The Authorized Sri Caitanya Saraswata Parampara
Part Three – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service, Chapter 14 – Bhajana—Real and Apparent
Part Three – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service, Chapter 14 – Bhajana—Real and Apparent
“Promotion is inevitable if we always try to adhere to the lower duty. Eagerness for promotion is the enemy. That is for pratiṣṭhā (renown), and that will undermine everything.”
Devotee: I have heard that some ācāryas hold that smaraṇa, internal remembrance, is of prime importance as a devotional service to the Lord, above even kīrtana or chanting; or is it subservient to kīrtana?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: There are some who are of that opinion because smaraṇa is exclusively connected with consciousness, or more concerned with the subtle part of our existence; so that should be the most effective form of sādhana, or means to the end. But our Guru Mahārāja, and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, and also Kavirāja Gosvāmī Prabhu, laid stress on kīrtana—especially for the beginners. Guru Mahārāja says in his song Vaiṣṇava Ke? (‘Who is a Vaiṣṇava?’):
kīrtana prabhāve, smaraṇa haibe,
se kāle bhajana nirjana sambhava
‘‘Internal remembrance can occur by the power of kīrtana, and only then is solitary service possible.”
Nirjana-bhajana or smaraṇa, exclusive solitary devotion unconscious of the environment is not at all possible for beginners. And Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says (Bhakti-sandarbha, saṅkhya 273):
yadyapy anyā bhaktiḥ kalau kartavyā
“In this Kali-yuga, of the nine basic forms of Devotional Practices, the forms other than kīrtana certainly should be practised, but they must be conducted subserviently to kīrtana.”
This is the principle of Mahāprabhu’s preaching. Kirtana has its own special characteristic, particularly in Kali-yuga. Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said:
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
“O King, the age of Kali, the repository of all evils, has but one glorious characteristic: in this age, those who simply chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa are liberated and reach the Supreme Lord.” (Bhāg. 12.3.51)
Also, Śrila Madhvācārya has written in his commentary on Muṇḍakopaniṣad:
dvāparīyair janair viṣṇuḥ pañcarātraiś tu kevalaiḥ
kalau tu nāma-mātrena pūjyate bhagavān hariḥ
“In Dvāpara-yuga, Lord Viṣṇu is exclusively worshipped by the people according to the principles of Deity worship delineated in the Pañcarātra Scripture, but in Kali-yuga, the Supreme Lord Hari is worshipped only by the chanting of His Holy Name.” (quoted from Śrī Nārāyaṇa-saṁhitā)
In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, when the incarnation of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is mentioned (Bhāg. 11.5.32), the method by which the people will worship Him is also given: yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ. Here, yajñah means sacrifice, dedication, which is saṅkīrtana-praya, or saṅkīrtana-pradhāna, which means ‘predominated by saṅkīrtana, the congregational chanting of the Holy Name;’ and this is performed by those endowed with sufficient piety. So, in this Age of Iron, kīrtana has its own special privilege, granted by the Supreme Lord—Mahāprabhu’s speciality is preaching, kīrtana. He inaugurated and conducted hari-kīrtana.
So kīrtana has been accepted by our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, and others. To write about the Lord is also within the jurisdiction of kīrtana. To preach is assertion—to take the message to others.
So also, to be engaged in answering the questions of the environment automatically demands concentration, which is very rare in this age. When one is doing kīrtana, he automatically cannot but give all concentration and attention. He cannot speak independently; intuitively, he must be all-attentive. For this reason, kīrtana has been recommended to be the highest form of bhajana, especially in the age of Kali.
