On Hankering and Satisfaction

May 14 2021 - Krishna Talk 231

(Adapted from a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam verse 1.6.18-19, given on 13th March 1996, in Rupanuga Bhajana Ashrama, Vrindavan, India)

rupam bhagavato yat tan manah-kantam sucapaham
apasyan sahasottasthe aiklavyad durmana iva
didrksus tad aham bhuyah pranidhaya mano hrdi
viksamano ’pi napasyam avitrpta ivaturah

“The transcendental form of the Lord, as it is, satisfies the mind's desire and at once erases all mental incongruities. Upon losing that form, I suddenly got up, being perturbed, as is usual when one loses that which is desirable. I desired to see again, that transcendental form of the Lord, but despite my attempts to concentrate upon the heart with eagerness to view the form again, I could not see Him any more, and thus dissatisfied, I was very much aggrieved.” (SB 1.6.18-19)

Sri Narada Muni was informing Vyasadeva that after getting darshan of Lord Krishna within the heart, then suddenly that most charming and beautiful form of the Lord just vanished. Narada Muni was saying that this left him in a very perturbed state of mind and much distress suddenly overwhelmed him.Then in the purport Srila Prabhupada provides an insight that once having glimpsed the eternal form of Lord Krishna, it is not possible to remain satisfied in this world any longer with anything less. The devotee is not satisfied by any other shape or form. It's like when children want to play with a gun or a knife, the parents say, "No no, here, you play with this ball." And they won't be satisfied with that experience. They just throw it away and just intensely want the object of their senses. Krishna being the supreme object of the senses, actually, once the senses come in contact with Krishna, they're not satisfied with anything else. So Narada Muni is relaying this from his practical experience.

In the last part of the purport to verse 1.6.18 of Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada says,

"As spiritual beings, having eternal relations with that transcendental form of the Lord, we are, life after life, searching after that form of the Lord, and we are not satisfied by any other form of material appeasement."

So, not only the devotee who has come in contact with Krishna is not satisfied, Srila Prabhupada says that all living beings wandering in this material world are actually searching for Krishna and they are not satisfied with anything else. Actually, at the time of death, the materialist simply deals with frustration, not satisfaction. A materialist cannot die a satisfactory death because what he is searching for, he has not come in touch with that, and thus he has not reached his fulfillment. Therefore there will be distress. Both the devotees and the non devotees are searching for Krishna, ultimately.

A living entity just prior to birth, being fully conscious of all the past lives in its actual position, prays to the Lord for relief and promises the Lord that it will serve Him in this life. But then when it takes birth, the child immediately screams for milk. The consciousness is reduced to the most elementary plane of annamaya — give me food. Life after life, one is searching for Krishna but searching in the wrong way. Only after coming in touch with the devotees does our real search begin in a proper direction.

Where is Vrindavana?

A devotee once asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja, “Where is Vrindavana?” And he replied, “Vrindavan is wherever we find the footprints of Srimati Radharani.” So then the devotees asked, “Where do we find the footprints of Srimati Radharani?” Srila Sridhara Maharaja said, "I'll give you a further hint. The footprints of Srimati Radharani are found upon the heads of her devotees." In this way, he is tracing Vrindavan. Vrindavan is actually in the heart of a devotee. Krishna lives wherever his pure devotee chants his holy name and engages in his glorification.

So ultimately, Vrindavan is a plane of consciousness. It is only partially located geographically on a map. We can purchase a ticket to Mathura and come here by train, bus or taxi or whatever, but actually that only puts us in proximity of what is called gupta or eternal Vrindavan.

In Mathura Mahatmya it is mentioned that even if someone is killed in Mathura mandala, eaten by a tiger, bitten by a snake, or drowning etc. they obtain Vaikuntha liberation. Such is the most exalted place amongst all the tirthas and the holy places on the earth, this Mathura Mandala. And of course, Sri Navadwipa Dhama is in a parallel plane to that. Just by coming here on a train not only puts us in a proximity of reality, but that proximity has its great influence upon us. So much so that, just to be here is considered one of the five essential anga's or parts of the sadhana bhakti yoga (mathura vasa). Living in Mathura has been classified by Srila Jiva Goswami as a pada-sevana category (serving the lotus feet of the Lord) of the nine processes of devotional service.

