Kavirāja Gosvāmī Prabhu has relished the great joy of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in Vraja. He writes:
anyera hṛdaya — mana, mora mana — vṛndāvana,
‘mane’ ‘vane’ eka kari’ jāni
tāhāṅ tomāra pada-dvaya, karāha yadi udaya,
tabe tomāra pūrṇa kṛpā māni
“For others, the sensuous mind is at the heart of their being, but my mind is Vṛndāvana. I consider both my mind and Vṛndāvana to be one. Were you to place Your lotus feet there in my Vṛndāvana-mind, I would deem it the fullest expression of Your mercy.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 13.137)
“Otherwise, abandon all these attempts to deceive both us and Yourself. If You really want to be merciful to Me, then leave Your horses and elephants, these crowds of courtiers and Your kingly raiment. Don’t try to show off all Your finery to Me. If You want to come to Me, then put on Your cowherder’s dress! Come with Me to Vṛndāvana!”
kṛṣṇa lañā vraje yāi – e bhāva antara
“I will take Kṛṣṇa and go back to Vraja.” This mood was always in the gopīs hearts. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 1.56)
“If You want to come with Me, then put on Your cowherder’s dress! Come with Me to our old haunts by the Yamunā’s banks, at the base of the keli–kadamba tree. Stand there next to Me – then I will believe You have truly blessed me. Otherwise, I consider all this to be nothing more than a gross deception.”
“Do You remember Me at all? What do You think we are – yogīs? Masters of the yoga system? Do You think that by performing breathing exercises and torturous asanas, meditating and concentrating on You, we will be able to capture You in our hearts? Dear friend, just think a little. Why are You behaving in this way? Today is the day of the full-moon, let’s go down to the Yamunā.” As soon as Rādhā mentioned the word pūrṇimā, She became despondent. This is Rādhārāṇī’s condition.
What can we understand about Rādhā? For a moment there I got a little emotional while describing Her mood, but we have no real power to understand the extent to which the gopīs‘ hearts burned with desperation at not seeing Kṛṣṇa. We are like children in a traveling theatre party. You have never heard manohārsāhī kīrtana. When I was a lad studying at school, Baruipur High School, a rasa-līlā festival was held at the Raya Chauduris’ house. Many excellent performers came to sing there, some in the garāṇhāṭi style, others in the manohara–sahi. Some of them were just young boys, but they had been taught so well that one time, when the audience was disorderly, one of them started to sing so beautifully that tears filled everyone’s eyes. Our schoolmaster, who was an educated brāhmaṇa with an M.A. would go there and listen to the kīrtana from beginning to end. We followed his example and would also attend. But this kīrtana was such an amazing thing – it had such an incredible effect on everyone. Since I myself used to be able to sing a little, I would also experience the same. This often happens at plays and performances. But who amongst us, performers or audience, could truly understand what is being experienced by Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa who are performing the līlā itself?
Now today, after so long, there is a solar-eclipse here in Kurukṣetra. It is as though a great holiday is taking place in our country. It has been so long since there has been a solar-eclipse. All this royalty has come to Kurukṣetra on this occasion looking to fulfil their innumerable material desires. Some are seeking wealth, others are looking for sons and heirs, while others are simply seeking pious credits towards future happiness. But the Vrajavāsīs have come because they are burning with the desire to catch even a momentary glimpse of Kṛṣṇa. “Kṛṣṇa is coming. Surely I will be able to see Him.”
In expectation of meeting them, Kṛṣṇa had told Dāruka to decorate His chariot very nicely, to make it look opulent. And now, accompanying that opulently decorated chariot and horses and elephants, Kṛṣṇa’s royal retinue. Kṛṣṇa Himself has mounted the chariot dressed in an elaborate royal costume. As He sits there, watching and waiting, the people of Vraja approach Him and see Him for the first time in so many years.
Kṛṣṇa’s father Nanda and His uncle Upānanda are standing there, waiting expectantly. They had prepared so many things to say while waiting to see Him again, but now that He is there before them, they cannot find the words to say anything. They merely repeat, “My child! Gopāla!” But beyond that, they can say nothing. And even those few words are lost in a flood of tears. Nor can Kṛṣṇa hold back the tears which start to flow in torrents over His cheeks. The other Vrajavāsīs also are overcome with emotion. Nanda Bābā lets Kṛṣṇa go – how much longer can he hold Him? No further words are possible. All Nanda and Kṛṣṇa can do is shed tears and their tears mix as they fall. An exchange of words in which the tears falling from their eyes are the language. Nanda and Upānanda finally let Kṛṣṇa go and it is Mother Yaśodā’s turn to greet her son. But she too is only capable of saying, “Dear child, Gopāla!” and is then speechless.
Now it is the turn of Kṛṣṇa’s friends. They had intended to chastise Kṛṣṇa – to say, “Brother, why did You forget us? Don’t You ever think about us at all?” this is what they had intended to say, but they are unable to speak. They think, “How can we tell our brother Kānāi everything that we have gone through? What is the use of saying anything?” And so they say nothing.
Then it came to Rādhārāṇī’s turn to meet Kṛṣṇa:
“Did You think of Me at all?”
“What are You saying? Of course I do.”
