Shikshashtakam 10 Text 6 Curb sentimentality but cherish sentiments
Workshop at Krishna Institute, Alachua, USA
Transcription of Lecture
vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira
pulakair nichitam vapuh kada
tava nama-grahane bhavishyati
So here, tava nama grahane bhavisyate. In the previous verse Caitanya Mahaprabhu is praying, “Please lift me up.” Now he is continuing that description of that aspiration by saying that, “What do we mean by lift me up, what will happen when we are lifted up?” When we come to spiritual consciousness we will experience spiritual emotions, and the experience of Krishna within the heart – it has certain external expressions.
Nayanam galadashru dharaya – the eyes will flow with tears.
Badanam gadgada rudhaya gira – voice will choke up
Pulakari nichitam bapu kada – the hair will stand on end
Kada, when will this happen?
Basically this transformations of the body which reflect the inner emotions, they are the result when there is a lot of intense emotions in the heart. So the internal in this case is producing the external. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu is saying, “When will I get these ecstatic symptoms?” That means that he is praying for the internal emotion by which these external symptoms will manifest.
We will talk about sentiments and sentimentality over here.
In the Ramayana there is beautiful dialogue between Ram and Laxman, wherein Ram tells Laxman that actually sentiments are the ornaments of life, and then what happens is – when Ram and Laxman are in the forest, at that time they hear an army coming in, and they are always on the guard because some invaders might come. So then, Ram asks Laxman to climb on a tree and look out and he looks down and he sees that it is actually the Ayodha army coming, and he sees Bharat at the head. So, Laxman gets angry, and he says, “That wicked son of Kaikai, he has now come to complete the evil deed that his mother started. She exiled you and now he has come with the whole army to kill you. But he doesn’t know that I alone will send him and the whole army to death.”
At that time Laxman becomes very angry and Ram tells him that, “Actually O Laxman, Bharat’s love for me is as much as your love for me. Bharat I am sure has come to call me back. He is feeling very distressed because Kaikai sent me to the forest, and he has come to call me back. Why are you upset with him? Is it that Bharat offended you any time? Or is it that when in a rush of emotion you said that you will come with me to the forest, but now you are finding the austerity of forest life too much, and that’s why you are becoming irritable? If that is the case, then when Bharat comes I will tell Bharat to stay here with me, and you can go back and become the ruler.” (laughter)
When Ram speaks this Laxman becomes totally deflated, and then actually when there is such a loving, selfless interaction between them – finally Bharat takes a vow and says, “I will not go out of this forest unless you come back, unless you accept the throne.” So he just sits down in the yogic posture to meditate, and then everybody shocked what to do. Ram says, “Oh Bharat, your love has won. I accept the throne that you give, I accept the crown”, and he takes the crown, and the Bharat becomes jubilant, and then Ram says, “I accept this crown and I entrust it to you for the next 14 years.” (laughter) He says that, “Actually our father has told me to go to the forest for 14 years. Therefore I want your cooperation so that I can fulfil my fathers instructions. So therefore you don’t want to accept the throne which Kaikai got from Dasarath, but you accept this throne on my behalf. So you are ruling on my behalf. Then Bharat says that, “Ok, if I am ruling on your behalf, then give me some evidence that I am ruling on your behalf. Give me your shoes.”
Today if there is property dispute between two sons. One son will probably take his shoes and beat it on the sons head. So actually Bharat puts Ram’s shoes on his head and he goes back. It is the shoes that rules, and he considers himself the representative. So, when Lasman sees all these he is so moved, and then after that Laxman is talking with Ram and he says – Laxman apologizes and he becomes so angry. So then Laxman says, “Why do I become angry so quickly?” Ram says, “O Laxman, you are sentimental.” Then Laxman asks, “Are sentiments bad?” Ram says, “No, sentiments are not bad.” He says, “Sentiments are the ornaments of life, but he says, “We should chose those sentiments that take us towards dharma, not those sentiments that take us away from dharma. We should choose those sentiments that elevate us, not those sentiments which degrade us.”
We cannot live without emotions. We all need emotions in our life, but there are certain emotions which take us away from Krishna, which takes us away from dharma. Those emotions we have to stay away from, and we chose and nourish and develop those emotions which takes us towards Krishna. In that sense sentiments are important, and bhakti we could say at the highest level is a sentiment. A strong sentiment in the heart for Krishna.
