiastic about constructing costly temples or monasteries. (4) One should not try to read too many books, nor should one develop the idea of earning his livelihood by lecturing on or professionally reciting Çrémad-Bhägavatam or Bhagavad-gétä. (5) One should not be neglectful in ordinary dealings. (6) One should not be under the spell of lamentation in loss or jubilation in gain. (7) One should not disrespect the demigods. (8) One should not give unnecessary trouble to any living entity. (9) One should carefully avoid the various offenses in chanting the holy name of the Lord or in worshiping the Deity in the temple. (10) One should be very intolerant toward the blasphemy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, or His devotees.
Without following the above-mentioned ten principles, one cannot properly elevate himself to the platform of sädhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice. Altogether, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé mentions twenty items, and all of them are very important. Out of the twenty, the first three—namely accepting the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, taking initiation from him and serving him with respect and reverence—are the most important.
The next important items are as follows: (1) One should decorate the body with tilaka, which is the sign of the Vaiñëavas. (The idea is that as soon as a person sees these marks on the body of the Vaiñëava, he will immediately remember Kåñëa. Lord Caitanya said that a Vaiñëava is he who, when seen, reminds one of Kåñëa. Therefore, it is essential that a Vaiñëava mark his body with tilaka to remind others of Kåñëa.) (2) In marking such tilaka, sometimes one may write Hare Kåñëa on the body. (3) One should accept flowers and garlands that have been offered to the Deity and the spiritual master and put them on one’s body. (4) One should learn to dance before the Deity. (5) One should learn to bow down immediately upon seeing the Deity or the spiritual master. (6) As soon as one visits a temple of Lord Kåñëa, one must stand up. (7) When the Deity is being borne for a stroll in the street, a devotee should immediately follow the procession. (In this connection it may be noted that in India, especially in Viñëu temples, the system is that apart from the big Deity who is permanently situated in the main area of the temple, there is a set of smaller Deities which are taken in procession in the evening. In some temples it is the custom to hold a big procession in the evening with a band playing and a nice big umbrella over the Deities, who sit on decorated thrones on the cart or palanquin, which is carried by devotees. The Deities come out onto the street and travel in the neighborhood while the people of the neighborhood come out to offer prasäda. The residents of the neighborhood all follow the procession, so it is a very nice scene. When the Deity is coming out, the servitors in the temple put forward the daily accounts before Them: so much was the collection, so much was the expenditure. The whole idea is that the Deity is considered to be the proprietor of the whole establishment, and all the priests and other people taking care of the temple are considered to be the servants of the Deity. This system is very, very old and is still followed. So, therefore, it is mentioned here that when the Deity is on stroll the people should follow behind.) (8) A devotee must visit a Viñëu temple at least once or twice every day, morning and evening. (In Våndävana this system is followed very strictly. All the devotees in town go every morning and evening to visit different temples. Therefore during these times there are considerable crowds all over the city. There are about five thousand temples in Våndävana city. Of course it is not possible to visit all the temples, but there are at least one dozen very big and important temples which were started by the Gosvämés and which should be visited.) (9) One must circumambulate the temple building at least three times. (In every temple there is an arrangement to go around the temple at least three times. Some devotees go around more than three times—ten times, fifteen times—according to their vows. The Gosvämés used to circumambulate Govardhana Hill.) One should also circumambulate the whole Våndävana area. (10) One must worship the Deity in the temple according to the regulative principles. (Offering ärati and prasäda, decorating the Deity, etc.—these things must be observed regularly.) (11) One must render personal service to the Deities. (12) One must sing. (13) One must perform saìkértana. (14) One must chant. (15) One must offer prayers. (16) One must recite notable prayers. (17) One must taste mahä-prasäda (food from the very plate offered before the Deities). (18) One must drink caraëämåta (water from the bathing of the Deities, which is offered to guests). (19) One must smell the incense and flowers offered to the Deity. (20) One must touch the lotus feet of the Deity. (21) One must see the Deity with great devotion. (22) One must offer ärati (ärätrika) at different times. (23) One must hear about the Lord and His pastimes from Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Bhagavad-gétä and similar books. (24) One must pray to the Deity for His mercy. (25) One should remember the Deity. (26) One should meditate upon the Deity. (27) One should render some voluntary service. (28) One should think of the Lord as one’s friend. (29) One should offer everything to the Lord. (30) One should offer a favorite article (such as food or a garment). (31) One should take all kinds of risks and perform all endeavors for Kåñëa’s benefit. (32) In every condition, one should be a surrendered soul. (33) One should pour water on the tulasé tree. (34) One should regularly hear Çrémad-Bhägavatam and similar literature. (35) One should live in a sacred place like Mathurä, Våndävana or Dvärakä. (36) One should offer service to Vaiñëavas (devotees). (37) One should arrange one’s devotional service according to one’s means. (38) In the month of Kärttika (October and November), one should make arrangements for special services. (39) During Janmäñöamé (the time of Kåñëa’s appearance in this world) one should observe a special service. (40) One should do whatever is done with great care and devotion for the Deity. (41) One should relish the pleasure of Bhägavatam reading among devotees and not among outsiders. (42) One should associate with devotees who are considered more advanced. (43) One should chant the holy name of the Lord. (44) One should live in the jurisdiction of Mathurä.
Now, the total regulative principles come to an aggregate of sixty-four items. As we have mentioned, the first are the primary ten regulative principles. Then come the secondary ten regulative principles, and added to these are forty-four other activities. So all together there are sixty-four items for discharging the regulative practice of devotional service. Out of these sixty-four items, five items—namely worshiping the Deity, hearing Çrémad-Bhägavatam, associating among the devotees, saìkértana, and living in Mathurä—are very important.
The sixty-four items of devotional service should include all of our activities of body, mind and speech. As stated in the beginning, the regulative principle of devotional service enjoins that all of our senses must be employed in the service of the Lord. Exactly how they can be thus employed is described in the above sixty-four items. Now, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé will give evidence from different scriptures supporting the authenticity of many of these points.
NoD 7: Evidence Regarding Devotional Principles
Evidence Regarding Devotional Principles
Accepting the Shelter of a Bona Fide Spiritual Master
In the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Third Chapter, verse 21, Prabuddha tells Mahäräja Nimi, “My dear King, please know for certain that in the material world there is no happiness. It is simply a mistake to think that there is happiness here, because this place is full of nothing but miserable conditions. Any person who is seriously desirous of achieving real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters. Everyone should try to find such a bona fide spiritual master in order to fulfill his mission of life, which is to transfer himself to the plane of spiritual bliss.”
The purport is that one should not accept as a spiritual master someone who is fool number one, who has no direction according to the scriptural injunctions, whose character is doubtful, who does not follow the principles of devotional service, or who has not conquered the influence of the six sense-gratifying agents. The six agents of sense gratification are the tongue, the genitals, the belly, anger, the mind and words. Anyone who has practiced controlling these six is permitted to make disciples all over the world. To accept such a spiritual master is the crucial point for advancement in spiritual life. One who is fortunate enough to come under the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master is sure to traverse the path of spiritual salvation without any doubt.
Accepting Initiation from the Spiritual Master and Receiving Instructions from Him
Sage Prabuddha continued to speak to the King as follows: “My dear King, a disciple has to accept the spiritual master not only as spiritual master, but also as the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Supersoul. In other words, the disciple should accept the spiritual master as God, because he is the external manifestation of Kåñëa. This is confirmed in every scripture, and a disciple should accept the spiritual master as such. One should learn Çrémad-Bhägavatam seriously and with all respect and veneration for the spiritual master. Hearing and speaking Çrémad-Bhägavatam is the religious process which elevates one to the platform of serving and loving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
The attitude of the disciple should be to satisfy the bona fide spiritual master. Then it will be very easy for him to understand spiritual knowledge. This is confirmed in the Vedas, and Rüpa Gosvämé will further explain that for a person who has unflinching faith in God and the spiritual master, everything becomes revealed very easily.
Serving the Spiritual Master with Faith and Confidence
Regarding accepting initiation from the spiritual master, in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Seventeenth Chapter, verse 27, it is stated by Lord Kåñëa, “My dear Uddhava, the spiritual master must be accepted not only as My representative, but as My very self. He must never be considered on the same level with an ordinary human being. One should never be envious of the spiritual master, as one may be envious of an ordinary man. The spiritual master should always be seen as the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and by serving the spiritual master one is able to serve all the demigods.”
Following in the Footsteps of Saintly Persons
In the Skanda Puräëa it is advised that a devotee follow the past äcäryas and saintly persons, because by such following one can achieve the desired results, with no chance of lamenting or being baffled in his progress.
The scripture known as Brahma-yämala states as follows: “If someone wants to pose himself as a great devotee without following the authorities of the revealed scriptures, then his activities will never help him to make progress in devotional service. Instead, he will simply create disturbances for the sincere students of devotional service.” Those who do not strictly follow the principles of revealed scriptures are generally called sahajiyäs—those who have imagined everything to be cheap, who have their own concocted ideas, and who do not follow the scriptural injunctions. Such persons are simply creating disturbances in the discharge of devotional service.
