A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja – 8 September 2008, Cape Town, South Africa
We are reading from the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, from the 4th chapter, entitled “Transcendental Knowledge”, text 39:
sraddhava labhate jnanam
jnanam labdhva param santim
A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.
Of course, we remember that it is stated adau sraddha, first faith- first sraddha. The word sraddha; to translate it with faith is a little poor. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, sraddha sabdhe- visvasa kahe sudhrhda niscaya, krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krta haya, which means that the firm conviction, that by following the process of devotional service to Krsna, that all auspiciousness or all good will be attained. That is the definition that is given in the Caitanya Caritamrta. Looking a little further, then the word ‘srad’ is referring to the truth; it also has the dart relating to hearing- sravanam. The truth that has been heard- srad. And ‘dha’ means to fix. So to fix the truth in the heart is known as sraddha; is a more epistemological meaning of the word ‘sraddha’.
So like this we can see how generally…it is stated ‘adau sraddha’, but here Srila Prabhupada is saying that “one is called a faithful man who thinks that simply by acting in Krsna consciousness, he can attain the highest perfection. This faith is attained by the discharge of devotional service and by chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.” So in other words, he puts faith after; faith only comes after we’ve chanted, after we purify our heart, then real faith comes. Then sudhrhda niscaya – firm faith comes, because, firm faith is actually described to be nistha. And nistha, when we have gone through many stages of devotional service- ‘adau sraddha’- first the initial faith; then sadhu sanga- the association with devotees; then the process of devotional service- bhajana kriya; then anarta navrrti, and then nistha. In nistha…bhagavat bhakti naisthaki, in a lecture on the Bhagavatam verse, bhagavat bhakti naisthaki, Srila Prabhupada says, nistha is the stage where one is sixty or seventy percent purified, Prabhupada said. In other words, if we look at it, at that stage of nistha one is more attracted to Krsna than to Maya. Although the influence of Maya may be there, one may feel the attraction, but because one is more attracted to Krsna, one will discard it. And thus one is firmly fixed in his faith. But when our heart is so full of sinful seeds that are stored there, then the sinful inclination is very strong and thus our determination in Krsna consciousness is very weak. Although we are thinking, ‘Yes, this is the right thing but still somehow or other we have our moments of doubts and we look for an excuse, even at times. When the sinful inclination is so strong we look for an excuse to lose faith.
For example, one good one is, ‘I really believe in Krsna consciousness, I mean absolutely, I think definitely it is the greatest thing there is but I’m just not sure if I can follow it.’ This is really good, because you have no doubt in Krsna consciousness at all- no doubt- ‘but just in myself, I’m so fallen Prabhu, what can I do?’ But then you have no faith in the process of Krsna consciousness that it can uplift you, then we think that we so fallen that even Krsna consciousness cannot save me. So that is actually not having faith in the process of Krsna consciousness because the holy name is so fallen, it doesn’t matter who we are. Even if we are the most sinful person in the entire universe, still the holy name can purify that in a moment. Even if astrologically we have all the bad planets- rahu, the dark planets- ‘I’ve been in the rahu period- so many years still to come- misfortune will come my way, what can be done! It is too strong; thus I cant be fixed up in my spiritual life. It’s not possible in my rahu period!’ It’s true; karmic calculation, there can be no success in pious activity when rahu is predominant but it’s not pious activity! Prabhupada said Krsna can kick out a million rahus just like that! So that argument doesn’t stand either. Thus astrology doesn’t work- nothing works really. There is no excuse, there is really no valid excuse that Krsna consciousness wouldn’t work for us. It will work for us- it will work for anyone and everyone, irregardless of his condition of life.
