When hearing about Krishna from nondevotees can create interest in people and act as a stepping stone to devotional service, why is such hearing considered like milk touched by a snake?
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath
Question: What exactly does the verse which says that Hari katha which is spoken by non devotees becomes poison . There is a verse in purana that says that ‘……………’ So we that the non devotees ,when they speak Krishna katha , other people do come to know of Krishna and later on they come in contact with proper Krishna devotees, and then they become Krishna devotees. So then the previous knowledge about Krishna doesn’t always act as an obstacle , it acts as a stepping stone also, by which they come closer to Krishna. So therefore what does this verse means when it says that hearing from non devotees about Krishna is like a poison . If it is introducing people to Krishna , isn’t it better than not having any knowledge about Krishna at all ? Especially for those people who do not have the opportunity to come in touch with devotees .
Answer: Yes the verse , as been quoted over here, has to be understood in its context and intent . Now actually the vaishnava acharya has described Narottam das Thakura swami describes that “karma kanda, gyana kanda keval nesher bhanda, ” , so he says karma kanda and gyana knada , they are pots of poison. Now actually karma and gyana are giving in the scriptures itself. Karma kanda gyana kanda are sections of the scriptures , so why is it being said over here by a vaishnava acharya that they are pots of poison, It could imply as if the scriptures are giving out these pots of poison. And as scriptures come from God , then it would seems as if God is dolling out poison to people . So obviously God is well wisher of everyone , so why would He go about giving poison to anyone. The thing to understand is that the vaishanava acharyas often speak from the ultimate perspective. So from the point of view of `pure devotion karma and gyana are contamination. and they are contamination which cheat the soul of the nectar of pure devotion. And in that sense they are like poison. But for people who are who are completely materialistic or Godless, they are stepping stones upwards. So by karma , Karma does not mean simple activity , Karma as in Karma kanda ,means that a person practices fruititive activities as given in shastra , for material gain. So dharma , artha, kama , this is a proper goal of life. Its a way of living pious life , its not spiritual very seriously, but it is pious . and Gyana knada menas one starts pursuing more Krishna consciousness. This is all simple, but the Bhagavatam describes the highest level of dharma , it says , ” dharma projit kaitavatra paramo nirmat saranam sitam, neither of these four, none of these four, dharma, artha, kama or moksha , none of them can satisfy the heart the completely . “Ye aatma su praseedati” . Cannot satisfy the heart completely the way pure devotion can . So because they seems to be religious but they deprive the soul of the ultimate fruit of religion , so the nectar of pure devotion that religion is means to offer , therefore , they are considered to be “kaitava dharma” cheating religions .
So the Bhagavatam is saying that cheating religion from the perspective of the top most religion . now Vyasa deva has given that and he has given it for the sake of helping people to advance gradually ,but now Vyasa deva in the Bhagavatam ___________- says only give pure devotional principles and that wht he does in the Bhagavatam. So therefore , it is from that perspective , as compared to pure devotion , karma and gyana are like poison and this verse also says in this mood. So avaishnava mukham ——– , when a person is not a pure devotee , or is not aspiring for pure devotional service, then “pootam hari kathammritam” even when hari katha is pure , still says __________– you cannot hear because , ” sarpa u…………………, sarpa -snake , sarpa uchista – when snake touches milk then the milk becomes poisoned and if that milk becomes poisoned then the milk can be damaging , in stead of nourishing . So similarly hari katha , it is pootam, it is purifying, but when it is heard from those who have the contaminations of the karma and gyana , then those contamination come in our heart also and they deprive us of the nectar of pure devotion. and that is why they are considered to be, hearing in this way is considered undesirable. at the same time. some people may not know about Krishna at all , they may hear from any source and that can act as the beginning of their spiritual life. If they hear something about Krishna , somethings may int rive them somethings may fascinate them , somethings may irritate them , lthey will not get a proper understanding of Krishna , but what ever little understanding they get about Lord Hari, Lord Krishna , that may mark the beginning of their spiritual life . Now karma and gyana if one gets too caught in these , that means , if somebody hears from the teachers teaching karma and gyana and one becomes too caught up in that part and thinks that this itself is the ultimate goal , gyanya asti iti vadinaha, in 2:42 Krishna says that , some people think that karma kanda is the ultimate teaching of the vedas `, and there is nothing else to be taught , so that is the contamination `which becomes the obstetrical , which prevents the seeker from moving forward . So thats why , the same Hari katha , in stead of taking a person forward to wards Krishna , it allows the person to be , let the person to be trapped in , rather than , by hearing the same hari katha `the person stays trapped in the consceiousness of karma or consciousness of gyana `, the serpa , snake , is often used as a mataphor for the enjoyment …………., so some saad sarpaksh………………., Shankracharya in his Laxmi Narashima Kalavand strota says that the samsara sarpa , this material existence is like serpa and this serpa can have multiple fangs , so