Before discussing Text 1 we spent a lot of time describing the author of Upadesamrta, Rupa Goswami. nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau sad-dharma-samsthapakau: Along with the other Goswamis, Rupa Goswami studied all the revealed scriptures and gathered the essence of all the scriptures and presented them very succinctly. So, this is the amrta, the nectar, of upades or the instructions in devotional service. Upadesamrta—the nectar of instruction in the matter of devotional service.
We discussed yesterday how unwanted urges can be checked, or visaheta. This word used by Rupa Goswami—visaheta—means tolerating or not being moved by lower urges, not being impelled into action by urges arising from the reactions of our past karmas, and our past association with the modes of nature—not yielding to the urges of the body and mind. Phew! What a relief! It’s not that your mind becomes inoperative. It’s not like having a lobotomy. You’re just no longer propelled by urges of the body or the mind. Rather, the opposite happens: the mind becomes directed by spiritual intelligence. Very, very wonderful and powerful position! It’s the position of pure devotional service.
The next two verses are going to describe those six things which destroy devotional service and six things which enhance devotional service.
Something we should all do is give credit where credit is due. Most of what you are viewing in this series of power-points is the work of a disciple—Prema-tarangini—who taught Nectar of Instruction. She very kindly provided me with these presentations, which greatly enhance the explanation of these verses.
An important principle addressed in Verse 1 which we did not have time to cover yesterday is control of the tongue. Questions sometimes arise with regard to the standards for eating when you are not at your home or at the temple. For example, when Srila Prabhupada first went back to India from America, he took a number of disciples to assist him in his preaching. Srila Prabhupada traveled all over and accepted three to four invitations daily in people’s homes, with the aim of giving his association, after which many became life-members. There was the standard that Prabhupada gave to those who were extending invitations. There was a series of questions they were to be asked. First question: “Thank you for the invitation. May I ask, are you vegetarian and do you maintain that standard in your home?” And if the answer was, “No, we’re not vegetarian,” then the devotee was instructed to say, “We can come if you provide just milk and fruit.” And if they were vegetarian, then the next question was, “Can you cook without onions and garlic?” That question would have different answers. But if the answer was, “Yes, we can cook without onions and garlic,” then the third question is, “Very nice. Would it be alright then when we come, when it is time for the meal, that we show you how to make an offering to Krishna? You prepare and we’ll show you how to make offerings to Krishna in your home.” And then, Prabhupada would accept the invitation. That was the training.
That was Srila Prabhupada’s standard as a sannyasi, and you are all householders. Consequently, often there are social concerns when people invite you to come to their home, or spend friendly time together. Yes? “Yes, Maharaja, lots of social concerns!” Still, we must follow this imperative instruction which Rupa Goswami is giving, along with all of the other things we discussed yesterday from Verse 1. Without following these standards, we cannot be situated properly in devotional service. We must follow. When you householders receive an invitation, you can maintain a standard quite like the standard which Srila Prabhupada set. Be as cordial as possible, but be a strict follower of Rupa Goswami. It gets delicate sometimes when you’re involved in social interactions. Commonly, in the world today—there are certainly exceptions—but commonly, people are very respectful if you have a standard of self-discipline which you follow. It’s commonly considered “politically correct” to have a personal standard or discipline that you follow. It may not be what everyone else follows, and that’s perfectly okay. Be polite, but be firm: you have a discipline that you follow. I’ve had teenagers tell me that when they’re out with their friends and their friends order something to eat, when it is their turn to place their order, they say “I’ll just take water, please.” Their friends don’t say, “Hey, you’re weird!” Rather, they understand and accept: that’s just his or her thing. Be firm in your convictions, and in turn in your habits. Don’t be a fanatic, but be a faithful follower. This is a standard I personally maintain. Similarly, this is the advice of Rupa Goswami that I am passing on to you. Control the tongue regarding what you decide to eat.
How important is it not to eat food cooked by non-devotees? Srila Prabhupada often taught us: “The consciousness of the person who is doing the cooking is transmitted through the process of cooking.” When you eat food cooked by one who is not in pure consciousness, or devotional consciousness, their contaminations and distortions—their consciousness—are transmitted to you with each mouthful. So, be careful. Spoken softly, avoid. Spoken more strongly, don’t! Do not eat food that’s cooked by non-devotees, even if it’s vegetarian. Try your best to avoid eating such cooked food. Fruits, milk, salad, yogurt, etc. – these are all not cooked. There’s no karma or impure consciousness being transmitted by such foods, after offering these items.
What about food that’s cooked by machines, like processed food? First of all, they are not healthy. But there is still somebody operating the machine, whose standard of cleanliness is unknown. Best standard would be, for example, for parents to prepare the lunches for their children to take to school. Here is another wholesome standard: make your bread at home. When you make sandwiches or wish to have items that are baked or cooked, prepare these items at home. They have little dough-makers. You mix this and that, and next thing you know, you have bread! They’ve made it very simple. When you prepare these items personally, it will take a little longer, but it saves a lot of downstream difficulty in terms of consciousness that is not desirable. Rather than managing problems stemming from poor consciousness due to not abiding by standards of eating presented here, take a little extra time and prepare your own items—with devotion.
