A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Maharaja, 21 December 2011, Cape Town, South Africa
We’re reading from Srimad Bhagavatam, 7th Canto, Chapter 14, “The ideal family life,” text number 2:
grhesv avasthito rajan
kriyah kurvan yathocitah
Translation: Narada Muni replied: My dear King, those who stay at home as householders must act to earn their livelihood, and instead of trying to enjoy the results of their work themselves, they should offer these results to Krsna, Vasudeva. How to satisfy Vasudeva in this life can be perfectly understood through the association of great devotees of the Lord.
Goodbye sense gratification
Srila Prabhupada, in the purport, immediately takes a verse from the Bhagavad Gita, from the 6th chapter, where he describes the renounced order of life. It’s interesting because the topic in the verse is the grhastha asrama and Prabhupada begins to speak about the renounced order of life because his point is basically is that whatever asrama one may be in, one has to really say goodbye to sense gratification. That is the point- goodbye to sense gratification and one should really get serious about spiritual life. That is Prabhupada’s point: “Whether one acts as a brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha or sannyasi he must act only for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.” That is goodbye sense gratification because sense gratification is to act for the pleasure of our own senses. So that means a total revolution, that means a serious change in our life and what to say…we are hesitating. Even those who have taken sannyasa are hesitating, everyone is hesitating to really make that jump and say everything for Krsna.
Therefore we are looking for sources of inspiration and strength and with time we realise that we need that more and more. Wherever we see extraordinary dedication to guru and Krsna, that is where we turn. We go on places of pilgrimage, we read about such personalities or we meditate on such devotees. In that way we try to take inspiration. Srila Prabhupada states these things but to actually do it is not simple at all but still, that is the thing to do. We see that at the end of the purport, Prabhupada is emphasising the point that in India in villages 50 years ago, in suburbs of Calcutta, people were all engaged in hearing Srimad Bhagavatam when all their activities ended or at least in the evening before going to bed. So that is nice. Sanatana Gosvami also is glorifying Srimad Bhagavatam and he calls Srimad Bhagavatam his “constant companion.” So I mean, that’s a meditation, to make Bhagavatam our constant companion. To either read Bhagavatam or remember Bhagavatam or think about Bhagavatam or think about Krsna and his pure devotee. That basically is what is going on so that we can get that strength through the saksad upasita maha-munin, by worshipping the great devotees. This worship of the great devotees is very purifying and it can immediately uplift us.
Devotees are our saving grace
In the Caitanya Siksamrta, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, has explained that a devotee who has nistha can create faith in the heart of conditioned souls. He said a devotee who is in the stage of bhava can lift others up to the stage of ruci because this devotee in ecstasy, is sharing that ecstasy with others. That is why others are also getting a taste in spiritual life. And when that taste becomes more regular, due to regular association, then a person can actually come to the stage of ruci, a stage where one lives in that taste of serving Krsna, glorifying Krsna and so on. It is said that a devotee on the platform of Krsna-prema, there is no limit in how much such a devotee can elevate any conditioned soul; he can raise that conditioned soul up to the platform of prema. That we saw in Haridasa Thakura who brought that prostitute to the point where he was also, although she was completely fallen and materialistic. Somehow or other by his chanting she became elevated to a point where she was also able to chant 300 000 names of the Lord everyday, which means that he lifted her up to a platform of chanting in great ecstasy. Otherwise you can’t chant 300 000 names everyday! Maybe on determination; if one is very determined and can chant 300 000 names on one day… ‘I will do it! I shall do it! I must do it! (dramatic chanting) Done! See, now just like Haridas Thakura I’ve chanted 300 000 names!’ Good, good, good, now do it again, the next day! ‘Okay, (dramatic chanting) Done it! Done it! And the next day as well!’ Alright, do it again, the next day….On determination alone it’s not going to work. ‘This is too much, this is impossible…’ well, it must be on higher taste.
So in this way, in the Siksamrta, we see that different devotees on different levels have the capacity to uplift others to different levels. That is interesting. So we are always connecting with the saintly devotees, always with the enthusiasm of devotees. I also like that story about Visnujana and his kirtan and then someone said, ‘oh Visnujana, you’re always so enthusiastic in kirtan,’ and then Visnujana said, “no, I’m not always so enthusiastic in kirtan but I just act enthusiastic in kirtan and then the devotees become enthusiastic in kirtan and that makes me enthusiastic!” So that is very nice because it shows the reciprocation of devotees and how the enthusiasm of one devotee makes the other devotee enthusiastic. Like this morning during mangal arati, the walls were vibrating. It was the enthusiasm! Like that we see that the devotees are depending on each other. When one is weak, another one is strong and in this way we rely on each other’s spiritual strength and we always stay close to the devotees, even if it is sometimes difficult because the association of the devotees is being stressed and of course we are looking for inspiration in the association of the devotees.
