Shikshashtakam 8 Text 4 Let your bhakti be Krishna-centered, not renunciation-centered
Workshop at Krishna Institute, Alachua, USA
Transcription of Lecture
Na dhanam na janam na sundarim
Na kavitam na jagatish kamaya
Mama janmani janmanisware
Bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki twayi
Here Caitanya Mahprabhu is actually rejecting everything material for the sake of ahaituki bhakti. Dhana, jana, sundari, kavita – so these are all materially attractive things. So wealth, followers, the association of the opposite sex and kavitam – kavitam is sometimes referred to as learning. So, knowledge of being reputed of as a very learned person – all that I say No to that, Caitanya Mahprabhu says.
What I want is life after life – janmani janmanisware bhawatad bhaktir ahaituki twai – I simply want your bhakti. And when he is saying mama janmanishware, that means that he is also rejecting liberation. I don’t want liberation. What I want simply is devotion. So, I will talk about the broad principles of this. In the Vedic path there are this three broad categories of growing spiritually we could say or of living dharmically – karma, jnana and bhakti. Karma is also a path of living dharmically but it is a very gradual process where one is largely just trying to live – Bhakti Vinod thakur call him as Pious Materialists. They are materialists, but they are pious. They are not impious or sinful. So, the path of karma is there. Now, then path of jnana is centred more on …01.50… and rejection than the path of bhakti. So, I will try to analyse these three.
So, what the path of karma does is with respect to attitude towards the world. Karma romanticises the world. Romanticises means – “Oh this world is such that if you just adjust a few things, this will be so wonderful.” So, in that case, in the path of karma kanda adjustment is – basically we do some rituals by which we get a bountiful harvest, do some rituals by which we get some children, we do some rituals by which we fulfil our desires, or we do some rituals by which we go to heaven, and then life will become wonderful. So, the idea is – this world is an enjoyable place, we just have to adjust the factors for enjoyment. That is broadly the path of karma. So, karma romanticises the world. Romanticises means – think of it in a very poetic, beautiful, very fanciful way where we think that there is a lot of enjoyment available over here, and then the path of jnana goes to the other extreme and it demonizes the world – “Oh, this world is full of temptations, full of dangers, full of distress, everywhere there is misery.” An extremely negative view of the world where everything in this world is seen simply as filled with temptations, filled with dangers, filled with distress; and there is the path of bhakti which avoids both these extremes. If you consider the pendulum – one extreme of the pendulum is to romanticize, the other extreme is to demonize, the middle is to utilize. So, it utilizes. Whatever is there in this world, we utilize it for serving Krishna.
So, now from this perspective the first two lines of the verse are talking about this rejection of karma. Na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim, na kavitam, na jagadish kamaye. None of the things of the world which people imagine will make their world a happy place – “If I have sense enjoyment, if I have fame, whatever. That will make me – No, I don’t know any of these things.” That means he is rejecting the path of karma. Na janmani, janmanisware – I don’t mind taking birth in this world again and again. I just want to be a devoted to you. When there is demonization of this world, the focus is on getting out of the world, the focus is not so much on, “Ok, after I get out of the world, where do I go after that?” That is not the focus. Just get out of this world. That is why they don’t focus so much on the other world, the higher reality. So, the path of bhakti is that, “Even if I am in this world my dear Lord, bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki twayi, I just want to develop unmotivated devotion to you.” Now if you look at the flow of the verses, the previous verse talked about – it ended with kirtaniya sada hari – by humility, tolerance we can constantly become absorbed in glorifying Krishna, and when we are absorbed in glorifying Krishna, then that higher taste enables us to say No to other things.
Quite often we sometimes – we say No externally to something, and internally we are saying Yes, or sometime in the morning we wake up and the alarm rings; the alarm is ringing and telling us to wake up, but inside there is a voice which says, “Go to sleep.” So, what happens is that there is that conditioning which is there, which speaks in a different way. So, when we get the higher taste we can say No not just because it is the right thing to do intellectually, but actually experientially we know there is something much better things to do in my life. So, that experience comes when we have this kirtaniya sada hari, when we become absorbed in Krishna – we can say No to the wordly things.
Now it interesting that if that verse is talking about kirtaniya sada hari – if he has already come to the level of kirtaniya sada hari, then why is he saying here that, “My dear Lord I aspire for pure devotion.” He is saying that, “ahaituki twayi.”
So, if you look at the Bhagavad Gita, it says in Gita (9.14) – satatam kirtayanto mam yatantas cha dhrida vrata, namaschyantas cha mam bhaktya nitya yukta upasate. There also a similar theme that comes. Here it is kirtania sada hari, there it is satatam kirtayanto mam, same thing; always glorifying me, and then Krishna uses the word yatantas cha dhra vrataha – they endeavour with great determination.
