Monday Morning Greetings #43 – Hope Against Hope

December 5th, 2016

“Hope against hope” is an interesting phrase, but what does it have to do with spiritual life? “Hope against hope” is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s English translation of the Sanskrit term āśā-bandha, which literally means that one’s āśā or “hope” cannot be bandha or “bound” and it has everything to do with a successful spiritual life. It is essential.
 
Hope means aspiration. What is against hope? Trying to attain Kṛṣṇa by our own effort. In other words, to think we can earn Kṛṣṇa by what we can pay for Him in terms of our practice and determination means that we have cheapened Kṛṣṇa. His power and sweetness is unfathomable and thus far beyond any effort to achieve Him no matter how fixed and steady our practice.
 
If God is priceless, then what possibly can we do to attain Him? God must be the most kind or merciful, the greatest and most endearing of all good qualities. And mercy is the only thing that can close the gap between the price of something one covets and one’s abject inability to earn it. God’s mercy thus is our hope against hope.
 
The mood of “hope against hope” is exemplified by Akrūra as he begins his journey to see the Lord. First reflecting on his own abilities he has no hope, for the Lord is uttamaśloka, one whose unlimited qualities are worthy to be praised in the choicest poetry.
 
“Since I am a materialistic person absorbed simply in sense gratification, I think it is as difficult for me to have gotten this opportunity to see Lord Uttamaḥśloka as it would be for one born of a śūdra to be allowed to recite the Vedic mantras.” Bhāg. 10.38.4
 
He then begins to reflect on the qualities of Kṛṣṇa and gains immense hope, for the Lord is Acyuta, infallible, which means His mercy also no bounds.
 
“But enough of such thoughts! After all, even a fallen soul like me can have the chance to behold Acyuta (the Infallible Supreme Lord), for one of the conditioned souls being swept along in the river of time may sometimes reach the shore.” Bhāg. 10.38.5
 
Akrūra thus shows how to reconcile these apparently opposite sentiments. When we think of ourselves we naturally have no hope, but when we think of God and His causeless mercy we gain hope.
 
This dual reflection on our self (no hope) and on God (hope) is essential for the practicing theist. If we don’t see our self realistically in relation to God we will not have the requisite humility to beg for mercy and if we don’t see God reasonably, that He has boundless mercy, why would we even try?
 
The practical application of this principle is clearly expressed by Śrīla Prabhupāda in his commentary on Nārada’s failed second attempt to have an audience with God, which was apparently done more mechanically than his first attempt that was successful. Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly describes the appropriate mood required to rise above mechanical chanting.
 
“When he pleases, being satisfied with the sincere attempt of devotional service depending clearly on the mercy of the Lord, then he may be seen out of His own accord[1] Bhāg. 1.6.19, Purport
 
How beautifully said. We must endeavor with the hope that we can be successful not because we deserve accomplishment, but because we may attract the Lord’s mercy by our humble yearning. This tension between our cognizance of the unlimited worth of the divine and our hope against hope to attain Him is the heart of a successful Vaisnava’s prayers. It is best exemplified by the mood expressed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in a reference cited by Śrīla Prabhupāda in The Nectar of Devotion to specifically illustrate this quality of āśā-bandha.
 
“I have no love for Kṛṣṇa, nor for the causes of developing love of Kṛṣṇa – namely, hearing and chanting. And the process of bhaktiyoga, by which one is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa and fixing His lotus feet in the heart, is also lacking in me. As far as philosophical knowledge or pious works are concerned, I don’t see any opportunity for me to execute such activities. But above all, I am not even born of a nice family. Therefore I must simply pray to You, Gopījana-vallabha [Kṛṣṇa, maintainer and beloved of the gopīs]. I simply wish and hope that some way or other I may be able to approach Your lotus feet, and this hope is giving me pain, because I think myself quite incompetent to approach that transcendental goal of life.” – Prayer of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī quoted in Chapter 18 of The Nectar of Devotion
 
Although I am unqualified I pray one day to humbly imbibe this mood of hope against hope by the causeless mercy.
 
 
[1] I had a thought about Nārada’s two attempts to gain audience of the Lord and why the second failed although he exactly repeated what he had doe to achieve the first. The first attempt was done in utter desperation for he was a parentless child wandering in the forest seeking the shelter of God. After achieving success the second attempt was perhaps tinged with the misconception that his success was dependent on his endeavor and lacked the same dependence. Thus Śrīla Prabhupāda’s comment on the second attempt quoted above.
 
 

Monday Morning Greeting #42 – Darśana: Seeing God

November 28th, 2016

The devotees were puzzled. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta could not see without his glasses so why was he viewing the deities everyday without them? His reply:
 
“We are not the subject and God is thus not an object for our enjoyment. Rather Kṛṣṇa is the subject and we are an object for His enjoyment. I don’t need my glasses for darśana for darśana means He is seeing us.” *
 
This principle is poignantly illustrated in the story of “The Wives of the Brāhmaṇas Delivered”. They were always hankering to see Kṛṣṇa and after years of yearning they finally got His darśana. It is interesting how this is described:
 
“Lord Kṛṣṇa, who witnesses the thoughts of all creatures, understood how those ladies had abandoned all worldly hopes and come there simply to see Him. Thus He addressed them as follows with a smile upon His face.” Bhāg. 10.23.24
 
What is important here is that it is Kṛṣṇa, not the wives of the brāhmaṇas, who is being described as the seer. It is also noteworthy as to what He saw — tyakta-sarvāśāḥ — that they, the wives of the brāhmaṇas, had given up all material hopes and desires. And finally, it is significant how Kṛṣṇa reacted. Such love brought Him pleasure and He smiled. Thus, darśana, going before the Lord, reveals the essence of bhakti. We go before the Lord not just to see His form, but for Him to see our hearts for His pleasure.
 
This type of darśana is the heart of bhakti and it should be reflected consciously in all our devotional activities, such as chanting. Real chanting is thus not just repeating syllables, but offering our heart transformed into sound to God for His pleasure. In other words, we mostly chant as way to allow Kṛṣṇa to hear and see our devotion.
 
This concept of darśana, becoming an object of God’s pleasure, was unexpectedly reinforced in a video I saw when I was visiting one God-brother in Vṛndāvana. It was a talk by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s god-brother B.R. Śrīdhar Mahārāja, where he humbly talked about his experience of “divine knowledge”. I understood his use of the term “divine knowledge’ to be a translation of divya-jñāna, the initial experience of enlightenment. He describes that moment humbly.
 
