A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Maharaja, 28 December 2011, Pretoria, South Africa
jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda
sri-caitanya, nityananda, advaitadi bhakta-vrnda,
sire dhari sabara carana
svarupa, rupa, sanatana, raghunathera sri-carana,
dhuli karon mastake bhusana
Translation: According to the parampara system, I wish to take the dust from the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, and all the associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, like Svarupa Damodara, Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. I wish to take the dust of their lotus feet upon my head. In this way I wish to be blessed with their mercy.
(Cc. Madhya 2.94)
The predicament of the Age of Kali
The mercy of Lord Caitanya is unmatched. There are four cycles, four yugas. A yuga lasts hundreds of thousands of years. The Satya yuga lasts 1.7 million years, the Treta yuga is about 1.2 million, the Dvapara yuga is about 864 000 and Kali yuga is 432 000 years. So these are very long periods of time. Four of these periods together make one maha yuga. In one day of Brahma, who has a very, very long life span – not like ours but very, very long – there are a thousand of these yugas (a thousand cycles of the four yugas). So only once in those thousand cycles, that Krsna appears. So there are many cycles and only once Caitanya Mahaprabhu appears in a day of Brahma. It is only then that special mercy is available and now it is only 500 years after, which is very short. So we are incredibly close to the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the whole world is touched by the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which is present everywhere, but people don’t see it because the influence of Kali is very present.
We remember the story of the bull Dharma, who stood on four legs and Kali was breaking these four legs. The four legs of Dharma were including, cleanliness (purity), truthfulness, austerity and compassion. So it is said that when man began to just kill for his food, then compassion was lost. Then when man started to take all kind of intoxicants, then austerity is being destroyed because intoxication creates addiction somehow or other and then one becomes controlled and one no more has mental strength at all. That addiction will break any mental strength and one becomes a slave of some foolish habit. In this way, intoxication destroys austerity. Illicit sex destroys cleanliness and purity. So all these were destroyed by Kali; he broke the legs of Dharma. Kali stood next to Dharma, holding a stick still in his hands. Only one leg was still there – the leg of truthfulness – but of course the bull Dharma standing on one leg was shaking and he was not able to do much. So therefore even truthfulness is shaking.
So this is the Age of Kali where illicit sex, intoxication and meat eating have become the standard. It’s just the most normal thing in the world now. But that was not so in the past. Now people think:
‘How can you live without these things? It is natural.’
But that’s not the case actually. It just means that society at large has become degraded. In this way we are looking at the Age of Kali and the result is that more and more selfishness, more and more hard heartedness is manifesting in the Age of Kali.
A potent time
There are a thousand Kali yugas in which there is no Lord Caitanya. In these other 999 Kali yugas, there is also an incarnation of Visnu, a dark form of Visnu, who is doing some sort of sankirtana yajna (so it is described by Rupa Gosvami in his Laghu-bhagavatamrta) but that sankirtana yajna doesn’t have the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and therefore it is a very difficult process. One has to chant for a long time to get the results. Yes, the potency of the name is there but still, because offences are made in the chanting, especially in the Age of Kali, it takes a very long time. Therefore, very few are getting the benefit. But because the mercy of Lord Caitanya is there, offences are overlooked and therefore, now, in this particular Kali yuga, the chanting of Hare Krsna is producing very quick and very big results. That is the special nature of this particular time. We have appeared in that time. So from a spiritual point of view, this is a very potent time. At the same time the influence of Kali yuga is strong and that everybody can see it. It’s not difficult to see that. Not only on the outside of us but everybody has become corrupted – some a little, some a lot by the Age of Kali and no one can say that they are not afflicted by the influence of Kali.
