Lecture 1 (Canto 2 Chapter 1 Verse 7 – 9)
Inquirer: You gave the example of how spiritual knowledge cannot be obtained by electric touch. In Lord Caitanya’s pastimes it is described that anybody coming in contact with Him got ecstatic love of Godhead. How do we understand this influence?
Romapada Swami Answers: Lord Caitanya’s influence was spiritual influence. When you stand next to a fire you get warm. When in contact with Lord Caitanya or Lord Nityananda, by their ecstatic love others were influenced. In a milder fashion, how is it that by the association with the devotees you were benefitted? It was by spiritual influence, by sanga. How is it contrasted? It is not some mystical thing where I touch and some electrical charge passes. It’s not like that. Lord Caitanya didn’t become wasted after transmitting love of God to others. When that is feigned, it is just a show. That is the idea.
Inquirer: In the beginning of the lecture you mentioned that the impersonalists don’t get attracted to reading Bhagavatam in the same way that a devotees does. How did Sukadeva Gosvami, who was an impersonalist, get attracted?
Romapada Swami Answers: Sukadeva Gosvami was not a mayavadi. He was realized in Brahman. We make a distinction between mayavadi and brahmavadi. Mayavadi has a hard-core attitude towards the personal feature of the Absolute Truth …. No acceptance, false, maya. Sukadeva Goswami became influenced by the all attractive, transcendental, fully on the liberated platform, advaya tattva of the personality of Godhead because he was already fully on the spiritual platform. In contrast, what was the approach that Lord Caitanya took when interacting with Prakasananda Saraswati, who was a mayavadi? Humble persuasion and spiritual influence. The prior nasty attitude that Prakasananda Saraswati had towards Lord Caitanya and towards the Personality of Godhead melted. The ice melted because of Lord Caitanya’s compassion. That’s how it happens. Does that answer your question?
Inquirer: Yes. Can you please elaborate on what is the exact difference between mayavadi and a brahmavadi? Is it that a mayavadi is an impersonalist with an attitude problem?
Romapada Swami Answers: It’s a technical thing. Prabhupada uses the word impersonalist generally to refer to mayavadis. The four Kumaras and Sukadeva Gosvami were brahmavadi impersonalists; they had actually realized the Brahman feature of the Supreme. Mayavadis don’t have that realization. Their realization is “not this, not this, not this.” It is not realization. It is mental speculation. When Sukadeva Gosvami heard Srimad Bhagavatam or when the four Kumaras were at the gate of Vaikuntha they did not have an attitude problem. “Oh, such a wonderful fragrance of the Tulasi buds and sandalwood adorning the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, how attractive!” While it is a characteristic that one has an attitude and the other does not have an attitude, the distinction has more to do with the state of consciousness that a brahmavadi has, namely a positive realization of the Brahman feature of the Absolute Truth. The mayavadi does not have such realization. The mayavadi’s position and doctrine is so different from the positon of a Buddhist. The language is different, but the conception of the goal is very much the same idea. The Buddhist also does not have positive conception of the Brahman feature of the Absolute Truth. Between the two, our acaryas describe that the Buddhists are better because there is not the attempt to say what the personality of Godhead is. They make no attempt to put forward a definition of God or the soul. But the mayavadi says that God cannot have this and cannot have that. “He Who has everything cannot have this and cannot have that!” This is directly offensive, as well as patently misleading.
Inquirer: Maharaja, you mentioned that Pariksit Maharaja’s qualification was sincerity.
Romapada Swami Answers: NOD mentions that the eligibility of a candidate for devotional service is sincerity or eagerness to have being accepted as one of Krsna’s devotees. Laulyam is Rupa Goswami’s Sanskrit term, which literally means greed, an unshakable urge to have something. That is the qualification to be engaged in devotional service. Maharaja Pariksit had that qualification. Sukadeva Gosvami recognized him for having it. Our stage may be less intense but a strong urge to be engaged in Krsna’s service needs to be there at least to a certain degree. Otherwise Maya will entice us with so many other options!
