Let us begin Upadesamrta or Nectar of Instruction, Part 2 of Text 2. First a little review: do you recognize this diagram? This is the first verse: the six urges that are covering the heart, and they need to be they need to be transcended—visaheta — controlled, checked. Next are the six poisonous obstacles; six items which destroy, vinasyati, devotional service. There are six activities or qualities that are favorable for devotional service to be cultivated. And so on. The path of regulated bhakti leads to the highest form of love for Krishna, found in Vrindavana.
While keeping the flow of this diagram in mind, let us recall that we discussed the first three items in Text 2— atyaharah and prayasas and prajalpa. Atyaharah means over-eating and over-collecting. Prayasa is over-endeavoring for mundane things. Prajalpa—idle talk, gossip, wasting time. This evening we will be discussing the final three bhakti-destroyers mentioned in Text 2, namely niyamagrahah, jana-sanga, and laulyam. sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati. These six destroy devotional service. “One’s devotional service is spoiled 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 about mundane subject matters…” And then, adding the three just mentioned makes six in total.
Niyamagrahah can be read understood in either one of two ways. Niyama indicates “rules and regulations”. Then comes either the suffix agrahah or agrahah. These are opposites: too much attention without understanding the purpose behind the niyama, or neglect of the niyama. Fanatical following without understanding the purpose behind the niyama, or neglecting it. Neglecting. The translation reads “practicing scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically.”
Next is jana-sanga, “associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Krsna consciousness, and being greedy for mundane achievements.”
Before going further into the subject for this evening’s class, let us step back for a moment and consider “What is our goal or objective, in discussing this text?” Here is a clue: “For one who neglects to follow these instructions, attaining devotion to Lord Hari is extremely rare.”
What Rupa Goswami is telling us is that there are some things that if we do them, they spoil devotion. We will not attain devotion if we go on mindlessly doing things that spoil devotion. It’s like lighting a fire and pouring water on it. Or, like starting a garden and pouring poison in your garden.
The purpose of what we are doing is far more than an intellectual exercise, where there is a text and you learn the text and you get a quiz on the text and you get an A in your exam and you get 5 gold stars after your name on your Report Card, and then you go on to the next subject matter. This is not merely an intellectual exercise. We’re wasting our time if it just stays on an intellectual platform. The real message here is how to attain genuine devotion.
I was thinking a little bit about some of the discussion from yesterday. Shrinidhi is not here this evening. That little question that she asked about the news—I was really proud of her for speaking up about that because it’s something that nearly everybody does. You know, the little innocent-seeming time-wasters. Those little innocent time-wasters add up! If one is not vigilant and focused, we can easily waste a lot of time. Wasting time is the greatest misfortune! We are all really busy. Who can say “I hardly have enough time for everything I’m supposed to do!” But do I waste time? For sure! I remember having a discussion with some IIT Delhi students. Krishna Smarana was a professor there for some time. This is not just any University; this is IIT, with tons of academic pressure on the students to perform and compete. An average of 25 students would come to attend Mangala Arati at 4 o’clock every morning. Students! All of you adults, please recall your student life. Attending Mangala Arati at 4 o’clock every morning, seven days a week?? Many students, that’s when they go to bed, at 4 o’clock in the morning! Attending Mangala Arati at 4 o’clock in the morning and then as soon as Mangala Arati is over, chanting japa, and coming back at 6 o’clock for deity greeting, guru-puja, and class. And by 7:30, they had prasadam club. They took turns cooking prasadam so that the responsibility did not fall one individual only. Then they would go to their office by 8 o’clock in the morning, have lunch prasadam together, and leave their office around 4 pm. They would come back again at 5:30 for Gaura Arati, 6 o’clock class, 7 o’clock then they go and finish their homework. Then again, attend Mangala Arati at 4 o’clock. It was unbelievable! Plus sixteen rounds. One of the rules was: you had to be a top achiever in the academic realm, because otherwise it would give a bad name to the program. So the students could not be negligent in their academics; they had to be excellent in their academics. Plus sixteen rounds daily. Consider: from 4 o’clock am until whatever time they took rest, 8:30-9 o’clock, 25 students following such a schedule, 40 would come for morning class. It wasn’t the kind of university program where students come just for prasadam! They were there at 4 o’clock in the morning for Mangala Arati. I asked them, “How do you do it? How do you do it!?” I know when I was a student, chanting sixteen rounds, that was a challenge. Mangala Arati, Guru-puja, class, evening Gaura-Arati and class, and sixteen rounds, plus a highly demanding academic rigor. The answer I got from several different students was the same. “Maharaj, we waste so much time! We just don’t have time to waste time anymore.” That was their realization. They just stopped wasting time.
So, if your goal is to attain devotion to Lord Hari, please know – there are things you may be doing today that will prevent you from reaching that goal. Consider: how many lifetimes have you been going at this process of practicing bhakti? Who knows how many lifetimes! Every one of us in this room, and persons that haven’t gotten here yet, how many lifetimes have we been languishing in this material world! The teaching of Rupa Goswami is this: one who takes up devotional service readily in this lifetime means they’re continuing devotional service from their previous lifetime which they didn’t complete. So, what should be our determination this time around? Are we going to complete our devotional service in this life, or have a whole bunch of more lifetimes after this one before we finally complete the path? I know I don’t want to go through all of this again! One of the ways to make sure that you go through it again is….engage in time-wasters! Time is precious. The human form of life has been given to us. The opportunity of devotional service is also there. The association of devotees is there. The holy name is there. The founder-acarya is there. Prabhupada’s books are there. Just see, everything is there! Deities are there. Prasadam. All the instructions. Everything that we need to go back to Godhead. And we waste time!
