The Upadeśāmṛta with the illuminations of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has been printed and this is a very befitting day for this book to come out. The front cover has a picture of Rūpa Gosvāmī’s samādhi, and on the back there is a picture of Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Rūpa Gosvāmī and Rādhā-kuṇḍa – these things are deeply connected from the plane of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in Goloka Vṛndāvana.
Mahāprabhu considered Rādhā-kuṇḍa to be non-different from Rādhārāṇī. So the question may arise, how should we deal with Rādhā-kuṇḍa? The answer is – the same way we would deal with Rādhārāṇī. How would you deal with Rādhārāṇī in the temple? How are we dealing with Rādhārāṇī? If you are a pūjārī you have some dealings with Rādhārāṇī. Then, the rest of us – what dealings do we have with Rādhārāṇī? The answer is pretty obvious – through Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. These are paramount to our dealings with Rādhārāṇī.
Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are present in the form of the Deity. There we have the opportunity to perform personal service – dressing, bathing, offering food, flower garlands, scented oils etc. But they stand very still and sometimes they do not change their look.
But we should not think that it is idol worship. Idol worship means where there is no life. Nowadays in modern Hinduism, even temple pujaris have become accustomed to call the Deity ‘the idol’. They’ll happily tell you which ‘idol’ they are worshiping at the temple. The very definition of the word ‘idol’ means a form of a god, but it is lifeless. No life is there. The śrī-mūrti, the Deity, is never lifeless. It is always full of life – Kṛṣṇa life. Otherwise it is not a mūrti. It is only a statue. Then it might be considered to be an idol. When does a Deity become an idol? Can a Deity become an idol? Yes it can.
When those who worship the Deity fail to respect the devotees, then at that point Deity worship becomes idol worship. This means that Kṛṣṇa is no longer present and that poor fellow is simply worshiping a lifeless statue.
Abhirāma Ṭhākura was an associate of Lord Nityānanda. Sometimes he would go to a temple to take darśana and when he would prostrate himself before the deity, if Kṛṣṇa was not there, then the deity would just explode into pieces and fall on the floor. It was a serious thing if Abhirāma Ṭhākura was coming to your temple for darśana!
Now why would that happen? Because people sometimes keep a statue of Kṛṣṇa for the sake of collecting money from innocent people who have no discrimination about who is a Vaiṣṇava, what is a proper Deity etc. They are simply roaming and searching for Kṛṣṇa blindfolded. Why did the deity break? Was it Abhirāma Ṭhākura’s power? No – it was Kṛṣṇa’s power! Kṛṣṇa’s potency could not tolerate a pure devotee bowing down before a lifeless statue, even of Kṛṣṇa.
Once, Abhirāma Ṭhākura offered his obeisances to the sons of Nityānanda Prabhu and they had all died except for Vircandra Gosvāmī. If Abhirāma Ṭhākura offered obeisance and that person was not actually a Vaiṣṇava then they would die. Generally, false Vaiṣṇavas avoided Abhirāma Ṭhākura. If the news came that Abhirāma Ṭhākura had come to the village for some purpose, all the false Vaiṣṇavas would leave to visit their aunty in some other place!
One day Abhirāma Ṭhākura was coming to Purī to have darśana of Mahāprabhu. At that time there was also a young boy named Gopāla-Guru. During Mahāprabhu’s time Gopāla was a young boy, but later he grew up and was the leader of many Vaiṣṇavas. On this occasion he found himself between Mahāprabhu, who was in His room and Abhirāma Ṭhākura who was coming down the hallway. Gopāla was so frightened that he turned around, ran back and jumped onto Mahāprabhu’s lap, wrapping his arms around Mahāprabhu’s neck. He understood that he would be safe there, because if Abhirāma Ṭhākura offered obeisance in that direction, Mahāprabhu would protect him. He thought of himself as not being a real Vaiṣṇava. That type of thinking is only found in a true Vaiṣṇava.
To think of ones self as the least qualified is the actual qualification of the most qualified. But we can’t artificially do that. The tendency is there that once we hear that the most qualified are the ones that feel the most unqualified then we start saying, “No, I’m not qualified, prabhu!” But just get a hold of yourself! You are trying to imitate the highest devotee. You can’t just say, “I’m not qualified!” Words without meaning and without feeling are best not spoken.
