Shikshashtakam 9 Text 5 The subtle interplay of endeavor and grace in bhakti
Workshop at Krishna Institute, Alachua, USA
Transcription of Lecture
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is praying that, “Oh! Son of Nanda, Tanuja Kinkara.” The word Kinkara means – kinkaroti iti kinkara. What should I do? Kinkara is a word for servant. “I am your servant O Lord. Patitam mam visame bhavam budhou – in this world somehow I have fallen – in this terrible material world – visame bhavam budhou; visame is distress. Distress filled world. Kripaya tava pada pankaja. I turn to your lotus feet. Sthita dhuli sadrisam vicintaya – please situate me at your lotus feet.” This is a petition to the Lord, a call for mercy.
In this talk I will discuss about the relationship of endeavour and mercy in the process of bhakti.
Endevour and Prayer – Prayer is the means by which we primarily get grace. This verse is a prayer. So, on the paths of karma and jnana the endeavour is primary. There might be some element of mercy or grace involved, but it is considered secondary, whereas on the path of bhakti, grace (Kripa) is primary. So, in karma also there is some idea of mercy because say when somebody does some tapasya to invoke some devata – so, Hiranyakashipu does some tapasya to please Brahma, and eventually Brahma comes and Brahma gives power. So that power we could say is mercy, but we see in those situations, quite often the devatas are obliged to come if the appropriate rituals are done. So in that sense the endeavour that is there is primary. If the endeavour is there, then whatever blessings are there, they will automatically come. So in the path of jnana, sometimes the jnani’s also adopt some elements of bhakti. For them bhakti is simply a tool to mukti.
In Bengal there is a saying, “Chaitanya Math, Shankar Path” That means, “Follow the path of Caitanya, and then go to the destination which Shankaracharya has given.” So the idea is – Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s path of bhakti is very joyful, but they have the idea that the impersonal absolute is the highest realization, and they think that Bhakti is the means to Mukti.
Sometime impersonalists also practice bhakti, but for them God is not the ultimate reality. God is a transitional reality. That means that, “I worship God till I come to the level of goodness or transcendence, and then I go beyond God.” So there is the idea that we can worship God, but till we come to a higher level, and then we will go beyond God. So in that case also the impersonalist’s also may sing devotional songs, they may also do bhajans and kirtans, and that can be uplifting, but their goal is that ultimately we have to go beyond this personal form. So in that sense they think, “How will I go beyond that?” It is not by the grace of that personal form, because that personal form is ultimately an illusion.” So in their case, their endeavour is what is primary, and that’s why do a lot of Vedantic analysis – na iti, na iti – Vedanta vakyesu sada ramanta, we should actually delight in the analysis of Vedanta, trying to find out new meanings of the sutras. So there also the endeavour is primary.
On the path of bhakti it is grace that is primary. The simple, standard example for this is – A person has fallen in the well. Somebody outside wants to rescue that person. The person outside sends a rope inside. Now when the rope is sent inside – without the rope for the person to come out is very difficult. He has to find out some fingerhold, some foot hold, he has to try to climb up on the side of the well, that is very difficult. The rope is there. After the rope is there, the person from outside will pull out, and the person inside has to hold on. If the person outside does not pull out, no matter how the person inside holds, the person outside will not be able to come out. So the person outside pulling is primary. So the pulling is like Krishna lifting us up. That is Krishna’s mercy. That is primary, but at the same time the person inside – that person also has to hold on. If the person doesn’t hold on, then they will not be pulled out. So in that sense in Maths, they have something called the – “Necessary but not sufficient condition.” So, in most cases our endeavour is necessary. Although our endeavour is not sufficient, but our endeavour is necessary.
When we say grace is primary and endeavour is secondary that does not mean that endeavour is unimportant. Just like the person inside has to hold on to the rope firmly. Without that they will not be pulled out. Srila Prabhupada says this in a C.C purport that if we are not determined, even the supreme personality of Godhead can’t help us. That means that if the person outside pulls out, but if the person inside doesn’t hold it, the rope will come out but the person will stay inside only. So like that if we don’t have some determination, then even Krishna cannot help us, and Prabupada talks about this in connection with the pastime of Kal Krishna Das. Kal Krishna Das was right with Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but although he was with Caitanya Mahaprabhu, still he got allured and he gave into that temptation and he went away. Of course Caitanya Mahaprabhu rescued him and brought him back, but still he had a lapse over there. How did that happen? It’s because although the supreme personality of Godhead was personally with him, but still because he became relaxed, he did not endeavour, so he was pulled away by maya. So, that means that our determination is also important.
