A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami, 29 April 2011, Radhadesh, Belgium
Jaya Jaya Sri Caitanya Jaya Nityananda
Jaya Advaitacandra Jaya Gaura bhakta vrnda
So I chose two very famous verses from the Sri Caitanya Caritamrta and I’ll explain a little later why.
sei panca-tattva mili’ prthivi asiya
purva-premabhandarera mudra ughadiya
pance mili’ lute prema, kare asvadana
yata yata piye, trsna badhe anuksana
The characteristics of Krsna are understood to be a storehouse of transcendental love. Although that storehouse of love certainly came with Krsna when He was present, it was sealed. But when Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu came with His associates of the Panca-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Krsna. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew.
(Cc. Adi 7.20-21)
Prabhupada is there
So the reason why I chose this verse is because it is described how the members of the Panca Tattva plundered the store house of love of God and after breaking the seal they entered. They plundered that storehouse to taste the transcendental love of Krsna and the more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew. So this is the theme of spiritual nourishment and that is the kind of theme I wanted to meditate on this morning. We all feel a great need, we are in desperate need to somehow or other to find such nourishment. It is widely available, it is distributed everywhere now by the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His pure dedicated followers. And we in particular remember in this regard, Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to whom we are totally indebted because every inch of our spiritual life Prabhupada is there.
Badri Narayana Prabhu wo always comes up with nice stories, tells how he wanted to do some adventurous preaching. And he thought, “I want to go to an unthread territory, some place where Krsna consciousness has not yet reached.” So he looked at the map of the world and chose New Guinea, which is indeed somewhat of an unusual place because there’s still a good part where there are active cannibals and so on. So it’s kind of a preacher’s paradise! Badri decided to go there and after a long journey all the way from the west coast of America, he finally arrived in New Guinea. When he came into the hotel, the man behind the reception was reading Prabhupada’s book and he realised that Prabhupada was already there! So it is a fact that wherever we go- not only wherever we go in the world but wherever we go in spiritual life- Prabhupada was already there!
We are like chapati dough
Whatever we go through in our growth, in our development, little by little…we are like chapati dough, and the chapati dough is being pummelled with two fists, beating on that dough, kneading on that and shaping the dough. At first when we come to Krsna consciousness we are as hard as a rock and it is difficult to put us in any shape. But gradually, by the association of the devotees we become purified and gradually our heart softens.
When I joined Krsna consciousness in Vrndavana, after about one week I was in charge of the restaurant and somehow or other I had a real problem in that restaurant with chapati cooks because first I had a Bengali who didn’t understand anything and who just kept on rolling chapatis like a machine even after the guests had left. And when I tried to tell him to stop, he wouldn’t. Then when I took his arm he attacked me and then made politics as Bengalis do and said that I had attacked him (laughter). So it was a whole thing. Anyway, I fired him! And then there was a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada who somehow or other became my chapati cook and his name was Rohini Kumar Prabhu. He was cooking chapatis and one day I had 25 guests and an average of four chapatis each…that’s 100 chapatis! So the kitchen was downstairs and I called down, “100 chapatis!” which I guess is a bit of a shock when you’re a chapati cook! And no chapatis came, not a single chapati came up and Indian guests are not so polite when they want to be fed. They were banging their cups on the table and were saying, “chapatis!” So again I called out in despair, “chapatis!” and then still no chapatis. So then I called out one more time, “chapatis!” and then suddenly the door flung open and Rohini Kumar flew into the room and on his finger he had made with chapati dough the head of a Joker. He put it under my nose and he said, “no chapatis!”
So gradually in the course of our devotional service, we become a little more flexible. Little by little the devotees are somehow or other gradually bringing out some detachment and bringing us to a point where we just say, ‘okay, Krsna, you are the only shelter…’ In this way, little by little we are being purified in the association of the devotees. The devotees are an essential source of that spiritual nourishment. The Antya lila of the Caitanya Caritamrta begins with the verse,
durgame pathi me ‘ndhasya
santah santv avalambanam
(Cc. Antya. 1.2)
The vaisnavas generosity
In that verse it is described, durgame pathi me ‘ndhasya, “My path is very slippery. It is difficult to stay on this path but by the stick of the mercy of the vaisnavas as my support, I can remain on this path.” So that verse has for me been something that has stayed with me for many years because it is a fact that without the devotees what can we do? It is not possible to stay enlivened. And then there are so many wonderful devotees and the devotees particularly have the quality of generosity and that is the one thing that is the most amazing thing about Krsna consciousness.
