"Don’t feel discouraged, Krsna and His devotees are reaching out to you. They are reaching to embrace you. Their causeless mercy is our greatest fortune. For some reason unbeknownst to us, we have this opportunity. We are being canvased into that sankirtana , as He has appeared as Mahaprabhu."
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer bhajann apakvo ’tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vabhadram abhüd amusya kim ko vartha apto ’bhajatam sva-dharmatah
"One who has forsaken his material occupations to engage in the devotional service of the Lord may sometimes fall down while in an immature stage, yet there is no danger of his being unsuccessful. On the other hand, a non-devotee, though fully engaged in occupational duties, does not gain anything." (Bhag. 1. 5.17)
Purport: As far as the duties of mankind are concerned, there are innumerable duties. Every man is duty-bound not only to his parents, family members, society, country, humanity, other living beings, the demigods, etc., but also to the great philosophers, poets, scientists, etc. It is enjoined in the scriptures that one can relinquish all such duties and surrender unto the service of the Lord. So if one does so and becomes successful in the discharge of his devotional service unto the Lord, it is well and good. But it so happens sometimes that one surrenders himself unto the service of the Lord by some temporary sentiment, and in the long run, due to so many other reasons, he falls down from the path of service by undesirable association...The stress is given here to surrendering unto the lotus feet of the Lord, even if there is a chance of falling down, because even though one falls down from the prescribed duties of devotional service, he will never forget the lotus feet of the Lord. Once engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, one will continue the service in all circumstances. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that even a small quantity of devotional service can save one from the most dangerous position. There are many instances of such examples in history. Ajamila is one of them. Ajamila in his early life was a devotee, but in his youth he fell down. Still he was saved by the Lord at the end. [purport: 1.5.17]
The verse to which Srila Prabhupada refers above is Bhagavad-gita, 2.40. In his purport His Divine Grace writes:
"Activity in Krsna consciousnes, or acting for the benefit of Krsna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed; otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krsna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krsna consciousnes is incomplete. One percent done in Krsna consciousnes bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent, whereas in material activity, without a hundred percent success there is no profit."
Herein we find the ultimate encouragement – to pursue a life of devotion, no matter what the circumstance. From the very beginning of both the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam we learn that if one pursues the path of devotion, attempting to live for the pleasure of the Lord, sacrificing one’s own material attachments – even though one may encounter some type of difficulty, the Lord is so merciful that He says there is nothing lost. Sometimes devotees find themselves in a difficult situation, unable to follow the prescribed process, unable to keep the best standard, or perhaps due to some weakness a principal is broken. In such a circumstance a true devotee will consider themselves fallen, but still there is all encouragement for the devotee to march ahead, because there is nothing to gain by turning back. The material world has nothing valuable to offer. Our repeated attempts to find happines independent of Krsna gives us some inclination of this. But until one is able to taste spiritual life fully and relish all aspects of it, we will remain attracted to the many lures of the expert material energy.
Due to association of worldly-minded people, we find ourselves developing habits of those that are trapped by the allurements of this fallible world. In order to comprehend that there is a life, which is indeed fulfilling; a life beyond the heartbreaks of this world, takes positive engagement. It is necesary to be amongst those with a different standard of life – a selfless life, a life that is spiritual by nature rather than a material one. Spiritual life is not fantasy nor theory. Spiritual life is devotional life and is all about practice.
From sastra we read, hear and learn, but at some point we must put our learning into practice. Due to our material conditioning, this is not easy as we are taught to believe that we are our bodies and we require so many material things to sustain our ‘self.’ But the good news is that the more one engages in a life centered on Krsna, the more it will come naturally.
If we listen to the guidance of sat-guru, we will find that spiritual life is very balanced. It is true that in certain circumstances, some devotee’s may not receive much direct guidance, but Krsna promises that He will always help His sincere devotee. In the Bhagavad-gita (9.22) Krsna tells Arjuna, “I preserve what you have and carry what you lack.” There may be times in life when we are without something, which we feel is necesary for our well-being. But faith and dependency on Krsna is the key. Faith will allow us to see reality. That ultimate benefit Krsna promises will come by our engagement in devotional service, not in working for separate interest, but by sacrificing and endeavoring for the highest cause.