In this connection, an objection may be raised by those who are not in devotional service and who do not care for the revealed scriptures. An example of this is seen in Buddhist philosophy. Lord Buddha appeared in the family of a high-grade kñatriya king, but his philosophy was not in accord with the Vedic conclusions and therefore was rejected. Under the patronage of a Hindu king, Mahäräja Açoka, the Buddhist religion was spread all over India and the adjoining countries. However, after the appearance of the great stalwart teacher Çaìkaräcärya, this Buddhism was driven out beyond the borders of India.
The Buddhists or other religionists who do not care for revealed scriptures sometimes say that there are many devotees of Lord Buddha who show devotional service to Lord Buddha, and who therefore should be considered devotees. In answer to this argument, Rüpa Gosvämé says that the followers of Buddha cannot be accepted as devotees. Although Lord Buddha is accepted as an incarnation of Kåñëa, the followers of such incarnations are not very advanced in their knowledge of the Vedas. To study the Vedas means to come to the conclusion of the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. Therefore any religious principle which denies the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead is not accepted and is called atheism. Atheism means defying the authority of the Vedas and decrying the great äcäryas who teach Vedic scriptures for the benefit of the people in general.
Lord Buddha is accepted as an incarnation of Kåñëa in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, but in the same Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated that Lord Buddha appeared in order to bewilder the atheistic class of men. Therefore his philosophy is meant for bewildering the atheists and should not be accepted. If someone asks, “Why should Kåñëa propagate atheistic principles?” the answer is that it was the desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to end the violence which was then being committed in the name of the Vedas. The so-called religionists were falsely using the Vedas to justify such violent acts as meat-eating, and Lord Buddha came to lead the fallen people away from such a false interpretation of the Vedas. Also, for the atheists Lord Buddha preached atheism so that they would follow him and thus be tricked into devotional service to Lord Buddha, or Kåñëa.
Inquiring About Eternal Religious principles
In the Näradéya Puräëa it is said, “If one is actually very serious about devotional service, then all of his purposes will be served without any delay.”
Being Prepared to Give Up Everything Material for Kåñëa’s Satisfaction
In the Padma Puräëa it is stated, “For one who has given up his material sense enjoyment and has accepted the principles of devotional service, the opulence of Viñëuloka [the kingdom of God] is awaiting.”
Residing in a Sacred Place
In the Skanda Puräëa it is also said that for a person who has lived in Dvärakä for six months, for one month, or even for one fortnight, there is awaiting elevation to the Vaikuëöhalokas and all the profits of särüpya-mukti (the privilege of having the same four-handed bodily features as Näräyaëa).
In the Brahmä Puräëa it is said, “The transcendental significance of Puruñottama-kñetra, which is the eighty-square-mile field of Lord Jagannätha, cannot be properly described. Even the demigods from higher planetary systems see the inhabitants of this Jagannätha Puré as having exactly the same bodily features possessed by one in Vaikuëöha. That is, the demigods see the inhabitants of Jagannätha Puré as being four-handed.”
When there was a meeting of great sages at Naimiñäraëya, Süta Gosvämé was reciting Çrémad-Bhägavatam, and the importance of the Ganges was stated as follows: “The waters of the Ganges are always carrying the flavor of tulasé offered at the lotus feet of Çré Kåñëa, and as such the waters of the Ganges are ever flowing, spreading the glories of Lord Kåñëa. Wherever the waters of the Ganges are flowing, all will be sanctified, both externally and internally.”
Accepting Only What Is Necessary
In the Näradéya Puräëa it is directed, “One should not accept more than necessary if he is serious about discharging devotional service.” The purport is that one should not neglect following the principles of devotional service, nor should one accept the rulings of devotional service which are more than what he can easily perform. For example, it may be said that one should chant the Hare Kåñëa mantra at least one hundred thousand times daily on his beads. But if this is not possible, then one must minimize his chanting according to his own capacity. Generally, we recommend our disciples to chant at least sixteen rounds on their japa beads daily, and this should be completed. But if one is not even able to chant sixteen rounds, then he must make it up the next day. He must be sure to keep his vow. If he does not strictly follow this out, then he is sure to be negligent. That is offensive in the service of the Lord. If we encourage offenses, we shall not be able to make progress in devotional service. It is better if one fixes up a regulative principle according to his own ability and then follows that vow without fail. That will make him advanced in spiritual life.
Observing Fasting on Ekädaçé
In the Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekädaçé day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Kåñëa. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekädaçé is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.
Offering Respect to the Banyan Trees
In the Skanda Puräëa it is directed that a devotee should offer water to the tulasé plant and ämalaka trees. He should offer respect to the cows and to the brähmaëas and should serve the Vaiñëavas by offering them respectful obeisances and meditating upon them. All of these processes will help the devotee to diminish the reactions to his past sinful activities.
Giving Up the Company of Nondevotees
Lord Caitanya was once asked by one of His householder devotees what the general behavior of a Vaiñëava should be. In this connection, Lord Caitanya replied that a Vaiñëava should always give up the company of nondevotees. Then He explained that there are two kinds of nondevotees: one class is against the supremacy of Kåñëa, and another class is too materialistic. In other words, those who are after material enjoyment and those who are against the supremacy of the Lord are called avaiñëava, and their company should be strictly avoided.
In the Kätyäyana-saàhitä it is stated that even if one is forced to live within a cage of iron or in the midst of a blazing fire, he should accept this position rather than live with nondevotees who are through and through against the supremacy of the Lord. Similarly, in the Viñëu-rahasya there is a statement to the effect that one should prefer to embrace a snake, a tiger or an alligator rather than associate with persons who are worshipers of various demigods and who are impelled by material desire.
In the scriptures it is instructed that one may worship a certain demigod if he is desirous of achieving some material gain. For example, one is advised to worship the sun-god if he is desirous of getting rid of a diseased condition. For a beautiful wife, one may worship Umä, the wife of Lord Çiva, and for advanced education one may worship Sarasvaté. Similarly, there is a list in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam for worshipers of all demigods, according to different material desires. But all of these worshipers, although they appear to be very good devotees of the demigods, are still considered to be nondevotees. They cannot be accepted as devotees.
The Mäyävädés (impersonalists) say that one may worship any form of the Lord and that it doesn’t matter, because one reaches the same destination anyway. But it is clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gétä that those who are worshipers of the demigods will ultimately reach only the planets of those demigods, while those who are devotees of the Lord Himself will be promoted to the Lord’s abode, the kingdom of God. So actually these persons who are worshipers of demigods have been condemned in the Gétä. It is described that due to their lusty desires they have lost their intelligence and have therefore taken to worshiping the different demigods. So in the Viñëu-rahasya these demigod worshipers are forcefully condemned by the statement that it is better to live with the most dangerous animals than to associate with these persons.
Not Accepting Unfit Disciples, Constructing Many Temples or
Reading Many Books
Another stricture is that a person may have many disciples, but he should not act in such a way that he will be obliged to any of them for some particular action or some favor. And one should also not be very enthusiastic about constructing new temples, nor should one be enthusiastic about reading various types of books, save and except the ones which lead to the advancement of devotional service. Practically, if one very carefully reads Bhagavad-gétä, Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya and this Nectar of Devotion, that will give him sufficient knowledge to understand the science of Kåñëa consciousness. One need not take the trouble of reading other books.
In the Seventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Thirteenth Chapter, verse 8, Närada Muni, while discussing with Mahäräja Yudhiñöhira the various functions of the different orders in society, especially mentions rules for the sannyäsés, those persons who have renounced this material world. One who has accepted the sannyäsa order of life is forbidden to accept as a disciple anyone who is not fit. A sannyäsé should first of all examine whether a prospective student is sincerely seeking Kåñëa consciousness. If he is not, he should not be accepted. However, Lord Caitanya’s causeless mercy is such that He advised all bona fide spiritual masters to speak about Kåñëa consciousness everywhere. Therefore, in the line of Lord Caitanya even the sannyäsés can speak about Kåñëa consciousness everywhere, and if someone is seriously inclined to become a disciple, the sannyäsé always accepts him.
The one point is that without increasing the number of disciples, there is no propagation of the cult of Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore, sometimes even at a risk, a sannyäsé in the line of Caitanya Mahäprabhu may accept even a person who is not thoroughly fit to become a disciple. Later on, by the mercy of such a bona fide spiritual master, the disciple is gradually elevated. However, if one increases the number of disciples simply for some prestige or false honor, he will surely fall down in the matter of executing Kåñëa consciousness.
Similarly, a bona fide spiritual master has no business reading many books simply to show his proficiency or to get popularity by lecturing in different places. One should avoid all these things. It is also stated that a sannyäsé should not be enthusiastic about constructing temples. We can see in the lives of various äcäryas in the line of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu that they are not very enthusiastic about constructing temples. However, if somebody comes forward to offer some service, the same reluctant äcäryas will encourage the building of costly temples by such servitors. For example, Rüpa Gosvämé was offered a favor by Mahäräja Mänsiìgh, the commander-in-chief of Emperor Akhbar, and Rüpa Gosvämé instructed him to construct a large temple for Govindajé, which cost vast amounts of money.