The role of determination is primarily to access the mercy. Just like the rope is there. To hold on to the rope I need determination. Now the determination can also be of different types, and some determination is favourable to bhakti, some determination can actually be unfavourable to bhakti. So, if the determination is an expression of devotion or it can be an expression of will power. Expression of will power means, “I will show the world how sense controlled I am. I will let the whole world see how sense controlled I am.” And that is the primary purpose in controlling my senses. If I fast nirjala on ekadasi, and then when I fast nirjala on ekadasi, I go to the kitchen and see who all are there are eating what all, and I am thinking, “Oh, they are all sense gratifiers.” Then my body is fasting, but my ego is feasting. So that sort of determination is not very favourable, that sort of determination actually ends up making me proud, and when I become proud I don’t feel the need for Krishna. So the whole process of bhakti is that we feel a very strong need for Krishna, and pride makes us actually no longer feel any need for Krishna.
If the determination is simply an expression of our will power – how firmly can I stick to my resolutions, then that determination can sometimes – although we may be practicing the principles of bhakti very strictly, but we may not be going closer to Krishna.
So the principles of bhakti are meant to take us closer to Krishna, but we go closer to Krishna when we have a open, humble, receptive heart, but if our heart is filled with just the idea, “How sense controlled I am, how great I am” then it becomes difficult for Krishna to find a place over there. In general if we look at the six opulence’s – fame, wealth, power, strength, knowledge and renunciation – among these the last two – knowledge and renunciation, they are often seen as sign of spiritual advancement. If somebody is wealthy, somebody is good looking, we won’t automatically think that this person is spiritually advanced. We know wealth is a result of past karma. As they are wealthy, they can use the wealth in Krishna’s service, give some special attention to them if they are wealthy, but we don’t equate wealth with spiritual advancement. We don’t equate good looks – not just good looks, in terms of passionate good looks. Even a satwic peaceful look, we don’t equate that with spiritual advancement, but quite often jnana and vairagya, these we equate with spiritual advancement. If somebody is very renounced we tend to think that this person must be spiritually advanced, or if I am very renounced, it is easy to think that I am very spiritually advanced, but here an important thing to recognize is that just as the wealth, beauty – these are results of past karma, some people can have them more, some people can have them less.
Similarly, the capacity for renunciation is also a result of past karma, and some people may have it more, some people may have it less. A simple example of this is say with fasting. Now if you look at it from the perspective of Ayurveda – those who have a cough prakriti, for them fasting is relative easy, for those who have a pitta prakriti fasting is extremely difficult. Even fasting till noon starts causing so much acidity. It starts causing burning of the stomach, people just can’t tolerate it. Now a person who is having cough pravritti, they can fast nirjala also. Now this itself is not the sign of spiritual advancement. By their past karma they have got that bodily type in which fasting is relatively easy, and that can be used for spiritual advancement. When one fasts more, one can focus on Krishna more, and one can grow spiritually, but that itself is not necessarily a sign of spiritual advancement. So, different people may have different capacities for renunciation, and just like how much wealth I have doesn’t determine how spiritually advanced I am – what determines how spiritually advanced I am is, how I use my wealth. E.g. If a person has a lot of wealth, they can do a lot of service, but the wealth will lead to spiritual advancement when it is used for service. The presence of wealth automatically doesn’t equate with spiritual advancement. It is when the wealth is used for serving Krishna, then there is spiritual advancement. So, just as wealth is a result of past karma and that can be used in Krishna’s service, similarly renunciation is also to some extent a result of past karma – the capacity for renunciation.
Just as the presence of wealth alone does not equate with spiritual advancement, similarly the presence of renunciation alone doesn’t equate with spiritual advancement. Our spiritual advancement depends not on how much wealth I have, but what I do with my wealth. Similarly our spiritual advancement depends not on how much renunciation I have, but what I do with the renunciation that I have. So, if somebody has a capacity for renunciation and they use that capacity for renunciation to serve Krishna; those who can be renounced, they can avoid a lot of material entanglement, a lot of material things which dissipate a lot of our time and energy, and they can do a lot of service for Krishna, but just as wealth can be misused, similarly renunciation can be misused.
Usually wealth is misused for gross sense gratification, and renunciation is misused for subtle sense gratification. So, the misuse or renunciation for subtle sense gratification means that, I let the renunciation feed my ego. Subtle sense gratification is puja, labh and pratistha. As we say, “Name, fame, glory, same old story.” Life after life this is what we have been doing – chasing after name, fame and glory. So, if I use my renunciation to gain name, fame and glory, then actually it is subtle sense gratification. So, on the path of bhakti when there is determination – here is saying, determination I am roughly equating with renunciation or the capacity for renunciation. That is good but if that is simply a product of my will power – “see how renounced I can be.” Then that can feed our ego, whereas if we have renunciation, we have the capacity for determination and we use it to focus on Krishna, we use it to become more absorbed in service of Krishna, to push aside destruction in our service to Krishna, then that determination is a very very powerful tool on the path of bhakti.
