Demons in krishna-lila 3 – Trinavarta – Giving up useless argumentation
[Class at ISKCON, Seattle, USA]
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Demons in Krishna-lila 3 – Trinavarta – Giving up useless argumentation
We will continue our discussion on Demons in Krishna Lila, and today I will focus on Trinavarata.
As Krishna grew up, he started becoming more active. Krishna is the supreme Lord, but in this world, he acts just the way that is required for the intensification of the reciprocation of love between him and his devotees. In the Ananda Vrindavan Champu, Kavi Karnapur describes that there are different forms of Krishna which are suited for different rasas. He says, the bala rupa is the vatsalya rasa vigraha. It is in the baby form when the parent’s love is most intensely felt. Similarly, when he becomes Kumar – the Kumar rupa is suited for the sakhya rasa vigraha. In this case, when the demons come, we will see that the most intense trauma, anxiety and horror is experienced especially by Yasodamai. In this case, Yasoda Mayi was just taking care of Krishna when he was still a small baby. She picked him up on her lap and fed him, and after he drank his mother’s milk, he just went to sleep, and as he was sleeping, suddenly mother Yasoda felt that he has become very heavy. She thought, what has happened, how has my child become so heavy? And she had a creche for keeping Krishna, but she did not keep him there. Somehow at a subconscious level, she thought that Krishna is so heavy that that even the creche will not be able to hold him. So, she put him on the ground. Actually Krishna is trikalagya; he knows past, present and the future; vedahama samatitani vartamanina Arjuna – Krishna says, I know past, present and future, but no one knows me. This means that Krishna knew that Trinavarta was going to come, and Krishna wanted that even if this demon comes, he should cause the least damage. So, he first of all made himself heavy by which Mother Yasoda would not be carrying him, because when the demon come, they are ruthless and they don’t care for anything. Though Krishna knew that he will protect himself, but his concern was that if the storm comes forcefully, it may knock down Yasodamayi and hurt her also. If the demon is out there to attack, then he will be ruthless. Sometimes when wars happen, the euphemistic term that they use is “collateral damage.” That means that the army wants to kill a person or destroy a building, but the bomb goes and falls on some other person or building. That is incidental damage. That’s not what they wanted to destroy. Sometimes when brutal invaders come, they just don’t care who all they are destroying. They just want to get to their target, and anybody who comes in the way, they just indiscriminately attack and destroy. Krishna knew that Trinavarta was going to come for him, but he did not did not want any collateral damage in Vrindavan. So, he made himself so heavy that mother Yasoda put him down on the ground. Actually, at that time she had come to the courtyard because the children were all day at home. Even if they were small babies they wanted to come out and see the sky and the birds, and even if they don’t understand all these things they want to be out in the nature. At that time, Krishna had come out to the courtyard, and there, mother Yasoda had fed him, and she was sitting. So, she put him on the ground, and as she put him on the ground, she just looked around for a few moments to ensure that everything in the house was good. Within a matter of a few moments, suddenly a huge storm came there. Sometimes there are flash floods that come. At one moment the whole weather is normal and there is no water anywhere, and another moment, suddenly a flash flood comes. And if people are caught in that, they just get swept away. Nowadays we have weather forecast, and by that, often the natural calamities may come, but the consequences of those calamities can be decreased if people are prepared and they retreat to safer zones. Now we can use technology or mereological science to try to make some forecast of how the weather is going to be. Krishna is the ultimate forecaster. So, in Vrindavan they did not any kind of forecast because Krishna prepared and arranged that he was outside, and then when Trinavarta came, he came like a huge storm. Just like there are flashfloods, we could say that this was a huge storm and was like a flash storm. A zooming gust of wind came knocking everything out of the way and everybody became blinded. Normally, the atmosphere around us we could say is transparent. Right now, in between is air and so many gases and other substances, but they are transparent. Even if there are some dust particles, they are so rarified that they don’t obstruct our vision, but sometimes say fog of mist may come, and that may obstruct our vision. But sometimes when a storm comes, the sheer speed of the storm is so great that many things happen. One is that the storm raises the dust from the ground, and as the dust gets raised from the ground, then it’s like a wall of mist or mud that is created around us temporarily, and we just can’t see anything around us. Another is that when this kind of storm comes, it is so fierce that our eyes gets closed involuntarily. We have various senses and some of the senses are under our voluntary control, and some of them are not in our voluntary control. When somebody brings his fist near our eyes to hit us, immediately our eyes get closed. That is just a natural defense mechanism. So, when a storm comes, at that time our eyes get involuntarily closed. Thirdly, in this case when Trinavarta came, he not only raised a lot of dust, but he created scary noise. When the wind comes, because the