Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #7 – Dropping Dead at the Finish Line/Yoga of Thank You Part II

February 12th, 2018

I just finished a marathon of guiding visiting pilgrims, sometimes hosting two or three groups at a time. And what do you do after a marathon? You catch your breath and not much else. That’s what I have been doing, more or less, for the last two days. As a result, my strict schedule, which includes time for writing Monday Morning Greetings, has been a bit disrupted. It’s already Wednesday morning and I have not yet begun the next one. And it is not just the physical act of writing that has been put off, the quality and intensity of chanting has waned a bit, which affects my inspiration. Of course, I always maintain my vows, but it’s the regulation and focus on the Holy Name that purifies the mind to create a conduit for new ideas and realizations to write about. Śrīla Prabhupāda once remarked that he did not write his books; Krishna did! That’s bhakti. I took that to mean that one may make an effort, but ultimately the intelligence is given by Krishna in reciprocation with one’s constant engagement in devotional service. I get a small glimpse of what he meant when I am focused in my chanting and writing. I am sometimes surprised that every week I come up with a new inspiration and an essay is produced. This week that experience has been confirmed in another way. Nothing is coming. So if my readers will allow me, I am taking this week off to recapture my regulation and focus and get back to my standard of chanting.
For this week’s Monday Morning Greeting I have saved something special. A few weeks ago when I wrote “The Yoga of Thank You” one of our readers, Hari Pārṣada, forwarded me an essay he wrote on the same subject. Hari Pārṣada, is a humble soul that attends my Puri Yatra every year and now one of the presenters. He is also a very accomplished Sanskrit scholar. His forte however, is not just the language, but his ability to clearly conceptualize and express the philosophy based on śāstra. Don’t miss his essay below on gratitude. It is a comprehensive, lucid, and brilliant analysis of gratitude from śāstra.



Living a life of Gratitude
(Notes from a class given by Hari Pārṣada Dās on 16 July 2017 at the home of Narottam Prabhu and Manjari Mataji.)

Beginning with maṅgalācaraṇa
Beginning the program with maṅgalācaraṇa (auspicious invocations) is a really good practice. The first verse we usually utter is —
oṁ ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
Translation: I was suffering from the night-blindness of ignorance, and through the application of the ointment of knowledge, Śrī Guru illuminated my eyes. Obeisances to Śrī-guru.
Maṅgalācaraṇa usually is done to ensure auspiciousness for the entire program, but it also serves another purpose.
Maṅgalācaraṇa is a reassurance for the speaker — that he/she is not an orphan in his/her spiritual life. For the speaker, maṅgalācaraṇa is a way to express gratitude for the wonderful support he/she has continued to receive through the paramparā. The speaker feels confident that whatever will be spoken will be free of errors, relevant and will touch the hearts of the listeners as long as it is coming from the teachings of the previous ācāryas.
Perhaps this is the reason why all ācāryas count their blessings at the beginning of their works. Srila Raghunath Das Goswami writes gratefully at the beginning of his composition named Muktā-carita:
nāma-śreṣṭhaṁ manum api śacīputram atra svarūpaṁ
rūpaṁ tasyāgrajam uru-purīṁ māthurīṁ goṣṭhavāṭīm
rādhā-kuṇḍaṁ girivaram aho rādhikā-mādhavāśāṁ
prāpto yasya prathita-kṛpayā śrī-guruṁ taṁ nato’smi
Translation: I offer my obeisances to Śrī Guru by whose abundant mercy I have obtained the topmost name of Hari, the dīkṣā mantras, the association of Sacidevi’s son, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, Srila Rupa Goswami and his elder brother Sri Sanatana Goswami. Besides this I have attained the topmost abode of Sri Mathura. In Mathura I have attained the Vrindavan forest as well as Sri Govardhan and Radha Kunda. Most importantly, by the mercy of that Śrī Guru I have obtained the hope of rendering service to Sri Radhika-Madhava. (Muktā-carita, Verse 4)
Not only at the beginning, the ācāryas count their blessings at the end of their works too. For example, Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakura says at the very end of his commentary on the Śrīmad-Bhagavatam:
vyākhyāsya bhaktyā gamyā sā śrī-guroḥ kṛpayekṣyate
tasmān namo namas tasmai gurave gurave namaḥ
Translation: This commentary of mine can be understood only by bhakti, and that bhakti expects the mercy of Śrī-Guru. Therefore, I repeatedly offer obeisances to Guru, who is guru (heavy with realization).
What more? The ācāryas count their blessings even in the middle of their works. While commencing every section of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ, Srila Rupa Goswami remembers and glorifies his śikṣā-guru and elder brother Srila Sanatana Goswami:
sanātana-tanur jayati
Translation: All glories to him who has taken a body by the name of Sanatana Goswami. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ, First verse of Southern Direction)
sanātana-mūrtis tanotu puruṣottamas tuṣṭim
Translation: May the best among men named Sanatana Goswami bestow spontaneous devotion unto me. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ, First verse of Western Direction)
Thus in our sampradāya, we have auspicious invocations in the beginning, in the end as well as in the middle. The great grammarian Patañjali says:
maṅgalādīni maṅgala-madhyāni maṅgalāntāni hi śāstrāṇi prathante vīra-puruṣāṇi ca bhavanti āyuṣmat-puruṣāṇi ca. adhyetāraḥ ca siddhārthāḥ yathā syuḥ iti.
Translation: Those ācāryas who compose literature that have grateful auspicious invocations at the beginning, middle and end of their compositions become extremely powerful and long-lived. The students of such literature obtain fulfillment of all desires. (Mahābhāṣya on Aṣṭādhyāyī 1.3.1) This is the reason why Gaudiya Vaiṣṇavas are such an immense force in the domain of Indian spiritualism today. We never forget to count our blessings.

