Lecture 1 (Canto 2 Chapter 1 Verse 10 – 11)
Question: How does one test if I am developing taste for the holy name?
Romapada Swami Answers: Are you asking “What is the litmus test to see if one is developing taste for the holy name?” Do you want a short answer or long one?
Inquirer: Long one!
Romapada Swami Answers: Long one! (Laughter) I shouldn’t have asked (joking). Mahanidhi Svami has written a very nice book called the “Art of Chanting the Holy Name”, and you can read that book. That is the long one. I like the message from Srimad Bhagavatam where Lord Kapiladeva says to Devahuti, essentially, the test of taste is when “Effort is no longer required.” The mind just goes to Krishna. When the sound of Krsna’s name is there, the mind is spontaneously drawn. Prior to that in the mode of goodness. One wants purification, one wants to bring the mind to the holy name. Effort is required. This is still in the stage of developing taste. But when taste is present, effort is not required. Just like when you are thirsty, your body is telling you, “Water!” This craving for water is effortless! The mode of goodness is more like, “OK, I have to drink a little water now because it is healthy to drink a certain amount of water each day.”
When taste for the Holy Name has developed, a lack of interest in so many mundane things naturally develops, which may previously have been abundant in one’s life. For example, in the workplace, people talk about “stuff”, but you are not interested in that “stuff”. However, if we allow the mind to become interested in some part of that “stuff”, this will serve as a deterrent for taste to develop.
If I may, I will get explicit. Some of the persons who are sadhakas practicing devotional service, are trying to go further along the path of devotion. They should scrutinize how their day is broken up into various blocks of time, how they spend time on different activities. In the beginning stages, one of the things that disappears is TV, at least to the point of watching only news, that too only while eating (to save time). I have heard this from some newer devotees. That shows at least a beginning desire for purification, moving slightly in the direction of developing taste. Such a beginner is at least committed to completing his rounds – while still maintaining the attachment for watching the news. This lingering attachment is an indication that the mind is still attracted to “stuff”. And everyone knows here what their favorite variety of “stuff” is ~ something that is just a time waster or a mind pollutant, which keeps one from a taste for the holy name. That is a sign that taste is not there yet. One who is seriously looking for taste would be looking to eliminate such habits which are just time wasters. “Stuff” is not necessarily horrible sinful conduct, just useless distractions, time wasters. Lot of people who work in offices, software people, cruise on the internet, wasting time on mind-polluting “stuff”. If you have some time to burn, do something else with your time! For example, you can read a sloka, recite one of your favorite prayers or passages from Srimad Bhagavatam. Absorb your mind in something elevating. When one is drawn to such elevating things, rather than to “stuff”, that is a sign that taste is beginning to develop.
As I mentioned during class, build an environment around your life such that the message of transcendence will fructify. Fertilize the soil. Make the atmosphere in which you lead your life conducive for the message to go more deeply, more deeply, more deeply. Live a life in the quality of goodness.
Here is a real simple example: Srila Prabhupada described that a brahmana is one who will make the surroundings of their workplace clean before beginning their work. It is just the sign of a brahmana. Also, they leave the place cleaner than when they got there. Make the atmosphere in your home or workplace very clean as a habit or as a principle you live by. Don’t leave it up to other family members to make your personal space clean. Cleanliness is a principle of life. It is the right atmosphere for the development for spiritual quality of life. In your career, in your academic work – whatever your situation may be – keep things clean.
Absence of taste means there is clutter everywhere. It is just a symptom. It is a simple principle. Very quickly one can understand things about oneself by this litmus test, like you are asking. When the frame of your life is goodness, and things that are not conducive to an atmosphere of goodness, or elevation and purification in your life, you eliminate them. One who is practiced like that is eligible for taste. One who is situated in taste is always like that.
Just on this point of cleanliness, Hari Sauri described that Srila Pranbhupada’s standards of cleanliness were impeccable. In his physical presence, Srila Prabhupada would not allow his disciples to have unclean habits. If they had unclean habits, he would correct them. In correcting their unclean habits, he would be gentle the first time. And if they didn’t correct it, he would really let them have it the second time. He was just very intolerant of continued bad habits in terms of cleanliness. He was not a cleanliness-phobia person. It was just his quality. What is inside comes outside. How conscientious we are about how we keep the circumstances around us certainly has bearing on how conscientious we are inside. It is not that one automatically takes care of the other, and that we do not have to do anything about our internal cleanliness. But it gives some indication.