So, when we practice bhakti our capacity for determination may vary, and that capacity for determination comes from our capacity for renunciation, and that comes from our past karma. So now, what does this mean? This means that, just because somebody is necessarily more renounced, that does not mean that they are more advanced. They can become more advanced if they use their renunciation in Krishna’s service.
Now of course all renunciation is not necessarily a result of past karma, because that itself also produces renunciation.
janayaty āśu vairāgyaṁ
jñānaṁ ca yad ahaitukam
In S.B (1.2.7) it is said that when there is bhakti – bhakti also leads to jnana and vairagya. So, that is why later I will talk about judgementality. We should not be judgemental. If somebody has renunciation – it is not for us to judge whether their renunciation is a product of their devotion or if their renunciation is past karma. If somebody is renounced, the traditional Vedic culture is – the renounced order is respected, but that alone is not the sign of spiritual advancement.
So the renunciation can also be a result of bhakti, and to some extent we see this that initially we might have been attached to some indulgences, we might have had some undesirable habits, and we start chanting Hare Krishna, practicing bhakti, and then we are just able to give up so many things. The things which we were quite attached to earlier – when we are able to give it up, that is actually a result of Vasudeve Bhagavati. Because of bhakti we get the higher taste, we get the higher wisdom and we are able to give up many things.
If you consider hypothetically, the levels of determination or the levels of renunciation – if somebody is at this level, somebody is at this level, all of them have to move towards Krishna. So within Varnashram, say a person who is at a more renounced level, they are considered higher than a person who is at a less renounced level, but that is the Varnasrama way of looking at things. The Vaisnava way of looking at thing is – not how much renounced from the world I am, but how much attached to Krishna I am, and that’s why we have the whole Varnasrma hierarchy inserted in the discussion between Ramananda Roy and Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a brahmana and a sanyasi. So, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is at the top of the Varnasrama hierarchy in both ways – in varna and ashrama, brahmana and sanyasi, and Ramananda Roy is a grihastha and a sudra, and yet Caitanya Mahaprabhu hears from him. So our point in discussing this is that we want determination in the practice of bhakti, but even if different devotees are capable of different levels of determination, still they all are on the progressive path. So, it is not necessary that just some devotee who has greater determination is necessarily more spiritually advanced. The determination may be result of past karma. Now that greater determination can be used in Krishna’s service. So once we understand this aspect, we can avoid a lot of insecurity that comes when we see, “Oh this devotee is doing so much, I can’t do anything.” In spiritual life – our spiritual advancement is not a percentile score that we have to crack. A percentile score means that, how much marks I get, that depends on how much marks everybody is getting. It’s not like that.
Krishna sees our heart, Krishna sees our endeavour, Krishna knows our capacity and Krishna sees how much we are exerting according to our capacity. So whatever endeavour we are capable of, if we do it, then gradually our capacity will increase by Krishna’s grace. So we endeavour according to our capacity. So, rather than thinking of an absolute standard of endeavour, we look at our level presently and take steps forward. Take steps forward and we will move on, and maya can be very subtle in this connection.
Sometime we may win over temptations and go away from Krishna, and sometimes we may lose against and temptations and go closer to Krishna. How is that? I may win over temptation, and if that makes me proud, “I am so sense controlled. Temptation came and I resisted it.” So, by winning over temptation I become proud, and then I go away from Krishna. On the other hand if I lose against temptation, and that makes me feel humble, that makes me feel, “Without Krishna I cannot do anything.” So, when I realize that, then actually that may increase my dependence on Krishna, and that dependence on Krishna can actually enable me to go closer to Krishna, see Krishna as the centre more.
So, in bhakti our strengths can be our weaknesses, and our weaknesses can be our strengths. We may win against temptations and not go close to Krishna, or we may lose and go close to Krishna. So, what does this first part mean? That our strengths can be our weaknesses – that is basically S.B (1:8:27), Kunti Maharani’s prayer – Janma, aiswarya, suta… So, if my strength makes me feel that I don’t need Krishna, then that becomes an impediment on the spiritual path. Thus my strength can become my weakness. On the other hand my weakness, my inability to do certain things, if that makes me more humble, that makes me feel the need for Krishna, then my weakness can become my strength. That can make me feel more urgently the need for Krishna, and that can take us closer to Krishna. So, we may lose against temptations and not go closer to Krishna, or we may lose and go closer to Krishna. So, the endeavour is important, but rather than looking at endeavour in an absolute standard we can see what is my level and endeavour to the best of my capacity.
Our grace is primary, but endeavour although secondary it is not unimportant. Endeavour is also necessary, and then we discussed elaborately about what the role of endeavour is.
So, the last point I will conclude, and then we can have question and answers here.
We are unqualified, but we are never disqualified. So, what this means is – unqualified means, we actually have no qualification to receive Krishna’s mercy, but disqualified means, you are not allowed to participate only. Like recently in the Olympics it was found that some athletes had taken some drugs. If they are accused of doping, then they are not allowed to participate itself, they are disqualified. So, in bhakti we are never disqualified. We are unqualified but we are never disqualified. Always Krishna keeps the doors to him open for us. From wherever we are, no matter how much we fall, the path to Krishna is always open, and in that sense no matter what happens, even if we fail in our endeavours repeatedly, still if we keep focussed in trying to go towards Krishna, we will eventually move towards him and we will attain him, and this is actually the mood of 9.30 & 9.31, where Krishna says, “api cet tu duracharo bhajate mam ananya bhak, sadhur eva sa mantavya, samyag vyavasito hi saha – Even if someone commits terribly wrong activities, if they are devoted to me then they are well situated.” Krishna says that they are to be considered saintly. What this means is – Yesterday I talked about spikes. Sometimes the spikes come and that time we are just overpowered. So, what Krishna is saying here basically in terms of the spike metaphor is that, when there are spikes we may do something wrong – suduracharo, but after that – bhajate mam ananya bhak, one is determined to continue practicing bhakti. One doesn’t think that because I fell down, I will give up bhakti only. He continues on. That eventually we will become purified by the practice of bhakti. So, we are never disqualified, no matter how low level our endeavour may be, we can always receive Krishna’s mercy, we are not disqualified, and then our endeavour doesn’t generate mercy. But our endeavour attracts mercy.
What is the difference between generating and attracting? Generating means say, if I go to some food booth, and then I put some money and in the food booth some food pops up. So, I have put in the money and the food has come up. So we can say, the money input has generated that food. That is generation, but endeavour means what? There is a beggar on the street, and then that beggar begs to the passerby, “Please give me some food, please give me some money.” Now if the beggar begs very fervently a passerby may feel more inspired to give, but the begging itself does not entitle the beggar to get the alms, to get the charity. So, the more fervently the beggar begs, the likelihood of the person giving charity is more, giving alms is more, but it is not necessary.
Prabhupada gave the example that, once he was going on a morning walk and there were some ducks who were being fed by a man, and Prabhupada was observing, and the man was giving food to all the different ducks, and there was one duck that was quacking specially loudly. Very loudly it was quacking, and then this man was giving more morsels to that duck. So, Prabhupada says, “If you call out to Krishna for more and more mercy – the man could give the morsel to any duck, but this duck was calling out more and the man was giving more food – So, like that he says, for mercy we call out to Krishna more – our endeavour doesn’t generate, we can’t force Krishna to giver mercy, but our endeavour attracts Krishna’s mercy. The more we endeavour, the more Krishna will give mercy to us. So, it is not a linear proportion. There is a whole concept of Kripa siddha also. Some people may become elevated and become perfect just by mercy, but the general process is sadhana siddha. We do sadhana and then Krishna gives kripa, and that is how we move onwards in our spiritual journey. So, this prayer is a prayer for mercy. Krpaya tava pada pankaja sthita dhuli sadrisam vicintaya, please situate me at your lotus feet.
Now what does it mean to be situated on Krishna’s lotus feet? Basically if we look at the context, this verse is saying that, “Please lift me out of material existence, I have fallen in this vishame bhavam budhau – terrible material existence I have fallen. Please lift me out of this.” And again also at our level it can mean, “Lift me out of material consciousness, and lift me to spiritual consciousness”, and in all the previous verses if we see the flow that is going, first it is described how powerful the holy name is, the second verse talks about the further explanation of the power of the holy name, and the misfortune in not being attracted to the holy name. The third verse talks about how to become attracted to the holy name, and the fourth verse talks about the aspiration – that I don’t want anything of this world, I want only Krishna, and in the 5th verse it says, in this world where all this things – dhana, jana, sundari, kavita – all these things are there, but I don’t want all these things. So, please lift me get out of this world, and please situate me at your lotus feet. So, being situated at Krishna’s lotus feet means being situated in devotional consciousness, absorbed in devotional consciousness, and the 6th, 7th,8th text will actually talk about that devotional consciousness.
The deep spiritual emotions that come in the devotional consciousness, that transformation of ecstasy, that all will be talked about in the subsequent verses. That’s why I said that the first five verses are talking about the sambandha in one sense. The whole is abhideya, and the last three verses will be about prayojana. So, the sambandha jnana – that actually Krishna is my only desirable object, and Krishna is so potent that he can elevate me. So, what I want is – I want to be elevated. So, that means – to give another way of analysing this is that, when a person goes for begging – begging is essentially a relationship of asymmetry. Nowadays people want symmetrical relationships. Both of us are equals, but begging is inherently a relationship of asymmetry. The beggar doesn’t have anything, and the donor has so much, and then the donor gives to the beggar. If the beggar goes in suit and pant and suitcases, and has a wallet filled with money, and the beggar says, “Give me some money.” The donor will say, “Why do you need money, you already have it. Why should I give it to you?” So, begging is a relationship of asymmetry.
In begging – what would the beggar normally do? The beggar would glorify the donor about how wealthy they are, how charitable they are, and then the beggar will talk about, “Oh, what a fallen condition I am in. I am so poor. I have not eaten for so long. I am dying of starvation, whatever it is.” They will talk about their destitute condition, and then he would say, “Please give me some alms.” So, basically if you analyse begging, we have these three parts. Not necessarily in the linear sense, but how great the donor is, that means that how wealthy and charitable the donor is, how destitute I am, and please therefore help me. So, if you look at it that way, these verses – the first two verses are glorifying how great Krishna’s holy name is. The first verse talks literally talks about the various ways in which it is filled with nectar, it frees from material existence and all that. The second verse also talks about this further, that actually all of Krishna’s power is there in the holy name. So there, the glorification of Krishna – the praising of the donor is happening. Then he talks about his own disqualification in that same verse. “Unfortunately I have no taste for the holy name.”, and then what he is saying is, “How does one develop taste?” By humility and tolerance. By that one can develop taste, and by trying to reject material desires and selecting spiritual desires. But all these, cultivating humility and tolerance, cultivating rejection of worldly desires, all that is actually very difficult to sustain when we are in the material consciousness.
Therefore this verse has a prayer, “Please raise me to spiritual consciousness. I am a spiritual being. I am your eternal part. Please lift me up.” So, in that way expressing the glory of the holy name, expressing one’s destitute condition, and then begging to be elevated up. That’s how the Siksastakam is flowing forwards, and the last three verses will describe that once one is elevated, what are the emotions that the soul in spiritual consciousness experiences.
Any comments or questions?
Q: Is Krishna partial? Because only when we call out he responds, and if someone doesn’t have the nature to call out, then will Krishna not respond?
CCP: Firstly Krishna is impartially partial. What that means is – he is definitely partial. He says, “I give so much mercy to my devotees.
muktiṁ dadāti karhicit sma na bhakti-yogam
I give liberation to my devotees, not to others.” So Krishna’s partiality is definitely there, but then he is impartial because he opens the doors for devotion to everyone.
I will explain what I mean by this.
So, Krishna is partial in the sense that he favours his devotees, and there is no denying it. Scripture talks so much about how he favours his devotees, but he is impartial in the sense that he opens the doors to devotion to everyone. I will give two examples to illustrate this. Going back to the earlier example of how a beggar is there, and the donor is there. Now suppose that donor – they want to give charity to everyone, but Prabhupada would say, “We would like that around the temple, 10 miles around no one should go hungry. So, now the donor may give charity to everyone, but it maybe that in their own home that donor may be especially charitable. “I will give money to everyone, but in this area, I want to make sure that around my home I want to have a hunger free zone.” Now if the donor also makes is clear, “Anyone can come anyone can stay here. If you stay here I will take care of your food.” So he is partial in the sense that he is not giving so much charity to everyone, but he is impartial in the sense that he is allowing everyone to come and stay there. So similarly Krishna is partial to his devotees, but he is impartial in the sense that he opens the doors of devotion to everyone. So, now coming specifically to the point of – somebody may not have the nature to call out. So calling out is not just a matter of literally raising our hands and calling out. Yes that is also calling out, but that is not the only means.
We can call out through our endeavours also. That means that if somebody is very diligently doing some service, then that also a way we can attract Krishna’s attention. So, calling out doesn’t depend on the volume with which I am chanting. Calling out is actually a more of a call of the heart and the call of the tongue. So for some people it may be true that – some people are little introverts, so loud kirtans – they can’t relate with it so much, the feel a little shy to do that. Now of course sankirtan is our process and we follow that, but sometimes people who are too conscious of others, they cannot express their heart too much among many people. So it may be that when the crowds are less they may go in front of the deity and pray. The point I am making is – there is always room of individuality in bhakti. There is standard process, but within the standard process there is room for adaptation.
If you look at the 5 pandavas, all them are singular individuals. Each of them is so different. They are all serving Krishna but they are different. So that individuality is there. So, in terms of being very expressive – if you think of as simply being very expressive in calling out – that may not be the nature for everyone, but calling out in terms of a call of the heart – which different people may express in different ways that is fine.