So, even those who are absorbed in glorifying Krishna, they also have to endeavour. So, here Prabhupada says, “Moving from sadhana bhakti towards the higher levels of devotion …” so, in the previous verse when it said that in this way one can do kirtania sada hari, it’s not saying that one has already attained that stage.
In scriptures there are some statements which are descriptive, and there are some statements which are prescriptive. Descriptive means, this is describing the situation over here or it is describing some things, and there are prescriptive. Prescriptive means this is what we should do. For example in 11th chapter of the Bhagavad-gita that is there. It is mostly descriptive. Arjuna saw the Biswarupa – pasyami visweswara viswarupa – he says,
paśyāmi tvāṁ sarvato ’nanta-rūpam
nāntaṁ na madhyaṁ na punas tavādiṁ
paśyāmi viśveśvara viśva-rūpa
I am seeing many hands, many legs, many faces. So, there is nothing in that which is an application for us. So, in scriptures there are some sections which are descriptive and some sections which are prescriptive. Prescriptive is what we apply, but descriptive is what is more like information. Both are important, but from the practical point of view descriptive is more important.
So, now the previous verse which is actually –
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
that when we do this we will come to this level of kirtania sada hari. It is saying that if we consider the flow of thought – it is not that already the person has come to the level of kirtania sada hari. Rather by developing humility, by developing tolerance one will come to the level of kirtania sada hari, and if you remember the earlier sloka that we talked about – the first five verses are talking more about the process of sadhana bhakti, vaidi sadhana bhakti, and then things will move onwards. So there is a description of process by which one can come to the level of kirtania sada hari, and that same process is continued to be described over here.
So here, the focus is more in terms of what is one’s desire? So what are the things one is saying No to. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is saying, na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim, and then he is saying – “I want your bhakti my Lord.” So, this is all a part of the process by which one can move forwards, and that level of kirtania sada hari or the level of ahaituki bhakti, all that will be described in the verses, because if you see the next verse, it is also going to talk about – “I am fallen in this material. O my Lord, please lift me up.” So, this is all a part of the process of sadhana bhakti where one knows the process of how to move upwards, but one has not really gone there till now. One has known that by developing humility, by developing tolerance I will come to the level of kirtania sada hari. By saying No to these things, then actually I will be able to say, Yes to these things also. I am saying No to these things so that I can become absorbed in Krishna.
So, here in terms of the analysis, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is rejecting the paths of karma and jnana. He is saying, “I want to focus on the path of ahaituki twawi.” Now actually, if you see there is significant difference between the context of the Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavatam. In the Bhagavad-gita nowhere does Krishna directly recommend renunciation in terms of renunciation of action. In fact Krishna repeatedly disapproves renunciation. He says that actually you should do your duty, you should fight. In contrast if you look in the Bhagavatam – the Bhagavatam consistently talks about renunciation, it talks about the rise of kings, but then it talks about how they renounce the world, how they go to the forest. So, both are talking about bhakti, but the context of these two books is very different. What we mean by context? If we see, the Bhagavad-gita is spoken to a warrior for whom it is very important that he do his dharma, he do his duty for establishing dharma in this world, whereas the Bhagavatam is spoken to someone who is about to die and there the focus is on – “Don’t worry about this world. Just focus on Krishna.”
So, the context shapes the content. The context doesn’t determine the content. The content in both cases is bhakti, but the context shapes the content. To give a simple example – if there is some young devotee who is discouraged or depressed – there is one devotee who has a lot of energy, who has lot of passion, and the devotee can do a lot of things, and that devotee says, “May be I should go to Vrindavan, and I will become a babaji, I will chant 128 rounds everyday.” We tell him, “That is not practical. You do service. You distribute books. There is so much things that you can do.”
So on the other hand where there is some devotee who has been diagnosed with a cancer, and he has maybe one month to live. At that time we tell him, “Don’t worry about anything else. Everything will be taken care of.” So, if somebody is about to die, and he has about one month, at that time we are not going to tell them, “Go and distribute books. Raise funds for the temple.” No, in both cases the essential message is, “Absorb yourselves in Krishna.”, but what will be practical at one level, may not be practical at the other level. So, if we see, the focus of the Bhagavatam is on renunciation of the world, but why is that? In Bhakti renunciation is also favourable for bhakti, in bhakti engagement is also favourable, it can be favourable, but the point is to connect with Krishna.
