Monday Morning Greeting 2017 #50 – The Self-Effulgent Vaiṣṇava

December 11th, 2017

Śrī Vibhu Caitanya passed me as he was trudging up the stairs of the gurukula building on his way to his residence on the top floor. It was a bit of a struggle now as his body from the waist was severely bent over as a result of old age. He also no longer had the strength to cook in the kitchen. It was just a few days back that he was forced by time to leave his service. It was difficult to for him to retire as he had been faithfully doing that service for over twenty years since Śrīla Prabhupāda asked him, a humble retired Bengali shopkeeper, to be the first deity cook for the ISKCON Śrī Krishna-Balarama Mandir. Every day he would enter the kitchen at two in the morning without fail to break the coal and start the fires for the day’s cooking. He would then stay until ten at night to single-handedly cook all six bhoga offerings, including the various deity sweets, only to rise again early the next day to start his service again. And whatever he cooked tasted like nectar! As I passed him on the stairs he looked at me affectionately and softly chuckled, “Six men, six men!” It was clear what he meant. That was the amount of devotees it took to replace his service in the kitchen!
 
That was one of the recollections I shared last week here when it was my time to offer him homage at the tenth anniversary celebration of his passing. I also thought that in addition to the stories of his life I should add some philosophical import to his example of service. I thought, “Why not find a word that served as the theme of his life, a common thread to all his glories?” The word “self-effulgent” suddenly came to my mind. I began to briefly explain why.
 
In Vaiṣṇava circles the term “self-effulgent” is reserved for the phrase self-effulgent ācārya. It means that although many people will adopt the post of guru, and there may be different opinions about the extent of their status and influence, a person such as Śrīla Prabhupada may arise that shines so self-evidently that their spiritual status is universally recognized without the need for authorization or promotion. Although Vibhu Caintanya wasn’t an ācārya in the sense of being a preacher or guru, for us he was that collectively respected Vaiṣṇava, our self-effulgent devotee. After Śrīla Prabhupāda left, I can’t think of anyone in ISKCON Vṛndāvana that was so universally recognized for the quality of their devotion.
 
Of course, his cooking service certainly stood out for its efficiency and quality of what was produced. He once said the altar belonged to Krishna, but the kitchen belonged to Radha. By the taste of what he cooked and offered, we had no doubt that he was the instrument to carry the love of Śrī Radha from the kitchen to the altar.
 
I could go on and on about the excellence of what he cooked and the kindness in which he would distribute it, but I think his more menial service shone most brightly. When Vibhu Caitanya was too old to cook he performed the humble service of sitting all day in the temple handing out the caraāmta. To this day the people who were there at the time remember the care and affection in which he would support their opened right hand with his left and then with his right hand carefully serve them the caraāmta ensuring that not a drop would touch the floor. He even arranged for a small refrigerator to keep the caraāmta cold so that he could serve his god-siblings very tiny cups filled with chilled caraāmta on a hot summer day.
 
He then became too disabled to even leave his room situated on the back bottom floor of the temple guesthouse, which he shared with several brahmacārīs. Again the force and beauty of his devotion could not be thwarted. He placed his bed next to the cement shelves on the wall where he made an altar with large beautiful pictures of all the temple deities. He then carefully picked out the flowers that were not wilted from the mahā deity garlands sent to his room and restrung them to make a stunning flower display for his altar. He demonstrated, and we observed, that when bhakti is spontaneous it cannot be stopped, even when confined to a cold dark brahmacārī āśrama.
 
I talked to his doctor a few hours before he was to leave the world. He showed me the instructions Vibhu Caitanya dictated to him just hours before he was to leave external consciousness and would no longer be able to express himself.
 
No medicine or medical treatment should be given.
Do not take me out of my room.[1]
No one should serve me.
 
I was astounded. We spend our whole lives vying for the center, but here was a person that was so fixed in service that to be served had become abhorrent. Even in his death he was self-effulgent. We all deeply mourned his separation.
 
This has been quite a long Monday Morning Greeting, but I wrote what needed to be expressed. I fear making this longer, but as a special feature of this morning’s greeting I will also share a page from Vibhu Caitanya’s journal, the only page to my knowledge that exists. It is translated from the Bengali and not really edited for clarity and force so you will have to read it carefully to follow his train of ideas, but I think his depth and sincerity will be self-evident.
 
Yathā Dharma Tathā Jaya
 
By Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu

Dated 29 March 2006
 
Yathā dharma tathā jaya”—Where there is dharma, there is victory.
 
One must suffer for sinful activities.
 
Arjuna was in the path of dharma therefore he became victorious. Just to kill a mosquito, one will slap one’s own cheek, and the same happened to the Kauravas. On the path of honesty there are many obstacles, but at the end is nectar. The door is open for dishonesty.
 
The thief is never peaceful, even after stealing he is always in fear that I am going to be caught by someone and the sin is on my shoulders.
 
Kuntīdevi, mother of the Pāṇḍavas, always prayed for miseries. Because I will forget you (Krishna) if there are no miseries.
 
Viśvāse milaya krishna tarke bahu-dūra: By faith one can reach Krishna, but by argument one cannot.
 
The Lord is only satisfied by devotion. One must give up his selfish motivation. One can’t do devotional service with a selfish motivation.
 
We are acting in this Śrī Krishna-Balarama Mandir just like opera party actors. After getting certain responsibilities here in Śrī Krishna-Balarama Mandir, one freely spends money as one likes. But they don’t know that after the stage program is over, the king does not remain king. We are all acting like that.
 