Vrindavana and the feeling of separation

A proper consciousness is required. I clearly remember once when Srila Prahbupada arrived in Vrindavan, he said something which is actually quite the contrary to most of our experiences. What is our experience when we enter Vrindavan? When you enter Vrindavana, usually you feel supreme happiness just arriving there, “Oh! Here's Bhaktivedanta Marg, Oh! There's Krishna Balarama temple, here is the samadhi, the neem trees. Look, there goes a parrot. Here's a peacock!” If you can read Hindi, ‘Jai Radhe’ is written on all the trees coming through Ramanreti, that is, if you're coming in that direction from Delhi. And then you see the Vaishnavas, you see the movement of the devotees and they are happy to be in Vrindavan.

But I heard Srila Prabhupada once say that when the pure devotees of the Lord enter Vrindavana they feel the pain of separation. I thought that was quite the contrary to our feelings. We feel euphoric on entering Vrindavan. And then he said that those who have actually got Vrindavan within their heart, when they remember the lila, when they come to this place, they remember Krishna in such a way that they feel a pain of separation within their heart.

It is actually due to the feeling of separation that Vrindavan is what it is today, particularly environmentally. A few miles away from Vrindavana is the Thar desert, which stretches across to Jaisalmer, almost to Pakistan, and it just gets more and more hot and intense. The desert reaches to the south upto the Gulf of Kutch. That's just a mundane observation. But in Krishna Lila, the pastime is there where Krishna has left Vrindavan with Akrura and resides in Mathura. While in Mathura, Krishna sends his friend Uddhava to Vrindavana to see what is the situation there and how everyone is doing in His absence. This was five thousand years ago, but when Uddhava returned to Mathura he reported to Krishna almost exactly what we see today. He said that in the absence of Krishna, due to the feelings of separation, the wonderful trees in Vrindavan which used to give bountiful fruits of multiple varieties and so forth, now produce only thorny twigs. That land, which was lush green and grazed upon by the cows, is now dry, dusty and cracked. The Yamuna, which once was full of lotuses and with lakes surrounding the borders of grassy fields is now shriveled up to a dry riverbed stream. And then he said that the great Govardhana hill is now reduced in size to a mere hillock. All of this is now the condition of Vrindavan due to the feelings of separation from you. We tend to think of this as an eco-disaster, that the desert is encroaching, etc. But actually it is due to separation.

There was a Tamal tree in the Krishna Balarama temple courtyard which Srila Prabhupada sort of favoured and we find it in his writings. Srila Prabhupada said that when we bought this place, the tree was just about finished, but now because there is nama-sankirtan, this tree is growing very nicely. Srila Prabhupada seemed to have a special relationship with this Tamal tree. During Srila Prabhuapada's last days here in Vrindavan, he used to frequently sit under this tree with his disciples and take darshana of Krishna and Balarama. So I thought this tree and Srila Prabhupada have some relation. Last year the tree disappeared. In one sense we would think that it is a great loss for us because some resident of the dhama has gone way beyond our visual perception. Few years ago, the Imlitala, the tree under which Mahaprabhu sat, the tree under which Radha-Krishna sat during their pastimes in eternal time when they became Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, that Imlital tree also left us. Some may think that it was five thousand years old, and one can't live forever, that it was an old tree, and not much water over there, and all such kinds of external explanations can be ascribed to all of these things. These kinds of explanations will leave us dry, as dry as the earth that we're faulting for improper irrigation or improper rains etc.

However, when we try to look within the substance of the matter, even if the matter is very dry externally, it will leave us with some sweet taste. And that is also to say that these pangs of separation which are felt by the Lord (actually the Lord also feels those pangs of separation) and his devotees, Srila Prabhupada said, produced the highest imaginable ecstasies.

In Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika it is mentioned that in Chaitanya Lila, Akrura appeared as Kesava Bharati who conferred sannyasa upon Mahaprabhu. This is the close of the Navadwipa lila and the opening of the vipralambha lila. The feelings of separation began to pour out of the heart of Mahaprabhu more and more. Twelve years later, the dam of separation broke in Puri, and for twelve years Mahaprabhu stayed almost alone in the Gambhira. They named that place after Mahaprabhu’s vipralamba pastimes. A place where the most unimaginable things happened.

