Seminar: Loving the Vaisnavas
24 December 2005 - Suva, Fiji
Tonight we are continuing with our ecstatic seminar series. Actually, this has been advertised all over the world; many people are waiting to hear the mp3 recordings over the Internet – the famous Suva Seminar Series, to be released very soon for worldwide Internet listening. So don’t think that the audience is limited to just those who are here tonight. Many, many people will hear this beyond this room.
Tonight our seminar topic is, “Loving the Vaisnavas.” This is a most important topic, actually, because unless we love the Vaisnavas, we cannot love Krishna. Some people will say, “I will love Krishna, but I don’t want to love the Vaisnavas, because the Vaisnavas are not very nice. We find so many faults with the Vaisnavas.” But Krishna will not accept their so-called ‘bhakti’. These people are called kanistha-adhikari.
I sometimes see this kind of devotee in my travels to various places. For example, we’ll be giving the Sunday Feast lecture, and some members of the audience, instead of acknowledging that somebody is there glorifying Krishna, will rigidly keep their attention fixed on the Deities the whole time, as if nobody were giving a lecture. In this instance, these were actually people that I knew. I was formerly doing business with them; they used to be my customers, so we knew each other. I was visiting their city, and I was seeing that actually their mentality was kanistha-adhikari. We were giving a lecture – I was even smiling at them - and they didn’t even acknowledge that I existed. They were just proudly looking at the Deities. I was sitting here lecturing, and they were looking at the Deities – they wouldn’t even glance for one second at the speaker.
We’ve seen this other places as well. Someone will come Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, and they will just sit there during the lecture and look at the Deities as if nobody were giving a lecture in the temple room. This is a sure sign of a kanistha-adhikari: someone who wants to respect the Deities, but who does not want to give respect to the devotees. Such persons are not on the spiritual platform. They are on the mundane platform. So this class tonight, this seminar, is to teach us how to become solidly situated on the transcendental platform through the most important activity of loving the Vaisnavas. As we have repeated in previous classes, Krishna says in the Adi Purana, “The one who is My devotee is not My devotee; but the devotee of My devotee - that is my actual devotee.” So how so we become the devotees of the devotees? That is what we are trying to learn tonight.
There are actually specific instructions given by Rupa Goswami in this regard. Rupa Goswami is a very important acarya in our line of succession; he’s an immediate follower of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In fact, we in this movement are sometimes designated as Rupanugas, which means “followers in the footsteps of Rupa Goswami.” So Rupa Goswami is very, very important. He has given Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which in its summary study is known as The Nectar of Devotion; he has also given Upadesamrta, which Prabhupada has translated and purported for us as The Nectar of Instruction. It contains only eleven verses, but it’s so full of meaning. Everyone should study this book; it’s not a long book, and it’s so essential to Krishna consciousness.
In text four of this wonderful book, Rupa Goswami says:
“Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada and offering prasada are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.”
So it’s very simple. You give a gift to the devotee. That could be in the form of japa beads or a picture of the Deities, or it could be service, also. You may offer a devotee a ride somewhere – he needs to get somewhere, and you offer to drive him to that place – that is a gift; you’re offering a gift. And then you also accept gifts. Unless we agree to accept gifts, then no one can give gifts. So it’s not wrong to accept a gift from a Vaisnava. Actually, it is a regulative principle. One should accept gifts from devotees, because that enables the devotee to be able to give the gift. If no one agrees to accept the gift, then how can someone give the gift? So, to give gifts and to accept gifts are the first two items.
“To reveal one’s mind in confidence”: in other words, you open your heart up to another devotee. You tell them what’s going on inside. This is another important exchange. We have to have devotees to whom we can fully open our hearts, because that will help us to advance in Krishna consciousness. And we have to be willing to hear other devotees reveal their minds to us also. It’s not that we just want to tell our mind to someone else but are not willing to hear someone else’s mind. So it goes both ways. Finally, the last item is to distribute prasada to the devotees and to accept prasada.
So this International Society for Krishna Consciousness is founded on this principle of these six loving exchanges. We are associating together on the basis of these six loving exchanges. That is the meaning of the Krishna consciousness movement. If somebody were to ask you, “What is ISKCON?” what would you say? What is the real meaning of ISKCON? Is it the buildings? Is it the vehicles? Is it the bank accounts? The restaurants? The farms? No. It’s the loving exchanges between the devotees. We could lose everything else material. All the buildings could be taken away; all the bank accounts could be frozen; all the vehicles could be confiscated – but if we continue to have the loving exchange between us, ISKCON will never be broken. On the other hand, in spite of having so many buildings, so much money and so many vehicles, if we don’t have loving exchange, ISKCON is dead, finished. Therefore, this is what must be emphasized. It’s most important.