Here is another one of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s statements. This one is specific to prayasa, endeavoring for mundane things. “If prayasa is not given up, devotion will never arise.” Each of us performs daily activity, but if the activity is in the consciousness of endeavoring to achieve something—like respect, or honor, or something else of this world—then devotion, which is what is going to take us out of the material world, does not arise.
I am going to continue dwelling on this point of application a little bit because of its importance. Another example of time-wastes mentioned yesterday was video games. When I mentioned this yesterday, I saw a couple of parents looking at their children, as if to say, “Maharaj has your number!” The same discussion took place in Chicago a few mornings ago after the Srimad Bhagavatam class, and it was a hot topic. Attending the class were few grhastas. Some of the brahmacaris remarked that they noticed that kids often do these time-wasting thing. I mentioned what happened in the flight from Chicago to St. Louis. And then, the previous one was a flight from Nashville to Chicago. The stewards and stewardesses, people that serve you in the plane, were waiting at the entrance to the gate. And there was a well-dressed passenger sitting there playing a game on his handheld device…a Game where some little digital person jumps from resting place to the next to the next. The airline employee walked over to the passenger, looked over his shoulder for a few moments, and asked, “Who’s winning?” In fact, the passenger was losing, because he was just wasting his time. An educated, well-dressed gentleman sitting there, just wasting his time. It’s not wasting your time in the sense of “Time is money. You could be making money.” Even more importantly, wasting the precious human form of life with mind-numbing activity that covers the real purpose of life! When we know what the real purpose of life is, is the greatest misfortunate.
Citing more examples of how common it is to waste time could easily go on for hours! One of the biggest time-wasters I hear from devotees is time available in their offices at work. They have a computer in front of them and they just browse away on their computer. Some fortunate devotees sit at their workstations reading Vedabase on their computers. [A hand goes up. Someone volunteers that they read BBT books online at work.] Is that what you were reading from yesterday? You found Caitanya-caritamrta Online? Online! He reads online. He reads Prabhupada’s books online! For less fortunate people, it becomes endlessly browsing stuff, and more stuff, and more stuff. Time-wasters cripple the spirit of bhakti. Bhakti will not sprout. You cannot just be a high achiever, and that makes you a devotee. There are lots of intellectually smart people that are headed in the wrong direction, intellectually misusing the human form of life. The purpose of the human form of life is self-realization. And there are so many ways to grab our mind and intelligence and senses in distracting activity. When that happens, bhakti won’t arise. And that means another birth. Is it going to be easier the next time around? The teaching is, NO! And our practical experience is, NO! Degradation of Kali Yuga is rapid. Because there is this golden era within this Iron Age, those persons who take shelter of the practices of chanting Hare Krishna and devotional principles, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya, have a golden opportunity. Surrounding this golden opportunity, Kali Yuga is going down very very rapidly. And when that Golden period of time ends, everything will go down even more rapidly. The bottom falls out. This is not just ‘Doomsday talk’. It is simply the reality in which we are operating.
Do yourselves a favor, and do those who you care very deeply for and who care deeply for you a favor. Apply these principles! Don’t let it just be a vocabulary exam, where you learned a new word and you can say the definition of it, and so on. Apply these teachings of Rupa Gsowami practically!
Here is another example: not over-endeavoring for mundane things, and not over-collecting. Look at the society in which we live! How many places are there for storage? Why? Because people are over-collecting. There isn’t room in their homes. They have to rent a place to go and put the stuff they have over-collected.
Over-eating: obesity is a big problem in this country. A big problem. A big medical problem. I saw a billboard, I forget where it was, promoting surgery to have fat removed. “Safe. Fastest weight-reduction known.”
Take a personal inventory: Over-eating, over-collecting, over-endeavoring, idle talk, time-wasting. Critically examine to see where these traps are affecting your life, and carefully try to eliminate some of these bhakti-destroyers. As you eliminate some of the bhakti-destroyers, here’s some positive advice: put some hearing and chanting activity in that space. Use that newly acquired time for consciousness-elevating activity. Cultivate the elevating activity, because if you don’t put elevating activity into that space, likely that space is going to fill up again with the same thing, or at least some other non-elevating activity. The atmosphere in which we find ourselves is surcharged with negative influences. Kali’s influence is pervasive. Ask any of the adults in the room: would you like to go through middle-school, and high school, and teenage life again in America, growing up in America? Would you like to go through that again? Seeing your children go through those phases, intimately knowing what they’re going through, would you like to do it again yourself? Not me! One of the first emotions I felt when I understood about reincarnation, was “What a big relief! I definitely would like to go back to Godhead, because I don’t want to be a teenager again!” [Laughter] I don’t want to go through that. Being a teenager in modern life—whoa—brutal! Now you nice young devotees who are in devotee families, you are very very very fortunate. The very same cultural and hormonal influences that are happening in the lives of your peers, everybody that’s not a devotee, are acting upon you—but you have an alternative! You have a clear place of shelter. Take that safe and protected position of shelter. Go back to Godhead! And don’t go through this again!
Now I will get off my soapbox and move onto the remaining three items mentioned in Text 2.
