A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami, 03 December 2009, Durban, South Africa
We’re reading from the Srimad Bhagavatam, 11th Canto, Chapter 7, entitled, “Lord Krsna instructs Uddhava”, text 14:
nihsreyasaya me proktas
Translation: Sri Uddhava said: My dear Lord, You alone award the results of yoga practice, and You are so kind that by Your own influence You distribute the perfection of yoga to Your devotee. Thus You are the Supreme Soul who is realized through yoga, and it is You who are the origin of all mystic power. For my supreme benefit You have explained the procedure for giving up the material world through the process of sannyasa, or renunciation.
The platform of pure love
I want to begin with two stories from the Caitanya Bhagavata of Srila Vrndavana das Thakura, who is described to be an incarnation of Vyasadeva Himself. So Srila Vrndavana das Thakura described: one day Lord Caitanya met Advaita Acarya and He asked Advaita Acarya where did he just come from, and Advaita Acarya said, “Oh, I just took darsana of Lord Jagannatha in the temple.” Then Lord Caitanya said, “So? When you took darsana of Lord Jagannatha what did you do after that?” He said, “Well, what did I do after that? (Puzzled) well, nothing…”
“No, you must have done something after that…”
He said, “Well, I circumambulated the Deities…”
He said, “Then you are defeated! I have defeated you!”
“How? How have you defeated me?”
Lord Caitanya says, “When I go to the temple, I stand always in such a way- whether I stand on one side or the other side- that I can always see the Deities. But when you are circumambulating the Deities then you are at the back of the Deities and you can’t see Them. Thus I have defeated you.”
In this way the Lord described that at the platform of pure love, one goes beyond the rules and regulations of the scripture, circumambulating the Deities…no, on the platform of pure love one wants to only see the Deities and never take his eyes off the Deities for a moment.
The second story is a story about Murari Gupta. Murari Gupta was such a devotee, such an intimate devotee, that the Lord bestowed a lot of mercy upon him and his love for God began to take on extraordinary forms. His wife would serve him rice and he would just take that rice and say, “Krsna, please, please, take some rice. Please take it…take…” and he would throw the rice all over the floor. And he would give more rice, “No Krsna, please take some rice…” and his wife would just serve him more and more rice and he would just offer it to Krsna, seeing Krsna and offering Him to sit and take the rice. And the rice would just be thrown all over the floor and his wife was laughing because she knew that he was a great and elevated devotee.
So this is Krsna consciousness; Krsna consciousness means to really see Krsna always, to be overwhelmed with love for Krsna and a great desire to serve Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness and everything else is preliminary. So here in this verse we are discussing the process of sannyasa and sannyasa is only a preliminary process; it’s only an asrama for preparation. We may look at it, ‘oh sannyasa, it’s very exalted, very advanced!’ But actually the truth of the matter is sannyasa is simply a preparation, a preparation to come to that stage of pure love for God. It is sometimes called the pre-paramahamsa asrama or the asrama where one is meant to cultivate the paramahamsa stage, where Krsna is everything, simply vasudevah sarvam iti, Krsna is everything! It is Krsna who is the source of all our pleasure and there is nothing else; that is the true platform. That is the stage where one is truly free from the material energy. That is the stage where one is no longer a conditioned soul. That is the stage of true liberation- not the liberation of the impersonalists- but the liberation of always being absorbed in service to Krsna, in loving service to Krsna.
Rules and regulations- the preparing ground for bhakti
This is our aim, this is what we’re practicing, this is what we’re doing; when we are singing in mangal arati, we’re not just performing a ritual, ‘here is the song again, samsara-davanala-lidha-loka, same song everyday…’ no, it’s a meditation. We are realising that, yes we are caught in this material world, in the blazing forest fire of material existence and that the mercy of the spiritual master is the only thing that can extinguish this blazing forest fire and we are beginning to see that mercy of the spiritual master who is always absorbed in glorifying Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, mahaprabhoh kirtana-nrtya-gita, in ecstasy. So by this meditation we also begin to see that it’s beyond ritual, it’s beyond a process, it’s beyond the meditation that we are dutifully performing- a process of bhakti yoga and then we are dutifully everyday going to mangal arati and dutifully chanting our rounds, dutifully going to guru puja and dutifully hearing Srimad Bhagavatam because all this is the way to become purified- all right, that is the step on the way, but at least we should see that that is not yet Krsna consciousness; that is preparation, that is preparing the ground, that is beginning the process of devotional service. But it is said sraddha bhaktir ratir anukramisyati, step by step we are advancing. First faith, then taste, then ecstasy and finally prema, love for God. Then we can speak of bhakti- prema bhakti.