wind is moving so fast, it is knocking everything along its way, and it just creates such a thunderous sound. At one moment the weather seemed to be normal, and at another moment they saw a storm coming straight from the sky that zoomed through Vrindavan. As it was racing through Vrindavan, Krishna by making himself accessible, by keeping himself in the courtyard, what happened? Krishna allowed Trinavarta to do his work as quickly as possible. If Krishna had been inside the house, Trinavarta would have been in Vrindavan, and the more he would have been in Vrindavan, the more damage he would have caused in Vrindavan. But in this case Krishna just allowed him to do what he wanted to do. It is as if he said to Trinavarta “You want to take me, just take me.” So, Krishna even as a baby was thinking of protecting the Vrajavasis. He was so concerned out of his love, that he thought, this are my devotees and they should not be inconvenienced. Krishna is described as the supreme hero, and whatever distresses the Vrajavasis face, he is always competent to protect them from all of those. So, that child whom his parents were thinking how they need to protect him, that child was thinking, how can I protect my parents? And so, Krishna was in a sense pro-actively planning. As Trinavarta came, Krishna was readily accessible out in the courtyard, with no mother Yasoda near him. He was on the ground, and the storm just came, picked him up and went off. And while the storm was there, everybody was blinded. Mother Yasoda was also blinded, and she thought, where does this storm come from? Certain areas in the world are known for storms. Like in America, tornadoes, hurricanes and other kind of storms are common. In India quite often, we experience cyclones on the eastern coast. But in some other parts of the country the storms are not very common, like, hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones don’t come in the central part of India. Similarly, in Vrindavan storms were not so common. So, everybody in Vrindavan was shocked to see this kind of a storm coming, and as soon as mother Yasoda was blinded temporarily – and when her vision recovered and the storm departed, she started looking, and she saw that Krishna was not there, and she just became frantic with fear, running here and there, asking everyone, where did Krishna go? He was there at one moment and the next moment he disappeared. Children are often very restless. You just can’t keep them free for one moment, and they would just run here and there, and the parents have to be always watchful where the child has gone. Actually, mother Yasoda was watching the child. But children, even if they are restless, they can run fast, but they all have finite speed with which they can run. So, mother Yasoda looked around to find where Krishna went. She couldn’t find him anywhere, and then as the storm had come, and as Krishna got swept away in the storm, she was horrified at the very thought that Krishna has been swept away. She was getting worried where he will fall and what will happen to him. She started panicking, and as she started becoming overwhelmed, suddenly she cried out in fear. Everybody became alarmed and they came. When they came there, they started looking around for Krishna, and suddenly one of the Vrajavasis pointed out to a place where Krishna was. They looked up and saw that this demon was there. If you have seen the picture of Trinavarta, the lower part of his body is like the wind of the storm, and the upper part of the body is the demon. The idea over here is that there are subtle forces in nature; most of the demons who came to attack Krishna were wizards, and these wizards can take up different forms. Normally when we think of forms, we may think, “Somebody can take the form of an animal, like Maricha took the form of a deer, or Ravana took the form of a sadhu. That sort of form is like a fancy-dress competition.” Just dressing like someone else is not what is talked about here. When Maricha took the form of a deer, he was not just like a human being dressed up as a deer, but he had actually taken the form of deer. But there are further mystic powers by which one can take up forms not just of other animals apart from humans, but one can take up forms of mystic forces or of the forces of nature also. Just like we have Ganga Devi. Now what exactly do we mean by Ganga Devi? There is the goddess Ganga, and Ganga also manifest in the water. When required she will manifest as the person, but even when she is not manifesting as a person, she is there as the water. This way the soul comes in a body, there are different ways in which the soul can get connected with the body. But for us, we are souls who come in a human body, we stay in the human body, and then we depart from the body. But when Prabhupada talked about Tulasi devi, he said, Tulasi is actually one soul. Every tulasi is a distinct tulasi, but at the same time it is one Tulasi devi who is manifesting through all Tulasi’s. So, the embodiment of Tulasi devi is different from the embodiment of all other plants. She is one divine goddess who manifests in different forms. For the rivers, it is not that Ganga is the body of the soul called Ganga. The soul who is called Ganga devi has a celestial feminine form, but that form also manifests as the water body named Ganga. This kind of embodiment is different from say, if we have “Soma” who is the moon-god. Now the moon is not the body of this God, but rather the moon god is the presiding Deity of the moon. So, there are different ways in which the soul can connect with the material body or with a material phenomenon. So, by some mystic powers Trinavarata took the form of a storm. He was by nature a demon basically.