There are lots of slides in this presentation; I am going to try to cover them at least briefly. Here is a succinct description of what niyamagrahah means: practicing rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement. Such a person does not understanding the purpose behind the niyamas, but is just performing them mechanically, ritualistically, not really purposefully. There is also the converse: consciously rejecting the rules and regulations and making your own whimsical independent way of living, calling it “spiritual life.” Those will both destroy bhakti. This image shows agrahah, the next image shows agrahah and both are added to the word niyama. Niyamas means rules. Rules have two sides: injunctions and prohibitions. Vidhis are the things that you are supposed to do, and the prohibitions are called nisedhas. From the Padma Purana: sarve vidhi-nisedha syur etayor eva kinkarah This Padma Purana verse says, “Remembering Krishna and never forgetting Krishna, this is the one objective intended for all vidhis and nisedhas.” The one principle which all other regulations serve: always remember Krishna and never forget Krishna. According to scripture, there are things to be done, and things not to be done. These are the rules, the niyamas. When the niyamas are accepted blindly or accepted without understanding the purpose behind them, they do not develop bhakti. And if they are neglected, agraha, then also bhakti does not develop.
Niyamas are actually very important. “A strict follower,” Prabhupada would say sometimes, “this is the sign of someone who is sure to progress in spiritual life.” I remember one time Prabhupada said, “The best way to make sure you will make advancement in Krishna consciousness is to follow the rules and regulations very carefully.” Then he added, “Even the small ones.” Niyamas should be carried out with the right purpose.
Similarly, what’s the purpose behind sadhana-bhakti? Sadhana-bhakti is an activity performed by the senses, including the mind, with the goal of awakening spontaneous love for Krishna. That’s the goal, awakening our love for Krishna. Again, why should we attend to these niyamas? They provide a little bridge to get from where you are to the goal, the goal of spontaneous love for Krishna. Niyamas are practical activities. Read in the purport of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6 verse 49. Devotional service is practical activity—senses and sense objects are to be connected in devotion to Krishna. Just sentiment alone, that’s not bhakti. There is sentiment in bhakti, but there must also be practical activity. Practical activity, by definition, has the goal. If you lose sight of the goal, you won’t get the intended result.
Here’s a definition of devotional service from Caitanya-caritamrta, compliments of Krsnadasa Kaviraja: “When transcendental devotional service by which love for Krishna is attained, is executed by the senses, it is called sadhana bhakti or the regulative discharge of devotional service. Such devotion eternally exists within the heart of every living entity. The awakening of this eternal devotion is the potentiality of devotional service in practice.” The goal is called sadhya and the means to reach it is called sadhana. Sadhya is the goal, and sadhana is the way to achieve the goal. The niyamas of sadhana-bhakti help one to achieve to achieve the goal; all the while one must keep the goal in mind. If one doesn’t understand what the goal is in the beginning, there is still a beneficial effect. But the full effect doesn’t arise. Sadhana bhakti is a means to achieve the ultimate goal, step-by-step. The step-by-step stages of bhakti are sequential. Step-by-step-by-step-by-step-by-step one can reach prema. One way which Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura analyzes is this sequential arrangement is this: sradhha or faith is simply maturing ‘preliminary faith’ from the seed stage, all the way to prema, which is the matured stage of faith. In one sense, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura analyzes, the nine stages of bhakti are nothing but different stages of faith from the seed to the full blossomed fruit and flower of faith.
Next question is: “Faith in what?” There must be a shelter or a goal or objective for faith. Here is a quote from Henry David: “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.”
In this next slide we a statement saying essentially the same thing in a different language, something I heard as a young devotee and it stayed with me throughout my devotional service. Srila Prabhupada said, “When you clearly identify the goal, it’s very easy to take steps to reach the goal. And conversely, if you don’t have a clearly identified goal, reaching the goal very difficult.” What is the Goal of Life? Commonly, people don’t know what the goal is. We all do something. Without a spiritual goal, life takes the shape of various forms of sense gratification. If it looks good, if it feels good, you do it. What’s the goal? “Feel good”—that’s the goal. But when it hurts, then, oops, I missed the goal. Misery is the unavoidable result of life lived with no goal or an imagined goal! It’s a great misfortune when persons don’t even know what the goal of life is.
The vedas identify very clearly, and Rupa Goswami is very clearly presenting, what that goal is. Here’s the verse again. “Always remember Krishna, never forget Krishna at any time.” All the rules and prohibitions—the vidhis and nisedhas—they’re servants of this principle—always remember Krishna, never forget Krishna. It’s the one regulation that rules or governs all other regulations.
So, niyama agrahah is practicing rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, and niyama agrahah is rejecting or neglecting or not accepting those rules and regulations—working independently. The result: you don’t make advancement; you stay at the same stage of life. And if you stay at one stage, commonly, you don’t feel satisfied. So, you look for something else, or else you may fall down. Similar misfortune is found if one follows rules and regulations only for some immediate benefit, for some utilitarian purpose, “I do this because I get that;” not for the goal of awakening my love for Krishna, my desire to attain Krishna.
