Varnāśrama-dharma

Room Conversation

Devotee: I’m wondering about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s whole endeavor and focus – how much endeavor it was to present Kṛṣṇa consciousness purely, not kaitava-dharma. He wanted to give Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Still, after a few years, after the ’70s, we can see that he started to speak more about varnāśrama-dharma and give it more emphasis. In the beginning devotees were asking, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, aren’t we transcendental to it?” And Prabhupāda said, “Are we? If they are Vaiṣṇavas – why are they falling down?” He wanted to establish a foundation for people to get more peace of mind, a more favorable position to engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That’s what it seems like from what I’ve been reading from Prabhupāda. So, how to understand this?

Aindra Prabhu: I have my own observations and take on that, which also requires that we address two aspects of a devotee’s life, particularly a preacher’s life. If someone ordains himself as a preacher, then he has a prime responsibility and he has . . . let’s not say a secondary, but a corollary responsibility.

The first and foremost responsibility of any preacher is to himself be fully self-realized in order to be fully empowered to infuse bhakti-śakti in the hearts of the people he’s associating with or endeavoring to preach to. If that is lacking, then we question whether or not we are Vaiṣṇavas. It is not just that someone hears a little philosophy and then he parrots the philosophy at a college or whatever, that such is the actual substance that impresses anyone. He may be able to bamboozle someone intellectually, but he may not succeed in actually inculcating the essence of prema in the heart of that person in order to generate in him genuine pure devotional śraddhā.

Varnāśrama is meant for those who have no pure devotional śraddhā. Pure devotional śraddhā – not bhāva, not prema, but pure devotional śraddhā. It is the basis of pure devotion. Because in his writings, Bhaktivinoda Thakur delineates – rather scientifically – the distinction between pure devotional śraddhā, chaya-śraddhā-abhāsa, and pratibimba-śraddhā-abhāsa. There’s a semblance of śraddhā that many devotees may think is real śraddhā but is actually not. Pure devotional śraddhā, according to Bhaktivinoda Thakur, is synonymous with śaraṇāgati. And śaraṇāgati begins with accepting those things that are favorable for the cultivation of uttama-bhakti. Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam [Cc Madhya 19.167]. The main focal point of a devotee’s life is ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ. So to accept the svarupa-laksana of pure devotion is the most essential. The svarupa-laksana is ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ — that which is to be accepted. And to reject those things which are unfavorable. What does that mean? Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam.

To become fixed up in uttama-bhakti in order to actually realize the purport of bhāgavata, or the import of bhāgavata-dharma, the devotee has to actually be considerably focused. What does that mean? Śraddhā-śabdheviśvāsa sudṛḍha niścaya [Cc Madhya 22.62] Sudṛḍha. Dṛḍha-vrata.

yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām
te dvandva-moha-nirmuktā

bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ

[BG 7.28]

satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ

[BG 9.14]

So, that firm determination. And not just any dṛḍha-vrata but sudṛḍha -vrata – you know, sudṛḍha niscaya . . . kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya kṛṣṇa [Cc Madhya 22.62]: that all my necessities of life – my prime, most important necessities – will be fulfilled simply by doing kṛṣṇa-bhakti. And kṛṣṇa-bhakti means śuddha-bhakti, not miśra-bhakti. So we need to recognize in our own lives that anything other than preaching the principles of pure devotional service is subsidiary. It is not the essence. These are conditional dharmas.

Many devotees have become bewildered by these instructions from Śrīla Prabhupāda, thinking that the establishment of varnāśrama-dharma is of utmost importance. But actually, the establishment of varnāśrama-dharma was mostly . . . if you go through all of the recordings of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s conversations with religionists and scientists, economists and what not, you’ll hear how he again and again harped on the necessity for there to be a head on human society, that others will be able to function properly only if there’s a head to guide them. He was preaching against a class-less society, or communism, which is not class-less but basically is śūdra society with a few administrators reaping at the expenses of everyone else, which proves that the concept is a virtual impossibility. So in this way, Prabhupāda mostly focused his preaching to such kinds of people in the direction of “sub-religious” principles, because varnāśrama is a sub-religious principle; it is not a real religious principle.

Even here in Vṛndāvana, there were some morning walks when Prabhupāda was discussing his idea of instituting varnāśrama. His main purpose that I can understand – although, as you pointed out, he said that if they’re Vaiṣṇavas, why are they falling down? – his main purpose was to set an example in the microcosm for the benefit of the macrocosm. That was his main intention.

Of course, in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, as far as I remember, he mentions that varnāśrama is only necessary – it is not necessary, but it is only necessary – to the extent that there are residues of the bodily conception of life. There are those amongst us in this Society who are determined to remain attached to their bodily conception of life. And they will determinately attach themselves to the upādhi of being a brahmacārī, or the upādhi of being a sannyāsī, parading around in their masquerade costumes, identifying with the particular role they are endeavoring to model for the benefit of others. But many, in spite of the fact that they were role-modeling as sannyāsīs or good little brahmacārīs or gṛhasthas with redoubled preaching strength, fell away.