Basic Definitions
What is gratitude? The Sanskrit term is kṛta-jñatā, which literally means ‘acknowledgement of what has been done for us’. A grateful person is known as kṛta-jña, or a favor (kṛta) acknowledger (jña).
An ungrateful person is known as kṛta-ghna. This term literally means — one who destroys the acknowledgement of what has been done for him/her.

Immensely indebted individuals
In the modern world, a social theory named ‘individualism’ states that each individual has total independence from another individual. Nobody is supposed to depend on anyone else. Nobody is answerable to others. According to this theory, the interests of the individual are superior to the interests of the community.
The Vedic approach is quite the opposite. From the Vedic perspective, each individual in the human form of life is heavily indebted, right from their birth in this world.
The first indebtedness is towards parents. Krishna expresses the indebtedness of every individual towards their parents in the Śrīmad-bhāgavatam (10.45.5):
sarvārtha-sambhavo deho janitaḥ poṣito yataḥ
na tayor yāti nirveśaṁ pitror martyaḥ śatāyuṣā
Translation: With one’s body one can acquire all goals of life, and it is one’s parents who give the body birth and nourishment. Therefore no mortal man can repay his debt to his parents, even if he serves them for a full lifetime of a hundred years.
In totality, every individual in the human form of life is considered to be indebted to the following five entities —

(a) pitṛ (parents/ancestors), who give us birth
(b) devatās (gods) who manage our bodily functions
(c) ṛṣis (sages), who teach us Vedic knowledge
(d) atithi (guests), because we too becomes guests for someone as soon as we leave home
(e) bhūtas (other living entities in general, for the entire ecological system is needed for our survival)

Payback is not optional
In order to relieve ourselves of the indebtedness towards these five entities, the śāstras prescribe five yajñas:

(a) pitṛ-yajña (offering regular oblations to one’s forefathers)
(b) deva-yajña (offering daily worship to the gods)
(c) ṛṣi-yajña (studying the scriptures daily and teaching others)
(d) atithi-yajña (welcoming any guest who has arrived at our home)
(e) bhūta-yajña (giving charity to deserving people)

If one does not perform these yajñas then one falls into a tremendous debt of karma. Krishna personally declares such a person to be a thief:
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ
Translation: He who lives ungratefully without performing yajñas is certainly a thief. (Bhagavad-gītā 3.12)
Why should a person who did not show gratefulness towards parents/ancestors be gifted with good parents in the next life? Why should a person who does not show gratefulness towards his guru be gifted with a bona-fide guru in his next life?