Nectar of Devotion teaches us that we must make a distinction between principles of niyamas, and details. The following example is given. A principle is that one must accept a spiritual master. An example of a detail is that a spiritual master may engage one disciple this way and another disciple that way, and yet another disciple another way. That’s a detail. But the principle is one must accept and follow the instructions of the spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada made some adjustments in details. Here are some examples. He crossed the ocean. Some traditions have the conviction that scripture says sannyasis aren’t supposed to do that. That’s a no-no. But he did, under the instruction of his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada allowed women to reside in ashrams in the West. He actually coined a word, the brahmacarini asrama. There’s no such thing in India. There’s a brahmacari asrama. However, some women were prepared to live a life of celibacy and live asrama life very properly. So, he allowed them to remain in the temples, because he saw the culture in America. As a sannyasi, he conducted marriage ceremonies. He translated Rupa Goswami’s writing that says one should not worship others before of the deities. Yet he allowed himself to be worshiped on his vyasasana before the deities. He placed another principle above that principle—the principle of gurupadasraya. It was essential for him as an acarya to teach his disciples that they should respect the spiritual master. Consequently, he adjusted that detail. For the higher purpose of giving literature to others, he permitted disciples to go into the public in conventional attire rather than in devotional attire. The objective was for the public to be more accepting initially of the person and not reject the book because they didn’t like devotional attire. He accepted the title of Prabhupada, and some of his Godbrothers didn’t like that because Bhaktisiddhanta was their spiritual master, who had accepted the title of Srila Prabhupada. Yet Prabhupada accepted that nomenclature for himself. These are all examples of adjusting details without adjusting or neglecting principles.
We are not acaryas. We’re not founder-acaryas of an International Society. From our tiny position, there are small details which we may adjust or work within to fulfill the purpose of Krishna’s service. Here’s one detailed adjustment that was difficult for me. There are certain parts of the world that I travel to—some places in the Middle East, Singapore, China—you will not be allowed to enter the country dressed in devotional clothing. To visit to China, I have to grow my China-hair [laughter], and have my China trousers and my China-hat, and a crew-neck shirt that covers up my neck beads. Once I was in Mayapur attending a meeting and Bhakti-Caitanya Swami was also at that meeting. He’s our Chairman of the GBC this year. He had just come through Doha flying on Qatar Airlines. So I said, “Oh, I’m going to be traveling on Qatar Airlines also!” He advised, “Oh! Don’t go dressed in a dhoti.” And I said, “I’m just going through the transit lounge.” And he said, “Don’t go dressed in a dhoti.” He said, “It’s Ramadan. I don’t know what would happen even inside the airport in the transit lounge. I don’t recommend it. If you have something else you can wear, wear something else.” Some grhasta devotees from South Africa have jobs there—they have hair, and they dress like everybody else there is dressed. During Janmastami last year they had a small home gathering, something like a 4-5 couples. Some neighbor complained, the police came, took everybody’s name and gave them 48 hours to leave the country for illegal assembly—just for having a Janmastami program in their apartment.
There are some places that are hostile. I am uncomfortable wearing non-devotional clothing, but if I am going to pass through those places, I have to adjust some details. Just now when coming to the USA, I boarded the Qatar Airlines with a hat on, and pants. When I got on the plane, took my hat off. [Laughter] At the very end of the journey from Calcutta to Doha, as we were approaching Doha, one of the airline employees came up and asked, “I see a little piece of hair on the back of the head. Are you a Hindu?” I said, “Not exactly.” And he said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “I’m a Vaisnava.” He went, “Ohhhhh!” I don’t know what that meant to him other than, “You’re strict! Vaisnavas are strict!” And I said, “Yes, Vaisnava. I have been practicing the life of Vaisnavism for over forty years.” And he went, “Ohhhh! And I saw you had some beads.” I said, “Yes, we chant Hare Krishna.” He said, “Do you have any temples in Doha?” I said, “Noooo! [Laughter.] Tell me where you live and I can tell you where there is a temple.” He said, “I don’t live in Doha. I live in Calcutta.” So I gave him the address for the Calcutta temple. All of this was meant to illustrate that there are details which can be adjusted, but principles we cannot adjust.
How does niyamagrahah spoil bhakti? When we do something without a purpose, we lose taste. When we do something without a purpose, we do it mechanically. Like Bhatkivinoda Thakur explained, there are two different platforms—duty and love. If you perform your devotional duties with a clear understanding of purpose, gradually you’ll develop taste. The converse statement is also being made here. When you do something without a clear sense of purpose, how long can you continue doing that? For some time, you may continue, if you are a very determined and stoic personality. But you will not continue long term.
So, let’s be long-term devotees and be very clear about what the purpose of bhakti is. When observing the niyamas, the regulations, be mindful of what the purpose is.
The way that I was trained in Krishna consciousness was this: Each thing that you do from the moment you get up in the morning, ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing this?” When the alarm goes off at 3:30 in the morning, “Why am I getting up? Because most people don’t wake up at 3:30 in the morning, why am I getting up?” And you are going to take a shower, now I’m putting on my dhoti, and applying my tilaka… “Why am I doing this?” If you do each thing mindlessly, you can’t do it for very long. You can do it for a while, but you can’t do it for very long. And if you do it with the purpose in mind, it awakens bhakti. And if you don’t do it with a higher purpose in mind, it destroys your sense of happiness, the sense of joy, the sense of cultivation of love. How do you counteract dullness and lack of taste? Do each activity purposefully. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Find an emotional connection, some feeling within each activity you do. The answer we commonly supplied for ourselves when asking this question was, “Because Prabhupada advised us to do this. If I wear a dhoti, it helps me remember Krishna. Others who see us in devotional attire also remember Krishna.”
When I was first living in a temple, I was filled with a youthful spirit of independence. “No one is going to tell me that I have to do xyz things.” I was a trained-up defiant college graduate. Amazingly, no one told me to xyz things! They didn’t get on my case. Eventually, on my own, I started thinking, “Why maintain this defiant attitude? If wearing a dhoti will help me remember Krishna, and help others remember Krishna who see me wearing a dhoti on sankirtana, then why wouldn’t I do it?”