What is our path to become a real Vaiṣṇava? Not in the sense of becoming the highest Vaiṣṇava – no one should think like that. But we do aspire to become a real Vaiṣṇava. Why did we join Kṛṣṇa consciousness? It is not unfair or improper to aspire to become pure. Otherwise why are we here? We aspire not just to become devotees of Kṛṣṇa, but we aspire to become pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa. We do not aspire to become mixed devotees. What do we aspire for? We know that only pure devotion pleases Kṛṣṇa, so we aspire for pure devotion.
At the beginning of his Upadeśāmṛta, Rūpa Gosvāmī sets down a simple path of self-control. The first thing that we have to control is our mouth. The mouth does two things: it eats and it speaks. Its habit is to eat dirty and nasty things, and to speak dirty and nasty things. What nasty things do people eat? That is pretty obvious if you go down to the market. We generally think that dirty things means dead animals. But, there is a big vegetable section at the market – that is also a dirty thing. Anything that is not offered to Kṛṣṇa is considered to be a nasty or dirty thing. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says that, “If you eat vegetables which are not offered to Me, then you are eating sin.”
Devotees are always cautious to offer their food to Kṛṣṇa first in their house and especially in their temple or asrama. Sometimes, in the course of life’s duties and journey a devotee may have to eat outside, in someone else’s house or sometimes in a restaurant while traveling. But a devotee doesn’t like to eat in a restaurant. If someone says there will be prasādam in a half an hour; then he doesn’t say, “Hey, why don’t we go to the Pizza Hut tonight instead!”
This is what happens amongst the non-devotees. It happens all over the world all the time. Restaurants are huge in big cities. People skip cooking and go to a restaurant. We never skip prasādam in a favour of eating in a restaurant! Of course, someone may go and eat in a Govinda’s Restaurant, but even then, it is better you take prasādam in a temple and stay away from the Govinda’s Restaurant also. In the beginning, Govinda’s Restaurant was off limits to the devotees. Prabhupāda never allowed devotees to go to Govinda’s Restaurant. When there is a temple prasādam why you want to go to the restaurant?
Therefore it is said that devotees do not like to eat in restaurants, but sometimes they may have to. There lies the ultimate principle – always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him. In any circumstance outside of the ideal circumstance, we remember Kṛṣṇa and mentally offer everything to Him. But in the temple we can bring that remembrance into shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. for Kṛṣṇa. But outside, it takes a little bit more to keep that in focus.
The first thing that Rūpa Gosvāmī outlines in Upadeśāmṛta is self-control, and the first aspect of self-control is in relation to what you eat and what you speak. You must train yourself to take kṛṣṇa-prasādam and train yourself to speak about Kṛṣṇa, to chant Kṛṣṇa’s Names and that also mean to speak with Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. That generally means speaking about Kṛṣṇa. So self-control begins with controlling our speech and our eating, then Rūpa Gosvāmī explains about controlling the other senses. Through eleven simple verses he takes us all the way to the highest conceptions within the service of Rādhārāṇī in Vraja. It is not that we will always be on level one, but we should definitely concern ourselves with level one if we want to get to level two. Once we are at level two it’s only nine more stages till the eleventh stage and things become very sweet even before that. But if we do not follow that, then we won’t even get to level two, nor to the third step, the fourth step and so on.
Why we are observing my appearance day today? Actually I came late from Mexico, so Giri Mahārāja and Mādhava Mahārāja thought it was a good idea to observe it on Rādhāstami because ultimately our guru represents the service of Kṛṣṇa, and the service of Kṛṣṇa is the domain of Rādhārāṇī. She is Bhakti Devī, therefore our guru represents Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Although the ultimate representation of guru is that he represents Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, still, we are not to deal with him in that exact way. Similarly we know that as Rūpa Mañjarī, Rūpa Gosvāmī is one of the closest associates of Rādhārāṇī in the spiritual world. But we are not to deal with him as Rūpa Mañjarī – we are to deal with him as Rūpa Gosvāmī. The other side is there and that is waiting in eternity. If you can’t deal with him properly on this side as a Gosvāmī, then how will you deal with him on that side as a mañjarī? That is not possible. You first have to deal with the saints here on this side properly – not skip over that and just try to imagine you have a connection far, far away in the land of Goloka Vṛndāvana.