So how are we to realize this loving feeling amongst all the devotees? First of all, what does love mean? It means you are willing to give unconditionally. In the material world, we may give to someone, but at the same time we have some motive – we want to get something in return. That’s called, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.” “I agree to gratify your sense if you agree to gratify mine. So we’ll make a deal. We’ll get married, we’ll have sex pleasure - but if I’m not enjoying you sexually anymore, then I’ll find someone else.” That’s so-called ‘love’ in the material world. It’s based on pleasing your own material sense gratification. In Krishna consciousness, however, the program is that you learn how to give love without expecting anything in return. That is love on the transcendental platform. Spiritual love means pure giving, being in the pure mode of giving.
This description was given by Hari-Sauri Prabhu of Srila Prabhupada: “He gave to us more than we ever gave to him.” Whatever reciprocation we would do with Srila Prabhupada, he would give us even more love. In other words, there was no way we could ever give Srila Prabhupada back as much love as he was giving us. The pure devotee can give love purely. There is nothing holding him back from giving unlimited love and kindness. And to the extent that the devotees can appreciate and reciprocate, then he can give even more and more and more and more.
So this is the actual way to create an atmosphere of very powerful loving exchanges with everyone in our Society. We have to always be in the mood of giving service to the Vaisnavas. And what is the best service we can give them? To facilitate their Krishna consciousness. That is the best service. Actually there is nothing more ecstatic than facilitating someone’s Krishna consciousness. That is called “preaching.” There is nothing more enlivening than preaching, because preaching means, “I’m trying to facilitate your Krishna consciousness.” That’s why we’re so enlivened when we’re preaching – because we’re trying to facilitate someone else’s Krishna consciousness.
An interesting phenomenon we see in our Society is this: when a new person is coming, we are all enlivened and we’re preaching to them; and then once they’ve joined, we don’t care about them anymore. That’s a big problem in our Society, a big problem we have. There’s a saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Once we become familiar, then it turns to, “I don’t know you; you’re not very important.” But see, Prabhupada was never like that. He was never like that. To Srila Prabhupada, every single devotee was important. It didn’t matter if they were a big sannyasi or just a simple brahmacarini. It did not matter. Prabhupada inspired so many boys and girls throughout the world to give their whole lives to this mission because he unconditionally loved each and every one of us. And we felt that. Everyone felt that Prabhupada personally loved them and cared about them, even if we didn’t get so much association. Even if we didn’t get to go on a morning walk, or we weren’t in his room, or we were just hearing a lecture when he’d not even come to our temple. Every single devotee felt that Prabhupada loved them, more than anyone. And the devotees wanted to give their love to Prabhupada in return, to reciprocate the love that Srila Prabhupada had for us.
So our movement will be successful if we can purely represent that loving mood of Srila Prabhupada in our dealings with each other. That will make us or break us. If we can keep the loving spirit that Prabhupada gave alive and well, then this movement will conquer the world - because nowhere does unconditional love exist except in this movement. Everyone wants to get something out of you, everyone. There’s always some ulterior motive. But here, there’s no ulterior motive. Srila Prabhupada simply wants to give everyone Krishna. That’s all. Nothing more. He wants everyone to be happy, in every corner of the world - Every Indian, every Fijian, every American, every Australian - everyone throughout the entire world, man, woman and child, should be completely happy and satisfied by reviving their dormant Krishna consciousness.
So the same enthusiasm we feel when we’re preaching to a guest, to attract them to Krishna, we must keep alive at all times with all of our members. That will keep things proper. If we always think, “It’s my duty to help this person connect with Krishna at every minute,” then we will be totally happy and satisfied. That’s how we have to think: that every member of the temple should be happy in Krishna consciousness. If we dedicate ourselves in that way, then the loving feeling will naturally be there. That’s the greatest gift. That’s one of the items of loving exchange – giving gifts. And what greater gift is there than giving Krishna?
And what does it mean to give someone Krishna? It means to present to them - by your example, by your attitude, by your words and your actions - that there is nothing more attractive and wonderful than being Krishna conscious. That’s what we have to do. We have to show that example at every minute. As they say, “Charity begins at home.” We have to put ourselves in the proper position: the humble servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna. “Physician, heal thyself.” So our first business is, ‘I must fully surrender myself to my Guru Maharaja. I must fully surrender myself to the instructions of Srila Prabhupada given to me in his books – fully, completely. And since I’m not there yet – I’m far from it – I have to be striving diligently, at every minute, to come to that platform as soon as possible.”
There are different stages. There is the sadhana-bhakti platform, where you’re following rules and regulations to purify yourself. Then there’s the raganuga platform, where you’re spontaneously absorbed in Krishna consciousness. We are not raganugas. We are sadhana-bhaktas, struggling to conquer the mind and the senses. That’s our present position. So if we’re going to have love flowing freely, we first have to love ourselves by strictly putting a demand on ourselves that we must become pure devotees. Tell yourself, “I must become a pure devotee.” You must do that. Every thought, every word, and every deed must be pleasing to Guru and Krishna. That’s the first thing. First love yourself by demanding that you should become a pure devotee.
