We’re reading from the Srimad Bhagavatam, 6th canto, 1st chapter entitled, “The History of the life of Ajamila,” text 15:
kecit kevalaya bhaktya
agham dhunvanti kartsnyena
niharam iva bhaskarah
Translation: Only a rare person who had adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krsna can uproot the weeds of sinful reactions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.
The vicious circle
The PadmaPurana is stating that there are many remnants of previous sinful activities stored within the heart. These remnants of sinful activities alter the consciousness of the living being simply because all these remnants of the reactions are stored within the heart and therefore we develop a sinful inclination. Due to this sinful inclination, we get sinful desires. The BhagavadGita says that by meditating on the sense objects we become attached to them. So because of the sinful inclination we become attached to sinful desires and then sinful activity and then more sinful reactions. Then again the stock of the sinful reaction in the heart is increasing and our sinful inclination becomes stronger. This is an ongoing circle. In this way we become obsessed and acting in ways that we don’t really want to act but it is stronger than us and somehow or other we do it anyway. Or sometimes we know what we are supposed to do but we don’t do it. This is practically the condition of all of us. Even after a long time of practicing devotional service it seems that still these deep rooted sinful inclinations are strong.
Here it is mentioned that there are some, who through knowledge, are trying to avoid sinful activities. But this is very difficult because the desire is still remaining within the heart. As devotees of Krsna, or aspiring devotees of Krsna, we are looking for purification. We look for purification from this trap that seems to keep us locked in this material activities. We need knowledge because out of ignorance we did so many things that were ‘normal,’ that now are not normal anymore. The things we thought were normal food, or normal drinks and so many other things. So knowledge is important so we know what to do and what not to do. We need a foundation of transcendental knowledge. We must make that transcendental knowledge strong but on knowledge alone, it’s hard to function. So we must become absorbed in serving Krsna. kecitkevalayabhaktyavasudeva-parayanah, to just be absorbed in serving Krsna. The word ‘parayanah’ means to be absorbed. Somehow or other, that is our aim, to become absorbed in devotional service. This absorption may manifest in different levels. It is absorption in meeting Krsna.
Absorption begins with steadiness
In the Nectar of Devotion, SrilaRupaGosvami addresses the point of meeting Krsna. He says that it exists in 3 ways. Absorption when we meet Krsna begins with steadiness. So anything before steadiness is problematic. When we are not becoming steady in devotional service, when we are not becoming steady in regulative principles then we will still be affected by karma and we will create new karma and we cant avoid it. Again and again we are giving up and then starting again. So one must become determined and one must realize that time is going so fast. This is one of those events, which takes place once a year. It’s nice because we haven’t seen each other for a year. At first sight everyone looks the same but when you look closer you begin to see some differences. The kids have grown up, the old people look still a little older and things begin to grow in different directions! The hair is getting grey and hair grows everywhere! The brain capacity is going down…another year, and what did we achieve in this year?
If we would take the spiritual progress that we want to make in this life and divide it by the time we have left, then are we really progressing sufficiently? Or are we too slow? (Speaks slowly) ‘It’s getting difficult to surrender…’ but time waits for no man! So there’s not much time to make spiritual advancement. There is a chance and there is urgency to take advantage of that chance. This is what I tell myself that I should be careful not to waste any time. So let every moment be used in devotional service- some chanting, some remembering, glorifying Krsna, doing something for Krsna, respecting His devotees, somehow or other stop thinking negatively about anyone. These things I tell myself a thousand times a day. When my mind again sees someone walking past and I think, ‘hmph! Who’s this!’ then just immediately I put my foot on the brake and think, you stupid fool! How can you allow this mind to just wander along? When thinking in a negative way about the vaisnavas then sooner or later we will make offences, sooner or later we will become disrespectful in our dealings, careless and that is the biggest problem because that can spoil our advancement in devotional service.