“I was the subject and then I became the object for Kṛṣṇa. I was captured.”
 
What is described here is the shift of consciousness at the moment of liberation or enlightenment where one is impelled and inspired to take oneself out of the center, where one finally sees oneself fully as the object for God’s pleasure. When he mentions “captured” the term is used in the sense that out of intense attraction and affection for Kṛṣṇa one moves helplessly, but happily, according to His will. Such joyful, dependence is in fact the template for any real love, for without being impelled to follow the desires of a worthy other, without putting someone else in the center, what is the question of love?
 
So that is the challenge of bhakti and I accepted that challenge of darśana in a bit of a unique way. I sit every morning in Govardhana for my chanting directly facing Govardhana Hill. Today, I consciously tried not to view the sacred mount as an object of my vision. Rather I viewed Govardhana as the subject or center and myself on His periphery as an object for His pleasure. Of course, this can’t be done artificially, but just the concept and the attempt to be seen by God, rather to see or enjoy God really soothed my heart. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta thus summed up the essence of darśana:
 
“Don’t try to see God, but act in a way that God wants to see you.”
 
 
* I have only paraphrased Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s statement from memory.
 
 

Monday Morning Greetings #41 – In Memory of Dr. Fakir Mohan

November 21st, 2016

We are saddened by the passing of our friend and well-wisher, Dr Fakir Mohan Prabhu, the Vaiṣṇava saint and scholar.
 
I met Prabhu about 15 or 20 years ago. I was staying at ISKCON Govardhana and was told that an elderly and somewhat renowned Vaiṣṇava from Orissa had arrived. I went to greet him to pay respects. But as I introduced myself he moved a few steps to the left and when I again went to face him he moved again to his right. I was puzzled until someone whispered that he would not step on a Vaiṣṇava’s shadow so as the sun was to my back he had to move every time I would directly face him.
 
The next morning, we asked him to give class, but before he sat on the seat he bowed to every sannyāsi affectionately clasping their hands and in a heartfelt voice murmuring, “Bless me I know nothing.”
 
So, he stayed with us for a short time at Govardhana and in this way, we developed an affectionate relationship. It is impressive to meet someone genuinely humble, but what is more impressive is when such a person has every reason to be proud. He not only was a lifelong celibate, but also the chairman of the Department of Sanskrit at Utkal University, and arguably one the top scholars on the history of Vaiṣṇavism, having completed his PhD on the subject. Most important he was a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. His initiated name itself is the emblem of humility as “Fakir” is not even a Sanskrit name, but the Urdū or Muslim name for “beggar”. He personally told me its origins:
 
Before he was born his mother had several children, but they all died shortly after birth. When he was born, fearing that God would again take their child, his parents gave him the name “Fakir” or “beggar” so God wouldn’t take such a forlorn person.
 
He also told me how he joined the Gauḍīya Maṭh. He was naturally interested in bhakti from a very young age and left home at the age of fourteen to join the Gauḍīya Maṭh in Purī, where his family lived. His father came to take him, but he threatened his father, “If you let me join I will stay here in the maṭh near home, otherwise I will run away and join a maṭh in a far distance place and you may never see me again.” His father agreed. I found that interesting how an otherwise relatively meek person who is saintly can also be bold for the sake of their convictions. Shortly afterwards his guru surprisingly mostly kept his name by just naming him Fakir Mohan dāsa.
 
After I met him I would see him in Vṛndāvana often as he started coming there every Kārtika. He was the caretaker or sevaite of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava, the ancestral deities of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the deities Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura glorifies in his famous bhajana, “Jaya Rādhā-Mādhava Kuñjabihari”. He would leave Them on the altar of the Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Mandir where they could have pleasure of seeing the international devotees, which was one of the visions of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda in Mayapur, that people from all over the world will soon join together chanting “Jaya Sacidānanda, Gaurahari!”
 
I was living at the time in a place called Satsvarūpa’s House, a strange moniker as Satsvarūpa Mahārāja had only lived there once. It was in the colony behind Bon Mahārāja’s college and Dr. Fakir Mohan was my neighbor during Kārtika. One evening I ran into him walking in the street outside my house. He asked me if I knew where Bhakti Caitanya’s House was (another strange moniker) as Pārtha Sārathī Mahārāja was staying there and he wanted to offer his respects. I told him that I did know where he lived, and he enthusiastically waved for me to show him.
 
We often take our god-brothers and the devotees for granted, but here was a very advanced devotee who earnestly sought them all out to offer his respects – a good example for us all.
 
We arrived at Bhakti Caitanya’s House and Pārtha Sārathī Mahārāja asked Dr. Fakir Mohan to chant Maṅgala-gītā, a beautiful Oriyan song describing the separation of the gopīs when Akrūra was taking Kṛṣṇa to Mathurā. His singing was extraordinary, so powerful and devotional, as powerful in force and devotion as anyone I have ever heard. We very much enjoyed his sharing of his heartfelt devotion. Pārtha Sārathī Mahārāja then apologetically informed Dr. Fakir Mohan that his mother, aunt, brother, and sister were visiting next door in the MVT, and as he had basically neglected them for so many years since joining the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement it was important that he be punctual in his visit with them during their stay. Immediately Dr. Fakir Mohan said with bubbling enthusiasm, “Then I will also go! I will also go!”
 
When we entered the apartment where Mahārāja’s family was staying his dignified British mother from Oxford came out to greet us. To my remembrance she was a reserved lady with curly grey hair and a simple one-piece cotton dress from her neck to the ankles. To our amazement Dr. Fakir Mohan immediately paid his daṇḍavat praṇāmas, his prostrated obeisances. Pārtha Sārathī was shocked. As Dr. Fakir Mohan arose he apologetically told his mother, “This is Dr. Fakir Mohan, a great Vaiṣṇava saint and scholar. He is the Chairman of the Department of Sankirt at Utkal University, a Sangeet ācārya, and a lifelong celibate saint.”
 
I will never forget Dr. Fakir Mohan’s simple reply: “This is our culture.” He then paused and with conviction added, “No, we feel it!” He went on to quote verse after verse citing how if a person becomes a pure devotee then “generation after generation, 14 generations are liberated,” justifying why the mother of Partha Sārathī Mahārāja was worthy of his worship.
 