For some people the emotions may not come very quickly. They maybe a little bit more reserved. Just because for some people emotions come very quickly, that doesn’t mean that they are calling out Krishna more earnestly. It can be like that, it may not be like that. So we will talk about emotions a little bit later, but the important thing is, Bhakti is inclusive. Whatever be our psycho-physical nature, within that we can connect with Krishna. So our calling out to Krishna may not be all that expressive in terms of external gestures, but if we at least recognize that I need Krishna’s mercy and I will strive for Krishna’s mercy, then that is what we need to do.
Q: You said that we are never disqualified, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu almost rejected Kal Krishna Das when he committed just one mistake.
CCP: When we say we are never disqualified, that does not mean that we are qualified for any and every form of service. Certain services may require certain standards, and if the standards are not followed, then it may not be appropriate for somebody to take up that service. If we see, Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected him to set an example. He wanted somebody who was with him to be exemplary, but what happened is that – the devotees engaged him.
Nityananda Prabhu and practically all the devotees had the emergency meeting. They called everyone. Even Paramananda Puri came over there. They all talked and they decided, “We have to engage in some other way”, and they told that, “You have been travelling with Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Please go to Mayapur and tell the devotees what all Caitanya Maharabhu did.” And then he got that service and he told Caitanya Mahaprabhu that, “We are sending him.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not forbid that. He just heard it and he left it over there. So it is true that if somebody is in a major leadership position and then they have some fall, then it is not that the fall is inconsequential. From the ultimate perspective of practicing bhakti, the fall is inconsequential. They can always rise and start practicing bhakti again, but from the social perspective in this world, if there is fall there are consequences of that, and the consequences mean that we have to actually – certain people may not be – it may not be appropriate for them to do certain services. So that is understood.
Our decisions or our situations, they may disqualify us for certain services, certain specific services, but the principle of connecting with Krishna – that is something which no one can stop us.
Q: Is it that na dhanam, na janam can be applied to everyone. For those who are in the householder life, they are going to have these things. Wealth is specially required, and other things are also a part of the householder life.
CCP: There is the aspiration for pure devotion, but there is also a process towards going towards that level of pure devotion, and what we need to do is – follow the process. Just like an example, once one devotee gave a class and then this devotee was saying, “We should think that we can die at any moment. Today might be my last day. This moment might be my last moment. The roof may fall and I may die.” The devotees whole class was basically all imaginative ways of describing how we can die the next moment. Then one devotee asked a question, “Prabhu, if I think that I am going to die today, I will think why should I go to my office? Let me just stay in the temple and chant. So can I do it for the rest of my life, what does it mean practically?”
Sometimes one aspect may be too over-emphasised. Ok, it is possible that I may die today, but the point is that, “What can I do if I am going to die today? “ I have to absorb my selves in Krishna, and there is a process for absorbing oneself in Krishna, and the process is the process of bhakti Yoga. Bhakti yoga involves various ashramas, and whatever ashram I am in I do my duties according to that ashram and I will move onwards. So it is not that just because I am going to die, I will give up all activities and just start focussing only on Krishna. That’s not what I should be doing if I am in the grihastha ashram, or whatever situation I am in.
The important thing is – whenever we hear any such idea that death can come anytime or we hear na dhanam na janam na sundarim, this is a principle – so in case of death it is talking about how in this world everything can be destroyed. Therefore we should go towards Krishna. In the case of na dhanam na sundarim, the idea is that, “Oh I don’t want anything else, I only want Krishna.” which is a advanced state of devotion towards which we want to go. But irrespective of whether we want to go away from the material world or go towards Krishna – there is a process to be followed, and it is only by following that process that we can get there.
So we accept the principle of selfless devotion, of only desiring Krishna, but at our present level we are not at that level. So as you rightly said, as devotees what we should be doing is – Krishna should be our strongest desire. We cannot be at the level where Krishna is our only desire, but Krishna should be our strongest desire. That means that it becomes a competition between Krishna and wealth – then it is not I will give up Krishna and go after wealth. I may need the other things, I maybe able to get the other things also, but I will not give up Krishna for these things, and as much as possible I will try to integrate my journey towards Krishna with the pursuit of these things, and that is actually the Vedic path – dharma, artha, kama and moksha. So, artha and kama – basically that means these are purusarthas which are on the way towards ultimately getting moksha. Now of course bhakti is higher than moksha, but I am talking about the progression that is there. So in artha kama, dhana and jana, sundarim – all these are included.
When we aspire for something it doesn’t mean that we immediately act on that level. So the practical thing that we can do is – we can make Krishna our foremost desire. Just like I may say that I am not the body, but I cannot stop acting at the bodily level right now, and that is not also what Krishna expects.