Bhaktivinode Thakur describes separation as the prerequisite for sambhog (union). In other words, before a union with Krishna, there is a period when the meeting cannot take place. Neither can it be appreciated if it were to take place unless one has first gone through vipralambha or separation. However, even that is not something that we create in our minds. How can we try to feel separation? By twisting our nose or squinting our eye? None of this is done by us. Krishna does not appear to us by our doing. We can only appear or present ourselves as a needy recipient of His grace. As explained in the above mentioned verse from Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.19—

"I desire to see, again, that transcendental form of the word. But despite my attempts to concentrate upon the heart with eagerness to view the form again, it could not be seen anymore. Thus dissatisfied. I was very much aggrieved." (SB 1.6.19)

Purport: There is no mechanical process to see the form of the Lord. It completely depends on the causeless mercy of the Lord. We cannot demand the Lord to be present before our vision, just as we cannot demand the sun to rise whenever we like. The sun rises out of his own accord; so also the Lord is pleased to be present out of His causeless mercy. One should simply await the opportune moment and go on discharging his prescribed duty in devotional service of the Lord. Nārada Muni thought that the Lord could be seen again by the same mechanical process which was successful in the first attempt, but in spite of his utmost endeavor he could not make the second attempt successful. The Lord is completely independent of all obligations. He can simply be bound up by the tie of unalloyed devotion. Nor is He visible or perceivable by our material senses. When He pleases, being satisfied with the sincere attempt of devotional service depending completely on the mercy of the Lord, then He may be seen out of His own accord.

So some attempt, a sincere attempt to please the Lord must come from our side. And that must come without any restriction or limitation or demand upon the Lord.

Unalloyed means unalloyed

One of our god-brothers, a photographer who produced many of the photographs in the Caitanya Caritamrta was discussing with Srila Sridhar Maharaja. He said, "I've done service for so many years, but I just don't have a taste. Only if Krishna could show himself to me for even just a moment, just a second...," Srila Sridhar Maharaja interjected, "Drive that thought away from your mind." The god-brother said, "No, I mean, if He would just for a second reveal Himself to show that He is there.” Srila Sridhara Maharaja was emphatic, "No, really, drive that thought away from your mind. Beat it out with a stick. Drive it away to the extreme.” He added, "For this very reason Krishna is not coming. You're a merchant — ‘I want something from you my Lord. Please come closer so I can grab it.’.

Apparently, it seems like a very high thing to say, “If I could just see Krishna for a minute.” But Krishna is so high that even that little demand from the devotee, which is meant for satisfying the devotee’s senses, will actually keep Krishna very far away. So one must drive this thought away from one’s mind with a stick. Do not approach Krishna with any demand. This is very, very difficult because we live in the world of demands where I am the center of all existence — “I want, I want, I want, I want, I want.” From the time we are born, we go “I want..

There was a devotee and he was a dear friend of many of us. I have served with him in Africa. He began chanting one hundred and twenty rounds a day. In Mayapura he was living in a banana grove, in a little grass hut, worshiping Tulsi twice a day, eating prasadam at the prasadam hall only after everybody left and very unpretentiously. Not that he would just be seen waiting for everybody to leave, but secretly he would come. At one point he even desired to live in a tree on the bank of the Jalangi river, where he could just be away from the world and go on with one hundred and twenty rounds of chanting a day. You can run that through your calculator, he was only sleeping for a maximum three hours a day.

At that time, Srila Prabhupada was constructing this huge building, famed as the biggest building in Bengal. At least for five times a day he would come out on his veranda and look. He used to call with his bell and ask, “What is the progress? Will it be ready when the devotees come?” All these devotees were going to come for the Gaura Purnima festival. I used to sit outside his door just to get that darshana. Then everybody came and the festival was going on.

There were always times when the devotees were divided over opinions, when they didn’t know about something — what is the right way, and what is the wrong way. And for all of us, there was one supreme answer to whatever question there was, or whatever problem that arose.

So the opinion was divided on the question about this devotee chanting hundred and twenty rounds and his other behaviours. When possible these things would be brought up to Srila Prabhupada for clarification. One day there was a conversation with Srila Prabhupada about this. Somehow I didn't catch the first part on how that conversation began, but this devotee was the subject of that conversation, and he wasn’t present at that moment.

I heard, “Yes Prabhupada, he's chanting one hundred and twenty rounds a day.” Then someone said, “He only eats after all other devotees have eaten.” Somebody else said, “He's only sleeping three hours a day.” Every time it was said he's chanting one hundred and twenty rounds a day, Srila Prabhupada said, "Oh!" His eyes went big and his head went back. “Yes Prabhupada, worshiping tulsi, only fasting, and all these austerities are being done.” Someone said, “He lives in a grass hut in the banana fields.” It seemed like a long time that his divine grace kept us all hanging there. And then from that very light “Oh!” remarks, he finally said, “Yes. And he wants to live in a tree." His eyes just fell shut, his face became so pensive, and so intense. His hand was in the air and it was shaking. Then he spoke, “It is ALL Maya. ‘I want,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want.’” He said, “I want to chant. I want to worship. I want to sleep.” He named a few of those, and “I want to live in the tree.” Then he opened his eyes and we were all just staring at his divine grace. Then he said, "Whenever you say 'I want', that is maya. We must find what is Krishna's desire." Then he turned and walked. Everybody realized, this is all in maya — ‘I want a big set of japa beads,’ ‘I want a shiny suit uttaria,’ ‘I want a water pot,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I want..

