Baltimore Tonight I read the

April 26th, 2001

Baltimore

Tonight I read the inspiring and devotion-laden story of Sudama Brahmana, the poor pure devotee brahmana who offered his friend Lord Krishna a humble offering of some broken rice and received unparalleled riches in return. The devotional sentiments of Sudama Brahmana and the reciprocation of Krishna are deep exchanges of pure affection. To attain such affection, called rasa, is the goal of life, and the best way to obtain it is by reading such stories and chanting the holy name.

I found some sobering messages in the story. When Sudama Brahmana was in gurukula with Krishna he received the benediction that whatever he would learn would always remain fresh within his mind. Srila Prabhupada discussed the significance of such a benediction:

“Cooked food left sitting for three hours is called yata-yama, indicating that it has lost its taste, and similarly if a devotee does not remain fixed in Krishna consciousness, the transcendental knowledge that once inspired him on the spiritual path will lose its ?taste? or meaning for him. Thus Sandipani Muni blesses his disciples that the Vedic mantras, which reveal the Absolute Truth, will never lose their meaning for them, but will remain ever fresh in their minds.” (Bhag. 10.80.42, purport)

I was especially inspired by Sudama’s fixedness in his guru’s service. He went to collect firewood for his teacher and got lost in a fierce storm. Despite wandering all night in the threatening forest searching for safety, he still continued to carry that same firewood. The sincerity of his service pleased his teacher.

It was good meditation for me on Srila Prabhupada’s repeated instructions to take the mission of the spiritual master as one’s life and soul. His disciples did that, but not always intelligently, sometimes confusing the structure of the institution with the ideals of the mission. I regret that, but we shouldn’t, as the saying goes, ?throw out the baby with the bath water.? Service to the spiritual master is the essence of spiritual life. We should intelligently try to understand Srila Prabhupada’s mission and make a practical offering of service to it. Our spiritual life depends on it.

While reading this section of Srimad Bhagavatam, I cross-referenced Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur?s purport to Bhagavad-gita, 2.41, that Srila Prabhupada credits with inspiring him to take up the order of his spiritual master as his life and soul:

“Of all kinds of intelligence, the best is intelligence focused on bhakti-yoga. In bhakti-yoga, one’s intelligence becomes single-pointed, or fixed in determination. One thinks, ?The instructions of my spiritual master to worship the Personality of Godhead by chanting, remembering, serving His feet, and so on are my only sadhana, my only sadhya, my only livelihood. I am unable to give up these instructions either in the stage of practice or in the stage of perfection. They alone are my object of desire and my only responsibility. Besides them I can desire no other responsibility; not even in my dreams. It is all the same to me whether I feel happy or unhappy, or whether my material existence is eradicated or not.?

Great teachers, like Srila Prabhupada and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti, set high ideals; otherwise regular devotees would be ignorant of the standards and goals. At times those ideals might seem difficult for us and we may even become discouraged or even guilt-ridden. That may not always be healthy. We should, however, be sincere, try our best, and if for reason we cannot practice at the standard level, at least hold those ideals above our heads in veneration.

There is no excuse, however, if I don’t surrender fully to the ideals of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. I am a sannyasi and by Krishna’s grace I have nothing do in life but to live by those ideals. I read on and reflect seriously on my debt to Srila Prabhupada and how to repay him:

“[Sandipani Muni said,] ?O my children, you have suffered so much for my sake! The body is most dear to every living creature, but you are so dedicated to me that you completely disregard your own comfort.? [Bhag. 10.80.40]

??This is indeed the duty of all true disciples: to repay the debt to their spiritual master by offering him, with pure hearts, their wealth, and even their lives.? [Bhag. 10.80.41]

?One engages one’s body to realize one’s purposes. The body is also the basis of the material consciousness of ?I,? while one’s fortune is the basis of the conception ?mine.? Thus by offering everything to the spiritual master, one realizes one’s self to be an eternal servant of the Lord. The spiritual master does
not exploit the disciple but rather engages him fully in Krishna consciousness for the disciple?s eternal benefit.? [Bhag. 10.80.41, purport]

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