So a bona fide spiritual master should not personally take any responsibility for constructing temples, but if someone has money and wants to spend it in the service of Kåñëa, an äcärya like Rüpa Gosvämé may utilize the devotee’s money to construct a nice, costly temple for the service of the Lord. Unfortunately, it happens that someone who is not fit to become a spiritual master may approach wealthy persons to contribute for temple constructions. If such money is utilized by unqualified spiritual masters for living comfortably in costly temples without actually doing any preaching work, this is not acceptable. In other words, a spiritual master needn’t be very enthusiastic for constructing temple buildings simply in the name of so-called spiritual advancement. Rather, his first and foremost activity should be to preach. In this connection, Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé Mahäräja recommended that a spiritual master print books. If one has money, instead of constructing costly temples, one should spend his money for the publication of authorized books in different languages for propagating the Kåñëa consciousness movement.
Straightforwardness in Ordinary Dealings and Equilibrium in Loss and Gain
There is a statement in the Padma Puräëa: “Persons who are engaged in Kåñëa consciousness should never be disturbed by some material gain or loss. Even if there is some material loss, one should not be perturbed, but should always think of Kåñëa within himself.” The purport is that every conditioned soul is always absorbed in thinking of materialistic activities; he has to free himself from such thoughts and transfer himself completely to Kåñëa consciousness. As we have already explained, the basic principle of Kåñëa consciousness is to always think of Kåñëa. One should not be disturbed in material loss, but, rather, should concentrate his mind upon the lotus feet of the Lord.
A devotee should not be subjected to lamentation or illusion. There is the following statement in the Padma Puräëa: “Within the heart of a person who is overpowered by lamentation or anger, there is no possibility of Kåñëa’s being manifested.”
One should not neglect to offer due respect to the demigods. One may not be a devotee of demigods, but that does not mean that he should be disrespectful to them. For example, a Vaiñëava is not a devotee of Lord Çiva or Lord Brahmä, but he is duty-bound to offer all respects to such highly positioned demigods. According to Vaiñëava philosophy, one should offer respect even to an ant, so then what is there to speak of such exalted persons as Lord Çiva and Lord Brahmä?
In the Padma Puräëa it is said, “Kåñëa, or Hari, is the master of all demigods, and therefore He is always worshipable. But this does not mean that one should not offer respect to the demigods.”
Not Giving Pain to Any Living Entity
This is the statement of Mahäbhärata: “A person who does not disturb or cause painful action in the mind of any living entity, who treats everyone just like a loving father does his children, whose heart is so pure, certainly very soon becomes favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
In so-called civilized society there is sometimes agitation against cruelty to animals, but at the same time regular slaughterhouses are always maintained. A Vaiñëava is not like that. A Vaiñëava can never support animal slaughter or even give pain to any living entity.
NoD 8: Offenses to Be Avoided
Offenses to Be Avoided
In the supplementary Vedic literature, there is the following list of thirty-two offenses in the matter of serving the Lord: (1) One should not enter the temple of the Deity in a car or palanquin or with shoes on the feet. (2) One should not fail to observe the various festivals for the pleasure of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, such as Janmäñöamé and Ratha-yäträ. (3) One should not avoid bowing down before the Deity. (4) One should not enter the temple to worship the Lord without having washed one’s hands and feet after eating. (5) One should not enter the temple in a contaminated state. (According to Vedic scripture, if someone dies in the family the whole family becomes contaminated for some time, according to its status. For example, if the family is brähmaëa their contamination period is twelve days, for the kñatriyas and vaiçyas it is fifteen days, and for çüdras thirty days.) (6) One should not bow down on one hand. (7) One should not circumambulate in front of Çré Kåñëa. (The process of circumambulating the temple is that one should begin circumambulating from the Deity’s right-hand side of the temple and come round. Such circumambulation should be performed outside the temple structure at least three times daily.) (8) One should not spread his legs before the Deity. (9) One should not sit before the Deity holding the ankles, elbows or knees with one’s hands. (10) One should not lie down before the Deity of Kåñëa. (11) One should not accept prasäda before the Deity. (12) One should never speak a lie before the Deity. (13) One should not talk very loudly before the Deity. (14) One should not talk with others before the Deity. (15) One should not cry or howl before the Deity. (16) One should not quarrel or fight before the Deity. (17) One should not chastise anyone before the Deity. (18) One should not be charitable to beggars before the Deity. (19) One should not speak very harshly to others before the Deity. (20) One should not wear a fur blanket before the Deity. (21) One should not eulogize or praise anyone else before the Deity. (22) One should not speak any ill names before the Deity. (23) One should not pass air before the Deity. (24) One should not fail to worship the Deity according to one’s means. (In Bhagavad-gétä it is stated that the Lord is satisfied if some devotee offers Him even a leaf or a little water. This formula prescribed by the Lord is universally applicable, even for the poorest man. But that does not mean that one who has sufficient means to worship the Lord very nicely should also adopt this method and try to satisfy the Lord simply by offering water and a leaf. If he has sufficient means, he should offer nice decorations, nice flowers and nice foodstuffs and observe all ceremonies. It is not that one should try to satisfy the Supreme Lord with a little water and a leaf, and for himself spend all his money in sense gratification.) (25) One should not eat anything which is not offered first to Kåñëa. (26) One should not fail to offer fresh fruit and grains to Kåñëa, according to the season. (27) After food has been cooked, no one should be offered any foodstuff unless it is first offered to the Deity. (28) One should not sit with his back toward the Deity. (29) One should not offer obeisances silently to the spiritual master, or in other words, one should recite aloud the prayers to the spiritual master while offering obeisances. (30) One should not fail to offer some praise in the presence of the spiritual master. (31) One should not praise himself before the spiritual master. (32) One should not deride the demigods before the Deity.
This is a list of thirty-two offenses. Besides these, there are a number of offenses which are mentioned in the Varäha Puräëa. They are as follows: (1) One should not touch the Deity in a dark room. (2) One should not fail to strictly follow the rules and regulations in worshiping the Deity. (3) One should not enter the temple of the Deity without first making some sound. (4) One should not offer any foodstuff to the Deity which has been seen by dogs or other lower animals. (5) One should not break silence while worshiping. (6) One should not pass urine or evacuate while engaged in worshiping. (7) One should not offer incense without offering some flower. (8) Useless flowers without any fragrance should not be offered. (9) One should not fail to wash his teeth very carefully every day. (10) One should not enter the temple directly after sexual intercourse. (11) One should not touch a woman during her menstrual period. (12) One should not enter the temple after touching a dead body. (13) One should not enter the temple wearing garments of red or blue color or garments which are unwashed. (14) One should not enter the temple after seeing a dead body. (15) One should not pass air within the temple. (16) One should not be angry within the temple. (17) One should not enter the temple after visiting a crematorium. (18) One should not belch before the Deity. So, until one has fully digested his food, he should not enter the temple. (19) One should not smoke marijuana, or gaïjä. (20) One should not take opium or similar intoxicants. (21) One should not enter the Deity room or touch the body of the Deity after having smeared oil over his body. (22) One should not show disrespect to a scripture teaching about the supremacy of the Lord. (23) One should not introduce any opposing scripture. (24) One should not chew betel before the Deity. (25) One should not offer a flower which was kept in an unclean pot. (26) One should not worship the Lord while sitting on the bare floor; one must have a sitting place or carpet. (27) One should not touch the Deity before one has completed taking bath. (28) One should not decorate his forehead with the three-lined tilaka. (29) One should not enter the temple without washing his hands and feet.
Other rules are that one should not offer foodstuff which is cooked by a non-Vaiñëava, one should not worship the Deity before a nondevotee, and one should not engage himself in the worship of the Lord while seeing a nondevotee. One should begin the worship of the demigod Gaëapati, who drives away all impediments in the execution of devotional service. In the Brahma-saàhitä it is stated that Gaëapati worships the lotus feet of Lord Nåsiàhadeva and in that way has become auspicious for the devotees in clearing out all impediments. Therefore, all devotees should worship Gaëapati. The Deities should not be bathed in water which has been touched by the nails or fingers. When a devotee is perspiring, he should not engage himself in worshiping the Deity. Similarly, there are many other prohibitions. For example, one should not cross or step over the flowers offered to the Deities, nor should one take a vow in the name of God. These are all different kinds of offenses in the matter of executing devotional service, and one should be careful to avoid them.
In the Padma Puräëa it is stated that even a person whose life is completely sinful will be completely protected by the Lord if he simply surrenders unto Him. So it is accepted that one who surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes free from all sinful reactions. And even when a person becomes an offender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, he can still be delivered simply by taking shelter of the holy names of the Lord: Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. In other words, the chanting of Hare Kåñëa is beneficial for eradicating all sins, but if one becomes an offender to the holy names of the Lord, then he has no chance of being delivered.