This is when Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī writes what Rādhā says:
anyera hṛdaya — mana, mora mana — vṛndāvana,
‘mane’ ‘vane’ eka kari’ jāni
tāhāṅ tomāra pada-dvaya, karāha yadi udaya,
tabe tomāra pūrṇa kṛpā māni
“For others, the sensuous mind is at the heart of their being, but my mind is Vṛndāvana. I consider both My mind and Vṛndāvana to be one. Were you to place Your lotus feet there in my Vṛndāvana-mind, I would deem it the fullest expression of Your mercy.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 13.137)
“The minds of other people are filled with the desire for riches. They desire one thing after another. They can do as they please; I have nothing to do with them. My mind is absorbed in the spirit of Vṛndāvana. All this mysterious deception of Yours has no place there. If You really want to be merciful to Me, put on Your cowherd garb and take Me back to Vṛndāvana. Throw off Your royal robes and raiment. We boil over when we see all these opulences, the royal elephants and steeds, the crowds of courtiers. We cannot bear to see them. Send them all away and come with us. Take on the appearance of a herdsman again. Wear the clothes You wore when you took the cattle to pasture and take us back home with You. Only them will we believe that You have given us Your complete blessings.”
After She had finished saying this, Rādhārāṇī started to cry. She continued speaking, “So You have come today to teach Me about yoga. Yogis perform various difficult breathing exercises and physical postures, meditating and concentrating so that they can hold You in their hearts. So now I have to start these practices before I can think of You? My every ingoing and outgoing breath cries out for You alone: everywhere I look, I see nothing but Your form. And now I have to learn yoga on top of this? This is what we already know about yoga. You sent Uddhava to teach us the path of knowledge, and now You have come personally to give us lessons in yoga.” With these words, Rādhā burst into tears.
Then Kṛṣṇa said, in order to console Her, “I have killed so many demons. There are still some left to be destroyed. Once they have been taken care of, I will come back to you.” But Rādhārāṇī was in no state to accept these assurances. She turns to Her girlfriend, addressing her as saha-cari, ‘companion’. Priyaḥ so’yaṁ saha-cari – “Companion, this is the same person my beloved Kṛṣṇa… ” Tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham – “and this is the same pleasure of union.”
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 1.76)
“You are the same person You were, and I the same person I was; and the joy of seeing each other is the same as that we had in the past, it is true. But still, all that I can think of are the kālindī-pulina-vipina, the banks of the Yamunā where You first stole My mind, the antaḥ-khelan-madhura-muralī-pañcama-juṣe, the playing of Your flute on the fifth note. If You really and truly wish to console Me, then be united with Me as before on the banks of the Yamunā. Anyway, stop telling us to be this or that, to be yogis or something else that we are not.”
Rādhārāṇī then began to sob uncontrollably and Kṛṣṇa was unable to remain silent. He tried to comfort Her once again by saying, “I have destroyed so many demons, killed so many enemies. There is only one left now. Once I have destroyed him, I will come back to You.”
What wonderful language Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī uses! He can because he has true feelings arising from direct experience. We do not know how to feel these sentiments. We have only managed to get a peek, the slightest glimpse. But this is what bhajana – kṛṣṇa-bhajana – is all about. Simply carrying a japa–mālā around in your hand is not kṛṣṇa–bhajana. True, I am carrying a japa-mālā myself, but where are my thoughts? Where is my bhajana? What is the secret of bhajana? Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura wrote the songs of Bhajana–rahasya, but we have not entered into that mystery. Of course, we were given some general directions by Śrīla Prabhupāda to do aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā-smaraṇa, that is, remembering Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in Vraja according to the different times of the day, so no one should think that this is something outside our tradition. Some, like the people in Vṛndāvana, says, “The members of the Gauḍīya Maṭha are dried up, withered people. Their bhajana has no dynamism, no pizzazz.” We, on the other hand, see that everything they are doing is simply for a momentary emotional experience, nothing more, what is the use of that? This is what I was trying to show when I talked about the boys in the traveling theatre party. They had been taught how to do these things by their families. They had been told, “At this time you should cry. At this point you laugh, and so on.” Then when they came and put on the performance, they did as they had been taught, and we who were in the audience had an emotional response to them.
But how will real spiritual experience take place? It will come as a result of chanting the Holy Name. By chanting the Holy Name, the time will come when tears automatically flow from the eyes. And if it is only a fleeting experience, or even if it doesn’t happen, it is still potent. Today, I had some feeling, but what can I do? It was only momentary. How much better it would be if this was our permanent condition in service to Kṛṣṇa! Not that as soon as my heart gets a little soft and a little moisture comes into my eyes that I start to think what a great bhajanānandī I am. And then I start to have a low opinion of others, thinking that none of them are doing any real bhajana. That no one but me is truly chanting the Holy Name. When all these thoughts enter my mind, I have to chastise myself: this is not really bhajana.
Kṛṣṇa–bhajana cannot take place without the Holy Name. Without the Holy Name it just cannot happen. Mahāprabhu glorified the Holy Name so extensively. And what is more, we need the grace of guru.
nāham ijyā-prajātibhyāṁ tapasopaśamena vā
tuṣyeyaṁ sarva-bhūtātmā guru-śuśrūṣayā yathā
“I, the soul of al beings, am not as pleases by sacrifices and service to the family, nor austerities and renunciation, as I am by service to the guru.” (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.80.34)
This verse refers indirectly to the four āśramas or stations of life. If I perform all the duties of my particular station perfectly, I will still not bring full pleasure to the Lord. You may ask, “What then will satisfy Kṛṣṇa if not that?” He says, tuṣyeyaṁ sarva-bhūtātmā guru-śuśrūṣayā yathā, “The pleasure that I get from seeing someone engage in wholehearted service to his spiritual master is greater than the fleeting satisfaction of seeing him or her fulfil the duties of their station in life, commendable though this may be.”