So, as I said earlier, among Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s followers also there were renunciates and there were house-holders, and both of them were exalted devotees. Caitanya Mahaprabhu himself was a renunciate, but at the same time he was not at any time, in any way minimizing or downgrading the grihasthas. They were also very exalted devotees. So, the mood of this verse is not so much of renouncing the world, but rather renouncing the obsession with the world and focussing on Krishna. So, bhakti utilizes the world. Utilizes means – whatever I have over here I use it for service to Krishna, and that way we can move forwards.
I will talk about one more point and then we can move forward.
Aversion to commitment is not detachment, and the process of bhakti is neither about attachment or detachment. It is about commitment. So, I will explain both this points.
There is detachment and there is irresponsibility. So, what is the difference between the two?
If we are talking about a student – the student is studying. So, usually speaking detachment is after the duty is done, irresponsibility is before doing the duty. That means if there is a student, and the student says, “I will not study for the exam.” That is not detachment. That is irresponsibility, because studying is the duty over there. So, there is detachment which is good, but irresponsibility is not at all good.
The point which I am making over here is that – irresponsibility and detachment is not the same thing. Irresponsibility means that I don’t want to do my work only because I am lazy, because I don’t value things – so, I just neglect things. So, irresponsibility and detachment are two different things, and especially in today’s times we live in a culture which is quite averse to commitment. Whether it is relationships – whatever it is. Especially now people often – even without marrying they want to live together. They don’t want to commit to a relationship. Why is that? Because what happens in commitment? – Ok, then I have to take up responsibility, I have to do this, I have to do that. They don’t want to do that. So what happens when we live in a culture of aversion to commitment? And then we hear about detachment, then we equate the two. If I am not making commitment, then I must be detached. But the two are very different things. What is the difference? When we are talking about detachment that means the mind had various plans – “If you do this you will enjoy, if you do this you will enjoy, if you do this you will enjoy.” – detachment means that you understand that all these minds plans for enjoyment – they are not going to work, they actually don’t give any enjoyment. So detachment comes when we reject the mind’s various plans for enjoyment, whereas when there is aversion to commitment what happens is, we still have a lot of faith in the minds plans for enjoyment, but we are not sure which is the best plan. So, what we want to do? We want to stay open for all the options. Whichever option works that is wonderful – so that aversion to commitment comes from – there is no detachment from the mind, there is no detachment from material things per se. There is just that, “I want to have all options for material enjoyment open, and that way I can explore this also, I can explore this also, I can explore this also.”, and there is actually more degeneration to sensuality. There is no spiritual elevation.
Prabhupada says in one lecture that, Krishna says, Sarva dharman paritejya mam ekam sharanam vraja – he says, sarva dharman paritejya, even the hippies had done that. They had given up their duties to their families, to their nations, to their own carrier, to their parents. I went and taught them, mam ekam sharanam vraja. (laughter)
So, sarva dharman paritejya is not all that difficult. Anybody can give up responsibility, but giving up responsibility is not the way to spiritual advancement. It is – we give up one responsibility to take up a higher responsibility. Mam ekam sharanam vraja – he says, unless we do that, that sarva dharman paritejya will actually take on to tamo guna and cause degeneration. Only when there is mam ekam sharanam vraja there is elevation.
So, sometimes if there is too much focus on detachment, renunciation, rejection, then that can have an unhealthy effect because we talk about renunciation, rejection, but internally we don’t have that realization. So, then that leads to artificial renunciation where there is relapse into indulgence again and again. So, bhakti at least at the level of sadhana bhakti – it is primarily a process of commitment. Commitment means that, I have committed myself to practicing bhakti, I have committed myself to chanting, I have committed myself to doing services.
If we are too attached or too detached we cannot practice bhakti very nicely.
Nati sakto nati nirvanno – in the 11th Canto, in the Uddhava Gita it is said, “One should not be too attached, nor too detached.” Actually nirvanno is not actually detached, it is neither too attached nor too averse. Rather there is a balance by which we move forward in our practice of bhakti. So the goal is ahaituki bhakti. The path is something which each of us has to decide, and Caitanya Mahaprbhu is giving us a very lofty level over here of – I reject everything else for the sake of Krishna. Now the important thing is – “For the sake of Krishna.” So when we talk about material desires, we cannot empty our heart of material desires because the heart has to be filled with something. So we cannot empty our heart of material desires, but we can crowd material desires out of the heart. Crowd material desires out of the heart means that we develop spiritual desires. “I want to do this for Krishna, I want to do this for Krishna, I want to do this for Krishna.” So when there are so many devotional desires in our heart, then the material desires get crowded out, but if I think, “I am not going to do this, I am not going to do this, I am not going to do this.” That no, no, no, it doesn’t last for very long, because in saying No there is not much pleasure, and even if I say No, how long can I just keep saying No? I have to have something which I say Yes to, and that is where commitment comes to. So the more we become committed to serving Krishna, the more we will be able to better material desires.