The difference between sentiments and sentimentality – sentimentality means, the sentiments or the emotions, they are the sole deciders for our actions and our love. That means that we think that, “I feel like this. So I go infront of Krishna and the darshan was so beautiful. Tears came out of my eyes. Oh I must be a pure devotee now.” But then next day I go in front of the deities for darshan and I don’t feel anything, and the darshan arati is going on and I am looking at the watch, when it will get over? So what happens, if we let emotions alone decide our actions, then we cannot be very committed to the practice of bhakti.
When we discussed yesterday about commitment, at one level commitment means, it means that we can go beyond the feelings. Whether I feel like it or I don’t feel like it I will do it. When the mother has a baby and the baby starts crying in the middle of the night. The mother cannot say, “I don’t want to take care of the baby.” The mother wakes up and takes care of the baby. That is a commitment. So commitment means, we are actually ready to subordinate our feelings to our purpose, to our responsibility. Whatever we have taken commitment for, I may feel like it, I may not feel like it, but they subordinate my sentiments to my purpose, to my responsibility. But in sentimentality we just let sentiments decide everything. “When I feel like chanting I will chant, when I don’t feel like chanting I won’t chant.” So we let everything to be determined by sentiments. That is sentimentality.
Here when Caitanya Mahaprabhu is talking about very exalted sentiments – tears coming out of the eyes, of bodily hairs standing on end, he is talking about a person who has come to a very high level of spiritual advancement, and then the internal attraction towards Krishna is so great that these ecstatic symptoms are manifesting externally because of the intense attraction.
Actually in the path of sadhana bhakti – here when I use the word reason, I am using scriptural reason. That means scripturally guided reasons. So, we have that famous verse from the puranas that, sruti, smriti, puranadi, pancharatrik vidhim vina, aikantiki harir bhakti utpataye kalapate. That when bhakti is done without scriptural guidance, then that becomes a disturbance in the society. So, what does scriptural guidance do? That guides our intelligence, that guides our reason. So reason and emotion at least in the path of sadhana bhakti they go together. So let reason direct emotions. What does reason mean? That means that, “Ok, someday I feel ecstatic when I am chanting, other day I feel bored, but what does my intelligence and my reason tell me?” I should do this a responsibility, as a commitment. So reason direct emotions. Even if I don’t feel like it I will do it, and I will try to cultivate as much feelings as possible, and then on the other side there is – let emotions animate reason.
Now logic and reason can become very cold, very hard. So we need emotion within our logic and reason also. We use scriptural intelligence – scripturally guided intelligence but scripturally guided intelligence is meant to help us move towards Krishna. Sometimes a person may – there are scholars who have memorized all the 700 verses of the Bhagavad-gita and they don’t even believe that Krishna existed. So, what is happening here? The whole Bhagavad-gita is about devotion to Krishna. What to speak of devotion to Krishna, they don’t even have faith in the existence of Krishna. So what is happening. They may have knowledge, they have intelligence, they can give analysis, but they have no emotion, no attraction towards Krishna. So, both of them have to go together – the emotion and the reason. Both need to go forward straight. Both need to go together, then we will move ahead in bhakti, and if one of them is more as compared to the other then that can lead to problems.
When there is lot of reasons but there is no emotion, then that leads to impersonalism. What happens to the impersonalists? They can study scriptures also, they can analyse scriptures also very nicely, but then in the process of analysis they keep analysing so much that they – normally in analysis we go from specifics to universal. If I am analysing something – somebody suddenly became angry and I try to analyse, “Why did they become angry? Maybe he or she is a short tempered person.” If somebody wants be alone all the time – “May be they are introvert.” So, what are wre doing when we are analysing like this? Actually we are seeing some observations, and from that we are trying to go towards some universals. “Ok, this person wants to be alone means that he is an introvert.
Basically when we analyse things, we try to go from the specific to some universal principle. So, like that when the impersonalists try to analyse this world – naiti, naiti – there are temporary things in this world but they are temporary. We need to go beyond it. Like that they keep analysing and they come to Krishna, and they start analysing Krishna also.
In India there is a newspaper named Times of India, and they have a spiritual column called the speaking tree. The editor of that column once he wrote to me before Janmasthami – “Can you write a article about why Krishna is black? And don’t give the usual story stuff. Give some new insight.” (laughter) Then I started enquiring, “Why such a specific question, why Krishna is black?” Then I found out that there is one impersonalist, he has given an explanation, “Actually black is not considered all that attractive, and God is supremely attractive. So, why would anyone conceive of God in a black form? The reason is – because form means darknes, and the Brahman is white. So we have to go beyond the black form to the white light.” (laughter) Now for the uninformed, they may say, “I never knew this. So clever!” So then I wrote an article. I took the same reasoning and I said, “Normally the dark colour is not considered so attractive. So why would somebody consider God as dark? The fact is that Krishna is not just called Shyam, he is called Shyamsundar, that means Krishna darkness is not like the darkness of this world. That means that there is transcendental reality in which also there is variety, and in that variety Krishna is transcendentally beautiful. So the dark colour of Krishna signifies how the transcendental beauty goes beyond material conceptions of beauty. So I just turned the whole logic around.