It’s not that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t introduce varnāśrama, in the sense that certain individuals were accepting positions in various āśramas practically from the very onset. By 1968, there was the idea among devotees of gṛhasthas, brahmacārīs, and sannyāsīs. So they had their safety net to fall back on, in terms of human existence. Varnāśrama is the beginning of human life, but did that stop them from falling down? Do you understand my point? Just the fact that someone is pigeon-holed as a brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, or sannyāsī doesn’t guarantee that he is not going to become distracted from his pursuit of the ultimate goal of life.

As a matter of fact, my personal observation is that over the years, seeing how so many fell away in spite of the fact that they were big this, that, or the other varnāśrama-wise, the reason they fell down is because they were not sufficiently encouraged to pursue the paro-dharma. They were already distracted, thinking that they had to involve themselves with conditional dharmas more than what was perhaps actually required, and thereby lost valuable time. In other words, the preaching didn’t sufficiently impress upon them the need to progress. I’m not saying “Prabhupāda’s preaching,” although what others preached to us came from what Prabhupāda was preaching. But anyone who wants to glean the essence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness can do so by hearing from Śrīla Prabhupāda. And many of the leaders in our movement became absorbed in conditional pursuits in terms of their idea that we had to set up varnāśrama within our society, that we had to somehow or other, even though Prabhupāda had said that to establish varnāśrama in the context of the present demoniac leadership infrastructure of so-called civilization is a virtual impossibility, although quite necessary to rectify the ills of human society. It is not possible! Prabhupāda said clearly that it was not possible. And he also offered the solution.

I say that if it’s the solution for the macrocosm, then it’s also a solution for the microcosm. It should be seen as the solution for the microcosm even before we apply it to the macrocosm. And that is to increase the piety, to force people to become pious, because it’s for the people and by the people. But people are not pious; they’re a bunch of small dogs, animals, getting together and electing one big animal and glorifying him until they are ready to pull him off the throne. The blue jackal syndrome. But how to make them pious? How to increase their spiritual intelligence so that they can see things in proper perspective, see the distinction between the pure devotional ideal, or the Vedic ideal, and the present demoniac mundane wrangling, exploitative kind of government that is going on now?

Prabhupāda told us that the solution to the problem is to perform mass hārināma saṅkīrtana and distribute books. But he specifically mentioned mass hārināma saṅkīrtana all over the world. Because the atmosphere that is surcharged with the influence of the Holy Name, with the sound of the Holy Name, and even the ethereal element in the atmosphere, is purified so much so that even after the saṅkīrtana party has gone back to the temple, if people enter into the atmosphere where the saṅkīrtana party was, they become purified of sinful reactions and gain piety. And not just any kind of piety, but bhakti-unmukhi-sukṛti. They become more and more eligible to get śraddhā, even pure devotional śraddhā. Or at least śraddhā-abhāsa, which is somehow connected with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then it’s possible for them to recognize the need for superior Kṛṣṇa conscious leadership in human society and vote God conscious leadership into office.

But devotees, hearing that Prabhupāda had this desire to re-implement varnāśrama in human society by setting up little varnāśrama communities as an example for the rest of the world to follow, in their confusion they became, let’s say, neglectful of the basic elementary process, which Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed was necessary for varnāśrama to ever be possible. And that’s to perform hārināma saṅkīrtana!

So all over the movement, especially after Prabhupāda left, hārināma saṅkīrtana waned like anything, practically to the point where no one goes out on hārināma saṅkīrtana, except in a couple of places in the world, especially compared to the way it was when Prabhupāda was here: devotees going out daily on hārināma saṅkīrtana, having mahā-saṅkīrtana processions in the thick of it on Friday and Saturday nights, on the week-ends.

In other words, the cart was put before the horse. It’s much harder for a horse to push a cart than it is for a horse to draw a cart. So the horse should go before the cart. Unless we become sufficiently purified from our attachments to all upādhis, sarvopādhi vinirmuktam, including the conceptions of oneself, the bodily conception, which would make it necessary for you to think in terms of entertaining varnāśrama dharma even in the slightest. Unless we become purified of all these upādhis, we’re not going to be able to be invested with the śakti, the spiritual realization, the cognizance of who we really are on the spiritual platform. Sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate (BG 14.26). How? Not by practicing varnāśrama duties and all these things, but by bhakti-yogena sevate. Māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate means without deviating from that principle. Then sa guṇān samatītyaitān, attaining the transcendental platform, is possible.

In other words, there is no solution to anyone’s problems. Varnāśrama is not the solution to anyone’s problems. It will never be the solution to the soul’s problems. Varnāśrama is only a stepping-stone to the extent that varnāśrama actually fosters śuddha-bhakti. If the śuddha-bhakti principles are not being followed, then varnāśrama is an anārtha. Whether varnāśrama or no varnāśrama, the real substance has to be there for anything to be viable and real. And in Kali-yuga – I hate to sound like a fanatic; I don’t want people to brand me as being some kind of an old-timer, old-fashioned. But I dare say that Kali-yuga has hardly started, and for the whole 432,000 years of Kali-yuga – not just for the first 4,500 years, taking it up to about the time when Lord Caitanya and his associates were chanting and dancing at Śrīvasa-aṅgam and busting out and taking it to the streets, but for the whole Kali-yuga – hārināma saṅkīrtana is the yuga-dharma. And not just for the whole yuga, but for every living entity who’s appearing on Earth. . . .