Some material desires we may have to give up completely, some material desires we fulfil and then we realize the futility. Then we put them aside. How to deal with our material desires? If we make that the primary focus, then we will get exhausted in that battle itself. So the focus is on serving Krishna, on committing ourselves to connecting with Krishna, and when that connection with Krishna is there – from there how I can manage the rest of my life that will be revealed. So, we focus primarily on trying to connect with Krishna.
Now there are two things with respect to this. When we are trying to connect with Krishna what we do? Firstly we try to give our heart to Krishna. That’s what we want to do in pure bhakti, but when we can’t give our heart to Krishna, then we can give what is in our heart to Krishna. If I cannot give my heart to Krishna, then I can give what is in my heart to Krishna. What is in my heart mean, we all have certain interest, certain talents, certain attachments, whatever it is. Now we connect them with Krishna. Say I like to sing. So, singing has a very prominent place in my heart. Then I cannot think of Krishna constantly, but I like to sing. So, I will sing for Krishna or for that matter say money has a prominent place in my heart. So then if I give money to Krishna, then what happens by that? I am giving a part of my heart to Krishna, and that way I am connecting with Krishna. So, the principle is – there has to be some kind of commitment, and that commitment is what leads to the elevation of consciousness, and in sadhana bhakti the focus cannot be too much on rejection or renunciation. We have to renounce certain things, but if you focus too much on that – there is an atheistic joke about Christianity. They say, in the beginning was the word, and the word was No. (laughter)
So, the Bible begins with – in the beginning was a word, and the word was God. So the atheists have removed God, and say that, “In the beginning was a word, and the world was No.” Their idea is, Christianity is saying, “Don’t do this, Don’t do this, Don’t do this – it is just a No saying religion.” It always says, NO, NO, NO. But that is not the vision of bhakti. In bhakti we have to say No to many things, but that is not our primary focus. Our primary focus is on finding how I can say Yes to Krishna, and once that Yes to Krishna fills my consciousness, then the No to other things will automatically happen. That is why when we try to share Krishna bhakti with others also – if we focus too much on the rules, “Don’t do this, Don’t do this, Don’t do this” then people get alienated, but if we can focus on giving them fulfilling means by which they can connect with Krishna, then that connection with Krishna inspires them themselves to say No to other things, and put other things away.
So, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is saying, “Na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim kavitam va Jagadisha Kamaye.” I am saying No to all these things, but the focus is – so that I can develop devotion to Krishna.
Now when we talk about our worldly things which we reject for the sake of Krishna – the rejection that we do, there is rejection that is done because of spiritual realization, and there is rejection which is done because of external regulation. Now external regulation is also very important. That means that if I understand that this is undesirable, this is sinful, this is immoral, I won’t do this. That is important, and there are certain regulative principles which are important to follow; however as we move forward in bhakti the focus becomes not that this are sinful because of which I want to give this up. The focus is that I want to connect with Krishna, and these things impede my connection with Krishna, and that is why I don’t want to do these things. That’s why I focus on connecting with Krishna.
So when Srila Prabhupada – we see when he preached also – at least the first time when he gave initiation he just told devotee, “You have to chant.” And later on after initiation they came to know, “We have to follow this principles also.” So, what Prabhupada did not emphasise, “You have to follow this principles.” He focussed on, “Chant Hare Krishna, get the higher taste, and then by that the lower desires will go away.”
On the way to Krishna – Prabhupada, he had such an inclusive vision. He says, “If a person who is drinking and that person cannot give up drinking, then that person can think that the taste of alcohol is Krishna.” Prabhupada adapts that, “Raso ham kaunteya – I am the taste of water.” So, Prabhupada says, “You can think that the taste of alcohol is Krishna.” and if he does that, then one day that person will become a great devotee of Krishna. So, what does it mean? That means even when one is addicted to alcohol, at least think about Krishna. So, Prabhupada is saying, “Think about Krishna, and by thinking about Krishna the connection with Krishna happens, and then we move forwards.”
So, when we are practicing bhakti – I will conclude with one point and then we can have questions.
We try to follow certain standards, and then we struggle and quite often we may falter and fail and fall in the standards, and that can make us discouraged, and sometimes we feel guity, “I am not able to do this, I am not able to do that.”
Now say this is the soul, this is the wrong doing, and this is Krishna. Now guilt should come here between the soul and the wrong doing. That means that guilt is what stops me from doing the wrong doing, or it makes me feel bad from within when I do wrong. So what is guilt? Actually we consider our conscience – conscience is like in some houses there is a dog which barks when the thief comes. So our conscience is like the dog that barks when the thief of sin comes to steal our bhakti.
So when sin comes and is tempting us, “Do this, do this, enjoy this.” So, at that time our conscience will tell, “Don’t do this, don’t do this.” So, conscience is our watch dog that barks when the thief of sin comes to steal our bhakti, and the bark of that dog is guilt. So in that sense guilt is like a inner protection mechanism. Just like in our body also – if say I am sitting on this chair and if there is a nail in this chair – I feel a pain and immediately I jump up. So that is the body’s defence mechanism, the reflex action which keeps me away from any painful stimuli. There is psychological defence mechanism which keeps us away from wrong doing. So whenever we start doing some wrong then the conscience becomes active and we start feeling guilty, “I should not be doing this.” And that protects us from wrong doing. So in that sense the feeling of guilt we get when we do wrong is good, but still maya can be very, very subtle. So what happens is, sometimes when we do something wrong and we feel guilty – so, the guilt is meant to come between us and the wrong doing, but sometimes that guilt comes between us and Krishna. That means I start feeling, “I just can’t follow the standard. So what is the point of practicing bhakti? Better let me give up the practice of bhakti. I am so impure, I am so fallen, I will never be able to follow the standard. So let me just give this up.” And then our inability to follow some standards – if that makes us discouraged, then that discouragement is coming between us and Krishna, and then that is actually unhealthy for our bhakti. So in one sense anything that comes between us and Krishna that is maya. So if my discouragement because of my not being able to follow the standards – that is coming between me and Krishna, then even that discouragement can be maya. So at one level I may think, “Oh I am not able to follow the standards. So I am feeling bad.” So that is a good feeling – to feel bad, but if that is making me discouraged in the practice of bhakti, then there is no need to be discouraged. That discouragement is unfavourable. So if it is unfavourable, we have to avoid that. Now what does it mean? It is not that any wrong doing that we are doing, that is all fine, that is not the point. The point is how we respond to it? The only way we will be able to become purified is by practicing bhakti. If I become discouraged in the practice of bhakti, then there is no way I am ever going to be purified.
Q: Is conscience Vivek buddhi?
CCP: Yes. In Sanskrit it is called Vivek.
We may not be able to avoid falling down, but we can avoid staying fallen. (laughter)
In our practice of bhakti, we have certain desires, certain temptations. It maybe lust, it maybe anger, it may be greed, whatever it is. Now this desires they are all there, and they trouble us, but they don’t always trouble us with the same intensity. If you consider electricity – like sometimes in electricity there are spikes. In the electricity sometimes suddenly the voltage shoots up very high. So, like that in the course of our life sometimes we have spikes of desires.
Normally there is certain level of agitation, but then suddenly sometimes the level of agitation goes very high, and during those spikes we may find it impossible to resist. We may indulge, we may fall, we may do something wrong also, but the point is that the spikes doesn’t stay always. Now when I am talking about this – I talked about – guilt is here when it comes between us and wrong doing, but this is as I said is maya. You could call this as pseudo-guilt. Now pseudo-guilt means that which comes between us and Krishna which discourages us in the practice of bhakti. So, what is this pseudo-guilt? There was a spike because of which I did wrong, but then afterwards the pseudo-guilt makes me think, “Why should I practice bhakti? I will never be able to follow the standards.” So now the spike is no longer there. Now in normal consciousness I can practice bhakti, but I am simply beating myself up, “Why did I do that? I did wrong and I am fallen, I will never be able to practice bhakti.”, then we stay fallen.
Actually the spike will come again in the future, and maybe I will fall again at that time, but in between those falls I have the opportunity to practice bhakti, but when this pseudo-guilt comes in, it doesn’t allow me to practice bhakti in between the spikes, and thus we stay fallen. So when the spike comes, the desire may become so strong that it may just knock me down. So in that sense we may not be able to avoid falling down. When the spike comes it may just knock us down, but the spike came and I did something wrong, but afterwards the spike is gone. Then I need to rise and move onwards, but when the pseudo-guilt comes, we think, “Oh I am good for nothing, I am sinful, I am fallen, I will never be able to do it.” And we stay fallen. But we can avoid staying fallen. That means that once the spike has gone we just rise and start practicing bhakti, and if we are just practicing bhakti wholeheartedly, gradually by the practice of bhakti we will become stronger, and eventually when the spike comes we will be able to resist it also. Otherwise when the spike comes we fall, and afterwards we are discouraged so that we don’t do anything, and then next time the spike comes we are unprepared to deal with the spike and again and we fall. What is happening?