That is love of God, that is actually bhakti. Then we can say, yes, now we are devotees, now we are bhaktas. Therefore we never refer to ourselves as a devotee. Hrdayananda Maharaja wrote a poem and presented it to Prabhupada and in the poem, in every verse he was repeating in the end, “Your devotee”; it was a poem to Krsna and then in the last line it was saying, “Your devotee.” And Prabhupada said, “No, no, we can never claim that we are a devotee of Krsna. We simply say, ‘your servant’ not ‘your devotee’”. ‘I have no devotion at all.’ That’s what Srimati Radharani said; She said, “I have no devotion at all and the proof that I have no devotion for Krsna is the fact that since He left, I am still living! I’m still living now that He has left. That is the proof that I have no devotion at all.” In this way She was thinking. Of course the only reason why She was still living was the hope that He might return…just imagine: just died and Krsna comes the next day? No….! So death was not an option either! So She was simply living, holding on to the rope of hope that Krsna might return.
Keep the goal in mind
So we are remembering this level of Krsna consciousness. This is what we think about so that we can keep the goal in mind. If one has the goal in mind then one can find inspiration to faithfully follow the process. But if we follow a process and we don’t see the end of the tunnel, then it’s just a long, dark tunnel. In South Africa I don’t think you have such long and dark tunnels but in Europe we have a few; we have a tunnel going through the Alps, which is something like 30km! And you’re for 30km in this tunnel! It is dark, it is confined and it is claustrophobic and you just after a while feel, ‘I want to get out, I wanna get out of this tunnel!’ but there is no light inside; it just goes on and on…the endless tunnel! So if spiritual life becomes an endless tunnel, where we are following the process of devotional service, where we are following the regulative principles and so many prohibitions (dramatic)- this not allowed, that not allowed, you can’t eat anything, you can’t go anywhere, you can’t just…it’s always forbidden, forbidden, forbidden! This is forbidden…even normal shoes, are they vegetarian? Like that, you have to watch everything! Everything is a problem! Everything! How to live… It’s a tunnel, it’s just a narrow tunnel- a long tunnel also…the long, narrow tunnel of bhakti…forbidden! Forbidden to live; only here in this narrow tunnel of regulative principles can you reside for a long, long time hmmm….No freedom, only injunctions…duties! You must act according to prescribed duty… ‘oh, can’t I just act spontaneous?’ No, you must act according to prescribed duty! ‘How long can I do this?’ and like that…This is the tunnel in spiritual life. But if we have the goal in mind, then we see light at the end of the tunnel. Then we are seeing, oh it will be better and better.
Spiritual life can also be compared to driving and we start in our spiritual life, driving in the night. So in the night when it’s pitch dark, you can’t see anything and all you do is you’re just driving on the white lines on the side of the road- striped lines on the road. Those white lines, just watching them; your eyes are all the time going to the line and you’re trying to stay within the lines and you don’t see anything. You have a little bit of head lights but you don’t see much. That’s how spiritual life is in the beginning. So in the beginning we are very focused on the regulations and we have some light of hearing and chanting but the light doesn’t reach very far. But then as we are making spiritual advancement and while driving, gradually the day breaks; the light comes through and we suddenly begin to see that there is a whole landscape out there. We’re driving and we still stay between the lines but we also see the whole landscape of Krsna consciousness. And we see that there are so many varieties of wonderful tastes and experiences in that landscape of Krsna consciousness. So in the beginning it’s narrow but gradually our vision of what Krsna consciousness is increases and we realise that actually it’s not narrow; it’s unlimited! It is full of all kinds of varieties and gradually, by Krsna’s mercy, we become empowered. We gradually become empowered.