As you put that demand on yourself, understand that the program is to be strict with yourself and lenient with others. You should be very heavy on yourself, and very light and soft and sweet with others. That’s the general rule. Prabhupada says, “Strict with oneself and lenient with others.” So be very strict with yourself – realize that you are a rascal! You are a snake! (Sorry to say). You’re a rascal – you defied the authority of Krishna. We have to feel that we are rascals - simply abominable; wretched. And then we have to surrender ourselves very humbly before Krishna, before Prabhupada, before our Guru Maharaja, before the Deities – and beg their mercy, that we may become pure. And if we’re in that mood of always trying to take shelter of Krishna, then we will taste some nectar! Every day we will experience nectar, ongoing nectar . . . If we’re really serious about becoming pure in spite of our faults, that sincerity will enable us to taste the sweet nectar at every moment.
And if you’re tasting nectar – if you’re really tasting it - it’s not difficult to share it. If you’re not tasting it, and you’re just trying to make a show, forget it. Maybe you can fool some people. They say, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” So when we make a show of tasting the nectar to try to attract people, it’s not very effective. We actually taste the nectar of Krishna consciousness by realizing how fallen we are, helplessly placing ourselves at the lotus feet of Guru and Sri Namaprabhu (the Holy Names), and begging their mercy to save us. Then we will taste the nectar, and then we can actually share that bliss with others. And that is real love. Sharing the nectar of Krishna consciousness with others is the greatest love you can give.
So we will open it up now for questions. Maybe there are some practical questions, since we’re talking about a very practical matter – how to have love flowing back and forth among all the devotees . . .
You mentioned that when we have loving relationships with the devotees, we try to please the devotees. Now say, for example, you are trying to please me; so how do I get pleased? I may be acting very much on the mental platform; therefore you may be doing something very nice and Krishna conscious, but I may not be very pleased with it.
It’s an interesting point you raise, because they do say that if you please Krishna, you please everyone – that when you water the root of the tree, all the leaves and branches are nourished. But the fact is that people – the general populace - don’t realize how they’re being pleased. Actually, you’re doing the highest service for every living entity in the universe by being surrendered to Krishna. But others may not appreciate that, because they are in the mode of ignorance. Even amongst the devotees sometimes, someone may not appreciate what you’re doing, even though you are doing the right thing. That’s their problem. They may even criticize you for what you are doing – find fault with you or call you bad names.
Well, that’s part of our purification – having to tolerate abuse sometimes. You give someone your love and they don’t reciprocate it, but instead you get cruelty in return. Instead of being angry, you have to think, “Krishna is putting me in this difficult situation to purify me even more.” That’s what you have to do. You have to think, “Krishna somehow has arranged this situation for my purification; so let me become more pure, more Krishna conscious” – thinking, “well, if I were just more Krishna conscious, then maybe I could break through, and they would be satisfied.” So take it as a challenge to become even more Krishna conscious. If, while you’re preaching, the people are not appreciating, then try to become more humble, more Krishna conscious.
There is the example given by Prabhodananda Sarasvati. He gives the method for preaching. He says, “You fell down at their feet, and you flatter them one hundred times - ‘My dear sir, you are so learned; you are so magnanimous; you possess all good qualities (sense control, kindness, etc.).’ Flatter them one hundred times, and finally they say, ‘All right, all right; what do you want?’ ‘I request, my dear sir, that whatever you have learned, you kindly forget, and accept this Bhagavad-gita, as it is.’” So that is one method. You simply have to become very, very, very humble, even if the person is a complete materialist. And just flatter them one hundred times, until they finally agree to hear what you have to say. And then in a very humble way you tell them the truth. So there are methods. This is called ‘humble persuasion.’
The real insider’s secret is, if your motive is genuine – if you actually want to serve that devotee – then time is on your side. If that person has some kanistha mentality that does not allow them to appreciate, and you sincerely want to help that person in a humble way – you’re not proud; you just want sincerely to help – you will win out eventually. You’ll be victorious. So just be patient. There are three aspects to the process: patience, enthusiasm, and determination. If you’re enthusiastic and determined but you’re not patient, you’re in the mode of passion. If you’re patient but you don’t have any enthusiasm or determination, you’re in the mode of ignorance. But if you’re determined, patient, and enthusiastic, you’re in the mode of goodness. So do like this: be very patient, but at the same time be very determined and very enthusiastic, and you will win out eventually in trying to attract that person to Krishna.
One time in Dallas when Guru Maharaja was leading a chant, he said “How can the devotees stick together?” And then he said that when the devotees pray together, they stick together.