We see that great devotees like Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami gives the example, saying:
“I wish to take the dust from the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu…”
And so many other great personalities. Taking the dust from the feet means to bow down and means to become humble; it means to give up one’s own agenda; the desire to give up one’s own goal in this material world and get behind the goal of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Well within that, we are still individuals, we still have to naturally be ourselves but we commit:
‘I will be a devotee, I will be a devotee of Mahaprabhu, a devotee of whatever He has established, His teachings…I will follow certain principles, I will chant, I will take shelter…’
Taking shelter means that we need to undergo purification. It’s not just automatic, ‘Now I will be a pure devotee!’ No, we need to undergo purification. So temples are meant for that purpose specifically, to give us opportunities for purification, and there we have activities and a spiritual atmosphere. It’s dedicated to that and not to anything else. Temples are meant for hearing about Krsna, transcendental music…everything must be spiritual in the temple. When material influence comes into the temple we have to throw it out…out…out! Because the whole world is full of material influence, and we need to keep the temple as a pure place where we can come actually get some relief.
Flying our own plane
The pressure of the Age of Kali is very strong, it’s everywhere. As soon as we step out of the gate, it’s another world, as everybody knows. Of course, we bring with us in that world, whatever mercy we have received and whatever we did with that mercy. The mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu comes in through our life and then it’s up to us to do something with it. Some don’t do so much but still they have the mercy and they keep it. Some are not looking after the mercy so well, then the mercy may become a little bit dry but it’s still there, it’s still not gone. But those who are really taking it and making something out of it and are really trying to take advantage of it, then their spiritual life starts flourishing. It’s an individual thing. Prabhupada gave the analogy of a plane and he said that when a plane is on the ground then there are many people by the plane: one is checking the tyres, another one is putting the fuel, another one is doing some other checks…there’s a whole lot of ground staff. So the ground staff are all around the plane and some are loading things on the plane, some are taking things off the plane…whatever they are doing. So Prabhupada said that on the ground, yes it’s all this support for the plane but as soon as the plane is in the air then the pilot has to deal with the situation and whatever happens up there, he has to deal with it. So Prabhupada said that in the same way, everyone is flying his own plane in spiritual life.
In other word,s we are all together and we can look at the community of devotees and we can think:
‘Well what are the devotees doing? What is the standard that everyone is following? Well, it cannot be expected of me, that I am doing more than everybody else. I’m just also a normal person. So I cannot be expected to do what others are not doing?’
You see the logic behind that? That’s how people operate in this world – everyone looks at others and they do what others do. In that way, we take support from each other. We are looking at:
‘What can another person manage? Alright, then I would also try to manage that. If ten others are doing it then maybe I should also be able to do it. But if nobody is doing it then how can I do it?’
So everyone has this; we are looking at what others are doing and sort of setting standards in our life for that. But in spiritual life it is a little different, because everyone is flying his own plane. In that way, everyone has his own relationship with Krsna and some are going to stay in this material world for another 100 000 lives and some are going to go back this life! It’s up to the individual to decide where we want to be. Sometimes they say that in this movement, 90% of the people do 10% of the work and 10% of the people do 90% of the work. We can decide who we want to be with…
So one has to think about that; we cannot just do what others are doing because we have our own responsibility to Krsna. We fly our own plane – it’s between us and Krsna. We’ve got that mercy and it’s up to us to be serious. And of course we can find many reasons in the world which makes our life difficult. One can think about 100 problems in life which makes it very difficult for us to practice this Krsna Consciousness. Everyone can write down 100 special difficulties – ‘why I have an extra problem in being a devotee…’- like health, relationships with other people (family relationships, marriage relationships, work relationships) where there’s a whole field of problems! So in all these areas, we can list our problems – then the government problems…it doesn’t end! And all these are giving us good reasons why it’s extra difficult for us to be a devotee and everyone feels like that. Everyone feels that:
‘It’s especially difficult for me. It is easier for others but my circumstance are such that it’s especially difficult for me.’
Everyone feels that. It is funny but we always feel that we are the ones who somehow or other have it more difficult for us. But that’s not a fact. Everyone has the mercy and should think:
‘What will I do with it? Let me take it and develop it.’
Like maybe, you may find or get some small deities of Jagannatha – that’s mercy. Little Jagannatha, how nice-round eyes and everything! Now, what are we doing with Jagannatha? That’s up to us! That’s our choice. It’s entirely our choice. We get the holy name – what are we doing with it? It’s entirely our choice! And we can see that people, in any condition of life, somehow or other are being devotees. Prabhupada said that this chanting of Hare Krsna does not depend on external circumstances – it’s not for the rich, it’s not for the educated…it’s for everyone! Anyone can do it, anywhere. One can always chant Hare Krsna.