In Bhagavat Gita (2:13) Krishna says, “You are not the body – dehinosmin yatha dehi”, but right in the next verse of Gita (2.14) Krishna refers to Arjuna using two bodily designations, “matras sparsas tu Kaunteya (son of Kunti) – If I am not the body then how I am the son of Kunti?” (laughter)
Sitoshna sukha dukha daha
Agapayino nityas tams tithiksaswa bharata – If I am not the body, then how am I descendent of Bharata dynasty? So Prabhupada explains there in the purport that actually this indicates that he is connected with exalted people, and therefore exalted lineage brings with it a responsibility to act properly. So in principle I accept that I am not the body, but in practice I have to live in my relationship with my body. So then these bodily relationships – they can inspire us to practice dharma. So Arjuna – Yes, to act at the spiritual level or to act in a way by which we can get spiritual realization, that is not easy, but – “You are coming in a great dynasty. Therefore you can do this great thing.”
So basically our bodily designations whichever they may be, they can be used to inspire us to go towards Krishna. We cannot suddenly reject all bodily designations. Similarly bodily needs, bodily desires, they can be accommodating within the frame of bhakti. Does it answer your question?
Q: Whether the nine stages of bhakti are related to the verses of the Siksastakam?
CCP: I have not seen anything like that, and in one sense this is more of a individual meditation. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu in his own trance is absorbed in Krishna. So that is more of a overall process with specific limbs within it. So it is – just like in Siksastakam you are not going to talk about say, “You should drink charanamrita, or you should worship the deities.” Those are limbs of bhakti, but this is more of a evolution in terms of the evolution of the consciousness. So it is not talking so much about the specific aspects of bhakti. It is talking more about the evolution of consciousness.
Q: I heard that Bhakti Siddhantha Saraswati thakur said that, “When someone in the gradual progression took a strong bhava (nistha), then he started tasting, then this na dhanam, na janam is applicable, because he feels very disgusted….
CCP: na dhanam na janam na sundarim – that level we can say is connected with nishtat bhajana Kriya.
So, sraddha, sadhu sanga, bhajana kriya, anartha nivritti and nistha. When there is anartha nivritti, then one can actually be at the level of na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim. So that we can say is the nisthita bhana kriya which also can be called as nistha, and then from there onwards we can go to the higher stages.
Q: Ultimately isn’t everything a matter of kripa only? When we talk about differentiating between kripa siddha and sadha siddha, there is Ramanujacharya’s story where he just washed his hands and some fish got the water which was filled with mahaprasad, and they took that and they got Vaikuntha forms, they were liberated, and his disciples they said, “We have been serving you and still we are in the material world.” Is it that sadhana at all matters, or is it simply kripa that matters?
CCP: There are in different contexts different things that are emphasized, and we cannot take one particular pastime or one particular quote from scripture and make that an absolute truth. Like yesterday I gave the example, the Bhagavat Gita is focussing more on engaged bhakti, engaging in this world because that is what is required for Krishna’s cause of establishing dharma. That’s what Krishna wants Arjuna to do. On the Bhagavatam talks more about renounced bhakti, because Parikshit Maharaj, at the end of his life his focus in on whole-hearted absorption in Krishna. So the context determines quite a lot, and certain pastimes may stress one aspect. Other pastimes may stress another aspect. So what is stressed in one aspect in one particular pastime, we can look at the principle of that. Not make that an absolute in itself. So if we see that way we could say that it is all mercy. That it is only by mercy that we get elevated, we get liberated, but then we see that even the acharyas themselves and their followers , they have worked very hard and it is appreciated.
Prabhupada once asked that, “Do you love all your disciples equally?” and Prabhupada said, “Yes, but if someone comes forward to take responsibility I reciprocate. If someone comes forward to take responsibilities I reciprocate.” So that is natural.
Say there is father who ahs lot of property, and the father has several children. The father wants to give the property to all the children, but there might be some child who is just like a loafer, who is just wasting money and going out here and there. The other son may be helping the father in the business. Now naturally the father wants to give everything to his children, but the son who is assisting the father in the management of the business, management of the home, taking responsibility, naturally the father will have more affection for him. So, we have to recognize that Krishna has a mission in this world also. That Krishna wants to have his message broadcasted, Krishna wants to have people attracted in this world, and that requires endeavour.
So we see that Krishna also says that, “Those who broadcasts my message, they are very dear to me.” So our endeavour is something which is pleasing to Krishna because when we are willing to endeavour then we become more usable instruments in Krishna’s hands, because if I am not ready to endeavour then Krishna cannot use me much. If I want to become a teacher or I want to become a preacher, Krishna has to bless me, but at the same time I have to study scripture, I have to understand the concept, and then I can be used by Krishna. So we cannot just neglect the role of endeavour in pleasing Krishna and enabling us in becoming instruments in his hands. With that if Krishna is pleased and we assist him in his mission, then naturally Krishna will reciprocate and bless us.