When Dr. Fakir Mohan joined the maṭh his only joy was to serve the senior Vaiṣṇavas. He told me that he prayed to spend his life that way, but his guru, seeing how intelligent he was, sent him back to school. And despite returning after each graduation wanting to stay in the āśrama for service, his guru sent him back again and again until he received his PhD in Sanskrit. He taught for many years, but his heart was mostly into the service of guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
 
A few years ago, I got a surprise call from him when I was in Purī that he wanted to attend my Purī retreat. He would then come almost every year and sit humbly for all of the classes. Finally he agreed to our demand and would give one or two classes himself during the retreat. Two stuck in my mind.
 
One year the Sanskrit students from Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu’s class were attending our yātrā. I told Dr. Fakir Mohan that they had come and that as he was a Sanskrit teacher he might be interested in encouraging them. He started our morning Bhāgavatam class that year looking in their direction and posing the question, “Who is śāstra-jña (the knower of the śāstra)?” He then looked at them and with a sweeping forward gesture of his hand bellowed loudly with pronounced enunciation, “One who practices!”
 
Another year I asked him to please speak on the holy name. I had heard that one year in Bhubaneswar he was asked to lecture every day on Bhaktivinoda’s songs and he started with one bhajana that describes, “This temporary material world is full of suffering, chant the holy name as your only business,” and he lectured on that verse and the holy name for three years continuously. But that day instead of lecturing on the holy name he lectured on Jagannātha prasādam telling the devotees to eat more and more Jagannātha prasādam for their spiritual advancement and his glorification had no end. I had wished he would have spoken on the holy name, but I couldn’t help but appreciate his absolute faith in Jagannātha and His prasādam.
 
I think I could go on and on re-telling the times I was fortunate to be in his association and the lessons he imparted and the example he set, but I do like to keep these Monday Morning Greetings digestible for those of you rushing off to work, and many people have commented that they appreciate that. I will finish with my last encounter.
 
He came again this year to year to Govardhana for Govardhana a Pūjā as he always does during Kārtika and as usual he greeted me very affectionately and respectfully, more than I deserve. He had been an incredibly vibrant person for a person of his age, but this year I could see that his health had gone down. He had previously told me that he had six heart attacks over the last few years and in every case when he had gone unconscious he was still murmuring Hare Kṛṣṇa, as the doctors later related to him. Anyway, old age, somewhere around ninety, had gotten to him and he told me that for the first time he wasn’t giving classes. When it was time to bathe the Hill, and in Govardhana there is a large mound dirt right opposite our āśrama that takes us right up to the Hill, I had the honor of gently and affectionately taking his hand and helping him wade through the crowds so that he could bathe Girirāja first with the other senior devotees. He would have never pushed he way forward himself. I watched as with great devotion he massaged Girirāja with oil and then receded back in the crowd to listen to the kīrtana and look lovingly at his Lord.
 
This evening I received the following text from Mādhavānanda Prabhu:
 
“At about 6:46 PM tonight, the world became a darker place. Pūjyapāda Fakir Mohan Mahārāja left this world, surrounded by devotees chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and crying. He had a prasāda tulasī leaf on his mouth, the Govardhana-śilā given to him by his gurudeva was on his forehead, on his chest was a prasāda chaddar from the ancient deity of Ṭoṭā-Gopīnātha, there was a full plate of śālagrāmaśilās by his head. Also on his chest was a silk rope that had been used to tie Lord Jagannātha to His Ratha-yātrā cart in Purī. There was also a Jagannātha prasāda Gīta-govinda khandua on his chest, the cloth with verses written on it from Jayadeva Gosvāmī’s Gīta-govinda. He was our great friend, teacher, and well-wisher. Today there is great pain in our hearts.”
 
 

The Nature of Bhakti is the Topmost Love for God

November 14th, 2016

Nārada-bhakti-sūtra

Sūtra 2

sā tv asmin parama-prema-rūpā

The first verse declares that bhakti is the subject of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. It also implied that bhakti is the culmination of all spiritual practices. This verse now defines the nature of such bhakti:
 
It is the topmost love for God.
 
The topmost love, also called uttama-bhakti, is classically defined as activities done with the exclusive intention to please Kṛṣṇa (God) that are not covered by any selfish desire.
 
Obviously, real devotion cannot be motivated by personal desire, but why does it have to be for God?
 
God by definition is the basis of existence, one inclusive of all reality. That means that nothing can be outside of Him. Truly loving God thus means to love everything and everyone, just as watering the root of a tree nourishes the whole tree.
 
Without loving God, however, one’s love becomes somewhat exclusive and narrow. Your love for someone excludes affection for another, just as watering the leaves of a tree excludes service for the whole tree.
 
Such love, however, is not restricted to just an immanent being. Loving exchanges with others are essential to the path of bhakti. In fact, one who claims to love God, but who has enmity towards others, is not actually a lover of God. At best, his devotion is of a low or mixed quality.
 
A true bhakta thus humbly serves those who are more advanced than him or herself in spiritual life, makes friends with his peers, and shows compassion to those in need. And although those relationships entail real affection, they are not limited. Whether as parent for a child or a wife or husband for their partner, the bhakta is united with others with a vision towards the eternal. Seeing the soul, the spark of God in everyone, the devotee naturally serves and loves others as intrinsic parts of God and they naturally satisfy that person’s needs so that they may have peaceful minds to eventually pursue the highest endeavor of awakening God consciousness. *
 
The nature of bhakti is thus the topmost love, selfless service to God, which is inclusive of his parts and parcels.
 
 
* After writing this and having it edited upon casually showing this to a friend I was asked, “Is at best our relationships in this world just a psychological boon. Is there any direct spiritual benefit at all?” In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī defines Kṛṣṇa as Kṛṣṇa, His parts and parcels and his differentiated energies. So seeing someone as part of God and serving them in a particular relationship cognizant of that fact can also be worship of Kṛṣṇa.
 
 

Monday Morning Greetings #40 – I want to be a Vaisnava!

November 7th, 2016

Amidst the throngs of seemingly ordinary people here in Vṛndāvana just one old Vaiṣṇava sādhu has to smile and greet you in his raspy voice “Jai Ho, Mahārāja!” and you realize why you have come to this place. Does that sound sentimental? After living here for more than forty years that is my strong conviction, that the endearing voices and bountiful smiles of such beautiful people inform us powerfully of the real goal in life, to become simple hearted, happy, and in a mood of service. Yes, the beautiful things in life are simple and sweet, because they are born not from opulence, but from the hearts of devotion. And that’s the glory of Vṛndāvana, the jewels of mādhurya (sweetness) that are hidden in the hearts of the real Vrajavāsīs.* Yesterday I mined one.