So, that’s why I am putting on a dhoti. It’s pleasing to my spiritual master, and it will help me and others remember Krishna.” A devotional connection, an emotional devotional connection, helps one follow the niyamas long-term.
We should regularly check ourselves to see if we are just becoming mechanical again or if we are still on the proper devotional track. Study the scriptures regularly and deeply. The result will be a growing impetus why to be on the path of devotion. Eventually this impetus becomes very very clear and strong. It becomes our very life.
Prabhupada’s mood in adjusting principles is expressed in this next slide: “Even one is a very learned and intelligent scholar, he cannot understand the activities of a vaisnava. A vaisanava accepts anything favorable for executing his mission. But foolish persons, not knowing the purpose of such exalted Vaisanavas, indulge in criticizing them.” This is Prabhupada’s writing. vaisnavera kriya mudra vijneha na bujhaya. “Even if I see that Lord Nityananda has entered a liquor shop, I shall not be diverted from my conclusion that Nityananda Rai is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Lord Nityananda was unlimitedly merciful even upon the Jagai’s and Madhai’s of this world. If he went into a liquor shop, it was to deliver the liquor shop owner, or to relieve Jagai and Madhai from their sinful activities, or the sinful reactions of their sinful activities. This is quoted in Caitanya Caritamrta.
Now, we are going to discuss jana-sanga. Jana-sanga refers to associating with worldly minded persons or persons not interested in Krishna consciousness. Here’s a verse by Narottama Dasa Thakura: tandera carana sevi, bhakta-sane vas. “Birth after birth, I desire to serve the lotus feet of the acaryas and to live in a society of devotees.” Here is Prabhupada’s purport to this verse: “Association with those engaged in a similar line of business is very conducive to advancement in that business.” You join a club to become good at something, or be able to transact business in that field. It’s common all over the world. There are so many ‘something or other’ associations. “Similarly, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to give people an opportunity to associate with those who have not forgotten Krishna.” That is the sadhu-sanga as opposed to jana-sanga.
Here are some different verses from scripture describing the effect of unwholesome association. This is Lord Kapiladeva speaking to Devahuti: “By association with worldly people, one becomes devoid of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, spiritual intelligence, shyness, austerity, fame, forgiveness, control of the mind, control of the senses, fortune and all opportunities. One should not at any time associate with a coarse fool who is bereft of the knowledge of self-realization and who is no more than a toy animal in the hands of a woman [or a woman in the hands of a man]. The illusion and bondage that accrue to a man from attachment to any other object are not as complete as that resulting from association with a woman or with men too much attached to women.” Too much attached to the association of the opposite sex is the lesson. The verse is expressed from a male paradigm, but the caution is to not become too much attached, regardless of your gender. This next quote is from Caitanya-caritamrta, citing Katyayana-samhita, “It is better to accept miseries of being encaged within bars and surrounded by burning flames than to associate with those bereft of Krishna consciousness. Such association is a very great hardship.”
Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote a commentary on these two Upadesamrta verses—Texts 2 and Text 3. There he explains how to apply this jana-sanga principle in household life, because as householders you have to go to the office or to the marketplace where common people are abundant. He writes like this: “The cordiality of life is not in violation of these principles.” And he gives examples. When you say, “How are you today? How are things with your family?” as a matter of cordiality, this is not jana-sanga. But the prohibition is when you begin discussing personal matters and seek advice, “What do you think I should do about such and such in my personal life?” That is a confidential thing that should be reserved for persons who have remembrance of Krishna, understanding of Krishna, knowledge of Krishna, who can give the principles which govern or guide a life of Krishna consciousness.
Once Lord Caitanya was asked, “What are the characteristics of a devotee?” “asat-sanga-tyaga,—ei vaisnava-acara: a Vaisnava should always avoid the association of ordinary people.” Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. A Vaisnava should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of Lord Krishna.” ‘krsnabhakta’ ara… asadhu, ‘krsnabhakta’ ara.
This next verse is taken from the Eleventh canto, spoken by the Navayogendras to King Nimi. “For the conditioned souls, the human body is most difficult to achieve and it can be lost at any moment. But I think that even those who have achieved human life rarely gain the association of pure devotees who are very dear to the Lord of Vaikuntha.” vaikuntha-priya-darsanam (SB 11.2.29). Opportunity is there for vaisnava sanga. Make that your principal association and carefully avoid the other.
“O devotees, you are free from all sins. Let me inquire from you about that which is supremely auspicious for all living entities. Association with a pure devotee for even half a moment in this material world is the greatest treasure for human society.” So this is the alternative— sat-sanga instead of jana-sanga.
Another: “The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krishna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens, association with devotees is still the most essential.” Again, say yes to this one, and say no to the other one.
This is again Kapiladeva: “Association for sense gratification is certainly the path of bondage. But the same type of association performed with a saintly person leads to the path of liberation, even if performed without knowledge.” Saintly association is so auspicious that purification takes place and knowledge will awaken. The benefit discloses what the purpose is. Bondage is the alternative.