Taking shelter of the great devotees
So we all fly our own plane and we all have the individual responsibility to take advantage of this mercy. But we need support and sometimes when we look around us, we don’t find it. But then we open up these scriptures and then we see a devotee like Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami. We see his prayer and we understand that he was very serious about going back to Godhead! Therefore, he was looking for mercy and therefore he desired the dust of the feet. It is said the dust of the feet is found in two places: one is at the feet itself, and one must bow down in order to get that dust. So to get the dust of that great saintly person, one must bow down. Bowing down is more than physically bowing down but bowing down means to bow down one’s will and to really, really take shelter of the saintly person and to say:
‘What would you recommend that I do?’
Obviously if you’re flying your own plane and you’re a pilot then you have some experience. Otherwise, they wouldn’t let you fly (we hope) but then there are really, really expert pilots and these are the instructors. Even the regular pilots, they go every once in a while for training, updating some new machines, this and that…so the experts come in and they are pointing out how you really fly a plane. In the cause of flying (or you can think of driving) everyone develops his own habit, his own style and you start doing things…cut a few corners and start doing things that are not exactly proper. But, then in the association of the experts, that’s all exposed. The expert goes there and says:
‘There are 20 bad habits that pilots generally develop’ and bang! Every pilot says, ‘oh my God that’s me!’
So through these books and these scriptures, we are associating with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s great devotees and then we can see where we are falling short. So that’s what these books are for. Because if we are just looking at our neighbours and looking at the devotee next to me, then the devotee next to me is just as hesitant as I am! I’m hesitating and, ‘shall I? Shall I?’ and the other one is looking and thinking:
‘Shall I? Shall I? Is he going to do it?’
And you’re looking like:
‘Is he going to do it?’
We are looking always at our neighbours and thinking:
‘Are they going to do it first? Then we’ll also do it.’
Then in the end nobody does it! Everyone is waiting for someone to come forward, and in the end no one comes forward! I have experienced it…okay I read books and I heard lectures. I was in Vrndavana and there was a lot of talk on initiation, sannyasa, and then a whole group of men who were getting older were talking about it and said:
‘Maybe we should.’
And then I said:
‘Maybe we should. Okay I’m doing it.’
And they all said:
‘Yeah, yeah, very good, very good, do it!’
And then I did it and then I looked back and said:
‘What about you guys?’
‘Well, uhm…we’re working on it…’
And they are still working on it!
It’s up to us
So I felt like I made the jump and all the others didn’t jump! Not to criticise…but anyway the point is that we should always remember that at the end of the day, and that is literally at the end of the day, at the end of our life we are alone with Krsna. That’s when we are alone with Krsna. It doesn’t help that there’s a whole group of loving family members sitting around the bed and crying and, ‘oh! We feel so sad!’ It doesn’t help you because you’re all alone and you’re the one that’s going to have to die and not them. You’re leaving and they are sitting there and they can’t do anything for you. No one can say:
‘Okay, I’ll go with you so you don’t have to face this alone.’
It’s not possible! Well someone may say:
‘Okay yes, I’ll go with you.’
But even then they are not really going with you. At that time we are all alone and at that time what counts is what we have done in our life, and what we have done about taking advantage of the mercy.
So okay, my talk is focusing on our individual responsibility in spiritual life and that we have to take individual initiatives and ultimately….well, we chant at the beginning of our lectures,
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
that by the mercy guru or the guru parampara, the disciplic succession of spiritual masters, our eyes have been opened. That is the mercy. The spiritual master gives us divya jnana, transcendental knowledge and with that transcendental knowledge we understand what to do. Then some will do it and some will not do it and that’s already understood. The spiritual masters already know that and they know that they can give this transcendental knowledge which is full of mercy so that it will be received by people in various ways and some say:
‘Thank you so much! Thank you soooooo much! This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life! I thank you soooo much….’ and then they don’t do anything!’