Just like Srila Prabhupada introduced the, “Sunday Love Feast,” as he called it and there were 15 fabulous preparations- all for free and as much that you can desire! That was just inconceivable! That sort of conquered, that sort of brought out, ‘wow, I want to reciprocate, I want to do something in exchange.’ So in this way, the vaisnavas by their generosity, conquer. In the beginning we may not be so conscious of our dependence on the vaisnavas. We may think, ‘I’ve got Srimad Bhagavatam, I’ve got the holy name, now I know everything, what more do I need! I’ll just go forward with big steps, fast…’ but with time we realise more and more that we need the mercy.
So first of all, I have been graced by many vaisnavas by their great generosity…I always tell how after sannyasa I came into Abhentheuer and Sacinandana Maharaja called me his vairagi bhai, his brother in renunciation. Well I took it as, ‘he wants to be my friend, he accepts me as his friend,’ so I took it like that and it meant something to me. And up to the day of today I consider Maharaja my dear friend! I’m glad that he’s here today! That kind of mercy sustains us for years. A small thing but within it, a gesture of friendship and without friendship how can we stay on this path? It’s a long path, a long time, a long way before we can actually go back to Godhead. It’s not just easy, it’s not just, ‘well, you know, now I know everything, I read the Gita and understood the philosophy and now I’ll just do it….’ No , it takes a lot and we need spiritual nourishment and we need, again and again to take care of being enlivened. Thus we are always eager to be in the association of the vaisnava, especially of the advanced vaisnavas.
The vaisnavas showered me with lots of mercy; in 1994 I had the good fortune to be in Vrndavana for the installation of Srila Prabhupada’s murti in his Samadhi. There was a abhisheka and whoever had arranged it all, they had made a miscalculation. There was supposed to be a drum under the table but the drum didn’t fit and thus there was a problem in catching the abhisheka. So I volunteered, last minute, to go under there with a team with buckets…boy, I got the mercy- I got the full abhisheka! The honey…I still remember the honey! And the ghee and everything! And I got kicked by all the vaisnavas. Even Brahmananda stood on my hand and Narayana Maharaja kicked me and everyone there kicked me! In this way I was greatly fortunate, it was a great blessing. So I could list many, many blessings that I received over the years from the vaisnavas but then this class would go very, very long. So I’m just sketching now a few quick examples.
Of course, I must say, that the person who blessed me the most is my spiritual master because his generosity blew my mind! It literally blew my mind because he made me do things that I could have never imagined I would be doing all along. As soon as I showed a slight interest in sannyasa, the whole movement told me, ‘forget it! Just forget it!’ and everyone said…like, Sridhara Maharaja said, “Just stay a brahmacari.” I said, “a brahmacari? Maharaja, I’ve been a grhastha for 24 years! A brahmacari?” But Jayadvaita Maharaja immediately said, “oh, oh that is very wonderful!” And as I sort of carefully indicated an inch he started pulling in, “okay, let’s go!” And each time like that he showered me with transcendental mercy.
Just now I came from South Africa and my spiritual master was also there and I met him. He was telling a nice story, which I’ll share with you. It was a story of the Ramayana. The Ramayana as we all know is an endless saga, there was great battle in Lanka to free Sita from captivity. Meanwhile Sita was kept in Lanka in this Asoka Grove and there were these raksasis who were constantly harassing her, torturing her in so many ways and just trying to convince her to surrender to Ravana. So this was going on. So the battle was over; Ravana killed and defeated, Hanuman was the first to reach the Asoka Grove and to bring the news to Sita. At that time the raksasis were still there, still surrounding her, so Hanuman said, “Ravana is killed! The battle is won! You are free!” and then he saw that she wasn’t free but was still surrounded by all these raksasis, so he said, “Shall I kill ‘em? I’ll just kill ‘em all!” and she said, “No Hanuman, no, no don’t kill them.”