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā-bhakti
‘kṛṣṇa-prema,’ ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana
‘‘Of all forms of divine service, nine forms are superior, which with great potency bestow upon the devotees love for Kṛṣṇa, and their personal relationship with Him; and of the nine, the best is nāma-saṅkīrtana. By offenselessly taking the holy name, the treasure of love for the Lord is attained.” (C.c. Antya-līlā 4.70-71)
Mahāprabhu also accepted five principal limbs from the nine that are mentioned in the Bhāgavatam as śravaṇam kīrtanaṁ, etc:
sādhu-saṅga, nāma-kīrtana, bhāgavata-śravaṇa
mathurā-vāsa, śrī-mūrtira śraddhāya sevāna
“Association with the pure devotee, chanting the holy name, hearing the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, residing in Mathurā-dhāma, and faith-fully worshipping the Deity.” (C.c. Madhya-līlā 22.128)
Of these five, Mahāprabhu has given nāma-saṅkīrtana the highest position. Nāma-saṅkīrtana is considered best of all by the ācāryas. That was especially given by our Guru Mahārāja, and the basis is supported by the śāstra, scriptures. But if other ācāryas have shown preference for smaraṇa in any instance, that will be in the sense that kīrtana may be in the relativity of the material environment, whereas smaraṇa is independent of the material consideration. From that point of view, smaraṇa may be recommended as the highest, but that is not accepted in a general way. It may be a special opinion.
In Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has clarified that there are two types of devotees in the stage just prior to attaining the highest plane of paramahaṁsa or uttama–adhikārī. The devotees who cross the middle stage (madhyama-adhikārī) and reach towards occupying the highest position are called devotees in the stage of premārurukṣu. They are classified in two sections—goṣṭhyānandī and viviktānandī (or bhajanānandi). The first are always engaged in preaching, and the second take to smaraṇa or nirjana-bhajana—a solitary life of worship, without mixing with the environment. It does not prove that one is superior to the other. The viviktānandīs generally like secluded life and go on with smaraṇa; and those who are of the goṣṭhyānandī type go on with kīrtana, preaching, and also attain the highest position without coming to the school of exclusive smaraṇa. Those who have attained the highest plane are known as premārūḍha.
Guru Mahārāja clearly said that when we are in a lower position, smaraṇa is injurious. Rather, we should take to kīrtana. Kīrtana prabhāve, smaraṇa haibe, se kāle bhajana nirjana sambhava. The sahajiyā school (imitationists) are more fond of smaraṇa than kīrtana. They are ‘followers’ of smaraṇa. They lead a secluded life, and mentally they go on identifying themselves with a particular sakhī of their own age, her duty, her place of attendance in a particular place of Vṛndāvana, in a particular līlā, under the guidance of a particular sakhī, and so on. They are required to go on meditating on all these things by their so-called guru. That is the process amongst the sahajiyā school, but we do not admit that. We consider it all false and imaginary. They are not fit for the plane. They do not have real sambandha-jñāna, knowledge of what is what. They only go on with the habitual repetition of a particular mental speculation, but anartha-nivṛtti (purging of evils) or any other process based on it cannot be effected thereby. Their imagined achievement is sheer concoction. They are not aware of the facts—the ontological gradation from Virajā to Brahmaloka, Vaikuṇṭha and Goloka. They are pukūra–curiwāle—’pond thieves.’ To think one can steal a pond is self-deception. We think that kind of ‘smaraṇa’ to be something like self-deception.
For example, Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Bābājī Mahārāja went on with smaraṇa. Once, there was another bābājī who constructed a kuṭīra nearby, a small hut, and he went on imitating Gaura Kiśora Bābājī, doing mādhukarī (subsisting on alms), sitting and meditating, and wearing similar cloth. Then once Bābājī remarked, “If a lady enters into a maternity ward, she cannot produce a child only by imitating the sounds and symptoms of labour. Many things are necessary before that!” So only by imitating the Paramahaṁsa Bābājī, bhajana cannot be effected. One must have connection with śuddha-sattva, the real plane, and then all the higher symptoms may appear. Otherwise, all those speculative antics will manifest.
nā uṭhiyā vṛkṣopari, ānāṭāni phala dhari’
duṣṭa-phala karile arjana
(Kalyāṇa-kalpataru, Upadeśa 18)
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that if one wants fruits without taking the trouble to climb the tree, what sort of fruits can he expect? The fruits will be ruined, or rotten. Without proper progression, it is all imagination—a madman’s feat. One must gradually reach the plane of truth, śuddha-sattva. There are so many planes to cross—Bhūr, Bhuvar, Svar, Mahā, Jana, Tapa, Satya-loka, Virajā, Brahmaloka. Mahāprabhu says that the creeper of bhakti grows and rises up to Goloka, and she has to cross all these planes.