It is only through yajña, the purificatory process of sacrifice, that we can make substantial advancement. Srila Sridhara Maharaja describes sacrifice as being joy. Generally we relate the concept of sacrifice as being painful. But to the devotee sacrifice is joy. As in an intimate relationship – a relationship bound by love – a lover is lost in the concern of how to please their beloved. The self-interest of the lover is lost – only the interests of the beloved remains as the inspiration to live. In this way devotees put aside their self-interests for the interest of their Sweet Lord.
That is a very joyful engagement, to find that we have the opportunity to be part of something so wonderful. With this thought, one is easily able to leave aside the trivial matters in life, which prevent us from moving ahead to discover the happiness for which we are always hankering. The type of enjoyment we find in pursuing our personal affairs is like a roller-coaster ride in the amusement park of this material world. Sometimes high, sometimes low, but always promoting a vomiting sensation.
Still, we pursue those ambitions, trying to establish a permanent place for ourselves in this mortal world. In this way we waste our valuable lives away and experience the fire of the cycle of birth, disease, old age and death. Although this world has very little to offer positively, the illusory energy covers our intelligence and allows us to forget the agony of our numerous previous lives. Maya is expertly engaging those who are not sincere about finding the Absolute Truth: Sri Bhagavan – The Proprietor of all opulences, Hrsikesa – the Master of the senses, Sri Krsna – Reality the Beautiful.
Those who spend their time in seva amongst the Vaisnavas will experience that those very moments have a deeper sense of satisfaction over any other activity. Even if the situation may be awkward, as we are often unable to be in a proper frame of mind due to various circumstances, nonetheles, that activity is very uplifting. But there remains emptiness in activity that is separate from the aim of pleasing Krsna and His devotees. That which distances us from the Lord is unnecesary. If we perform activity solely for the pleasure of the Lord, verily we do nothing unnecesary. That which distances us from the Lord is sin. Sin is, in a word, the unnecessary.
We are created for a higher purpose. We are aliens to this planet. We are from a different realm, we do not belong here. Our place, our nourishment, is in a different realm. For reasons of our own self-interest, we have landed ourselves in this material world. But this world is like an insane asylum. In general, everyone here is mad, experiencing delirium. All are convinced, as crazy people are, that they are something or somebody else – a bird, a beast, a king or a god. As our gurus have explained: collectively they are experiencing this delirium, collectively they are suffering and therefore collectively this world appears real.
Everyone is acting out a part in this material world, convinced this is who they are. “I am so and so with such and such birth, from such and such land, with such and such designation and duty.” But in reality, just as the sane can recognize who is crazy, the aware, and the self-realized can see us very clearly for who we truly are. They see us beyond the roles we play in the drama of this mayika jagat, this illusory world. We have to wake up and rise out of the conviction that we are who we think we are (mortal beings), possessing minds and senses as the only way to experience happiness. You are something so much more than this small role you are trapped into playing, no matter how large your role is by material measure. You are far beyond who you think you are. This is what the sastra reveals. Within you is the potential of unlimited knowledge and bliss. The real you, the atma, is eternal. Not here today and gone tomorrow. Krsna is beckoning His devotees to come and live the eternal life. Mahaprabhu is distributing the chance. Lord Nityananda is begging one and all to experience the nectar of the Holy Name.
With the medicine of the Holy Name, devotional service and association, we start to have realization. We come out of our mental delirium and begin to feel, “Yes, I comprehend the truth a little. I have had a glimpse.” To the extent that you have realized, to that extent you can be engaged further. One should not deny themselves realization. Realization is the fruit of our activity. Without realization, advancement cannot be made. The suffering of this material world will always trap us if we do not act upon our realization. We should never lie to ourselves. As soon as we have received the mercy of the Lord, being able to understand even the smallest truth, we must confirm that with sadhu and sastra and make a step forward. Don’t live in the unknown. Don’t be afraid of the truth; we exist only to embrace it. Put yourself forward, whenever the circumstance is favorable, move closer to the truth.