Should we take meals provided on airplanes? Prabhupada speaks on this on many occasions and the answer is: No! Especially in India, commonly even for a short flight they serve a meal. If you have two segments, it becomes two meals. They come down the aisle with their little cart asking, “Veg or non-veg?” My answer is, “No, thank you.” “You want vegetarian?” “No, thank you.” “You want anything?” “Some water, please.” It’s very simple. And if you have a long distance to travel, take something with you that’s prasadam. In this way, you know who prepared the meal, and that it was offered. If there are fruits and yogurt or nuts, then you can accept those items, after offering them.
Is it okay to overeat on festival days? Not a good idea! In the beginning stages of Krishna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada encouraged his young disciples “Eat up to your neck!” Because their senses were so uncontrolled, gradually they became controlled just by taking prasadam, After some purification takes place, however, learn to not overeat.
Here is a question for you to answer. Supposing you are at a public function and you’ve been told the cheese is vegetarian. After the meal, you find out, oops, the cheese had animal rennet. How do you react? What’s your attitude? What do you do? Has anyone been in a situation like that? And what do you do? How do you process that? Anyone?
Devotee: I had one slightly….[inaudible]
Romapada Swami: The rule is “When in doubt, don’t eat that item!” That’s the rule. If you don’t know, don’t! It’s like ekadasi. Does such and such have grain in it? If the answer is “I don’t know”, then, you don’t take it. Simple. It’s not a big austerity. Just, “no, thank you.” And if somehow it happens, then you can deeply regret and just be very, very careful in the future. And when in doubt, you don’t. These are some simple items of advice regarding control of the tongue.
So, now we are ready for Text 2 of Upadesamrta or Nectar of Instruction. This text indicates a set of six things which destroy bhakti, and thus should be avoided. Today we are only going to cover the first three out of the six. Next time we have a class we will cover the other three of the six. First, let us very quickly mention all six bhakti-destroyers. The first one is atyaharah. The meaning of atyaharah is overeating or over-collecting. The word has both meanings, so we will discuss them both. prayasas is endeavor; the implication is too much endeavor for some worldly thing. Then, prajalpa. Everyone knows what that is. Blah, blah, blah. That’s prajalpa. Gramya-katha. Idle conversation. Blah, blah, blah. Next is niyamagrahah. Niyama means rules and regulations. However, there two ways of reading the second half of the word—namely agrahah and agrahah. agrahah, as it shows, is too much attachment to the rules and regulations without understanding the purpose behind the rules and regulations. Fanaticism without even understanding the purpose of some injunction. And niyama-agrahah means neglecting the niyamas. Too much neglect. Too much emphasis without understanding the deeper purpose of some injunction, fanaticism—or neglect. Both cause destruction within one’s devotional service. jana-sangas—associating with worldly-minded persons. And, laulyam ardent longing or greed for the impermanent. Greed. sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati. These six, vinasyati, they destroy. They’re not just thorns on the path. They destroy. They’re potentially bhakti-destroyers. So, translation is: “One’s devotional service is spoiled (vinasyati) when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds that required; (2) over-endeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily (prajalpa) about mundane subject matters…” The first three are what we are going to discuss this evening.
Tomorrow, niyamagrahah or niyamagrahah will be discussed: “rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically (niyamagrahah).” Then, “associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Krsna consciousness.” In that section there are some pertinent instructions for householders, because you have to go to work and mix with people that are worldly. So, how do you do that? How do you navigate that territory without interference in your devotional service? And “(6) being greedy for mundane achievements.”
Okay, let us begin. Here is a diagram which those of you who were here yesterday saw—the steps that lead to the house of bhakti. The diagram begins depicting the urges that need to be controlled. There are progressive degrees of control and surrender required to become accomplished even at this beginning stage. Next is a chart depicting the stages of fructification of karma. Prarabdha karma means karma that’s manifested right now. Aprarabdha is karma that has not yet manifested but will soon manifest—“sprouting” karma. kutam means sinful tendencies. And then, there are some that are in the seed stage, bijam, that haven’t yet sprouted.
These are discussed in Nectar of Devotion. Karma in these different categories—prarabdha and aprarabdha. Aprarabdha has these three—bijam, kutam, and phalonumukham. Papam is the sinful activity itself. So, the sinful activity brings rise to an unmanifested reaction that induces a tendency to do the same thing again. This tendency brings about a desire, which brings about the action again. In between is the pushing of the mind. What Rupa Goswami’s first verse is discussing connects with this diagram, the four stages of karma’s fructification. What do you do when sinful tendencies arise in the heart or mind? You are supposed to not yield to those urges.