But the point is that when people do analysis they basically want to go beyond specifics to some universal. So they often go beyond Krishna also. They want to analyse and go beyond Krishna to something else. So that way when it happens they go towards impersonalism. So there is analysis, there is reason, but there is no emotion because they think that, “I have to go beyond Krishna.” Another way of looking at this is that with reason – by reason I don’t mean logic but analysis of the material world.
If you consider materialists – they are detached from Krishna and they are attached to maya. Now we have sahajiyas. They are actually attached to Krishna but they are attached to maya also. They are involved in worldly things also. The impersonalists, they are detached from maya but they are detached from Krishna also. The bhaktas, they are attached to Krishna and they are detached from maya.
So here what happens that with respect to the impersonalists, they have their reasoning faculty, they have their analytical faculty, and they try to break down everything, and they come to Krishna and they try to analyse Krishna also, and when we try to analyse Krishna we try to go beyond Krishna to something else. So, the lack of emotions can become an obstacle. There are different ways of appreciating things. The impersonalists by their analysis they can understand that there is nothing really attractive in this world. They become detached from this world, but they become detached from Krishna also, because they think that, “I have to go beyond Krishna to something else.” So in that sense, there is misunderstanding over there.
Suppose there is a beautiful rose flower. Now to appreciate the rose flower one has to have aesthetic beauty. “This roses is so beautiful, such fragrance, such shape.” Now if I go to a rose flower with a analytical view, then I can see, “This is the petal, this is the androsium, this is the gynosium, this are the carpels, this is the stemen, and I can go into a biological analysis of all the parts of the flower, and if we study flower as a botanist we may get into a analysis for all the parts but then you will not see it all that attractive. So, the attraction comes when there is a approach which is not so analytical as it is aesthetic. So both are ways of looking at things, but if I want to appreciate the flower’s beauty, I have to approach it not in a analytical way but in a aesthetic way. So like that when we approach Krishna, when we look at the world, for the world there is analysis so that we can get detached from the world, but when we approach Krishna we approach with our heart, with emotions, with bhava – tesam satata yuktatam, bhajatam priti purvakam – it is said that you have to approach with devotion. So with the approach of aesthetic appreciation – that is the whole approach of rasa in bhakti. So when we approach with that, then we can appreciate Krishna more and more. So here the impersonalists, they approach the world in a analytical frame they also approach Krishna in too much of a analytical frame. Then they want to go beyond Krishna. that’s how they detach from matter and they detach from Krishna.
Sahajiyas, they are attached to Krishna, and so they like to sing songs about Krishna, they like to hear Krishna lila, they like to enact dramas about Krishna, but then they are not discerning enough between the difference between matter and spirit, the difference between material and spiritual, and because of that they on one side seem to have emotions in relationship with Krishna, but then they have worldly emotions also, worldly attachments also. So the sahajiyas actually gave a very bad name to Gauria Vaishnavism.
Yesterday I was talking about how Bhakti Vinod Thakur who reformed Gauria vaisnavism – what happened is, that at that time the sahajiyas, they were the people who at that time took the advanced stages of bhakti very cheaply and they took Vaisnavism and they took some elements of shaktism and they did a syncretism – Syncretism means you bring two schools of thought together and mix them. Now in tantra – tantra is related to Shakta worship. In tantra they have the idea that when we worship a particular deity, that deity enters into your body. Sometimes in some traditional Indian temple, especially in the temple of the goddesses if we go, sometimes people start dancing wildly. They say that the person is possessed by the goddess. Now there are many people who imitate in this, but they also have their own standards by which they understand whether it is possession or it is imitation, but this whole thing is there that they have the idea that, if we have bhava for the person who we are worshipping then that person will enter into us. So what some of the Sahajiyas did is, they took that idea and they brought it into Vaisnavism and they said that actually when we become absorbed in say hearing Radha Krishna’s pastimes, then Radha Krishna enters into us, and then not only that, they said further – so there would be Sahajiya men and women, and they would do illicit things and they would say, “Actually Radha- Krishna entered into us and they are enjoying through us. This is so distorted. So they were not only doing immoral things, they were claiming that it is some higher reality entering into us.
