Preaching is the Essence

Date Unknown - Article

In the later pastimes of His Divine Grace Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Astotara-sata Sri Srimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he manifested many Divine Instructions in the presence of those who served his lotus feet with great love and affection.

Although Srila Prabhupada, from an external point of view, may have appeared to be suffering physically due to his deteriorated bodily condition - His Divine Grace always remained absorbed in the plane of transcendence - remembering the lotus feet of his most worshipable Deities, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram, and Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundar.

One day, seeing that it was with great difficulty that Srila Prabhupada continued to speak into the tape recorder - translating the verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam  and giving his Bhaktivedanta Purports - Srila Prabhupada's secretary (Sripad Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja) asked him why he continued to translate and preach at this advanced stage of life - when in fact Srila Prabhupada had already written so many books and preached all over the world. The secretary suggested that Srila Prabhupada's daily working on the Bhagavatam  was not necessary at this time.

Srila Prabhupada replied very humbly by telling us the story of the "Good Soldier." Srila Prabhupada said, "Even if a good soldier (who serves in the army of the King) is struck down on the battlefield and his head is severed from his shoulders - still even if he is lying on the ground in such a condition - if he is a "good soldier" he will try to wave his sword in the air with the hopes that he will somehow strike the enemy." "Similarly", Srila Prabhupada said, "I am a servant in the army of my Guru Maharaja and as long as I have life I must preach - even in my present condition (and he waved his hand about in the air as if waving a sword)." Then shortly before departing from this world Srila Prabhupada gave a blessing to the devotees present- he said, "Live long and preach."

It was indeed a favorite saying of Srila Prabhupada (and also of Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur) that, "Prana arthe yanra sei hetu pracara  - One who has got life, he can preach." Preaching (kirtan ) is actually real bhajan  - not simply sitting idle- at least that was the opinion of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and our Guru Maharaja.

In the logo of the Gaudiya Math, which was designed by Saraswati Thakura and which Srila Prabhupada had painted on the left and right sides of the main gate at ISKCON Mayapur (still existing), we find that the mrdanga  drum and the printing press are located in the section of the logo under raganuga bhakti. Certainly a contrast of thought to those that think that kirtan, (preaching, and book distribution) is a lower form of bhakti  - the higher form of bhakti  being to always discuss gopi-rasa.

Is preaching the essence? Preaching is something more - Preaching is the highest form of bhajan life. Just consider the following:

Kirtan,  book publishing, and thus distribution also have been accepted by Saraswati Thakura and other great acharyas as service in the line of raganuga  (also rupanuga ). To write about the Lord is also kirtan  and similarly to preach (to assert and convert others) is also kirtan  (when our preaching is performed for the pleasure of Krishna and His pure devotees it is kirtan ).

In his song Vaisnava Ke  (Who is a Vaisnava) Saraswati Thakura says,

kirtana prabhave, smarana haibe
sekale bhajana nirjana sambhava

"Internal rememberance (smarana ) can occur by the power of kirtan,  and only then is solitary (nirjana ) service possible."

The Guardian of Devotion, Srila B.R. Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaja has said, "So also, to be engaged in (preaching) answering the questions of the environment automatically demands concentration, which is very rare in this age. When one is doing kirtan,  he automatically cannot but give all concentration and attention. He cannot speak independently; intuitively, he must be all-attentive. For this reason, kirtan  (preaching) has been recommended as the highest form of bhajan,  especially in the age of Kali." (Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion  Ch 2, Bhajan - Real & Apparent, pp.24)

Of course we must raise the question here, "Preaching about what and printing books about what? And what is the conception in kirtan ? Surely if such things are in raganuga bhakti  they must have some distinguishing characteristic.

To answer my own question I must say that - Certainly every musical sound made with a mrdanga, kartals,  and shouting the name is not really kirtan. Kirtan  which is performed for gaining prestige and fame - which is filled with the false ego of being the enjoyer and does not carry the proper service attitude is not really kirtan (suddha-nama)  and thus it cannot be raganuga.  Similarly, to preach with the view to become a world acharya  and to do good to the people is also not pure devotion due to being tinged with the false ego that I am the doer. Thus every book published under the banner of "we are preaching" does not actually come under the category of raganuga bhakti.  Even when such books seemingly only speak about prema, gopis, manjaris, and other such lofty topics this does not mean that such books are automatically raganuga.  We should remember that the sahajiya  section also publishes books on such topics. Real raganuga  necessitates higher backing - from above (the subjective plane) the inspiration to preach and write must come down to us - then it is transcendental - then that may be considered raganuga.