Srila Sridhara Maharaja used to explain that in terms of removing the ego, that to the extreme we must remove the ‘I’. What Sridhara Maharaja means by ‘I’ is to remove this ahankara, false ego. The Mayavadis also have the same vocabulary, but they mean the total identity of the jiva. But actually what ‘I’ means is the ego. That is what Srila Prabhupada was telling us that day, "Remove it to the extreme." One has to come before the Lord in that pristine surrendered mentality. It is the Lord's choice whether he will appear or disappear, and we should try to know what is His wish or desire. The Lord is completely independent of all obligations and is simply bound by unalloyed devotion.

Service and Slavery

Srila Prabhupada used the word serve, but here in India, those who've been here for a long time, preaching and holding programs, know that the word service is totally polluted and contaminated. You meet somebody and he’d say “I'm doing government service,” “I am serving the railroad,” etc. I am serving here, there, and it's all service. So when you say, "I'm serving in Juhu Iskcon", it means you just got a job and you are working there. So Srila Sridhar Maharaja used to use the word slavery, because slavery is like my ego is gone. I don't even exist. I'm just an object. I'm owned. We have no independence. But he used to say that slavery to the Lord is the highest freedom. And independence here in this world is a source of bondage and conditioning. I found a book in South India called, The Slaves of the Lord. That was all about the alvars. Raja Kula Shekara Alvar was very much appreciated by Srila Prabhupada. He liked the prayers by Kings Kulashekhara very much.

So the ‘I’, that ego has to be eliminated. In that state, without any demand from the supreme, one must engage in His service favourably with a longing and a great expectation of when the Lord will show His mercy. Thus Srila Prabhupada made the point here that "not by mechanical process can the Lord be known only by his sweet will and His mercy." We're awaiting the Lord's mercy, where do we find that mercy? Where will it come? The answer is, the devotees of Lord, they are the mercy, His mercy incarnate. Through the agency of the devotees we get the mercy of Krishna.

Satisfaction and Hankering

Through the agency of our hankering, we will get what Srila Sridhar Maharaja calls — our fortune. Our greatest necessity is served through our hankering.

When someone asks, “How do you like Vrindavan?”, sometimes devotees say, “I'm enjoying it. Very nice.” We know what they mean to say, but enjoying is a bad word. Enjoying is not what we do in Vrindavan. “I enjoyed the stay in the temple.” As westerners, we always say so. We don't always jump and correct somebody, because we know what they want to say, but it's not the right word. Similarly I've heard a thousand times, and I've said it probably half a thousand times myself, “I'm satisfied.” When Srila Sridhar Maharaj heard devotees say, “I'm satisfied,” he remarked, “That's your greatest enemy.” I thought, I have come to Krishna consciousness, I've got the name, my Guru Maharaja is a shaktyavesa avatara, he has given me so many things, and I'm satisfied. And you're saying that satisfaction is my greatest enemy? This is really peculiar. How is this? Then I reflected upon an incident wherein everything had come through Vyasadeva to the point that he is considered the literary incarnation of Godhead, and yet he felt unfulfilled. He describes so many things, yet there was a hankering in him, a feeling of unfulfillment. This wasn't just some light-weight feeling, this was a tremendous feeling in his heart. It consumed his whole being. And when he was sitting in his ashram contemplating or feeling his incompleteness, His guru Naradmuni descended from above and manifested. So don't feel satisfied, try to feel an increased necessity.

When visiting the homes of many devotees, when I take the Bhagavatam from their shelf and open it, it makes a creaking sound. You open other books one by one, then you ask them, “Oh! Do you have the folio?” and you hear, “Yeah. Well, I really don't know how to use it, I haven’t used it that much.” In reality, they're satisfied with it, and that is something which is not good. The so-called feeling of satisfaction in this world is not favorable. One must feel a necessity and have hankering always. We should become the negative energy and then the positive will be attracted towards us.