Thus Kṛṣṇa showed by His own example how to serve guru. He and His friend spent an entire night carrying bundles of firewood on their heads. Incredible! We cannot even begin to imagine. The Supreme Lord Himself! The Supreme Lord is talking with His friend Sudāmā and says, “Sudāmā, do you remember? One day, Guru Mā (the spiritual master’s wife) said to us, ‘ Children, we have no more wood. How will I be able to cook?’ then I said, ‘Don’t worry, Mother. We will go off to the woods immediately to gather fuel.’ We went into the deepest jungle and collected firewood and made huge bundles which we helped each other place on our heads. Then suddenly, black clouds started to gather and the rain began to pour down. Before you knew it, the forest was flooded. And we two friends stood holding hands with the bundles on our heads and telling each other not to drop the wood. And the rain kept on thundering down.”
So we too are disciples and that is what we would do. But is that why we came to the spiritual master? To carry bundles of wood on our head? But this is Kṛṣṇa Himself, and He is not doing it just to impress people. These two friends are carrying a heavy bundle of firewood – no insignificant thing – they are standing there carrying bundles of wood in the midst of a heavy downpour, their clothes completely drenched.
In the meantime, at the āśrama, neither Sāndīpani Muni nor his wife, the guru–patni, were able to sleep a wink the whole night. She was thinking, “I sent the children out to fetch wood and now they are undergoing such difficulties.” In the middle of the night, Sāndīpani Muni got up and started looking for them. He cried out, “Where is Kṛṣṇa? Where is Sudāmā? O Gopāla, where are You?” Then he saw before him that wondrous sight. Oh, the tears from his eyes suddenly let loose and began to wash over his chest. Sāndīpani Muni praised the two disciples, “What can I say? You have set the standard for service to the standard of service to the spiritual master.” Then he gave them a benediction: “I bless you that you will never forget anything that I have taught you, neither in this life or the next.” Their spiritual master then further blessed them.
So, if this mood was permanent, if it were a sthāyī–bhāva, that would be better. But tell me, what process do you advise to attain it? Chant the Holy Name without offences.
nāma vinu kali-kāle nāhi āra dharma
sarva-mantra-sāra nāma, ei śāstra-marma
“In the age of Kali, there is no religion other than the chanting of the Holy Names. The Holy Name is the essence of all sacred utterances – this is the conclusion of all the scriptures.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 7.74)
We do not have to memorize a large number of different mantras. There are just a few things to pay attention to with this, our essential mantra: you must chant it properly, avoiding offences. But that will not happen simply by carrying a japa–mālā around in your hand. Many people carry a mālā but are busy gossiping with one another. Our motto is avikṣepeṇa sātatyam – ‘chant constantly, without distraction.’ That is why when people ask me, ‘Are we to never meditate on Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes? Are we to be bereft of this nectar forever?’ I answer, ‘Go ahead. Meditate on them. And instruct others to do the same. But the price of that meditation is steadfastness (niṣṭhā) in the Holy Name’ This is stated in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.4.15-17):
Adau śraddha tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ – at the stage of sādhu–saṅga you take shelter of the spiritual master’s lotus feet. Then bhajana–kriyā follows –
kona bhāgye kona jīvera śraddhā yadi haya
tabe sei jīva sādhu-saṅga ye karaya
sādhu-saṅga haite haya śravaṇa-kīrtana
sādhana-bhaktye haya sarvānartha-nivartana
anartha-nivṛtti haile bhaktye niṣṭhā’haya
niṣṭhā haite śravaṇādye ruci upajaya
ruci haite bhaktye haya āsakti pracura
āsakti haite citte janme kṛṣṇe prīty-aṅkura
sei bhāva gāḍha haile dhare prema-nāma
sei premā prayojana sarvānanda-dhāma
“If, by good fortune, a living entity develops faith (śraddhā) in Kṛṣṇa, then he begins to associate with devotees (sādhu–saṅga). From the association of devotees, one begins devotional service by hearing and chanting about Kṛṣṇa. This is called sādhana–bhakti and through it one becomes free from all unwanted contaminations (anartha–nivṛtti). When one is freed from all unwanted contamination, he becomes steadfast in his devotional practices (niṣṭhā). When fixed in devotional practice, a taste (ruci) is awakened. After such taste is awakened, a deep attachment (asakti) arises, and from that attachment the seed of love for Kṛṣṇa grows in the heart. When the ecstatic emotional stage intensifies, it is called love of Godhead. Such love is life’s ultimate goal and the reservoir of all pleasure.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 23.9-13)
Here the process is given in its entirety. Examine these steps carefully. So what is niṣṭhā, naiṣṭhikī bhakti? Jīva Gosvāmī defines it in his commentary to Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.4.15): avikṣepeṇa sātatyam ‘consistency without distraction’ citta-vikṣepa-rahita yei nairantarya. I have observed that as I am meditating on the Holy Name, other thoughts come and go. I will start to thinking about who knows what. I see a crow and I start thinking about crows. I see a stork and I start thinking about storks. How many different ways there are for the mind to get diverted. But where is the constancy without distraction? Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura wrote in his Harināma-cintāmaṇi, “I have counted a hundred thousand Names, but kṛṣṇa-prema eka bindu nā haila guṇa-maṇi – not a drop of love for Kṛṣṇa has manifested in me.” So where is that intense love? All I am concerned with is a number, a counting game. Ah! Hare Kṛṣṇa.