The offenses against the chanting of the holy name are as follows: (1) To blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord. (2) To consider the names of demigods like Lord Çiva or Lord Brahmä to be equal to, or independent of, the name of Lord Viñëu. (Sometimes the atheistic class of men take it that any demigod is as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viñëu. But one who is a devotee knows that no demigod, however great he may be, is independently as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, if someone thinks that he can chant “Kälé, Kälé!” or “Durgä, Durgä!”and it is the same as Hare Kåñëa, that is the greatest offense.) (3) To disobey the orders of the spiritual master. (4) To blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version. (5) To consider the glories of chanting Hare Kåñëa to be imagination. (6) To give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord. (7) To commit sinful activities on the strength of the holy name of the Lord. (It should not be taken that because by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can be freed from all kinds of sinful reaction, one may continue to act sinfully and after that chant Hare Kåñëa to neutralize his sins. Such a dangerous mentality is very offensive and should be avoided.) (8) To consider the chanting of Hare Kåñëa one of the auspicious ritualistic activities offered in the Vedas as fruitive activities (karma-käëòa). (9) To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy name. (Anyone can take part in chanting the holy name of the Lord, but in the beginning one should not be instructed about the transcendental potency of the Lord. Those who are too sinful cannot appreciate the transcendental glories of the Lord, and therefore it is better not to instruct them in this matter.) (10) To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter.
Every devotee who claims to be a Vaiñëava must guard against these offenses in order to quickly achieve the desired success.
NoD 9: Further Considerations of Devotional Principles
Further Considerations of Devotional Principles
One should not tolerate blasphemy of the Lord or His devotees. In this connection, in the Tenth Canto, Seventy-fourth Chapter, verse 40, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Çukadeva Gosvämé tells Parékñit Mahäräja, “My dear King, if a person, after hearing blasphemous propaganda against the Lord and His devotees, does not go away from that place, he becomes bereft of the effect of all pious activities.”
In one of Lord Caitanya’s Çikñäñöaka verses it is stated, “The devotee should be more tolerant than the tree and more submissive than the grass. He should offer all honor to others, but may not accept any honor for himself.” In spite of Lord Caitanya’s being so humble and meek as a devotee, when He was informed about injuries inflicted on the body of Çré Nityänanda, He immediately ran to the spot and wanted to kill the offenders, Jagäi and Mädhäi. This behavior of Lord Caitanya’s is very significant. It shows that a Vaiñëava may be very tolerant and meek, foregoing everything for his personal honor, but when it is a question of the honor of Kåñëa or His devotee, he will not tolerate any insult.
There are three ways of dealing with such insults. If someone is heard blaspheming by words, one should be so expert that he can defeat the opposing party by argument. If he is unable to defeat the opposing party, then the next step is that he should not just stand there meekly, but should give up his life. The third process is followed if he is unable to execute the above-mentioned two processes, and this is that one must leave the place and go away. If a devotee does not follow any of the above-mentioned three processes, he falls down from his position of devotion.
Tilaka and Tulasé Beads
In the Padma Puräëa there is a statement describing how a Vaiñëava should decorate his body with tilaka and beads: “Persons who put tulasé beads on the neck, who mark twelve places of their bodies as Viñëu temples with Viñëu’s symbolic representations [the four items held in the four hands of Lord Viñëu—conch, mace, disc and lotus], and who have viñëu-tilaka on their foreheads, are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Viñëu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain, they make that place as good as Vaikuëöha.”
A similar statement is in the Skanda Puräëa, which says, “Persons who are decorated with tilaka or gopé-candana [a kind of clay resembling fuller’s earth which is produced in certain quarters of Våndävana], and who mark their bodies all over with the holy names of the Lord, and on whose necks and breasts there are tulasé beads, are never approached by the Yamadütas.” The Yamadütas are the constables of King Yama (the lord of death), who punishes all sinful men. Vaiñëavas are never called for by such constables of Yamaräja. In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, in the narration of Ajämila’s deliverance, it is said that Yamaräja gave clear instructions to his assistants not to approach the Vaiñëavas. Vaiñëavas are beyond the jurisdiction of Yamaräja’s activities.
The Padma Puräëa also mentions, “A person whose body is decorated with the pulp of sandalwood, with paintings of the holy name of the Lord, is delivered from all sinful reactions, and after his death he goes directly to Kåñëaloka to live in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Accepting Flower Garlands
The next instruction is that one should put on flower garlands which are offered to the Deity. In this connection, in the Eleventh Canto, Sixth Chapter, verse 46, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Uddhava says to Kåñëa, “My dear Kåñëa, I have taken things which You have used and enjoyed, such as garlands of flowers, saintly articles, garments and ornaments, and I eat only the remnants of Your foodstuff, because I am Your menial servant. So, therefore, I am sure that I shall not be attacked by the spell of material energy.” The purport of this verse is that for any person who simply follows these rules and regulations of decorating the body with the marks of tilaka of gopé-candana or sandalwood pulp, and who puts on the garlands which were offered to Kåñëa, there is no question of being conquered by the spell of material energy. At the time of death, there is no question of such a person’s being called by the constables of Yamaräja. Even if one does not accept all the Vaiñëava principles, but still takes the remnants of foodstuff offered to Kåñëa, or kåñëa-prasäda, he will gradually become qualified to rise to the platform of a Vaiñëava.
Similarly, in the Skanda Puräëa Lord Brahmä tells Närada, “My dear Närada, anyone who puts on his neck the flower garland which was formerly used by Kåñëa becomes relieved from all disease and reactions to sinful activities, and gradually he is liberated from the contamination of matter.”
Dancing Before the Deity
In the Dvärakä-mähätmya the importance of dancing before the Deity is stated by Lord Kåñëa as follows: “A person who is in a jubilant spirit, who feels profound devotional ecstasy while dancing before Me, and who manifests different features of bodily expression can burn away all the accumulated sinful reactions he has stocked up for many, many thousands of years.” In the same book there is a statement by Närada wherein he asserts, “From the body of any person who claps and dances before the Deity, showing manifestations of ecstasy, all the birds of sinful activities fly away upward.” Just as by clapping the hands one can cause many birds to fly away, similarly the birds of all sinful activities which are sitting on the body can be made to fly away simply by dancing and clapping before the Deity of Kåñëa.
Bowing Down in Honor of the Deity
In the Näradéya Puräëa there is a statement about bowing down and offering respect to the Deity. It is said there, “A person who has performed a great ritualistic sacrifice and a person who has simply offered his respectful obeisances by bowing down before the Lord cannot be held as equals.” The person who has executed many great sacrifices will attain the result of his pious activities, but when such results are finished, he has to take birth again on the earthly planet; however, the person who has once offered respects, bowing down before the Deity, will not come back to this world, because he will go directly to the abode of Kåñëa.
Standing Up to Receive the Lord
In the Brahmäëòa Puräëa it is said, “A person who sees the Lord’s Ratha-yäträ car festival and then stands up to receive the Lord can purge all kinds of sinful results from his body.”
Following the Deity
A similar statement is there in the Bhaviñya Puräëa, in which it is said, “Even if born of a lowly family, a person who follows the Ratha-yäträ car when the Deities pass in front or from behind will surely be elevated to the position of achieving equal opulence with Viñëu.”
Going to the Temple of Viñëu or to Places of Pilgrimage
It is stated in the Puräëas, “Persons who attempt to visit the holy places of pilgrimage, like Våndävana, Mathurä or Dvärakä, are actually glorified. By such traveling activities, they can pass over the desert of material existence.”
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya there is a statement about the benefit of visiting the temples of Lord Kåñëa. As we have explained previously, in Våndävana, Mathurä and Dvärakä the system is that all the devotees take advantage of visiting various temples situated in those holy places. It is stated in the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya, “Persons who are impelled by pure devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness and who therefore go to see the Deities of Viñëu in the temple will surely get relief from entering again into the prison house of a mother’s womb.” The conditioned soul forgets the trouble of living within the mother’s womb during birth, but it is a very painful and terrible experience. In order to make an escape from this material condition, one is advised to visit a temple of Viñëu with devotional consciousness. Then one can very easily get out of the miserable condition of material birth.
Circumambulating the Temple of Viñëu
It is said in the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya, “A person who is circumambulating the Deity of Viñëu can counteract the circumambulation of repeated birth and death in this material world.” The conditioned soul is circumambulating through repeated births and deaths on account of his material existence, and this can be counteracted simply by circumambulating the Deity in the temple.
The Cäturmäsya ceremony is observed during the four months of the rainy season in India (approximately July, August, September and October), beginning from Çrävaëa. During these four months, saintly persons who are accustomed to travel from one place to another to propagate Kåñëa consciousness remain at one place, usually a holy place of pilgrimage. During these times, there are certain special rules and regulations which are strictly followed. It is stated in the Skanda Puräëa that during this period, if someone circumambulates the temple of Viñëu at least four times, it is understood that he has traveled all over the universe. By such circumambulation, one is understood to have seen all the holy places where the Ganges water is flowing, and by following the regulative principles of Cäturmäsya one can very quickly be raised to the platform of devotional service.
Arcanä means worship of the Deity in the temple. By executing this process one confirms himself to be not the body but spirit soul. In the Tenth Canto, Eighty-first Chapter, verse 19, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, it is told how Sudämä, an intimate friend of Kåñëa’s, while going to the house of a brähmaëa, murmured to himself, “Simply by worshiping Kåñëa one can easily achieve all the results of heavenly opulence, liberation, supremacy over the planetary systems of the universe, all the opulences of this material world, and the mystic power of performing the yoga system.