There is no reference to anything like this in sastras. Not only were they immoral, but they were rationalizing their immorality based on their syncretistic understanding of Vaisnavism cum tantra, and then Bhaktivinod Thakur and Bhaktisiddhantha Sarwaswati Thakur strongly condemned it. So their condemnation of sahajiaism was because they were not just crying tears when they are not really having advanced emotions. That is ok. That is not such a serious problem, but when somebody starts doing immoral activities like this, and while doing immoral activities they claim that we are at exalted levels of devotion. Then it becomes a serious problem. So sajajiyas, they were actually spreading immorality in the society in the name of exalted devotion. So, aikantaki harer bhakti utpatayai kalpate. Utpat means disturbance. So, it is not that is somebody goes to a temple and they seem to have tears in their eyes – that is not going to cause a disturbance in the society. But if somebody is doing like this – this level of things, then this will cause a lot of disturbance. So immorality was not just being perpetrated but it was being rationalized in the name of bhakti. So our acharyas very strongly condemned it. That’s why we have repeated cautions against sahajiyaism in our tradition.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur, Bhakti Siddhantha Thakur, Srila Prabhuapada said that, “This is what happens if we become too sentimental, and without having proper philosophical understanding of what is what we basically drag down the spiritual down to the material level, and then that leads to problems.
So now in respect to sentiments – sentimentality is bad, but sentiments are not necessarily bad. Sentiments are actually desirable in the path of bhakti.
There is sentimentality and the opposite of it also undesirable, and that is judgementality. So as bhaktas we shouldn’t be sentimental, and at the same time we should not be judgemental. That means what? Sentimental means, some people become over emotional all the time, and that is undesirable, but seeing this some others may become judgemental.
If somebody becomes excited say when kirtans are going on and there is a nice darshan going on, and they become effusive, and others say, “He is a very sentimental person.” Now we are becoming judgemental. Judgementality means – unfeeling imposition of standards on others. We just judge everybody, “He is like this, like this, like this.” Judgemental means that we are not actually putting our heart in understanding other’s situations.
So I will talk about it in three, four different levels. Like I have a whole series of seminar on cultivating non-judgemental attitude. I did this seminar in Brisbane when I was there this year, and then three part seminar one mataji, she came with her husband and she was telling how she could very well connect with the seminar. First she was from Bengali shakta background, and she had come first time to the temple and there in the temple she saw that some matajis were doing garland. She also went there and joined and she stated doing garlands, and suddenly some devotee came there and in front of everyone he asked, “Do you eat meat?” She was from Shakta background, and in Shakta culture they eat meat actually. So she just nodded her head, and the senior devotee just grabbed the garland from her hand, hurled it on the ground, and he said, “You cannot even touch the floor that has to be used for the deity worship.” She was just shattered. She just went out of the temple crying in tears. It is her sincerity that she met some other devotees who were a little more sensitive, a little more mature. She connected with them. Now she is an initiated devotee practicing bhakti, but she said that it was heart-breaking for her at that time. It maybe that in a particular temple certain standards are followed that some people cannot make garlands for the deities, but if somebody is coming and themselves making a garland, that means that they have a service attitude, and the service attitude is to be appreciated, the service attitude has to be nurtured. It’s not that in the name of our standards we condemn others.
So our spirituality should make us more understanding, but it often makes us more judgemental. Instead of making us more understanding – Just as I have my own struggles at my level, others have struggles at their level, but for them their struggles may be as difficult as the struggles are for me in my level. Because the principle is that we have to move from one level to another, and the steps always takes some time. So, for me I maybe fasting with water, but for me fasting nirjala is very difficult. So that is a struggle for me if I want to fast nirjala. For somebody else just without grains for one day itself is very difficult, but for them to come to that level is a struggle, just as for me to go from Jal to Nirjal is a struggle.
So bhakti is a progression and we need to encourage people to move onwards. Even if they are at a lower standard we need to interact in a way by which they rise to a higher standard. Not that we condemn them just because they are on a lower standard. So if we become judgemental, we alienate a lot of people. We alienate people because we label them, “You are like this, you are like this.” So, here what is happening? Judgementality I am talking about where there is no emotions only. Only reason. By scriptural standard, this is the standard, and then I am going to impose the standard no matter what happens to me. But people come from different backgrounds, people have different situations, and then through it all if I start imposing my standards on others we can actually alienate a lot of people.