And what did the Nāmācārya, Haridāsa Ṭhākura do? He would chant his lakhs of Names sometimes silently, sometimes aloud, throughout the entire night. When the sun rose in the morning, he would say to himself, “What, the sun has already risen?” no one knew when he would close his eyes, day or night. Can we imagine that? So study the matter, this is naiṣṭhikī-bhakti – avikṣepeṇa sātatyam. So I am telling you all, ‘Do it! Do bhajana. Perform your bhajana and hopefully this mood, this emotional attitude, will come. But wait until you have achieved naiṣṭhikī–bhakti and then come and ask me. If you don’t have naiṣṭhikī–bhakti then how can you expect it to come?’
I will explain naiṣṭhikī–bhakti further. The Bhāgavata says:
tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati
Tadā – When naiṣṭhikī–bhakti has arisen, then all the characteristics of passion and ignorance and other defects will disappear from the heart. When one is situated in the mode of pure goodness, then the mind is clear and contented. The contentment of the soul is not long in following. And if we don’t reach this point, then how can we attain something as pure as divine emotion?
What is our goal? In order to make it clear to us what our ultimate destination is, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us general directions for the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā-smaraṇa one Kārttika month. He said, do it. But first chant the Holy Name. Let a little niṣṭhā in chanting arise first. avikṣepeṇa sātatyam. Let that condition where the mind is fixed and free from distractions arise to some extent. All I see are distractions, the mind being distracted – citta vikṣepa. On the other hand, if through meditating on the Lord’s pastimes some benefit is derived, then that is another way of going about it. But if our mind is constantly being diverted to other things, then how can the intense eagerness for the esoteric realms of bhajana awaken? Therefore when my disciples become unhappy and ask, “Mahārāja, are we going to continue in this dry, emotionless condition forever?” I answer, “If you have reached the stage of naiṣṭhikī–bhakti, then you can do as you will. And you can also instruct others to do the same. But if you have not arrived at the state of naiṣṭhikī–bhakti, then how do you expect to be able to advise others in that way? And other than the Holy Name, there is no other way of reaching that state.”
It just doesn’t happen that your consciousness is purified by any method other than the Holy Name. You must have steadfastness in the Holy Name, you must have developed a fixed devotional attitude – naiṣṭhikī–bhakti. Do you understand what I am getting at? Are you going to insist, “We need to relish the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s līlā?” Your heart has first to reach a certain level of purity before you can reach Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. As long as it is filled with many different kinds of desires, lust, anger and greed, do you think that you will be able to experience the transcendental mellows? Have you arrived at the platform of pure goodness, śuddha–sattva? That is why the Bhāgavatam has stated: tadā rajas-tamo bhāvaḥ – consider this point carefully. Have you seen this verse?
śraddhā-śabde — viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
“The word śraddhā or faith means the firm conviction that all things are accomplished through devotion to Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.32)
This is where firm conviction comes in. First you need this faith, then you will get association with devotees. Through this association you come to take shelter of a pure devotee. Viśvanśtha Cakravartī has given two categories of association of devotees, one of which is service to the great saints. One starts with faith and then goes on to devotional association. This is followed by bhajana–kriyā or engagement in devotional service. This consists of hearing and chanting and so on.
kona bhagya kona jivera sraddha yadi haya
tabe sei jiva sadhu-sanga je karaya
sadhu-sanga haite haya sravana-kīrtana
sādhana-bhaktye haya sarvanartha-nivartana
anartha-nivrtti haile bhaktaye nistha haya
(Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 23.9-11)
When a devotee reaches the stage called jāta–ruci, then he experiences certain ecstatic symptoms like tears in the eyes etc. In the Bhāgavata, there is a verse – tad aśma-sāraṁ hṛdayaṁ batedaṁ (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.3.14). Aśma–sāra – nothing but stone, as hard as a thunderbolt.
aparādha-phale mama, citta bhelo vajra-sama,
tuwā nāme nā labhe vikāra
hatāś haiye, hari, tava nāma ucca kari
bara duḥkhe ḍāki bāra bār
“Due to offences my heart is as hard as a thunderbolt, so when I chant I experience no emotional transport. O Hari, I have lost hope and so I loudly cry out Your Name again and again in my great distress.” (Gītāvalī, Śikṣāṣṭaka 6)
So a certain amount of distress is necessary, don’t you think?
dīna dayāmaya karunā-nidāna
bhāva-bindhu dei rākhaha parāṇā
kabe tuwā nāma-uccaraṇe mora
nayane jharaba dara dara lor
“O Lord, you are filled with mercy for the pitiful, You are a treasure house of compassion. Please keep me alive by giving me a drop of divine feeling. When will tears pour from my eyes as I utter Your Holy Name?” (Gītāvalī, Śikṣāṣṭaka 6)
So where then can we find this spirit?
tad aśma-sāraṁ hṛdayaṁ batedaṁ
yad gṛhyamāṇair hari-nāmadheyaiḥ
na vikriyetātha yadā vikāro
netre jalaṁ gātra-ruheṣu harṣaḥ
“Certainly that heart is made of stone when, in spite of one’s chanting the Lord’s Holy Names, it is not transformed upon the advent of ecstasies when tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.” (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.3.14)
Consider this for a moment. If you haven’t attained ruci and you fake it; you manage to wring an itsy-bitsy tear out of your eye somehow. Once it has been shed, you think, “Oh! Now I can perform bhajana. Now I can relish the Lord’s pastimes.”