The Position of Srimati Radharani

Srila Sridhar Maharaja says that because Srimati Radharani feels the greatest need for Krishna, more than all the others combined, therefore she is who she is, and Krishna is never anywhere else but by Her side. There He is svayam bhagavan. And whenever He is anywhere else, that means even with Lord Balaram or Mother Yashoda, He is svayam prakash. That is actually what we see in the deity form — Radha Govinda, Radha Madhava, i.e. Radha Krishna together, that is svayam bhagavan. That is the plane where the original svayam bhagavan never ever leaves the company of Srimati Radharani. Everywhere else is a very original expansion. And outside of Vrindavana you finally get out to the world of just the expansions. In Vrindavana it is all svayam bhagavan and svayam prakash. And once you get the Mathura, that is the Vasudeva Krishna. In this way, all the way down to Narayana and further expansions.

When we read and hear about the jiva soul, we hear that there are three energies of the lord — internal, external and marginal. Although marginal in nature, we are told that we belong to the internal energy. The internal energy is called the svarupa shakti. Srimati Radharani is the svarupa shakti of the supreme lord, the hladini shakti. That means we belong to Her. The supreme absolute truth that appears eternally as two are Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, and together they are Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Separated they are rasaraja-mahabhava, Radha and Krishna. So if somebody says we're parts and parcels of Krishna, that is all true. But if you think about it, Krishna is the enjoyer, which is why we have a enjoying tendency in this world. But that's our false identity. Which way are we parts and parcels of Krishna? Who do we really belong to? We belong to that svarupa shakti. We belong to the side of Srimati Radharani — the serving side. We are meant for the service of Krishna. She alone commands the whole service domain, and Krishna is the receiver of that service - rasaraja, the enjoyer of the rasa.

In Srimad Bhagavatam, we do not find the name of Srimati Radharani, and this is seen as a problem by other sampradayas. They point at us and say, “Where do you gaudiyas come around Radharani? Who is this Radharani?” She is not mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam.” But actually according to the rasika interpretation, there are at least 20-25 mentions of the name of Srimati Radharani. Only those situated in an elevated state can ascertain where actually she's being mentioned. When a person enters the substance, or the inner meaning of the Srimad Bhagavatam, then we may see manifest in that person the various symptoms that we find Srila Rupa Goswami describing in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, the symptoms of ecstasy manifest in the body and the ecstatic emotions. Ultimately, the Bhagavatam comes to Srimati Radharani who is the glory of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Reading The Srimad Bhagavatam

There is a picture of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his devotees gathered in the Tota Gopinath temple, sitting under a tree reading the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam is being read by Sri Gadadhar Pandita. But that’s not exactly what is seen. King Prataparudra would have sent a court artist, “Please go there, observe and draw something.” If you have visited the palaces and saw the paintings in Jaipur, or in Mysore, the court artists are like incarnations of creativity. They can paint exactly, to a tee, what people looked like. Somewhere else, there are pictures of Akbar, and they are exactly what Akbar looked like. But where are the paintings of Lord Chaitanya? There were so many court artists in the Kingdom of Prataparudra. Where's the painting that says exactly what He looked like? There are several paintings of Him, and they're all different! Which one did He look like?

The court artist went there and saw that the Bhagavatam was being read. When he returned he produced this picture. It takes a lot of meditation to know who's who in this picture. The figures may resemble the persons concerned, but then again, it doesn't look like them at all. So when he went there to see what was happening to draw, it was beyond his ability. First, he saw the eternal supreme personality of godhead Sri Chaitanya, then Gadadhar Pandita, who actually is Srimati Radharani. That artist must have been the most blessed person because he saw what was impossible to paint, and almost even to describe. Some descriptions are there about the sweet way in which Gadadhar Pandit recited those verses and all the devotees hearing him. But it was not a scene for outsiders. No one can really say, no one dares to say, what actually manifested there. But certainly this artist saw something very wonderful. He could paint exactly what each of these persons looked like. And certainly he has got something here. Only by the grace of the Lord it can be done.

When we see the state that the devotees in this picture, who are all the nitya-parikara (eternal associates) of the supreme lord, manifest while hearing the Bhagavatam, a lot of times what we think is exactly our state when we hear the Bhagavatam. We fall asleep, we think of something else, stretch, scratch, etc. But if we were to actually come to where the Bhagavatam is, distraction would almost be inconceivable to us.

The Bhagavatam is meant to increase our hankering and our eagerness. It satisfies and it fulfills, but first one must develop a hankering. Within this hankering comes the feeling of fulfillment also. Just fulfillment, as it stands alone, is not in our favor. It will not bring us and keep us in touch with the devotees in this life. It will not enable us to substantially remain in touch with our guru after he departs from this world.