upajiyā bāḍe latā ‘brahmāṇḍa’ bhedi’ yāya
‘virajā,’ ‘brahmaloka,’ bhedi’ ‘paravyoma’ pāya
tabe yāya tad upari ‘goloka-vṛndāvana’
‘kṛṣṇa-caraṇa’-kalpavṛkṣe kare ārohaṇa
“The creeper of devotion is born, and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Virajā river and the Brahman plane, and reaches to the Vaikuṇṭha plane. Then it grows further up to Goloka Vṛndāvana, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.” (C.c. Madhya līlā 19.153-4)
But the pseudo-devotees do not care to know what is Paravyoma, what is Brahmaloka, what is Virajā, what is the brahmāṇḍa. Without caring to know about these things, they approach any guru, receive some mantram, and go on meditating. But in such a stage, if one goes on meditating upon Rādhā-Govinda līlā, instead of entering Rādhā-Govinda līlā, he will rather entangle with the ladies and gents of this world. He will become entangled in the domain of lust and he will have to go to hell instead of going up to Goloka.
Carma-māṁsamaya—kāma, prema—cidānanda dhāma. The carnal appetite is lust, whereas love is the abode of divine ecstasy. So imitation is not success. It rather degrades. Imitation degrades. Imagination is only a mental exercise.
Devotee: What if that mental exercise is done with faith?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Mind is separate. Śraddhā is connected with soul, ātmā, and mind is matter. Mind is material: a part of material potency. This is also clarified in Gītā 7.4:
bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṇkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
Mind is a product of the material potency, and the jīva is a product of parāśakti, the principal potency; and śvarūpa-śakti, the Lord’s personal potency, is higher than the jīva. The nature of the mind is mental speculation (manodharma). That has nothing to do with truth. That is drawn from the material world, the world of misconception. The mind is full of misconception (avāṅ–mānaso gocaraḥ). Mind cannot reach the stage of feeling or perceiving truth proper. It is only related to mundane things or exploitation.
Devotee: But isn’t pure mind a product of śraddhā?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Mind cannot be pure, just as a fossil cannot produce life. Similarly, mind cannot produce śraddhā. Śraddhā is original and fundamental. When the Supreme Lord appears in the heart, mind vanishes. Reality is just the opposite. Darkness cannot produce light—light comes, darkness vanishes. So truth appears when real pure consciousness appears, and mental speculation vanishes. The mind is concerned with misconception. It is an element of the aparāśakti, the inferior potency. That potency is both subtle and gross. Earth, water, fire, air and ether are gross; mind, intelligence and ego are subtle; but they’re all material. Soul is transcendental. And svarūpa-śakti or the Lord’s personal potency, bhajana or divine service, and Goloka-Vaikuṇṭha are all supra-mundane and transcendental—on the other side of the soul, not on the lower side where the mind is located. Mind emerges from the ego, that is, the false ego, and it is made of the exploiting tendency. But Mahāprabhu says, mora mana—vṛndāvana: ‘‘My speculation is on the other side—Vṛndāvana.” That is not an element of this mundane plane.
Devotee: So there is a pure mind?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Properly speaking, the word ‘mind’ does not deserve to be used in this context at all, otherwise everything will be wrongly equated. The residents of Goloka also possess senses, etc., but the affairs of the mundane world are never one with that. The mundane mentality is a product of exploitation, sense-exploitation.