Others, they may say nothing and they’re quiet but you see that they are doing something. Again there are others who say:
‘Thank you so much,’
And they do something. So you can’t see by the outside, since it is not necessarily the one who’s jumping the highest in the kirtan is the one who is the most serious! It has to be consistent; not that you jump in the kirtan and then you go and have a smoke in the park around the corner! Some people tell me:
‘I’m chanting but I’m still drinking coffee…’
God! Are you going to stay in the material world for coffee? It’s not worth it so forget it!
As Bob Dylan sang that song:
“One more cup of coffee before I go!” So that is it for those devotees:
‘One more cup of coffee before I go back to Godhead!’
From the army boot camp to the liberal ISKCON
So like that our eyes have been opened and we get an opportunity so we must make something of that opportunity and it’s up to every individual. I’ve seen the Hare Krsna movement in different phases of its development. There were times when temples were like an army base and when things were like really rigid. There was a temple commander – he was the sergeant – and he would march in the asrama in the morning, (dramatic), ‘Get UP! UP!’ and they would cut the hot tap off; they wouldn’t just take the hot tap off the shower but they would cut it with a saw so that you can’t sneak in your own tap! So there was no hot water and there was no question of it! No question!
‘The brahmacaris took cold showers Prabhu! Brr! Even in the winter! Hot showers are sex life!’
So I have seen the army boot camp style of temples and sometimes I see some remnants of it also, but it’s not like how it used to be. I also have seen a more modern Hare Krsna movement… (to devotee) what did you tell me the other day about devotees coming to the temple, Vibhu Caitanya?
Vibhu Caitanya: It was a play by Bhakti Marg Swami and he shows a new guest coming in for the first time during Prabhupada’s time. And she comes in:
‘Hello anyone there?’
And this person is immediately there preaching to her by giving her a book. The swami comes in and gives her a book. Then it goes on to the Wild West. She comes in and someone starts preaching to her in a Southern American accent. So she goes to another temple and someone preaches to her and it goes on like that. Then it comes to a next scene where it says:
So she walks in the temple:
‘Hello, anyone there? Hello? Hello…’
And then it carries on like that and no one comes to greet her.
Maharaja: Yes, I remember going to a Sunday Feast when I was sort of new. I was a little hesitant to go because the Hare Krsna’s were extremely intense! And everybody knew that if you get close to these guys then they are going to preach to you…and sure enough, on the Sunday Feast, there were more temple devotees than guests! As soon as you had prasadam then you would sit down in rows and some devotees would sit opposite of you and as soon as you had prasadam in your mouth, they would start:
‘Surrender, you know! How can you not surrender to Krsna? Don’t you know that you are in this material world and that you are getting caught up in a network of sin and you will just suffer in hell and you will get so many reactions for all of these things that you are doing and why don’t you give it up and just surrender to Krsna and stay in the temple and what is your reason for not staying in the temple, tell me!’
They would preach like that while you are trying to have your pakora!
So I’ve seen ISKCON in different times – from the army boot camp to the very liberal ISKCON. And I also myself, nowadays, I’m not giving thunder speeches because those days are over where you basically tell someone:
‘Surrender or you’ll burn in hell!’
I don’t give those lectures anymore. But still, of course, if you don’t surrender, then there’s a good chance that you will burn in hell! I’m really sorry about that – what can I say! But I don’t want to force anyone!’ If you need some psychological support, I did read some books about counselling and all these things and I’m quite expert at this. These days and I know everything about ‘emphatic listening’ where the counsellor is just sitting like (dramatic):
‘Ya, ya….no, of course…no, ya, ya…I understand…no, ya, ya…that’s the problem…no, no, no don’t push yourself…no, no…yes please, I know it’s very difficult.’
I learnt these things and I’m an expert at them these days and well trained, but that only means that you are getting less help in flying your plane because you still are flying your own plane. It’s still between you and Krsna for so many lifetimes.
So Harikesa Prabhu was Prabhupada’s secretary for a long time and once he wrote somewhere in ‘Memories’ that Prabhupada saw one devotee and he said to this devotee:
“When will you get serious? I’ve been trying to deliver you for 600 lifetimes!”
Life after life, we are actually coming to Krsna but somehow or other we don’t get serious, and then we come back again! Krsna is like that; Krsna is the one giving us that room, ‘Oh you want to take a little more time? Alright, take some more time.’ That’s Krsna.