A large contingency of devotees harp on cow protection because Śrīla Prabhupāda harped on cow protection also. So many times we’ve heard Prabhupāda telling how the cow is giving us milk, milk gives finer brain substance for understanding subtle spiritual . . . what subtle? It’s not so subtle! In the matter of fact, it’s blatantly obvious, and it is staring us in the face. Finer brain substance means what? Milk of the cow gives finer brain substance for understanding. Understanding means understanding what? Finer brain substance means su-medhasaḥ. Understanding means yajñaih saṅkīrtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ (SB 11.5.32). So then we have to see: in Kali-yuga, it’s not possible to satisfy Kṛṣṇa without satisfying the Kali-yuga-yajña-puruṣa, who happens to be Lord Caitanya, who is satisfied how? By the performance of the yuga-dharma, hārināma saṅkīrtana. So we can sit and armchair-philosophize about varnāśrama-dharma all we want and think that we’re doing something wonderful in the matter of setting up our little microcosm among the devotees. But I say, To hell with varnāśrama-dharma!

There’s no time for cultivating varnāśrama-dharma. People who think that there is time for cultivating varnāśrama-dharma simply have not understood the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Maybe they can busy themselves with cultivating varnāśrama-dharma, but someone who is actually serious about pursuing the path of śuddha-bhakti, who has actually understood the philosophy, realizes that this human form of life is very short. And I have to get from A to C in this one lifetime; it’s going to take focused, single-minded intelligence. Ekeha kuru nandana (BG 2.41). Kṛṣṇa says, ekeha, one-pointed. And for those who have other things, then bahu-śākhā, many branches. This conditional dharma, that conditional dharma . . . whatever. But according to Bhaktivinoda Thakur, someone who wants to actually achieve the terrace of prema should concern himself with the regulative principles of varnāśrama-dharma as little as possible and focus his life’s energies on performing the yuga-dharma, by which you can hope to get anywhere.

And yuga-dharma means paro-dharma, which means fostering para-bhakti, or rāgānuga-bhakti, because that’s what Mahāprabhu came to give by inaugurating the saṅkīrtana movement. The saṅkīrtana movement is a movement meant to spread Vraja-prema, to open the storehouse of Vraja-bhakti and distribute Vraja-bhakti to the most fallen conditioned souls. So that has to be taken into consideration. Saṅkīrtana-yajña is not just anything, any kind of saṅkīrtana. First of all, it’s harināma saṅkīrtana – and not just any kind of harināma saṅkīrtana. It’s saṅkīrtana of the mahā-mantra, because mahā-mantra is the tarak-brahma-kīrtana-mantra for this age of Kali. There were other mantras, which were the tarak-brahma-kīrtana-mantras for other ages. But this Hare-Kṛṣṇa-mahā-mantra happens to be a Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa-yugala-vipralambha-mayi, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa-yugala-mantra. The Nimbarkas have Rādhe Kṛṣṇa, Rādhe Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Rādhe Rādhe/ Rādhe Śyāma, Rādhe Śyāma, Śyāma Śyāma, Rādhe Rādhe. This is also a Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa-yugala-mantra, but it is sambhoga-mayi. Ours is vipralambha-mayi, which leads to Vraja.

According to Dhyānacandra in Śrī Śrī Gaura-govinda-arcana-smarana-padyati, the perfection, or you can say fruit, of chanting the mahā-mantra is the attainment of Vraja-dhāma. Mahā-mantra saṅkīrtana is for the purpose of augmenting rāga-bhakti, spontaneous devotion, following in the footsteps of the Vraja-vāsīs, whose devotion is immaculate. It is completely pure, free from any contamination of aiśvarya-jñāna or mundane karmas or any such things – contamination with the desire for self-satisfaction that you find in realms attained by conditional bhakti.

It is in our guru-paramparā, and Śrīla Prabhupāda very clearly stressed unconditional devotion, unalloyed devotion. That means kevala-bhakti. That is our real legacy. When Prabhupāda said that half of his work was done, so then everyone went, “Huh?” What was the other half, which was not done? So, half of his work was done – but what was his work? To establish the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. To establish the saṅkīrtana movement. Half of his work was done, but we seem to forget that he said that we should maintain what he did. We should not just turn toward the fifty percent which was not done, which some people foolishly have opted to do. They think, “Well, what Prabhupāda gave, he already did. That’s already done. Now we have to focus on what he didn’t do in order to accomplish the fifty percent.” But what was the fifty percent? He expressed that the fifty percent was to establish varnāśrama-dharma in the world. So we have already discussed how Prabhupāda said it could be done. It could be done by performing hārināma saṅkīrtana. Not by going around trying to convince demons that they should be engaged in varnāśrama-dharma, establish it by replacing the leadership. As long as the leaders – rakṣasas living off the blood of human society – are creating a consumer society and trying to keep everyone in ignorance so that they can sell them their unnecessary so-called necessities, you cannot even begin to think in terms of establishing varnāśrama-dharma.