This next chart shows the cycle I just described. Here is the urge. The urge leads to vikar, a bodily transformation. Narada’s instructions in the fourth Canto to King Pracinabarhi discusses exactly this stage. Urges begin in the mind, which in turn bring about some transformation within the body. Supposing there is anger is in the mind. If it is connected to the indriya of the hand, it becomes a fist. The indriya of the leg, it becomes kicking. Within the indriya of the tongue, it becomes harsh speech. The mind is connected to the indriyas— which results in bodily transformation. Then, within the mind, some decision is made, based on contemplation. Decision. Then, some action. And with the act, there’s some impression. The impression is stored. A stored impression implies, there’s some subtle memory or perception.
Again, this is all explained in detail by Narada. Sometimes something appears in a dream. You don’t know where that came from. Or sometime when you’re chanting, something comes into your mind; you don’t know where that thought came from. Or, just in the course of your doing your household chores or whatever, something—a desire or past remembrance or some feeling, something arises. Narada uses a metaphor to explain this. In the bottom of the pond, there may be some organic matter that’s decaying. Some methane or carbon-dioxide gas is generated, but because the organic matter is in the mud, at the bottom of the water, the gas gradually forms a bubble-like feature imbedded within the mud. As the bubble grows and grows, it eventually creates enough pressure that it pushes through the mud and rises to the surface of the pond. The bubble sits for some moments on the surface of the water, then bursts. Like that, these stored impressions sometimes come to your memory, although it may have been stored way back in time, or could have even been in a different body—the same subtle body within a different gross body. That unexpected thought is nothing but a stored impression ~ just hanging around, as a subtle impression. Time passes: tick, tock; tick, tock. Time passes and it fructifies as a vritti, or a memory, or a feeling, or a thought about something. Through passage of time a sense that memory or feeling arises in the mind. When you contemplate that mental event which came out of nowhere, you wonder “Hey, what was that?” And then, it leads to an urge, which may leads to an action.
The mind is a subtle machine. This chart is showing us the mechanics of this subtle machine only with sanskrit terminology. There’s a lot of psychology in Vedic wisdom. What’s happening within the mind? How does the mind—the subtle machinery of the mind—keep us strapped on to the cycle of birth and death? Here it part of that subtle technology! Somewhere along the line, we need to break the mind’s cycle – if you want the samsara cycle to terminate, the cycle of birth and death. The bhakti principle has that potency.
Let us review the diagram one more time. The urge starts there, but you just don’t act on it; you tolerate it and you place your consciousness purposely, deliberately, on something in relation to Krishna, some service in relation to Krishna, some service in relation to the devotees of Krishna, something other than that urge. You can’t go back and re-do the other stages. This is where the cycle breaks—you don’t yield to desires, to urges, to pushings. You take the high ground. Invest in sat and detach yourself from asat!
In this verse, the six items are actually sequential. Through bad association, it becomes very easy to just talk jibber-jabber. And from talking and hearing jibber-jabber, then, some desires form. Then comes over-collecting, or overeating, endeavoring for those things. And then comes neglecting duties. This is what happened to Ajamila. Degradation started from bad association and it came to this stage—he neglected his brahmanical duties. Or, the Avanti brahmana, as described by Krishna to Uddhava in the Eleventh canto. The Avanti brahmana started in good association and he had good character. But through bad association, he neglected his brahmanical activity.
We want to avoid bad association—we want to keep good association. Why? We want to continue to maintain niyamas. If we don’t control the six urges, we will be implicated in these obstacles. This is the connection between Text 1 and Text 2. If we don’t control the six urges (Text 1), we will be implicated in these six obstacles that destroy bhakti and it starts right here: bad association.
Srila Prabhupada said anytime there is a fall-down from spiritual life, invariably you can trace it back to this—some bad association somewhere along the line.
In Caitanya Caritamrta it is described, Lord Caitanya was once asked to describe the quality of a devotee. “How can we tell who is a devotee? What’s the character of the devotee?” His reply was, asat-sanga-tyaga,—ei vaisnava-acara. Giving up the association of worldly people, that’s the character of a devotee. We must be very, very careful about this. In turn, a devotee will be careful about their practices, and their convictions, while staying at the lotus feet of Krishna. Bad association is something that can carry a good devotee away from a life of bhakti. For this reason, we are instructed to be very careful about this principle of association.
Bhaktivinode Thakura, in his commentary, writes, “For one who neglects to follow these instructions, attaining devotion to Lord Hari is extremely rare.” It’s possible, by krpa-sakti, but rare; the Lord can be very merciful and bestow His mercy even when one is not properly practicing.
Here is the scriptural teaching connected with all of this. There are these three primary energies of Krishna. This picture shows the antaranga-sakti or the internal potency. The bahiranga-sakti, is down there. That’s the external energy. And the living entities are in this position or category—marginal by nature. Why? We are going to be influenced either by the external energy or the internal energy. We make choices all the time, constantly. Making choices—internal or external. What is the qualification of the great soul? They are always choosing the internal potency. mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah.
Mahatmanas means great souls. mahatmanas tu mam partha (Oh Arjuna) daivim prakrtim asritah. asritah means taking shelter. They’re taking shelter of the internal potency. The great souls have taken shelter of the internal potency. The marginal potency must take shelter of either the external or the internal energy. Specific to this verse under discussion, the choice of avoiding jana-sanga as well as all the other five of the six bhakti-destroyers, is choosing the internal potency and rejecting the external potency. That is the essential difference between a great soul and the opposite, the duratma, one who is unfortunate.