Bhakti is the perfect payback for debts
If one cannot payback his/her debt towards the above-mentioned five entities by performing the five yajñas specified above, then the only other way is to perform bhakti with the topmost degree of surrender.
devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitṝṇāṁ
na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam
Translation: One who has given up all material duties and has taken full shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, who offers shelter to all, is not indebted to the devas (demigods), ṛṣis (great sages), bhūtas (ordinary living beings), āptas (relatives), friends, mankind or even one’s pitṛs (forefathers) who have passed away. Since all such classes of living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one who has surrendered to the Lord’s service has no need to serve such persons separately. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.5.41)

Realizing indebtedness the difficult way
It is only after being cheated in life that some individuals understand the value of genuine objects. One who has been cheated by his/her spouse can understand the value of a faithful spouse. One who has been cheated by a guru can understand the value of a genuine guru.
In my childhood my Sanskrit teacher Sri Vishnukant privately once narrated a story to me. (At this point, a funny story of an ungrateful king and cheating guru was narrated. Link for story can be found at the bottom of this article). Therefore one who has received genuine parents, spouse or guru should always remain grateful.
Gratitude is to be expressed publicly
Any gratitude which stays only in the mind and does not express itself directly is not true gratitude at all. In almost all religious denominations, the open expression of gratitude is considered to be mandatory.
For example, when the Jewish community gathers for their standing prayer service (Tefilat Ha Amidah), the audience is supposed to stay silent for all prayers and only respond with ‘Amen’ after each prayer. This is because the Rabbi is praying on their behalf and they need not pray along with him.
The only exception to this rule is the prayer named Modim de-Rabbanan. This is a prayer for expressing gratitude, and only in this prayer, everyone is supposed to express gratitude together along with the Rabbi. A 17th century commentator named Rabbi Elijah Spira explains this by saying that the expression of thanks cannot be delegated and performed through someone else. It has to be expressed personally.
Srila Jiva Goswami’s wonderfully gives all the credit for his scholarship to his gurus and takes all faults upon himself. He says in the beginning of the Krama-sandarbha commentary:
yad atra skhalitaṁ kiñcid vidvāṁsaḥ pūrayantu tat
yad atra sauṣṭhavaṁ kiñcid tad guror eva me na hi
Translation: Whatever errors are there in this commentary, may the learned souls correct it, and whatever good is found here belongs to my guru, not to me.

Expressing Gratitude is Sanātana-dharma (eternal religion)
In the Rāmāyaṇa, the sage Vālmīki says that expressing gratitude is actually a limb of sanātana-dharma:
kṛte ca pari-kartavyaṁ eṣa dharmaḥ sanātanaḥ
Translation: One should acknowledge a favor and try to pay it back. This is sanātana-dharma. (Rāmāyaṇa 5.1.113)

God himself is eternally grateful
Gratitude is such an intrinsic part of sanātana-dharma that God himself adorns it as one of his eternal qualities. Srila Rupa Goswami says in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ that one of the 64 eternal qualities of Krishna is — kṛta-jña (he is grateful).
Srila Rupa Goswami first defines a grateful person:
kṛtajñaḥ syād abhijño yaḥ kṛta-sevādi-karmaṇām
Translation: A grateful person is he who fully acknowledges the services, favors etc. that others have performed for him. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ 2.1.91)
Then he gives an example of a statement where Krishna is expressing his gratitude:
ṛṇam etat pravṛddhaṁ me hṛdayān nāpasarpati
yad govindeti cukrośa kṛṣṇā māṁ dūra-vāsinam