The events leading to Sudämä’s murmuring this statement are as follows. Çré Kåñëa had ordered His friend Sudämä to go to a brähmaëa’s house and ask for some food. The brähmaëas were performing a great sacrifice, and Çré Kåñëa told Sudämä to plead with them that He and Balaräma were feeling hungry and needed some food. When Sudämä went there, the brähmaëas refused to offer anything, but the wives of the brähmaëas, upon hearing that Çré Kåñëa wanted some foodstuff, immediately took many palatable dishes and went to offer them to Çré Kåñëa. In the Viñëu-rahasya, also, it is stated, “Any person within this world who is engaged in the worship of Viñëu can very easily achieve the ever-blissful kingdom of God, known as Vaikuëöhaloka.”
Rendering Service to the Lord
It is stated in the Viñëu-rahasya, “Any person who can arrange for service to the Lord in the same way that a king is given service by his attendants is surely elevated to the abode of Kåñëa after death.” Actually, in India the temples are just like royal palaces. They are not ordinary buildings, because the worship of Kåñëa should be performed in just the way that a king is worshiped in his palace. So in Våndävana there are many hundreds of temples wherein the Deity is worshiped exactly like a king. In the Näradéya Puräëa it is stated, “If person stays in the Lord’s temple even for a few moments, he can surely achieve the transcendental kingdom of God.”
The conclusion is that those who are rich men in society should construct beautiful temples and arrange for the worship of Viñëu, so that people may be attracted to visit such temples and thereby be offered the opportunity of dancing before the Lord or chanting the holy name of the Lord, or else of hearing the holy name of the Lord. In this way, everyone will be given the chance to elevate himself to the kingdom of God. In other words, even a common man, simply by visiting such a temple, will be able to attain the highest benedictions, not to mention the devotees who are constantly engaged in the service of the Lord in full Kåñëa consciousness.
In this connection, there is a statement in the Fourth Canto, Twenty-first Chapter, verse 31, of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, wherein King Påthu says to his subjects, “My dear citizens, please note that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is actually the deliverer of all fallen, conditioned souls. No demigod can perform this act of delivering the conditioned souls, because the demigods themselves are conditioned. A conditioned soul cannot deliver another conditioned soul. Only Kåñëa or His bona fide representative can deliver him. The Ganges water which is flowing down from the toe of Lord Viñëu falls upon the earthly planet and other planets and thereby delivers all the conditioned sinful living entities. So what need is there to speak of the deliverance of persons who are always engaged in the service of the Lord? There is no doubt about their liberation, even if they have stocks of sinful activities from many, many births.” In other words, a person who is engaged in the worship of the Deities can minimize his stock of sinful reactions coming from many, many previous births. This process of worshiping the Deity has already been described, and one should try to follow these rules and regulations seriously.
In the Liìga Puräëa there is a statement about glorifying and singing about the Lord. It is said there, “A brähmaëa who is constantly engaged in singing the glories of the Lord is surely elevated to the same planet as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Kåñëa appreciates this singing even more than the prayers offered by Lord Çiva.”
When a person loudly chants the glories of the Lord’s activities, qualities, form, etc., his chanting is called saìkértana. Saìkértana also refers to the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord.
In the Viñëu-dharma there is a statement glorifying this process of congregational chanting: “My dear King, this word Kåñëa is so auspicious that anyone who chants this holy name immediately gets rid of the resultant actions of sinful activities from many, many births.” That is a fact. There is the following statement in Caitanya-caritämåta: “A person who chants the holy name of Kåñëa once can counteract the resultant actions of more sinful activities than he is able to perform.” A sinful man can perform many, many sinful activities, but he is unable to perform so many that they cannot be wiped out by one single uttering of Kåñëa.
In the Seventh Canto, Ninth Chapter, verse 18, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Mahäräja Prahläda offers the following prayers to the Lord: “My dear Lord Nåsiàha, if I can be elevated to the position of Your servant, then it will be possible for me to hear about Your activities. You are the supreme friend, the supreme worshipable Deity. Your pastimes are transcendental, and simply by hearing of them one can counteract all his sinful activities. Therefore, I shall not care for all those sinful activities, because simply by hearing about Your pastimes I shall get out of all the contamination of material attachment.”
There are many songs about the Lord’s activities. For example, there is the Brahma-saàhitä, sung by Lord Brahmä; Närada-païcarätra, sung by Närada Muni; and Çrémad-Bhägavatam, sung by Çukadeva Gosvämé. If these songs are heard by any person, he can easily get out of the clutches of material contamination. There should be no difficulty in hearing these songs of God. They are coming down from many, many millions of years ago, and people are still taking advantage of them. So why, at this time, should one not take full advantage and thus become liberated?
In the First Canto, Fifth Chapter, verse 22, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Närada Muni tells his disciple Vyäsadeva, “My dear Vyäsa, you should know that persons who are engaged in executing austerities and penances, studying the Vedas, performing big sacrifices, chanting the hymns of the Vedas, speculating on transcendental knowledge and performing charitable functions have for all their auspicious activities simply to gain a place in the association of devotees and chant the glories of the Lord.” It is indicated here that chanting about and glorifying the Lord is the ultimate activity of the living entity.
Chanting a mantra or hymn softly and slowly is called japa, and chanting the same mantra loudly is called kértana. For example, uttering the mahä-mantra (Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare) very softly, only for one’s own hearing, is called japa. Chanting the same mantra loudly for being heard by all others is called kértana. The mahä-mantra can be used for japa and kértana also. When japa is practiced it is for the personal benefit of the chanter, but when kértana is performed it is for the benefit of all others who may hear.
In the Padma Puräëa there is a statement: “For any person who is chanting the holy name either softly or loudly, the paths to liberation and even heavenly happiness are at once open.”
In the Skanda Puräëa there is a statement about submission unto the lotus feet of the Lord. It is said there that those who are sober devotees can offer their submission to Kåñëa in the following three ways: (1) samprärthanätmikä, very feelingly offering prayers; (2) dainyavodhikä, humbly submitting oneself; (3) lälasämayé, desiring some perfectional stage. This desiring some perfectional stage in spiritual life is not sense gratification. When one realizes something of his constitutional relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he understands his original position and wants to be reinstated in this position, either as friend, servant, parent or conjugal lover of Kåñëa. That is called lälasämayé, or very eagerly desiring to go to one’s natural position. This lälasämayé stage of submission comes in the stage of perfect liberation, which is technically called svarüpa-siddhi, when the living entity understands, by perfect spiritual advancement and revelation, his original relationship with the Lord.
In the Padma Puräëa there is a statement of submission in feeling by devotees praying to the Lord: “My Lord, I know that young girls have natural affection for young boys, and that young boys have natural affection for young girls. I am praying at Your lotus feet that my mind may become attracted unto You in the same spontaneous way.” The example is very appropriate. When a young boy or girl sees a member of the opposite sex there is a natural attraction, without the need for any introduction. Without any training there is a natural attraction due to the sex impulse. This is a material example, but the devotee is praying that he may develop a similar spontaneous attachment for the Supreme Lord, free from any desire for profit and without any other cause. This natural attraction for the Lord is the perfectional stage of self-realization.
In the same Padma Puräëa there is a statement about submission in humbleness. It is stated there, “My dear Lord, there is no sinful living entity who is more of a sinner than myself. Nor is there a greater offender than myself. I am so greatly sinful and offensive that when I come to confess my sinful activities before You, I am ashamed.” This is a natural position for a devotee. As far as the conditioned soul is concerned, there is no wonder that he has some sinful activities in his past life, and this should be admitted and confessed before the Lord. As soon as this is done, the Lord excuses the sincere devotee. But that does not mean that one should take advantage of the Lord’s causeless mercy and expect to be excused over and over again, while he commits the same sinful activities. Such a mentality is only for shameless persons. Here it is clearly said, “When I come to confess my sinful activities I become ashamed.” So if a person is not ashamed of his sinful activities and continues to commit the same sinful activities with the knowledge that the Lord will excuse him, that is a most nonsensical proposition. Such an idea is not accepted in any part of the Vedic literature. It is a fact that by chanting the holy name of the Lord one becomes washed clean of all sinful activities from his past life. But that does not mean that after being washed off, one should again begin sinful activities and expect to be washed again. These are nonsensical propositions and are not admitted in devotional service. Someone may think, “For a whole week I may commit sinful activities, and for one day I will go to the temple or church and admit my sinful activities so that I can become washed off and again begin my sinning.” This is most nonsensical and offensive and is not acceptable to the author of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu.
In the Närada-païcarätra there is a statement of submission accompanied by the desire for perfection. The devotee says, “My dear Lord, when shall that day come when You will ask me to fan Your body, and according to Your pleasure, You will say, ‘You just fan Me in this way’?” The idea in this verse is that the devotee is desiring to personally fan the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That means that he is desiring to become the personal associate of the Supreme Lord. Of course, any devotee in any capacity, either as servant, friend or conjugal lover, always has direct association with the Lord. But according to his different individual taste, a person desires for just one of these relationships. Here the devotee is desiring to become a servant of the Lord and desires to fan the Lord, as does His internal energy, Lakñmé, the goddess of fortune. He also wishes that the Personality of Godhead will be pleased to give him directions as to how to fan. This submission with transcendental desire, or lälasämayé vijïapti, is the highest perfectional stage of spiritual realization.