Taking advantage of the mercy
So we see in a devotee like Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, that he’s made up his mind:
‘No, not me, no thank you. I’ve had enough! I’m getting out of here! I’m going to get serious this time.’
So there are many devotees like that who are getting serious and they are living a very auspicious life. It’s not an easy life, because we are still in the Age of Kali and in the Age of Kali nobody gets an easy life. An easy life doesn’t exist in this Age! It’s an Age of struggle, and no matter what you do, you can’t escape from it. Everyone is struggling in this Age of Kali; no one gets an easy life because it’s the nature of this Age. So the devotee who is taking advantage of the mercy and really trying, that devotee is going back to the spiritual world. Well I would like to be such a devotee. Of course, it’s not so simple and I know that I have to improve and then that’s the next point where you say:
‘Well, what can I do to improve the quality of my spiritual life?’
Then you come with a smaller group of devotees…there’s a large body of devotees who are part of Prabhupada’s movement and they are all part of the mercy. They are all getting it and they are all staying around. But then within the movement, there’s a smaller group and that smaller group is more serious about:
‘Okay, I want to be a pure devotee. Yes I want to give everything to Krsna and I just really want to do it.’
I was in Vrindavana and in those days, I was in different services but always in management for many years. I saw many sannyasis coming into Vrindavana and I saw many other senior devotees coming into Vrindavana. And I saw that they have something (whatever it is) they have some shakti – they have some power. What is it? And it intrigued me. I thought:
‘Where did they get this spiritual power from?’
So I wanted to be closer to these kind of devotees and that is ultimately the way that one becomes more serious – by being with devotees who are more serious and more committed. Then we will also become more committed and more serious.
So this is what Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami is looking at and what we want. Of course, Lord Caitanya is very merciful and even if there’s a little bit of impurity left in somebody’s heart, they may still go back to Godhead if he’s done a nice service. But still, we better get as much service in as we can and we better live as pure as we can. That is spiritual life. Then we can decide for ourselves on the material side what we want to do according to our nature. Everyone has their nature. On the material side, that’s alright. Like in this room I see a painter; I see people with business sense; I see actors – like myself, I’m a good actor! It’s all a show! (Laughter) So I see all that and that’s material. But we don’t have to suppress our material nature for a hundred percent but our attachment to sinful activities will have to go, and even if it’s small things then that has to go.
What would you like me to do?
So that minority group of devotees (who are more serious) they are a little bit heroic, because they are ready to fight with their own weakness. Everyone has that weakness and they are ready to take on the fight with one’s own weaknesses. One cannot take on such fight alone; one must take shelter of a spiritual master who will sort of help us and set goals. It’s not that the spiritual master will control every millimetre of our life but we should come to the spiritual master. It’s not that he’s a policeman, a transcendental policeman:
‘Alright, alright, alright! Pull over! Okay, what have you’ve been up to? How come you didn’t send me your weekly report? Where’s your sadhana sheet?’
And so on and so on…it is ultimately we who have to go for shelter. We have to ask for it. We have to even come to the spiritual master and say:
‘What would you like me to do?’
It’s a very scary thing! It’s sort of better to go up to the spiritual master and tell him:
‘Well, I’m kind of interested in these things…’
And you test the waters to see if he’s kind of favourably inclined. If not, then you let it quickly disappear and let it rest for a while and try to bring back the same plan but in a different coating and somehow or other try to sell it to him, so that he finally says:
‘Okay, done! I surrender to my spiritual master! I’m completely working under the order of my spiritual master!’
This is of course is not the best way and I mean really, to actually go without any motive and to simply ask:
‘What would you like me to do?’
Shew, you’ve got to be brave to do that! And it could be anything! Imagine you would ask him anything that would you like me to do? And you ask him and God knows what he’s going to say…And he could say very casually…like you maybe a musician, a piano player and totally attached to it and he may just say:
‘Well, it’s not so important.’
And that’s not even like:
‘You can’t do it anymore!’
But it’s just sort of some casual thing:
‘It’s not so important.’