Once, during the time before we had emails, somebody wrote me a long letter. It was handwritten on graph paper with all these little squares and I thought, “This is madness. Did this come from a lunatic asylum?” It didn’t – it came from a godsister. The first few pages she was asking about meditation – “Can this meditation on Prabhupāda be performed?” The first part of the meditation was that Prabhupāda has come from his morning walk and into the temple. We hand him some flowers and he sits on a vyāsāsana and we offer him garlands. Then, at a certain point, it changed. His dhoti shifted to another colour and all of the sudden he was being meditated on as being a gopī or a mañjarī. It went on and on with all of these types of things. I wrote back and said, “Up to this page it is fine because you really used to offer Prabhupāda a flower and you really did used to give him a flower garland and you really did wash his feet etc. All these things really happened and you can meditate on that if you want. That is called smaraṇam. But everything else after that is a total speculation. It never happened. You are taking this into a realm where you have no assurance whatsoever. You should simply understand that our gurudeva has an intimate connection with Rādhārāṇī and is Her representative here. It’s very similar with Kṛṣṇa also. When Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was asked something about kṛṣṇa-līlā he laughed and said, “That is for the next life, that is rather a dreamy thing.”
We are to concern ourselves with saṅkīrtana and Mahāprabhu. Service to Mahāprabhu is more important and there is no service of Mahāprabhu without serving the devotees. It is said that rather than trying to approach Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī directly, you just approach the service of Mahāprabhu. Accept the service of Mahāprabhu and worship Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet and one fine day you’ll wake up and you will find that you are fully absorbed in the service of Rādhā-Govinda. You don’t even have to make a separate endeavour. This is a great secret within Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Everything comes to the devotee who fully surrenders at Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet. But, if you simply try to surrender directly to Kṛṣṇa, you will have problems.
That is the most difficult thing to do. Even if you succeed it is not complete. Then Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “Now that you have done that, you have to go to this department.” He is not the ultimate department. But when you come to Mahāprabhu, you are dealing with the ultimate department – that is called audārya. Audārya is a notch above mādhurya. Audārya means mādhurya with magnanimity. Kṛṣṇa-līlā is called mādhurya-līlā – the sweetest. But Mahāprabhu’s līlā is called audarya-līlā and audarya means the sweetest rasa with magnanimity. Magnanimity is something we all need. We need that magnanimity because we are very, very small. We do not have such a capacity to serve Kṛṣṇa without magnanimity. Magnanimity means divine grace, with Kṛṣṇa’s divine grace. Can you go to the sun to warm yourself? No – the sun comes to us. We cannot go to the sun, but Kṛṣṇa can come to us. This is given in physics – the possibility of the positive and the negative. Kṛṣṇa is the positive and we are to act like the negative and the positive will be attracted towards us. Otherwise we cannot reach the positive.
The greatest negative it is said to be Rādhārāṇī. She is the greatest negative and Kṛṣṇa is totally attracted to Rādhārāṇī. The reason that Kṛṣṇa left the rasa-dance was to search for Rādhārāṇī. There were millions of gopīs dancing with Kṛṣṇa and one of them was Rādhārāṇī. Suddenly She disappeared and Kṛṣṇa immediately lost interest in the rasa-dance. It was all dry. He had no more focus, millions of gopīs were dancing there but Kṛṣṇa lost His focus because Rādhārāṇī was gone. We are always told that just as the hand serves the body and as a servant serves the master, we are a part of Kṛṣṇa and we are meant to please Kṛṣṇa. But after reading this pastime I suddenly realised, “If millions of gopīs could not please Kṛṣṇa, then what chance do any of us have? How can you, or I, or any of us directly please Kṛṣṇa when millions of gopīs together could not please Him? That is a fact. Therefore, we must please Kṛṣṇa’s dearmost, and the dearmost of Kṛṣṇa is Rādhārāṇī. Thus, in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, we are devotees of Rādhārāṇī first, and second we are devotees of Kṛṣṇa – but we don’t advertise this to the public.