When I was in Bagh Bazaar Gauḍīya Maṭha, I used to give evening lectures on the Bhāgavatam to which many cultured people came to listen. In the course of doing so, I started lecturing on Kṛṣṇa’s childhood pastimes from the Tenth Canto. My godbrother Madhusūdana Mahārāja was in the audience and there were many others too, who came and relished all these topics. But word of these readings reached Śrīla Prabhupāda – he was in Purī-dhāma at the time. Prabhupāda then said that relishing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes should not be done in all times and circumstances.
prathamaṁ nāmnaḥ śravaṇam-antaḥkaraṇa-śuddhy-artham apekṣyam. śuddhe cāntaḥ-karaṇe rūpa-śravaṇena tad-udaya-yogyatā bhavati. samyag udite ca rūpe guṇānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ sampadyeta, sampanne ca guṇānāṁ sphuraṇe parikara-vaiśiṣthyena tad-vaiśiṣthyaṁ sampadyate tatas teṣu nāma-rūpa-guṇa-parikareṣu samyak sphuriteṣu līlānāṁ sphuraṇaṁ suṣṭhu bhavati
“First it is expected that one should hear the Lord’s names in order to purify the heart. Once the mind and intelligence have been purified in this way, one can hear about Kṛṣṇa’s form, through which one’s qualification to visualize it is obtained. When the form of the Lord has been clearly visualized, one can experience His qualities. Once these have been clearly understood, one develops one’s own individual spiritual characteristics through the particular characteristics of the Lord’s associates. Thus, once the name, form, qualities and associates of the Lord have been realised, a clear realisation of Kṛṣṇa’s activities will follow.” (Krama-sandarbha commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.18)
Prathamaṁ nāmnaḥ śravaṇam-antaḥkaraṇa-śuddhy-artham – one has to first engage in hearing the Names of the Lord so that the mind and intelligence are purified. After this one can begin hearing about Kṛṣṇa’s form through which one’s qualifications to visualise it becomes possible. I have heard about His form – Śyāmasundara. That is one of Kṛṣṇa’s Names. So what is this śyāma, this blackish form? Once I know about Kṛṣṇa’s form, I can start to hear about His qualities. What are His characteristics? For instance, he is affectionate to His devotees, and so on. We hear about His glorious nature. Only after this do we come to līlā–kathā. First rūpa, then guṇa, and only afterwards līlā. If we don’t follow this sequence and attempt to relish Kṛṣṇa’s līlā prematurely, then we might feel some temporary emotion, but it will not be permanent, fixed bhāva. That is why Prabhupāda told us, Mahāprabhu repeatedly heard the life-stories of Dhruva and Prahlāda from Gadādhara Paṇḍita Gosvāmī. Why did He set this kind of example? The reason was that He wanted us to renounce false emotion and become capable of experiencing the real mood. That is why He told us to do things this way.
You may say, “I have heard Prahlāda’s lilā once. I may even have heard it several times. What’s the use of listening to it again? What will I gain from hearing it another time?” but haven’t you noticed that Mahāprabhu Himself set the example of listening to these stories repeatedly? He would go to Gadādhara Paṇḍita Gosvāmī over and over again and ask him to recite Dhruva-līlā and Prahlāda-līlā. This was the example that He gave. All this to teach us a lesson: we arrive at the Tenth Canto gradually, bit by bit.then we begin to relish Kṛṣṇa’s līlā. We have to earn the qualifications to hear the Tenth Canto. If we start prematurely, then our situation will be just like that of people watching a play, like the audience at a theatre troupe’s performance, as I described earlier. However, in order that we might develop an idea of what our future prize will be, of what the ultimate goal of our spiritual practice is, Śrīla Prabhupāda arranged for a special program to be held during Kārttika month’s niyama–sevā. So once again I am not saying, “Don’t do it.” Many people will create confusion after hearing what I have said. I am not saying not to do it, I am saying one has to give precedence to the Holy Name. Give precedence to the Holy Name. When your chanting becomes offenceless then you will experience the taste of sacred rapture in the Name itself. And you will come to the state of constancy with out deviation or distraction. After that, gradually, bit by bit, you will earn the qualification to relish Kṛṣṇa’s līlā. Is that not so, my dear child?
Even so, this doesn’t mean that we can go on without making an effort. Because in order to progress, we have to have greed or eagerness. We have a verse that says:
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate
“O friend, if you should find it anywhere, that heart absorbed in kṛṣṇa–rasa so rare be quick to buy, how much the soul’s in need! In that bazaar is posted just one price; millions of pious works will not suffice, the only cost is paid in coins of greed.” (Padyāvalī 14 also quoted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.70)
Kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvitā matiḥ – even millions and millions of lifetimes of pious activities will not give us this attitude of absorption in the sacred rapture of Kṛṣṇa devotion. The words lālasā or laulya means greed or intense eagerness. This is the most essential factor. If someone should somehow develop this intense eagerness to hear Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, then there is nothing that I can say. That is why I repeat once again, that I am not saying, “Don’t do it”. But I am telling you that this is what our Prabhupāda told us to do. Why did he tell me to stop discussing the Tenth Canto? I went on and started reading from the Eleventh Canto. Prabhupāda told us that the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s līlā is there in the Tenth Canto, but when will we gain the qualifications to relish them? So I take it that this is what is important for us to learn. If we want to attain real worthiness, then we have to give pride of place to the Holy Name, that we may chant without committing offences. So that we can chant offencelessly. After all, the Lord has invested the Name with all His potencies. Sarva-śakti dila nāme kariyā vibhāga (Caitanya–caritāmṛta, Antya 20.19). And there is no restriction as far as when or where one can chant the Holy Name. Nor does it matter whether one is pure or impure. In the morning I might be wearing a contaminated cloth, one that I have slept in all night, but the order remains, even in dirty clothes, “Chant the Holy Name.”
khāite śuite yathā tathā nāma laya
kāla-deśa-niyama nāhi, sarva siddhi haya
“One can chant the Holy Name in any condition at all, whether eating or lying down. There are no rules governing the time and place for chanting; one can attain all perfections in any case.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 20.18)
This is the contribution that Mahāprabhu made. One says I will get up early in the morning before sunrise, I will take my bath, clean my teeth, wash my face. I will put on tilaka etc. and only then will I sit down and chant. But Mahāprabhu is so merciful. What did He say? He said: chant wherever you are, in whatever state you find yourself.