I have also been guilty of judging others, and not have been – even now I am guilty. So once I was in Radha Gopinath temple in Chaupati and I had come for lunch, and when I came for lunch some feast was there. There was some sweet made over there, but I had come a little late. So the sweet was over. So I felt a little bit bad that I did not get the sweet, and there was on senior devotee sitting opposite to me, and I could see that in his plate there was a sweet and he had taken it, and he was asking everyone, “Do you have some sweet?”, and I was watching and thinking, “He already had one, and he is asking for more.” One server said, “There is no sweet.” But he was asking the second server, “Is there a sweet?” To four, five people he was asking, and because he was a senior devotee everybody was running around, “Is there some sweet somewhere?” So I was becoming quite critical, and then finally one of the server from his own plate brought his sweet, and he was telling, “Prabhuji, please take it.” And I was thinking, “This is too much. You already had your sweet, and you are taking sweet from somebody else’s plate.” And then as that devotee was about to serve into his plate, that devotee said, “No, not for me, for him.” and he pointed to me.(laughter) So, he was the sweet from everyone because I had not got the sweet. I just thought at that time, “If that last part had not happened I would have carried a critical impression of that devotee, What a sense gratifier!”
Quite often we have a limited picture of things, and based on our limited picture if we start evaluating others we can alienate a lot of people. So we should not be judgemental. With respect to sentiments also, by some people’s nature some people will be more sentimental. Some people will be less sentimental, some people will be more analytical, more logical, and just as for those people whose mind is very strong, for them sentimentality is a danger, but for those whose intelligence is stronger for them judgementality is a problem. Some people may be more sentimental than others, but as long as they are practicing the process of bhakti they will also move onwards. We don’t have to become judgemental about others.
Suppose some devotee comes and says, “Yesterday Krishna came in my dream.” What will you say at that time? Don’t be a sahajia, Krishna cannot come in your dream. (laughter) Can you say to him? It will be hurting if you say to him like that. Somebody says, “I have seen you sleeping and chanting. Krishna cannot come in the dreams of someone who sleeps and chants.” (laughter) Firstly, who am I to say that Krishna cannot do something? Krishna can come to anyone’s dream. Krishna is swarat. So, the thing is that all of us – it is possible that we can also have some special experiences. Sometimes Krishna can come in the dream, sometimes when we go and take darshan of the deities we get tears, in kirtan we may feel very uplifting experience. Now when we have these experiences, it is not necessary that these are all sentimental. The important thing is that what we do after that? Ok, Krishna came in my dream, but what after that?
That Krishna came into my dream, that is Krishna’s mercy on me. My reciprocation is what I do after waking up? Krishna coming in my dream, that alone doesn’t make me spiritually advanced. That is Krishna’s special mercy by which it has happened. So I take that as gratefully and then I use it to become more inspired in my bhakti, more dedicated in my bhakti. So if we have some spiritual experiences where we feel some ecstasy, where we feel some joy, we experience some very deep emotions in relationship with Krishna, we see that as Krishna’s mercy, we don’t have to go into a very critical analysis in terms of – if it is happening to others. Is this genuine or is this sahajiayik. The important thing is, “Yes, Krishna can give experiences like this to anyone, but what will lead to spiritual advancement is the steady practice of bhakti.
Generally if we have some experiences like this, we can see them as Krishna’s mercy, and we reciprocate by trying to be more devoted to the service of Krishna. It is not that these extraordinary experiences – sometimes when we are in a kirtan our hair stands on end. It’s not that we have to take a photograph of that and put in facebook – “Let everyone see. Just see how I got ecstasy. My hair is standing on end.” We don’t have to go and advertise that to the world. It is possible. Krishna is swarat, and Krishna can give us experiences like that, but when you get some experience like that we are grateful to Krishna and we practice bhakti with greater dedication, greater inspiration. So it’s like something which is going to come to us as we advance further on the path of bhakti – Krishna has given us a glimpse of that now, and by that glimpse we feel inspired to move further and faster on that path.
It is not that these symptoms are alone the sign of spiritual advancement. These symptoms – we have to see them in connection with whole life of bhakti, and if the symptoms come without a life seriously or dedicated to bhakti, then they are not so much as symptoms of spiritual advancement. Rather they are precursors, they are advanced samples. We are getting in advance what we can get in future. Just getting a glimpse of that, and that glimpse should inspire us to move onwards, and in that way even if we get some experiences like this we accept it gratefully.