“No but it’s just a small thing, I’ll just get rid of them. They caused you so much suffering….” and then Sita told Hanuman a story and the story was that once there was a hunter hunting in the forest and then in his hunting activities he came upon a tiger but this tiger was just not a tame tiger and the roles reversed. Instead of the hunter chasing the tiger, the tiger chased the hunter and the hunter was running and running and running! And then there was a tree and he climbed in the tree and as he was up on the branches of the tree, there was a bear! And he looked up, saw the bear, looked down and saw the tiger…and then the tiger said to the bear, “My dear bear, this hunter is our mutual enemy. Kick him down and I will finish him off!”
“No,” the bear said, “how can I do that? How can I kick him down? He’s a guest in my home. That I cannot do.”
The tiger then turned his strategy and he turned to the hunter and he said to the hunter, “Look at that bear, just kick him down and I will eat him instead of you.”
And the hunter did it, the hunter suddenly kicked the bear and the bear fell down but on the way the bear somehow or other managed to grab a branch and hang in there and climbing back up and the bear was saved. Then the bear was back up in the branches and the tiger said to the bear, “just see, just see what kind of person this hunter is, you know what I mean? He betrayed you! While you were giving him shelter, he just betrayed you completely! Kick him down now, before he kills you! You can’t trust him, as soon as you turn your back on him. Kick him down!”
“No,” the bear said, “I cannot do that because even if my guest is misbehaving and behaving in a way that is totally inappropriate, that doesn’t give me a license to also act inappropriate. I still have to act properly. So he’s my guest, so no, I can’t kick him down.” And in this way the tiger went hungry that day…!
So our noble bear is a wonderful person. My spiritual master, who is so much dedicated to being a man of noble character, that is his outstanding quality. If I see whatever mercy has been bestowed on me, which is so much generosity, then the thing that penetrates the deepest in my heart is his noble character. That is the one thing that each time I’m thinking…I’m just a low minded person who is just trying to somehow or other become a vaisnava but then I see a man of truly saintly character. Like my spiritual master is known for his thunderbolt, karate blows and he has a tongue, which is as powerful as a lightning bolt and a very sharp intelligence. And he can with one or two words just go to the essence of something and just expose everything. Therefore people are afraid wherever he goes and people are in fear. So when I approached him for initiation, well I was also thinking about the brace position, as they speak about in planes…in case if it gets too rocky then brace yourself. So I was sort of getting ready for anything! I thought that even if thunderbolts come, I’ll take them, that was my mood. But I got a few thunderbolts over the years but not too many. Mostly, he melted me with his noble character and he did it again with his bear story which was such a nice story and I somehow or other missed that story in the Ramayana. It is very nice because I thought, here is spiritual nourishment. All of us have to become vaisnavas of noble character. It’s not just what we do but it is really who we are. We have to become very noble persons and that is one point that I wanted to make today.
Then another vaisnava who always showers me with mercy- somehow or other he has adopted me- is Indradyumna Maharaja. I don’t know why but a few years ago on my birthday- it was a passport birthday so I was hiding it- and he burst in to the Bhagavatam lecture I gave, with a big cake, together with Govinda Maharaja and Puri Maharaja. And they were three big guys! They glorified me and pinned me down and tried to put a piece of cake in my mouth and well, there wasn’t much I could do about it. So I kind of surrendered! And then, they stole it out of my mouth and then they danced around with it like intoxicated mad men, which is pretty bad, right. But then Indradyumna Maharaja glorified me for all kinds of things about African preaching, which I really didn’t do. But with that they kind of forced me to do it because now my public reputation was that I had done all these things and being proud as I am I didn’t want to lose faze, so he forced me to do something! And this year he did it again! I had a hidden little birthday party with the South African devotees in a private house, and suddenly he appears with 20 garlands, and he says, “I’ve strung them myself, I’ve been up all night.” And then he offers the garlands and everything and then he starts this whole thing, he says, “Kadamba Kanana Maharaja is just like me, we are so close, we are almost the same! I’ll tell you the secret, we are twin brothers!” And he kept this up the whole festival and he told everyone that we were twins! Non- stop! Not just once but like 25 times in every public thing, “we are twins, we are twins…” He started also this thing about how in Bhagavatam it is mentioned that the twin that appears first is actually the one that was conceived last. So the one that takes birth first is the youngest because the one that is deepest in the womb is conceived first and then the one that is sort of on the exterior side of the womb is the second one and he comes out first. So he said, “I appeared first and therefore I’m the youngest…” and this whole thing! And again he glorified me for all kind of preaching that I didn’t do. So I told everyone the story about stealing the cake and what happened the first time and I said, and now he’s doing it again! He’s again giving me my orders and now I have to simply do it. And it’s not just that I’m saying this, he’s sort of keeping the pressure on and is making sure that I’m doing this African preaching.