In this world, everyone has to work very hard. Look at this guy—there’s an ant walking with a massive cracker and cheese on his back. Everyone has to work very hard. The bee is working very hard. The bird is working very hard. The lion is working very hard. And the materialist is also working very hard. We have to work very hard for maintenance in the material sphere because we’ve forgotten what our true mission is, what our true purpose is, what our true shelter is. Therefore, the tendency for eating more, or collecting more than necessary is to be avoided. Devotees work because we are obliged to act, but not in the mode of passion.
Next is ahara, which means either eating or enjoying objects of the senses. Over-endeavoring for sense objects is not advised. Some endeavor is necessary, but over-endeavoring is not good. Why do persons sometimes collect more than necessary or eat more than necessary? Because of desire, kama, the desire for sense enjoyment, commonly. Some souls may make an extreme endeavor for liberation, or an extreme endeavor for mystic siddhi. However, according to the teaching of Caitanya-Caritamrta, bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami — sakali ‘asanta’ means the mind becomes disturbed—asanta—you’re not peaceful if you are driven to fulfill those desires. When you take up the position of devotional service, because bhakti is performed on the soul platform, naturally niskam, the platform of being free from material desire, will become attained. That’s what is being recommended by Rupa Goswami: accepting that which comes about naturally.
The following two verses of the Bhagavad Gita which essentially express the same thing. You are probably familiar with these verses. na hi kascit kṣaṇam api jatu tiṣṭhaty akarma-kṛt (BG 3.5). “Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” Krsna’s advice is not “do nothing” because you have to do something. You can’t do nothing even for a moment! The soul is active, and the modes of nature are acting as well. Krsna’s advice in another verse is–“One who restrains his senses of action, but his mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (BG 3.6) Ceasing action not adequate. Activity is natural. Performing activity in Krishna consciousness is what is recommended.
Here is another verse given by Rupa Goswami, found in Nectar of Devotion or Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
You’ve probably heard this term—yukta vairagya. vairagya means without attachment. asakti means attachment. The converse, anasaktasya, means without attachment. Without attachment to what? Without attachment to visaya. visaya means sense enjoyment. visaya vinivartante niraharasya dehinam (BG 2.59). visaya is sense enjoyment. Without attachment to being a sense enjoyer, yatharham upayusjatah nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe. There’s no bondage to activity wherein things are seen in relation to Krishna and yuktam vairagyam they are used in service to Krishna. There’s no bondage. yatharham is an interesting word. It means “according to suitability”. Each person, each one of us, is different. We’re individuals. What is suitable for me, as a sannyasi, may not be suitable for another person, even another sannyasi or another brahmacari, householder, whoever. Based upon our unique differences, we should accept what is suitable for us. Yet one principle is the same: we should not act for sense gratification, visaya. The objects of the senses exist; the goal is not merely to give up objects. Rather, the goal is not to interact with those sense objects in the mood of sense gratification. Here is the translation: “When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts anything in relation to Krishna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness.” Then one is beyond bondage: nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
The second item is prayasa. atyaharah prayasas ca. The second one, prayasa, is like Workaholics Anonymous. If prayasa is not given up, devotion will never arise. prayasa means endeavor. More specifically, over-endeavor. Even more specifically, over-endeavoring for some mundane thing. Let us explore this a little bit. Is there such a thing as the right kind of prayasa? For example, in Bhaktivinode Thakur’s writing the indication is, “Only devotional service is one’s inherent occupation. There is no need of prayasa in one’s inherent occupation.” What does this mean? There is no worldly endeavor required in a life of devotion; rather, everything one does becomes a devotional endeavor. Endeavoring in devotion, is that necessary? Yes, but it’s a different mood of endeavor. It’s a labor of love. And when there is that labor of love, what is the limit to the labor of love? There is no limit. The distinction is found in the consciousness of the performer. Bhakti is not performed for the purpose of acquiring something; it is done for the purpose of pleasing Krishna. Thus, within bhakti, there is no mundane prayasa. Devotees sometimes find themselves so much absorbed in devotional service they don’t have time for chanting—that’s not good! It’s more than not good. I just was hearing Prabhupada saying, like ten times, “this is animal!” Phew! Work, work, work, and no time for chanting? That is not human life. That is over-endeavoring. In contrast, an endeavor for performing my prescribed devotional activity is wanted.
This is how Bhaktivinode Thakur expresses this message: “In the conditional state, a small amount of prayasa is needed to cultivate devotional service.” It’s not exactly an endeavor for something mundane, but we do need to make some endeavor in order to get up in the morning and…. Do you have trouble getting up in the morning?
Devotee: Not any more.
Romapada Swami: Not any more? Fantastic! Complete your chanting early in the morning! To facilitate this, do whatever is required to reach this standard. In the beginning stage, effort will be required. In the spontaneous stage, no effort is required. It just happens spontaneously.
