Demons in krishna-lila 2 – Shaktasura – Overcoming Lethargy
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Demons in krishna-lila 2 – Shaktasura – Overcoming Lethargy
Today I will speak on the topic of the second demon, named Sakatasur, who appears and tries to kill Krishna. If we look at the chronology of the tenth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Krishna, as a very small child, while he in Vrindavan, all the demons have to come into the house or near the house of Krishna. As Krishna grows older the demons try to attack him when he is outside. We see that the demons like Kesi, Bakasur or Aghasur, who came later, came when Krishna was outside in the forest, playing with the cows and the cowherd boys. But initial the demoness Putana comes right into the house of Krishna. However, in the case of Saktasur, he comes not into the house, but next to the house. Trinavrata, about whom we will discuss later, he also is outside the house where he says “stop” and he carries Krishna away. So, here as Krishna grows older – babies when they are very small, they can barely get out of their bed. They just lie on the ground, and every face in the growth of the child is a moment of joy for the parents. So, on this particular day, the “Utthana ceremony” of Krishna was being celebrated. On this day Krishna had moved on his own.
The whole of Vrindavan is a closely-knit community, and especially Nanda Maharaj and Yasoda Mai are not just the king and queen of Vrindavan, but they are also the affectionate center of everyone. When Yasoda did not have a child for a very long time, all of Vrindavan grieved with her and Nanda Maharaja. And when they eventually got a child, all of them celebrated with them. Therefore, everything that their child went through, the Vrajavasis felt like their own child is going through that. So, on the occasion of the Utthana ceremony all of the Vrajavasis came there, and when they came there, they started celebrating. Normally whenever any festival happens in home, at that time, on one side it is an occasion of joy and celebration, but on another side, it is also a matter of responsibility and sometimes tension also for the host. They want everything to go right, and they don’t want that anything should be neglected. So, the celebration happened, and Yasoda Mai was trying to pay attention to both Krishna and all the guests. Then she saw that Krishna had fallen asleep. So, as she was running around in the house and taking care of things, she was carrying Krishna with her also. Then she looked around and thought, “Let me put Krishna somewhere right now because he is sleeping” Outside the house there was a large cart, and on that cart, they had utensils, and below that they had a comfortable space. She thought, “This is a safe place, let me keep Krishna over here.” Now we may say, “Who would keep a small baby under the cart?” But we have to understand that whatever is happening in Vrindavan is orchestrated by Yogamaya. Then one may have the question, “Why would a mother who loves her child more than her own life want to keep him under a cart?” The same question we could have asked yesterday in regards to the Putana pastime, that how could a mother of child allow some strange woman to come and breast feed the child. That was at two levels. I mentioned that Putana was so attractive and seemed so maternally affectionate, that Mother Yasoda was disarmed; and also, there was the belief that the child who is nursed by many women become stronger. In this case, in Vrindavan, at least till this time, it was considered to be like a safe locality. Even here, whenever parents are taking a house, then they want to know how is the neighborhood, and if it is a safe or an unsafe neighborhood? If is it safe, then the children can play around, but if it is unsafe, we don’t let them go out. So, although Putana had come and gone, and although Vasudeva had warned Nanda Maharaja, and Nanda Maharaja had conveyed this warning to Yasoda Mayi also, “You go back quickly. Something inauspicious may happen in Vrindavan.” But at this point, they had thought that Putana’s coming was just a one-time event. In Vrindavan nobody knew that Krishna is the son of Vasudev. They used to think that Krishna is the son of Nanda Maharaj, and that Vasudev had actually brought Krishna to Vrindavana and left him. But Vasudev did not tell anyone about this. And even when Vasudev and Nanda Maharaja met each other, at that time Vasudev did not tell Nanda Maharaj that actually the child with him was his son. There are multiple reasons for that. One reason was that, if Vasudev had told Nanda Maharaja, “My child is with you”, then Nanda Maharja would have said, “Then, where is my child?” But the baby who had appeared had turned into god and disappeared. So, letting that out to Nanda Maharaja would have created a lot of bereavement; and it is said that if secrets are to be kept, the best way to keep a secret is to share it with no one except oneself. Otherwise, if there was slip even unintentionally – and this was a matter of life and death. Kamsa would be on a mission to find out who is the son of Vasudev and Devaki, and then he would have killed the son. If Nanda Maharaja had accidentally spoken something, that would have created a big problem.
Although Nanda Maharaja was the king of Vrindavana, he was not a king in the political sense. Those who are managers and head of state, they have to be often diplomatic. Being diplomatic means that often there is selective disclosure of truth. We speak the truth, but we decide which part of the truth to speak to whom. That is just the way that diplomacy works. So, Vasudeva being a part of the ksatriya family was diplomatic like that, but Nanda Maharja was not, and therefore Vasudeva had kept this secret even from Nanda Maharaja. So, he asked him, “How is your son, Krishna?” though that would have been very painful for him. But at that time, he concealed it. At one level we could say, “The Vrajavasis had known that Krishna was the son of Vasudeva and Kamsa is out to kill him; then would they not be more alert?” Yes, they would be more alert, but there is difference between being alert and being alarmed, or being alert or being fearful. Being fearful is being unhealthy. So, in his own way Vasudeva alerted Nanda Maharaja, and he said, better you go back to Vrindavana because something inauspicious may happen over there. So, better go back there. Now that you have paid the taxes and you have met, now you can go back. But Nanda Maharaja is thinking, he had lived in Vrindavana for a long time, and he had been the head of Vrindavana, and Vrindavana had been a very peaceful community So, why is Vasudeva saying like this? And when he came back and he saw Putana’s giant body fallen, that time the Vrajavasis told him what had happened, that how she had come and tried to kill Krishna. The first thing that Nanda Maharaja thought is, Krishna is safe, thank god. But then second thing that he thought is, Vasudeva is a like a great sage. Otherwise, how did he know about the future? He told that something dangerous would happen, and that’s what has happened. So, Nanda Maharaja appreciated Vasudeva’s warning, but at this time he had not thought that such thing will happen again and again.
Generally, if there is a lot of people around, and if it is all a friendly community, then even if a child goes here and there, somebody will keep an eye on the child. So, Yasoda Mayi thought, there are so many people around here. Let me keep this child here under the cart. And she went about doing her work. At that time there was this demon named Sakatasur, and the cart was already there. So, if the cart itself had been unfamiliar or new, then Yasoda Mayi would have been suspicious. But this cart was already a familiar cart that was there in Vrindavan; near Nanda Maharaja’s house. What the Sakata demon did was that, he entered into that cart, and his plan was to break the cart and to cause the whole cart to fall on Krishna, and thereby to kill Krishna. Now as Krishna was there on that floor, below the cart, on top of the cart there were some vessels, and the cart was a part of the household paraphernalia. Any flat surface is often used like a table to keep things over there, and the vessels that were kept today was because it was a day of the festival. Many utensils were there, and Sakata was just planning, now that Krishna has come and he is in my clutches, I am going to kill him. As he was planning like that, Krishna had his own plan. Time and time again the very activity that the demoniac use to attack Krishna or his devotees, that very activity turns against them.
In the Mahabharat Duryodhana sent one of his associates, Virochan, and he told him, you go with the Pandavas to Varnavat and set the house on fire. Virochan was looking for the right opportunity to set the house on fire, but Bhima was also looking for the right opportunity, and before Duryodhana’s agents could set the house on fire, Bhima found the opportunity and arranged for a tunnel to be dug. Actually, Vidura had sent a specialist for that purpose, and when that tunnel was completed, then, at that time, he arranged. Now the Pandavas were also very cautious and clever at that time. Digging a tunnel is not an easy or a silent task. If you want to dig, then noise comes over there. So, what they did was, at that time they said, O we have come to this area now and we want to explore the forest, we were originally living in the forest as children, but then we came to the city, and we were living in Hastinapur for so long. Now finally we have come to an area where there are so many forests close by. So, we want to explore the forests. So, almost all the days they would be out in the forest, and Duryodhana had told his agents, don’t let the Pandavas out of sight. So, wherever they would go, he would follow. He tried to be discreet, but the Pandava’s knew that they were following them. So, when the Pandavas would go out, Duryodhana would go behind them, and in the palace the tunnel could be dug peacefully. Along with that the Pandavas were also expertly exploring the nature of the forest and trying to search the roads and traps over there. They were thinking, “If we are to escape what it the way to escape?” Thus, they were exploring the forest, and then eventually the person who was to set the fire and burn the Pandavas, ended up burning to death in the same house made of lac. It was Bhima who set the house on fire and slipped into the tunnel along with all the Pandavas, and then in that house, the unsuspecting Virochan fell dead because he was burned alive. So, the very weapon which is used to attack the Lord or his devotees, that very weapon turns against the attackers. This is what Krishna did long before Bhima did it. So, Saktasur had entered into that tunnel and was planning to cause the tunnel to crash, and thus crash Krishna also. But Krishna did something entirely different. Krishna is small, but even when he is small, his strength is not small. God cannot be reduced or defined by anything material. Krishna’s form is transcendental, and this cart was huge, and Krishna is a small baby. Just like children flap their hands and legs, so, Krishna just moved his legs, and it was a gentle leg. He moved his leg, but it hit the cart like that, and soon as it hit the cart, the cart just blew apart. So, the demons plan was that the whole cart would implode; implode means to collapse into itself. Their plan was that the cart will fall on Krishna and crash him. But what Krishna did was, just by one blow he broke it apart, and when it broke apart, it exploded. So, all the parts of the cart just fell apart, and the wheel fell down, the shaft on the top fell down, all the vessels flew here and there, and this demon who had entered into the cart – it all happened so suddenly that he just couldn’t disincarnate himself. He entered into the cart but just couldn’t come out, and his whole body was shattered by it, and he just fell dead. Here, when Krishna did this, it was an astonishing feat. All the people came over there; the vrajavasis came running. Normally, if we suddenly hear some strange or a loud noise, we get alarmed, and we become concerned, and we want to go there, and especially if we know that there is a child in the house, and suddenly we hear a loud noise, then everybody is concerned, “Has anything happened to the child?” So, everybody came running. Yasoda knew that she had kept my child over here. She came running and saw the whole cart broken apart. She was astounded, “How did this happen?” Now, some other kids were also playing there, and they said, “Krishna has kicked it.” None of the Vrajavasis could believe it because they thought, how much force can this child apply? If he applies his force to the cart, actually he will get hurt. So, how can he break the cart apart? Anyway, mother Yasoda picked up the cart and picked up her baby, and she put him to his bosom and offered him her breast milk. She felt, thank God, Krishna is safe. Thus, Krishna survived. Not only did he survive, but he actually caused the one who was going to kill him, to be killed. So, Krishna very disarmingly, simply and very nonchalantly put an end to this demon. With respect to Putana, we see that he actually caught hold of her and held on to her breast. It was like as if he was very anxious for milk; and sometimes when the child is very anxious for the milk, then the child just holds on to the mother’s breast. Sometimes in Vrindavan it would happen, and sometimes it would happen with cows and calves also. The cow wants to drink the milk from the calf, and the cow holds on to the udder, and the cow is running, and the calf is running behind holding on to the udder and drinking the milk from the udder. So, like that, at one level when Krishna caught Putana, he held on to her udder so that she would run out, and then eventually he caused her to fall. But here Krishna was even more effortless. He just did not do anything. It was not that he kicked repeatedly also. He just kicked a little bit, and that kick was enough; the whole cart fell apart. So, that is the power of Krishna. His feet are so tender, that even when he had grown up as a youth, at that time the gopi’s said, Krishna, when we think, every morning when you go to the forest, at that time, every moment of your separation is like a yuga for us, and it is not only the agony of separation, but it is also the agony of what you are going through that disturbs us. That O Krishna, your feet are “nalina Sundaram” – they are like a beautiful lotus which is soft and tender, and when we think that those lotus feet are being pierced by the twigs, the thorns, the brambles and the pebbles of Vrindavan forests; it is not just the small piercing of foot, it is the ripening apart of our heart also; we can’t bear it. So, even if Krishna has grown up as a youth, and is young, healthy and powerful, even then the gopi’s feel, his feet are so tender and soft. It is not just that they feel, they experience Krishna’s feet also like that. But when Krishna is a baby, his feet were so small and tender, but even those tender feet had extraordinary power. So, Krishna, no matter how he looks, or no matter what he thinks, he is always God, and he always has the potency of God, and when he wants it, he will manifest it; at his will. So, when Saktasur dies, the Vrajavasis are relieved. Now interestingly, the Bhagavatam doesn’t refer to the cart breaking incident in terms of it being a demon. It just talks about it as a miracle, that Krishna touched his foot and the cart broke apart. But acharyas and the other retellings of Krishna lila describe why would Krishna just destroy a cart, and what is there to be taught by that. Yes, we could say that Krishna is a mischievous child, but he was not destructively mischievous. So, why would the Bhagavatam describe the breaking of a cart if there was no further significance to it? Thus we can understand that the tradition is not static, but it is an ongoing revelation of the tradition.
The Bhagavatam is revealed at a particular level by Sukhadeva Goswami, and he leaves much that is unsaid, and that is told by the subsequent acharyas. The same Krishna who inspires Sukhadev Goswami to speak the Bhagavatam inspires the later acharyas to reveal further details. So, the Saktasur demons being killed is Krishna’s effortlessly breaking a cart. That is all that is described. And in the Bhagavatam it is like, at the end of the Utthana ceremony this extraordinary event happened, and then life goes on in Vrindavan. But this demon who had come to kill Krishna has fallen dead, and Krishna has killed him just by one effortless touch of his foot. Bhaktivinod Thakur says that this Shaktasur represents “lethargy”. It is interesting, “Why lethargy?” The vedic texts describe that there are broadly two categories of beings. We could say that they are “jada” and “cetane”; that there are conscious beings, and there are unconscious things. For example, all of us are conscious beings, but objects like table, chairs and cars are unconscious things. So, the primary difference between what is a thing and what is a being is consciousness. Now at one level, whenever a soul enters into a body, that body springs to life and become active. So, if we consider three modes of material nature: sattwa, raja and tama, then the soul is at that the level of suddha-sattwa. Suddha-sattwa is pure goodness, and that soul gets covered by a body which might be in one of the three modes, and depending on which mode is prominent, accordingly the soul’s consciousness, it gets conditioned. For example, a tree-body is considered to be very deeply in the mode of ignorance. And if we consider the body of a grass, the soul inside a grass is also like a soul inside us; it is also like us essentially. But in that body, the only purpose of existence of that soul, because of identifying with that blade of grass is, “I want to grow.” And how much can it grow also? Maybe a few millimeters or a few inches, and that’s all. So, basically, the conception of that soul gets reduced so that it can practically do very little. So, basically, when that which is “cetane”, that which is conscious, moves towards “jadatwa” or towards being unconscious, that is indicative of the mode of ignorance. All the demons who came to kill Krishna came in Vrindavana directly in their own forms. All of them assumed some form, they had that power by which they could change that form and take on some other form. But among all these demons, Shaktasur is the only demon who takes the form of an unconscious thing. All the other demons take the form of some being, either a bird or a snake or something active. Trinavarta comes in the form of a storm. Now you could say, “Is the storm conscious or unconscious?” The storm was filled with energy and motion, but Saktasur was just lethargic. So, that lethargy is what needs to be overcome if we want to grow in spiritual life. Lethargy can refer to different things in different contexts. The soul is filled with energy. In fact, the soul is filled so much with energy that it gives energy to this inanimate body. In the third chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that one can never be inactive because the modes activate us, and beyond the modes it is the soul which is always active. Prabhupada says in the Purport that activity can be because of the conditioning or the conditioned nature, but beyond the conditioned nature the soul itself is active. Example, sometimes there is running competition in the school of who can run the fastest; and whoever has energy can run fast. But suppose there is a sack race where a sack is tied around the leg with the legs tied together, and we have to run. It is much more difficult to run because the soul at that place is shackled in its moment. So, for the soul, actually to be in a physical body is to be in a state of being shackled, but the soul animates even the body and makes it run. We could say the modes are making someone run, and that is true, but the modes are not the source of energy. They are director of the energy.
The source of all energy is consciousness. Now how that consciousness will be directed, that will be shaped by the modes. Anyway, the point is, that soul which is active becomes inactive when it goes towards the mode of ignorance. The more it goes towards ignorance, the more it becomes inactive. So, lethargy is the opposite of the nature of the soul. When the soul is lethargic, the soul just doesn’t do anything at all; is just passive. Passive means, “Whatever is happening let it happen, I don’t want to anything, I don’t care for anything.” The three modes of the material nature can be described as: some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some people wonder what happened. So, those who make things happen are in goodness, those who watch things happen, they try to do one thing, but they are so passionate that they just can’t think clearly. They try to do one thing, but it sets off something else over there. Some people who are in the mode of ignorance don’t even know what is going on or what has happened. So, in the mode of ignorance one becomes lethargic, one just can’t think clearly, one can’t act effectively and just becomes passive. That passivity is an obstacle in the spiritual path.
The Bhagavatam says, Prayena apa aysa sabhya…. Laziness, lethargy and slowness are the characteristic of the people in the age of Kali, and somebody would say, “I don’t see people lazy, I see people so active. There are so many people who are running around.” When Prabhupada came to London, he saw that all the cars were running very fast. He said in a class, there is a famous poet who said, all of you in England are running so fast in your car and your country is so small. If you keep going so fast you will fall into the ocean. (laughter) We may say, people are very active and are running around. Yes, that is true, but how are they active? They are active but “sumanda matayo” – they are not active in a productive way. They are just active for something very trivial, and for gains which are only temporary. So, there is lethargy in general which is because of the mode of goodness. Then we don’t feel like doing anything. But even if there is no lethargy and there seems to be activity – activity in the mode of passion still continues spiritual lethargy. Spiritual lethargy means that we don’t do anything. Some people do a lot of things, but they will not do anything spiritual. Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakur would give the example that – at that time there were no airplanes, there were railway stations. So, he said, often the people who miss the train are the people who stay just next to the railway station. They think that when the train I will come, I will just go out and catch the train. This is because they think that the train is easily available as they keep seeing the train every day. But by the time they get off their house and reach the train, the train has gone. Similarly, there are many people who think that spirituality is just there and anytime we can practice it. So, those people who think that they can do it anytime, they end up never doing it. When the mind says, “Yes, I will do one of these days.” it means “none of these days.” That one day will never come. So, there maybe material activities and material hyper-activities also, but still there can be spiritual lethargy. That means, just across the street there might be a temple, but this kind of people will not step across the street and come to the temple. But they will go across the ocean to see places of sightseeing like Disneyland, some circus, Eifel Tower etc. They will go thousands of miles from one place to another, but they will not cross even one street to go to a temple. So, we see there is material hyper-activity, but spiritual inactivity or lethargy. What is that makes people spiritually lethargic? At one level it is just attachment to material things. The Bhagavatam describes that our practice of Bhakti produces two results: one is that it produces detachment from matter, and other is, it produces attachment to Krishna. But for most people there is the opposite. We want detachment from matter and attachment to Krishna, but for most people there is detachment from Krishna and there is attachment to matter. We have a lot of attachment in relation to that we are attached to, but we are not bothered about whatever we are detached from. So, when there is no emotional involvement, then there is no personal commitment. There is a simple principle that when there is no emotional involvement, then there will be no personal commitment. Whenever we give a service to someone, they should feel emotionally connected either with that service or with the person who is giving that service, or the object of the service; at least one of those.
Whenever one wants to do something, there has to be some emotional connection over there. When people work at a job, they don’t have an emotional connection with the boss, but they have an emotional connect with the object of that work – that is the money that they are going to get. So, if there is no emotional involvement, then there is no personal commitment. When we are in material consciousness, all our emotions are involved in and consumed by material things, and that is why there is no emotions left for offering to Krishna. And that’s why there is no commitment to Krishna. So, for us, in our particular situations, we will all find that there can be lethargy of different kinds. There are some people who come to a temple – I was at a temple for Janmasthami and I met one person, I was talking with him and he was asking good questions. I asked him, “Do you come to the temple?” He said, “Yes, regularly.” When I asked, “How regularly?” he said, “Every Janmasthami.” (laughter) That is regularity for him. In Mumbai we have a temple in Juhu which is a place where many Bollywood stars stay. So, often on Janmasthami some of the Bollywood stars come to the temple. Some of them may be coming with genuine devotion to take darshan of the Lord, but many of the celebrities who come, the first thing that they do when they come is, they take a photo, and they want to put it in Facebook or Instagram. In a pious country like India religion is a very attractive cosmetic. That means that if one is totally devoted to religion, people will say, “You are lost now.” But if religion is a small part of one’s life, they will say, “You are such a nice person, you are so successful, and you are religious also, very good.” So, people like to have it as a cosmetic. Many times, when celebrities come to a temple, for them it is a photo-op. Some of them may be coming with sincerity, but many of them are not coming to take darshan, but are coming to give darshan. (laughter) Their emotions are not involved with Krishna at all, but their emotions are involved with their fans and the popularity that they are going to get by coming to the temple. So, when this is the case, they just can’t actually connect with Krishna. For people to get connected to Krishna so that they can overcome their spiritual lethargy, somehow or the other the connection with Krishna has to be developed. And helping people develop that connection is actually the responsibility of the devotees. Prabhupada would quote this verse, bhramande bhramite kono bhagyavan jiva…. that in this material universe the souls are wandering all over, and there is some fortunate soul who comes to Krishna. Prabhupada says in this verse that actually it is the responsibility of the devotee to make the unfortunate people fortunate by giving them the opportunity to connect with Krishna. If we can present Krishna in a way that can attract people, then we become the means by which they become fortunate. So, from lethargy to activity, we can help people come to Krishna by how we present Krishna to them and by how we simply conduct ourselves with them. Actually, when sometimes we preach, and through us when some people come to Krishna, we may say, “O I brought so many people to Krishna!” Yes, you brought so many people to Krishna, but if we start becoming proud that we have brought so many people to Krishna, then we can think how many people are there whom we have stopped from coming to Krishna. Maybe in our good moments we did something which impressed someone and they came to Krishna, but we all have our bad moments also. But there are so many times we may have acted wrongly, and because of that so many people may have stayed away from Krishna. I was in Texas last year and I was going from a program. Sometimes people put some funny sticker on their car bumpers. So, there was a sticker on the car bumper which said “O God, please save me from your preachers.” (laughter) Normally God saves us through his preachers, but if the preachers are self-righteous, condescending and alienating, then people don’t want to do anything with these preachers. So, what is happening? Such preachers are actually sending people away from Krishna instead of bringing people towards Krishna. So, we have to be careful. Sometimes we may change people’s lethargy to energy, but that energy will not be to come towards Krishna; the energy will be to go away from Krishna. So, it is very important how we present ourselves. But it is by the association of the devotees that the lethargy changes to energy, and even when we are practicing bhakti ourselves, the lethargy will still be there within us, and for us to find inspiration and to move from lethargy to energy, we need association. Bhaktivinod thakur said, we also need like-minded association. When we have like-minded association, then we feel understood, and we feel that we can open our heart and can share. Thus, we will be understood and not be judged or be criticized. And then when we share the heart, then that connect happens, and then that lethargy can turn into energy. So, the more we can find like-minded association which encourages and engage us, then we can move towards Krishna, and thus we can overcome the lethargy. “Encourages” means, “You have come this far, that is very good.” But “Engages” means, “You have come this far, how can you move forward?” If you only encourage but don’t engage, then people will happily stay where they are. If you only engage but don’t encourage, people will move but will think, “Why am I doing this?” Then they will stop doing the thing that are doing. So, we want to engage people so that they can come towards Krishna, but at the same time you have encourage them so that they can feel like coming towards Krishna. So, both encouraging and engaging association is required. When the association is like this, then we will be able to overcome the lethargy that will stop us from going towards Krishna. I will conclude with one last point about overcoming lethargy: when we are trying to practice bhakti, and at that time we feel tired or exhausted, “I just can’t do this”, how do we know whether that is actually lethargy or exhaustion? Broadly speaking, our feelings can come from three sources: one, from reality – we might be physically tired. We may be so tired that we may have no energy. We may want to wake up in the morning and we set up an alarm, and the alarm says in the morning “Wake up.” The alarm is saying wake up, but inside there is some voice which says, “Go to sleep.” Then we say, “That is the voice of the mind.” It could be the voice of the mind, but not always. If we are going to sleep late at night, and then we try to wake up early in the morning, the body can’t sustain that for very long. So, sometimes the physical reality may be such that it is just not possible to function at that time. If that is the case, then we need to recognize that our body has this capacity, and if this is the level of energy that we have, then within this level of energy we have use the energy optimally. Sometimes when we feel tired, and we may actually be tired. It is not that that tiredness is a genuine physical exhaustion; we can dismiss it as a lethargy. And each one of us has different bodily capacities. Some people can do a lot of work, but some people get tired after a little work. But over a period of time we ourselves learn how much our capacity is. We don’t want to work for the body, but we don’t want to work against the body also; we want to work with the body for Krishna. Working for the body means, whatever the body says we do it. If the body says to eat, we eat, if the body says to sleep, we sleep. We just become servants of the body. But work against the body means, “Whatever the body says we will not do it.” and we think of that as a test of our self-control and our capacity to discipline ourselves. But we can’t sustain that for long.
The body is the tool that we have. “Work against the body” means that we neglect all that the body is telling us. So, we can’t work for or against the body. That is the whole theme of the verse “Yuktahara viharasya” – regulation; not too much and not too little with respect to eating, sleeping and all other activities. So, we want to work with the body, and not for the body or against the body. Work with the body means, we understand that this is capacity of the body and this much is what I can do. So, our feeling of tiredness can come from physical reality. That is one possibility. The second is, the feeling of tiredness can come simply from mental boredom. Mental boredom means, say if we are reading some book and we are feeling tired, bored and sleepy, and then suddenly someone turns on the T.V. When we start watching that, sleep goes away. So, we can spend hours watching the T.V. Then, was it really tiredness? If it was, then how would we have the energy to watch the T.V? in that case it was not so much tiredness as it was boredom. So, the nature of the mind is that it always looks for the path of least resistance. So, in the waking reality if something is quite difficult to do, or if something is challenging or demanding, then the mind looks for some distraction, “Let me do something else. Let me watch this, let me do this, let me do that.” But when the mind doesn’t get that opportunity, then what the mind does is, it just pushes us towards sleep. That is also no resistance. So, sometimes if we are feeling tired while doing devotional activity; but while doing some other activities if the tiredness is disappearing, that means that it is not actually tiredness, it is just the mind’s apathy towards that devotional activity. Now if we are feeling apathetic at that time, that is a reality; we can’t deny the feeling of apathy. But then we can see how we can create interest. Maybe if we read sastra’s and start feeling sleepy at that time, then we have to associate with some other devotees who has the taste in sastra. We have to hear from someone who is delighting in sastra, and then we feel, “O there is so much taste over here.” So, at that time we may need to fight. So, when it