So where is the question of fulfilling Śrīla Prabhupāda’s fifty percent unless we actually seriously take the formula he advocated for accomplishing that, and that’s to put the horse before the cart and do your hārināma saṅkīrtana, get absorbed in hārināma saṅkīrtana by which you yourself will be able to get the higher taste so that you can give up your lower taste so that you won’t have to concern yourself with thinking in terms of this upādhi or that upādhi? You’ll actually be above the influence of the three modes of material nature; you’ll actually be above varnāśrama as a pure Vaiṣṇava, because you have ruci, hārināma ruci, śuddha nāma ruci. You don’t get śuddha nāma ruci by not doing hārināma saṅkīrtana, please. You understand my point?

Does it make sense to you? Otherwise it’s just show bottle. You forget the actual medicine, the actual nourishment. It’s a big mistake. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has been grossly misled, either by ignorant people, shallow people (superficial people who just can’t really get to the essence of what the whole thing is supposed to be all about), or by diabolical people who are purposely, conscientiously trying to undermine the progress of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement from within. Don’t think that that can’t be going on. But at least it shouldn’t go on in our individual life. If we want to become empowered, we have to first of all recognize what is the truth, so that we can present the truth. If we don’t even recognize it, then how are we going to represent the sampradāya? The sampradāya is not a bunch of baboons screwing things up for the spiritual master. Sampradāya means people who are actually absorbed in what the sampradāya is teaching. And what the sampradāya is teaching means the whole gamut of teachings. Varnāśrama is a very insignificant aspect of the sampradāya’s teachings.

Devotee: People who are over-emphasizing this varnāśrama are just reflecting their own lack of śraddhā.

Yes, exactly. Of course, Prabhupāda harped on varnāśrama at a certain point, and that didn’t indicate his lack of śraddhā. But for the most part, devotees who are focusing on that . . . just like for some time there was this, what is it called, social development. This is not the International Society for Social Development, please. And it’s not the International Society for varnāśrama-dharma. It is the International society for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Or in another way you can say that it is not Lord Caitanya’s social development movement, it’s not His varnāśrama movement, it’s not his cow protection movement, not His baby-making movement, not His International meet-mart movement as we see around the Vṛndāvana-yatra time and again.

It’s not really even Lord Caitanya’s book distribution movement. Book distribution is saṅkīrtana in that it promotes the yuga-dharma hārināma saṅkīrtana. The essence of all the śāstras is the chanting of the Holy Name. That’s the essential message of all the scriptures. The scriptures were made for Kali-yuga rejects like us, who have short memories. They were written down. In previous yugas, they didn’t need to write anything down. There may be one or two who might have written things down, but practically all the brahmacārīs were śruti-dhāra – they could remember. Most of us brahmacārīs in Kali-yuga have hardly any memory at all. There’s a few good ones, but we can hardly think that Vyāsadeva wrote down the literatures for the people of Kali-yuga without considering the necessity of promoting the currently manifest yuga-dharma. It’s not that Vyāsadeva didn’t know what the yuga-dharma was going to be.

One should engage in the yuga-dharma. And if for some reason one can’t directly engage in nāma-saṅkīrtana, then at least he can distribute a few books to encourage other people to come forward to join Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement so that they can have the opportunity to engage in the yuga-dharma. I really don’t call this shuffling-your-feet-around at maṅgala-āratik, hardly even getting off the ground and mumbling a few mantras, as saṅkīrtana. I mean, how much Hare-Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra kīrtana is done during the maṅgala-āratik or the guru-pūjā kīrtana anyway?

In most Western temples, nobody comes back for the sandhya-āratik in the evening. They’re out making money or distributing books or whatever they’re doing, but they’re not coming to the temple. So basically, all you have is two kīrtanas in the morning program for about twenty-five minutes each. And that’s all of your life’s energies that you are going to offer for the performance of yuga-dharma? And everything else is . . . it’d better be somehow or other connected, supporting temple management. But what’s temple management? What’s the meaning of temple management if the manager doesn’t recognize that the temple is supposed to be a place for people to congregate to perform congregational chanting of the Holy Names? Sweeping the floor – why? So that there is a clean place to come perform nāma-saṅkīrtana. Worshipping the Deity – why? We’re feeding the Deity nicely, decorating Him nicely, making sure that the Deity is not inconvenienced, that at least He is a little comfortable – but why? So that He will stay with us to place His favorable glances on our performances of the yuga-dharma nāma-saṅkīrtana.

Because hārināma saṅkīrtana is the yuga-dharma. Any other service that doesn’t recognize the subordination to the yuga-dharma can hardly be called service. Rather, it is an anārtha.

Devotee: Amazing. In the name of service, one is getting distracted. So, the best thing I can do is to just work to increase my own focus on nāma-saṅkīrtana, right?

Yeah, and encourage other people. See, the thing – and one thing our movement is greatly lacking – is the higher taste, which makes people happy. It’s because they’re not getting a higher taste that they’re not happy. And because they’re not happy, there is so much bickering, so much institutional and inter-institutional quarrel and strife, because they’re not getting the higher taste. They prefer to busy themselves with all these cyber-wars and all this kind of garbage that is supposed to be so important to philosophically battle each other. Why not philosophically try to understand that if we’re not performing the yuga-dharma, we’re missing the point.