these are all the various desires that come up because of the enjoyment mentality `. And gyana also in one sense is the enjoyment mentality only especially the gyana aiming for oneness of the absolute truth, because the idea is I wil become God , I will become one with God, and I will become supreme by that. and that is also a kind of enjoyment mentality . So it is this poison that comes into people and that poison can keep people away from Krisna . However at the same time , it may well happen that some people hear something from other , from non devotee, spiritual teacher, and that may intrigue them about Krishna and if they are fortunate , then they come in the association of the proper devotees. and they get proper understanding of Krishna and then they become serious devotees who are also aspiring for pure devotion. So if we consider that say , there are three levels, people who are non devotees, devotees, people who are talking about Krishna but they are not proper devotees they are contaminated by karma and gyana , and then there are devotees who are either pure or aspiring for pure devotion . As we consider this so those who are in this catagory , those who are aspiring to pure devotion , they should not hear from those who are not aspiring for pure devotion. and ideally everybody even these spiritual teachers , those who claim to be spiritual teachers, they also need to hear from pure devotees. Then will they become elevaed , and similarly those who are non devotees , it is best if they can hear from the pure devotees or the aspiring pure devotees, then they can go directly tot he pure devotional level. But sometimes , if they do not get that opportunity and they hear from other non devotees who speak about Krishna , that means they are gyannees or karmiis , then they may rise from that that level to one level higher , but that level is also material, it is not devotional, it is not exactly transcendental and if they stay trapped at that level , then many times they think that I am religious I also know about Krishna. This is what happened in the times of Shrila Prabhupada, many Indians they thought that we already know about Krishna , but they had unfortunately heard from the karmis and the gyanees , and their understanding of Krishna was very superficial.But because they thought they already knew about Krishna so they were now ready to `hear about Krishna more from Prabhupada. and thatswhy Prabhupada preaching of almost for forty years did not lead to much result `in India. But then when Shrila Prabhupada went abroad , there those people were at the level of , they had never heard of Krishna. and they heard from pure devotee and they were fascinated and then they started , and they took up the principles of pure devotion and when Shrila Prabhupada brought the disciples back and then people saw that , we thought we knew Krishna , He is just a hindu God , he is just part of our culture , may be most of it is mythological or is irrelevant , but here there are people from all over the world worshiping Krishna w,what is this Krishna ? want to know more about it `and then they become intrqiue and then they came and enquired from pure devotees or aspiring pure devotees then their previous misconseptions about Krishna , which were created by contaminations of karma and gyana were removed and then they were able to also become serious sadhakas aiming for pure devotion.
So yes hearing from non devotees may be helpful for those who are completely uninformed a bout Krishna but if that itself is considered to be the full understanding then that can become harmful , which can obstruct people in moving to the next level . So its poison for those who are aspiring for the heighest level of devotion , to hear about Krishna from non devotees . But for those who don’t know anything about Krishna , hearing about Krishna from devotees is best, hearing from other people may be helpful if that creates a favourable interest and openmindedness to heigher truth , but if it creates a close mindedness as now I know everything and there is no need to know anything more , then that can become a poison which takes away , which poisons away their service attitute and traps them in karma and gyana in the pretend while all the time imagining that they are already religious .
So in the incomplete is thought to be complete , it becomes incorrect. When the incomplete , which is the understanding of sthe purpose of shastra and purpose of life as given in karma and gyana , the incomplete is thought to be complete. The understanding of Krishna that the karma and gyana have , if that is thought to be complete understanding , then it becomes incorrect., then it can act as a trap which poisons people . and as devotees it would be best if devotees can spread the proper understanding of Krishna vigirously , so that whenever a person wants to enquire about Krishna , first they come to devotees speaking about Krishna, devotee teachers about Krishna and not non-devotee teaches about Krishna. That is rather than just blaming people for hearing about Krishna from non-devotees , as they often do on television , or they read some novel , the devotees are teachers should take the responsibility and the initiative to try to spread the pure understanding of the Krishna as vigirously as possible . The whole mood of a devotee should be to be compassionate , not to be judgemental , and our goal should be that , even those who are speaking about Krishna we shouldn’t necessarrily hate them, we should think that , ok they have been misinformed and now they are misinforming others , if they get the proper understanding even they can be changed . But if they are too deep rooted in their conceptions then actually they have been victamized by the poison of karma or gyana , at least others been not victamized like that , try to help them by sharing the message of Krishna purely and as vigriously as possible
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