Yes, that’s right. He’s making a very nice point. He’s holding up Tamal Krishna Goswami’s point about devotees doing the devotional activities together. There’s a saying in English: “The family that prays together, stays together.” So we come together for Mangal Arati, Tulsi Puja, Guru Puja and Bhagavatam class; we go on harinam and kirtan together; we participate in festivals together – the more we do things together, the stronger our relationships will become. So we should stay tightly packed in the association of devotees. This is very important principle. Our constant association – the loving exchanges we have going on – just makes the relationships stronger and stronger and stronger.
While it’s true, as you say, that the family that prays together stays together, at the same time the motive has to be pure; otherwise there is contamination.
Yes. She’s saying that the family that prays together stays together, but the motive of coming together has to be pure; otherwise it will lead to conflict when they come together. In other words, if some material motive is there when we come together, that will contaminate or cloud the sangha, or association. So we really have to strive to come together on the basis of developing pure devotional service – understanding that anything else is a waste of time, basically – and not try to come together for some other reason. For instance, you may think, “I want to be a famous spiritual leader, so I’ll join this movement and do a lot of preaching so people will worship me.” You may get worship but you won’t get Krishna, and you won’t be happy. So we should really understand that there is only one way to satisfy, and that is pure devotional service. We have to come to that mood of pure devotional service. And if we come together on that basis, it will be quite easy to develop loving relationships with the devotees – it will follow automatically. If we have no desire except to serve purely, then naturally when we’re with the Vaisnavas we will serve them purely, because they’re all Krishna’s representatives. The Vaisnava is not an ordinary person. It is stated in the Caitanya Caritamrta:
‘sadhu–sangha’, ‘sadhu-sangha’ – sarva-sastre kaya
[Cc Madhya 22.15]
All the sastras declare that even one moment’s association with a saintly devotee of the Lord can bestow all perfection. It just takes one lave matra, which is one eleventh of a second. When in the proper mood, if one associates with a Vaisnava for even a fraction of a second then one can achieve all perfection. So we should really strive for quality association with devotees – pure, unmotivated association with the Vaisnavas. That will easily enable us to taste the sweetest nectar of Krishna consciousness.
Questions more? Is everyone satisfied that they are able to love and serve the devotees? Is everyone satisfied that the relationships between the devotees are all pure and very wonderful at every minute? There’s no difficulty?
It is said that Guru is the transparent via medium . . . could you please explain?
“Guru” means that he purely represents Krishna. So by serving Guru, you are serving Krishna. “Transparent” means that he is not making his own agenda, but that he is simply representing the desires and the teachings of Krishna purely in all of his activities, all of his words, etc. That is the meaning of “transparent via medium.” For instance, if you are going to receive a letter from a friend, the postman must deliver that letter honestly. He cannot open the envelope and add some message or subtract something from the letter; if he does, he is not transparent. When Guru is transparent it means that he keeps the message intact. He doesn’t alter it.
That specific contact with Guru is required. Sometimes people think that initiation is not so important – that all you have to do is be Krishna conscious. We hear that argument sometimes. But Prabhupada clearly explains in Nectar of Devotion Introduction that without initiation the connection with Krishna never takes place. It’s a vital thing. Krishna prema is the perfection of all endeavors, attained only after going through many, many different stages. Initiation happens in the third stage. The first step in the process is faith; then there is association with devotees; then the third step is initiation. From there, the impurities are removed from the heart, and from that stage you then become a fixed-up devotee. From there you develop taste for the name; then from there you become absolutely attached to the name; from there you have bhava, ecstatic emotion manifesting within the heart; and finally you achieve pure Krishna prema, and you realize your eternal identity in the spiritual world. So Guru is absolutely essential – the third step. If someone has a recipe to make a cake and they want to leave out the baking powder, will their cake come out properly? No. The first five items of how to discharge devotional service given by Srila Rupa Goswami all relate to the spiritual master - the first five items. So Guru is absolutely required. Without Guru we are nowhere.
Prabhupada very often quoted the English maxim, “If you love me, love my dog.” He said, “Guru is the dog of God.” God is a very big man. It’s difficult to approach Him. Imagine that Bill Gates has come to visit Suva. He’s out walking in the park – can you just walk up and approach him? No. He’s surrounded by bodyguards; you’ll never get close to him. He’s always afraid of being kidnapped, wherever he goes – constantly fearful. But it just so happens he’s walking his dog and letting the dog run free, without the leash, and somehow that dog comes up to you. You pat the dog on the head, and the dog likes you. Somehow the dog is there with you. Bill Gates’ dog likes you, and you like his dog. Now Bill Gates has to notice, because now he’s coming to get his dog back. And there you are with his dog, and his dog likes you. So in this way, you get your connection with Mr. Bill Gates - because you made that connection with his dog.