Instead, we must actually surrender – śaraṇāgati – on the basis of faith in the purposes of Lord Caitanya’s advent to inaugurate the saṅkīrtana movement of the Holy Name. It’s not such a difficult thing to understand if anyone has read any of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books.

Devotee: The problem is that people are not reading Prabhupāda’s books now.

Maybe. They may not be reading Prabhupāda’s books. But even people who supposedly do read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books – they see what they want to see. They don’t actually read with the necessary receptivity of the disciple. Two things are important: a potent guru and a receptive disciple. It’s filtering through – they have their own, in-built knowledge filters. They don’t have the adhikāra, so they don’t recognize things. The adhikāra begins with pure devotional śraddhā. Likely, if they didn’t have the adhikāra in the beginning, when they started reading the books, it’s due to the fact that many of them are coming into the fold of sat-guru’s association for the first time. So they’re chanting aparādha-nāma. They are not even on the platform of . . . so how much can they see? How much are their clouds of illusion dissipating? They didn’t have sufficient previous association in previous lifetimes; they’re starting at square one. So you can’t really blame them. They’re on the progressive path. In the next lifetime, they’ll get a better situation and maybe have more su-medhasaḥ to understand the point. So due to lack of sufficient accumulation of bhakti-unmukhi-sukṛti from previous lifetimes, their śraddhā is weak.

Devotee: I’m coming back to the same point of the main svarūpa; it does say that as far as you don’t have a preacher who practically has pure śraddhā, pure devotional service, to preach pure devotional service at all . . .

According to Bhaktivinoda Thakur in Caitanya Śikṣāmṛta, there is jīva-doyanāma-ruci, jīva-doya, and Vaiṣṇava-seva. These three things are important. Nāma-ruci is absolutely required. Jīva-doya can be manifest on three levels, but without having nāma-ruci, one can hardly be actually doing jīva-doya. Nāma-ruci means śuddha-nāma-ruci; that’s real ruci. So when śuddha-nāma-ruci is there, when one is chanting that śuddha-nāma, you cannot have śuddha-nāma-ruci unless you’re chanting śuddha-nāma. So if someone is chanting śuddha-nāma, then his chanting can actually do good to others. If someone is chanting abhāsa-nāma, then you do a semblance of good to others. If someone is chanting aparādha-nāma, he hardly does any good for others at all. By aparādha-nāma, you can fill their bellies; even aparādha-nāma will make it rain and make grains grow and solve people’s chapatti problems. You will get bhukti – filled belly, gratified, powered by the offended name. So you’re doing that kind of semblance of good.

And the other semblance of good is that you’re freeing the people who hear the abhāsa-nāma, the abhāsa or Vaiṣṇava-abhāsa would-be chanting, from sinful reactions so that they gradually become elevated from the tama-guṇa and raja-guṇa to the sattva-guṇa. Then, as they are freed from sinful reactions to the extent that they are situated in the sattva-guṇa, to that extent, knowledge can be illuminated and they can begin to understand the difference between matter and spirit. But they don’t get bhakti.

The only real good anyone can do for anyone is to infuse bhakti into their hearts by chanting śuddha-nāma. So those who are chanting śuddha-nāma are on three levels, and as such, corresponding to those three levels there are three levels of jīva-doya. The devotee at the stage of ruci, śuddha-nāma-ruci, chanting śuddha-nāma, is considered a sādhaka. He is not a siddha – he is still a sādhaka – but because he is chanting the pure name, he can plant the seed of pure devotional śraddhā within the heart of an ordinary man and gradually help him to come to the platform of ruci by doing anārtha-nivṛtti, etc. But on a higher level are those who are actually siddha, who attain the bhāva platform. They can immediately generate nāma-ruci within the heart of an ordinary man. In other words, they can purify that soul considerably by the power of their chanting and gradually bring them up to his position.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that those who are actually premaka Vaiṣṇavas, their power is not limited and they can immediately, just by glancing, just by good wishes or just by vācā – pronouncing benediction upon someone – they can immediately bring him to the prema platform. So if we want to do any good for anyone, at least we have to be on the platform of chanting śuddha-nāma as pure devotee sādhakas. A green mango may not be a ripe mango, but at least it’s a mango; it’s the real thing! The ends and the means have to be the same. If you’re not engaged in pure devotional practices, you’re not going to perfect those pure devotional practices to come to the position of pure devotion in perfection. It’s very simple. If you’re engaging in bhakti-abhāsa on the basis of śraddhā-abhāsa, you’re not going to come to the platform of genuine rati. You’re going to come to the position of rati-abhāsa.

So how important it is – how very few years we have – to accomplish anything. We have to really focus on doing whatever is required to actually get nāma-ruci so that we can even hope to begin to do the real jīva-doya. Everyone is harping on para-upakāra, para-upakāra, para-upakāra – you know, gosthi-ānandi, para-upakāra – but there is no para-upakāra unless there is para-bhakti. Para-bhakti means rāga-bhakti. There may be upakāra, doing something for others. But para-upakāra means to act as an agent of the predecessor ācāryas in disciplic succession to give the people what the sampradāya is actually set up to give them – the transparent via media! Transparent via media means that you have the eligibility or the adhikāra, the qualification, to allow the actual message to come through without putting your little knowledge filter on it or keeping people in the dark as to what is the actual siddhānta of the Gauḍīya-sampradāya. So at least we have to help people come to the position of understanding what is the prayojana, the goal. There’s no need of understanding the abhideya-tattva unless you’ve already ascertained what is the goal.