Inquirer: On the same lines as the discussion, for one who has attained Brahman realization is it logical for him to graduate where he can really know Krishna and see Krishna, or is there a process?
Romapada Swami Answers: There is a process. It’s not by evolution from the stage of Brahman realization that it will happen; it’s by mercy that it will happen. It happened in the case of Sukadeva Gosvami because of mercy, association with his father. It happened in the case of Kumaras because of the mercy of Lord Visnu. If there is no descending mercy one will remain in the Brahman realized position. To say the same thing in different way ~ for devotional service to manifest, for attraction to the personal feature of God to awaken, to wish to serve Him, for that to manifest ~ there is a process. A catalytic agent is required. An agent representing the down-flow of Krsna’s mercy comes in the form of His representatives. And they carry that mercy like the wind carries pollen. The pollen comes from the flower. The wind carries the pollen and people who have allergies start to sneeze. The devotees are the carriers of the mercy particle of the dust of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. And they just want to distribute it. So the brahmavadi can become the appreciator of the personal feature of the Supreme by contact with such carriers of Krsna’s mercy. That is the process.
Inquirer: So, these devotees of Krishna who are in an impersonal relationship with Krishna, by definition, then have the realization of Brahman?
Romapada Swami Answers: Let us clarify two things. You used the term “impersonal relationship with Krishna.” Inherent within this phrase is a contradiction of terms. “Relationship” means two beings relating with one another, while ‘Impersonal” denies that any personality even exists in the Absolute realm of Reality. Best if you reconsider the language of your question, because the question itself has self-contradictory notions.
Secondly, anyone who is engaged in devotional service is to be understood to be already situated on the Brahman platform. Why? Because devotional service is rendered from the platform of Brahman, according to Bhagavad Gita.
brahmabhuta prsannatma na socati na kanksati,
samag sarvesu bhutesu madbhaktim labhate param.
Bhakti is situated on brahman platform, therefore so is the bhakta. Consider: one can intermittently move from the platform of devotional service, then back to the material platform, then back again to devotional service. It happens, commonly. I may be situated on the platform of devotional service and then check out. “Out to lunch” …. “Nobody home” …. Put everything into the off mode. This happens simply by not alert to the mood of devotion. When one is situated properly in devotion, however, that person is on the platform of Brahman.
With that understanding, the next logical thing for the sincere devotee is trying to become situated steadily in devotional service rather than intermittently – Nistha Bhakti instead of Anisthita Bhakti, unsteady. That’s what we are all working on. During this “in-between” stage one must be sincerely rendering devotional service in practice, which results in eradication of impurities of heart. That’s our project right now. Your question is directly addressed in the Bhagavatam: the bridge that carries one from anistha to nistha bhakti requires descending mercy, not our effort alone. To attain steadiness in bhakti is quite unlike academics or some other ascending process, where we may just keep plugging away at it….or, similarly, most of the everyday lessons of life which we learn largely from our material experience, where we summon together our resources, the fruits of our past pious activities in the form of knowledge and strength and abilities, and just keep working at it ~ with the hope that eventually we will prevail. Devotional service has a totally different set of rules. One has to turn to the bearers of the mercy of the Supreme Lord and take shelter there. When Krishna sees that disposition then whatever we require comes. Then our realization will be “Krsna is real! He is my dear-most friend!” This sequence follows predictably, in due course of time. The process is very scientific. Conversely, when we start to think that “I am doing it”, Krishna disappears. The mercy disappears. At least it seems to disappear from our lives. Every time one becomes proud, one adopts the “Doer Mentality”, the “I am going to do it” mentality, descending mercy of Bhakti just disappears. We become situated in another energy. We connect ourselves with the deluding potency of the Supreme Lord. The process of Bhakti is nice. We see ourselves as factually dependent on the Supreme proprietor, the Supreme controller, our very best friend. That’s the transcendental position.
Coming back to your question, even for someone who has an attitude towards Krishna problem, by a properly guided approach to the Absolute Truth, doubts can be removed, misconceptions can be addressed ~ when we are placed within proper and descending mercy.