So, all right, that excuse didn’t fly. So gradually by hearing we get more knowledge but we cannot realize that knowledge. Realized knowledge comes by engaging in devotional service, by taking the instructions of the scriptures and engaging the senses in the service of Krsna. Because basically the process of vaidhi bhakti, the process of following devotional service according to rules and regulations, is the process of engaging the senses in the service of Krsna. It is based on the principle of sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat paratvena nirmalam hrsikena hrsikesa- sevanam bhaktir ucyate, that one should give up all desire for any personal position, any personal reputation, any fame or any upadhi. Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam, we have to renounce all designations and simply see ourselves as one who is trying to please the senses of hrsikesa, the Lord and master of the senses- Krsna. So in this way we are dedicating our life to Krsna but this is in practice; this is just due to some intellectual understanding, and behind it- some suffering in the material world. Memories of suffering in the spiritual world are the foundation. On top of it there is some knowledge that ‘if I engage the senses in the service of Krsna, I’ll become purified. Thus I must do it as my duty.’ And it’s fueled by the fire of the previous suffering. But with time the memory of the previous suffering disappears and the memory of the current suffering in Krsna consciousness becomes more prominent, and thus with time we are becoming less convinced. We think that with time we become more convinced, you think that as the days go by that you become stronger in your Krsna consciousness but you’re finding that as time goes by, you’re becoming weaker. This is interesting.
Yes, it means that we cannot continue to be motivated by a negative motivation, that we are serving Krsna because material life didn’t work. We have to actually serve Krsna because we are convinced that Krsna is more wonderful. That is the real reason. So somewhere along the line our motivation has to change from one who comes…because of a certain amount of material distress, and who didn’t have material distress? Who can say he did not come with material distress? We’d like to think of ourselves, that we were seekers for wisdom, but what made us seekers for wisdom! In my life it was sheer distress! If I would have enjoyed from day one, I would have gone as far as this…it’s hard to say. But anyway, I didn’t enjoy it- not at all! I’m not going to give the full description but all I can say is that so much suffering in the material world- intense! So, by the time I came to Krsna consciousness I said , “Enough! I had enough! I don’t want anymore! I want to get out of here- out of this material world!” but that motivation may be very strong at first and on the strength of that we can do amazing things, and then it wears out. Fine, but anyway, if we continue in spite of that- in spite of the fact that the initial impetus disappears- and we go through the process with patience and determination, we become purified. And then, yes, gradually the lower modes of material nature disappears. Tada raja tamo bhava kama…so the influence of tama-guna and raja-guna disappear and we become fixed in the mode of goodness it is said.
Now I offer a little story just to make a little break with all this philosophy and slokas. So, once some people, they were born in a dessert- not exactly a dessert- but they lived in an open oasis. Something like in India; you have jisoniers- jisoniers in the middle of the dessert- huge desserts- and there’s sand and sun and nothing else. And there are such places. So generally people live in dessert, in an oasis, and yes, life in the dessert is a little more simple because they don’t have that much- they don’t have all the vegetables, all the fruits that you have in an ordinary place. It’s kind of limited- limited fruits- lots of dates and so on, and it’s a bit dry in the dessert. So people were living there in an oasis, in the dessert. One day, a stranger came and spoke of a green land; a beautiful green land, very fertile, full of great natural opulence and he brought some mysterious fruits as well from that land to sort of prove that he was definitely not an ordinary person from the dessert. So a lot of people developed some faith in him-partially because of the fruits, which were really good and also because of his descriptions and his impressive personality and so on. So a caravan was organized that was supposed to go through the dessert. That caravan traveled along but once you go into the dessert then hot sun is burning on your head day and night. And no matter how big the water bottle is that you carry, it’s always too small! I have had experience in desserts in Rajasthan and no matter how much water we took it was always coming to a point where we had to start rationing the water! It’s like sooner than you think; we said, “This time we got enough…” and again we come to the point, “It’s running out!” and you can drink every ten minutes- so hot, so dry. So what to say; it’s a long journey and a lot of people naturally started to think, “It’s too much! This is too much! I mean, why are we doing this? Some promises of some place, but it’s too much, we’re going back…” well, since we’re in a Bhagavad Gita class it’s not hard to see the parallel in the story! The oasis is the oasis of sense gratification. When we grew up, it was okay but still a little bit dry. There was some enjoyment but it wasn’t enough to fulfill us, it was limited. Finally we met some preacher in Krsna consciousness who promised us the spiritual world and it sounded so good, and gave us some prasadam to taste- that helped! And we decided to enter the caravan of bhakti yoga!