So devotees have to become well versed if they want to be actual preachers. They, themselves, have to be well acquainted with the essence of Gaudiya Vaiṣṇava philosophy, both in theory and in realization. In other words, there is no substitute for becoming a realized soul. And this—becoming fully self-realized souls—is our first business, putting the horse before the cart in our own lives. At least on the ruci platform it’s possible to recognize our natural intrinsic spiritual inclination toward a particular rasa and be engaged in the pursuit of that bhāva. Without pursuing that bhāva, how do you expect to get there? First you have to know where you’re going. It doesn’t just automatically happen. Know where you’re going and practice accordingly. Otherwise, there’s no question of being able to suss out what is favorable or what is unfavorable, because one man’s food is another man’s poison.

So we have to be a little thoughtful about what we’re doing with our human form of life. Our most important duty to the guru paramparā is to become fully self-realized so that we can have the fitness to help others become fully self-realized. Because what is the use, what is the meaning? Here’s a very nice movement for having ample facility for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending? There’s enough of that going on. Why should I come to this movement for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending? I was doing fine eating, sleeping, mating, defending out there in the material world. I came to this movement to get something solid, something real, to solve my spiritual dilemma in the matter of my not being able to ascertain the purpose of my life, the purpose of my existence, my being in anxiety on account of not knowing who I am. My abject forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa.

Remembrance of Kṛṣṇa doesn’t mean that you keep a little Kṛṣṇa on the side over here on the mantle and in the other corner have a big fat color TV. That’s not remembering Kṛṣṇa. It may be a semblance of remembering Kṛṣṇa, but really remembering Kṛṣṇa means samādhi. That’s real remembrance. And work means working towards accomplishment of samādhi, not just doing any damned thing working. Working, working, working like a workaholic. Samādhi means complete absorption and not just practical samādhi in the sense of absorbing the external body in Kṛṣṇa sense objects, but absorbing the mind. Complete absorption is not complete unless the mind, the intellect, the consciousness – the whole lock, stock, and barrel taken together is absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Samādhi now – work later! The real work – jīva-doya. The real jīva-doya, not the semblance of jīva-doya. Distribute a few books so that people actually get the chance to hear Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching, which is coming from the self-realized platform.

But when they come through the doors of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, elements within the movement distort the message in this way or that way or the other, completely confusing people and making them wonder whether they have understood what is or is not in the books. Their so-called preacher cannot even figure it out himself. He’s trying to cram some nonsense down someone else’s throat in the name of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and is not allowing them to see what is the actual siddhānta.

Devotee: A very big disaster.

Yes, it is a disaster. It’s a fiasco. It’s not like that everywhere, but an awful lot of everywhere is subject to that kind of environmental condition within the context of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement due to immaturity, or due to miserliness, like Dhenukasura’s. Dhenukasura – neither he could taste tala fruits nor would he allow anyone else to taste them. But our real business is to taste the tala fruit of Vraja-prema and rāga-mārga bhakti loke korite pracārana. Pracārana means to preach. But to preach what? To preach rāga-mārga-bhakti loke to the world. Loke means to the world, to the people. Loke means to everyone, and not just to the select few. We may have to judge how much an individual can handle. But the idea is that when you’re called, if you are chosen, you can do real jīva-doya and fulfill Lord Caitanya’s mission – to elevate people to the platform of rāga-bhakti. That’s why Lord Caitanya came to this world. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndavāna as well. And their representatives also. But instead, we’ve been satisfied to preach varnāśrama-dharma, missing the point, thinking that realization is for another lifetime or something, and disallowing others . . . Dhenukāsura syndrome.

Devotee: Is that what Prabhupāda meant when he said that all this is boiling the milk?

Yes, exactly. Boiling the milk. Very deeply understand the philosophy from all angles of vision. Then focus on the conclusion and help others get that focus. That’s preaching. Not just being satisfied with preaching the rudimentaries but helping others get a higher taste, inspiring them to pursue the goal. That’s preaching. And to take to the process by which they can most easily attain the goal, which is hārināma saṅkīrtana coupled with bhāgavata-śravana and prasāda distribution. Book distribution means bhāgavata-śravana kīrtana. Five aṅgas are most important: dhāma-vasa, bhāgavata-śravana kīrtana, nāma saṅkīrtana, śrī murti seva, and sādhu-sanga (but real sādhu-sanga, not just any damned thing that wears kaṇṭhī-mālā and tilaka).

You can find the philosophy in the books. Everyone has the right to exercise his own intelligence. But some fall under the sway of so-called preachers who think they have to keep everyone under their thumb; they are too wimpy to use their own intelligence, unduly surrendering it to someone else without actually weighing the consequences. But anyone who has a little bit of intelligence certainly can ascertain the actual essence of the scriptures that he is reading. It is not so difficult. Even before someone takes initiation, it’s not impossible to do considerable anārtha-nivṛtti. Anārtha-nivṛtti is not just had by not doing bhajana, please.