There is a reference in the Caitanya Caritamrta about Gadhadhara Pandit and it is said that Vallabha Acarya had written a commentary on the Bhagavatam and he was at some points in disagreements with Sridhara Swami, the original Bhagavatam commentator. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu didn’t want to hear his commentary so when Caitanya Mahaprabhu didn’t want to hear it then no one wanted to hear it. And Vallabha Acarya was very much depressed because of that. But Gadhadhara was extremely soft and therefore he just one day overpowered Gadhadhara! He cornered him and he just said, “Now I am going to recite my commentary on Bhagavatam to you!” And then Gadhadhara is like, “Please…oh Lord, save me, save me, save me!” and he was thinking, “yes, Lord Caitanya, He will forgive me because He understands but I fear the devotees because they are very strict and they are not very tolerant.” So this showed another aspect of the devotees association that the devotees are strict and are like, ‘Maya! Maya! Maya!’ Therefore in the association of the devotees one also feels pushed to live up to a certain standard- peer pressure! So that is also there. And sometimes if the association of devotees is not directly inspiring us then at least indirectly it’s inspiring us to realise more about the verse,
trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada harih,
then at least we can learn tolerance because we are not all pure devotees and it is sometimes not so easy to deal with each other’s false ego. That can be intense and in that way we are also developing tolerance in the association of devotees.
But whatever may be, we stay close to the devotees because that is our saving grace. And we see that when devotees become too distant from other devotees then they are at risk and many are watering down the spiritual standards more and more. What to do… And devotees together should maintain a culture of hearing and chanting and adhering to vaisnava principles. That culture is their strength because devotees find strength by taking shelter. That is the principle.
Sometimes I come on this point of taking shelter and how no one on his own is spiritually strong. It’s just by taking shelter that one becomes spiritually strong. So yes, again and again we must take shelter. The mind says, ‘no!’ the body says, ‘no!’ that may be…and even people around us might say, ‘what are you doing? Come on!’ maybe those who are close to us will shake their heads and say, ‘you’re gone! You’re lost! You’re totally impractical! Be more practical! I mean how are you going to deal with life like this? Now you’re young, and you think you are going to last like this your whole life? And what will you have later on, when you’ll need it to fall back on? Nothing! You’re wasting the best years of your life!’ In this way we hear and seeds of doubt are planted in our consciousness by the environment, by family, by friends, by the media, by our own minds…So how do we counteract all these mundane influences that are somehow or other entering our consciousness? By just turning back to the devotees, it’s so nice!
The other day in Durban we came on the theme of reading many literatures and we went around the room and everyone gave a comment and at the end it was my turn. My point was that when reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, we don’t need any filters and you can just drink it in. And anything from Prabhupada’s books just enters our consciousness and is a benediction! It does good and is favourable and auspicious, whereas in the world, whatever we look at, we always have to look through filters and just filter out the good and just push away the bad and so on. And even that may be there with other sources of information about devotional service. But when it comes to Prabhupada’s books, all filters off! It’s so relaxing because it always takes energy, wherever we are, to be on guard and we just filter it out, all the rubbish and just constantly all day long- filters, filters, filters…But when we turn to Prabhupada, switch filters off! When we come to the devotees, to the temple….relief! Now we can relax! Here everything is right; it’s no weird, it’s not twisted, it’s not off, it’s not cynical, it’s not sarcastic, it’s not sceptical, it’s not perverted, it’s not sick…it’s just normal! Phew- finally! The whole day we are confronted with people who have committed themselves to some form of contamination, dedicated whole heartedly to a contaminated goal.