So, certain situations, certain pastimes are given to highlight certain things. So that particular pastime of Ramanucharya, fish taking his mahaprasad and getting elevated, what that indicates is the extraordinary potency of an acharya mercy, of the association of the acharya, of the mercy of the acharya, how extraordinarily potent that is, but day before yesterday I mentioned that we should not see the extraordinary as a substitute for the ordinary. Because Ajamil chanted once and got liberated, therefore I will also chant once and expect liberation. We see the extraordinary not as a substitute for the ordinary process of bhakti, but rather as a inspirer for practicing the ordinary process with greater devotion.
So in some extraordinary situations mercy can elevate and liberate, but what we see is – when we see the potency of mercy over there we become more inspired to practice the standard process of bhakti by which we can become – we can actually assist Krishna in his mission and Krishna will grant his mercy to us.
Q: How is Krishna impartial if offers kripa siddha to some and then he asks other to do sadhana to get siddhi?
CCP: At one level if we are going to talk about Krishna’s partiality, then we can talk about that in the spiritual world also.
In India, there is one spiritual teacher who gave a big talk, “Does God have favourites?” Basically the idea is – Politicians have favouritism, they have their own favourites. So God has no favourites. God is impartial to all. Now that is true for Krishna as the paramatma. That is not true for Krishna as bhagavan. For Krishna Radharani is his favourite gopi. So God also has his favourites. Krishna loves all nature, but he puts a peacock feather on his head. Krishna likes all instruments but he plays a flute. So God has his personal nature, and personal nature will also mean personal preferences.
There is no meaning to personal nature if there is no personal preferences involved in it. So if we try to super-impose on Krishna the conception of impartiality in this world, then basically Krishna will be left with no personality, because every personal choice is a preference for something, and preference for one thing means not preferring the other thing.
How it is possible that Krishna is a person with his own preferences and at the same time he is impartial, he is universally accessible. That is by Krishna’s omnipotence. That means that – say that there are different gopis, and some gopis are very intimately connected with Krishna, some gopis are serving Krishna from a distance.
In our tradition we follow the majaris. So the gopis perform lila with Krishna and the manjaris observe Krishna perform lila with the gopis, and manjaris get ecstasy. Now acharyas describe that, actually by observing the lila of Krishna with the gopis, the manjaris get not same amount of ecstasy, but the majaris sometimes get more ecstasy also. How is that? That is Krishna’s omnipotence.
So, at the level of God as a person he will have his preferences, and that’s what makes his personality concrete and real, but if we think of God only as a person – God is a person but he is a omnipotent person. So Krishna can be performing lila with Radharani, but he can be manifesting at the same time in the heart of another gopi who is not in the lila so close to Krishna, and that way that gopi also gets enriched by Krishna’s presence. So in that sense we cannot impose the materialistic concepts of partiality on Krishna.
What we understand is that in some exceptional cases Krishna may give Kripa siddhi to some people, but the important thing is Krishna remains accessible to everyone, and if we practice bhakti he will also give us his mercy.
Q: Ramanujacharya’s associates, they are getting the opportunity to serve and the fish are not getting the opportunity. In that sense they are also getting the special mercy.
CCP: There is that very beautiful pastime of Prabhupada with one of his servants. Basically wherever Prabhupada would go, the devotees would be receiving in the airport, dancing in kirtans and many of them would have tears, and when Prabhupada would arrive they would be in tears, when Prabhupada would be leaving they would be in tears. So, one servant of Prabhupda, he asked Prabhupada, “All these devotees they have so much bhakti for you that they are in tears just by seeing you. I am always with you but I am never in tears.” Prabhupada just smiled and he said, “You are serving me.”
Tears are nice. We will talk about sentiments in the next talk, but the important thing is – our relationship with Krishna is based on service. So, if you think of liberation only as – the essence of liberation is not just relocation. It is not that somehow if somebody gets into the spiritual world they are liberated. If somebody is not having the disposition to serve, in the spiritual world they will be miserable. What to do? Everybody is serving Krishna, everything is talking about Krishna –
Suppose say now the soccer season is going on, and suddenly we find ourselves in the soccer stadium, and everybody is talking about soccer and we are not interested in soccer. Then we will feel bored over there, what to do here? So like that if somehow we are taken to the spiritual world but we have not developed attraction to Krishna, we will be out of place over there, but if we have developed a disposition to serve Krishna, then even in this world also we can experience Krishna, and then as we go back to the spiritual world – so basically liberation is more a change of disposition than a change of location. It is not just going from here to there. It is actually turning our heart from this world to Krishna. More a change of disposition than a change of location, and that change of disposition is what happens by our practice of bhakti.
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