Okay, so this is knowledge and we are armed with this knowledge and we are looking at the illusory energy and knowledge protects us like a shield. But it is said, that the senses are so strong that even one who is situated in knowledge is struggling. So steadiness is needed. The word steadiness relates to duty. Steadiness and duty are two words that are in the same category. It basically means that we must everyday dutifully do our service, whether we like it or not we must do. So steadiness takes a lot of self-discipline. It’s difficult and many people are struggling. People spend years trying to get to this point of steadiness. Is there even a point in discussing higher levels? If we even cannot be fixed there is there even a point in trying to go beyond and push ourselves to be more fixed when it just doesn’t work? Should we stop there?
Hearing about Krsna’s qualities
No, RupaGosvami describes higher levels. He said, a higher level of meeting Krsna or making the relationship with Krsna is satisfaction. So satisfaction is there for everyone because as SrilaPrabhupada said, “this Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind but Krsna is actually the all-attractive.” This is an important principle, that anyone who discovers the qualities of Krsna, anyone who renders service to Krsna will become automatically attracted to Krsna. SrilaPrabhupada writes that a devotee is always desiring to serve Krsna and He is always desiring to see Krsna face to face. That means he is becoming absorbed in discovering the qualities of Krsna: how Krsna is very wonderful…for example, in the Nectar of Devotion, it is described that Krsna, when He lived in Dvaraka, had guards by the door and so many different personalities would come to see Krsna, even the demigods would come. The guards would say, ‘No, Lord Siva! No, Lord Brahma! You cannot see Krsna now. You have to wait. No Indra, go back, there is no time now. Krsna is busy, He cannot see you.’ Then it is described that Krsna is sarvaradhya, He is worshipped by all, even Lord Brahma, even Lord Siva are worshipping Him. So we must also worship Him. But due to those sinful inclinations that is in the heart, due to all the sinful activities, we think, ‘huh? Worship? Why do I have to worship?’ So our whole life gradually has to become a life of worship.
The foundation of our spiritual life is steadiness and then as we are beginning to hear about Krsna and His amazing qualities: how Krsna comes out in the morning and when He wakes up, the very first thing that He does before doing anything is that He milks the cows. The cows’ milk bags are full with milk but they don’t let anyone touch them. Only when Krsna starts milking can others also milk. Only after then Krsna takes His bath. In this way we see how much Krsna is thinking of the cows. It is said that Krsna carries a flute and Balarama carries a plough because Krsna is protecting the cows and He uses His flute for that. He calls the cows with His flute. It is described that when the cows are hearing that sound of Krsna’s flute then their ears stand like cups on their heads. Then the cows are drawn to the sound of Krsna’s flute. They have to come closer to this sound, it pulls them in and they just feel drawn towards Krsna. Then they come closer to Krsna and still closer to Krsna. But as they come closer to Krsna, the sound penetrates into their ears in a more intense way and it just gets too much and too overwhelming! At one point they can’t take it anymore but Krsna keeps on playing. Then finally the cows stand up on their hind legs and cover their ears with their front legs and Krsna plays a little louder! So it doesn’t help at all! Then those cows take a blade of grass and put it in their mouth as a sign of humility and they beg Krsna to please stop. Krsna doesn’t stop. Then those cows, their emotions gets so strong that they just freeze on the spot and become like statues! In this way it is described that all living beings are attracted by the flute of Krsna. But no one is attracted to that flue as much as SrimatiRadharani is attracted to that flute. So we can see that the cows are naturally drawn to Krsna. This is the other aspect of devotional service where we are drawn to Krsna. It comes naturally when we hear about Krsna, find out about Krsna’s qualities. Then automatically we become drawn towards Krsna and we get some satisfaction.