Krsna empowers us
Someone may come to Krsna consciousness and not be able to sing and later after many years, they make CD’s that are being sold everywhere! That’s going on! Somehow or other Krsna empowers; Krsna, He gives us the ability, Krsna expands our ability. I have a story to illustrate the point and it is about two friends who came from Scotland and they decided to go to the new world, and they moved to Australia. So they were in an adventurous spirit and they came to Australia and they were looking for something exciting, so they decided to join the fire brigade! Well, it wasn’t that exciting because most of the time you get called because the kitchen curtains caught on fire and they already have been put out or there’s a cat in the tree…or something boring like that! How often is there a real, serious fire? So it wasn’t as exciting as they thought. And one of the two, somehow or other, came across the devotees and became involved with Krsna consciousness. So when he became involved with Krsna consciousness then he still, for quite some time, continued to work in the fire brigade because they didn’t have a replacement for him. So he would be there with a shaved head and a sikha and at night sleep next to the slippery pole (in the fire brigade they have, instead of a staircase, they have a hole in the ground and a pole- a slippery pole- and they just jump on the pole (sound effects) and they just jump down on the fire engine and just…out the door!) So every night he would sleep there. But then the time was coming near that he would full time join the temple, so his friends said, (Scottish accent) “Jock don’t do it! Don’t do it! Why are you giving up, you’re giving up everything! How can you do it! Don’t do it!” He said, “No, I must do it!” So he did it; he joined the Hare Krsna Movement and both friends didn’t see each other for many, many years. But then one day, after more than 25 years they met. So the devotee was asking his friend, “Oh how are you? Still with the fire brigade?”
“Yes, still with the fire brigade.”
“Oh! Still going to the same pub?”
“Yes, still going to the same pub.”
“Still sitting in the same corner of the bar?”
“Yes, still sitting in the same corner.”
And the devotee had been all over the world; he had been high up in the Himalayas, he had been on television many times interviewed, he had spoken in front of all kinds of people…in this way whose life was narrow? Was it that spiritual life made everything narrow, or was it that staying in the material situation was narrow? But somehow or other the mind tells us that when we get involved in Krsna consciousness that we limit our world to Hare and Krsna and nothing else! And we feel the pinch. But the truth of the matter is that actually we’re expanding and expanding our horizons and we go beyond the limits because we know that with the help of Krsna, there are no limits. If Krsna so desires then anything can be done, even that which otherwise would be impossible it can be done if Krsna desires. Somehow or other it will be done. Arjuna came out victorious in the battle of Kuruksetra but there were many warriors who were more powerful than him- Bhismadeva for one, Karna for another- but somehow or other by the arrangement of Krsna they were all defeated. Dronacarya- no chance! Arjuna could not defeat him. Bhisma- huh, he couldn’t even stand in front of Bhisma! Karna, Karna was more powerful. But somehow or other Arjuna came out victorious.
Krsna lifts us above our limitations
tatra srir vijayo bhutir dhruva nitir matir mama, when one is with Krsna then one comes out victorious, that is the point. When we are with Krsna then everything becomes possible, then the impossible can be done. That’s the transcendental vision and Srila Prabhupada had that transcendental vision and demanded it, demanded that his disciples would have it on several occasions. Like when that time when he asked for the Caitanya Caritamrta, which he had translated, to all be printed in just a few months…impossible! “Impossible is a word in a fools dictionary!” and Radha Vallabha, who was the BBT manager, realised that, “now my spiritual life is on the line!” He was a good manager and he calculated, and he knew what was possible and then Prabhupada simply said, “No, even the impossible is possible!” Now his faith in Krsna was tested and it became possible; somehow or other it was done, although no one would have thought that it was possible. No one would have thought that all of this could have been done, but it was done. Even today, we’re sitting in this temple and think, shoo! How could they build such a big temple? How could they do it? It wouldn’t be so easy now. But they did, they did…so many things were done.