So in this way the vaisnavas shower me with mercy and I said that day when Maharaja was in the room at the Vyasa Puja, I said, I’m trying to become a generous person but it’s very difficult to become generous because by nature I’m quite a miserly Dutchman, who calculates and sort of, ‘well I’ll give you so much…’ and over the years I’m trying to go beyond calculating, I’m trying to just give and not think, can I afford it? So more and more I’m trying to get into this mood. But then Indradyumna Maharaja…in South Africa, in the temples, they have workers who are walking around- the men in blue labour uniforms and the ladies in kitchen uniforms, aprons and so on- and Maharaja was giving initiations and suddenly one of the workers, five minutes before the yajna it was announced that he was also part of the whole thing! And Maharaja just initiated him and called him Radhe Syama and it was all ecstatic and then he got fired up. So later during the festival, he took all the kitchen helpers, all the ladies- big, fat African mammas- he took them all to the gift emporium and he picked out saris and bangles etc, and smiled at the cashier and said, “I started this Ratha Yatra,” and didn’t pay (laughter) and then he took them all, decked out in bangles and saris, on the stage and made them dance and then he took them to the restaurant and gave them a big, big feast and he didn’t pay again! But he showed what generosity is like and I’m like millions of miles behind.
So in this way just by the association of these vaisnavas we are seeing what we have to become, transcendental personalities. Not material misers who are always thinking, ‘what can I do? How much service can I afford? How much credit can I give someone? Well, I appreciate at least one quality in this devotee…’ No, appreciate them completely in generosity. So generosity doesn’t mean just money, it means appreciation, it means giving. And this is what we are all about. This is a movement where we have to learn how to give instead of worrying about what we’re getting. And that takes a long time. We are so much concerned about, ‘what am I getting? Oh and what am I needing? I need mercy, I need inspiration, I’m struggling, please…it’s so difficult, give me a secret, give me something, give me a mantra, give me some solution…please, so that I can stop struggling…’ okay, we’re giving it now…the solution is to start giving, that is the secret. Don’t worry about what you’re getting, start giving and then everything will follow from there. And then the more you give, the more the other vaisnavas, to your surprise, start to give to you also. It’s just amazing! And then you get showered just like Mrgrari, the hunter. Narada said, “cut the string of your bow!” that was the crucial moment, ‘cut the string of your bow,’ “but how will I eat?”
“I will provide!” And we see how Narada provided; the vaisnavas could see that this hunter has transformed, he’s dedicating himself to Krsna fearlessly. He’s not depending on any material arrangements, he’s just depending on Krsna, then we’ll give.
Purity is our security
Recently there was a brahmacari who wanted some maintenance for his service because he said, “who will take care of me? What is my security?” and I was thinking about that and the next morning during my japa, I thought, our security is our purity. That is our security, that is what we have. If the purity is there then don’t worry, then we’ll be taken care of. Devotees will take care of anyone. We don’t need to worry. Now is the era where people are afraid. The other day I spoke to a young grhastha who was getting ready for a professional career in the world. And I said, it’s not the only way. Actually there is another way and it’s very simple, you just go to some city and you rent a house and you open a preaching centre. And you just preach and you live from preaching, it’s very simple. You don’t have to work, why do you want to work? Just preach and people will give and you just live simple in the temple and everything will be fine. Why do you want a profession? It’s not necessary, just preach. He said, “my faith is not strong enough, that Krsna will provide.” That is the crux of the matter.
So it is a time where somehow or other we have lost faith, collectively actually, because this spirit has died and it works I guarantee you. The only thing that is needed is purity. If one is a householder and goes out to preach then one has to be renounced. One cannot live it up at public expense; one has to be ready to make a sacrifice and to live simple and to preach. If we do then everything will come and then one can make advancement so quickly. So it’s an option, I’m only offering an option for those who are interested. It’s not like, ‘okay, all of us give up your jobs tomorrow and that’s it! From now on it’s only preaching centres…’ I won’t be so demanding but there is so much to do, so much to do all over the world. There is no lack of opportunities and Krsna will provide undoubtedly and purity is the force.