Devotee: I was thinking in terms of this knowledge filter you mentioned before, not having the proper adhikāra. Then we only get the book on saṅkīrtana and they see what they want to see . . . unless someone comes and inculcates them . . .

And even then, they have to be willing to accept it—and live by it in order to actually realize the value of the thing. They have to have enough faith. It’s not that someone can come along and put something in our eyes, but if you want to be an owl . . . as soon as he is gone somewhere else, then immediately your eyes are closed again.

Anyway, that’s my angle on it. One boy asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have read in your books that it’s possible for a man in Vedic society to have more than one wife.” And Prabhupāda answered, “Oh, is that what you’re reading my books for?” I love that anecdote because it is a classic example. You can find so many things, but you can also find the essence.

So there are two kinds of devotees. There’s sara-grahi; sara means essence, which he’s drinking. Then there’s bhara-grahi, ass-like devotees, carrying around heaps and piles of anārthas. Bhaktivinoda Thakur recommends that we should, if we haven’t already, become sara-grahi. And we should encourage others become sara-grahi. That will help improve the situation. The more essence drinkers there are around us, the better quality of sādhu-sanga we’re going to have. Otherwise it’s sādhu-sanga-less, not real sādhu-sanga. Real sādhu-sanga means real sādhu. And real sādhu means pure devotee. Not that when Śrīla Prabhupāda said that all of his disciples were pure devotees did he mean that any damned fool who supposedly took some kind of farcical initiation was a pure devotee. It meant, “All of my disciples.”

So what constitutes “disciple”? Then you will understand what is pure devotee. It’s funny how people misconstrue things. “All of my disciples are pure devotees.” Who is so audacious as that to claim to actually be his disciple? You know, I have been struggling for the last thirty-five years to try to become even some kind of a disciple. And a real disciple is an accomplished disciple, not just blathering in the woods. Real sādhu-sanga means associating with real pure devotees, at least at the lower order of a pure devotee, sādhaka, who is actually chanting śuddha-nāma, who has profound taste for pure devotional practices, governed by guru, śāstra, and sādhu. At least that.

After all, life is very short. To be honest with you – although it may sound sacrilegious – first I’d like to give a damn whether varnāśrama ever got established. What I want to see is inspired harināma saṅkīrtana. My understanding is that it is the penance for all ills. harināma saṅkīrtana, prasādam distribution, and philosophy for the classes. That doesn’t mean that harināma saṅkīrtana is not for the classes. harināma saṅkīrtana is for the masses which includes the classes, please. You know, some people have this concept that, “harināma saṅkīrtana, oh that’s for the masses. We are the philosophers of Krnsa consciousness; that’s not for us.” Especially harināma saṅkīrtana is for the rasika Vaiṣṇavas. They are the ones who would appreciate harināma saṅkīrtana the most, because they are absorbed in the relishing of rasa. So they can actually understand what kīrtana-rasa is. Philosophers can try to anthropologically analyze the thing, but the masses don’t know what hit them. The real relishers of harināma saṅkīrtana are the most elevated devotees. And that’s what we’re supposed to be trying to become. We’re supposed to be trying to become uttama-adhikāris, which includes cultivating the vision of an uttama-adhikāri. Then we can actually do something. Otherwise, they, the disciples, will not be able to easily advance to their ultimate goal of life under our insufficient guidance, as Śrīla Prabhupāda mentioned in The Nectar of Instruction. We want to do good for others. But first do good to yourself. The doctor heals . . .

Devotee: It seems that many people think it’s easy and convenient to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness practically.

But they didn’t actually practice. It’s easier to pat themselves on the back, giving themselves credits for doing what Prabhupāda wanted us to do. It’s a preaching movement. But what constitutes preaching, please? Preaching means to inculcate, to infuse inspiration for devotional service, bhakti – means śuddha-bhakti, to actually impregnate the heart with bhakti-śakti. That’s actual preaching. If we’re doing anything less than that, then we can’t satisfy ourselves that we’re ISKCON preachers.

Devotee: One has to be really fortunate to get to the right conclusion.

Yes – bhagyavan-jīva. You don’t get to the right conclusion unless you actually come into the fold of the sampradāya. But the sampradāya doesn’t mean people who are distorting the image. It’s not that all the deformities are the sampradāya any more than stools and dead bodies falling into the Ganga are the Ganga. You get something substantial by bathing in the Ganga. But we don’t bathe in the stools. We don’t bathe in the dead bodies. Those things are brushed aside in order to get the essence. So if we can’t even understand the difference between the Ganga and the dead bodies and stools floating, then how are we going to know whether or not we’re actually contacting the sampradāya?

The institution is like the car. And the sampradāya is like the owner of the car. If the car becomes dysfunctional because certain constituents of its make-up no longer facilitate its purpose in conveying us from one place to another, then the owner has to dump the thing and get some other, either a new car or another form of transportation. It is the substance that has to be transported – with the assistance of the institution.