Applying the same principle to our own spiritual life, it is also not based on just logic considerations, which could be something like, ‘I know myself; I know what I can do, I know what I cannot do. I know my limitations; I’m not a kid, I know very well by now. I know what I can do and what I cannot do, and I just can’t do this, I just can’t do it. That’s how it is…you may say that I can, but I know, I know my limitations, I know…’ No! Our own limitations don’t apply because Krsna will lift us above these limitations,
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
He will preserve what we have and carry what we lack; He’ll somehow or other empower us and make it possible and we will do.
Do something extraordinary
So in this way, love of God is not impossible, not unreachable. When we hear about these devotees from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and how deep their Krsna consciousness was…Advaita Acarya, how deep! And Lord Caitanya defeated him- still deeper! And Murari Gupta feeding his rice to Krsna…how deep was their Krsna consciousness! Are these just stories? No, this is actually within the realm of possibility of what we can also attain in our life. But we don’t allow it, we mentally have blocked it out, ‘ha! Nice story, nice story…’
No, it’s not a story…it’s for you!
‘Ha, for me? I’m just an ordinary person.’
No, no, no, nobody’s an ordinary person. The day you step in the door you’re no longer an ordinary person! You have changed! The day you’re chanting Hare Krsna, you have the blessings of Krsna upon you. From that day on, no longer an ordinary person. You don’t know your own limitations anymore, you don’t, because Krsna will lift you! So now things can be done that otherwise could never be done. And in this way we can all go forward….but it doesn’t happen on automatic pilot.
A plane can fly on automatic pilot when it’s on its cruising height, then yes it flies on automatic pilot. But when a plane has to make all kinds of turns and curves and so on, then it takes a pilot; then the pilot has to take control and start steering. So in spiritual life also, if we go on automatic pilot then we will not do something extraordinary… ‘yes, we chant our rounds….yes, I’m following as much as I can…yes, I do some service…yes, I come to the Sunday programs whenever my health and so on allows…no, I do what I can…’ Yes, and then spiritual life will be, ‘I’ll do what I can’ and then Krsna looks at you at the end of your life and Krsna says, ‘Ya, I’ll do what I can…I’ll try and take you back to Godhead…I’ll do what I can…It’s not going to be easy but I’ll do what I can…’ but no, if we take spiritual life in our own hands and say, ‘I’m going to do something extraordinary! How? I don’t know, but Krsna will help me! Krsna will help me and then I’ll do it, somehow or other!’ Yes! If we have that spirit, ha, then…it’s a struggle and a struggle and we’re wondering, ‘Is Krsna really helping me? Is He really helping me with what’s going on?’ but in the end it will be done and we realise, ‘yes, Krsna is helping me.’
That is the nature of devotional service because as it is stated in this verse, “My dear Lord, You alone award the results of yoga practice.” Yes, it is Krsna who gives us the result of our practice in bhakti yoga…it is Krsna, Krsna and only Krsna. It is not us who are just doing, but we must try to do something very nice for Krsna. That we must try. That is the one thing we must do.
The importance of asking questions
Okay I’ll stop. Questions? Comments? Otherwise I’ll sort of you give you a few minutes to sort of get you in the mood for a question. People sometimes get shocked when the speaker suddenly says, “Questions?”….ha! Of course, if you think at the beginning of a lecture, ‘I’m going to ask a question,’ then you’ll surely have a question. So it’s also a matter of getting into the habit of asking questions. This is part of our process, to ask questions. Because in these questions our understanding of Krsna consciousness becomes fine tuned, otherwise we have our own understanding. Isn’t it so? We all hear something and everyone has his or her interpretation. Some things we hear wrong, we remember wrong…just like the other day (on Sunday) I said here, I will not be coming back until the Durban Ratha Yatra and then some people didn’t hear until but they heard that I will not be coming back for Durban Ratha Yatra. It started a huge rumour; maybe like 15 people came, ‘You’re not coming for Durban Ratha Yatra! But oh, Maharaja, you’re not coming…!’ A huge number!