When we fall for a particular desire at that time the mind is tricking us, “C’mon enjoy, you will get a lot of pleasure, C’mon do this.” And we fall for it. So, after that – at that time we are conscious of the mind and we succumb to the mind, but the mind is so cunning that first it becomes like a criminal who induces us to do crime, and then after that the same mind becomes a judge and says, “You fool. Why didn’t you do that?” and the mind starts beating us. “You are so foolish, you are sinful, you are so stupid. So many times you have done the same wrong thing.” So what is happening? First the mind makes us do wrong, then the mind beats us for doing wrong. In both cases actually I am simply conscious of the mind. I am conscious of the mind when it tells us to do wrong, and after that I am conscious of the mind when I am thinking, “I am so fallen.” In neither case I am Krishna conscious. So, sometimes the mind may just attack with so much force that we may not be able to resist, but after that – “Ok, let me rise, let me practice bhakti. It doesn’t matter even if I did something wrong. May be in the future I may again do something wrong, but right now I can practice bhakti, and by the practice of bhakti what will happen is – we will get the strength to move forwards.
So this pseudo-guilt is what causes us to stay fallen, rather than to rise. So when we are trying to practice bhakti, if we give in to the pseudo-guilt, then we will never rise, but – “Even if I did something wrong, doesn’t matter, now let me rise and let me start practicing bhakti.” Krishna is so kind that Krishna is still giving me an opportunity to practice bhakti, Krishna has not rejected me, Krishna has not – no matter what we do, Krishna is not going to leave my heart and go away.”
Actually there is nothing that we can ever do that can make Krishna stop loving us. We don’t have that power to do anything by which Krishna will stop loving us. Krishna’s love for us is not based on who we are, Krishna’s love for us is based on who he is.
Now he is suhridam sarva bhutanam. He is a well-wisher of all living beings. He loves everyone. Normally we talk about Krishna as bhakta-vatsala. In the S.B (7th canto, 9th chapter) Prahlad Maharaj says – he refers to the Lord as, Kripana vatsala. Not just bhakta vatsala – Krpana vatsala. Those who are attached, he is even merciful to them. Krishna’s love for us is not based on who we are. Even if I am sinful, even if I am fallen, still Krishna loves me because he is God, he is the well-wisher of everyone, and Krishna’s love means – he still gives me the opportunity to practice bhakti. So, even if I am not able to follow any particular standard, the important thing is – I keep practicing bhakti. So there may be this lapses, there may be the faults, but in between those spikes when I fall what do I do? If I keep practicing bhakti, eventually I will be able to come to the level where I will be able to resist the spikes also. So, rather than worrying too much about times when the desires will become strong and I will not be able to resist it, we focus on, “Right now let me practice bhakti and when those desires becomes too high, we will see how to deal with them. Even if we fall again we can rise and we can keep moving forwards.” So, in this case what is happening is that, if we are too attached, if our conception of devotion is too renunciation centred, that means, “Only if I give this up them I am a serious devotee.” If our conception of devotion is very renunciation centred – renunciation doesn’t necessarily means the renounced order. It can be renunciation of any particular pleasure.
If our conception of devotion is very renunciation centred, then our inability to renounce that particular thing – that discourages us so much that we stop practicing bhakti itself, or we become disheartened, half-heartened in the practice of bhakti, but if our conception of bhakti is Krishna centred – “Ok, this is the particular thing that I have to follow, but I am not able to follow it, fine, Ok will deal with it, but I will continue practicing bhakti no matter what happens.” Then what practice of bhakti will give us is the strength by which we will rise upwards, and eventually we will come to the level where we will be able to follow whatever standards we are expected to follow or we want to follow. So we should not let the pursuit of standard discourage us. The standards are there so that we can rise upwards, but our inability to rise upwards – if it discourages us, then that discouragement is maya, and then we think, “No, I will not discouraged. It doesn’t matter even if I am not able to follow standards, I will keep practicing bhakti, and by the practice of bhakti eventually whatever purification happens, that will enable me to follow the standards.”
So, we should not make renunciation as the pre-condition for devotion. Renunciation is actually the fruit that will come naturally from devotion. So, even if I am not able to renounce any particular thing, still I keep practicing bhakti, and by the practice of bhakti eventually that renunciation and the practice of bhakti of a particular standard will gradually emerge.
So, I will summarize and then we will have questions for a few minutes –
I started by talking in this verse – na dhanam, na janam na sundarim – Mahaprabhu is rejecting the fruits in the path of karma and the fruits on the path of jnana and he is focussing on whole-hearted bhakti. So karma romanticizes the world. There are so many wonderful things. I will just get them, and I will be happy.