Now, this caravan is going through the dessert and the thing is, if you want to go from an oasis in the dessert to a green land what you have to do? You have to first go through the dry dessert and that is the difficulty in spiritual life, that we have to go through the dry dessert. That means we have to stop all our sense gratification and we don’t get the higher taste yet, and meanwhile the hot sun of lust is burning on your head- day by day. And it’s not a Sunday feast everyday, if you know what I mean! So even that is kind of austere. So a lot of people just turn back; they say, “This is too much! I cannot keep this up! This is too difficult, I’ll go back…” but if you persevere, if you’re determined- your family members will say, “You’re crazy! What are you doing? No, no, no; this is too much, you’re too fanatic! Forget this!” but we say, if you persevere and say no, then one day- yes you cant believe it- on the horizon palm tress, beautiful white houses, water and everything- “Yes, let’s go! Another oasis! This time it’s really good.” No wonder it’s really good because it’s the oasis of the mode of goodness! It should be good! Beautiful oasis! Now, you’ve come to the place where you begin to enjoy spiritual life! Yes, now spiritual principles become your second nature. The idea of not taking a bath- the idea is inconceivable, which previously you would step into the clothes of the day before (or the whole week!) and no problem…but suddenly it becomes an issue. So the principles of the mode of goodness now become our second nature. This is the point where you begin to enjoy spiritual life. “My spiritual life is a very, very nice spiritual life! Yes, I’m very, very happy in my little spiritual asrama and I’m chanting my rounds and it is all very nice and we have nice association, and it’s all a nice comfy little spiritual life- very nice. Even the cat is vegetarian! My dog pays obeisances! The parrot chants Hare Krsna and everything is really great! It’s what I’ve always wanted! I’m so happy! I’m so happy!”
The guide says this is not it! This is not it! This is not it at all! This is not important; this is not something to relish- no. We must sacrifice- “Sacrifice? This is lies!” No, we must sacrifice our blood- “Sacrifice our blood? That sounds painful!” We must sacrifice! We must do whatever we can to save the condition souls- “Well, you know, they’re very sinful, very fallen I don’t know if I can associate too much with these people because I might fall down. No, it is better to stay here- safe.” Yes, sit there safe in your nice little spiritual life, sit there safe in your sweet little Krsna bubble, and just be there nice and comfy with a soft, little cushion in your back with Hare Krsna embroided on it! Yes, it feels good, isn’t it? Lets take that position of comfort…but know one thing for sure, STILL-NOT-FULFILLED! STILL-SOMETHING-LACKING! In spite of everything- in spite of having all the KC videos that you can imagine and watching a different one every night- the full collection, oh yes, all of them!- in spite of having 3000 CD’s, in spite of having 12000 lectures and 78 443 pictures of Krsna on your screen saver…in spite of all of that, still- still- somehow or other a sense of just emptiness hits you every once in a while. Just when you’re chanting your rounds, in between the holy name…(dramatic)… what is it? What is it?