Normally when people assume any particular form, they need some amount of mystical power to assume that form, or by some conscious intention that they want to acquire this form. And when that purpose is served, then they give up that form and return to their normal form. This can happen in multiple situations. One is, they wanted to do something because of which they acquired the form. They did the work in that form, and then they themselves voluntarily gave up that form. In the case of Trinavata, once he had got Krishna by using his form, he had no reason to continue with his form. Because his purpose was fulfilled, he gave up his form of a storm. But the other situation is, “When a demon comes up in a particular form, like it happened in Putana’s case.” She came in with a very attractive feminine form, but when Krishna started sucking out her life air by sucking out her breast, at that time, suddenly her natural form of a huge hideous demoness appeared. In that case, for maintaining any form, a certain amount of mystic power is required, but when the life is threatened, the demon in order to survive, tries to focus all available power in order to just protect himself. And then, whatever power they have exercised for manifesting that form, that power is no longer available. In that way they revert back to their normal form. Here, for Trinavarata, his purpose was fulfilled and he went high up into the sky. He was thinking, Krishna is a dangerous character. He looks like a small child but he has killed Putana and Saktasur. I don’t want to take any chances. I will go so high up in the sky that I will throw Krishna down from there. And he thought that, the greater the height he throws Krishna down from, lesser is the chances of his survival. That was his plan; but we have our plans and Krishna has his plans. So, Krishna went along with the plans of Trinavarta. Trinavarta was thinking that his plan was succeeding as he was going high up. And as Krishna was going up, Trivarta was first holding Krishna up by his shoulder, but when he went high up, Krishna just acted like a small child who has become fearful of the heights. Actually, Krishna was simply enjoying a free ride in the sky, and he was going high up in the wind to enjoy the sky and the cloud. It was very enjoyable for him. Trinavarta was going up and up. Then, at the same time, Krishna was aware that actually mother Yasoda was becoming panicky. She had swooned because of her panic, and Krishna said, that is enough. And then, as Trinavarta was taking Krishna up, Krishna acted as if he was a fearful child. When children are fearful, what happens? The mother may be holding them, they may be just looking here and there. But if they become fearful, they turn and hold their mother tightly. Like that Krishna turned and helped Triavarta with both his hands around his neck. Trinavarta thought that this child has become scared now. As Krishna held him high, Trinavarta decided, I have gone enough height and now I will throw him down. But Krishna had put his arm around his neck, and Trinavarta just couldn’t throw him down. He was trying to push Krishna, but at that time Krishna started pressing. Sanatan Goswami has written a commentary on the tenth canto called the Vaisnava tosani, and there he describes that, when Putana came and she tried to kill Krishna, at that time she screamed or screeched loudly, “muncha, muncha, let me go, let me go”. And that screeching alarmed the vrajavasis. Krishna decided that he doesn’t want the Vrajavais to be alarmed this time. So, what Krishna did was, he put his arm around his neck and held the neck so tightly that Trinavarta couldn’t make any sound. He was completely choked. But Krishna’s hands are very small, and within those small hands he has unlimited power. So, first Krishna used his power to choke Trinavarta, and he was trying to push Krishna away, then Krishna started increasing his weight. Krishna is initially of the normal weight, from which he suddenly increased his weight so that mother Yasoda would put him down. When Trinavarta came, again Krishna decreased his weight so that Trinavarta could easily take him. Trinavarta thought Krishna was an ordinary child, but now Krishna increased his weight so much that he felt himself being crashed. He tried to push the child away, but the child had held him so tightly that he just couldn’t do anything at all, and he started falling down. The same height to which he had gone up so that he would throw Krishna down, the same height worked against him. If he had not gone to such a height, he would not have fallen so badly. But Krishna allowed him to go high up, and he used the same height to get him to crash down. When Trinavarta started crashing, he realized what is happening. He became alarmed and he couldn’t even speak, and he was flailing his arms trying to catch the child. Krishna’s body is so tender, and this demon was ruthlessly trying to use his full force to try to rip Krishna away from his body, but he just couldn’t do anything, and he just crashed on the ground and fell dead. But Krishna fell on him and remained completely safe. When mother Yasoda had seen Krishna high up in the sky with this demon, she was so horrified. First, she thought, where has Krishna gone? She completely swooned. The human body has a certain amount of capacity to experience emotions. If we get a heavy blow on the head, of course there can be brain damage, and even if there is no brain damage, if the capacity to experience pain of the body is exceeded, then as a natural defense mechanism, the body switches off. The body takes us to unconsciousness so that we have to bear that much pain. Otherwise the pain will not be bearable. Just as there can be physical pain that can be unbearable, similarly, there can be emotional pain that can be unbearable. That means that, sometimes when some person may hear some traumatic news, or they may hear that some person has died, they may fall down unconsciousness. For example, if some woman is carrying some plates to serve, and when she hears that a person very dear to her has died, she gets shocked, the plates will fall and she will also. There the pain is so great that body can’t bear it, and it switches off at that time. Similarly, over here, Yasoda Mayi just fell unconscious, and now the Vrajavasis were torn; on one side there is Krishna, and on one side Yasoda Mayi is unconscious. So, they were sprinkling water on her and trying to bring her to consciousness. She was so fearful that she just didn’t come to consciousness, and then the Vrajavasis finally told her, “Yasoda, Krishna is back. He is safe.” She opened her eyes and said, “Where is my Krishna? He was up in the sky. How is he safe?” They said, “No, no, Krishna is safe. Narayana has protected him.” Then all the vrajavasis ran over there, and some other vrajavasis had already gone there. They picked up Krishna from the body of Trinavarta, and they gave him to Yasoda. When Yasoda got him, again Krishna became light like a small baby. Yasoda took him and hugged him to her bosom. It was as if her life had come back to her. So, Trinavarta met his death with the very same means; the same height to which he took Krishna up, brought him down, and he was destroyed.
