(Kadamba Kanana Swami, Radhadesh, Belgium, January 2012) Lecture: SB 5.18.9

Srila Prabhupada said:

‘Life is like hard wood and you have to carve Krishna out of it.’

It was a really good quote. It’s not going to be easy to be a sadhu or a saintly person, because the material world is not designed for comfort. It is designed for austerity and that is the basic principle of material life, as Ṛṣabhadeva has analysed it:

‘nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke
kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye
tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ
śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam’ (SB.5.5.1

So Ṛṣabhadeva is saying that this human form of life (or life in general) is not meant for sense gratification, which is available to the ‘viṭ-bhujām’ – the stool eaters like hogs and dogs. The human form of life is meant for austerity, and then one can attain the transcendental platform of ‘brahma-saukhyam’– happiness beyond the three modes of material nature. It’s not that Lord Ṛṣabhadeva was fanatically emphasising austerity – just because austerity is his thing, since that is not his point. His point is that austerity is an intrinsic element of the basic design of material nature. You can’t escape it – it’s how it is….it’s not a choice:

‘Shall I be austere? Or shall I not be austere?’

That’s not the choice, since it is austere, and it is simply like that. Any form of existence in the material world is austere, because in the material world it is designed for that purpose. Therefore, we cannot expect that spiritual life, or the sadhu mark (the path of the sadhu) is not a path that includes austerity, since it does.

Part of that austerity is ‘asat-saṅgha chāḍi.’ is to give up the association of the ‘asat sangha’ of those who are dedicated to non permanent things….those who put all their energy in the non permanent relationships in this world – either with people, animals or things, since whatever is non-permanent has to be given up, and also the intimate association with people who are pre-occupying themselves with these things. That includes our family members, and more remote people. Not meaning that one has to give up his family members completely, but intimate association is difficult.

Previously, in the earlier days of Iskcon, devotees would very rarely go home to their family, and if they would go, then they would never stay the night. They would only visit and then just go. Honestly speaking, as a devotee, I never stayed at my family’s place, since it just never happened, because that was the culture. I am not necessarily saying that one cannot stay overnight, since I am saying that, that was the culture that existed, and it had its merits. One devotee told me:

“When I go to my parent’s house, it is as if I am going to a museum of my old habits.”

I thought that was very poetic – kind of a classic. So, yes it is like that, (I’m not speaking of those who are devotee parents since that doesn’t count) since if your parents are materialists and when you go there, then they just act as though you are still the same. They call you by your old name and they keep on trying to act as though you are the same person that you always were. Until when you say:

‘I’ve changed!’


They just ignore it, and they hope that whatever has changed would go away – if they just ignore it, which is the idea. So ‘asat-saṅgha’ one cannot avoid, since practically speaking the whole world is ‘asat-sangha’. Wherever you look, the people in the shops – they are everywhere!

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