Yes, if we don’t make that sacrifice, if we don’t make that trouble to save the condition souls, it will not happen- it will not happen. We will be in the second oasis- no more enjoying sense gratification, now we will no longer be enjoying material life- now we will enjoy spiritual life! But we stop to be the enjoyer of spiritual life also; we must simply be the servant and do the needful. There is a whole world- samsara-davanala-lidha-loka- the world is one fire, it is a blazing forest fire and the people are affected by suffering and we must become rain clouds. Rain clouds; we must absorb all this transcendental knowledge and shower it, shower it, over the planet again and again! Well, it reminds me of a movie I saw ages ago, because I don’t watch movies these days. So whenever I remember a movie it’s usually a really old one! This one was called “The Omen” and the omen is sort of about six, six, six…if you know what I mean. So there is a scene in the movie about a priest who was warding off the influence and he’s in his room and he’s nailing all these crosses on the wall- he’s got hundreds of crosses all along the wall- and then he’s saying, “The influence is getting too strong! It’s getting too strong!” and he nails another cross on the wall… “I don’t know how long I can hold it back! The influence of evil is coming in!” well, it maybe true if we stay in our little mode of goodness, our Krsna bubble; we have our nice, little Krsna world, yes, but outside there is a raging forest fire! So even for self-preservation we have to do something; we have to knock on doors. That is what Lord Caitanya told Lord Nityananda, to knock on every door in Bengal. He told Lord Nityananda to go back from Puri to Bengal and to knock on every door of every house and ask the people to chant the name of Krsna. Of course Lord Nityananda went and instead asked them to chant the name of Gauranga- bhajagauranga nama. That He did; He went everywhere- all over- and people chanted, and also the name of Krsna.
Yes, so that is the only way that we can really be fulfilled. If we go out of our oasis then we come to the dessert and gradually of course, as we try, as we leave our oasis of goodness, we begin to see the landscape starts to change! There are more cactuses now than before! Yes! And some even have fruits; if you pull out the thorn there’s fruits- not bad. They’re not yet the nectar fruits from the Greenland, they’re yet the complete realizations but there are some realizations and they’re satisfying. It may not be krsna-prema but a little nistha also helps, a little ruci sometimes- a little taste- so the little bit of nectar, that also helps and keeps you going. It is said in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that bhava is the stage of ecstasy. It is said it is like the sun ray- the first ray in the early morning of prema- begins to come. That is bhava; so it is ecstasy. So now some love comes. And it also says that there is shadow bhava, the shadow of this ecstasy and that is very interesting because it says that if you are in the company of a great vaisnava, that you can, o to speak, ‘borrow, some of his ecstasy. Or if you go to a holy dhama, then the holy dhama is also full of ecstasy and you get some of that. So just being there, you get it.
Last year we were going by boat to Mangochi; Mangochi is a very nice place because many, many wonderful things are there. I’ll tell that in a moment but first we were going into that place in a boat on the Ganga, so it started good- a boat in the Ganga is always good. And we had a good kirtana going and at one point it was really rocking- it was rocking and we had a good sound system so it was blasting over the whole Ganga and our whole boat was just rocking and devotees were just rocking! Then as we came by then all the people on the shores started rocking! Wherever we were, everyone started! And then there was a fisherman on a little boat in the water and he started dancing on his boat and the boat was going up and down like that, and whenever we went it was like a wave that hit. And then from Mangochi you have to go to another branch of the Ganga and there’s a canal you have to sort of go through. So we went through this canal and it was in between the fields really, and then there was a tree and in this tree there was a crow, and when we came the crow became so ecstatic about the kirtana that he also got into it. And he was calling out, “Rama! Rama! Rama!” (dramatic) as we were coming and he really enjoyed the kirtana, there was no doubt about it. He was completely into it. He also got caught up in the ecstasy. So, it was really ecstatic and everyone was tasting it and we were like just riding on the ecstasy of the dhama. The dhama was just generously lending us this ecstasy because Mayapur dhama is like that- so generous, so abundant, it’s over flowing, it’s everywhere! Have you seen the flowers in Mayapur? They pop out of the ground and they’re big! It’s big- serious, of course! Lord Caitanya, He doesn’t do it small- big! Everything is big! And it gets bigger all the time: more Deities, more worship- more and more and more- it doesn’t stop! Mayapur is just bursting at the seams; it’s Lord Caitanya. Everyone says, “the Mayapur temple, it has no temple president!” The devotees says, “Here Lord Caitanya is the president!” I think they are right! Maybe in Cape Town as well…who knows…! That’s another story…that’s not this class!