Now we see that Madhavendra Puri in his pastimes with Gopal ji – what happens is that Gopalji comes in his dream multiple times. The first times when he comes in his dream, that time he actually brings glory to Madhavendra Puri. “Oh! I am lying here. Please come and rescue me and build a temple for me.” Now then all the villagers come and they are stunned. “Oh he got a dream and actually the Lord is here.” So that actually makes Madhavendra Puri very famous, very special. “What a great soul that the Lord came in his dream.” Now the next time when he comes in the dream, actually what the Lord tells is, “I am feeling very hot. Go to Puri and get some chandan for me.” Actually this instruction is very troublesome. Madhavendra Puri could have said, “Krishna did not come in my dream only.” (laughter) If he had been just concerned about just getting the glory – in the first bring he brings glory, but in the second dream he is actually causing so much inconvenience. He could have said, “It is after all only a dream. Why take it seriously.” No, he took that also seriously. So, his concern was service to Krishna.
In the first case the service brought him glory. The service of finding out where the deities are and having the deities excavated, and having a temple built, it brought glory for him, and the second dream – that actually subjected him to a lot of austerity. Not just austerity, risk also. He had to travel through all the areas where the Muslim rule was there. But in both cases he accepted what was there in the dream, because his mood was service. So we can also have some special spiritual experiences in various ways in our life, and we don’t have to be hyper-critical and reject them all as sajajiyaism, but then we don’t have to highlight them too much, because they alone are not the signs of spiritual advancement. If somebody has those experiences, they can see that they are grateful for that and become more inspired in the practice of bhakti, and maybe with some close friends we share it who will understand, but we don’t have to broadcast it to the whole world, “Oh I had this. Therefore I just understand what a great devotee I am.” It is not like that.
These are Krishna’s mercy, and we see it as Krishna’s mercy and try to become more dedicated to him. So that way we can avoid both sentimentality and judgementality. So if we have some sentiments we are grateful for them and we move forwards in our bhakti using those sentiments.
In the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu there are this asta satwika vicar that are described which are what repeatedly Caitanya Mahaprabhu exhibits, and we see great Vaisnavas also exhibiting them, but along with that in the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu we saw that there is also a whole other list of characteristics described of a mahabhagavat, of a advanced devotee and whereas this 8 characteristics – the asta satwic vicar, they are to some extent imitable.
“I have to get tears in my eyes. I just put some onion in my eyes, tears will come out.” So these symptoms can be imitated, but there are other symptoms that are described, other characteristics of advanced devotees that are described they are not imitable. For example, one of them is – avyartha kalatwam – means not wasting any time. He is using all the time in Krishna’s service. Now a person who is a sahajiya, who is just doing a show they cannot do that. They will want a change, they will want a break and they will want to do so many other things apart from bhakti. So if someone is really devoted to Krishna, that avayrtha kalatvam – that is something which is more reliable characteristic of serious devotion.
Or nama gane sada ruche – constant eagerness to glorify Krishna, to chant his names.
Sam uthkantha – eagerness to hear about Krishna.
So like that, there is whole list of characteristics given in Bhakti Rasarmrita Sindhu which are non-imitable, and this are far more reliable parameter of bhakti, and if you see Prabhupada’s life – there are some special occasions when Prabhupada went to ecstasy when he was singing Jaya Radha Madhava or something like that, but overall Prabhupada did not talk too much about the astha satwic vicar. He focussed on those non-imitable, tangible parameters where one is not wasting any time, when one is detached from material things, when one is eager to hear about Krishna, when one is eager to speak about Krishna, and those are the characteristics which we can aspire for.
If we aspire, when will tears com from my eyes, when will my hair stand on end, it’s fine, but this are the results of advanced devotion, and that advanced devotion we cultivate by using our time effectively in Krishna’s service, by being eager for hearing about Krishna, eager to sing Krishna’s glories, eager to share Krishna’s message. So those qualities we focus on, and if we look at that – the whole list will take some time to discuss, but in the Nectar of Devotion that list is there, and if we look at it, we will see that Prabhupada demonstrated that list to such an extraordinary way.
So we focus in our practice of bhakti not so much on the ecstatic symptoms. They will come of their own course, but if we focus on the characteristics of a serious bhakta, then by trying to develop those we can also move forward and as we move forward eventually this ecstatic symptoms will also manifest. Thus we can also relish in our own small way what Caitanya Mahaprabhu is relishing.