Bhaktivinod Thakur explains that Trinavarta refers to useless argumentations. What he represents is, “The misuse of the intellectual faculties for arguing back and forth” and on and on and on. Actually, in general, if we consider Vrindavan to be like our heart – Caitanya Mahaprabhu would say that his heart is like Vrindavan. The mind is usually equated with the heart because the mind is where our emotions are situated, and the heart is also the seat of our emotions. Now if we consider Vrindavana to be like the heart, Krishna was present in Vrindavan, but Trinavarta came as a storm and took Krishna away. Similarly, for us, false, misleading or pointless arguments can come as a storm, and they can sweep Krishna out of our heart. They can create doubts, confusion, delusions, and we may just lose Krishna. “Tarko apratistha sutuyo bibhinna….” If one uses logic and argumentation, it ultimately has no foundation. There are different books which say different things. Prabhupada translates this as, there are different rishis who have different opinions. But the literal Sanskrit says, somebody is not called a rishi unless he speculates and has an opinion different from others. So, people who are intellectuals often have their own ideas, and with their own ideas they can never come to any conclusion, and therefore it is said, dharmasya tatvam nihitam guhayam…. That the essence or the truth of dharma is hidden. The literal translation of guha would be cave. So, it is hidden in the cave. Cave here refers to the heart. Whose heart? It is the heart of the great souls – mahajano yena gatastho panth – that there are great souls, and we have to follow in their footsteps. What does this pointless argumentation mean in our lives? I will talk about this at three different levels. First is, in terms of four faith in Krishna bhakti. Then in terms of other people whom we are connecting with Krishna; their faith, and how that can be distorted by arguments. And thirdly, I will talk about how within the practice of Krishna bhakti, there can be arguments that this is the way to do things, and that way there can be problems. Broadly speaking, there are two main distractions on the spiritual path. One is desire and the other is doubt. Krishna tells many times in the Bhagavad-gita, offer you mind and intelligence to me, and then you will come to me. So, from the mind desire springs up, and from the intelligence doubt springs up. In that way, the mind and the intelligence can both distract us from Krishna. So, Krishna is saying, offer both the mind and the intelligence to me. Now there is a difference between desires and doubt in terms of the affect that they have on us. Generally, if desire start dragging us here and there, they make us feel weak, but if the desire makes us indulge in wrong things, they humiliate us, or at least they humble us, and we actually feel the need of Krishna. But when doubts come, actually they make us feel superior to others. If we are in the association with devotees and we start getting doubts, then we may start thinking, “All these people are just sentimental, they don’t use their intelligence. This are solid questions, they don’t get these questions, what kind of brain do they have?” So, we start thinking that we are actually more intelligent than others when we have doubts, and thus the doubts distract us. But because doubts can also create a superiority within us, so, the disturbance that can be caused, can be greater. It is interesting that doubt on the spiritual path is considered to be a spiritual weakness, but among intellectuals and scholars, doubt is considered to be an intellectual strength. They consider it as a capacity to doubt that they won’t believe in anything and everything. They consider the capacity of doubt to be their strength.