Yearning for kith and kin means longing to be at home amongst our friends and family. We want so much to feel at home. We search for an environment that can give us the comfort of home. We spend our lives making arrangements, creating a home for ourselves, but death comes calling and we have no choice but to go. We hanker to experience genuine relationships, and we are always searching for that. But in this world we pass from one relationship to another, experiencing disappointment after disappointment. Where can we lay our hearts? Where are our true well-wishers?
Lord Caitanya says our home is Goloka. Our true well-wishers reside there. That is our true family and we will not be satisfied in our pursuit until we reach there. Godhead is our real home because we are made of the substance of that realm, sat-cit-ananda, eternality, consciousnes and bliss.
So do not be discouraged. Remember the instances of the examples in history of the Lord’s devotees who experienced difficulty in their own lives. Somehow along the way they stumbled. But Krsna – always being merciful – cannot forget even the smallest performance of devotional service. Krsna accepts everything when offered with devotion. We were recently discusing how to make the offering to the Deities. The essence of how to make a proper offering is to offer it with devotion. There are some procedures, but Krsna’s accepting the offering does not depend on the procedure. Krsna’s acceptance of the offering depends on the quality of bhakti that the offering is made with.
Krsna once came to visit Vidura. The Lord arrived unexpectedly while Vidura was out collecting alms. Vidura’s wife was home and received the Lord, but had nothing to offer other than some bananas. So after welcoming the Lord with proper respect she peeled the bananas, and began offering them to Krsna. Being overwhelmed with having Krsna in her home, she didn’t realize she was offering the Lord the peels and not the fruit of the banana. Nonetheless, the Lord was eating her offering with relish. And although it was the peels rather than the fruit, the Lord accepted the devotion. It is not the fruit or the peel that He preferred, but it is the bhakti which He was relishing.
Don’t feel discouraged, Krsna and His devotees are reaching out to you. They are reaching to embrace you. Their causeless mercy is our greatest fortune. For some reason unbeknownst to us, we have this opportunity. We are being canvased into that sankirtana movement, as He has appeared as Mahaprabhu. And somehow in someway, His benevolent devotees are engaging us. Therefore whatever we do, we should try to do with a genuine heart. Try to make it real. Try to make what we are doing a genuine attempt to please the Lord and this will make Krsna happy.
The idea is that whatever you do in your day, make sure that your endeavor is to make your guru smile. If you can make your guru smile, your day will be successful. We should approach devotional service in that mood, “What will make my spiritual master smile?” How can I free him of some burden, he is such an important devotee. His time is so important; he must not worry about me. No, I won’t be so irresponsible that he has to worry about me. I have to be responsible enough and engaged properly so that he will feel, “Oh I need not worry, my disciples are engaged very nicely in devotional service.'”
We can make our lives and our pursuit for Krsna Consciousnes very complex. We can put our noses into other peoples’ affairs, conjure up great arguments and make it difficult to develop the qualities of a Vaisnava. Or we can make it extremely simple – make your spiritual master smile. Live simply and endeavor with a genuine heart.
The problem is that some sadhakas are adding many unnecesary complicated elements to their lives. For the most part, we are trying to run away from the fact that we simply need to surrender. “Stop the wild goose chase, mind your own business, and surrender” – that is what Srila Sridhara Maharaja says. Why are you worrying about everyone else’s affairs; checking what this and that devotee is doing, passing some judgment here and there. Meanwhile we avoid the endeavor to become perfected in our own devotional service. Why are we not endeavoring to find the faults within ourselves? No doubt it is difficult to look introspectively, but we have so much encouragement and support, we need not fear. We need to be cautious only of the material energy, we need not fear of Krsna. Krsna and His devotees are our only solace, shelter and strength.