Here are some types of prayasa which Bhaktivinode Thakur identifies. Jnana prayasa–over endeavoring for mundane knowledge; Karma prayasa—over-endeavoring for fruitive activity; Astanga yoga prayasa — over-endeavoring for getting siddhis that come from performing mystic yoga. Those are categories of something that you need not do. It destroys your bhakti when endeavoring too much within these realms.
Romapada Swami – Question: How do we distinguish if the endeavor that we are making is for Krishna, or the endeavor is really selfish, and as a result, we are over-endeavoring? Who would like to answer that?
Devotee: That’s a good question.
Romapada Swami: Yes, and what’s a good answer? Who would like to volunteer? Where’s Rupa Sanatana? You’d like to volunteer?
Devotee: Over-endeavor leaves you frustrated, under the gun. That may be an indication that you’re going the wrong way.
Romapada Swami: Anyone else would like to comment? Yes?
Romapada Swami: If it is not for Krishna, even if you endeavor hard, then you won’t get satisfaction. Any satisfaction is very momentary. Again, quickly you’ll become dissatisfied.
Romapada Swami: Yes, very good. Anyone else? This is a lesson in practical application, Krishna Consciousness 101. How do we apply this?
Devotee: If you do something with the want for recognition…
Romapada Swami: Yes, definitely. In fact, that’s going to come at the very end of tomorrow’s presentation. It’s really a tell-tale sign when one wants recognition. “I want recognition, so, I endeavor a lot so I get recognized for doing whatever it is.” Yes?
Devotee: If we are doing it for Krishna’s pleasure, or if we are doing it for ourselves…
Romapada Swami: How can we tell the difference? How do we distinguish? Yes?
Devotee: If you are working for Krishna, you don’t feel the burden of work. And then, you feel so easy, and simple, and so satisfied and so happy….
Romapada Swami: Yes. And energized. At the end, you’re not.. ughh!
Devotee: And you don’t feel frustration.
Romapada Swami: Yes, very good. Very good. So, you have to do some introspection. Self-honesty is an important muscle to develop! Do so by regularly exercising it. Self-honesty permits you to look inside and see what is truly in your heart. Another method is to consult with persons who know you well. I just had a discussion with someone who was sharing how his wife joked with him about how he over-endeavors. She said it in such a way that he appreciated her message. We can take guidance from persons close to us. If someone is close to you, and they’re offering you some good advice, and you react, that’s a sign that your endeavor may not be for Krishna.
What’s not in the category of prayasa? This is a question that was just addressed by Bhaktivinode Thakura. Performing those activities that are within the direct realm of our devotional service—carrying out our duties, our standard Krishna conscious activity—that’s not in the category of mundane prayasa or over-endeavoring. Some endeavor is required, especially in the beginning stages of devotional service, maybe a little more effort than those who are more advanced may require.
The best way to give up the tendency for over-endeavoring for mundane things can be found in the following teaching from Srimad Bhagavatam. vasudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogah prayojitah (SB 1.2.7) “One immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world…” Commenting on this verse, Bhatkivinode Thakur writes, “When a devotee humbly and without duplicity chants and remembers the holy name of Krishna, then real intelligence awakens in this way. One thinks, ‘I am a spiritual particle, servant of Krishna. Krishna is my eternal Lord. Surrendering to Krishna’s lotus feet is my eternal nature. This world is like a traveler’s rest house…’” This may mean like an outhouse, like a toilet room. “’And to be attached to anything of this world will not give me eternal happiness.’” So, detachment from the worldly ways of life results from attachment to Krishna.
What’s the worst kind of prayasa? Someone mentioned it. Here is what Sanatana Goswami states in his Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa: sarva-tyagepy aheyayah sarvanartha-bhuvas ca te. “Even if one can give up all material desires, the desire for fame and recognition is very difficult to give up. This desire for fame and recognition, which is compared to stool, is the root cause of all anarthas. Therefore, one should carefully avoid touching this stool-like desire for fame.” That’s pretty clear; pretty graphic also. Sometimes, persons endeavor for that subtle thing, not just getting a job done, or getting the fruit of that job getting done, but seeking the recognition from others of having done so. Its power to destroy bhakti is fatal!
Next, talking unnecessarily—prajalpa. Any talk unfavorable to Krishna’s service is prajalpa. Such talk should be avoided. Categories that Prabhupada mentions include interest in mundane news, and political affairs, and crossword puzzles—all kinds of things that people do on airplanes all the time—playing cards, fishing. He mentions these specifically in his purport of Text 2. In a moment we will hear Srila Prabhupada make a strong comment about attraction for political affairs. Very, very, very prominent in India is fascination for newspapers—what’s going on in the politics of the day. Useless talk, argument, gossip, fault-finding, blaspheming devotees, debate—all these do not lead one to Krishna, they carry one’s consciousness downward.