In the same Närada-païcarätra, there is another expression of submission, wherein the devotee says, “My dear Lord, O lotus-eyed one, when will that day come when on the bank of the Yamunä I shall become just like a madman and continue to chant Your holy name while incessant tears flow from my eyes?” This is another perfectional stage. Lord Caitanya also desired that “a moment will appear unto me as twelve years of time, and the whole world will appear to me as vacant on account of not seeing You, my dear Lord.” One should feelingly pray and become eager to render his particular type of service to the Lord. This is the teaching of all great devotees, especially Lord Caitanya.
In other words, one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and he should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection. If one develops this laulyam, or excessive eagerness for meeting and serving the Lord in a particular way, that is the price to enter into the kingdom of God. Otherwise, there is no material calculation for the value of the ticket by which one can enter the kingdom of God. The only price for such entrance is this laulyam lälasämayé, or desire and great eagerness.
Reciting Notable Prayers
According to great learned scholars, the whole Bhagavad-gétä contains many authorized prayers, especially in the Eleventh Chapter, where Arjuna prays to the universal form of the Lord. Similarly, in the Gautaméya-tantra all the verses are called prayers. Again, in Çrémad-Bhägavatam there are hundreds of prayers to the Lord. So a devotee should select some of these prayers for his recitation. In Skanda Puräëa the glories of these prayers are stated as follows: “Devotees whose tongues are decorated always with prayers to Lord Kåñëa are always given respect even by the great saintly persons and sages, and such devotees are actually worshipable by the demigods.”
Those who are less intelligent want to worship different demigods for some material gain rather than worship Kåñëa. But here it is stated that a devotee who is always engaged in offering prayers to the Lord is worshipable even by the demigods themselves. The pure devotees have nothing to ask from any demigod; rather, the demigods are anxious to offer prayers to the pure devotees.
In the Nåsiàha Puräëa it is stated, “Any person who comes before the Deity of Lord Kåñëa and begins to chant different prayers is immediately relieved from all the reactions of sinful activities and becomes eligible, without any doubt, to enter into the Vaikuëöhaloka.”
Partaking of Prasäda
There is this specific statement in the Padma Puräëa: “A person who honors the prasäda and regularly eats it, not exactly in front of the Deity, along with caraëämåta [the water offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, which is mixed with seeds of the tulasé tree], immediately can achieve the results of pious activities which are obtained through ten thousand performances of sacrificial rites.”
Caraëämåta is obtained in the morning while the Lord is being washed before dressing. Scented with perfumes and flowers, the water comes gliding down through His lotus feet and is collected and mixed with yogurt. In this way this caraëämåta not only becomes very tastefully flavored, but also has tremendous spiritual value. As described in the Padma Puräëa, even a person who has never been able to give in charity, who has never been able to perform a great sacrifice, who has never been able to study the Vedas, who has never been able to worship the Lord—or, in other words, even one who has never done any pious activities—will become eligible to enter into the kingdom of God if he simply drinks the caraëämåta which is kept in the temple. In the temple it is the custom that the caraëämåta be kept in a big pot. The devotees who come to visit and offer respects to the Deity take three drops of caraëämåta very submissively and feel themselves happy in transcendental bliss.
Smelling the Incense and Flowers Offered to the Deity
In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya there is a statement about the incense which is offered in the temple: “When the devotees smell the good flavor of the incense which is offered to the Deity, they thus become cured of the poisonous effects of material contamination, as much as one becomes cured of a snakebite by smelling the prescribed medicinal herbs.” The explanation of this verse is that there is an herb found in the jungles which expert persons know how to use to revive the consciousness of one who is bitten by a snake. Simply by smelling that herb one becomes immediately relieved of the poisonous effects of the snakebite. The same example is applicable: when a person comes to visit the temple and smells the incense offered to the Deity, he is cured at that time from all his material contamination.
Any devotee coming into the temple should always offer something to the Deity—fruit, flowers, incense, etc. If one cannot offer anything in cash, something else must be offered. In India the system is that all the ladies and gentlemen who come in the morning to visit the temple bring so many things. Even one morsel of rice or one morsel of flour can be offered. It is a regulative principle that one should not go to see a saintly person or the Deity in the temple without any offering. The offering may be very humble, or it may be priceless. Even a flower, a little fruit, a little water—whatever is possible—must be offered. So when a devotee comes to offer something to the Deity in the morning, he is sure to smell the good flavor of the incense, and then at once he will become cleansed of the poisonous effect of material existence.
It is stated in the Tantra-çästra, “If the smell of the garland which was offered to the Deity in the temple enters into a person’s nostrils, immediately his bondage to sinful activities becomes cleared. And even if one has no sinful activities, still, by smelling such remnants of flowers, one can advance from Mäyävädé [impersonalist] to devotee.” There are several instances of this, a prime one being the advancement of the four Kumäras. They were impersonalist Mäyävädés, but after smelling the remnants of flowers and incense in the temple, they turned to become devotees. From the above verse it appears that the Mäyävädés, or impersonalists, are more or less contaminated. They are not pure.
It is confirmed in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, “One who has not washed off all reactions of sinful activities cannot be a pure devotee. A pure devotee has no more doubts about the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead, and thus he engages himself in Kåñëa consciousness and devotional service.” A similar statement is in the Agastya-saàhitä: just to purify the impurities of our nostrils, we should try to smell the remnants of flowers offered to Kåñëa in the temple.
Touching the Deity
In the Viñëu-dharmottara there is a statement about touching the lotus feet of the Lord. It is said, “Only a person who is initiated as a Vaiñëava and is executing devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness has the right to touch the body of the Deity.” In India there was agitation during Gandhi’s political movement because the lowborn classes of men like street-sweepers and caëòälas are prohibited, according to the Vedic system, from entering the temple. Due to their unclean habits they are prohibited, but at the same time they are given other facilities so they may be elevated to the highest grade of devotional service by association with pure devotees. A man born in any family is not barred, but he must be cleansed. That cleansing process must be adopted. Gandhi wanted to make them clean simply by stamping them with a fictitious name, harijana (“children of God”), and so there was a great tug-of-war between the temple owners and Gandhi’s followers.
But anyway, the present law is the law of all scripture—that if anyone is purified he can enter into the temple. Actually, that is the position. Only one who is properly initiated, who is properly following the rules and regulations, can enter, and touch the Deity—not all. And one who touches the body of the Deity, following such regulative principles, is immediately delivered from the contamination of material sins, and all of his desires become fulfilled without delay.
Seeing the Deity
In the Varäha Puräëa there is a statement praising the seeing of the Deity of Çré Kåñëa in the temple. A devotee says there, “My dear Vasundharä, any person who goes to Våndävana and sees the Deity of Govindadeva is free from the courthouse of Yamaräja and is allowed to enter into the highest planetary system, in which reside the demigods.” This means that even an ordinary person who goes to Våndävana out of inquisitiveness and by chance sees the temple, especially that of Govindadeva, even if he is not elevated to the spiritual kingdom, is still assured promotion to the higher planetary systems. This means that simply by visiting the Deity of Govinda in Våndävana one becomes highly elevated in pious life.
Observing Ärati and Celebrations of the Lord
In the Skanda Puräëa there is the following description of the result of seeing ärati (worship) of the Deity: “If someone sees the face of the Lord while ärati is going on, he can be relieved of all sinful reactions coming from many, many thousands and millions of years past. He is even excused from the killing of a brähmaëa or similar prohibited activities.
As we have already explained, there are different ceremonies to be observed, such as the birthday of Kåñëa, the birthday of Lord Rämacandra, the birthday of some prominent Vaiñëavas, the ceremony of Jhulana-yäträ with the Lord sitting on a swing, and Dola-yäträ (the Lord’s activities in the month of March). In all festivals the Lord is seated on a car, and the car moves through different streets of the city so that people may take advantage of visiting the Lord. In the Bhaviñya Puräëa it is said, “In such a ceremony, if even a caëòäla [dog-eater], simply out of curiosity, sees the Lord on the cart, he becomes counted as one of the associates of Viñëu.”
In the Agni Puräëa it is stated, “Any person who in gladness sees the worship of the Deity in the temple will obtain the results of kriyä-yoga which are described in the Païcarätra scripture.” Kriyä-yoga is a system of practice much like practical devotional service, but it is especially meant for the mystic yogés. In other words, by this gradual process the mystic yogés are eventually elevated to the devotional service of the Lord.
NoD 10: Techniques of Hearing and Remembering
Techniques of Hearing and Remembering
The beginning of Kåñëa consciousness and devotional service is hearing, in Sanskrit called çravaëam. All people should be given the chance to come and join devotional parties so that they may hear. This hearing is very important for progressing in Kåñëa consciousness. When one links his ears to give aural reception to the transcendental vibrations, he can quickly become purified and cleansed in the heart. Lord Caitanya has affirmed that this hearing is very important. It cleanses the heart of the contaminated soul so that he becomes quickly qualified to enter into devotional service and understand Kåñëa consciousness.