So just see, one word misheard and whole reality changes. So if we can mishear that one word, how many other words have we misheard? And then we mishear and then we start to develop a preconceived idea and we hear through that preconceived idea and we just are convinced, ‘yes, this is how it is!’ and we cannot hear, we cannot hear.
It is said that the brain is pre programmed; it just blocks out other information. There is a story that a few hundred years ago, when the Europeans started to travel the world looking for more and more land with their big ships, that they came with these big ships to some islands in Polynesia, where there are many, many islands and simple people. And the local people who are just living a simple, tribal lifestyle of hunting…when the ships came, they didn’t see them. They were there but they didn’t see them! Because the mind was editing it out, ‘it cannot be! This doesn’t exist!’ So although the ships were there, they didn’t see them. This was recorded in journals and it’s a very interesting psychological phenomena, that these tribal people, when the ships came, couldn’t recognise them, because these ships were something from another world which wasn’t reality. And the mind just blocked it out. Imagine!
So in the same way we’re blocking so many things out because we cannot imagine the reality of the spiritual world. So if we never ask questions then we remain fixed in our preconceived conceptions of what Krsna consciousness is. Therefore it is important to practice this mood and at the beginning of the class we should think, ‘Today I’m going to ask a question!’ Now, any questions? I gave you all a lot of time to think of one…yes?
Question: Hare Krsna Maharaja. What are extraordinary things? (Inaudible)
Maharaja: Yes, what extraordinary things can we do for Krsna? Yes it is very personal; we all have limitations and we begin with something that is difficult but maybe we can try to do. I mean, if I say that, ‘I want to do something extraordinary for Krsna so I will walk on water’ then I might fail today! If I go out here and walk on the moat, I might go under…it could happen! I could swim but still…I’m not attracted to try! So we do something and we think, ‘well maybe I can do this although it’s very difficult…’ So when we speak about doing something extraordinary, we’re talking about something that is a little bit difficult for us, something special- but at the same time something of which we sort of think, ‘maybe I can do this.’ Like that, that’s what we should do extraordinary.
Extraordinary things, well, it can be in our own spiritual practices, in sadhana, in hearing, chanting, in reading the books; it can be in preaching; it can be in serving Krsna…One can just dress the Deities or one can do something extraordinary! Of course sometimes the temple president says, “This is too extraordinary!” and we are dressing Krsna for His pleasure as a service and not to be the most far out. Just like in Mayapur, they have the Deities of Lord Jagannatha and Pankajangri always tells stories about Lord Jagannatha. So one of the stories that he tells is that Lord Jagannatha is very merciful and He reveals Himself to His devotees; He communicates quite strong. So on this one occasion, the pujari was dressing the Deities and was trying to put another necklace on Lord Jagannatha and it fell down. Then he put it on, and it fell down! And he put it on again, and it fell down! So, finally, he put it aside. Then in the afternoon, he took a little nap and then he had a dream and he was dressing the Deities and the same thing happened- the necklace started falling down and falling down- and when he put it on again the Deity said, “Don’t you understand…I don’t want it!!! I have enough, don’t you understand!” So that’s also there.
But we try to do something extraordinary in whatever service we’re doing. Not just the ordinary; try to make a quality offering to Krsna. Offer Krsna something really nice. After all, He’s the Supreme Personality of Godhead! For Him, nothing but the best will do. Hmm…that’s Krsna. For Krsna, nothing but the best will do. Are we offering Him our best? And if not then we should improve until we come to this point…nothing but the best will do!
Okay, I guess you have to end on a high note and ‘nothing but the best will do’ is as high as you can get, so that’s auspicious! So thank you so much. It was nice to zoof in and zoof just into Durban and see you all I must say. I’m sorry that time has moved too quick and already I have to go. But now I’m hoping to see some of you at the Cape Town Ratha Yatra and if we don’t, well then I’ll see you here for Durban Ratha Yatra…Krsna willing! And that will also be nice.
Comment from audience: Is that clear that you will be here for Durban Ratha Yatra? (Laughter)
Maharaja: (Laughter) Well, you know, I’m not planning to come back until the Durban Ratha Yatra!
Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!