Jnana demonizes the world, but bhakti demonizes means – “Oh, this world is full of distress, temptation, danger. Just get out of here.” But bhakti’s focus is – Utilize the world. Whatever is this world we can use in Krishna’s service.
So if we look at the context of the Bhagavad-gita – the Bhagavad-gita describes – because of its context the Bhagavad-gita’s vision of bhakti is more centred on karma. Arjuna has to do his duty. The Bhagavatam’s vision of bhakti is more related with jnana, in the sense that – it is pure bhakti, but it is more focussed on – Parikshit Maharaj had to renounce the world focussing only Krishna. So the focus is only on renunciation, but the essence of bhakti is neither action nor renunciation. It is actually devotion to Krishna, but the devotion can be done through action, it can be done through renunciation also.
Since we live in a culture where people are often averse to commitment, we may mistake that my aversion is detachment, but aversion to commitment comes from tamo guna. It is often irresponsibility whereas detachment means I am a responsible person but I give up on responsibility to take up a higher responsibility. I give up the minds promises for pleasures so that I can focus on Krishna’s promise and I devote myself to serving Krishna.
So, attachment and detachment – attachment is largely associated with the path of karma, detachment is largely associated with the path of jnana. Bhakti goes beyond attachment and detachment to commitment. Actually in pure bhakti there is attachment to Krishna, that is spiritual attachment, but we are far from that right now. At our stage it is commitment. By the process of commitment we will move forward and eventually develop pure devotion and we will develop attachment to Krishna, and in connection with commitment I discussed this point elaborately about – we commit not so much to following particular standards of renunciation, or so much as we commit to practicing bhakti no matter what happens.
So in that connection I talked about how conscience is the dog that barks when this thief of sin comes to steal our bhakti and the bark of that dog is guilt. So guilt should come between us and wrong doing, but there can be pseudo-guilt which comes between us and Krishna. That is when I do some wrong I feel so discouraged because of that, that I just give up the practice of bhakti. Then that is maya and that has to be avoided. So in that connection I discussed how the mind first makes us do wrong, and then the mind beats us for doing wrong. So, when the spikes come we may not be able to resist, but we don’t have to keep lamenting that I could not resist at that time. In between the spikes we keep practicing bhakti. We may fall down, we may not be able to avoid falling down, but we can avoid staying fallen. That means that once the spikes have gone, what do I do after that? After that I rise and I start practicing bhakti with determination, and by that practice of bhakti eventually we will become strong enough to resist the spikes also, and then we will rise to higher standards of purity and renunciation in our devotion.
Any questions or comments?
Q: How can guilt manifest in a way that is favourable for the practice of bhakti?
CCP: That is very nicely seen in the 6th Canto. Ajamil after he is saved from the Yamadutas by the Visnudutas – so it is significant that when the Yamaduta’s, they give a list of Ajamil’s sins, and then Ajamil himself lists his sins and actually Ajamil’s list is longer than the Yamaduta’s list. (laughter) Ajamil said that, “I left my father who was old, my parents were old and I left them and they had to suffer because of that.” There are several things which he said that even the Yamaduta’s also don’t talk about. That means that he is very much aware of the wrongs that he has done. So, it is not that in order to not feel bad because of guilt we somehow deny whatever wrong we have done. It’s not that we rationalize. But Ajamil fully confesses and accepts the wrong that he has done, but his focus is on – somehow by Krishna’s mercy, somehow by Lord Visnu’s mercy, he sent his Visnu dutas and saved me. Now I will determinately practice bhakti.” So that means what happens is – the right feeling of guilt is that, first I focus on Krishna, and I want to connect with Krishna, and while connecting with Krishna if I remember, “Oh, I have done so many wrong things, I am so fallen. I am actually not qualified to have this opportunity, but I have this opportunity. So, let me treasure this opportunity.”
So the feeling of guilt, when it makes us appreciate the opportunity to practice bhakti in spite of our disqualifications – then the focus becomes more on treasuring bhakti. So, we are aware of our sinfulness so that we recognize that how unqualified I am for that thing, and yet Krishna has given me this opportunity. So let me take this opportunity and let me never again lose this opportunity, let me never do anything that will even create the danger of losing this opportunity. So, in that sense the guilt in the light of Krishna consciousness – Krishna consciousness means I am conscious of how much Krishna has been kind to me, how Krishna has given me something, and in that light how I could have done such a thing? It is so terrible. I will never again do such a thing.