So Prabhupada gives us the example of how Guru is the dog of God. If we make that relationship with Guru, then we have an inside connection with Krishna. Our guru is connected with his guru, who’s connected with his guru, who’s connected with his guru - it’s a whole network of inside connections that gets us into the spiritual world. Sometimes it is said, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” When you’re dealing with a government official, what matters is who you know on the inside, isn’t it? You can dance around the rules and regulations if you know the right person. Likewise, Guru can get you ‘in’ – he has that special connection, the inside connection. So you just have to get that inside connection with Guru. Become a confidential servant of the spiritual master, and then you have your special connection.
Sometimes we may think, “Yes, I will serve my guru, but no one else.” But that doesn’t please our spiritual master. We saw that one time. There was one of my godbrothers who had a very negative attitude about the whole movement. He just wanted to serve Prabhupada and no one else. He had such a bad attitude – he criticized the GBC; he criticized everyone. I had never heard anybody criticize the GBC. Nowadays, of course, that is common; but in those days, when Prabhupada was on the planet, no one ever criticized the GBC. We’re talking 1972 – I was shocked. He was criticizing the GBC. So anyway, he met Prabhupada in Los Angeles and he was complaining about this and that, and you know what Prabhupada told him? It was heavy. Prabhupada’s order to him was, “Give up this Krishna Consciousness. Just earn money and enjoy.” – because he was so critical of the devotees. No matter what Prabhupada said, he just kept criticizing and criticizing. So finally Prabhupada said, “Just get out of this movement. Go out an earn money and enjoy.” I was shocked. I knew this devotee personally, and he was ordered by Prabhupada to give up Krishna consciousness and earn money and enjoy – because he was so offensive, so critical of the devotees. So he said he wanted to do whatever Prabhupada told him, but at the same time he really couldn’t do that, because Prabhupada had told him to work for the devotees.
So the Vaisnavas, not only our Guru Maharaja, are also the representatives of Krishna. This is confirmed by Narottama das Thakur. He says, anande bala hari bhaja vrndavana sri-guru-vaisnava-pade majaiya mana: ecstatically chant Hare Krishna, worship Sri Vrindavana Dham, and in your heart always meditate on the lotus feet of Sri Guru and Vaisnavas. So actually, we worship all the Vaisnavas - especially the guru, but not only the guru. We worship all the Vaisnavas according to their advancement, and we deal with them accordingly. If a Vaisnava is senior to us, then we are very eager to associate with him. We serve him with love; we hear submissively and take instruction from him. If the Vaisnava is on an equal level with us, then we make friends with that devotee; we share realizations back and forth with that Vaisnava. If a Vaisnava is less advanced – if he’s just thinking about becoming a Vaisnava – then we’re very kind to that person. We give him all help, all encouragement, all well-wishes, so that he can come to the transcendental platform. So in this way we deal with every Vaisnava in a loving way - all the Vaisnavas. The more we can love the Vaisnavas, the more we can become dear to Krishna. Krishna loves the Vaisnavas. They are more dear to Him than anything. So loving that which is dear to Krishna is how you become very, very dear to Krishna.
Any other questions?
You mentioned about revealing one’s heart confidentially to the devotees. Could you please explain that further?
You have to use some discrimination. If you reveal your heart to some neophyte blabbermouth, some devotee who’s not very mature, they’re just going to go blabbing around, “Oh, do you know what so-and-so said?” That’s not intelligent. But you can reveal your heart to your husband, for example, or to confidential devotees you know and trust – you reveal to them what realizations you’re having about Krishna consciousness, or difficulties you’re having in your practice, and ask their advice on how you can improve. If you have a confidential, trusted associate, you can ask them, “How do you see that I am doing in Krishna consciousness? Kindly help me understand what my defects are, so I can overcome them” - these kind of things. It’s very important to have those kinds of trusted, confidential advisors.
I have many of them in our movement, and I’m always looking for more and more among my seniors and my peers, my godbrothers. Sometime back I was working through some difficulty in my relationship with various godbrothers, so I called up one godbrother and revealed everything I needed to say to him. And he gave me so much help. Hours and hours of time he spent helping, just telling me how he had conquered the difficulty when he was in a similar situation. So by opening up my heart to that one godbrother was just like a gold mine of mercy I tapped into. He gave me so much kindness and helped me through a difficulty.
So we shouldn’t just be a little, independent Krishna conscious entities. We should have devotees to whom we can open our hearts and reveal what’s happening, and get help from them when needed. And we should be willing to give help to others also when they need it. We should sincerely try our best to help them, and if we cannot help them, help them find someone who can.
Which is more important, serving Krishna or serving devotees?
What’s more important? Krishna says it’s more important to serve the devotees. He says, “If you’re my devotee, you’re not my devotee; if you’re the devotee of my devotee, then you’re my actual devotee.” So according to Krishna, it’s more important to serve the devotees than it is to serve Him.