We need relief from this mind. We are surrounded by poisonous thought. In the narration of the tridaṇḍi-sannyāsī in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, all the disciplines are common in that the mind should be checked.
dānaṁ svadharmo niyamo yamaś ca
śrutaṁ ca karmāṇi ca sad-vratāni
paro hi yogo manasaḥ samādhiḥ
“Charity, constant and conditional prescribed duties, mental and sensual control, hearing the scriptures, holy vows and duties—all these are observed to gain subjugation of the mind. Mental control is known as the supreme yoga.” (Bhāg. 11.23.45)
Devotee: You were talking about kīrtana; I have read that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says that japa (private chanting) is also related to kīrtana (congregational chanting, or preaching), and also that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says there are three types of japa, namely mānasika or mental, vācika or vocal, and upāṁśu or whispered. Which is proper for us, and which is the most effective?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: In upāṁśu there is no sound, only movement of the lips; and in mānasika there is no lip movement. You ask which is superior of the three types?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Whatever is internally real will be superior. Japa must be genuine, not imitative. Our attention should always be towards the negative side. If we can practice that in a real way, our promotion cannot be checked. But without qualification, if we are very eager to go upward, there will be a tendency to fall down. Dāsyāya te mama raso ‘stu raso ‘stu satyam: “May I have the aspiration for servitude.” For bhajana or internal service, such a temperament should always be followed. Tad Dāsa-Dāsa-dāsānāṁ Dāsatvaṁ dehi me prabho.
Promotion is inevitable if we always try to adhere to the lower duty. Eagerness for promotion is the enemy. That is for pratiṣṭhā (renown), and that will undermine everything. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that imitation arises from the attraction for pratiṣṭhā or desire to hold the superior position and acquire a name for oneself. That is the great enemy. Don’t fall prey to that pratiṣṭhā, eagerness to hold the higher position. Rather, dainyam—humility, is the healthy sign of a devotee.
Devotee: Mahārāja, we see in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa that sometimes the glories of silent chanting are mentioned, and then in other places we see that the glories of chanting very loudly, as in the case of Hari Dāsa Ṭhākura, are extolled. So, what is the adjustment?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Only a theoretical understanding won’t help you much. Try to catch the spirit of the thing. When backed by the sādhu, the guru of very high type, you can do anything. By the grace of his support, whatever kīrtana, etc., you may do, will be effective. Meditating may have been praised as more efficient in a particular context, but if you venture to superficially try and chant in that way, the opposition will be so great you’ll be nowhere—you will turn to be an atheist. It can happen if you don’t have sufficient support to fight against the odds. Don’t venture to attack the enemy when your position is weak. But when backed by the great generals and many munitions, you must march on. That will help us to engage in real kīrtana.
The real factor is sādhu-saṅga. It has association with the higher power. Otherwise, nothing has any value. The stand must be taken on the real plane—sādhu and śāstra—we must cultivate the real thing. That is the all-important factor always—to keep up the reality of the bhajana. For the weaker devotee, the sādhaka or aspirant, the greatest necessity is sādhu-saṅga, and the scriptures are necessary for knowledge. Sādhu-śāstra-kṛpā. Then kīrtana will be best.
Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura says that one feeds himself, another feeds thousands and feeds himself. Who’s the greater? Kīrtana is to cultivate oneself and help many others to cultivate at the same time. But when you have no capital of your own, if you go to preach you will meet such opposition, asat-saṅga, that the aṅkura, the bud, will be nipped. In that case, if you are kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, neophyte, don’t go to attack others without vigorous backing. Kīrtana means to preach, or to attack others in a sense. Don’t venture, as kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. You’ll be turned into an atheist. Only after passing through the proper stages—śravaṇa-daśā, varana-daśā, sādhana-daśā and prāpana-daśā (the phases of hearing, acceptance, practice, and attainment)—then you can preach independently (āpana-daśā). Otherwise, only with the help of someone in prāpana-daśā can you go to preach.
We should have an immovable connection with reality, an absolute conception of reality. Such a stable position is necessary. Invulnerable. A sure position, what is what—sambandha-jñāna. Then we shall be able to understand and harmonize the differences that we find in the writings of the ācāryas; what applies where—under what circumstances a particular line has been advised to be taken up, and under what circumstances another has been advised. Practical knowledge.
Devotee: Mahārāja, this morning we were talking about humility. What is the perfection of humility for the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: It may vary for different persons. So one has to think out his own way. Humility means ‘to not encroach on the rights of others.’ And also, it should not be such as to kill one’s own self. It must be natural.
At the time of entering the present Bagh Bazaar Maṭha (of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Calcutta), there was a festival. From a rented house, the Deities were brought on a chariot in procession. There was chanting and dancing, and the Deities were installed in the new Temple. Mahā-prasādam was distributed. At twelve or one o’clock that night we went to bed. My bed was just nearby the bed of one of my godbrothers, a learned professor. He was very humble. In the morning, the professor said to me, speaking very slowly, ‘‘Last night, I felt so much weakness that I thought I was dying. I thought that I would arouse you, but then again I thought, ‘No, why should I disturb the Vaiṣṇava? He’s so tired tonight, and having his rest, so let me wait;’ and after waiting a little I gained some strength, so I did not have to disturb you. But I’m still very weak now.” Very slowly, and soberly, he told these things. He was dying, and he did not arouse me, only for fear of disturbing my rest.
When I heard these things from his lips that morning, although of course he put it very gently, it struck me like thunder! I at once went to Prabhupāda and informed him that such was the case: “A gentleman was almost dying last night—but he was too meek to disturb me.” Prabhupāda and the devotees also knew of our professor godbrother’s nature. They took the matter seriously and immediately called for a doctor.
Sometimes I think such humility to be dangerous. The disciple’s life is a valuable property of his Guru Mahārāja, not merely his own. He’s not to be concerned with only his interest, but he should live in the interest of his Gurudeva. I could not appreciate such humility.
Everything must be of a real characteristic—connected with reality. I am thirsty—perhaps I won’t request any Vaiṣṇava, “Please help me with a glass of water.” Then my disease may continue, for the sake of penny-wise pound-foolishness. Common sense should be utilized always.
Devotee: Just before Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Mahārāja left the world, he was in Vṛndāvana. He was lying on the bed, unable to eat anything; his condition was so bad he could barely take even a glass of water. But I marked that when anyone visited him, he would, even in that condition, always say to the devotees, “Give them prasādam.” He himself could not eat anything.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Yes, he wanted to travel through the whole of Vṛndāvana and circumambulate Govardhana by bullock-cart. But Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s help was sought, and he came and was somehow able to dissuade him from that plan. Despite his serious condition of health, Swami Mahārāja wanted to go to all the places of līlā like Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Govardhana, offer obeisances, and return.
So the fact is that anything in connection with God—all types of bhajana—all are good. We are not against anything of that type. But we must consider what will be most effective according to our capacity. At the same time, we must not commit any offense by omission. If we say that smaraṇa is superior and that the other types of bhajana like pāda-sevāna, etc., are of a lower order, how can we be so audacious as to condemn them in such a way? Still, we may distinguish very cautiously, but not merely to satisfy our curiosity. Only when the necessity arises shall we venture to establish the superiority of Lakṣmī over Śukadeva, or Ambarīṣa, and so on. But we must not venture to make light of such matters. These are all serious points.
To consider one Vaiṣṇava over another is not a game, the points are very subtle. They are devotees, and we must not venture to place one above the other according to our crude necessity. It is not an academic exercise that as a professor we shall amass some theoretical knowledge to quote to the students. It should not be accepted in that line. We shall always be conscious of the practical side: “They are so great, and where am I? Who am I passing judgement over?” There should be some limit to our adventurous audacity.
Devotee: My friend was relating last night that you once said ‘humility is accepting no position.’
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Yes. ‘No position,’ because a servant has no independent position—his position is always on the command of the master. He’s always situated within infinite possibility. But he’s humble to his master, not to the guṇḍās (rogues). His humility must be chiefly towards whom? “I am humble, the lowest of the low, to whom? Towards my master. I am humble towards the Lord’s own, the Vaiṣṇava. I am humble there.” When it is necessary for Hanumānjī to burn the golden city of Laṅkā, his humility is not disturbed. He is as humble as anyone can be in carrying out the order of Lord Rāmacandra. He is fully given, wholly surrendered.
Humility, in other words, is surrendering. Humility means no opposition to the command of the master who is related to Vaikuṇṭha, the upper section; not to the ordinary street zone, or tiger, or serpent. Humility does not drag them into the relativity of the serpent, tiger or jackal. Their real relationship is with the Vaiṣṇava. That is the plane where the devotee takes his stand. He’s concerned with the Vaiṣṇava. And ‘humble’ means that he does not resist his master’s instruction. Without opposition, he carries out whatever order comes to him. He is humble. He possesses humility, sunīcatā. He is not sitting on a seat of prejudice. Generally, we think of humility as pertaining to the outside world, but this is not the meaning. To the standard-thinking person, the members of the outside world are deluded—they are mad. Humility is not in the standard of madness, or catering to the mad people. A madman has no standard of his own. So humility means to have a standard from the standard world. Do you follow?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Prabhupāda has defined humility as ‘that which is absent where there is a spirit of enjoyment.’ Enjoying spirit, or exploitation, means aggression. There, there cannot be humility. Humility is only cent-per-cent service. There is no humility in exploitation, or renunciation either. These two are opposed to the normal nature of the world. They are totally misconceived. They are enemies. They are the challenging element to the normal reality. Do you understand?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: The spirit of exploitation and the spirit of renunciation—both are a revolt against the proper smooth working of the truth. So they are totally misconceived. And real humility must be in the relativity of the full aspect of the truth, not with the misconceived world. The standard is not of the misconceived, the madman.
Devotee:Yes. What about spiritual aggression? Like competition. There’s a competitive spirit between two persons who are doing the same thing. Then where’s the place for humility there?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: There will be humility if it is really service, because it’s object is the centre. The devotee feels his inspiration and direction from there, and cooperates accordingly. He is connected with the Absolute Centre, so competition may be arranged by Yogamāyā.
He is not responsible because his necessity is only for the centre. As we discussed, the Absolute is designed that way, but not out of necessity. Aher iva gatiḥ premṇaḥ, svabhāva-kuṭilā bhavet. It seems to be crooked, but it is not; it is the very nature of absolute dealings. It is necessary only for the variegatedness of the service of Kṛṣṇa. It is designed from the upper quarter. The devotees are not responsible for that.
Devotee: So we must not infringe on the property of others. There may be competition, but we should not infringe on the property of others?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Our duty will always be to dedicate ourselves more and more intensely—and we shall do that according to how we may be interfered with by the higher agency. We must always keep ourselves ready for that. Cent-per-cent we shall obey the handling from the upper house, without any hesitation. That is our duty. Whatever will be asked of us, we shall do.
On the battlefield, if the general asks a particular battalion to fight in the first battle, and they say, “Why shouldn’t the second battalion be commanded to go? Why should we go first? We shall die, and they will rejoice the victory in the last battle? Why should we go first?” What do you say?
Devotee:That is not dedication.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Of course. The military will shoot you then and there! “That is our consideration from above; it is not left to you whether Battalion 1, 2, 3 or 4 will go.” Only the highest brains have command. Complaint against that high command means to die—to be done away with immediately.
Devotee: So, Mahārāja, Arjuna followed the instructions of Kṛṣṇa without question—whenever Kṛṣṇa ordered him to shoot, he did so. He faithfully followed whatever instructions he received. In one incident, Yudhiṣṭhira did not follow the instructions of Lord Kṛṣṇa; but when the five Pāṇḍavas were on the mahā-prasthāna or voluntary journey to court death, Arjuna fell prior to Yudhiṣṭhira. Why did Arjuna have to fall?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: That is not the criterion of the highest devotion. Yudhiṣṭhira’s achievement was a separate thing. Devotion proper is not connected there. That is some worldly affair of sattva-guṇa. Yamarāja, in the form of a dog, went on—but Arjuna had to fall, Bhīma had to fall. The test was something else, connected with the mundane world. And they went to Svarga, Heaven.
That is not the highest attainment, but only a show of the outer case of the Pāṇḍavas. Really, the Pāṇḍavas are sakhās or friends of Kṛṣṇa, but their going to Svarga is a separate outward affair. When the Pāṇḍavas reached Svarga, they saw that Duryodhana and others had already arrived there. Although the position of Duryodhana and company was much lower-—they were the enemy camp—nonetheless, after death they all achieved their good and honoured position in Svarga.
Yudhiṣṭhira went with his old body of sattva-guṇa, worldly goodness. A kṣatriya who dies on the battlefield is rewarded with life in Heaven. Yudhiṣṭhira went there, keeping his mortal body, although the others had to die first in order to take appropriate forms for that plane. But the plane was only that of sattva-guṇa, Svarga, and not the aprākṛta or transcendental planes of Vaikuṇṭha, Dvaraka, Mathura or Goloka.
Similarly, it is also mentioned in the story of the Keśāvatāra (Incarnations from hair) that Lord Viṣṇu gave a boon that a black and a white hair from his head would go and save the Earth from the horrors of the burden of sins she was suffering from. Those hairs are said to have taken the forms of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. They took up those two robes, but in that instance They are only bhū-bhāra-haraṇakārī avatāras, or descents appearing to relieve the Earth of its burden, and not Svayaṁ Bhagavān or the Supreme Lord in Person. The Lord as He is in Vṛndāvana is entirely distinct.
So also it has been seen in many instances that the outer case is one thing, the inner man is another. The lower personality is absorbed. Just as when the prime minister comes to the city, the state governor’s function is absorbed in him, if he wishes. When the king comes to visit the colony, all the officers’ powers really vanish in him. Whatever he does must automatically be done by them, their own respective personalities dead. So when the higher descends into the lower case, the lower case loses its value. Then, when it retires, the lower case remains and the higher case ascends.
Nitāi Gaura-haribol! We pray to Nityānanda Prabhu. We want to come to an adjusted, former position: “If I have committed any offense, aparādha, when dealing with so many subtle things about the great personages, please, Nityānanda Prabhu, absolve me of that offense and restore me to my normal humble position.”
sarva-vaiṣṇavera pā’ye kari nāmaskāra,
ithe aparādha kichu nahuka āmāra
Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura says, “I bow at the feet of the Vaiṣṇavas; may there be no offense in my attempt to serve them.”
When we deal with so many great things, such as trying to speak about great personalities of the highest order, we should beg Nityānanda Prabhu to pardon us for our audacity. He is patita–pāvana, saviour of the fallen souls. He is adoṣa-darśī—He generally does not take any offense.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread—where angels fear to tread, fools rush in. Like fools, we rush into the subtle-most realm of sentiments of the high order; so we must beg to be excused by the high personalities. Apa-siddhānta or philosophical adulteration strikes very harshly. It was Svarūpa Dāmodara’s service to first examine any poems or writings for purity before they were taken to Mahāprabhu. If writings with apa-siddhānta were offered to Mahāprabhu, He would be disturbed in a very cruel way. Apa-siddhānta cruelly attacks the ideal of the higher-thinking persons.
There is a narration by Kāli Dāsa about a king who required a palanquin carrier. At random he selected a man from the crowd, not knowing that the man was a learned man, a paṇḍita. When bearing a corner of the palanquin, the man did not carry it steadily, due to his avoiding the ants on the road.
The king enquired, “Skandaṁ kiṁ bādhati?” (Literally, “Do you shoulder [sic] hurt?”). The paṇḍita replied, “Na tathā bādhate skandaṁ yathā bādhati bādhate”—My shoulder doesn’t pain me as much as your ‘pain’ (your grammatical misuse of bādhati for bādhate)!”
So, subtle beating is there in the higher sphere, in the higher sentiment. They may be offended. We shall, not with curiosity but with all humility and all respects to Them, try to enter into that garden without disturbing any plant or person roaming in that sphere. Otherwise our talks will be pure intellectualism, and not hari-kathā.