Like in airports I see all kinds of people and I study them (my hobby is to study people). Like a story of a man in a black suit, a very fancy suit, and he had a little speck on his suit. So what he did was, he licked his hand and then he started to smear saliva all over it! And then he got into it like a cat (dramatic), smearing saliva over his whole suit! And I was sitting there on the edge of saying, ‘what on earth are you doing! You’re smearing saliva all over your suit!’ I had to bite my tongue to not create a public scene! So I like to study people….and we see in the morning, the businessman and then we see that they are all dressed in office clothes and cutting the successful profile, and jolly in a little circle and they have to say the right thing and you can see that they are sold out to the money! You see the smiles, the false, Pepsodent, or whatever other toothpaste, smile! It’s just like unreal and you see the hypocrisy in their faces as they talk to each other! And as they turn to the world… ‘I want your money!’ It’s just contaminating, to see that is just contaminating. Then you see the old men with the Thai girls! It’s very popular these days. The Thai girls don’t mind marrying the old men because they die quick and the girls get a lot of money after that. And you see these old guys, they are all over these girls and their hands are everywhere! And it’s like oh God, so early in the morning…Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare…
So all day long we’ve got to face these things. When you fly with American airlines and the stewardess walks in the aisle and she looks like she knows it all, done it all, heard it all, seen it all…if you know what I mean- seasoned all the way! And as soon as I see a lady like that I go, ‘oh God save me!’ I mean, where is the purity? Then when we see purity in devotees, who are just dedicated to purity then what a relief! Here are people who are into becoming elevated instead of degraded- thoroughly degraded! To look at all these things in the face is just contaminating and we have to filter it out, like firewalls around our brain to keep out the viruses and all horrible things. So how nice is the association of devotees!
Embracing the vaisnava culture
And then one can also rise above differences between natures- this one has a nature that’s like that and that one has a nature that is like this! And this one is ladidadidadida…and one goes (dramatic), ‘now you listen here prabhu, I want to make myself really clear…!’ and the other is like, (dramatic- spaced out case) and ‘bhakta Bonzo your mouth is hanging opened!’ I mean it takes all kinds to make up a movement! Undoubtedly! But whatever may be of these natures is not so important and we just overlook the side in the nature that we don’t like so much because they are dedicated to Krsna and that is the main thing. Altogether we are behind Prabhupada, we are with the saints you know, (sings) ‘oh when the saints…go marching in…’ So it’s a great song! That’s it, that’s the Hare Krsna movement; we want to be there with the saints!
And of course we hope that they notice us…I remember a film of Roman Polanski where these ordinary people were infiltrating with a whole group of vampires. And the vampires were in a gathering and there was a ball- not a football but a ball where they were all dancing- with the vampires and it was in a palace. And our friends were also infiltrating in there and they were dressed up in the same dress and so on. But everything was going well until they stood in front of the mirror because vampires, their bodies don’t show up in a mirror and suddenly their bodies reflected in the mirror and all the vampires just saw it! They suddenly realised….run, run, run, run for your life! So yes, we are so often in situations of people who suck our life force, who suck our spiritual life force and their association is just draining. So many people are like that, everywhere in society. So many things like that. So many things we have to see. But we were born in this world. Once upon a time we also had these big teeth (vampire) but we got rid of them and now we are devotees. But we were born in this world and accustomed to this world and therefore our mind being conditioned tends to just tell us that it’s normal. (Dramatic), ‘Well you know…well…well..’ and everything is contaminated- the language, ‘this guy and that guy and look at that guy…look at the prabhu!’ So it changes the whole thing, it immediately changes the attitude, the mood as soon as we get into this language of our environment. So the environment is very heavy and is weighing on our mind and has already entered and has taken over and little by little we are becoming liberated from this infiltration that has entered deep into our whole being and it’s a whole thing to throw it off by embracing the vaisnava way, the vaisnava culture. Step by step one has to embrace it and leave the other culture.
Yes, it’s completely funny to see a person completely dressed up like an extreme creature, namely, a Hare Krsna, who is trying to act normal with people! I mean forget it, you’re not normal! No matter how much you are trying to be normal, it’s never going to be normal enough. The more we try to be normal to people it’s still to strange and may not be normal enough. We may as well be strange. Better be strange and be really strange- why be half strange? I mean to be half strange, you’re neither here or neither there. Better to be completely strange- ‘Haribol!’ ‘Hare Krsna!’We may as well go for it and go for the identity of a vaisnava and take shelter. That is the point.
Of course, Prabhupada also on a morning walk said, “Good morning!” to someone and the devotees asked, “Prabhupada, why did you say good morning? Why didn’t you say Hare Krsna?” And Prabhupada said, “I said good morning so that he could wish me good morning in return and in that way do some service and he was making an offering.” When people voluntarily make an offering, oh that’s devotional service! Just like yesterday we walking on the beach and the guy on the bench was a bit of a…well, he was one of those bench people! A typical bench man! He spontaneously said, “oh, I really like your dress because it’s spiritual!” That was service, that was the kind of thing which one gets a lot of mercy of Lord Caitanya. That’s why I wanted him to have a book although he was ranting and raving…but anyway, what to do! He went on a preaching rave and he got carried away by the modes as he was doing that but that I didn’t care about because he had done voluntary service and that was the essence. For that, he had attracted the mercy of Lord Caitanya undoubtedly.