One big Śrī Vaiṣṇava paṇḍita came here once. During our discussion I said, “Buddha is also a part of daśāvatāra.” The six Śrī Vaiṣṇavas who were with him said, “No, no, no! Not Buddha, not Buddha.” But the paṇḍita said, “No, actually Svāmījī is right. Buddha is actually in daśāvatāra. The other six Vaiṣṇavas were deeply shocked. He explained that, “No, we say like that generally because we are fighting Buddhism, but actually Buddha is in the daśāvatāra.” I told him that I saw Buddha carved on a wall with the other daśāvatāra in an ancient Hoyśala temple. Generally you will never see Buddha amongst the daśāvatāra in South India – they’ll put Hayagrīva instead. Then that paṇḍita told those gentlemen, “These people are śuddha Śaktas.”
The six people that were with him were also shocked about this, “They are not Vaiṣṇavas?” They were surprised because it is the Smārtas who are Śaktas – at least in Bengal. They worship Devī, Kālī and various other śaktis and they study their Tantras etc
Then the paṇḍita explained, “No, they are śuddha Śaktas because foremost they are devotees of Kṛṣṇa’s consort – Rādhā.”
He was a man who had done a deep study of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism.
Now we are Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas – should we be like the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas who didn’t know that Buddha is actually included in the daśāvatāra? In other words, should we be the kind of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava who doesn’t understand the depth of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism?
About ten years ago, one of our devotees went to some village for a special program on Śivarātri. When he came back and I asked him, “How was your program?”
He said: “They were worshiping Śiva and I told them how in Vṛndāvana Śiva becomes Gopeśvara.”
I told him that, “You don’t go out and tell the common people how Śiva became a gopī in Vṛndāvana. You don’t understand. Those are secrets and these things stay on this side. Once you go out our gate you need only one book in your hand – Bhagavad-gītā. That’s it.”
Look what Śrīla Prabhupāda did for the world with Bhagavad-gītā. Scholars lined up during his time to give appreciation for the Bhagavad-gita. The world is suffering due to lack of knowledge of how to live in this world and why are we in this world? They are not suffering due to a lack of deep knowledge concerning the other world. That does not concern them – it doesn’t concern most of us! We are to explain the knowledge that we are not this body, how all living entities are servants of Kṛṣṇa, and how the Holy Name is non-different than Kṛṣṇa. Actually we say that the Mahā-mantra is non-different than Kṛṣṇa, but half of the Mahā-mantra is the name of Rādhārāṇī also. We should know that we are dealing not only with Kṛṣṇa, but with Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. But when we go into the world to preach, we leave Rādhārāṇī in the background. We do not come to the front with Rādhārāṇī.
When he narrated the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śukadeva Gosvāmī wasn’t just sitting with a bunch of village drunkards. He was sitting there with many ṛṣis and sages and Mahārāja Parikṣit himself. He kept the Name of Rādhārāṇī in the background. Even when it came to that part of the Bhāgavatam when he could have introduced Rādhārāṇī, he hesitated to tell these people about those secrets. He told it in a peculiar, hidden way. He never directly told the Name of Rādhā even once in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. It’s not there. They were many great ṛṣis there, but who were they? Many of them were brahmavādīs and yogis with mystic powers and all types of philosophers. But none of these things qualify one for vraja-bhakti. He did not want to do them any harm. If the highest thing goes to those who are not qualified, it will not do them more harm than good.
It is like bee-pollen. In western countries farmers harvest pollen from the bees and it’s very high in vitamins. You can buy this and it is very tasty, but if you take too much of it, you will get diarrhoea. It is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can make you sick. That is common with anything – milk is also good, but drink too much and it’ll give you loose motion. So this high, high topic does not look good in the small ears of the common people. Or, as Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say: “This high topic does not look good in your small mouth.”
Concern yourself with the necessity of your present status. Do not try to go beyond. You have to go step by step. Upadeśāmṛta takes us step by step and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s illuminations are very wonderful and very assuring. We must go step by step and with much caution as we approach the ultimate goal.