When we are critical and skeptical, we evaluate things thoroughly. Yes, we should evaluate things thoroughly, but at the same time, the Bhagavatam tells us that doubt is a function of the intelligence. Bhagavatam says that “samsaya” is doubt; then apprehension, then recollection, then conclusion. Now what it means is that, if we are living a materialistic life and everybody tells us, “We are all going to be happy in life if you do this and that.” If we have to practice spiritual life, we have to have some doubts about the promises of materialistic culture. If we don’t have doubts, then we will keep believing that we will be happy if we do this or that. In that sense doubt is a virtue. So many advertisements tell us, “Buy this and you will be happy.” It is amazing how people believe some advertisements which are utterly ridiculous. I saw an advertisement which showed a young man driving a car, and there was a young girl in the back of the car looking adoringly at him, and there was another man in the back glaring at him. This advertisement said, “Buy this car and enjoy the envy in your neighbor’s eyes.” What a standard of enjoyment this is? Tomorrow they will get a better car and they will say, “I will enjoy the envy in your eyes.” Below that they say, “You are your car.” Actually, to identify with your body is bad enough because the body is the vehicle for the soul. And the car is the vehicle for the body. To identify with the vehicle of vehicle is like illusion square. When I was playing with words, I found that “You are your car” in Sanskrit is “ahamcar”; and we have the Sanskrit word- ahankar. So, this is the false ego by which we identify with things. We could say that the car makes a statement about our financial status or whatever, but people just get so carried away by advertisements. So, doubt in that sense is good. However, after we have some doubts – doubts lead’s to apprehension, “Maybe my current understanding is not right.” So, if we live materialistically, we get doubts, and we think, “Are all these things going to make me happy?” we have some doubts about it. That doubt leads to apprehension. Apprehension means, we start evaluating. We think, “Maybe this is right.” and then we come to a conclusion, “Ok, this is not right.” And then after that, whatever conclusion gets reinforced within us is our recollection, or is our memory. The next time when we see it, we won’t believe in it, and we won’t get caught by it. The Bhagavatam says that doubt is the function of he intelligence. However, doubt is not the only function of the intelligence.
The nature of Tamo guna is to take one thing and make it into everything. In Gita (18.22) Krishna says, when we take one thing to be everything, then that is a problem. So, to doubt requires intelligence, but to keep doubting is not intelligent. Say, if you are going to go to a doctor, at that time if we want to evaluate, “Is the doctor good, does what the doctor say makes sense?” We need not believe in anything and everything that the doctor tells us. If I have got stomach upset, and the doctor says, “You have to amputate your leg.” that won’t make any sense to me. So, it is good to have some doubts. But eventually we have to put faith. If we want to be treated, and if we keep doubting every single doctor that we go to, then we will ourselves stay sick. So, after some time we have to take some faith – take a leap of faith or we could say, “Take a gulp of faith, take a pill or tonic or medicine or whatever.” So, doubt is required, but eventually we have to act. So, the problem with false argument is that one just keeps doubting permanently, “This is not right.” Some people are sceptics. They pride themselves that they are sceptics. There is an international sceptics organization, and they feel very proud that they are sceptics. Their slogan is, “We don’t believe in anything easily.” Yes, it is good to have some capacity to doubt, but there is problem with skepticism. The problem is that skeptics are skeptical about everything except skepticism. That mean, skepticism can tell me, “I don’t believe in this, this and this.” Skepticism can only tell us what is wrong; skepticism will never tell us what is right. I can always be skeptical about anything, but if I keep being skeptical, the result would be that I will never arrive at any conclusion. So, skepticism can never take us to the truth. It can take us away from falsehood, but it will not take us towards the truth. So, sceptics may say, “There is no absolute truth.” Then we can ask them, “Is this statement an absolute truth? Because if there is no absolute truth how are you making an absolute statement?” If they say yes, that means that there is an absolute truth, because this one statement is an absolute truth. And if they say, “No”, that means that the statement that there is no absolute truth applies to this statement also. Therefore, there is an absolute truth. “If the statement is true it becomes false, and if is false, then it becomes true.” If you don’t understand this, don’t worry. (laughter) But the point is that, to say “there is no absolute truth.” is a self-contradictory statement because you are already making a statement, and that statement has to have truth value. It is like somebody saying, “I don’t know a single word of English.” Then we say “You have already spoken eight words.” So, skepticism can never take us to the truth. That’s why one has to put faith at a particular point. We use our intelligence and we analyze, but then we have to put faith. Krishna tells in the Bhagavad-gita, it is by faith that knowledge comes. Even when we study science, we put faith in the previous scientists. We may say, “Science keep changing and developing”, but that development is based on studying what previous scientists have studied. We may revise something in what we have studied, and there is no way we can be completely skeptical. So, if somebody is trying to practice bhakti and keeps doubting – once Prabhupada was in New York, America, and he was giving a class, and one hippie after his class said, “Swami, your philosophy sounds like that of the Buddha.” Prabhupada said, “Do you follow Buddha?” He said, “No.” Prabhupada said, “Follow Buddha, follow Jesus, follow Krishna, follow someone, don’t just talk.” Because if we keep on arguing on different philosophies, we will go on arguing endlessly. Ultimately, unless we practice something, we will not come to know whether it is right or wrong. At an intellectual level it is like analyzing, “This medicine is good or this is good.” Ultimately you have to take the medicine. Without that how will we know. So, there is of course the use of reason, but beyond that we have to put faith.