Adopting a mood of glorifying devotees
Let us just get into being devotees and then gradually adopt the values of being devotees and glorify devotees and find good qualities in devotees. In Radhadesh they had a custom, that at the end of the year after the Christmas marathon (and maybe they still have it), they had a session where they glorify all the devotees- not only the sankirtana devotees but every devotee. And you get someone to say something about everyone and it goes on for six hours! I mean, I can’t sit through it, my back, my bones, my everything…and it goes on for six hours and they get everybody to come forward to say something about everyone. And someone comes up and says like, “Madana Gopala is always peeling the potatoes!” So it’s like that, they find something to glorify! But it’s purifying in different ways- just sitting there is purifying in terms of austerity! It is purifying. Actually after that, the relationship with the devotees have improved, it really works. And it’s amazing because you know, people ghet stuck in their niches and when you live in the temple then after a while everyone has his niche, his corner and they look at other people in their niches and then you go like, ‘Hmph!’ And people in relationships they get like that, they think about each other like, ‘Hmph!’ These things creep in the relationships and then when we go through a glorification session, then we realise that after that it’s changed a little bit. So this is very nice. So if we have this culture, of practising glorifying the vaisnavas then something starts to happen. And the layers of contamination that starts to stick to our consciousness will start to slowly disappear. So this is very nice. Therefore upasita maha-munin, we are worshipping the devotees.
Okay, I’ve bounced the ball around; you take a verse and then you sort of juggle it a little and I think I’ve juggled it and now it’s your turn to come up with comments or questions.
Question: Maharaja, what did you mean when you said a person that drains one’s energy…is it a devotee also and maybe even a senior devotee?
Maharaja: I’m really sorry for that (laughter), I’ll try to correct myself. No, no, no, no; with devotees it’s not like that. When we feel drained by devotees it means that we ourselves are still a little bit like the kitchen sink. It means that it all goes down the kitchen sink, it means that we ourselves have not yet developed the eyes to see the good side. So we should see more the good side of the devotees and see that, ‘actually he’s got a few rough edges, he does, but then again he’s also very dedicated.’ Of course I may keep like a few metres distance, that’s all right. If it gets too much, one can keep a respectful distance but at the same time one must see the good qualities in a person and must try to look for good qualities because every devotee has. So when we get overwhelmed by seeing the negative side of a devotee then we have to see that, ‘I’ve got my negative glasses on and I have to change my glasses and see the positive side of the devotee.’
Remember the story of Yudhisthira and Duryodhana? They were asked by Drona Acarya to go into the world and he asked Duryodhana, “Duryodhana, please go into the world and find one good person.’ And he asked Yudhisthira, “please go into the world and find one bad person.” They both went all over the place and Duryodhana was back first so Dronacaraya asked him, “So Duryodhana, did you find any good person in the world?” and Duryodhana said, “I really tried, I really tried but I couldn’t find! Everyone’s got something bad!” and then Yudhisthira came back and Dronacarya asked him, “Yudhisthira, did you find any bad person in this world?” and Yudhisthira said, “I looked everywhere, I looked everywhere but I can’t find anyone bad because everyone has some good quality.” So who do you want to be Duryodhana or Yudhisthira?
Question: I heard that in the association of devotees the internal energy is there. Can you explain that maybe?
Maharaja: The internal energy is the activity or the energy that pleases Krsna and that is the internal energy. It is the pleasure potency that has the power to please Krsna. Nothing else can please Krsna. So in the interaction with devotees, there is the energy that can please Krsna, if the interaction between devotees is pure. If it’s based on false ego then it may not always be pleasing…but that’s the reason; in the exchange there are principles that are pleasing to Krsna because devotees are after all appreciating devotion to Krsna in each other. That’s what we appreciate the devotee for. Like see a devotee who makes a sacrifice in devotional service is appreciated. Last year we went to the BBT conference and this mataji from Kenya impressed everyone! She’s just a tiny mataji and she standing there in the streets of Nairobi, right there, down town, in the heart of the African city. And she’s all day long distributing books to these kind of people. And it’s not soft; everyone knows that that is serious street life and she’s out there and she’s doing it. And she was just bubbling with enthusiasm and determination. then she sorts of says, “yes, it’s okay, I have my spot and I stand close to a security guard and he’s my friend, I keep my extra books there and at the same time he keeps an eye on me also. So she’s got it all under control and she looks like very innocent and meanwhile totally fixed and determined and bang- and everyone walks away with a book! She impressed everyone with her dedication. So that’s the internal energy that we see. We see, wow, look at this devotee! Look how much service this devotee is doing! Look at Madana Gopala (devotee in audience); look at how many potatoes he’s peeling! Therefore the service of the devotee is naturally enlivening us and enlivening Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada ki, Jaya!