Govinda Kuṇḍa is just a forty-minute walk down the parikramā path from my own place near Dāna-ghāṭī (the place of the tax pastime). It sits next to the side of Govardhana Hill. It’s where Indra performed the ceremonial bath of Kṛṣṇa to beg pardon for his offense and whose bath waters formed this beautiful pond according to Kṛṣṇa lore. Five of us took a late morning outing there to visit this small sādhu hamlet.

Our visit eventually took us down a small road off the main path on the southern side of the kuṇḍa that ended at a yellow iron gate with a sign above announcing the place as the āśrama of the renowned late Vaiṣṇava saint and mystic Manohar Bābā. We entered and walked straight alongside the āśrama building under an enclosed pavilion to the end of the property where we faced an old indiscreet closed wood door on our left side. We cautiously pushed the door open and entered a dimly light hall and the altar of small Śrī Madana-mohana deities. One simple sādhu was sitting there chanting, but he immediately stood up to greet us and beamed, “prasādam, prasādam” enthusiastically pointing our way through a corridor to the back of the property where their kitchen and prasādam hall stood.

As we entered the rustic kitchen pavilion of this ancient āśrama, Sītānāth Bābā, the recently installed mahant of the place, was standing over an open fire vigorously stirring a wok of vegetables. When he saw us enter he turned and also beamed “prasādam, prasādam” earnestly pointing to a single plank table with chairs for our group all facing where Sītānāth was cooking as another joyful sādhu fed us a sumptuous meal. Sītānāth then suddenly left his cooking to scurry around to find whatever he could in the āśrama to please us, from their special stash of sweets for guests, to even hot cow’s milk at the end.

We felt so welcomed. I just loved their culture, especially their smiles that were worn almost as badges of their faith. And what was their faith? It was the happiness of prīti or love, their deep conviction that pleasure is not to enjoy or control the world, but to genuinely serve God and his devotees. And that’s what Vraja* really is and that is what I really hanker for, the simple heart of service reflected in the beautiful smile of the true residents here.

Once when a faithful disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda said to him, “You are greatest Vaiṣṇava!” he became grave and emphatically said, “No! Vaiṣṇava is not an ordinary thing!” Of course, part of being of Vaiṣṇava is humility and in one’s deep hunger for the service of God one naturally feels a lack of devotion. Indeed, Śrīla Prabhupāda was one of the greatest Vaiṣṇava, but he highlighted the rarity and value of a simple heart and mood of service.

Being here in Vraja and being inspired by the Vaiṣṇava’s here, my chanting has taken up a singular prayer for this auspicious month of Kārtika:

“I want to be a Vaiṣṇava!”

* Either one born in Vṛndāvana or one who lives there and truly imbibes its mood.

** Another name for Vṛndāvana.

Lessons from the CC: Antya-līlā, Chapter 3, Part 2

October 31st, 2016

Lessons from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā, Chapter 3, Part 2
 
Lesson 16: Even a sincere devotee who achieves success can expect opposition from envious people.
 
“A landholder named Rāmacandra Khān was the zamindar of that district. He was envious of Vaiṣṇavas and was therefore a great atheist. Unable to tolerate that such respect was being offered to Haridāsa Ṭhākura, Rāmacandra Khān planned in various ways to dishonor him. By no means could he find any fault in the character of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Therefore he called for local prostitutes and began to discredit His Holiness.” Antya-līlā 3.102-104
 
Lesson 17: A Vaiṣṇava always tries to find the ways and means to give one Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
 
When the prostitute sent by Rāmacandra Khān propositioned Haridāsa Ṭhākura he told her to just wait until he finished his prescribed number of rounds hoping that in the process of waiting she would hear the holy name and be spiritually elevated:
 
“Please sit down and hear the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra until my regular chanting is finished. Then your desire will surely be fulfilled.” Antya-līlā 3.121
 
Purport: “Haridāsa Ṭhākura never wanted to enjoy the prostitute, but he tricked her to deliver her by giving her a chance to hear the holy name of the Lord while he chanted.” Antya-līlā 3.126
 
Lesson 18: The most potent process of advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is to associate with advanced devotees along with chanting the holy name.
 
“After offering her obeisances to the tulasī plant and Haridāsa Ṭhākura, she sat down at the door. Hearing Haridāsa Ṭhākura chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, she also chanted, ‘O my Lord Hari, O my Lord Hari.’” Antya-līlā 3.122
 
Purport: “[…] The conclusion is that associating with a Vaiṣṇava, chanting the holy name of the Lord and offering obeisances to the tulasī plant or a Vaiṣṇava all lead one to become a transcendental devotee who is completely cleansed of material contamination.” Antya-līlā 3.122
 
Lesson 19: The best charity is charity given to those sincerely dedicated to spiritual life and completely dependent on God.
 
Purport: “[…] According to Vedic civilization, charity should be given only to the qualified brāhmaṇas […] Persons engaged in pursuing spiritual understand have no time to earn their livelihood. They depend completely on the mercy of the Lord.” Antya-līlā 3.136
 
Lesson 20: Even if one cannot surrender fully to Kṛṣṇa immediately, by taking up the process of chanting the holy name and rendering service to the tulasī plant one will quickly advance in devotional service.
 
“Chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra continuously and render service to the tulasī plant by watering her and offering prayers to her. In this way you will very soon get the opportunity to be sheltered at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.” Antya-līlā 3.137
 
Lesson 21: If one receives charity for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness he must be very vigilant that it is used only for service and never for sense gratification.
 
“Thereafter, the prostitute distributed to the brāhmaṇas whatever household possessions she had, following the order of her spiritual master.” Antya-līlā 1.139
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda uses the example of the prostitute to show that those gifted money, especially for devotional service, should never use it selfishly or be dependent on those who gave it.
 
Purport: “[…] A Vaiṣṇava guru accepts money or other contributions, but he does not employ such contributions for sense gratification. A pure Vaiṣṇava thinks himself unfit to help even one person from the reactions of sinful life, but he engages one’s hard earned money in the service of the Lord and this frees one from sinful reactions. […]” Antya-līlā 3.139
 
Lesson 22: A Vaiṣṇava Guru is never dependent on the contributions of his disciples.
 