Sometimes devotees like to read many unauthorized books with a view to deepen their understanding of raganuga  but unfortunately the unauthorized attempt to enter into aprakrta-lila  never attains success. What then to speak of reading books, etc. that are simply concerned with varieties of mundane topics such as; vegetarianism, social politics, the "Big War", ghost busting, worshiping crystals, alien beings, New Age prophecies, etc. (I say this because it is a fact that devotees these days tend to not only absorb themselves in reading unauthorized books but in publishing them as well.) Such books are certainly not raganuga  because they are lacking the sense of serving disposition in the inner plane of divine service to the Supreme Lord - although such topics may sometimes be beneficial from a mundane point of view they are not aprakrta-katha,  transcendental topics of conversation and thus they cannot help us to advance in Krishna consciousness (Krishna prema ).

Before one can attain prema  he/she must acquire the necessary qualifications. Without proper progress in the right line it will all be imagination - a madman's feat. Srila Sridhar Maharaja used to say, "One must gradually reach the plane of truth, suddha-sattva.  There are so many planes to cross - Bhur, Bhuvar, Svar, Mahar, Janar, Tapar, Satya-loka, Viraja, Brahmaloka. Mahaprabhu says that the creeper of bhakti  grows and rises up to Goloka, and she has to cross all these planes. (Sermons  pp.29)

upajiya bade lata brahmananda bhedi yaya
viraja brahmaloka bhedi paravyoma paya
tabe yaya tad upari goloka-vrndavana
krsna-carana-kalpavrkse kare arohana

"The creeper of devotion is born, and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Viraja river and the Brahman plane, and reaches to the Vaikuntha, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Krishna's Lotus Feet." (Cc Madhya-lila  19.153-4)

But the pseudo-devotees do not want to cross these planes - they want everything cheaply. They want to go on uttering the names of gopis  but in their next life they will attain the bodies of mundane women - bewildered by the three modes of material nature - they will not attain the aprakrta-gopi-deha,  the form of a gopi  in the transcendental land of Vraja.

Srila Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji Maharaja used to say with regard to those who think they can enter the higher plane simply by imitating the higher devotees; "If a lady enters into a maternity ward, she cannot produce a child only by imitating the sounds and symptoms of labor. Many things are necessary before that. Only by imitation, bhajan cannot be effected. One must have connection with suddha-sattva,  the real plane, and then all the higher symptoms may appear. Otherwise, only those speculative antics will manifest."

Even a liberated soul, aprakrta-jiva,  should externally take constant shelter of kirtan  (chanting harinama ) - that is the advice of Bhaktivinode Thakur - Internally, such a liberated soul (in the eternally perfected form as a gopi ) should render service to Srimati Radharani while deeply meditating on Sri Krishna's eight-fold daily pastimes (asta-kaliya-lila ). In other words Bhaktivinode Thakur says - This is the culmination of bhajan  for devotees who have taken shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's lotus feet. (The deep meditation on Sri Krishna's eightfold daily pastimes (asta-kaliya-lila ) is not possible for those who are filled with material desire, misconceptions, and the likes of which that come with being a neophyte)

So how can one think that preaching (kirtan ) is something inferior to meditation (remembering Krishna's pastimes) when even the aprakrta-jivas  are advised to take shelter in kirtan ? Such thinking is certainly due to a lack of proper knowledge (sambandha-jnana ). Those who have no real sambandha-jnana  are not fit for entering into the higher plane of Krishna consciousness. They are also not fit to preach the message of Mahaprabhu because they cannot impart to others the proper method by which the living entity attains the ultimate goal of life.

Indeed, at present there are certain parties of devotees around the world who are at serious odds with each other over the "preaching" issue (even to the point of physical outbursts) - I wonder though, how well either parties have grasped the "essence"? Though one thing is for certain - they all became devotees because of preaching.

Param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam!