“We have to walk there on our head, not on our feet. All are guru; the soil is guru, the entire paraphernalia is guru, superior. I am made of a lower stuff, and that plane is of higher substance, so it is impossible to enter there at my sweet will.”
Devotee: Mahārāja, if a devotee falls down and becomes disconnected, is that worse than if he becomes a sahajiyā?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Which is worse, a poor man or a thief? One had money and lost it; the other is imitating that he is wealthy, by committing wrong. One who is disconnected may be reconnected again soon; but sahajiyā means either that he had a real connection with the truth, became disconnected, then chose a wrong path, or that already he is engaged in the wrong path. So which is the better position: not to get the real thing, or to get the wrong thing? Which is superior?
In Śrīmad Bhāgavad-gītā it is mentioned that in tamo-guṇa, the lowest position, one thinks ‘A’ to be ‘B’. In rajo-guṇa, there is doubt whether this is real, or that is real. He cannot ascertain what is true; but to think that ‘A’ is ‘B,’ and ‘B’ is ‘A,’ that is the worst kind of error. They are misguided; sahajiyā means misguided. They are accepting matter as consciousness, so their position is more detrimental than that of those who have nothing, or who have lost their connection with the real thing. In a similar way, the conclusion of the māyāvādī section who think that ‘merging’ into formless brahma is the highest end, is more dangerous, because “a half truth is worse than a lie.”
se du’yer madhye viṣayī tabu bhālo māyāvadī saṅga nāhi māgi kona kāla
“Association with those who are out-and-out sense enjoyers can never be so detrimental to one’s spiritual welfare as is the company of an impersonalist.” (Śaraṇāgati 27.3)
If one man admits “I have no money,” and another, who really has no money, shows some counterfeit currency and claims “this is money,” then his condition is worse because he is engaged in falsehood.
So to become a sahajiyā is worse. He is deceived, his attention is captured by, engrossed in, a wrong conception, One person had some conception for some time and became disconnected, but he may again easily re-establish his connection, but the other has become captivated by a wrong conception, so to convince him of the truth is more difficult because his mind is possessed and captured by that prejudice. The first person has no engagement; the engagement he had is gone. But the second has mistaken one thing for another. He has taken matter to be divine, and that is worse.
Once, in my childhood, I heard this example from my teacher in school. He said that in America there is a school of music, and if anyone had some knowledge of music, to attend that school he had to pay double the normal fee, but those who had no musical knowledge only had to pay the standard fee. That is because they do not know anything, so they can be taught easily; but the others who had some knowledge of music had to pay double, because everything which they had previously learned would first have to be forgotten, and only then would they be allowed to start learning in the proper way. They had to be taught first to forget their previous prejudices, their misconceptions of musical science, so for them there was a double charge. It is something like that. In one case, no bhakti, no devotion; and in the other, in the name of devotion, some non-devotional thing has captured the man. That is imitation, and worse, it is offensive. Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura said it is vañcanam, to ridicule the devotees—Mahāprabhu, Rūpa, Sanātana—it is to ridicule them, because it confuses what is prema and what is kāma. They are at opposite ends; and to accept kāma in the name of prema is not only heinous and injurious to oneself, but it contaminates the whole atmosphere. So Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says:
kāme preme dekha bhāi, lakṣaṇete bheda nāi, tabu kāma ‘prema’ nāhi haya tumi ta’ barile kāma, mithyā tāhe ‘prema-nāma āropile kise śubha haya kena mana, kāmere nācāo prema prāya carma-māṁsa-maya kāma, jaḍa-sukha abhirāma, jaḍa-biṣayete sadā dhāya
“Just give your attention to this, my brother: lust and love, their symptoms may appear as similar; still, lust is not love. But you have accepted lust in place of love, and if you give the certificate, that ‘this is prema,’ by this mistake you only cheat yourself. By mistaking one thing for another in this way, you will never get anything auspicious. Lust is concerned with flesh and blood, but love is in the highest position of spiritual existence.” (Kalyāṇa Kalpataru 18-19)
So they are opposites, like the South Pole and the North Pole. One is concerned with this body, the other, with the Supersoul; a great gulf lies between them! There is the ocean of dedication, and the highest point of that dedication is gopī-prema. It only exists where Kṛṣṇa is, and here there is only imitation.
koṭi-mukta-madhye ‘durlabha’ eka kṛṣṇa-bhakta
“Out of many millions of liberated persons, a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa is very difficult to find.” (C.c. Madhya-līlā 19.148)
We must consider all these things. Such dedication is possible only in the highest position of spiritual existence, the conscious area which is all-spiritual, and is not in any way concerned with flesh and blood. It is not concerned with the body.
The most heinous thing is that one will play the part of Kṛṣṇa and a lady will play the part of a gopī and they will unite, and in that way they will enjoy. To think this to be that, it is impossible. Any ordinary moral man will hate this. What to speak of the higher devotees, even an ordinary moral man will hate it. The steps are shown to us as:
In the beginning is faith, then association with devotees, engagement in service, purging of faults, attainment of steadiness in devotion, spiritual taste, firm attachment, transcendental emotion and pure love of Kṛṣṇa. These are the steps. And from another standpoint:
vaikuṇṭhera pṛthivy-ādi sakala cinmaya
“The earth, water, fire, air and ether of Vaikuṇṭha are all spiritual.” (C.c. Ādi-līlā 5.53)
We must always remember this: “I am the offspring of taṭasthā-śakti, the marginal potency; that is where I was born, and I must go through svarūpa-śakti, which is higher than me. There the soil is of higher stuff than that of which I myself am made. The earth, the air, the water, the trees, birds, everything there is superior to me, And I am to enter there? It is not a small thing, not an easy thing. It is not within the power of the person who wants to go there to enter, rather it is completely dependent on the grace of his superiors: guru-kṛpā, vaiṣṇava-kṛpā.
We have to walk there on our head, not on our feet. All are guru; the soil is guru, the entire paraphernalia is guru, superior. I am made of a lower stuff, and that plane is of higher substance, so it is impossible to enter there at my sweet will. To approach that direction as far as mukti, liberation, may be easy, but thereafter we can only be drawn by their grace; it is not a matter of right that anyone can enter that realm. It is only the wholesale, cent-per-cent grace of a child of that soil which can take us there. Just as a guarantee for the subject, so some agent of that soil must take responsibility for me, and at his risk, I can go. Vaiṣṇava and guru, children of that soil, they will take the risk and bring me there. So without their grace, vaiṣṇava-kṛpā, guru-kṛpā, bhāgavata-kṛpā, we cannot enter there.
No right—all grace. That grace can take me there. From our side, we have no right. I am a child of the marginal potency, but there the whole substance, everything, is made of a higher stuff than my own existence. I have my existence as a person, and there they are also all persons, but all there are of an existence superior to me. How then can this person stand on the head of those? Only for their service; otherwise, it is inconceivable and impossible. Even to accept this principle is most difficult, what to speak of entering there:
“After many births, one who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me (Vāsudeva) realizing that it is I who am both the source and substance of all that be. Such a great soul is extremely rare.” (Bhagavad-gītā 7.19)
And Śrīmad Bhāgavatam states:
muktānām api siddhānāṁ nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇaḥ sudurlabhaḥ praśāntātmā koṭiṣv api mahā-mune
“O great sage, out of many millions of souls who are liberated and free from ignorance, and out of many millions of siddhas who have nearly attained perfection, there is hardly one pure devotee of Nārāyāṇa. Only such a devotee is completely satisfied and peaceful.” (Bhāg. 6.14.5)
It is easy to think of, but hard to attain! No right can be established there; it is not as a matter of right that we can go there, so the ‘right-seeker’ will be totally frustrated. We must be prepared for “all risk, no gain.” But if somehow we can reach there, it will be “all gain, no risk!”
So to become a Vaiṣṇava proper is almost impossible. It is only as a matter of grace from that level that we can go there; there is nothing we can do from our side. Only with complete surrender, complete self-forgetfulness, complete dedication to the interest of that place, can we hope to be taken there:
vaikuṇṭhera pṛthivy-ādi sakala cinmaya māyika bhūtera tathi janma nāhi haya
“The earth, water, fire, air and ether of Vaikuṇṭha are all spiritual. Material elements are not found there.” (C.c. Ādi-līlā 5.53)
Uddhava is a devotee of such quality that he prays: “If I can be a creeper there, I shall consider my fortune to have reached its highest extent.” In Vṛndāvana the creeper is such a valuable thing that Uddhava—about whom the Lord says “you are my most favourite devotee; I love you even more than my own self”—he is aspiring to take such a birth that will give him that position there. This is not mere hyperbole. When Uddhava is aspiring to be a shrub, to be some grass there, then how are we to prepare ourselves, that we shall walk over that place? I shall have to walk over the head of Uddhava? So how much higher a conception must that place be?
And the sahajiyās—ridiculous! By imitation, here in the plane of flesh and blood, they think they will achieve that. They are the worst enemies, because by imitating in this way not only are they themselves going to hell but they are attracting so many many others there also. They are not conscious of the facts, of what is what. So they have got their hated position in society; the general society has got hate for them, those ‘bābājīs.’
But we have to put faith in our Guru Mahārāja who said, “It is my misfortune. I could not find a single Vaiṣṇava in this great, holy place of Vraja-maṇḍala.” Pressing his hand to his forehead he said, “It is my misfortune that I could not find a single Vaiṣṇava in this great, holy place of Vraja-maṇḍala.” That was his conclusion.
And after he had performed Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā, he said about one bābājī who was generally recognized as the best of the sahajiyā ‘Vaiṣṇavas’—as their leader—“He is a kaniṣṭha–adhikārī. He may be considered as a beginner, to have admission into the infant class.” That man was considered unanimously as a siddha-bābājī, to have attained the highest position among them, but Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura said, “He has got admission into the primary class.” In writing, in the Gauḍīya-patrikā newspaper, he stated this. And we are trained accordingly and consciously, not with blind faith. He explained to us what is what; we tried to follow his directions, and we have also come to such conclusions.
Step by step we must approach the highest point. It is not mental concoction, imitation. Imitation is the worst. It is hateful, filthy. If in the name of that higher love we represent this fleshy connection with the body and the mind—then that is the most hateful thing. We must try to avoid it with our utmost will and energy.
Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī describes: vaikuṇṭhera pṛthivy-ādi sakala cinmaya—that the elements of that Vaikuṇṭha world are all-spiritual and the scientific survey of that land is possible to our soul’s eye. We must understand that, how it is true. And for that we must first understand what is the taṭasthā region; what is Virāja, what is Brahmaloka.
But we are in such a material position that we cannot even understand this lower process:
indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur, indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ manasas tu parā buddhir, yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ (Bhāgavad-gītā 3.42)
What is our soul? We can’t follow, we can’t understand what our own soul is! There is the world; we conceive it, we perceive it through our senses, so they are higher. The mind receives experience of the world through the senses, above that is the soul proper. And then we approach the Supersoul area; through Cirāja, Brahma-loka, eventually we reach Vaikuṇṭha. There are so many layers to cross, but who is to cross? Our own soul—we cannot even find him! We are far away from that conception, in a hopeless position, and we say that the highest conception of the Paramātmā world is in our fist! That is foolish.
First, we must feel our own soul, what is our real existence and identity in the spiritual position; then that soul will have to go higher and higher; by crossing more and more valuable planes he must go up. But he must feel his own identity.
So, the sahajiyās, the imitationists, should be considered as the enemy. Like Quisling (an enemy collaborator during World War II), they are jana-śatru, the enemy who has sprung up at home, the enemy within. This kind of imitation is the worst. Ordinary imitation may be bad, but imitation of the highest reality is completely repugnant and must be rejected because what is Supreme is being exploited in such a low, mean way. That is sahajiyā.
We cannot see our own soul! That is our position. Absorbed in this gross matter of exploitation, we cannot even know what is our mind, of what substance it is made. Then, how can one understand what is the intelligence, buddhi, the faculty of judgment within us; or beyond that, the soul; or ultimately, the realm of the Supersoul? But we are living in this mundane world and imagining: “I have got the Lord of my dreams!”
Part Three – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service Chapter 17 – Heart and Halo
Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja (Jagat Guru Swami) appeared on Annadā Ekādaśī at Corpus Christi, USA in 1946. After studies in haṭha-yoga, he took initiation from his guru, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda in 1970 and preached in the African continent for 3 years before accepting sannyāsa in 1976. After Prabhupāda’s disappearance, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja took śīkṣā (spiritual instruction) from Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and Śrīla B.P Purī Gosvāmī. Although he spent most of his spiritual life preaching in India, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja also travelled to Europe, Mexico and the United States to spread the message of his spiritual masters. He penned over 200 essays and 13 books delineating Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. He left this world in his āśrama in South India in 2020.