Suddenly, we don’t have to push ourselves so much anymore. Suddenly steadiness seems to be easy. Suddenly we want to rise early in the morning instead of hating it. Suddenly we start to hate it if we don’t get up early in the morning. Suddenly we start to feel, ‘yes I want to be there in the kirtan!’ The more we hear about Krsna and His amazing qualities…I always like the point that Krsna speaks so many languages. It says that Krsna speaks Sanskrit very nicely but He also can speak with the animals, the birds…it doesn’t matter; Krsna speaks with everyone. So it’s nice because Krsna is available for everyone. Then when I’m reading about Krsna and the cowherd boys who are playing in the forest, it is said that they are imitating the sound of the animals. Then I’m thinking, yes the cowherd boys are imitating the sounds of the animals (makes peacock sound) but because Krsna speaks the language, He must be actually speaking secretly to all the animals. So Krsna is very considerate.
In this way, simply by exploring Krsna’s qualities He becomes more and more attractive to us. Suddenly, we have more taste for chanting and suddenly we have more taste for being a devotee. In this way, the relationship between sravanam, kirtanam and smaranam- hearing, chanting and remembering- is essential. We can say that hearing is the oil of the lamp of chanting. When we hear about Krsna then automatically we will get new taste as we serve Krsna, as we hear about Krsna. Krsna is not just the object of our meditation. No, Krsna is Himself the independent Supreme Lord and He’s taking initiatives. Krsna will do things in our life. So it’s not only that we are trying to somehow or other reach the Lord who we cannot see, no, He reciprocates. He sometimes reveals Himself a little, He will start doing more and more things in our life. In this way the attraction towards Krsna is not only theoretical but also practical in our life. Hearing about Krsna, serving Krsna is increasing our taste and we get a certain degree of satisfaction and steadiness automatically follows.
But then SrilaRupaGosvami says that the third and topmost level, beyond steadiness and satisfaction is the level of eagerness- when it comes to a point where we are just so much drawn to Krsna that we cannot think of doing anything else. One time SrilaPrabhupada was speaking about anarthas- this anartha, that anartha- and then he said, yes the whole body is an anartha! Just some useless thing, totally unimportant. The whole material world is just making the best use of a bad bargain. One who is eager to serve Krsna, to hear about Krsna, to sing the glories of Krsna, what does he care about the material world? The gopis danced with Krsna throughout the night! Krsna extended the time for them and made that night as long as the night of Brahma! It was over in a moment…! So eagerness! Eagerness comes from making devotional service thick. Sandranandavisesatma, to make it more dense. In the beginning we do a little service and then we take a lot of ice cream and then a little more service, then we have to sleep for two more hours. Then we chant two rounds, have a one hour conversation with someone. Finally at night we have six rounds left and we say, ‘oops, how did that happen?’ And it’s so hard to finish our rounds. But when we become eager then we want to chant. (Dramatic)‘No I cannot talk, I have to chant! No I cannot say hello to 1000 people I didn’t see for one year, I have to chant! Go away I have to chant! Leave me alone, I’m chanting!’ It’s like we taking off in a plane and then someone comes and ask, ‘excuse me…’ you just have to concentrate to go deeper and become absorbed. Forget the world! ‘No time world, I’m chanting!’
‘Can I talk to you?’
‘No, I have to read! I didn’t read anything about Krsna yet.’
‘But you are reading for one hour…’
‘Yes, I was just getting into it. I was just starting. I need more time, one hour is nothing.’
So that is the line of the verse, vasudeva-parayanah, which I was thinking about. To be always absorbed, deeply absorbed and then the eagerness becomes automatic. It’s not a secret, it’s not only for special souls. One can think, ‘oh there are a few pure devotees, I don’t know how they became pure devotees but it’s just amazing!’ No it’s not amazing, it’s about getting absorbed in service and hearing and chanting. So that is the idea of this camp. Usually in the year there is so many other things going on but now we want to make it thick and boil down the milk every moment!