is simply the result of the mind – just the mind is apathetic, the mind is bored. And the third could be, it could a combination of both. There is mental apathy and physical tiredness also. If it is the physical exhaustion, then it is not lethargy. It is just the limitation of the body. We acknowledge that and we move on. If is the second, “mental apathy”, that is where the lethargy comes in. So, again the conversion from lethargy to energy requires the association of someone who has energy – the association of devotees which will bring energy into our life. And the more energetic is the association we have; the more devotional energy will come in our life. Srila Prabhupada had such devotional energy that people who knew nothing about Krishna, they were ready to give up their lives for the service of Krishna and were ready to travel across the world for the service of Krishna. That is how by the association of great devotees the lethargy can be overcome and be infused with energy. So, just as Krishna killed Saktasur by touching his foot, through the association of devotees, if Krishna touches our heart in some way, then that lethargy just goes off, and we will be infused with sublime energy for the service of Krishna. That is what we long for. Till that happens we endeavor on own. If Krishna touches our heart, then that lethargy will be completely overcome. But till that time, when the lethargy comes, we fight it according to our capacity; and fighting according to our capacity we show Krishna that we don’t want to have lethargy and that we want to fight against it. Eventually, Krishna will overcome it within us.
I will summarize:
I spoke today on the topic of overcoming lethargy through the Saktasur pastime. I talked about how Yasoda Mayi kept Krishna under the cart because she thought that this was a safe location. The Vrajavasis did not know that Krishna is Vasudev’s son or that there will be regular danger in Vrindavan. But Shaktasur wanted to kill Krishna by causing the cart to implode. So, he is the only demon who came in an unconscious form or in the form of an unconscious thing, but the very object that the demoniac used to attack Krishna or his devotees, that very object turns against them. So, Krishna used that very cart to kill Shaktasur. Instead of imploding, the cart exploded, and before Saktasur could escape from the cart, he was dead. Then Bhaktivinod Thakur said, Saktasur represents lethargy. A conscious being taking the form of an unconscious thing symbolizes how the soul becomes degraded to almost a motionless state; like a tree which is immobile, a grass whose only mobility is moving upwards a few millimeters or a few centimeters or a few inches. That is how the soul’s consciousness can get reduced. Lethargy is the mode of ignorance. So, the soul which is transcendental and full of energy, when is shackled by a body, it is like a person running a shack race. But when he is in the mode of ignorance, it means that in the sack race the feet are completely tied and it is very difficult to move. So, there are many people who are lethargic, and they just don’t do anything – materially or spiritually. There are many people who seem to be very energetic, but they are energized by the mode of passion. They are very active materially, but totally inactive spiritually. We do a lot – go across the continent for sensual pleasure, but won’t cross the street to come to a temple for growing spiritually. Sometimes people may seem materially energetic also, but they are energetic in a negative sense. They come to the temple not to take darshan but to give darshan. So, without an emotional involvement there is no personal commitment. For people, to give up their lethargy, they need to be emotionally connected with Krishna. If they have to do some service, or if they need to be connected with a person giving the service or the service itself, or the object of the service – Krishna himself, it is our responsibility as devotees to connect them in such a way that they feel energized to serve Krishna. But we have to be careful that we energize people to come towards Krishna, and not go away from Krishna. Within devotee association also, if we have like-minded devotee association, then we will feel energized. Otherwise we feel isolated and deenergized even within devotee association. And lastly, I concluded by saying that when we feel lethargic and tired, how do we know that tiredness is lethargy or physical exhaustion, or is it just lethargy?
I talked about how our feelings can originate because of physical reality. Like our body’s capacity itself is maybe exhausted, or it can be because of the mind’s apathy, or because we are bored, or because we feel like sleepy, or it can be in between the two. So, by self-observation we can understand where a particular feeling is coming from, and then we learn to work. So, by self-observation we learn to work not for the body or against the body, but to work with the body for Krishna.
Thank you very much.
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