I will summarize –
I started by talking about how sentiments are desirable in the path of bhakti. Lord Ram told Laxman that sentiments are ornaments, but we should chose the sentiments that take us towards dharma, not those that take us away from dharma, and then in sentimentality what happens? Sentiments become a driving force, and then if the sentiments are there I do dharmic activities, if the sentiments are not there I give up dharmic activities. Because I don’t feel like, so I stop chanting. So that is undesirable. Then we discussed further about sentimentality and sentiments. The balanced state is that reason. Reason means scripturally guided intelligence. Reason and emotion, they have to be together in the path of bhakti. So we just don’t let emotions run wild, we regulate and direct the emotions using the reason, and also when we are using reason we don’t become hyper-analytical, we also animate our reason, our study of scripture and analysis with a mood of bhakti.
So reason without emotion – that leads to impersonalism, because whenever we are too analytical we actually cannot develop attraction to anything, because whatever is attractive we try to dissect it into its components, and we just try to go beyond that. So that leads to impersonalism, and emotion without reason where there is no regulation, where there is no scriptural understanding, then the material and the spiritual gets mixed up. That leads to sahajiyaism.
We discussed about how materialists are detached from Krishna and attached to matter, attached to worldly things. Sahajiya’s are attached to Krishna but they are attached to Maya also. The impersonalists, they are detached from both Krishna and Maya, but the bhaktas are detached from the world and they are attached to Krishna, and this is the healthy state.
I discussed about sahajiyaism. What happened in sahjiayaism is – how is it that somebody is shedding tears when they are not having ecstasy. That is not going to cause a social disturbance, but the social disturbance that is talked about is – when Sahajiyas did immoral things, they rationalized it as transcendental. When they imagined that Radha and Krishna are entering their bodies and they are performing pastimes through us. So our acharyas are strongly warned us against sahajiyaism, but that doesn’t mean that there is no role for sentiments for bhakti.
I have discussed – if we experience some spiritual, we have some spiritual experiences, we feel some ecstasy, we see that not as proofs that I have advanced. Rather this is Krishna’s mercy revealing to me what awaits me ahead. Therefore let me follow this process enthusiastically by which I will come to that level.
So, Krishna can come in our dreams, but our advancement doesn’t depend on whether Krishna comes in my dream or not. My advancement depends on how I am using my free will to go towards Krishna. What I do after I wake up? So, we have to not be sentimental, but we also have to avoid the other extreme of going towards judgmentality where we just have some idea, some particular conception of what spiritual advancement means, and we just unfeelingly apply that standard on everyone else. I discussed that example of flower garland and sweet, how we can actually hurt others terribly or judge others wrongly if we do this.
So when the mind is too strong we tend to become sentimental. When the intelligence is too strong in terms of hyper analysis we become judgemental. So bhakti means that we have to go beyond the mind and the intelligence to the level of the soul. That is how we become transcendental, and in our journey towards transcendence we focus not so much on the ecstatic symptoms which can be imitable but we focus more on the characteristics of dedication. That is not wasting time, eagerness to hear about Krishna and eagerness to share Krishna’s glories. Those kind of characteristics which Prabhupada exhibited, and by that we will steadily move forward and eventually we will come to the exalted level where we also experience the ecstatic symptoms of bhakti that are described in this verse of Siksastakam.
Any questions or comments:
Q: Discrimination is desirable because we have to guide the devotees.
CCP: Yes, the major difference between being judgemental and being discriminatory is how we view ourselves. If I put myself in a – “Holier than though” attitude, and look down at others, and then I pass comments about others, then that is judgemental. But if we understand that, “Ok, we are all following a particular process, and in that process there are certain things which are beneficial, and certain things which are harmful, and then we share that knowledge with others. So that is not only desirable, but it is also essential. To some extent if we see, the discrimination is the characteristic of the madhyamadhikari. The madhyamadhikari discriminates between – the Lord is the object of my devotion, the devotees are the ones with whom I have become friends, the innocent I give mercy to them, and I stay away from the envious. So that kind of discerning is essential for a madhayama adhikari but that should not be done in a way which either we put ourselves in a superior position or we become completely insensitive to other people’s emotions, but discerning is definitely required.
So usually the word judgementality has a very negative connotation.
Q: Seems to be an expression of envy.
CCP: Yes, almost like envy. When we are judgemental then basically we put ourselves on a pedestal by which we can pass statements about everyone else. It is very alienating for people.
Q: Life is all about discrimination in one sense. So, judgemental – you are asking people not be discriminating in one sense.
CCP: Certainly we all have to make choices. Every morning when you wake up – the whole day we have to make choices, “Should I do this or should I do that?” and we use our intelligence to make the choices. If we don’t use our intelligence then we will be mislead. So in that sense discrimination is vital. B.G (16.24) Krishna says that,
tasmāc chāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te
karma kartum ihārhasi
Therefore based on sastra we know what is to be done and what is not to be done, and then live accordingly. So discrimination is fine. That is essential. Say a person is sick, then the sick person has to be always aware, “Ok, If I eat this food, this will worsen my condition. I have to take this medicine at this time, I have to take this at this time, I should not take this, I should not go here.” So, a sick person has to discriminate between what is good for my health and what is not good for my health.