Our Paramānanda Prabhu came to Śrīla Prabhupāda when he was very young so Prabhupāda loved him very much. He came when he was just a child…we heard that he was only eleven years old. In an article about Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura he wrote that he came when he was thirteen, but I heard that in fact he was eleven. Anyway, when he took shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda, he was still very young and so Prabhupāda always treated him with special affection, like his own child. He used to sleep in the same room with Śrīla Prabhupāda, so we would hear Prabhupāda call out, “O Paramānanda! Get up! Get up and do some chanting!” He would groan and Prabhupāda would say, “What will you gain by groaning?” So Prabhupāda would get him up in this way.
We have to make the necessary effort in order to develop a love for the Holy Name. We have to pray to the senior Vaiṣṇavas, our guru–varga, that we can surrender our pride for there is no place for egotism in devotional life. “I have become a great bhajanānandī. What other people are doing is not devotion. You call that bhakti? You chant, I’ll just listen.” We once had this attitude. “You chant, I’ll just listen.” You have to chant yourself too. The Holy Name is everything to us. That is why it is said –
nāma vinu kali-kāle nāhi āra dharma
sarva-mantra-sāra nāma, ei śāstra-marma
Kavirāja Gosvāmī Prabhu also writes:
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 the various kinds of devotional practices, the best are the nine varieties of devotion, each of which possess great power to bestow on the practitioner love of Kṛṣṇa and thus Kṛṣṇa Himself. Of these nine practices, the best is nāma–saṅkīrtana. If one chants without offences, he will attain the treasure of prema.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 4.70-71)
jayati jayati nāmānanda-rūpaṁ murārer
katham api sakṛd āttaṁ mukti-daṁ prāṇināṁ yat
paramaṃ amṛtam ekaṁ jīvanaṃ bhūṣanaṁ me
“All glories, all glories to the blissful form of Murāri which is His Name, through which all my efforts to perform religious practices, meditation and ritual worship have come to a halt. Simply by uttering the Name once in any way at all brings salvation to any living being – it is the supreme nectar; it is all that keeps me alive; it is my only ornament.” (Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, 1.1.9 )
Puīi-dhāma. Why did Mahāprabhu choose to live in Purī-dhāma? While here, He was always absorbed in the mood of Rādhārāṇī in separation, crying constantly. He came here at the age of 24, He then spent six years traveling the length and breadth of India, and then the last eighteen years of His life here. The first six of those years were spent in the company of the devotees, chanting, dancing and preaching. But the last twelve years were all in the Gambhīra, in the intoxicated madness of Rādhārāṇī’s divyonmada. He even jumped into the ocean and floated all the way to Cakra-tīrtha where he was caught in a fisherman’s net. The fisherman thought that he had become a ghost, some kind of living-dead man. Meanwhile Svarūpa Dāmodara and other associates of the Lord were looking for Him. They saw the fisherman, frightened out of his mind, saying, “A ghost! A zombie!”
Svarūpa Dāmodara said, “I am an exorcist. I know all the mantras to exorcise ghosts. I will take care of that zombie. Show him to me.” When they saw Mahāprabhu, He was lying there with all his limbs distended so that He was much taller than usual. The devotees started to sing the Holy Names in saṅkīrtana until eventually Mahāprabhu came back to consciousness. All these events are absolutely true. None of it is made up. It is neither false, nor were these events a pretence for the sake of impressing the world.
Whatever Mahāprabhu said is absolute truth. He taught by His words and His example. Āpani ācari prabhu jīvere śikhāya.. He Himself put into practice religious principles and only then did He instruct others. There is Māyāpura He created a garden of love. An orchard which produces fruits of love. That’s what is said. He made an orchard of the fruits of prema – prema-phala pāki paḍe mālī āsvādaya – when the fruits ripened and fell, the gardener Himself relished them (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 9.162) And as He relished the fruits, He said:
ekalā mālākāra āmi kāhāṅ kāhāṅ yāba
ekalā vā kata phala pāḍiyā vilāba
ekalā uṭhāñā dite haya pariśrama
keha pāya, keha nā pāya, rahe mane bhrama
ataeva āmi ājñā diluṅ sabākāre
yāhāṅ tāhāṅ prema-phala deha’ yāre tāre
“I am the only gardener. How many places can I go? How many fruits can I pick and distribute? It would certainly be a very laborious task to pick the fruits and distribute them alone, and still I suspect that some would receive them and others would not. Therefore I order every person within this universe to distribute these fruits of love everywhere.”