Here are some categories of detestable association: gross materialists, bogus sadhus, atheists, those who have faith in morality but no faith in God. Faith in morality but no faith in God is very common, VERY common, in the modern world today. Social activism or social service while having nothing to do with God is very popular. This mentality is very destructive to bhakti. Mayavadis are in this category also. Pretenders or dharma-dhvajis or vasandis—those who raise the flag of dharma but are who are in fact pretenders beyond the public view. There is one example of this from Caitanya-caritamrta, Ramdas Viswas. Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami traveled to visit Lord Caitanya in Puri twice. The second time as he was travelling, he met someone who appeared to be a Ram bhakta named Ramadasa Visvasa Pandita who was always chanting Rama’s name. He was elder compared to Raghunatha Bhatta. He was senior but he was taking a humble position. “No, you are a Vaisnava brahmana and I am a kayastha. I want to worship you and just hear from you.” Ramadasa served Raghunatha Bhatta in various ways, even massaging his legs. Raghunatha Bhatta was uncomfortable because he was looking at this person as very elder, very senior, very devoted to Lord Ramacandra. When Raghunatha Bhatta reached Puri, Lord Caitanya neglected Ramadasa Visvasa. Everyone was very surprised. It became revealed later that Ramadasa Visvasa Pandita was an impersonalist, even though it wasn’t so obvious because he was chanting “Rama” and talking about Rama. He didn’t have faith in Rama. Within his heart, he desired to merge into the existence of the Lord, and he was very proud of his learning.
Sometimes it is not so easy to detect principles that are operating within another’s life. We should be careful about those from whom we take intimate association. That’s the main point. Because we acquire the qualities of those with whom we associate, who you associate with intimately is very very important. If we get into the wrong kind of association, we can easily fall prey to sadhu-ninda, offending those who are truly pure and saintly.
The last of these three principles that we are covering today is laulyam—greed for something mundane, or achievements that are mundane, and being overly attached. Mundane laulyam destroys bhakti. Examples given by Bhaktivinoda Thakur include a desire to expand the mind by perfecting mystic yoga, merging into the existence of Brahman, or attaining whimsical material prosperity. These are all included within the category of greed. All attempts to acquire such material benefits from so-called spiritual advancement are impediments in attaining bhakti. Bhaktivinoda Thakur identifies that these different types of laulyam result in restlessness. When there is greed in the heart, you cannot focus your mind. Rather everything is seen in terms of attaining those things that you are greedy for. Unwholesome attachments are formed. Wrong kinds of aversions are formed. Intelligence becomes many-branched, just as described in Bhagavad Gita: bahu-sakha hy anantas ca buddhayo ’vyavasayinam (BG 2.41).
Here is a Bhagavad Gita verse. “There are three gates leading to hell—lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give up these, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.” Greed is one of the primary unwanted enemies of the soul. It destroys devotion.
There is such a thing as spiritual greed. That is wanted! Be greedy, be eager for pleasing Krishna. “Pure devotional service in Krishna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activities in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price, i.e. intense greed to obtain it. If it is available, one must purchase it without delay.” This is another way of defining sincerity. From the chapter of Nectar of Devotion which describes who is eligible for devotional service, eligibility is found in one who sincerely wants devotional service. “I sincerely want to move from the position of selfishness to the position of serving God with love.” One who sincerely wants that is eligible for devotional service. You can attain real bhakti when that desire becomes very strong. That is a good kind of greed or spiritual kind of greed—greedy to see “Krishna should be pleased. If there is something that is needed to achieve Krishna’s happiness, I am ready to pay that price, whatever it is.”
There is a nice song, one amongst many nice songs by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, where he speaks about Lord Caitanya giving Lord Nityananda authorization to conduct a business. The business is distributing the Holy Name. Lord Nityananda opens up franchises and anyone can become a franchisee, provided they take the pure Holy Name and they require the customer to pay the proper price. Lord Caitanya says that the proper price is faith. Any amount of faith. Just pay any amount of faith, and you can purchase the pure Holy Name from Lord Nityananda through one of his franchisees. Whatever the price is, pay it. If greed and eagerness—intense eagerness for pleasing Krishna—is the price, then, pay it. If you don’t have the asset to pay it, then gather the asset and pay it. A strong eagerness that Krishna should be pleased is the price for becoming freed from material contamination.
Here is another quote. krsna-bhakta—niskama, ata eva ‘santa’ bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami, sakali ‘asanta’ (CC Madhya Lila 19.149). Because a devotee of Lord Krishna is desire less, he is peaceful. On the other hand, furtive workers desire material enjoyment. Jnanis desire liberation and yogis desire the material opulence of mystic powers. Therefore, they are all lusty and cannot be peaceful.
Here a quote from Gandhi about greed: “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need, but not for man’s greed.”
How does greed spoil our devotion? Being too much eager for the fruits of our work brings upon us forgetfulness of our relationship with and dependence upon Krishna. It’s a trap of material existence! We are too much eager for our own gratification and we forget all about the purpose of life, the higher values of life, Krishna’s satisfaction.
Here’s a quote by Bhaktisiddhanta: “If one fails to give up the six faults, then the power to understand that Krishna Bhakti bestows the highest good for all living entities will be lost.” Bad! So, these six faults need to be checked. This is in his overall commentary on these verses.
And that’s the end! In review, what is today’s verse again? atyaharah prayasas ca prajalpo niyamagrahah jana-sangas ca laulyam ca sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati.
There is a saying: “A word to the wise ought to be sufficient.” Alternatively, a word to those who aren’t so wise is insufficient. Such persons require to hear the Truth again and again and again.
May your devotion to Krishna prosper and flourish, and develop very nicely and for that to happen, these items have to be very carefully observed. Discussion?