Here is an excerpt from a lecture of Srila Prabhupada, 1974: “Prajalpa means talking all nonsense. Suppose, politics. What Mr. Nixon did yesterday, or what did he say. So, what interest we have got in Mr. Nixon? We shall not waste our time in talking this politics, that politics, this sociology, this cinema, this affair—no! We have nothing to do with that. That is called prajalpa. Unnecessary talking. Talking means decreasing your duration of life. Talking. So, why should you decrease your life unnecessarily? Every moment you should have to utilize whether it’s used for Krishna. This is sadhana. This is sadhana. Practice. Unnecessary talking, unnecessary making enemies. Unnecessarily. You are my subordinate, I am your master. Who is master? Everyone is subordinate to Krishna. Nobody is master. Why you talk unnecessarily?” Very strong.
One of the symptoms of bhava is that one is very, very careful to use every moment in Krishna’s service. I remember one letter received in 1971 from Srila Prabhupada sent to our head-pujari, then a very young devotee, Rukmini dasi. She became a devotee when she was 16 or 17, so she could have been maybe 20 years old. She was the head pujari for Radha-Govinda. She wrote a letter to Prabhupada saying that she just wished that she had more time to use in serving Radha Govinda, how Their service is so important, something like that. Prabhupada wrote back saying, “It’s very nice to see that you’ve reached the bhava stage. You are so concerned that every moment should be used in Krishna’s service.” Very generous statement by Srila Prabhupada! His indication was this: time is something not to be wasted. Time is something that is very precious; it is to be used properly. All these other things just mentioned are simply time-wasters. On and on and on and on and on… time wasting, endless time wasting. They just make the brain mush. I’ll take a little jab at all the time-wasting things that young people do today with video games and all that kind of technology distraction. They just makes the mind a marshmallow. Simply time-wasting! On the flight from Chicago coming to here, there was this man in a suit, sitting there playing one of those games until they ordered him, “You have shut it down. The plane is going to take off.” And as soon as the plane landed, he had the thing out and he was playing with it again. It’s addictive! There he is in his business suit, addicted to mind-numbing time-wasting games. These things come in this category: prajalpa. sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati. Such things destroy bhakti. Kids have their version, and adults have their version of time-wasting things. Be very careful in this regard, not just speaking gossipy things, but time-wasting things.
What are some good means to avoid prajalpa? Here is a nice verse: “In order to pass one’s life without sin, one should not speak anything more than whatever little is necessary. One need discuss only whatever is auspicious for oneself and others. If one wants to discuss topics of others, it will simply be useless speech.” Therefore, in Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna instructs Uddhava, “Whoever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak nice things to devotees—”Oh, you cooked a nice feast,” or “The deities were dressed very nicely today,” or “The kirtan was fantastic!” This verse doesn’t mean that we should never recognize or honor devotees. It just means we should not do these things for sake of mundane flattery, or praising and criticizing for a mundane purpose.
This is our last slide. Do any of these “poisons” ever cause obstacles in your devotional life—atyaharah, prayasa, or prajalpa? When and where do you encounter these poisons? I am going to begin tomorrow’s class with this question, so you don’t have to answer right now. You can think about it. We are looking for practical application points. Introducing these new Sanskrit terms initially may be merely academic, “Oh I learned three new words in Sanskrit today.” However, let us go the next step. Let us see how we can apply this message in a practical way, so that our spiritual life improves. Do these three bhakti-spoilers ever come into your life — sneak in, and steal away the spirit of bhakti? Because of indulging in time wasting activity, or over-endeavoring for something mundane, attaining pure bhakti is blocked! Do we sometimes justify getting some paraphernalia as part of our service to Krishna, but in reality the item is primarily for our sense gratification? These are all self-honesty questions. Like the question I raised “How can we tell when something is done for Krishna and something is done for me?”
And that’s the end. So far we have covered just the first three bhakti-destroyers found in this verse. Tomorrow will be a continuation of this verse, covering the other three principles to avoid.
Devotee: I am aware of situations where devotees have been encouraged at their work place to assist in some campaign by putting campaign bumper stickers on their car. How are we to consider that sort of thing?
Romapada Swami: You want a soft answer or a hard answer? [Laughter.]
Devotee: I think soft. [Laughter.]
Romapada Swami: If there was a person worth voting for in a political campaign, there would be some reason to put a bumper sticker on your car. Srila Prabhupada’s standard for a qualified leader was he must be a rajarishi, simultaneously a learned rishi who is also a leader. That caliber of leader we might want to put on a bumper sticker. That’s my comment.
Devotee: What’s transcendental?
Romapada Swami:Transcendental means beyond the modes of nature.
Devotee: Beyond the modes of nature?
Romapada Swami:Beyond the modes of nature and beyond the influence of karma. The modes of nature are governing everything on this physical plane. Yet there is another plane, another realm, beyond the modes of nature. Our consciousness can be beyond the modes of nature. And if our consciousness is beyond the modes of nature, then our activities, even if they are being performed on this physical plane, are elevated to a karma-free position, or transcendental position. No contact with the modes of nature, no contact with karma. These two things—guna and karma. Guna means material qualities, the modes of nature. And you know what karma is. Transcendental means no more karma, and no more influence of the pushings of the modes of nature. This is another realm. One who is a transcendentalist may be moving here and there within this world, while their consciousness is other-worldly. Consequently, they are not generating karma, there is no bondage to their work. Their actions are uplifting to whoever they come in contact with. That’s what being a transcendentalist does for others. Their speech, their work, literally their ‘everything’…their social interactions are elevating for others, and not binding for them.