So with these kind of meditations, I wanted to make a few points which are relating to the main theme of the lecture, which is ‘spiritual nourishment.’ I’ve mentioned sadhu-sanga, then there is sadhana- there is absorption in chanting and in hearing Srimad Bhagavatam. If we have not read Srimad Bhagavatam…there are many devotees in our movement who have not yet read Srimad Bhagavatam and that means that you have given up the fight, that feels that you have not fulfilled your duty, that means that you are below the minimum. Sometimes they speak on ‘below the poverty level,’ it’s like not even minimum! Without the Bhagavatam, you cannot live! Without the Bhagavatam, you are dead! Without the Bhagavatam, you are a ghost! It’s like that because the Bhagavatam is the very foundation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement. We see that the evidence that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu presents, the principle evidence is all Srimad Bhagavatam, all in His preaching. And we see that the whole lifestyle that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was teaching is founded on Srimad Bhagavatam. Without Srimad Bhagavatam one cannot live, it is like that. One is dead without it.
So I want to quickly put in a few pointers because time is limited. So my conclusion is that let us be conscious of the need for spiritual nourishment, that we ourselves are in need of spiritual nourishment. Let us not think that we can go on automatic pilot in spiritual life but let us make a conscious effort to be well nourished and let us nourish others by becoming vaisnavas of noble character. Then I guarantee you that the path back to Godhead will be successful and it will be successful without a doubt. Because of time constraint, I’ll pick up the thread later in the day, expand and go more in depth on other points. Now maybe one of you have a question or a comment? I’ll shortly answer it and then we’ll take a break.
Yes? (Asks devotee to translate)
Question: How hard must we try to develop our desire to go to Krsna?
Maharaja: We must try with all our heart, we must try with every cell in our body, we must try with every thought that comes into our mind…we must try completely! That’s what we should do. Of course we don’t do that and then comes the next part and that’s the part where we realise, ‘I know what I should be doing and I’m falling short. I’m very much falling short. And that’s where we start to pray for mercy and that’s why I always stress Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu because I’m so much aware of how much I’m falling short. Of course Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was deeply absorbed in meditation on Radha and Krsna. So I am also thinking about the amazing nature of Vrndavana. I consider Vrndavana my home but then in that home, I am just a poor, miserly beggar. That’s the problem. And I see the residents of Vrndavana passing by and sometimes a few drops of mercy comes my way but then I can’t really keep up with them at all. Then I know that it’s time for mercy. So then I pray to Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda for mercy and then I pray to all the followers of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, to Srila Prabhupada and to all of you. I wrote something on this and then I said, basically as a beggar, I want Krsna prema, oh yes I really want it, but I don’t want to pay the price for it. Oh no I don’t. And I offer Krsna only broken names, that’s all and I stand there saying, ‘please give me Krsna prema, please.’ And meanwhile I am offering broken names…that is my condition.
So you must try to give everything, not a little, but everything, everything, everything to Krsna. Thank you for your nice question.
Ok, yes? She came all the way from Africa and that’s far!
Maharaja: She’s asking, I was living in Vrndavana and I got a lot of association of many leaders of our movement and why Jayadvaita Swami? Okay, because the first time I met him he was standing at the maha prasad table in Vrndavana and he had a huge stack of these leaf cups of maha prasadam, as they have in India, and I walked past and I said, “Oh, hungry Maharaja?” which is a little bit challenging isn’t it? So I got it straight away, he said, “oh, okay, you can carry it.” And there I walked with the snacks and he just took me over! He just made me serve and then he laid down to rest on the bed and he said I had to read the Krsna book. So I was reading the Krsna book and after ten minutes there is this kind of sound, (makes sleeping sound), so I sort of quietly stopped and was about to slip out and then, with his eyes still closed, he says, “Don’t stop reading!” So I kept on reading and after about another 10 minutes, again (makes sleeping sound)! And this went on for one and a half hours! I was reading Krsna book for one and a half hour and each time I stopped he woke up and told me to keep on reading. So that’s where it began and he always treated me as if he was completely in charge of me. He never treated me in any other way although we were friends and although I had said that I would never accept him as an authority or anything, but throughout the years that was just what he did. So finally I surrendered! What could I do! That’s what happened!
All right, thank you very much. Let’s take a little break and we’ll meet in about an hour.
Srila Prabhupada ki, Jaya!