Purport: “[…] A Vaiṣṇava guru is never dependent on the contributions of his disciples. Following the instructions of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, a pure Vaiṣṇava does not personally take even a single paisa from anyone, but he induces his followers to spend for the service of the Lord whatever possession they have.” Antya-līlā 3.139
 
Lesson 23: By eating frugally a devotee can control senses, focus on Kṛṣṇa, and attain love of Godhead.
 
“She worshiped the tulasī plant, following in the footsteps of her spiritual master. Instead of eating regularly, she chewed whatever food she received as alms, and if nothing was supplied she would fast. Thus by eating frugally and fasting she conquered her senses, and as soon as her sense were controlled, symptoms of love of Godhead appeared in her person.” Antya-līlā 3.141
 
Lesson 24: In judging a Vaiṣṇava one should consider only their adherence to Vaiṣṇava principles and not their ethnicity, social status, or place of birth.
 
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja describes how the prostitute became a revered devotee despite her fallen past.
 
“Thus the prostitute became a celebrated devotee. She became very advanced in spiritual life, and many stalwart Vasinavas would come to see her.” Antya-līlā 3.142
 
Purport: “[…] Therefore, it is one’s strict adherence to the principles that should be considered, not the country of one’s birth. Many devotees join our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement from Europe and America, but one should not therefore consider them European Vaiṣṇava or American Vaiṣṇava . A Vaiṣṇava is a Vaiṣṇava and should therefore be given all respects due a Vaiṣṇava.” Antya-līlā 3.142
 
Lesson 25: A Vaiṣṇava guru is judged and glorified by his ability to change the character of his disciples.
 
“Seeing the sublime character of the prostitute, everyone was astonished. Everyone glorified the influence of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and offered him obeisances.” Antya-līlā 3.143
 
Lesson 26: To disturb a great Vaiṣṇava is a great offense that will certainly wreak havoc in one’s life.
 
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja describes the result of Rāmacandra Khān’s offense:
 
“By inducing the prostitute to disturb Haridāsa Ṭhākura, Rāmacandra caused a seed of offense at the lotus feet to germinate. This seed later became a tree, and when it fructified, Rāmacandra Khān ate its fruits.” Antya-līlā 3.144
 
“Rāmacandra was naturally a non-devotee. Now having offended the lotus feet of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, he became like a demoniac atheist.” Antya-līlā 3.145
 
“Because of blaspheming the cult of Vaiṣṇavism and insulting the devotees for a long time, he now received the result of his offensive activities.” Antya-līlā 3.147
 
Lesson 27: Following in the footsteps of Lord Nityānanda, a devotee preacher should make it his or her mission to spread the cult of bhakti and to defeat prominent atheistic views that confuse people.
 
“For two purposes—to spread the cult of bhakti and to defeat and subdue the atheists—Lord Nityānanda, the most dedicated devotee of the Lord, moved throughout the country.” Antya-līlā 3.149
 
Lesson 28: When you insult a devotee you will not only receive the reaction yourself, but those around you will also suffer.
 
When Lord Nityānanda visited the home of Rāmacandra Khān, he was seriously insulted. Later not only was Rāmacandra Khān’s house plundered by the army of the Muslim minister, but the whole village was plundered. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja thus comments:
 
“Whenever an advanced devotee is insulted, for one man’s fault the entire town or place is afflicted.” Antya-līlā 3.164
 
Lesson 29: The single most powerful impetus for spiritual attainment is the blessings of a Vaiṣṇava.
 
Haridāsa Ṭhākura lived for some time in the village where Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī grew up and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī used to visit him daily. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja describes the result:
 
“Naturally Haridāsa Ṭhākura was merciful towards him, and because of the merciful benediction of this Vaiṣṇava, he later attained the shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet.” Antya-līlā 3.170
 
 

Monday Morning Greetings #39 – How a Bhaktivedanta Purport Saved Me from a Mental Hospital

October 24th, 2016

I am fortunate to have had very wonderful parents. In fact, my 96-year-old mother is still alive and when I am in the USA I try to stay with her for a couple of days every month. Why am I saying this? I am about to tell the story of when they had me kidnapped to save me from being a Hare Kṛṣṇa, which they were convinced at the time was a cult, and I would not want anyone to think bad of them in the least. They were very decent people. They kidnapped me over 40 years ago when us young, passionate, dedicated devotees couldn’t always communicate properly the profound truths that we were experiencing, especially to our parents, and when most people, such as my parents, had very little frame of reference to understand an exotic new religious movement in America. Anyway, out of love for me they tried to save me from something they thought was harmful, and unfortunately, not being properly informed, resorted to deprogramming. Looking back, I equally blame myself for that miscommunication. *
 
I am not going to tell the whole story here. I am just going to highlight the part of the story where the recollection and sharing of a specific Bhaktivedanta purport saved me from being committed to Kings County Mental Hospital. Here it goes.
 
After being kidnapped from the temple in Dallas, Texas by the famous deprogrammer Ted Patrick, I was eventually able to feign that he was successful in his attempt to deprogram me. I was thus sent home, but under the watch of his assistant, a thug named Goose**. When my father and Goose took me shopping to get new western clothes at Kings Plaza, the largest shopping mall in Brooklyn at the time, I made a run for it at a choice moment when Goose went into the bank to change money. Somehow as I was running out of the mall with my father chasing me, the police nearby apprehended me thinking I was a thief. But when they asked my age and understood that I was 24-years-old, they initially wanted to let me go free. On my father’s insistence that I was crazy, however, they finally agreed to take me to a mental hospital to determine if I should be committed. I was booked at the nearest police station, handcuffed, and taken to the mental hospital to be interviewed by the psychiatrist who would make the final decision on my mental status. My parents were interviewed first to register their complaint. I was left in the waiting hall outside his office. I paced back and forth chanting on my fingers among the other people there (my beads had been taken), many in the process of being committed. I specifically remembered one lady talking to the wall as if it were her boyfriend who jilted her and another man strapped to a wheel chair in a straight jacket screaming and kicking as violently and angry as anyone I have ever seen. The interview with my parents was soon finished and the psychiatrist called me in.
 
I sat down directly opposite the psychiatrist as he carefully examined me. Dr. Cohen then looked me in the eyes and asked in earnestness, “Are you hallucinating?”
 
“Why do you ask that?” I replied.
 
“I saw you pacing back and forth in the hallway talking to yourself.”
 