Avoiding the ten offenses - how you can actually work that into practical reality? Well, there’s one very powerful formula which never fails to work. It’s called begging. You have to beg Krishna and you have to beg Guru to kindly help you to strictly avoid the ten offenses. You have to beg again and again and again. One should always be in the mood of begging Guru and Krishna to help one avoid the offenses. One should always feel, “I am an offensive rascal; therefore, Guru Maharaja and Krishna, I bow at your feet and beg your blessings to please help me overcome this horrible, wretched, offensive mentality so that I can actually taste the pure nectar of the name and properly serve the Vaisnavas as they deserve to be served, which I have not ever been able to fully do.” If you have a humble attitude and you’re always begging Guru and Krishna, and begging the Vaisnavas also to help you, then you will see how this mood of being a beggar is very powerful.
Prabhupada presented himself as a beggar in his arrival prayer. He signed his name, “Insignificant Beggar.” He told Krishna, “Although I have been designated ‘Bhaktivedanta’, I have no bhakti and I have no vedanta” – I have no knowledge and I have no devotion. He simply prayed, “Will You kindly make me dance, make me dance, make me dance as You like.” He submitted himself as an insignificant beggar at the lotus feet of Krishna – one who had no knowledge and one who had no devotion. If you will study this prayer of Srila Prabhupada and put yourself into that same frame of mind, by praying in that mood, I guarantee you that you will taste ever-increasing happiness, every day. You will see how your offenses against the name are gradually cleared away, and how the pure suddha-nama comes to manifest on your lips.
If the disciples or the guru are fallen down and not pure, is the disciple qualified to go back to Godhead?
If someone is fallen down and impure, they are qualified to go back to Doghead.
I am talking about the disciple of a guru who has fallen –
Oh, if the guru fell down, yes. That happens sometimes. We see, in our Vaisnava history, that there was this one guru named Sukracarya who had a disciple, King Bali (Bali Maharaja). Sukracarya was always telling King Bali very nicely, “Yes, you should worship Visnu, you should worship Visnu.” And Bali Maharaja was doing that. But then when Visnu came as Vamana, Sukracarya said, “Don’t worship Visnu, don’t worship him – don’t do it!” You see, when your disciple is a king, he can give very big guru-daksina. If Vamana takes everything away, then where is the guru-daksina? There will be no more guru-daksina. So Sukracarya became very materialistically minded. He told his disciple not to give anything to Vamana. But Bali Maharaja rejected his guru. And by rejecting his guru, what happened? He entered into that elite group known as the Twelve Mahajanas. Do you know that sloka from the Bhagavatam?
svayambhur naradah sambhuh
So by rejecting that fallen guru, Bali Maharaja became elevated to one of the twelve greatest mahajanas in history.
If one’s guru is fallen one can, according to one’s personal power, try to save one’s guru. One should consider: If this person has actually helped me to become Krishna conscious when I was in complete illusion – he preached to me about Krishna; he encouraged me to become a devotee – then I’m eternally indebted to that person. Even if he falls, I’m still indebted to that person. So if I’m more Krishna conscious than he is (because he fell), then if possible I should try to help him and encourage him. If possible, then, the disciple should try to save his fallen guru – become the guru of his guru. He should try to do that. But if the guru cannot hear, then what can you do? You pray for him, at least, because there is a debt. One should understand: That person did a very valuable service for me. He helped me become a devotee of Krishna. Now, after helping me, he fell down - but that doesn’t negate what he did. That valuable service he did is not negated. That’s his eternal asset. If he fell away, it’s not that I continue to follow him now; but I should always understand how much I am in debt to that person – always wish him well and try to help him in any way I can to come back.
His question was, “Will the disciple go back to Godhead?”
As Prabhupada explains, the guru is not the center; the sastra is the center. Guru also is center in the sense that he purely represents the sastra by his example, his attitudes, and his words – in that sense, Guru is also the center. So if the disciple understands the absolute authority of the sastra and the absolute authority of the guru parampara that he was connected with, and he follows those great acaryas like Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura – if he continues to follow the way of the great mahajanas by reading Prabhupada’s books and following them, remaining loyal to the instructions of Srila Prabhupada - then such a person, as long as he remains completely, purely following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, will go back to Godhead, even if his guru has fallen. Because what was his guru’s order? His guru told him, “You must follow these books – you must read Prabhupada’s books and follow the instructions of Srila Prabhupada.” That was the perfect instruction the spiritual master gave him. Prabhupada is the greatest acarya in the history of the world; he has made Krishna bhakti more readily available than any acarya ever in history - in these books. So the bona fide spiritual master connects his disciple with Srila Prabhupada’s books: “You read these books carefully; and you follow strictly the instructions of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.” And even if that guru somehow or other falls down, because the disciple is properly instructed, he is in a safe position.