Just like sin and mercury. By incurring sin one must suffer, and by eating mercury it becomes visible in the body.
 
Abhay’s mother was eating with her left hand. Abhay asked his mother “Why are you eating with your left hand?” Then she started eating with her right hand. It was a vow for Abhay’s spiritual benefit.
 
Who is sādhu in this age of kali? Those who are truthful, they are the actual sādhus. Merely by wearing saffron, one cannot become a sādhu, and by wearing neck beads one can’t become a Vaiṣṇava. One who has firm faith in the absolute truth can obtain the Lord of the absolute truth.
 
A teacher told his students that I will give every one of you a piece of sandeśa (sweet). If you can eat it hiding in a place where no one sees you, then I will give you more sweets. All the students went out happily but one small boy thought, “How will I be able to eat it without anyone watching?”
 
The teacher told him to try.
 
The next day all the other students came back and described how they ate their sweet without being observed by anyone. Some reported to have eaten it in a dense jungle, some hiding in destitute buildings and so on. But the small boy did not return. The teacher told them, “Let the small boy come back and then I will give you enough sweets.”
 
When the boy returned, the teacher asked why he was late. The boy replied “I tried my best, but as I was ready to eat, I saw that someone was always observing me.” The boy was spiritually enlightened. Therefore him.
 
Once while traveling through the forest, Lord Ramachandra felt very thirsty. He went to a pond and upon reaching, he loaded His bow with an arrow and pierced the earth. Upon returning, He saw a frog pierced by his arrow. Lord Ramchandra asked “Why didn’t you give any signal when I loaded my bow?” The frog replied “Whenever I am in danger I call out ‘Lord Rama, please save me!’ But if Lord Rama is killing me, then to whom should I call out to for help?”
 
If the Lord wants to kill someone, then no one can save him.
 
The Lord is always with everyone, and never brings them any inauspicious.
 
Once there was scarcity in the time of Lord Buddha deva. He asked, “Who wants to take the responsibility of this scarcity?” No one wanted to take it. One girl from a poor family came forward and humbly offered to take responsibility. “I have a treasury at home,” she said. “In the morning I will beg from door to door and my pot will supply endlessly. I can save the world by begging.”
 
Everyone should learn from everyone.
 
From a dog, we can learn expertise in eating, satisfied by little, sleeping unperturbedly and quickly waking up.
 
From an ass, we can learn:
 
akatare aviram gurubhar vay,
kiva site kiva grisme katar na hay
 
They are carrying heavy loads continuously, but are never exhausted, be it summer or winter.
 
phutiyache sarovare kamal nikovar
dhariyache ki acarya sobha manohar
 
The wonderfully beautiful lotuses are blossoming in the pond and charming the mind of the beholder.
 
gun gun rave kata bhramar madhu khaya
kintu ara haraive adin yakhan asive na are karite gunjan
 
Many bumble bees are enjoying honey from the lotus and making a “ghun ghun” sound. But a day comes when there are no lotuses left to attract the buzzing bees.
 
Similarly, when men are in wealthy situations, many friends come to meet them. But when their situation not so lavish, no one comes.
 
One day a rich man gave some lakṣmī to his poor friend. He was returning home keeping that lakṣmī in his turban. But one rapacious bird came from a nearby coconut tree and snatched his pagri (turban) because the times were very bad. But when his good time arrived, he saw his turban along with his lakṣmī, kept nicely on the tree.
 
One day an elephant was walking near the market place and a few dogs were barking at him. But the elephant kept walking toward his destination undisturbed.
 
Similarly, real sādhus carry out their sādhana-bhajana without being disturbed by thousands of criticisms.
 
Who is a sādhu?
 
Two kinds of māyā are there. One is vidyā and the other is avidyā. There are two kinds of vidyāmāyā and six kinds of avidyā-māyā. Viveka and vairāgya are the vidyāi-māyās and kāma, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, and mātsarya (lust, anger, greed, illusion, pride, and envy) are the avidyāmāyās.
 
One day a man was passing near one house and heard someone crying inside. He entered the house and saw that a mother was crying with her dead son on her lap. The man asked her, “Why you are crying?” The mother replied, “My Gopal has left me forever.” The man said “You used to feed Gopal, kiss him, but after giving you some vātsalya humor, he left you forever.”
 
Give up māyā!
 
Do you know how māyā is? It is just like aquatic algae, which covers the water of a pond. If one can repel it by splashing water and blocking it using bamboo, the aquatic algae wont spread again. This is called viveka.
 
And vairāgya means to be freed from all desires for sense objects.
 
tyaja maya moha visay o vikar,
śrī hari sricaran hridi kara saar
bhaver karnadhar daka anivar,
naile ante pavine nistar
 
Please give up this māyā of illusion, don’t be disturbed by the sense object. Keep the lotus feet of Śrī Hari as the only object for your life and soul/heart.
 
Please call continuously the captain of this bhava-world, otherwise there is no way to be protected at the end.
 
cirasukhi jana bhrame ki kakhan
vyathito vedan bujhite pare
ki yatana vise bujhive se kise
kabhu asivise dansini yare
 
Those are always enjoying happiness can’t experience the miseries of miserable persons. How will one know the pain of poison, if he hasn’t been bitten by a snake?
 


[1] He hadn’t left the boundary of the temple complex for over thirty years.
 
 

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