And then suddenly it’s like:
‘Oh my God! This was my whole life, this was my all inspiration in life and suddenly…it’s gone! It’s not there anymore!’
So it can be heavy…
But the spiritual masters, they have different techniques. Spiritual masters are tricky! They are pure devotees who are serious about Krsna, and about giving Krsna to others, but they are sankirtana devotees. And as sankirtana devotees, they know that somehow or other they have to sell Krsna Consciousness to people. In selling, you don’t want to cheat; you tell the truth but there is a way to tell the truth! So the spiritual masters are Krsna’s salesmen. They are selling pure devotional service, and they know that if they would straightaway away tell everything, then people might not buy. Prabhupada installed Jagannatha in San Francisco. He asked all the devotees to come forward and Hayagriva was in the front and Prabhupada took a tray, he put a little candle on the tray and then he said:
“Now take this candle and move it in circles in front of Jagannatha and then give it to the next person in the line and then he can also move it in circles around Jagannatha.”
Everyone got a turn so when Hayagriva was doing it he said:
“Wow this is fun! Is there more?”
And Prabhupada said:
“If I would tell you, you would faint!”
So like that, Prabhupada didn’t tell everything all at once. We don’t always tell everything that we see, that we know…the spiritual master sees everything at a glance because he knows the fine line between spirit and matter; he knows the difference between Krsna and Maya; he even knows the fine, little points – how Maya comes in. Therefore he sees it – he sees even the subtle things of Maya; the subtle compromises that a person has made with Maya – he sees at a glance. You can’t hide; you can try to but sooner or later the spiritual master will know. Sometimes he acts as if he doesn’t see it, but he can see that this disciple cannot take it. If you give him instructions that are too direct, he cannot take it. Of course, if a disciple cannot take any strong instructions and he’s given softer instructions then the progress of that disciple may be more slow. Those who take it ‘on the chest’, those who take it straight, they may get more powerful instructions and they’ll advance faster! One cannot play games with the spiritual master, because while we are playing games with the spiritual master, the spiritual master is playing games with us. His games are more powerful than our games because he, somehow or other, he hooks us to Krsna! If we don’t surrender, then the spiritual master puts little hooks and in this way, slowly and slowly the hooks with strings will pull us slowly to Krsna. So like this, the best relationship is that we turn to the parampara open heartedly and just surrender.
Be with devotees who have a strong desire to go back to Godhead
So I’ve tried this morning, like usual, to give some food for thought – something that you take with from the lecture and we can reflect later on. Everyone can decide for himself. It is like that. Like me, I’m at the end now of my tour of South Africa. I don’t know how many tours I made to South Africa. When I’m dead and gone then we can look at my life, and you can say:
‘He made so many tours to South Africa, so many tours to Australia, so many this, so many that…..’
Just as we’re looking at Prabhupada: he went 14 times around the world in 11 years to many, many countries…alright, so we can look at that and what he did and then some people can say:
‘Ya, I didn’t really have a relationship with him and I don’t really feel that my guru was like understanding me…’
Well, since I’m not dead I can comment on that. So I thought that I may as well bring up this point before I die and still give a comment! (Laughter) So my comments to the one who will say that is that you can’t expect the guru to run after you. I mean gurus are already really going out of their way, trying to meet people. I mean, if we come all the way to South Africa then it’s really up to the people from South Africa to come out of their houses or wherever they are hiding and to come and meet us. I mean what can I do? I can’t go to everybody’s home, that’s for sure! I can’t go and find everyone and see where are they now and see under every tree where they are hiding…no. So ultimately, it’s those who are coming. We can do some outreach; we can try and extend a hand; we can try and help people a little this way and that way, but at the end of the day if someone feels that they don’t have a relationship with their spiritual master, then that means they are not doing anything about it. I don’t see my spiritual master so much because we are both sannyasis, and he once told me that sannyasis wave at each other from planes! So it’s a little short- 1000km one way and 1000km the other way – so you don’t really get much time! So we don’t really have so much time together but, I’m trying to offer whatever I do to my spiritual master. I’m trying to think that he’s always looking over my shoulder. So sometimes when I do something I think:
‘Maybe I should change that, maybe he doesn’t like it.’