Translation: [Krishna says], “My heart feels increasingly indebted by a debt that does not seem to go away. This is the debt of gratitude which I accrued when Draupadi loudly cried out to me even though I was situated far away in Dwarka. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ 2.1.92)

Even the Supreme Lord bows down in gratitude
Gratitude is such a great quality that even the Supreme Lord becomes a servant of his devotees out of gratitude. Out of all the monkeys in Sugrīva’s army only Hanuman found out where Sītādevī was. Sri Rama then said out of deep gratitude:
eṣa sarvasvabhūtas tu pariṣvaṅgo hanūmataḥ
mayā kālam imaṁ prāpya dattas tasya mahātmanaḥ
Translation: This embrace of mine is all that I can offer to this great soul Hanuman, for this is the only thing I have right now. (Rāmāyaṇa 6.1.13)
Krishna too makes a similar statement to the gopīs:
na pāraye ’haṁ niravadya-saṁyujāṁ
sva-sādhu-kṛtyaṁ vibudhāyuṣāpi vaḥ
yā mābhajan durjara-geha-śṛṅkhalāḥ
saṁvṛścya tad vaḥ pratiyātu sādhunā
Translation: I am not able to repay my debt for your spotless service, even within a lifetime of Brahma. Your connection with me is beyond reproach. You have worshiped me, cutting off all domestic ties, which are difficult to break. Therefore please let your own glorious deeds be your compensation. (Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 10.32.22)

Therefore we should all be grateful
Whether it is ordinary life or devotional life, we should all be grateful. Especially in devotional life we must be grateful. Nobody here is a self-made individual. We should not be egoists and should not avoid giving all due credits to Vaiṣṇavas from whom we have learnt anything. The more we try to be a self-appointed sādhu, the more we behave like an orphan, the more we will fall in our own eyes, and spiritual life will remain far away.
Plagiarizing the works of other devotees, copying movie tunes to make kīrtanas without taking the effort to learn genuine rāgas and other forms of ungrateful behavior may bring us ephemeral fame, but it can never be pleasing to Krishna. The Supreme Lord in the form of Lakṣmaṇa says:
brahmaghne ca surāpe ca core bhagna-vrate tathā
niṣkṛtir vihitā loke kṛtaghne nāsti niṣkṛtiḥ
Translation: There are atonements suggested in scriptures for a person who kills a brāhmaṇa, a person who drinks alcohol, who steals wealth who willingly breaks a vow. However, there is no atonement anywhere for someone who is ungrateful. (Rāmāyaṇa 4.34.12)

The saintly souls always express gratitude for even the smallest of favors:
prathama-vayasi pītaṁ toyam alpaṁ smarantaḥ
śirasi nihita-bhārā nārikelā narāṇām
dadati jalam analpāsvādam ājīvitāntaṁ
nahi kṛtam upakāraṁ sādhavo vismaranti
Translation: Remembering the small amount of water that was sprinkled on it in its childhood by a kind person, the coconut tree carries the load of coconuts for all humans and gives them sumptuous sweet water throughout its life. Indeed, saintly souls never forget even a small favor [and dedicate their lives to repaying it back]. — (Subhāṣita-ratna-bhāṇḍāgāra)

I would like to give all credit to my guru-janas, especially my dīkṣā-guru Sri Srimad Radha Govinda Das Goswami Maharaja, to my śikṣā-gurus Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja and H.G. Madhavananda Prabhu. Whatever I am today and whatever good qualities I possess are gifts given by them.
Thank you to Manjari Mataji and Narottam Prabhu for kindly extending their warm hospitality to all devotees. Thank you to everyone in the audience. Between the speaker and the audience, the audience is more important. This is because if the speaker goes missing, another speaker will be appointed, but if the audience goes missing then the entire program will have to be cancelled.
Link for Funny Story of the Ungrateful King and the Cheating Pandit:

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