But actually Guru should not fall down. That’s not Guru. Guru means one who is strictly following. So that’s an exceptional situation. Guru means one who strictly follows and doesn’t fall down. That is Guru. Sometimes in exceptional cases we see someone who is supposed to be Guru didn’t really live up to it. But that’s an exceptional situation. The general rule is that Guru does not fall down . . . he’s solidly situated in Krishna consciousness. He’s heavy – “guru” means “heavy” in Sanskrit.
Do you know what Prabhupada did in Boston? He told us, “I’m always praying to Krishna that I won’t fall down.” Do you think Prabhupada is in danger of falling down? We don’t think he was, but do you think that Prabhupada thought he was in danger of falling down? Oh, yes. He really thought that he was in danger of falling down. Therefore he was always praying to Krishna, “Please protect me from falling down” – and therefore, he could never fall down. You see? The bona fide spiritual master always feels that he’s in danger of falling down at every second. He has perfect humility. He doesn’t think, “Oh yes, I’m very advanced – I will never fall down!” As soon as one thinks that way, they’re already fallen, actually. The bona fide spiritual master feels, “I am in constant danger of falling at every second – I have to constantly beg my spiritual master and Krishna, ‘Please, protect me!’ Constantly beg – with intense, fervent prayer – “Krishna, please – please protect me!” That is the bona fide spiritual master because he is always in that mood. He’s always afraid of falling down and he’s always begging his spiritual master and Krishna to protect him from falling down – therefore that guru will never fall down. Only if one thinks, “Oh yes, now I am Guru. Everyone worships me; they offer me guru puja – I am advanced” – then he won’t last long. But the spiritual master who thinks, “I’m in great danger. I have to constantly beg for guru and Krishna to protect me” – he will never fall down.
You say that a guru is fallen if he has done something wrong, that he fell down from his position. But a guru will stand and walk with a high head when he is misguiding his disciples. Is this guru not fallen also?
Well, Guru means that he’s properly guiding – if he’s misguiding, how can we say he is Guru?
But there are so many.
Oh yes, there are so many so-called ‘gurus’ misguiding disciples. That’s not Guru. That’s laghu. “Guru” means “heavy with Vedic knowledge” - one who is representing Krishna. Laghu means light, like a feather – flippant, blowing here and blowing there. Those so-called gurus are laghu.
There are those also who say, “Your rasa is this, your rasa is that” in the spiritual world . . .
Yes, we have seen that. We met one girl when we were preaching in Alabama. She had met one babaji in Radha-kunda who told her, “Yes, you were such-and-such gopi in Krishna’s lila.” So she was meditating on who she was in the spiritual world and what she was doing; and at night she was having illicit sex with one boy she had met – at Radha-kunda, have illicit sex – at the same time meditating on what gopi she was in Krishna’s lila. So see, if you go to these bogus people who don’t really properly represent the Vaisnava siddhanta you will get nonsense. And if you take shelter of nonsense, you will be nonsense. Therefore we recommend that everyone come to Prabhupada’s movement, to be protected from so much nonsense that goes on in the name of Vaisnavism.
So much nonsense is going on. Prabhupada has popularized Krishna consciousness now; but there’s so much sahajiya Vaisnavism out there now. These devotees are not purely following the actual siddhanta of Rupa Goswami. They’re concocting so many watered-down versions of so-called Vaisnavism – “You are such-and-such gopi”; “You don’t need to chant japa” – so many bogus things they’re teaching. So we advise everyone who is interested to achieve perfection to come to these books of Srila Prabhupada. Read Prabhupada’s books; follow the instructions in Srila Prabhupada’s books. This is the greatest Vaisnava acarya in history, who was instructed directly by Krishna to come to this world and write those books – we’re talking about a direct order from Krishna to Prabhupada to come here and write those books. This is not an ordinary spiritual master. This is one of the greatest spiritual masters. This is the greatest preacher of Krishna consciousness in the history of the universe – His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. So if you want the best connection with Krishna, then become a follower of Prabhupada’s movement. Become a follower of Prabhupada’s movement; read these books; follow these books. We guarantee your success if you do.
You said that we should love other Vaisnavas. Should we love Vaisnavas who are not part of ISKCON?
Actually, a Vaisnava loves even a little ant. He loves even a little ant – of course, he will love everyone who’s in a human body. A devotee loves everyone. When you love Krishna, then automatically you love everyone.
We never say that those outside of ISKCON are not Vaisnavas. Actually, the Christians are also a sort of Vaisnava. They are worshiping the Supreme God. The Muslims are also Vaisnavas; they’re worshiping the Supreme Lord. Allah is a name for God; Jehovah is also. All we are saying is that Prabhupada’s books are the best, most complete, most perfect presentation of Vaisnava philosophy in history. That’s all we’re saying – that this is the best connection. We don’t say it’s the only connection. We don’t say that other people are not Krishna conscious because they’re not members of ISKCON. But we do say that this process of Krishna bhakti is the absolutely best way, the most powerful connection you can get.