In Vaikuntha there is no fear. Vaikuntha means ‘without fear.’ There is no disharmony there. The devotees in the spiritual world are all living without fear, as their interests are united with the Lord. The suddha-bhaktas present in this world are also experiencing this reality. But it is not an intellectual thing. Our gurus remind us that empirical philosophers who study the scriptures as text books, but are not engaged in devotional service, can never understand the soul. They cannot experience the sweetnes of the relationship between Krsna and His devotees. They are trying to lick the honey bottle from the outside. But that bottle is sealed tight. There is no tasting the honey from the outside. Tasting only happens once you get inside.
When our spiritual masters have been so merciful, inviting us inside the bottle through devotional service, why are we still trying to lick the bottle from the outside? They have invited us to come inside. They have brought us near, revealing there is an endless ocean of sweetness to experience.
Sometimes we meet sadhakas who say they have been practicing spiritual life for such a long time, but still are without any taste and are losing faith. Obviously, there is a problem. What is that problem? The problem is most likely that they are in unfavorable association. Proper sanga will inspire and motivate. Sat-sanga, favorable association, will encourage us. It will make us feel that we must never give up. Somehow, in someway, find a way to be part of that sweet life, a life revolving around Krsna’s pleasure. Sometimes the sanga is proper, but the sadhakas’ attitude or ambition is wrong. If one’s attitude is wrong, then progress cannot be made. As the old analogy goes, “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Therefore, one has to be in proper association and one has to have the proper service attitude. Then, with proper guidance and service engagement, progress is certain.
The soul is known as anu-caitanya, or atomic consciousnes. With this consciousness comes free will. But as our consciousnes is atomic, our free will is also imperfect. Due to the imperfections in our free will, we are subject to illusion. Although the intrinsic nature of the soul is to always search for nourishment guided by its free will, as long as the soul is covered by maya, its true nature will remain dormant and the spirit soul will be unable to experience the awakening of real happiness. The atma can only truly flourish in transcendental association.
In Lord Caitanya’s message, we do not find the eternal damnation of the many worldly religions that say, “If you don’t accept these laws, you will not go to God after death, instead you will go to hell forever. You will not get a second chance! You will have to rot in hell for eternity.” This is the type of eternal damnation they have created. This type of religion will not appeal to the intelligent. How can the followers of such a religion regard their God as ‘most merciful’ when the same God can send one to eternal damnation? A truly merciful Godhead considers that even though His devotee may encounter difficulty, even though they may not be succesful in this life, still there is a chance, always a chance. This Lord is known as Dina-bandhu, friend of the fallen. He is Sri Krsna, the summum-bonum of the Vedas, Lord of the universe.
In Krsna Consciousness there is always the opportunity to make advancement. As long as the Lord’s devotees are present, there is an opportunity to make advancement, to get aboard the train of service. The train is as long as the parampara is. If the parampara ends, the train ends; then access to divya-jñana, divine knowledge, also ends. So that parampara is the most worshippable thing. That Absolute Truth is still available through the parampara. Those who are searching for the Truth are trying to find someway to get aboard that train, to become qualified pasengers to board that train. By Mahaprabhu’s and Lord Nityananda’s causeless mercy, everyone is being called aboard. They have invented a vehicle that can accommodate everyone. The price of the ticket is only sincerity.
Not only is this bhakti movement giving relief to our souls, it is also the greatest benediction for all humanity. Even though at times our guru may need to carry a stick, like a parent looking out for his children, Sri Guru is looking out to protect his beloved disciples from the dangers of Maya’s lures and snares. Just as we should not be discouraged by the trials and tribulations of the mortal world, we should also not be discouraged as we are learning to crawl, walk, talk and so on, in our spiritual lives. If we submit ourselves, Sri Guru will guide us perfectly back home, back to Krsna.
Guru is someone who teaches you to think. Not only to think, but how to think for yourself. The real guru does not play games of mind-control. The genuine spiritual master helps you to understand tattva, the truth of the universe, for yourself. First become conscious, and then become Krsna conscious. Comprehend it, feel it, realize it for yourself. He is not here to think for you. Not at all, especially not our guru, he doesn’t want to think for you.