Devotee: Maharaj, we talked about all the six senses. For me, I have a particular struggle with one of them. Taking too much prasadam. Sometimes, when I have a food which I like most, I have to exercise self-control not to take beyond a reasonable limit. Like atyaharah, not taking more and more. That urge, I want to know how to control the urge on a general basis, because I struggle with that. Sometimes, I feel like eating more spicy food, and more sour-tasting food.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: I can think of several points. One of them is the tongue wants satisfaction. Consider how the tongue can derive satisfaction in a different way. One of the nicest ways to derive satisfaction for the tongue in a different way is chanting! If something is weighing heavily on one side of a pan-scale, place something of equal weight over on the other side. Cultivate a taste for chanting so when that urge to overeat comes, you can give the tongue something else that is equally satisfying, or more satisfying, something that you know that the tongue will feel satisfied with. The principle that I am speaking is something that Prabhupada gave us. In the very early days, he spoke. He said, “I heard from my God brothers who went to England when they approached the Marquis of Zetland, a man from Scotland, who previously had some post in India. So, now he is back in England. So, Lord Zetland wanted to know, “Can you make me a brahmana?” And they said, “Yes, we can make you a brahmana. You must follow these four things.” After hearing the four regulative principles, Lord Zetland replied, “Impossible!”” So, Prabhupada said, “I was thinking if Lord Zetland who had lived in India, and served in India with the British Government for some time, and had some appreciation for Indian culture, if he says, “Impossible!”, then, what would happen if I go to America? I thought as soon as I say these four principles, people would run the other way.” He was disclosing that’s what he was thinking. So, when he came, Srila Prabhupada didn’t give rules and regulations. He just gave prasadam and kirtan, and some classes. Then, more prasadam, more kirtan, and more classes. Some of the people he was interacting in those early days were people that had a habit of smoking cigarettes. So, they asked what to do. Prabhupada’s one advice he gave was, “Regulate! Smoke one in the evening and one in the morning!” And another was, “When you have that urge, chant Hare Krishna!” So, I am just taking that instruction that Prabhupada gave and applying it here. Regulate! You know what the urge is demanding of you, and since you know what might be good for you other than yielding to an unlimited urge, just set a standard of how much you will eat. And…that’s it! Just regulate the urge.
And give your tongue some greater satisfaction. Find something else that gives satisfaction. So, those are two principles.
A third principle is receiving the strength to control your urges on the order to do so! One verse in Bhagavad Gita teaches that one who is moderate, or temperate, in his habits of eating, sleeping, work, and recreation can be peaceful. You want to be peaceful, so follow the instruction. Within the instruction to do so, the capacity, the strength, to carry out the instruction is to be found. By taking shelter of the instruction and taking shelter of the instructor, you will find all the strength required to carry out the instruction. So, those are three principles.
Something Prabhupada shared with us was the following. “Sometimes,” Prabhupada said, “leaders of other organizations would come and speak to me and say, ‘How are you doing this? These were our people. They were part of our church and part of our practice. They weren’t coming, and now they are coming and following very carefully.'” One of the things that Prabhupada replied was, “They are doing so out of love. I am not paying them. I can ask them to give up their life and they will give up their life.” The principle of love is stronger than the principle of material conditioning. That’s on this third point. Because there is an instruction to do so, out of love you follow it.
Take the relationship between yourself and your daughter. There may be some things you wish your daughter would do and she may not want to do them. Some of the things you would like your daughter to do, she is happy to do. But some of them, she’s like “Oh mom!” But finally, obedience is there where there is love. So, apply that same principle in terms of your own spiritual life. As you allow your spiritual life to be ruled by love, you will discover a big hint—an explicit hint: it will help you in your mother/daughter relationship when your daughter consistently sees that you are ruled by love! It will make it easier for her to also be ruled by love. Is that alright?
Devotee: Maharaj, I really like your point about asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing; finding an emotional connection. I am a mother of a toddler. I need to move very swiftly through my services and there is no down time because there is a need to keep up or even keep one step ahead. But I also see how you move swiftly when you need to. There is that presence, and there is that purposefulness. I was wondering if you can help me understand how to move swiftly through services.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Krishna consciousness. There is no substitute. I don’t know one. The practice that I know how to reach that stage is primarily two. Chanting with presence. ‘Being present with Krishna’ while chanting carries over to whatever else you do, with the same sense of presence with Krishna. The second is being present in your relationship with spiritual master. When asking yourself “What is the purpose of this? Why am I doing this?” your thoughts naturally go to “Is this pleasing to my spiritual master?” I wouldn’t know anything about dhotis if it wasn’t for Prabhupada. I wouldn’t know about tilaka. I wouldn’t know anything about anything. The culture of no culture, that’s what I would know about. Certainly, a disciple’s relationship with his spiritual master is a prevailing one. One then remains present in that relationship.
I am really enjoying listening to Srila Prabhupada’s morning walk conversations. The one I was listening to just today was in Hyderabad. Several questions that were asked. One of them was by Satsvarupa Maharaj saying, “Srila Prabhupada, just yesterday, I was asked a question by one devotee: How do I know if the spiritual master is pleased with my activity? How do I know that he even knows what my activity is? Prabhupada has thousands of disciples, and how do I even know if he knows what I am doing, what to speak of how well I am doing.” There wasn’t a long silence, only a little silence. Then Prabhupada said, “Therefore, there is the temple president, and GBC. And they know.” And little pause on the other end. “Yes Prabhupada, temple president and GBC, but how does your disciple know if they are pleasing you?” And then, Prabhupada said, “Therefore, they must strictly follow.” The implication was to follow the niyamas. “They must strictly follow.” And then he listed some of the things that disciples should strictly follow. “Then, they should know that they are pleasing me.” This is the operative principle in one’s relationship with the spiritual master.