Sampradāya is the substance – it’s the school of thought, the essential teachings. That’s what distinguishes one sampradāya from another. One luminary in a particular disciplic line may have proper light on certain teachings, which will be seen as sampradāya. So there is the Gaudiya sampradāya, there is the Ramanuja sampradāya, there is . . . Ramanuja was the vehicle through which those teachings manifest to the world. Similarly, any institution or group of people or individual within the institution, any constituent of the institution, can act only as a vehicle – an agent or an instrument, in other words – to carry the essential substance, the essential teachings, from the sampradāya for the benefit of others. Therefore the members of the institution have to be properly lined up with the purpose of the sampradāya. Otherwise, everything breaks down.

But it’s not that Lord Caitanya’s purpose is not going to be fulfilled. He commended that His name would be heard in every town and village all over the world. How often we’ve heard Prabhupāda say that we take His statement lightly, don’t consider the whole thing very deeply. Not that we take the credit. Prabhupāda gives us the example that Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that all the soldiers at Kurksetra are already put to death by Him. Arjuna was only an instrument in the fight. And if Kṛṣṇa wants to give the credit to someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean He wants to give the credit to us. He has no objection to giving the credit to us if we will comply with the requirements to merit being given that credit. But if we fall short for not being a transparent via-medium, if the image becomes distorted and apa-sampradāya manifests due to apa-siddhānta coming across, then the vision of Lord Caitanya is not going to be checked by us, any more than the Ganges is going to be checked by a big boulder. Just as the Ganges seeks the path of least resistance, similarly the sampradāya seeks the path of least resistance. What is the resistance? All of our material attachments, our anārthas – whatever is obstructing the actual truth from manifesting.

Devotee: We have the option to choose the truth. Otherwise . . .

Yes, that’s the proper use of our free will. We’re given the opportunity to act as a servant of Kṛṣṇa but if we want to continue to serve māyā, then so much apa-siddhānta will come, dabbling out of our mouthing-off mouth, mouthing various bogus misrepresentations of the philosophy in the name of the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So either māyā or Kṛṣṇa. The choice is always there. You can either serve to represent what is actually Kṛṣṇa consciousness or you can serve the misrepresentations. Regardless, you’ll also be part of the perfect arrangement of Kṛṣṇa, because there are some people who require to be cheated in this lifetime in order to become frustrated enough to take it seriously in the next lifetime.

So everything is a perfect arrangement. You’re either this part of the perfect arrangement or that part of the perfect arrangement. But it’s all Kṛṣṇa’s perfect arrangement. It’s just a question of which aspect of that arrangement we want to serve. But by serving one aspect, you get one result, and by serving another aspect, you get another result. So if you want to present watered-down philosophy so as to somehow or other either boast your own self-esteem, satisfying yourself that you’re doing something wonderful, because after all, “We’re the next ācāryas, so we also have rights to change things according to our conceptions of what we see to be pertinent to time and circumstance.” So we take license, nivṛtti, to water things down, and people don’t get the real thing—at least, they don’t get it from us. They might, by their own good fortune, run into another agent – hari, guru, Vaiṣṇava, Bhāgavata-gītā, something – read something in another book which makes them understand that whatever is being preached over here is bogus.

So you can teach them all about varnāśrama-dharma! [laughter] Teach them that it’s only important insofar as it may help to keep peace in human society. But the real peace formula is:

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ
sarva-loka-maheśvaram
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ

jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

(BG 5.29)

His friendliness towards the living entities is most dynamically and dramatically manifest in the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is the most munificent avatāra, who came to inaugurate the process of nāma saṅkīrtana as the expression of his highest friendliness toward the living entities in this age of Kali, because that’s nāma saṅkīrtana. That’s actually his way of propagating the prema-dharma. Everything else starts to make sense when you see everything is subordinate or subservient to the yuga-dharma in this age of Kali.

It’s like if I have an infection and I want to cure the infection so that I can be healthy so I can live a normal, happy life, then it’s not going to work, it’s not going to happen, if I only take one tablet a week or one tablet every month or two. I need to take sufficient dosage, sufficiently frequent dosage, in order for the medicine to have its superlative effect. Certainly, it’s not enough just to do lip service to some token compliance with the saṅkīrtana principle once in a blue moon. It should be a regular dosage.

The temple programs – coming to see the maṅgalaāratik, the Deity – are to force us . . . you know, the force of the rule: everyone must come to maṅgala-āratik means that everyone must come to do saṅkīrtana before the Deity. It’s not like the Deity is important and the saṅkīrtana is non-important. Both are important, but of the two, the more important is the saṅkīrtana. Deity worship is the yuga-dharma for a previous yuga. But now in Kali-yuga, saṅkīrtana has taken the helm so to speak. So if someone is living in the temple and coming for the morning program – to the extent that they’re putting their energy into it, instead of just coming and standing around moping, wondering why they’re there (then maybe they won’t get the same out of it as if they were actually enthusiastically chanting and dancing in the saṅkīrtana) – that’s when the fun starts. That’s actually when you start making advancement. When you start spontaneously going out and performing hārināma saṅkīrtana not because you’re forced by the rule but because you know that it’s pleasing to Lord Caitanya and you want to please Lord Caitanya. And you know that it’s pleasing to your guru. If it’s not pleasing to your guru, then he is not your guru – as simple as that.

 


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