We may all have certain doubts. There are different questions, and we may not be satisfied with some answers. Say, if some devotees ask this question, “How did the jiva fall from the spiritual world, or did he fall from the spiritual world?” This is a favorite question of the devotees for giving themselves an intellectual headache. There are some questions which are like intellectual banana peels. As soon as we step on it, we will fall. Like that there are some questions in philosophy. Prabhupada made different statements at different times. Ultimately, he said that what happens outside the time domain is not really understandable. So, there is no need to put so much energy in this. Some devotees may have a particular understanding and other devotees may have a different understanding, and whatever understanding may seem reasonable to us, we accept it, and move on. So, when we practice bhakti, we all have to focus on what is central, and put aside what is peripheral. One characteristic of intelligence is to differentiate between what is central and what is peripheral. We hold on to the central and let go the peripheral. Prabhupada was once asked by some disciples from Hawaii, “Prabhupada, when we talk with the scholars, and we tell from the tenth canto that Putana was and extremely big demoness, or there were many thousands of bodyguards that Ugrasena had, the scholars start laughing, and they don’t believe.” They say, “Dwaraka is such a small place. How would so many people live in Dwaraka?” Prabhupada gave a very pragmatic reply. He said, “Among the thousands of verses in the Bhagavatam, was that the only thing that you found to speak with the scholars?” There is a time when people can accept that God has infinite potency and he can do extraordinary things. But when people don’t have that, why go into that zone? One of the offences of the holy name is to instruct faithless people in the glories of the holy name. If we speak to people things that they cannot be expected to have faith in, we should not speak those things to them. It is like, if we come to a temple, and sometimes when we want to climb up to go to the temple, and say the stairs are very big, then people will have to use their hands to climb up. To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy names is to show people a path like that, which will require them to climb up like that, in order to come to the temple of Krishna. There is no need to do that. If we speak those things to people which will help them to understand, and which will make sense to them; from there they will take steps forward. It is just that we have to contextualize; we are not denying things. So, when people have a lot of questions, at that time we have to focus on that aspect of bhakti which connects with them. With somebody we may have ninety-nine percent disagreement. They may have ninety-nine percent doubts, but we have to find one percent where they have faith or at least openness, and focus on that. From there things will grow. If somebody is going to some other organization and they are following some other teacher, if we start by saying that their teaching is wrong, it will not work out, because they don’t have the faith in us right now. So, we begin with what is common. Among the thousands of people who are living materialistically, there are people who are actually interested in something spiritual. That is to be appreciated, and then we have some common ground. So, even if there is ninety-nine percent disagreement or doubt, we should find the one percent faith or openness and start from there. If we go to the ninety-nine percent differences, then we get swept away. The storm will come, and they will go away from Krishna. Say for example, somebody asks, I can accept Krishna as God, but how can we consider Caitanya Mahaprabhu as God? Somebody replies, “In the Vayu Purana it is said that anybody who sees any difference between Krishna Candra and Gauracandra will go to hell.” (laughter) If we give an answer like this, that person will say, “You go to hell. I don’t care.” The point here is, “What is important?” The important things is that, the peoples faith needs to grow. If somebody has a question, then we have to answer the question in a way that helps that faith to grow.