In the Garuòa Puräëa the stress on hearing is expressed very nicely. It is said there, “The state of conditioned life in the material world is just like that of a man lying unconscious, having been bitten by a snake. This is because both such unconscious states can be ended by the sound of a mantra.” When a man is snake-bitten he does not die immediately, but first becomes unconscious and remains in a comatose condition. Anyone who is in the material world is also sleeping, as he is ignorant of his actual self or his actual duty and his relationship with God. So materialistic life means that one is bitten by the snake of mäyä, illusion, and thus, without any Kåñëa consciousness, is almost dead. Now, the so-called dead man bitten by a snake can be brought back to life by the chanting of some mantra. There are expert chanters of these mantras who can perform this feat. Similarly, one can be brought back into Kåñëa consciousness from the deadly unconscious state of material life by hearing of the mahä-mantra: Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare.
In the Fourth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Twenty-ninth Chapter, verse 40, the importance of hearing of the pastimes of the Lord is stated by Çukadeva Gosvämé to Mahäräja Parékñit: “My dear King, one should stay at a place where the great äcäryas [holy teachers] speak about the transcendental activities of the Lord, and one should give aural reception to the nectarean river flowing from the moonlike faces of such great personalities. If someone eagerly continues to hear such transcendental sounds, then certainly he will become freed from all material hunger, thirst, fear and lamentation, as well as all illusions of material existence.”
Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu also recommended this process of hearing as a means of self-realization in the present age of Kali. In this age it is very difficult to follow thoroughly the regulative principles and studies of the Vedas which were formerly recommended. However, if one gives aural reception to the sound vibrated by great devotees and äcäryas, that alone will give him relief from all material contamination. Therefore it is the recommendation of Caitanya Mahäprabhu that one should simply hear from authorities who are actually devotees of the Lord. Hearing from professional men will not help. If we hear from those who are actually self-realized, then the nectarean rivers, like those which are flowing on the moon planet, will flow into our ears. This is the metaphor used in the above verse.
As stated in Bhagavad-gétä, “A materialistic person can give up his material hankerings only by becoming situated in Kåñëa consciousness.” Unless one finds a superior engagement, he will not be able to give up his inferior engagement. In the material world everyone is engaged in the illusory activities of the inferior energy, but when one is given the opportunity to relish the activities of the superior energy performed by Kåñëa, then he forgets all his lesser pleasures. When Kåñëa speaks on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, to the materialistic person it appears that this is simply talk between two friends, but actually it is a river of nectar flowing down from the mouth of Çré Kåñëa. Arjuna gave aural reception to such vibrations, and thus he became freed from all the illusions of material problems.
In the Twelfth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Third Chapter, verse 15, it is stated, “A person who desires unalloyed devotional service to Lord Kåñëa, who is praised by transcendental sound vibrations, should always hear about His glorification and transcendental qualities. This will surely kill all kinds of inauspiciousness in the heart.”
Expecting the Lord’s Mercy
In the Tenth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 8, it is said, “My dear Lord, any person who is constantly awaiting Your causeless mercy to be bestowed upon him, and who goes on suffering the resultant actions of his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible to become liberated, for it has become his rightful claim.”
This statement of Çrémad-Bhägavatam should be the guide of all devotees. A devotee should not expect immediate relief from the reactions of his past misdeeds. No conditioned soul is free from such reactionary experiences, because material existence means continued suffering or enjoying of past activities. If one has finished his material activities then there is no more birth. This is possible only when one begins Kåñëa conscious activities, because such activities do not produce reaction. Therefore, as soon as one becomes perfect in Kåñëa conscious activities, he is not going to take birth again in this material world. A devotee who is not perfectly freed from the resultant actions should therefore continue to act in Kåñëa consciousness seriously, even though there may be so many impediments. When such impediments arise he should simply think of Kåñëa and expect His mercy. That is the only solace. If the devotee passes his days in that spirit, it is certain that he is going to be promoted to the abode of the Lord. By such activities, he earns his claim to enter into the kingdom of God. The exact word used in this verse is däya-bhäk. Däya-bhäk refers to a son’s becoming the lawful inheritor of the property of the father. In a similar way, a pure devotee who is prepared to undergo all kinds of tribulations in executing Kåñëa conscious duties becomes lawfully qualified to enter into the transcendental abode.
Some way or other, if someone establishes in his mind his continuous relationship with Kåñëa, this relationship is called remembrance. About this remembrance there is a nice statement in the Viñëu Puräëa, where it is said, “Simply by remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead all living entities become eligible for all kinds of auspiciousness. Therefore let me always remember the Lord, who is unborn and eternal.” In the Padma Puräëa the same remembrance is explained as follows: “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Kåñëa, because if someone remembers Him, either at the time of death or during his span of life, he becomes freed from all sinful reactions.”
To meditate means to engage the mind in thinking of the form of the Lord, the qualities of the Lord, the activities of the Lord and the service of the Lord. Meditation does not mean anything impersonal or void. According to Vedic literature, meditation is always on the form of Viñëu.
In the Nåsiàha Puräëa there is a statement about meditation on the form of the Lord. It is said there, “Meditation focusing on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has been accepted as transcendental and beyond the experience of material pain and pleasure. By such meditation, even one who is grossly miscreant can be delivered from the sinful reactions of his life.”
In the Viñëu-dharma there is a statement about meditation on the transcendental qualities of the Lord. It is said, “Persons who are constantly engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, and who remember the transcendental qualities of the Lord, become free from all reactions to sinful activities, and after being so cleansed they become fit to enter into the kingdom of God.” In other words, no one can enter into the kingdom of God without being freed from all sinful reactions. One can avoid sinful reactions simply by remembering the Lord’s form, qualities, pastimes, etc.
In the Padma Puräëa there is a statement about remembering the activities of the Lord: “A person who is always engaged in meditation on the sweet pastimes and wonderful activities of the Lord surely becomes freed from all material contamination.”
In some of the Puräëas the evidence is given that if someone is simply meditating on devotional activities, he has achieved the desired result and has seen face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this connection, there is a story in the Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa that in the city of Pratiñöhänapura in South India there was once a brähmaëa who was not very well-to-do, but who was nevertheless satisfied in himself, thinking that it was because of his past misdeeds and by the desire of Kåñëa that he did not get sufficient money and opulence. So he was not at all sorry for his poor material position, and he used to live very peacefully. He was very openhearted, and sometimes he went to hear some lectures delivered by great realized souls. At one such meeting, while he was very faithfully hearing about Vaiñëava activities, he was informed that these activities can be performed even by meditation. In other words, if a person is unable to actually perform Vaiñëava activities physically, he can meditate upon the Vaiñëava activities and thereby acquire all of the same results. Because the brähmaëa was not very well-to-do financially, he decided that he would simply meditate on grand, royal devotional activities, and he began this business thus:
Sometimes he would take his bath in the River Godävaré. After taking his bath he would sit in a secluded place on the bank of the river, and by practicing the yoga exercises of präëäyäma, the usual breathing exercises, he would concentrate his mind. These breathing exercises are meant to mechanically fix the mind upon a particular subject. That is the result of the breathing exercises and also of the different sitting postures of yoga. Formerly, even quite ordinary persons used to know how to fix the mind upon the remembrance of the Lord, and so the brähmaëa was doing this. When he had fixed the form of the Lord in his mind, he began to imagine in his meditations that he was dressing the Lord very nicely in costly clothing, with ornaments, helmets and other paraphernalia. Then he offered his respectful obeisances by bowing down before the Lord. After finishing the dressing, he began to imagine that he was cleaning the temple very nicely. After cleansing the temple, he imagined that he had many water jugs made of gold and silver, and he took all those jugs to the river and filled them with the holy water. Not only did he collect water from the Godävaré, but he collected from the Ganges, Yamunä, Narmadä and Käveré. Generally a Vaiñëava, while worshiping the Lord, collects water from all these rivers by mantra chanting. This brähmaëa, instead of chanting some mantra, imagined that he was physically securing water from all these rivers in golden and silver waterpots. Then he collected all kinds of paraphernalia for worship—flowers, fruits, incense and sandalwood pulp. He collected everything to place before the Deity. All these waters, flowers and scented articles were then very nicely offered to the Deities to Their satisfaction. Then he offered ärati, and with the regulative principles he finished all these activities in the correct worshiping method.
He would daily execute similar performances as his routine work, and he continued to do so for many, many years. Then one day the brähmaëa imagined in his meditations that he had prepared some sweet rice with milk and sugar and offered the preparation to the Deity. However, he was not very satisfied with the offering because the sweet rice had been prepared recently and it was still very hot. (This preparation, sweet rice, should not be taken hot. The cooler the sweet rice, the better its taste.) So because the sweet rice had been prepared by the brähmaëa very recently, he wanted to touch it so that he could know whether it was fit for eating by the Lord. As soon as he touched the sweet rice pot with his finger, he immediately was burnt by the heat of the pot. In this way, his meditation broke. Now, when he looked at his finger, he saw that it was burnt, and he was wondering in astonishment how this could have happened. Because he was simply meditating on touching the hot sweet rice, he never thought that his finger would actually become burnt.