So I was thinking that I came to this camp but some years ago when they asked me to describe my identity- of course I am trying to be a servant of Krsna and that’s there. But then as a sannyasi, in the renounced order…a sannyasi in a way turns away from the world. Therefore in a way I could identify with a hermit- a man who goes away from the world and is like on his own. But then as an ISKCON sannyasi you are always in a public; as a gosthy-anandi we are always in the crowds. So I thought, ‘yes I am a public hermit.’ We even published a book entitled ‘Public Hermit,’ some quotes. The hermit side is the side that just wants to be absorbed. Of course I always hear that ‘life is so difficult, it’s raining…the boss is not nice and the wife is not nice and the children…’ But it’s not the nectar for which I’m always anxious. So I have a proposal, if anyone wants to talk to me, no problem, I’ll talk to you the whole day but just one request…talk to me about Krsna! Then I can fulfill my desire to be a public hermit and to fulfill both purposes at once: To become more absorbed in Krsna- I have to because my time is running out- and in the same way, to associate with all the devotees and the people from this world. My request- totally about Krsna!
Thank you very much!
Sacinandana Maharaja: I very much want to thank you and first of all congratulate you about you really pin pointing the challenge of becoming pure that we are caught in this vicious circle, the inclinations from previous lives are just pulling us to all these material things. Even people who are known to be saintly people have shown that this inclination is very difficult to give up. I’m wondering….that in your lecture you have given knowledge of how to deal with this- nistha, ruci and eagerness- I would like to ask you in the light of statistical reality is this possible? I hope you understand, it’s a desire to go deep it’s not a challenging question (laughter)
KadambaKanana Maharaja: I think that we need to practice our process simultaneously on various levels. The other day I was thinking about the yoga ladder that’s given in the BhagavadGita- karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga- and I was thinking that it’s not just describing different processes but we need them all. These are 3 safety levels. When we are not absorbed in the bhakti and if our absorption fails then we can go down the level and get philosophical and see the temporary nature of material enjoyment. But even that, the mind is still so agitated. Then just work with the senses for Krsna and do the things that you like to do for Krsna (karma yoga). So I was thinking that I need all three. I have my moments where I am inspired about Krsna and I have my moments where I am struggling, where I feel attracted to the material energy and then I have to get philosophical about it to cut that attraction and not to act upon it. There are things in this material world that I like, like I like to rock a harmonium! What can I say, I like it! I know it’s not exactly raga what I do but it’s something I’m attached to. So that I just engage in the service of Krsna.
So I don’t think I’ve given just jnana or knowledge. Oh no, I was with the cows…when Krsna was blowing His flute I was also drawn to Krsna, walking behind those cows because they are my gurus as they are so eager. I’m taking their dust of their lotus hooves and pray that I may also get a little more absorbed. So absorption is there but where absorption fails we have the other safety nets that keep us from falling into the material world. I spoke a little bit about how Krsna is sarvaradhya and how we have to worship Him. And I really like it that He puts Lord Siva and Lord Brahma on the bench of the servitor, ‘wait! Wait!’ It sort of makes me think that if they worship Him then who am I not to worship Him?
But I’m not pious, I didn’t take a pious birth, I’m not coming from a pious country. My country is not famous for praying. When you say ‘Amsterdam,’ we don’t think of praying! You don’t think of going to church! So it’s not so much in my inclination to worship but when I hear something like that from the Nectar of Devotion, it awakens it in me.
Okay I’ll leave it like that and then I’ll make the next point because the next point is more important I think. Maharaja we have talked many times about this topic of ‘Sacred Space’ and you know that I am writing something on it and that it’s never finished. (Laughter) So I have this unfinished book- 3 actually! Anyway, in this book I’m using the metaphor of the Ganges in Mayapur. When you go into the Ganga, on the shore the water is not moving very fast. And if you want to move forward you have to push your body with force but when you want to go deeper the current will just grab you and there’s nothing you have to do because you’re going. So the underlying theme in my lecture was that we can not make spiritual life just pushing, pushing, pushing ourselves towards Krsna. Then you see that people are getting tired after some time. We must look for the current wherever it is and let that current grab us and just draw us in! We should allow ourselves to be drawn towards Krsna and not always push ourselves towards Krsna. That is actually the main point of my lecture.
Okay I hope this is okay as time is going on.
Thank you very much.