In his book called “Life and teachings of Lord Caitanya.”, Bhaktivinod Thakur describes in the introduction very beautifully He describes a brief summary of Lord Caitanya’s life along with some of the extraordinary things, like when Mahaprabhu made animals dance, or some of the miracles that he performed. Then he concludes by saying that, for the Bengali vaisnava, they have concluded that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is God, and for them these miracles testify to his divinity. At the same time Bhaktivinod Thakur is accommodating the opposite by saying, miracles are no conclusive proof of divinity. Even demons like Ravana performed miracles like changing his form. I am paraphrasing here – the essential miracle of Caitanya Mahaprabhu is that, if we follow the process of devotion that is given, we can experience the flood of love in the heart that has no parallel. That is extraordinary. So, irrespective of whether our esteemed readers accept his divinity or not, we do urge them to accept the process of devotion that is offered. If somebody starts practicing bhakti, the process of bhakti has the potency to give that faith. So, we can’t demand faith right in the beginning, and rather, if we find that some people have a lot of questions, we can address those questions as much as possible, but we should not get caught in questions. Especially, if questions are coming in an argumentative and combative mood, then we should just be polite and answer the questions as much as possible. And if it is just going on and on, then give them something that will give them appreciation of Krishna bhakti, like prasad. When the right time comes, they will remember. People may not remember what we spoke, but people will remember how we made them feel. People will not remember the exact arguments that they had with us, but if we are warm, courteous and gentle, then they will remember that. They will say, “I had a big argument with him, but he remained calm and nice to me.” That will attract them. This doesn’t mean that we will not use logic. Certainly, we will use, but there is time and place for it. If people are approaching logically and objectively, then we can give them logical answers that helps. But when the arguments are just going to and fro, at that time, it is best to focus on the heart; not in the sentimental sense, but in the sense of creating a connection. Arguments can just go on and on and on. Even in the Indian tradition there is the argument between the personalist and the impersonalists. The impersonalist’s say, “sohum – I am that absolute.” The vaisnava comes and add a “da” over there, “dasoham.” – that we are not that absolute truth, we are the servant of that absolute truth. The impersonalist comes and says, “sada sohum, I am always that absolute.” The Vaisnava comes and say, “dasodasohum.” The impersonalists say, “sadasadasohum”, and the vaisnava says, “dasodasodasoham.” It just goes on. The arguments can just go on forever. We have to focus on practicing bhakti, and keep encouraging others to practice bhakti.
I will conclude by saying, that while we are practicing bhakti ourselves, sometimes arguments can come up between devotees themselves, and this can lead to so much conflicts. One devotee had made a presentation where he showed me a picture of some Norman or Greek warrior fighting with a sharp sword; and two swords clashing against each other. And on both the sword it was written, “Prabhupada said.” So, we have to see what was the purpose of Prabhupada. The purpose of Prabhupada was to help people come closer to Krishna. We can look at Prabhupada’s specific statements, but just specific statements are not as important as is the overall intent. The overall intent help people to become conscious of Krishna, and when the times change, we have to present Krishna in different ways to different people. At that time some people may say, “This is what Prabhupada did.” That is wonderful, and we respect it, but if that way we are not able to connect with people, then what do we do? Actually, if you look at Prabhupada’s preaching in America and India, it is quite different. In America preaching meant leaving the world and moving into the temples. But in India not many people were ready to move into the temple. So, Prabhupada’s main preaching was to make life-members and engage them where they were, and help them to grow that way. But the life-members were at a very lose level of commitment. However, Prabhupada appreciated and encouraged them. and most of the people who were life-members had their own religious teachers or gurus, but Prabhupada did not always confront them. Sometimes if they were close and asking questions to Prabhupada, he would educate them, but Prabhupada would just encourage them to move on with their bhakti. If we see, today our movement is neither is here or there. Here is “Full time devotees”. Most of the devotees are congregation-based devotees. Though they are much more committed than life-members, they were not full-time devotees. So, the whole ground reality is different. So, when we say follow Prabhupada – Prabhupada gave philosophical principles and practical guidelines.
In spiritual life there are principles and preferences. Principles means to remember Krishna. The preference is, “How do I remember Krishna?” Somebody may remember Krishna by singing kirtan, somebody may remember by hearing the Bhagavatam or by memorizing verses and somebody may remember by worshipping the Deities. That flexibility is there. At o one level Prabhupada said that, I haven’t changed anything. I am like a postman, I have given what my spiritual master has given. But in another lecture Prabhupada says, I have practically invented the Krishna conscious movement. Prabhupada says this in the context of the Bhaktirasamrita sindhu statement that, somehow or the other fix the mind on Krishna. So, when Prabhupada says, I have invented the Krishna conscious movement, what he meant by that is, “I have created ways for people to remember Krishna.” And Prabhupada said that it is the responsibility of the spiritual master to create ways by which he can remember Krishna. Like that, in today’s world different devotees may do different things, and some devotees may say, “This is right, that is right.” Actually, when this kind of arguments start happening, then it is best to keep a distance and keep practicing bhakti. Otherwise arguments can just go on and on, and especially arguments inside the community and movement can be very demoralizing. We are trying to reach out to the world and get people to reach Krishna. As long as the principle of getting people to Krishna is maintained, the preference of how that is to be done will vary. Otherwise the argument will just go on and on, and so much energy will get sucked up. But instead of letting all this energy get sucked, if we just focus on practicing and sharing Krishna bhakti, we will ourselves relish it, and others also will relish it. In that way we can move on towards Krishna.