Devotee: What’s sanatana dharma?
Romapada Swami: Sanatana is a Sanskrit word that means eternal. Sanatana means eternal, like the soul is eternal. It doesn’t come into being. There will not be more souls in the future that are going to come into being, and the souls that eternally exist won’t go out of being. They’re eternal. That’s sanatana. na jayate mriyate va kadacin. It’s sanatana, eternal. And sanatana dharma means what souls do eternally. Whatever is the natural constitutional position of the soul, that’s what sanatana dharma is. That’s what sanatana dharma is.
Devotee: Should it be that gatherings like this are supposed to be a festival?
Romapada Swami: Festival in the sense that we are celebrating our connection with the Supreme. And that’s a cause for celebration. Sometimes there are maha-utsavas, big festivals, where we come together and we all celebrate together. Like maha-mahotsavas, big festival on janmastami.
Devotee: Is today a big festival?
Romapada Swami: Certainly it’s a festival. I am enjoying being in the company of other devotees. In that sense, it’s a nice festival. This past Saturday, we had a nice function at the Mahatma Gandhi center on the suburbs. That was a big festival. Yes?
Devotee: I hope to be in a big festival someday.
Romapada Swami: You’ll get there. You’ll get there.
Devotee: When you talk about prayasa, what we do as householders, is that prayasa heading in the right direction?
Romapada Swami: The answer to your question depends upon the consciousness of the householder. For example, supposing you know there’s some ambition inside that says, “Oh, look at that corporate ladder! Yummy! Let me keep climbing, and I’ll get more money. And then I can give some money to the temple, although the real motive is I want to climb that corporate ladder and then I can have some sense of achievement and accomplishment. Out of pride, I will enjoy the high regard of others as they see my accomplishments!” That’s over-endeavor. But if, as your duty as a householder requires, you’re performing your duty in your occupational work and you’re vigilant to regard the fruit which comes is Krishna’s property and is to be used in service to Krishna, part of which is taking care of my mortgage and taking care of my utilities bill because I use those things in Krishna’s service. And my car payment and insurance and taxes and…I want to make sure that I am using a significant part directly in Krishna’s worship, in distributing knowledge and training and education in spiritual life. So, then, it’s not mundane prayasa.
Devotee: Maharaj, you showed one slide, where there were cartoons of people watching the news and other illustrations of behaviors that fall under the category of prajalpa. When we watch the news or when we hear news, we have a few pieces of information we need to know. But most of it is unwanted stuff.
Romapada Swami: Yes, most of it is unwanted.
Devotee: I understand that part is prajalpa.
Romapada Swami: Correct.
Devotee: There are pieces of information we might need to know. So, if we ignore them as prajalpa, how would we stay connected with the world around us?
Romapada Swami: Supposing your occupation was something in relation to news, or media, or writing; that would require an elevated level of exposure to media. Rupa Goswami teaches anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayusjatah (BRS 1.2.255)—accept things as is appropriate, or suitable; according to suitability. That’s Rupa Goswami’s standard. It may be suitable for one person to become fully knowledgeable about media. Let’s say one is a Communications Director for the temple or for ISKCON, it is more suitable that that person is really tuned in to media and to the news. The protection that they have because it is their service — how they utilize that which is coming in and how they filter out other stuff—they’re protected because it’s their service. That’s one suitability example. Now, in your case or in my case, that’s not what our service is. But supposing you or I just view the headlines to see what’s going on out there, to be aware of the direction the world around us is moving in. Really, it’s basically the same stuff over and over again. [laughs] You know, politics, and who did it to whom, somebody got slapped around, and somebody cheated, and somebody did some skullduggery and they’re embarrassed and they had to step down. News simply repeats those kinds of things. But are there trends, and there is some importance in knowing current trends. Just be sure you do not get lost in the material energy when ‘staying in touch’. Be cautious. Wasting time with media is very common!
But for you, as a housewife and as a mother, ask yourself a number of times before you just go—”Do I really need this for my service?” The numbing and distracting influence of media is very powerful. It just takes your intelligence and throws it in the wrong place, quickly.
The question you are asking is brave and bold of you to ask, but it applies to everybody. I found that one of the biggest time-wasters for people who know how to use technology is the internet and just surfing. For example, one devotee shared with me, “I don’t really like my work and I spend probably an hour to an hour and a half, sometimes even two, just reading news. I’m careful to not go to the garbage section of the news, but I know there’s always the garbage section of the news. And one garbage leads to the next garbage.” And it’s daily. It’s just a time-waster—reading the news. He doesn’t need it for his service, it’s a time-waster. It’s a time-waster.