He didn’t say, “You don’t have to give them in California” or “You don’t have to give them in Russia” did He?
yāhān tāhān prema-phala deha yāre tāre
khāiyā ha-uk loka ajara amare
jagat vyāpiyā mora habe puṇya khyāti
sukhī ha-iyā loka mora gāhibeka kīrti
bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra
“Therefore I order every person in this universe to distribute these fruits of love everywhere…let people eat these fruits and become free from old age and death…people will become happy and sing My praises…anyone who has taken a human birth in the land of Bhārata-varṣa should perfect his life and engage in welfare activities for the rest of the world.”
pṛthivite āche yata nagarādi grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
“My name will be glorified everywhere throughout this earth, in every town and village.”
Nowhere did Mahaprabhu say that the fruits of love were to be distributed only in India and nowhere else – pṛthivite āche yata nagarādi grāma. And not just on this earth planet of ours – there are so many other planets, is it not so? It is for this reason that we…first Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura prayed tearfully in this way, “Why should the English be left behind?” He himself wrote Sri Caitanya – His Life and Precepts. Do you have that book? It was written in a very abbreviated form, so many years ago. Our godbrother Svāmī Mahārāja first found it in a library in Montreal. Bhaktivinoda wrote, “When will that day come when we will dance with our arms upraised, singing the Holy Name with our light-skinned brothers of Europe?” All these things are found in the eighteenth or nineteenth volume of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Sajjana Toṣaṇī.
From that moment, the international preaching work was begun. Of course, people like Vivekananda went to the west, but their message was different. Our preaching of the Holy Names is entirely for the sake of pure devotion. These others were preaching mayavadi philosophy. Mahāprabhu gave no quarter to the māyāvāda doctrine. The Padma Purāṇa has clearly criticized it:
māyāvādam asac-chāstraṁ pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi kalau brāhmaṇa-rūpiṇā
“The unholy doctrine of māyāvāda philosophy is said to be a disguised form of Buddhism. I appeared as a brāhmaṇa in the age of Kali to promulgate this philosophy.”
The Padma Purāṇa calls it an ‘unholy doctrine’. Why? Because the māyāvādīs say brahma satyam jagan mithya jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ – the only truth is Brahman. The living entity is nothing but Brahman. This is their entire teaching summarized. The only truth is Brahman and the world is false. It has no real existence. And they say jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ – every living being is in fact Brahman. Kavirāja Gosvāmī gives many arguments against this philosophy. The jīvas existence comes out of the Supreme Lord, the Parambrahma. As Kṛṣṇa Himself states: ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate – “I am the source of everything. Everything arises from Me.” All religions, actions -whatever exists has its origin in Him. Anyone who considers this will engage in the worship of the Lord – iti matvā bhajante māṁ budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ (Bhāgavad–gītā 10.8).
This is the spirit of devotion. Those who possess this spirit, those who are wise, worship the Lord with this devotional attitude. The Lord said this in the Bhāgavad–gītā. There, the Lord taught karma, jnana, gradually explaining everything. Then finally He said:
sarva-guhyatamaṁ bhūyaḥ śṛṇu me paramaṁ vacaḥ
iṣṭo ’si me dṛḍham iti tato vakṣyāmi te hitam
“Now hear My supreme teaching, the most hidden of all hidden treasures. You are extremely dear to me, and really this is why I am explaining this for your true benefit.” (Bhāgavad-gītā 18.64)
Then the Lord followed this by saying, sarva-dharmān parityaja…sarva-dharmān, which Viśvanātha Cakravartī explains means varṇāśrama-dharma, so it is not only that the brāhmaṇas will make others do and the kṣatriyas will do everything. No. And Mahāprabhu Himself gave His identity as beyond varṇāśrama. One identity is sopādhikāma ‘with material qualities’, the other is nirupādhikam or ‘without material qualities’. Mahāprabhu gave the nirupādhikam identity, the transcendental identity of the soul.
nāhaṁ vipro na ca nara-patir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na ca gṛha-patir no vanastho yatir vā
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ
“I am not a brāhmaṇa, nor a kṣatriya; I am not a vaiśya nor a śūdra, I am not a brahmacārī, nor a householder, not a vanaprastha, not a sannyāsī. But since Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the maintainer of the gopīs and the overflowing ocean of nectar, is the only source of universal, transcendental bliss, I claim to be a servant to the servant of the servant of His lotus feet.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 13.8, Padyāvalī 74)
This is the transcendental identity. The jiva is transcendental. This is the essence of the jiva. The material (sopādhika) identity of the self is “I am a kṣatriya, I have a B.A., I am a king etc.” These are all upādhis, the disguises of the soul.
sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaṁ tat-paratvena nirmalam
hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa- sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
“Bhakti is defined as the engagement of the senses in the service of the Proprietor of the senses. This service is to be free from any contamination by identity with the body, and pure through being exclusively fixed on Him.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu quoting Nārada Pañcarātra)
All these superfluous designations have nothing to do with the soul itself. The real identity of the soul is gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ – ‘the servant of the servant of the servant of the lover of the gopīs‘ lotus feet’. This is the transcendental identity of the soul. I am not a brāhmaṇa, nor a kṣatriya; I am not a vaiśya nor a śūdra, I am not a brahmacārī, nor a householder, not a vanaprastha, not a sannyāsī. My real identity cannot be found within the varṇāśrama–dharma. What is my true identity? gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ – ‘the servant of the servant of the servant of the lover of the gopīs‘ lotus feet’. I am the servant of Kṛṣṇa’s servant’s servant. To be Russian or Indian – these are not pure identities. Do you understand?
Everyone has such a pure identity: everyone from every nation has the same essential nature. There are not a multitude of different natures. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written all this in his Śikṣāmṛta. “According to the pure character of the soul, all people of all countries have the same religion.” But the mundane identity causes one to think, I am a brāhmaṇa, I won’t take water that has been touched by that person for it will contaminate me – all this kind of thing. Is it not so?