Your question was about a sense of presence that pervades everything. yat karosi yad asnasi yaj juhosi dadasi yat. The whole gamut, everything that you do, let it be on that principle. tat kurusva mad-arpanam (BG 9.27). Be present in that relationship when doing your day-to-day duties. Your relationship with Krishna may seem to be more remote. But the relationship with the spiritual master is more proximate, as the representative of Krishna. So, that relationship will help you to be present in each thing. And to the degree that is strong, it gives strength to all the other matters that one needs to be present with. The converse is also true. This is a core spiritual principle.
Devotee: There’s somebody I know. He used to attend the Sunday programs a lot like nine, ten, twelve years ago. But…
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Something happened?
Devotee: No. There’s a lot he likes about the Hare Krishna movement. But he had one sharp criticism about it.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Okay, welcome to the club! I’ve got a sharp criticism too, but I… anyway, go ahead. Keep going.
Devotee: His criticism was, on dietary things, the Hare Krishna movement was very…
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Very what?
Devotee: Like the examples he pointed was that like Ekadasi, fasting till noon on certain days, go without green in these certain months, go without dairy in that certain month. And it just becomes just… It’s a lot of … lot of… He said he didn’t understand why. He said vegetarianism is great.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Great! So, do that!
Devotee: So, he asked me why we do you go through Ekadasi and do all these things.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: There’s an answer! If he wants to know the answer, there’s an answer. If he doesn’t want to do that, then just come to the temple and take prasadam. Chant and dance. There’s a reason, if he really wants to know what the reason is.
Devotee: To prepare for like a fasting, you know, if it comes to…
Romapada Swami Maharaj: If he can’t fast, then he does not need to fast. It’s not rigid. As far as chanting the holy name of Krishna, there’s no hard and fast rule. Is he chanting Hare Krishna?
Devotee: I really don’t know. My gut instinct is, I would say, very little if any at all.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: For the regulations he does not understand, he can ask. Even then, he can follow what he feels comfortable following. But he should chant Hare Krishna. That which he has clarity on, do that. That which you don’t have clarity on, seek clarity. And until you seek clarity, don’t make the error of one these two niyamagraha points. Just reject regulations blindly. “I don’t know what’s going here, so I just reject them.” Or, just follow them blindly. He doesn’t want to be a blind follower; that is GOOD! But he shouldn’t be a blind rejecter either. And if he is not clear, then, wait till he is clear before he just follows. There are lots of why questions. One of the things that I appreciate a lot about the approach which Srila Prabhupada took was that he answered the why questions. He anticipated them, he raised them, and he gave the answers to them. Not just because my grandmother did it, that’s why I do it. But why did my grandmother do it? Well, because her grandmother did it. And why did her grandmother do it? Substantial answers to the why questions is required. What’s the reason? There are reasons why. If there are things one doesn’t understand the reasons why, no problem. But if you understand why it is important to sing and praise and vibrate the holy name of God, then, do that. If you don’t understand, then, ask why. It’s good not to be a blind follower.
Devotee: What happened with the IIT Delhi students? Is the program still going on?
Romapada Swami Maharaj: The person guiding them eventually left his post as a professor, and the students graduated. They went somewhere else and they are now living in their professional careers. But many of them are continuing their practices. From time to time, in the course of my travels, I meet people who introduce themselves saying “Do you remember me?” “No, sorry, I don’t remember you.” “I was a student at the IIT program. I got ambushed when I went out to pursue my career. But I didn’t forget those days.” So, the impression is there, whether they are following or not. But many are very carefully following.
Devotee: Maharaj, jana-sanga how it spoils bhakti, we understand. But I have one question about that. If one is situated in a condition where there is no association of devotees, in that kind of situation, how can one get inspired?
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Through the asset of modern technology, association is readily available. Take your pick!
Devotee: The reason I am asking is that one of the devotees who left St. Louis, I was talking to him and he was saying that he has no temple and no association of devotees.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: My answer is still the same answer. There are some people in some very remote places. I was in Chicago just before coming here and someone is about to move to the Arctic circle in the northern-most part of Canada, where there are no devotees. They were seeking guidance how to help other people become devotees and how to stay connected with the current set of devotees. This is possible through technology. And there’s all kinds of classes which use a technology which allows you to see the speaker, not just hear them. Then, from time to time, come pay visit to your favorite devotees. From time to time, they’ll come pay a visit. So, there’s electronic and there’s personal association. Eventually, through preaching you can make devotees. Even a few. Then you have association.
Devotee: I was thinking of this niyamagrahah, which has to do with scriptural rules and regulations. Does this refers only to the four principles that we follow, or what?
Romapada Swami Maharaj: No, it refers to all of the procedures that we observe, like these weird dietary things, like following Ekadasi, and those kinds of niyamas.
Devotee: Because there is a lot of scriptural rules and regulations.
Romapada Swami Maharaj: Sure. Let us consider foremost the items given in the Nectar of Devotion. Those are examples of niyamas. There are offenses to be avoided when doing seva, or seva-aparadhas. Those are examples of niyamas. There are two kinds: Vidhis and nisedhas, things to be done and things not to be done. Niyamas include both of them. Items of devotional service and offenses to be avoided, not just the four principles. Alright?
Thank you very much!