I must have looked crazy, I thought. When I returned home I had no western clothes after my parents confiscated my devotional attire. In fact that’s why my parents took me shopping. Temporarily all they could find around the house were extremely baggy jeans before they were in fashion, an old high school sports team jacket with vinyl like sleeves and a felt like front, and a strange fez that my father was gifted by a Pakistani insurance salesman. To make my appearance even more strange I was pacing back and forth rapidly shaking my head back and forth in ecstasy as I was chanting out loud “my rounds” of the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra and keeping track by counting on my fingers. I must have looked, well, crazy!
 
But somehow in response to the psychiatrist I had the gumption to look him right in the eye and in those good old early days of Hare Kṛṣṇa missionary zeal, enthusiasm, and confidence – “fired up” as we would say – repeat exactly what I had just read in a Bhaktivedanta purport from the third canto of the Bhāgavatam just the day before I was kidnapped:
 
“Although I am not hallucinating it can’t be said that I am seeing the same as you. Just like one who is not a theist sees a rose as separate from God and made only for his own enjoyment. A devotee, however, sees that flower as the energy of God and meant to be used in his service. And therefore although I am not hallucinating it cannot be said that I AM SEEING THE SAME THING AS YOU!”
 
As I was repeating those last words I slowed down my speech for emphasis simultaneously pointing my finger at the psychiatrist. The jaw of the psychiatrist dropped and he paused before gathering his words.
 
“That’s very intelligent. I think your parents are crazy!”
 
I could imagine the fervor in which my parents presented their case and the contrast between my lucid and clear explanation practically word-for-word from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. He released me.
 
So that’s how Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books saved me from being committed to a mental hospital.
 
Rathi Kṛṣṇa recently found the exact purport that I had studied and repeated to the psychiatrist that one fateful morning forty-one years ago. I will share it verbatim from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport. I think the readership of Monday Morning Greetings will value the degree of its clarity and force that even a psychiatrist, who probably wasn’t even a theist, appreciated its profundity at a time when the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement was still not even recognized as an established religion.
 
“[…] A conditioned soul sees a very beautiful rose, and he thinks that the nice aromatic flower should be used for his own sense gratification. This is one kind of vision. A liberated soul, however, sees the same flower as a reflection of the Supreme Lord. He thinks, ‘This beautiful flower is made possible by the superior energy of the Supreme Lord; therefore it belongs to the Supreme Lord and should be utilized in His service.’ […]” Bhag. 3.27.13, Purport
 
 
* Epilogue of sorts—after the kidnapping my parents visited a few years later in India. They became very appreciative of what I was doing as did all my family.
 
** “Goose is big, about six-foot-five, and strong as iron. He wears his hair long, with a sweatband around it. His arms are tattooed, and when he goes out on a mission he wears heavy boots, a leather vest, and a black leather gloves like a strangler. I think all that is part of psyching himself up. At heart he’s really a gentle young man, but when he gets riled, he has known to become aggressive. That night he got carried away.” – From Ted Patrick’s book, Let Our Children Go!
 
 

Monday Morning Greetings #38 – On Scholarship

October 17th, 2016

Scholarship is underrated. Scholarship is overrated.  I just can’t make up my mind. When I see conscious choices in behavior and policy based on whim rather than the rule of śāstra and witness the lack of depth in spiritual discourse in the general devotee community, I bemoan the lack of qualified Vaiṣṇava scholars to guide us and I become convinced we underrate the value of study. But when I see learned so-called scholars miss the most rudimentary truths of Vaiṣṇava behavior, I bemoan their learning as useless and I become convinced that scholarship is overrated. Just how important is the role of scholarship in the practice of devotional service?
 
Scholarship is underrated
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda was a Sanskrit scholar, at least enough of one to be prolific in quality translations of standard bhakti texts, such as the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā, and the books of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. In many ways the basis of his mission was to distribute knowledge in the form of those books. He also implored his devotees to read his books from different angles and chastised his disciples that “we are not just an export business,” warning his disciples that they must not only distribute his books, but also vigorously study them. Although the conclusion of those books is simple, that Kṛṣṇa is God and that we must fully surrender to Him, it is a conclusion that is realized only after years of sincere study.  Otherwise why would the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu proclaim that the topmost devotee is one who has both strong faith and is well versed in śāstra (sacred texts). They are obviously not unrelated. We thus need learned devotees to give integrity to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement both by their spiritual attainment and their ability to enliven others and move them towards such attainment.  Our need for scholarship is thus definitely underrated.
 
Scholarship is overrated
 
What is the purpose of scholarship or knowledge on the path of bhakti? Like any path, you can’t begin to understand and have faith in what to do without knowledge. Knowledge is thus also the basis of moving forward with confidence and determination in bhakti.  Knowledge is also required not only to know what to do, but also how to do it, to know the exact method of our practice (bhakti sādhana). But knowledge also has its limits, especially when you consider the nature of the object to be known or attained, which is Kṛṣṇa.  God is personal and like any person is only superficially known by analysis. That Kṛṣṇa, like any person, reveals Himself fully only in love or relationship is affirmed by Kṛṣṇa Himself:
 
“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science. (Bhagavad-gītā 4.3)
 
The limits of scholarship in gaining full knowledge is directly and powerfully espoused in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad:
 
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23) *
 
The import of Vedic knowledge is to free oneself from false ego. Here it explains that unless one is actually attempting to do that by surrendering to guru and Kṛṣṇa, one will just not have the frame of reference to recognize that same core principle when studying the vast and complex Vedas, just like a woman who is a PhD in child pedagogy will not be gifted with a deep understanding of motherhood despite her study unless she is first a responsible mother. The above text also informs us that deep insight into the infinitely deep Vedas are only possible when gifted with such insight by the mercy of God who sees in one a sincere desire to be transformed by such knowledge, and not by one who is just interested in the ego gratification of being learned.
 
Scholarship is thus vastly overrated as a barometer of spiritual attainment because one who is not surrendered to guru and Kṛṣṇa and thus approaches the sacred texts only for mastery and influence misses its true import and simply becomes proud. Unfortunately, this has too often been the history of scholarship in modern day Vaiṣṇavism where people who study often lack the upbringing of service and humility to inoculate themselves from such motive and misconception.
 
Conclusion
 
In conclusion, I would like to offer my profound respect to the late Vaiṣṇava scholar Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu who showed us the proper use of scholarship. He was vastly learned, and had a natural propensity and love for learning. In fact, I first met him in the early 1970s after he joined the Brooklyn temple as a graduate in linguistics from Colombia University, but history has shown that he took up the service of scholarship not to become a respected linguist, but only as service to his spiritual master Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was thus a devotee first and a scholar second, which is actually the message of Vedic knowledge. In that sense the result of his study gave him the greatest insight into its true meaning, which he not only imbibed personally as a humble Vaiṣṇava dedicated to service, but as teacher who effectively inspired others to become Vaiṣṇava scholars as well. His life thus teaches us not only the importance of scholarship, but it limits as well, that it shouldn’t overshadow the import of its message, to become a humble servant to guru and Kṛṣṇa.
 
* yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthā

prakāśante mahātmana

 
 

Monday Morning Greetings #37 – On Criticism

October 10th, 2016

“The poison of that which you criticize comes to you.”
 
“Criticism is worse that throwing a spear in someone’s body, because the spear can only pierce the body, but criticism can pierce the heart.”
 
“Criticism is worse than envy. Envy is when it is in the heart. Criticism is when it comes out.”
 
I have often repeated these statements. I am sure I read them someplace, although somehow I can’t find their reference. I have no difficulty, however, embracing their conclusion. And here is one strong clearly referenced statement about the necessity to avoid criticism.
 
“Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead.” Cc Antya 4.71
 
It’s a good reference for the most serious of the ten offenses against the holy name is criticism. Of course, the word for criticism used here “nindā” is qualified by the word “sādhu” and there is also allowance for constructive criticism. We will get to that, but we need to realize that the stakes for an offender are high. You just won’t get “love of Godhead”. And for the devotee that is everything. Best err on the side of caution.
 
I struggle with that. So many people, devotees who are dedicated and senior, sometimes do things that disturb me. How can one not criticize? Be careful! If one’s criticism is not born of compassion, but even harbors a trace of ill will, that hate will certainly cover the soul, for the soul is simply consciousness meant for love and devotion.
 
And if I think about it honestly I also must do things that serve as fuel for the lower nature of others. We all struggle with our own impurities and conditioning and its bound to be just the thing that annoys another, especially one with a different nature. That is simply the way of the world. At all costs I just don’t want to be a self-righteous hypocrite that is always clamoring for justice for others and mercy for oneself.
 
But what about all the injustice? By all means speak up and speak up strongly, but first make sure there is no hate in your own heart, otherwise your kīrtan of others faults which merely embodies the impurities of your own heart will only spread hate of others and not love of God. We have seen too often that the modern champions of controversy mostly create threads that attract the bitter.
 
I remember reading in a history of the Gauḍīyā Math of a younger devotee who had a very critical intelligence. He would often see things that are wrong. He sought the counsel of a very senior and elevated Vaiṣṇava who gave him the very simple advice which he followed for the rest of his life, “Observe and don’t talk”. He followed that instruction and attained spiritual heights. Yes, it may be one’s service to point on mistakes. I just don’t envy that person and I pray they are fairly pure. Otherwise:
 
“We all become well-disguised mirror image of anything that we fight too long or too directly… Most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot.” – Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
 
My prayer is to be a Vaiṣṇava. So many places in śāstra that is defined as one who is free from the propensity to criticize others. Who else can a Vaiṣṇava be other than one who has no hate in his or her heart? I hanker for such saṅga. And by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s grace there are many such souls. I just have to be the bee that seeks the honey and not the fly that looks for the sores.
 
To conclude with another oft-repeated statement of mine that has no reference, but I embrace whole-heartedly:
 
Bhakti is simple. Even a child can do it. What is difficult is avoiding offense.”
 
 

Lessons from the CC: Antya-līlā, Chapter 3

October 3rd, 2016

Lessons from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Anyta-līlā, Chapter 3
 
Lesson 1: One should not instruct or criticize one’s teacher.
 
One young boy would regularly visit Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Dāmodara Paṇḍita, one of his disciples, was concerned that people may criticize Śrī Caitanya. The child was not only the son of a beautiful young widow, but Śrī Caitanya was still a young and handsome man and, more importantly, in the renounced order of life. He thus began to instruct him.
 
“Dāmodara Paṇḍita impudently said to the Lord, ‘Everyone says that You are a great teacher because of your instructions to others, but now we shall find out what kind of teacher you are.’” Antya-līlā 3.11
 
“You are known as Gosāñi (teacher or ācārya) but now talk about your attributes and reputation will spread throughout the city of Puruṣottama. How Your position will be impaired!” Antya-līlā 3.12
 
PURPORT
 
“Dāmodara Paṇḍita was a great devotee of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Sometimes, however, a person in such a position becomes impudent, being influenced by the eternal energy and material considerations. Thus a devotee mistakenly dares criticize the activities of the spiritual master or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Antya-līlā 3.11
 
Note: What to do if one is actually concerned that a teacher or senior is doing something wrong? Never criticize. Bring your concerns to a trusted peer of your teacher who can make a impartial decision on whether there is a problem and who is in the position to correct or instruct him.
 
Lesson 2: Although a student may violate etiquette in correcting a teacher and the teacher may rebuke the student, the teacher will forgive him if the student is simple-hearted and his motive pure.
 
“Having said this, Dāmodara Paṇḍita became silent. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu smiled, pleased within Himself, and considered the impudence of Dāmodara Paṇḍita.” Antya-līlā 3.18
 
[Śrī Caitanya thought:] “This impudence is also a sign of pure love for Me. I have no other intimate friend like Dāmodara Paṇḍita.” Antya-līlā 3.19
 
PURPORT

“[…] The Lord could understand that it was because of Dāmodara Paṇḍita’s simplicity that he impudently dared criticize him. Nevertheless such behavior by a devotee is not very good.” Antya-līlā 3:17
 
Lesson 3: A devotee should never neglect the welfare of their parent.
 
After chastising Dāmodara Paṇḍita Śrī Caitanya orders him to stay with his widowed mother to protect her:
 
“The Lord said, ‘My dear friend Dāmodara, you had better go to Nadia and stay with My mother.’” Antya-līlā 3.21
 
Lesson 4: A devotee who is neutral or detached can be objective and speak strongly about religious principles.
 
By sending Dāmodara Paṇḍita to stay and protect his mother, he is not only saving him from more offenses, but using his critical nature in service: He informs him:
 
“I can see no one but you to protect her, for you are so careful that you can caution even Me.” Antya-līlā 3.22
 
“You are most neutral among my associates. That is very good, for without being neutral one cannot protect religious principles.” Antya-līlā 3.23
 
Lesson 5: A devotee exchanges love with others, especially other devotees, by offering them prasādam.
 
After instructing Dāmodara Paṇḍita to go and look after his mother, he sent with him prasādam to offer to the various devotees in her town.
 