However, because we identify with the pure soul does not mean that we eat anything that is given to us by anybody. Why not? When we do so, their mentality affects us, enters into us. Yogīs, yoga practitioners, don’t eat just anything they get from anyone. They will not eat everything that falls into their hands. Why not? Because their performance of yoga will be adversely affected. They are performing yoga with a particular objective and if they eat the food of a sensual or materialistic person, then those tendencies will have an affect on their thought processes. Do you follow me? But in your country these things go on. Why should we avoid eating other peoples food? Because if we do, their mentality will encroach upon ours. If we eat the food of a sexually indiscriminate person, then his promiscuity will enter my nature. Do you understand?
Thus we do not, as a rule, eat the food of just any person. We only take mahā–prasāda, the food which has been offered to Kṛṣṇa. And you will remark that the food offered to Lord Jagannātha has a special power. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura especially praised the dahl–prasāda. It is so wonderful, it does not cause any indigestion. I used to be afraid of eating urad–dāhl at one time, because I tended to have severe stomach problems. So I used to avoid urad–dahl. But here, if you eat Lord Jagannātha’s urad–dahl prasāda, you will have absolutely no digestion problems.
So my dear child, if anyone has any problems understanding, then he should come and ask me. I will not consider it a disturbance. The point is that we don’t take food anywhere that is devoid of pure devotion. Wherever pure devotion is practiced, there is no need of any further consideration. For example, if someone comes with maha–prasada and I say, “No, you are a foreigner, I won’t eat anything that you have touched”, this is improper. I do not say that because he is bringing me mahā–prasāda which cannot be contaminated by anyone’s touch. Even Brahma and Siva ecstatically accept Jagannātha’s prasāda; they are so happy that they dance while eating it. And in this book (Śrī Kṣetra by Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda), it is said that Jagannātha Himself eats all the offerings here every single day. Of course, everything I have said about mahā–prasāda is not it true glory. That is found in the following verses of the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa:
brahmavan-nirvikāram hi yathā viṣṇus tathaiva tat
vikāraṁ ye prakurvanti bhakṣaṇe tad dvijātayaḥ
nirayaṁ yänti te viprās tasmān-nāvartate punaḥ
“Viṣṇu-prasāda does not become transformed any more than Viṣṇu Himself. Any brāhmaṇa who thinks so will become a leper and lose his wife and children, he will go to hell whence he shall never return.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 9.134)
Of course, this verse is trying to frighten people a little! But just think how many people have touched mahā–prasāda! Even so, no one says, “An outcaste or a low caste person has touched it, now I won’t eat it.” That is why the verse says, brahmavan nirvikāram. Do you think that if you were to touch Viṣṇu that he would be transformed somehow? If a leatherworker touches him, does he become one?
So Lord Jagannātha has come out onto the open road to allow everyone to see Him. So many people are coming and touching Him. Some climb onto His chariot. We normally don’t do that, but last time Singhaniya Mahāśaya took me right up onto it. But if someone touches Jagannātha that doesn’t mean that He has become contaminated or lost His caste-status! He is the father of everyone, the father of the universe as it is said in Bhāgavad–gītā: pitāham asya jagato mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ (Bhāgavad–gītā 9.17)
Mahāprabhu’s religion is extremely generous, is extremely generous. His pastimes are the audārya-līlā – supreme munificence. He embraced everyone – his religion is all-embracing. He would embrace everyone. He even embraced Vāsudeva Vipra, who was afflicted with leprosy. Worms and insects were feeding off Vāsudeva’s sores. If they fell out, he would put them back in. It is frightening to even think of these things. It is disgusting even to hear about it. Imagine if we were to see it! Still, Mahāprabhu embraced him and transformed him into a handsome young man. Then Vāsudeva said to the Lord, ” Previously people used to hate me. Now I am afraid that I will be proud because of what You have done.” But Mahāprabhu answered: kabhu nā bādhibe tomāra viṣaya-taraṅga – “The waves of material sense objects will never entangle you.”
yāre dekha, tāre kaha ‘kṛṣṇa’ upadeśa
āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa
kabhu nā bādhibe tomāra viṣaya-taraṅga
punarapi ei ṭhāñi pābe mora saṅga
“Instruct whomever you see in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. By my command become a guru and deliver this land. The waves of material sense objects will never entangle you and one day you will have my association again in this very place.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 7.128-9)
That which then takes place has never before been seen. He was completely covered in leprous sores. This is all completely true.
So many people criticize me. They say, “Mahārāja doesn’t allow people to discuss the higher realms of devotional achievement. That is not the case. I am not holding back on that account. But you must be on the platform of naiṣṭhikī–bhakti. You explain all this, Bābā. May everyone reach the stage of naiṣṭhikī–bhakti. Because, then as the Bhāgavata says:
tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati
One may be a very learned person, but if one talks about the highest realms of spiritual life without the adhikāra, it is dangerous. I am not objecting to someone doing that, but people must have the proper qualifications.
adhikāra nā labhiyā siddha-deha bhāve
viparyaya buddhi janme śaktira abhāve
“If someone meditates on his spiritual body without having the proper qualifications, he develops the wrong conception because he is insufficiently strong.”
Have you ever heard this verse quoted? I have not criticized others who speak on these higher topics. Please understand this clearly. I have never criticized or blasphemed them. I would never do it because I would become an offender to a Vaiṣṇava if I did so. But I do warn you all – first deserve, then desire, first deserve, then desire…