So I’m doing it on my own and it’s always been like that in spiritual life. When I understood that’s what I’m supposed to do, then I try to do it on my own…and I took a lot of support from a lot of people…
Like when he speaks about Bhakti Marg Swami- Bhakti Marg Swami is tough! Not only does he do these plays, but he walks…for preaching! I remember I was in Canada and he said:
“Well you want to come on the walk tomorrow?”
And he was doing 40km in a day! I haven’t trained, so for me 40km is a bit too much so I said:
“Okay I’ll do half.”
Knowing my limitations, but even for me, 20km is like serious! And for most of us, if we suddenly have to walk 20km, then we go like wow, 20km! So okay, I went and we left early in the morning. We started walking and just close to noon, maybe 11:30 or so, the 20km was up so it was arranged that someone came to pick me up in a car and I was like finished in the car! Shew! My feet were like gone, my knees, my everything! So I went into the temple, it was a bit of a drive, got there just for lunch and then they said at 5 ‘o clock, we’re going on harinama! And I go like:
‘My God! A 20km walk and now harinama!’
So I thought that I’d better take some rest after lunch and I can sleep really well! So I woke up and it was almost time for the harinama and then Bhakti Marg Swami just arrived from the 40km walk…and went straight into the harinama!I’m supposed to be like a fired up kirtana leader, so I was but still I had to work hard to sort of keep up with him. Then after that I was finished! At night, after 10 ‘o clock I was like:
‘That was a helluva day!’
And then the next morning after five hours of sleep, I get up and Bhakti Marg Swami is already up! I mean you can’t knock him dead! He just goes on and on – a strong desire to be a pure devotee, a strong desire to take advantage of the mercy.
So I want to be with such a devotees who has a desire. If somehow or other we can spend time with the devotees who have a desire to go back to Godhead, then that is very important.
Okay I think I made my point, I won’t go on. You must be tired now; this was like a 40km walk! So any questions or any comments?
Devotee: Maharaja, one devotee who had this great desire or who was part of the minority that wanted to go back to Godhead was mother Yamuna. And as you were speaking, her offering to Srila Prabhupada in 2002 came through, so I’ll just read it, it’s quite short:
“Dear Srila Prabhupada, I remember how kirtan was so intense and joyous in
your presence. How time and place dissolved in those kirtans. How your
thumbs lifted off the surface of your kartals as they sizzled in sound, and
how your vocal cords and mouth vibrated and extended as you filled a space
with hauntingly beautiful transcendental sound vibrations. I remember losing
myself in that sound and wishing never to leave this space or your presence.
“In this connection, I pray, even if only one more time, to hold the
microphone for you as you chant your favorite Vaishnava prayer — Hari Hari
Biphale — as experienced that final time at Akash Ganga in Mumbai.
“I pray that one day in the future I may see you face to face again. This
vision may be many lifetimes in front of me, but I do not see any goal worth
achieving, however slow or difficult or impossible this task may seem from
my fallen position. There is nothing else more appealing.
“Please bless me with the perseverance to continue on the path to meet you.
“Your eternal servant, Yamuna Devi”
Maharaja: Yes, so Yamuna was one of the very, very first devotees who came to Prabhupada. In those days, these devotees became sold out to Prabhupada- completely cent per cent. And therefore they were really together. That was really struck me. When Yamuna left then I also gave a lecture about Yamuna the next evening. And then throughout the day I also read many things and the thing that struck me was that how they all got behind pleasing Prabhupada and for that they did so much together and it was just amazing! It didn’t need so much of big meetings. There’s this story of how Shyamasundara started to build a Ratha cart in London on his own. And somehow or other, they were renting a place and he started doing it in the garden. So they had this flat and he’s building this Ratha cart in the garden and the landlady is living upstairs and she thinking:
‘What’s that thing going on in the garden!’
They just built this huge cart in the garden! And everybody got into it immediately! It was Shyamasundara’s idea and he was a hundred percent behind it. So this spirit was there and Prabhupada became everything for them and you can see in the end that her highest goal is just to meet Prabhupada.