So, ask yourself, seriously, “Do I really need this for my duty as a wife, and a mother, and citizen? Do I need this? If I spent the same amount of time reading a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam, and did that every day for the rest of my life, what would that be like compared to watching the news? The choice is easy! I’ll go for the Bhagavatam verse instead!” Commonly, the problem is we are not considering our lives in terms of devotional service when it comes to media. Instead, media becomes a habitual time-waster. Time-wasters may not appear to be disgusting. Name some disgusting things; it’s not one of those. Less harmful, in moderation. But it holds one’s consciousness down. Bhakti doesn’t rise. Seriously ask yourself: “Where do I want to be in the mature stage of my life? Do I want to remain covered, as I am now? Or do I want to be deeply absorbed in thought of Krsna?”
We make choices. If you need it, go ahead. Do you need it? If not, fill that space, consciously, with something else. That same energy—I use the word energy because it’s a habit–says “Oh, just a little bit!” NO! Immediately take that energy and direct it elsewhere, and just keep repeating the choice of saying NO to time-wasters. Visual examples help me a lot. Here’s some water that’s moving, running across the floor, heading for something you do not want to become wet. What to do? Make a little line, moving your finger repeatedly and just like that, the water starts going in another direction! “Here it comes, it has to go somewhere. Take it over that way.” Redirect that lower urge towards something that is elevating, that you know is wholesome. Imagine Guru and Krishna are standing on either side of you, watching your conquest of that lower urge, just beaming and smiling, saying “Very good!” With consistency, just keep redirecting that lower urge. By so doing, you replace that lower habit with a chosen higher habit. And off you go, heading toward Krishna. That’s the tathastha sakti message. We make choices. We are marginal potency.
Devotee: I forget which slide was showing the desire for fame. What category was that under?
Romapada Swami: Prayasa
Devotee: Is that a function of the false ego? Or, is it coming from the soul itself?
Romapada Swami: Desire for fame certainly isn’t arising from the soul. Desire for fame arises from our dear friend, false ego, with a big assistance from the mind.
Devotee: There was a slide which was telling about the bhukti-kama, siddhi-kama, mukti-kama. What is that?
Romapada Swami: Bhukti is sense gratification, mukti—liberation, siddhi—mystic perfections. Lord Caitanya taught bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami — sakali ‘asanta’. The kama, or the desire for sense gratification, the desire of liberation, the desire for mystic siddhis and the endeavor connected with fulfilling those desires—that’s the wrong kind of endeavor. Prayasa.
Devotee: Maharaj, about prajalpa you mentioned different things. As a father, I am taking care of my son.
Romapada Swami: Yes, I noticed. And he is taking care of you. [laughs] Keeping you very busy. [laughs]
Devotee: Maharaj, in order to sometimes keep him engaged in certain activity you want him to do, say eating or something else, you have to kind of indulge in certain things he likes just to keep him focused on something. Otherwise, he is just running around and not concentrating on…
Romapada Swami: I noticed he runs around. [laughs]
Devotee: So, is that also considered prajalpa?
Romapada Swami: Parents get a concession. [laughs] Especially the parents of Prahlad. [laughs] But you have to be very careful because that leads to other things, which then lead to other things. Those other things eventually become the standard. Impressions formed when a child is very young are lasting impressions. My hat is off to you. You have a challenging situation. It’s not an easy situation. Your son has a particular nature. But some discipline is needed. Like when you had to pick him up. You didn’t want to pick him up because you knew what he would do. And surely, he did it. He started hitting you, and screaming. But at some point, discipline is required when certain lines are crossed. The challenge of parenting is how to induce your child to do the good things. Some encouragement is always required, but each child is individual. Prahlad cannot understand all things, but some things he can understand. It’s obvious there’s some challenge. It’s also obvious there’s some reciprocation. You have to stay in that zone where he is feeling — energetically or empathetically from your side as a parent — there is love. With love, there’s some give and take. His needs are way down here. And you’re extending and inviting him to come to a higher position. Gradually he will rise if he feels that you are addressing him from a position of love. Conversely, he won’t rise to a higher if he feels forced. No way! Not him! So, it’s delicate! Back to your question, yes, but in a measured way. Be very careful because one thing leads to the next thing leads to the next thing.
Devotee: Is there anything we can do to erase the stored impressions?
Romapada Swami: Sure! Replace the stored impressions with Krishna impressions! Bhakti has the potency not only to erase the stored impressions, but to dissolve the storage place, the material mind. Phew! What a relief! To attain this stage, the mind must become fully spiritualized. That’s the potency of bhakti. The potency isn’t gradual; our capacity to receive is gradual. We are quite covered. Erasing stored impressions works gradually because of our limitations, not bhakti’s limitations. But yes, bhakti can completely eradicate all those impressions, even our residual lingering tendencies because those impressions were previously in storage in the subtle body. That’s the potency of bhakti. Other processes do not have that potency. The prayascita process can remove the reaction to sinful activity, but it cannot remove the tendency to do again. And jnana similarly.
Okay, thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jai!