We all must have our dedication in service. In this way we may also try to relieve the burden of our spiritual master somehow, in some way. We should always humbly seek engagement that fulfills the service necessity. Purifying ourselves, eliminating our false egos. Not to think we are Lords of this mortal plane, but that we are loving servants of the Lord of Love – Govinda, Gopinatha, Madana-mohana. And from this world, by the grace of Guru and Gauranga, by the grace of Lord Nityananda, we will be taken to that eternal plane of Vrndavana. But where will He place us? That is up to His Own Sweet Will.
Simply seek out a way to fulfill the Vaisnava's desires – that will catch the attention of Krsna. This is the secret. Krsna cannot be captured, but by love Krsna is captured. Nobody can capture God, but yet we find He says He is caught. Who has caught Him? His devotees have caught Him. He says, “I am a slave of My devotee. What can I do? I live for My devotees, I can do nothing else.” So the Supreme has been captured. No one has figured out how to capture God. But bhakti has captured the Lord, and the Lord has captured His devotee. Perfection has been attainted through the simple act of surrender. Beginning with a simple act of sacrifice, perfection can be obtained.
Mahaprabhu says – sadhu-sanga, krsna-nama, these are the most important things. We can easily comprehend why we need association, but why do we chant? Because our guru has asked us to. Our nama-guru and diksa-guru has given us that Maha-mantra. He has given us that sound vibration and we are trying to chant it purely by his guidance. Our attitude should not be, “Krsna I want to see You, Krsna I want to get the fulfillment of chanting Your Holy Name,” but, “Krsna I want to please You. Please allow me to please You in some way, I want to satisfy You.” So through the Holy Name we try to give ourselves in service. Those who try to relish the Holy Name without approaching in the mood of service will be unfortunate, as they will not be able to chant the pure name of the Lord. They will only be able to chant offensively, nama-aparadha or nama-abhasa, the shadow of the Holy Name. So close, they may have come, yet they will remain so far.
Be careful not to commit nama-aparadha. Study the offenses to the Holy Name and learn how to avoid them. Once leaving the stage of offensive chanting, be attentive of nama-abhasa as it is so potent it will give you anything and everything you so wish for. It will give you fame, wealth and health, but all these things are undesirable by the real devotees. It will give you anything you desire because everything is contained within it – everything but pure Love of Sri Radha-Govinda. Only suddha-nama, the pure Holy Name can give you love for Sri Krsna. Only when you have come to the realm of suddha-nama by sadhu-sanga can you develop prema, the ultimate attainment of the spirit soul.
They are big steps, but in sadhu-sanga, they are natural and sweet steps. Depending on our quality of faith, to that extent we will experience the Lords’ sweetness. In good association and by willing engagement in constant devotional service, our adhikara, or level of realization will increase. Eventually, you will find you have no doubt in Krsna and the process of Krsna consciousnes – mare krsna rakhe ke, rakhe krsna mare ke – “If Krsna wants me to be harmed, nothing can protect me. If Krsna wants to protect me, nothing can harm me.”
Krsna is all in all. When we keep close company of the devotees we discover this reality. We witness that they have so much conviction, determination and strength by faith in their guru. We are touched when we see with what conviction and purity our Guru Maharaja serves Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Puri Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and the parampara. We are so impressed that we pray to develop the desire to have a similar type of faith and conviction, aspiring to live so selflessly as he does in the labor of Divine Love.
“The most wonderful thing ever invented is Love Divine” – this is one of our Guru Maharaja’s favorite quotes of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Who is fortunate enough to experience Divine Love? Who is so fortunate other than the devotees of Sri Nitai-Gauranga? Mahaprabhu’s devotees are supremely fortunate of all in the three worlds. Even the demigods are trying to take birth here to get the chance to participate in Mahaprabhu’s movement of Divine Love. This is what the Srimad Bhagavatam informs us. Nitai-Gaura Premanandi Hari Haribol!