For many of us, every day we stand in the guru puja and we worship Prabhupada and we’ve sort of get in there like a symbol of a pure devotee and so on, but we keep distant, very distant. So we should also connect with Prabhupada, we can. We can develop a relationship, although we have never met him in person by finding out more about his life, about what he wanted and dedicating ourselves to it. Then we’ll find that actually our gurus will become very enthusiastic because they are servants of Prabhupada. And when anyone starts to really serve Prabhupada, then the guru goes like:
‘Hey, that’s wonderful! You have understood! Now you are an assistant! Now you are doing what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to serve Prabhupada. Now you are a disciple who is of great help to me.’
Some disciples are a burden and some help – naturally. Some children are a help and some kids are a burden! Every family has some problem cases and some of your kids will help you in the family business or whatever. That is natural.
So Yamuna was one of those who really tried to help Prabhupada’s mission with a hundred percent dedication.
You had a question?
Devotee: Yes Maharaja, my question is how can people of the Age of Kali get that mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu that was extended to those devotees at the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu? (question rephrased)
Maharaja: Yes, the mercy that goes out to people who don’t know about Him is ultimately by engaging them in glorifying Krsna. What Lord Caitanya is doing, is really glorifying Krsna and that is the meaning of life. The kirtan is glorifying Krsna ,or the books are glorifying Krsna…so some people get a book and that’s their first connection. For others, the kirtan is the first connection. Another one is that the prasadam is the first connection…whatever the first connection may be, these all come together – kirtan, prasadam and books. These are the three things that will ultimately connect someone with the mercy of Lord Caitanya. So that’s our program. Call it Food For Life – call it whatever you want – but it’s prasadam. Harinama, kirtan – we do it in the streets, we do it here…the kirtan never stops! It goes on! And the books…now we print them in the local languages with the idea that they becomes accessible to the people. Nowadays, most African people speak good English. In fact I met some young people who say:
‘Oh you have a Zulu book, very nice, I’m really happy. But can you get me an English one because I can’t read Zulu? I can speak it but I can’t read it.’
But still it’s a gesture…they see the Zulu book and they think:
‘This is for me.’
Last year we had two devotees from America who made a visit here. There was a lady who was Gujarati originally but she’s a business lady and she’s into book distribution also. So she set up (right in front of the temple in Durban) and started distributing books there! There’s always people there going to work, coming over the hill and you see all these people coming by and she’s giving all these books to African people and she said:
‘You know, you should come and visit the temple.’
And she says,
‘Can we go there? But that’s for Indians isn’t it?’
So those are the barriers that we have existing in this country and the people walk past your doorstep every day – they walk right past! And just one little book…boom! Suddenly you can break the barrier and some might think:
‘I can go there actually!’
So like this – kirtan, books and prasadam. So always carry a few little books with you and when you meet a person who’s interested, then give him a book….Carry some prasadam and say:
‘Here try this.’
Devotee: Maharaja, on the topic of family…the kirtan and prasadam doesn’t work…
Maharaja: It works – 007 – the secret prasadam! You don’t have to say this is prasadam. When they come home you can say:
‘This is an apple pie and I personally baked this for you because I love you all so much and I miss you so much…’
‘Ting, ting, ting,’ we’ve offered it nicely to Krsna – James Bond 007!
Devotee continues: …because I know with my family they are not going to touch the books…
Maharaja: ..yes my family is the same, they are not going to touch the Hare Krsna book – forget it!
Devotee continues: Christmas was a nightmare and even prasadam they wouldn’t even touch…
Maharaja: …yes my brother doesn’t touch it but I give it to his kid when he’s not watching!
Devotee continues: So I just wanted to know about family, because I have always been told not preach to families, because they are in the category…(inaudible)
Maharaja: Yes, so preach to them tactfully. Not like:
‘Preach, preach, preach! You are like so sinful and you have to give this up!’
No, but in tricky ways we can do it.
Devotee continues: …but I’m not even attached to my family, so do I even have that obligation, can’t I just leave them?
Maharaja: You can and sometimes when you don’t leave them after all, oh well, then you throw some maha water in the juice. And you leave some books around the house…
Okay it was a long talk and I think we are finished. Thank you all for coming and we will meet again I guess.
Srila Prabhupada ki, Jaya!