I will conclude with one pastime of Prabhupada: Prabhupada was in Vrindavana, and the devotees had a debate over there. Tamal Krishna Maharaja was a servant of Prabhupada. One group of devotees said, “Actually, the only difference between Krishna and Balaram is in complexion.” Another devotee said, “No, actually only Krishna is the Lord of Radharani. Balaram is not.” This argument went on and became heated. Then they went to Prabhuapada, and one party said, “Prabhuapada, only difference between Krishna and Balaram is in the complexion.” Prabhupada said, Yes, that is right. The other devotee said, “But only Krishna is the Lord of Radharani.” Prabhupada said, Yes, that is right. Then the devotees said, Prabhupada, both of them can’t be right. Prabhupada said, that is right. (laughter) Then they asked, Prabhupada, then what is right. Prabhupada said, that you decide. (laughter) So, Prabhupada just let it go over there. So, it is not that in the process of bhakti we have to make Krishna the hostage of our intelligence and extract answer for every question. If we just keep practicing bhakti, the answers will be revealed in due course. If we get too much into intellectual analysis, we may think that that we are such a big intellectual that we can quote from various scriptures, but all that we are doing is, just like Trinavarta we are simply increasing the height from which we will fall. When we quote all the sastras we will become very proud and argumentative, and all that is happening by this is, our heart is getting dry. Arguments sap the rasa from the heart. The world is a big place, and if we feel that something is not right, then we can start something, and we can ourselves set an example of how to do it right. Why criticize someone else? There are so many people in this world who do not have Krishna bhakti. So, if we can avoid this pitfall of argumentation, we will have so much energy available for reaching out to others, and also for reaching out to Krishna in our own hearts. Thus, we will enrich our heart with devotion, and also the hearts of many others.
I will summarize:
I spoke about the theme of Trinavarata. I started with the pastime of Trinavarta. How Krishna was just a small baby who needed protection, but he was arranging for the protection of the Vrajavasis. He first increased his weight so that mother Yasoda put him on the ground in the courtyard; so that when Trinavarta came there was minimum damage. And then Krishna allowed Trinavarta to take to him to a great height so that he could have a free ride, and then he choked him so that he couldn’t even scream. This he did so that he wouldn’t alarm the vrajavasis. The same height which Trinavarta was trying to use to kill Krishna was used by Krishna to end his life. The whole Balya lila pastime also demonstrate the vatsalya rasa of Yasodamayi; she was intensely in anxiety, and practically her life went away when Krishna went away. When Krishna came back, her life came back. Trinavarta represents pointless argumentations. I talked about how doubt is an intellectual virtue, or strength up to a particular point. It can become the spiritual weakness if that doubt prevents us from committing to anything. So, skepticism is good. We need to doubt the promises of material culture for providing us pleasure, but we have to be skeptical about skepticism also. That means that skepticism can only tell us what is wrong, and never what is right; skepticism ends up with self-contradictory statements. To avoid endless argumentations, I talked about three things: first is, application. If we have some doubts – If the overall philosophy of Krishna consciousness makes sense, or the central point makes sense, then we should put the peripheral points aside. Like say the fall of the jiva, or the huge dimensions in certain aspects of the Bhagavatam; they are not the central thing. The central thing is, connecting with Krishna and experiencing Krishna bhakti. If somebody can’t accept Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s divinity, it is better they just practice Krishna bhakti right now, and not argue about that. Then we talked about the outreach. That if somebody is arguing too much, then that will simply lead to alienation. People will forget what we spoke, but they will remember how we made them feel. So, even if there is 99% doubt and disagreement, focus on the one percent commonality and begin with that. And if we can’t make any further headway, end with cordiality, end with being nice to people; and eventually in their life, that memory will inspire them to explore further in the direction of Krishna. And within devotees, when there are conflicts about how Krishna bhakti is to be practiced, we may say – Prabhupada said this, but more important than Prabhupada’s statements is his overall intent, which was to help people to remember Krishna. And Prabhupada was resourceful and multifaceted in saying how we introduced Krishna bhakti in America and India. In India it was already there, but through ISKCON how we introduced it. So, our movement is neither filled with full-time devotees now; nor mainly life-members. It is in between – congregational members. So, the situation is different, and Prabhupada was resourceful in providing people ways to remember Krishna. Similarly, we and our leaders will also do that. And if we find that we can’t appreciate something, then rather than criticizing something, we just keep a distance and do something constructive. The world is a big place, and instead of arguing and fighting amongst each other, we can actually expand the reach of Krishna in whatever way we feel inspired to do. And thus, if we avoid the storm of needless argumentation, then Krishna will enrich the Vrindavan of our hearts, and Krishna will enrich the hearts of many others also.
Thank you very much.
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