Before Prabhupada, no had even the conception of spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world. They thought it was just a poetic simile. Lord Caitanya said:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
Others were thinking that it was just some poetic expression that Krishna consciousness would spread all over the world; only Srila Prabhupada had the faith in those words of Lord Caitanya! He was criticized by his godbrothers like anything when he came to the West to spread Krishna consciousness. They all did – so much he was criticized! They didn’t have the vision he had. Prabhupada is very unique. Prabhupada is on a whole different level from the other Gaudiya preachers. He’s in a league all of his own. He’s in a league with Bhaktivinode Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati – the other Gaudiyas are not in that league. They’re nowhere near that league. We don’t say they’re not devotees, but we have to honestly say they’re not on that level with Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta and Bhaktivinode Thakura. We love them; we offer all respect to them. I have many followers of other Gaudiyas who write me. Actually there are some right now who like my e-mails so much that they want me to come and preach to them. They said that they’ll collect money and buy me a ticket to come to their country and preach to them. If I’m not being loving, then why would they want to pay my ticket to come and preach to them? They’re not part of ISKCON. But they like so much that I’m giving Prabhupada’s mercy, without any restriction, to everyone. You see, Prabhupada gave his unrestricted mercy to everyone, and I, as his disciple, am doing the same thing. You could be an ISKCON person or you could be somebody else’s disciple – I don’t make any distinction. You can be a member of the Baptist Church - what to speak of other Caitanyaites. I have a Baptist minister who is my student, and he’s very inspired by what I’m doing and how I deal with him in a very loving way.
So my modus operandi is to give that unrestricted, pure love that Prabhupada is showering on me at every minute. I’m just trying to be that pure conduit for the love of Srila Prabhupada to everyone I meet. I don’t ask, “What organization do you belong to?” I just see, “Here is a living entity, part and parcel of Krishna; so let me try to purely represent that unlimited love of Prabhupada to this person.” That’s it. There’s no discrimination. I don’t care what organization you belong to. You’re part and parcel of Krishna. But if you ask me, “What is the best program for going back to home, back to Godhead,” I’m not going to tell you it’s all one – that whatever you do, it’s the same. I’m going to tell you that your best chance of becoming a pure devotee is to read Srila Prabhupada’s books and carefully follow the instructions given in Srila Prabhupada’s books. That’s what I’m going to tell you. That’s my love for you. That’s my unconditional love for you. Do you understand?
Any other questions?
You said that a disciple who is not pure, who is fallen down, goes to Doghead, not Godhead . . . The guru who falls down is also a disciple of his guru. So will he also go to Doghead?
No. If we fall down, that’s a great burden on our spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada told us that the spiritual master has to rescue the disciple. So we should be very careful, once we take shelter of a guru, not to fall down.
I’ll give you an example – I read this just the other day, and I was absolutely amazed. There was a great Vaisnava by the name of Bilvala Mangala Thakura – he’s also known as Suradas. He lived 700 years in Vrindavana. Now, in his previous lifetime he was a disciple of a guru, and he had advanced so far that he achieved the bhava stage of Krishna consciousness, which is just below perfection, prema. But because he wasn’t completely perfect, he actually took birth again in a wealthy family, and he became carried away by wine and women. He had a girlfriend, a prostitute girlfriend named Cintamani. One stormy night, he became very lusty to enjoy with his girlfriend. Even though there was a horrible storm going on and the river was swollen, he went down in the dark night to cross the raging river to go be with Cintamani. He got to the river and grabbed hold of a log to carry him across – and it turned out that the log was a corpse, a floating corpse. When he finally reached Cintamani’s house, the gate was locked; so he grabbed on to some vines to climb over the wall to get to Cintamani. Actually, it turned out that he was grabbing a hold of snakes, yet he didn’t care – he just had to get to Cintamani.
At last he got to his beloved girlfriend. Now he could enjoy! And Cintamani said to him, “What is this? You are so much coming after this blood and flesh. If you could only be so dedicated to Krishna, then how much better off you would be.” Then he came to the realization. “Ah, yes - what have I done?” And so he went to Vrindavana and gave up all this life of sense enjoyment.
But do you know who Cintamani actually was? This shocked me – I had never read this before. She was actually his guru in a previous lifetime. His spiritual master took birth as a prostitute and was having an illicit affair with him just to save him! Just see what the spiritual master did to save his disciple from a degraded life – he actually became a prostitute. So we should never put our spiritual master into difficulty by not seriously taking to this pathway and having to force him to take some very awkward birth to save us from a very awkward situation. We should do everything possible to purify ourselves for going back to home, back to Godhead, in this very lifetime. Very, very careful we must be! I don’t know if I answered the question or not – did that answer it? Okay.
Well, our time
is going overtime now. We’ll have another seminar on Monday night, the
topic to be announced . . . So we thank you very much – Srila Prabhupada
Transcribed by Her Grace Labangalatika devi dasi