“After saying this, Śrī Cainatnya Mahāprabhu ordered that varieties of prasādam offered to Lord Jagannātha be brought. The Lord then gave him the prasādam, separately packed, to offer to various Vaiṣṇavas and His mother.” Antya-līlā 3.41
 
Lesson 6: One should carefully follow the order of one’s spiritual master.
 
After Dāmodara Paṇḍita received his instructions from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu he carefully carried them out.
 
“He delivered all the prasādam to such great Vaiṣṇavas as Advaita Ācārya. Thus he stayed there and behaved according to the order of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” Antya-līlā 3.43
 
Lesson 7: A devotee who desires to spread God-consciousness to others should be very emphatic even to those that are sinful and think of ways to deliver them.
 
In a discussion with Haridāsa Ṭhākura, the preeminent teacher of the holy name, Śrī Caitanya expressed his unhappiness that there is no way to rectify those that are most sinful, even those that slaughter animals.
 
“How will these yavanas be delivered? To great my unhappiness, I do not see any way.” Antya-līlā 3.51
 
PURPORT

“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was always anxious to deliver the fallen souls because their fallen condition gave Him great unhappiness. That is the platform by which one can propagate the mission of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” Antya-līlā 3.51
 
Lesson 8: It is the main service of those in line from Śrī Caitanya to try to relieve His anxiety by compassionately preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
 
To relieve Śrī Caitanya’s anxiety Haridāsa Ṭhākura addresses Him:
 
“Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, ‘My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety. Do not be unhappy to see the condition of the yavanas in material existence.” Antya-līlā 3.52
 
PURPORT

“These words of Haridāsa Ṭhākura are just befitting a devotee who has dedicated his life and soul to the service of the Lord. When the Lord is unhappy because of the condition of the fallen souls, the devotee consoles Him, saying “My dear Lord do not be in anxiety.” This is service. Everyone should adopt the cause of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to try to relieve Him from the anxiety He feels. This is actual service to the Lord. One who tries to relieve Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s anxiety for the fallen souls is certainly a most dear and confidential devotee of the Lord.” Antya-līlā 3.52
 
Lesson 9: As long as the holy name is chanted innocently, even if chanted improperly, its potency will not be diminished.
 
In answer to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s question of how the yavanas will be delivered, Haridāsa explains that even when the yavanas utter the word “Ha Rama”, which in their language means condemned, the potency of the holy name is not diminished.
 
“Namācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura, the authority on chanting the holy name said, ‘The chanting of the Lord’s holy name to indicate something other than the Lord is an instance of nāmābhāsa. Even when the holy name is chanted in this way, its transcendental power is not destroyed.’” Antya-līlā 3.55
 
Lesson 10: Despite its potency, one should vigilantly avoid offenses to the holy name if one wants to receive the full benefit of chanting.
 
“If a devotee once utters the holy name of the Lord, or if it penetrates his mind or enters his ear, which is the channel of aural reception, that holy name will certainly deliver him from material bondage, whether vibrated properly or improperly, with correct or incorrect grammar, or properly joined or vibrated in separate parts. O brāhmaṇa, the potency of the holy name is therefore certainly great. However, if one uses the vibration of the holy name for the benefit of the material body, for material wealth or followers, or under the influence of greed or atheism—in other words, if one utters the name with offenses—such chanting will not produce the desired result very soon. Therefore one should vigilantly avoid offenses in chanting the holy name of the Lord.” Antya-līlā 3.60
 
Lesson 11: Even one’s surrounding environment becomes purified when one chants loudly, especially when one’s chanting is accompanied by others.
 
After hearing how the yavanas can be delivered, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu raises the concern how the moving and non-moving living entities can be delivered from material bondage. Haridāsa responds:
 
“You have loudly chanted the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, and everyone, moving and not moving, has benefited by hearing it.” Anyta-līlā 3.69
 
“My Lord, the living entities who have heard Your loud saṅkīrtana have already been delivered by bondage to the material world, and after the non-moving living entities like trees hear it, there is an echo.” Antya-līlā 3.70
 
“Actually, however, it is not an echo: it is the kīrtana of the non-moving living entities. All this, although inconceivable, is possible by Your mercy.” Antya-līlā 3.71
 
“When loud chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is performed all over the world by those who follow in your footsteps, all living entities, moving and non-moving, dance in ecstatic devotional love.” Antya-līlā 3.72
 
Lesson 12: There is no limit in how far we can glorify the Lord’s pure devotee.
 
After Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu heard Haridāsa’s explanations on the power of the holy name He was so impressed that he went to His personal devotees and began glorifying Haridāsa as if “he had hundreds of mouths”. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja’s comments:
 
“The transcendental qualities of Haridāsa Ṭhākura are innumerable and unfathomable. One may describe a portion of them, but to count them all is impossible.” Antya-līlā 3.95
 
Lesson 13: The most important spiritual practice is to chant a prescribed number of the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra.
 
“Haridāsa Ṭhākura constructed a cottage in a solitary forest. There he planted a tulasī plant, and in front of tulasī he would chant the holy name of the Lord 300,000 times daily. He chanted throughout the day and night.” Antya-līlā 3.100
 
PURPORT

“[…] the process of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra with a vow before the tulasī plant has such great spiritual potency that simply by doing this one can become spiritually strong. Therefore we request the members of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement to follow Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s example rigidly.” Antya-līlā 3.100
 
Lesson 14: One should only take food in the house of a brāhmaṇa or Vaiṣṇava where food is offered to Kṛṣṇa with love.
 
Lesson 15: Whether one is a renunciate or a householder, if one is serious about spiritual life one should not live an unnecessarily luxurious life.
 
Haridāsa Ṭhākura would only eat what he could beg from a brāhmaṇa’s house.
 
“For his bodily maintenance he would go to a brāhmaṇa’s house and beg some food […]“ Antya-līlā 3.101
 
PURPORT

“If we take food from the house of others, such as karmīs, we shall have to share the qualities of those from whom we take alms. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu took prasādam in the house of Vaiṣṇavas. This is the general process. The members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are advised not to take food from anywhere but a Vaiṣṇava or brāhmaṇa’s house where the Deity worship is performed […] We must always remember that a devotee’s life is one of vairāgya-vidyā, or renunciation and knowledge. Therefore all devotees are warned not to live unnecessarily luxurious lives at the cost of others.” Antya-līlā 3.101
 
 

Next »