While he was thinking like this, in Vaikuëöha Lord Näräyaëa, seated with the goddess of fortune, Lakñmé, began to smile humorously. On seeing this smiling of the Lord, all the goddesses of fortune attending the Lord became very curious and asked Lord Näräyaëa why He was smiling. The Lord, however, did not reply to their inquisitiveness, but instead immediately sent for the brähmaëa. An airplane sent from Vaikuëöha immediately brought the brähmaëa into Lord Näräyaëa’s presence. When the brähmaëa was thus present before the Lord and the goddesses of fortune, the Lord explained the whole story. The brähmaëa was then fortunate enough to get an eternal place in Vaikuëöha in the association of the Lord and His Lakñmés. This shows how the Lord is all-pervading, in spite of His being locally situated in His abode. Although the Lord was present in Vaikuëöha, He was present also in the heart of the brähmaëa when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.
NoD 11: Aspects of Transcendental Service
Aspects of Transcendental Service
In the opinion of the karmés (fruitive workers), offering the results of karma is called servitorship. But according to Vaiñëava äcäryas like Rüpa Gosvämé, servitorship means constant engagement in some kind of service to the Lord.
In the Skanda Puräëa it is said that those who are attached to ritualistic activities, the four orders of social life and the four orders of spiritual life, are considered devotees. But when devotees are actually engaged in offering service to the Lord directly, these must be bhägavatas, or pure devotees. Those who are engaged in fruitive activities, or prescribed duties according to the four orders of social and spiritual life, are not actually pure devotees. But still, because they are offering the result to the Lord, they are accepted as devotees. When one has no such desire, but acts spontaneously out of love of God, such a person must be accepted as a pure devotee. The conditioned souls who have come into contact with the material world are all more or less desirous of lording it over material nature. The system of varëäçrama and the prescribed duties under this system are so designed that the conditioned soul may enjoy in the material world according to his desire for sense gratification and at the same time gradually become elevated to spiritual understanding. Under these prescribed duties of varëa and äçrama there are many activities which belong to devotional service in Kåñëa consciousness. Those devotees who are householders accept Vedic ritualistic performances as well as the prescribed duties of devotional service, because both are meant for satisfying Kåñëa. When householder devotees perform some Vedic ritualistic duties, they do so to satisfy Kåñëa. As we have previously discussed, any activity aiming at satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead is considered devotional service.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé describes one who is fit for becoming engaged in devotional service. He says that persons who are neophytes and who have developed a little love of Godhead are not interested in the activities of sense gratification, in proportion to their devotion. But if there is still some attraction for sense gratifying activities, then the result of such activities should be offered to Kåñëa. This is also called engagement in the service of the Lord, with the Lord as the master and the worker as the servant.
In the Näradéya Puräëa there is a statement of how this servitorship is transcendental. It is said there that a person who is constantly engaged in devotional service by his body, mind and words, or even a person who is not practically engaged but is simply desiring to be so, is considered to be liberated.
Devotional Service in Friendship
Devotional service in friendship can be divided into two categories: the first is to act as the confidential servant of the Lord, and the other is to act as the well-wisher of the Lord. The devotee who has confidence in devotional service to the Lord systematically follows the rules and regulations, with the faith that he will achieve the platform of transcendental life. The second type of devotional friendship is to become a well-wisher of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gétä it is said that the Lord accepts a preacher as the most dear servant. Anyone who is preaching the confidential message of the Gétä to the people in general is so dear to Kåñëa that no one can be equal to him in human society.
In the Mahäbhärata, Draupadé says, “My dear Govinda, Your promise is that Your devotee can never be vanquished. I believe in that statement, and therefore in all kinds of tribulations I simply remember Your promise, and thus I live.” The purport is that Draupadé and her five husbands, the Päëòavas, were put into severe tribulations by their cousin-brother Duryodhana, as well as by others. The tribulations were so severe that even Bhéñmadeva, who was both a lifelong brahmacäré and a great warrior, would sometimes shed tears thinking of them. He was always surprised that although the Päëòavas were so righteous and Draupadé was practically the goddess of fortune, and although Kåñëa was their friend, still they had to undergo such severe tribulations. Though their tribulations were not ordinary, Draupadé was not discouraged. She knew that because Kåñëa was their friend, ultimately they would be saved.
A similar statement is there in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Second Chapter, verse 53, where Havi, the son of King Åñabha, addresses Mahäräja Nimi: “My dear King, a person who never deviates even for a moment from engagement in service at the lotus feet of the Supreme Person (engagement which is sought even by great demigods like Indra), with firm conviction that there is nothing more worshipable or desirable than this, is called the first-class devotee.”
Çré Rüpa Gosvämé says that a neophyte devotee who has simply developed a slight love of Godhead is certainly a prospective candidate for devotional service. When he becomes firmly fixed in such devotional service, that assured status becomes a confidential part of his devotional service.
Sometimes it is found that a pure devotee lies down in the temple of the Lord in order to serve Him as a confidential friend. Such friendly behavior of a devotee may be accepted as rägänugä, or spontaneous. Although, according to regulative principles, no one can lie down in the temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this spontaneous love of Godhead may be grouped under devotional service in friendship.
Surrendering Everything to the Lord
Regarding complete self-surrender, there is a nice description in the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Twenty-ninth Chapter, verse 34, where the Lord says, “A person who has completely surrendered unto Me and has completely given up all other activities is protected by Me personally, both in this life and in the next. In other words, I wish to help him become more and more advanced in spiritual life. Such a person is to be understood as having already achieved särñöi [having equal opulences with the Supreme].” It is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gétä that as soon as a person surrenders unto the lotus feet of Kåñëa, Kåñëa takes charge of him and gives him a guarantee of protection from all sinful reactions. He also instructs from within, so that the devotee may very quickly make advancement toward spiritual perfection.
This self-surrender is called ätma-nivedana. According to different authorities, self is differently defined. Self is sometimes considered to refer to the spirit self, or soul, and self is sometimes considered to refer to the mind or to the body. Full self-surrender, therefore, means not only surrendering one’s self as spirit soul, but also surrendering one’s mind and body to the service of the Lord. Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura has sung a nice song in this connection. While offering himself as a fully surrendered soul, he said, “My mind, my household affairs, my body, whatever is in my possession, my dear Lord, I offer to You for Your service. Now You can do with them as You like. You are the supreme possessor of everything, so if You like You can kill me, or if You like You can give me protection. All authority belongs to You. I have nothing to claim as my own.”
Çré Yämunäcärya, in his prayers to the Lord, has expressed a similar idea in the following words: “My dear Lord, I may be living within some body as a human being or as a demigod, but whatever mode of life, I do not mind, because these bodies are simply by-products of the three modes of material nature, and I, who am in possession of these bodies, am surrendering myself unto You.”
In the Hari-bhakti-viveka, there is a statement regarding how one can offer his body in self-surrender. There the devotee says, “My dear Lord, as a sold animal has no need to think about his maintenance and sustenance, so, because I have given up my body and soul unto You, I am no longer concerned with my maintenance and sustenance.” In other words, one should not bother about his personal or family maintenance or sustenance. If one is actually surrendered in body and soul, he should always remember that his only concern is to be engaged in the service of the Lord.
Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé says that devotional service in friendship and devotional service in self-surrender are two difficult processes. Therefore such relationships with the Lord can very rarely be seen. Only for the advanced devotees are these two processes easily executed. The purport is that it is very rare to see surrender which is mixed with sincere ecstatic devotion. One must give himself completely to the will of the Lord.
Offering a Favorite Article
In the Eleventh Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Eleventh Chapter, verse 41, Lord Kåñëa tells Uddhava, “My dear friend, if someone offers Me the best thing in his possession, or anything which is very pleasing to him, he will be eternally benefited.”
Performing All Endeavors for Kåñëa
In the Närada-païcarätra there is a statement of how one can act in all spheres of life for the satisfaction of the Lord. It is stated there that a person who is actually in devotional service must be engaged in all kinds of activities—those prescribed in the revealed scriptures and also those which are accepted for livelihood. In other words, not only should a devotee engage himself in the prescribed duties of devotional service which are mentioned in the revealed scriptures, but he should also perform the duties of his practical life in Kåñëa consciousness. For example, a devotee who has a great establishment or factory may offer the fruits of such a material possession for the service of the Lord.
Being a Surrendered Soul
In the Hari-bhakti-viläsa there is the following statement about self-surrender: “My dear Lord, a person who has surrendered himself unto You, who is in firm conviction that he is Yours, and who actually acts in that way by his body, mind and words, can actually relish transcendental bliss.”
In the Nåsiàha Puräëa, Lord Nåsiàhadeva says, “Anyone who prays unto Me and takes shelter from Me becomes My ward, and I protect him always from all sorts of calamities.”
Serving Trees Such as the Tulasé
In the Skanda Puräëa there is a statement praising the tulasé tree as follows: “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the tulasé tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasé tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaräja [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasé tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Kåñëa. And when the tulasé leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Kåñëa, there is the full development of love of Godhead.”
In India all Hindus, even those not belonging to the Vaiñëava group, take special care of the tulasé tree. Even in great cities where it is very difficult to keep a tulasé tree, people are to be found very carefully keeping this plant. They water it and offer obeisances to it, because worship of the tulasé tree is very important in devotional service.
In the Skanda Puräëa there is another statement about tulasé, as follows: “Tulasé is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the tulasé tree in the above-mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuëöha world.”