So the bhava we can borrow, the bhava of the dhama. We can borrow a little bit of the bhava of the great personalities but because we’re only borrowing, ah, it runs out of after a little while, and then we go back to our normal drab state of consciousness- “Haribol…” (dramatic). And look at all the vaisnavas and think, “the lot of you, the problem is you are not vaisnavas at all! That is the difficulty.” We come down to our ordinary mundane consciousness and we see faults everywhere. But when we are in this stage of ecstasy then we are adaursa darsi. Then you cannot see fault; it is said a vaisnava is adaursa darsi- he doesn’t see fault. That’s not a philosophical thing; ‘A vaisnava doesn’t see faults. Okay. I’m trying…but I think I see something.’ It’s not so easy; not no a vaisnava doesn’t see fault. No, but when we are in ecstasy we don’t see any fault, we don’t even think of faults. We just think everybody is so nice, everybody is just wonderful and everybody is just chanting- how nice! When we are in ecstasy- somebody does a little service and we really feel, ‘Ah, this is wonderful! How nice! This service is so nice! Soon too, you will be dancing in ecstasy- just wait!’ like this. So in this way, this ecstasy is truly full of love because one naturally loves to see the vaisnavas.
Mukunda Maharaja tells the story how when he was a newly initiated devotee he was Mukunda. And at one point…well, Prabhupada use to always play bongos in the kirtana because that’s all he had but then somehow or other at one point Sri Mrdanga- Sri Mrdanga- arrived in America! The first mrdanga in America! So anyway, Prabhupada immediately ripped his piece of his cloth and he put it around the mrdanga to protect it and everything, and the Prabhupada was very happy and he started to play it! and everyone could see that he was very, very expert! Because, Prabhupada was a very good mrdanga player; he had been educated as a child. His father, from young age, had him take mrdanga lessons. So he was quite expert. And even in India, before coming to the West, they always had him play mrdanga. So it was an old friend, and Prabhupada was playing away. So Mukunda was a musician, so Mukunda was like (shocked!) looking at the drum…So Prabhupada could see that he was interested. So Prabhupada said, “Would you like to learn?” Mukunda, “Yes!!!” so Prabhupada taught him some basic mantras and Mukunda immediately wanted to play very fast…Prabhupada said, “Slow down, slow down” but then gradually he allowed him to speed up. And then at one point Mukunda started to sort of get it, started to really get the proper beat and then he saw Prabhupada smiling and like that, and Mukunda said, “That was amazing! That was amazing! I had many music teachers but I never had one who enjoyed my playing!” he said, “And I realized that this was so perfect, that this was so perfect and that Prabhupada was teaching something perfect and therefore that he was appreciating then I was also picking it up.” So Mukunda understood the real reason why Mukunda was enjoying. So in this way Prabhupada was so happy to see that they were taking a little bit- a little bit- and immediately…Prabhupada did not just enjoy that but that touched his heart also! That brought love right out of his heart;
Prabhupada then immediately felt so much of affection for his devotees who then felt that they would do anything for Prabhupada- anything! And thus everybody was tolerating everyone and everyone was like in the mood of loving each other and everyone was ready to do any service; it didn’t matter. Later, people became specialized- ‘I’m a book distributor Prabhu! Sorry…’ book distributors don’t do anything but that. but in the very beginning- no, everything- everything! And everyone was enthusiastic to just do anything. ‘Can I serve?’ ‘Yes!’ So that was Prabhupada; that was Prabhupada’s bhava. Prabhupada lent that bhava to the devotees; his loving mood- he lent that and that reflected in everyone. So this is the way that we will carry on……