So, without Krishna consciousness – many psychologists talk about how guilt is psychologically damaging. If you have too much guilt you cannot do anything, and it is not only guilt that is psychologically damaging – actually there are so many material emotions that can be psychologically damaging. So what we need to have is – we focus on Krishna first, and then awareness of our sinfulness and our disqualification for Krishna bhakti – and still Krishna’s mercy is giving us bhakti – that is what is the primary characteristic of guilt as we see in Ajamil’s pastime.
So when guilt makes us aware of our sinfulne
ss and our disqualification – and therefore we recognize how merciful Krishna is to give me this opportunity, and we hold on that opportunity, and that is guilt that is anukul to bhakti.
Q: How can we actually understand this feeling of guilt, as you said rightly that I am very sinful and without Krishna’s mercy I cannot give up this sin?
CCP: I can give one example here. Say if there is a beggar. The beggar is in a very poverty stricken condition, and then somebody comes and gives a precious jewel. It can solve all the problems of money of that person, and then that beggar loses the jewel, and then afterwards the beggar gets the jewel back again or the beggar gets another jewel; at one level for the beggar to be aware of how poverty stricken I am, that is important so that the beggar recognises how precious the jewel is. So similarly if I am aware of how sinful I am by which I become aware of how precious this opportunity to practice bhakti is for me, then that is favourable for me.
If I think, “I can practice bhakti anytime. I will enjoy now. Afterwards I will come and practice bhakti.” If I have that casual attitude, then I am not really aware of the power of the conditioning, the power of maya, and then that guilt is not really working. It’s basically like a lackadaisical attitude. “I can enjoy now, I can practice bhakti later.” So when the guilt is active, that means we are aware that, “I am in such a spiritually poverty stricken condition, that without Krishna’s mercy I will just sink down terribly. So, when I am aware how degraded the world around is, how degraded my mind is, or how much it can drag me down, then that awareness creates a sense of caution, a sense of healthy fear we could say, and it keeps us from going in that direction. So if we understand this spiritually poverty stricken condition of us in Kali Yuga, and we understand how precious the wealth of bhakti that we have got, then that guilt, that awareness of our fallen condition can impel us to move towards Krishna. So the beggar metaphor can help in appreciating the role of guilt.
Q: In a practical sense how do we differentiate between attachment, detachment and commitment?
CCP: Broadly there are areas we know that this is what I am attached to. We all know our attachments, and if we observe ourselves we also come to know about our aversions. We are maybe averse to some people, some situations, some places. We have our aversions. So, if we observe ourselves we can come to know about our attachments and our aversions in broad …53:35… and similarly we can find out what is it in bhakti that I am attracted to, that I can connect with strongly, and we try to develop some commitment for that.
So now, once we have this broad ….53:50 …. clear, then in the specifics we may not always be right. That means that sometimes we may veer towards detachment where instead of – we may be acting too much out of aversion, or sometimes we may be acting too much out of attachment. That we will learn by experience, but broadly speaking if we have a overall understanding of – this are the things which help me move towards Krishna, and I will keep doing this things. Sometimes I may veer too much in this direction, sometimes I may veer too much in that direction. That is ok. Say that when a plane is moving from say – I came from Mumbai to Orlando. So, when the plane is moving it is not that the plane goes in straight line. They say that almost for 95% of the time of the flight the plane is off track because there is the wind, pressure, atmospheric conditions and all that, and the plane just keeps going off track, but then the pilot keeps getting it on track. Because the pilot keeps getting the plane on track that’s how the plane eventually reaches its destination.
So, like that because we have some attachments, we have some aversions, so they may make us go of course sometimes, but if we have a overall understanding of where we want to go, then we will ourselves understand, “Ok, now I have gone off track. I have to come back again.” So, generally if we are in the association of devotees and if we have some good devotee friends they may tell us, “Now you are going off in this direction.” Or if we also have a introspective nature, then periodically, maybe once in 15 days, once a month, just look back and see, how is my life going? – “I got too much into this.”
Basically quite often when we start going excess in any direction, the result is that there is dissatisfaction, there is frustration, there is resentment, there is stress. Negativity starts coming too much when our connection with Krishna becomes weaker. So when we start sensing that – see the problem is – I will conclude with this point and we will continue tomorrow.
When material desires come up, we often think that, “Oh, now I have to indulge.” Or we think, “Oh why this material desires come?” But the material desires may not necessarily be indication that I have to indulge in some wrong doing. They may just be indications that my connection with Krishna has weakened. So, whenever we start feeling our anarthas rising during the practice of bhakti, that can also be an indication that, “I am doing something wrong over here.” So, then I do course correction and I come back. So, if we broadly understand our attachments, our aversions and our commitments, and we are introspective so that periodically we check out, then we can always do course correction and come back in the right track.
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