So, like that as sadhakas we do need to discriminate, what is going to decrease my bhava roga, decrease my material attachment, material disease, and what is going to increase the disease? So when we are talking about not being judgemental it is more in terms of the attitude rather than the principle. The principle of discerning is required, but the attitude with which it is done that can be very alienating. If I do it in a way where I don’t consider other people’s feelings, if I don’t consider other people’s feelings then we can hurt a lot of people.
Say if somebody has got an infectious disease. Then the doctor may have to keep the person away from others, but then that also can be done in a respectful way. It is not that we deride and mock the person. Just as there can be discrimination which is done, but it can be done in a sensitive way. It is not that, that has to be done in a judgemental way. Like in the past when people would have leprosy – Leprosy is an infectious disease. So the lepers need to be kept away from others, but it was almost like leprosy was seen not just as a disease but it was seen as a sign of a moral deficiency where the lepers would be looked down upon and mocked and all those things will happen. So that is wrong.
The principle of discrimination is essential, but the attitude with which we do it that is also important. Otherwise we may defeat our purpose. We have to speak the truth, and speaking the truth means, this is right, this is wrong, but we have to speak the truth in a way that attracts people to the truth, not alienates people away from the truth. If you speak the truth in a very judgemental way then people just go away.
Q: In management do we have to be judgemental or play favourites by giving services to those people who take, and those who are likely to say No, just avoid them?
CCP: We should not confuse different concepts. When Krishna says, “Ye yatha mam prapadyante, tams tathaiva bhajamyaham. – as people surrender I reciprocate.” There also Krishna is discriminating in a sense. If you surrender more, I will reward more, but actually that is not discrimination. That is reciprocation, and reciprocation is actually natural to relationships. Say for example, if after a class a boy approaches the speaker, and then the speaker is sitting like a unfeeling stone, and then you go and appreciate, no emotion at all. When you go and speak something, no emotion anyway. You might say that this is a very stoic person or whatever, but then how much of a relationship can we develop with that person.
A relationship means if somebody is appreciating then they talk more and there is further discussion. So, we cannot have that idea that there can be no reciprocation. Relationship means that there are reciprocation. So in reciprocation, there is no discrimination because depending on how people are acting we are responding.
For example, say after a class a speaker spends more time with one person and doesn’t spend time with the other person. So they are discriminating? No, this person went and approached and that’s why the speaker is talking. Somebody else didn’t approach. How can the speaker talk with him? Now it could be that there are two people. They both want to talk, and the speaker wants to talk to one person. That may also be simply a matter of practicality, but that is not necessarily discrimination.
If somebody has shown through their actions that they are reliable in doing service, and then we give interest in giving them service again, that is reciprocation, that is not discrimination. When it becomes discrimination is when we deliberately neglect someone. When we deliberately think that this person I am not going to allow for whatever reason. Then that is discrimination, but reciprocation is essential in bhakti, it is a fundamental fact of life and it is essential in life in general.
When because of some biases we don’t give people a chance only, that is discrimination, but if you give someone an opportunity and they don’t accept it, then we neglect it.
Q: That applies for the first time, but when it comes to the second time like when we already made a judgement, he won’t help me. Isn’t that being judgemental that I won’t approach him?
CCP: That way we could say Prabhupada also was judgemental. Prabhupada tried to preach in India. In India they were not interested. So he came to America. That was a call that he took, and he came to America and he found interest in America, and then he is going to America and coming to India also, and then he felt that in America my disciples can preach, I will stay in India, I will focus on India. So in one sense any service that we do we have to make choices, and we make our choices based on our experience, how people are reciprocating, our priorities. That is not necessarily wrong because all have certain priorities in our life, we have certain instructions, we have certain inspirations.
So, discrimination would basically mean we just don’t give people chance, and we obstruct people when they want do something. Like say, discrimination means, Haridas Thakur wants to come to the Jagannath temple, but he is not allowed to enter Jagannath Temple. That is discrimination. That is undesirable. If somebody want to do and they are not allowed to do it, but if there is a person who is standing in the queue for 3 hours, and somebody comes 5 minutes ago, naturally who is first in the queue will go in first. That is not discrimination. “You came earlier, so you go first.” That is simply reciprocation.
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