Ramananda Raya’s Disappearance Day, part two

Ramananda Raya’s Disappearance Day, part two
A Lecture by Giriraj Swami
June 1, 2008
Camarillo, California

We continue our discussion of the conversation between Sri Ramananada Raya
and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ramananda-samvada, recorded in Sri
Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Talks Between Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya.”

TEXT 1

sancarya ramabhidha-bhakta-meghe
sva-bhakti-siddhanta-cayamrtani
gaurabdhir etair amuna vitirnais
taj-jnatva-ratnalayatam prayati

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is known as Gauranga, is the ocean of all
conclusive knowledge in devotional service. He empowered Sri Ramananda Raya,
who may be likened to a cloud of devotional service. This cloud was filled
with the water of all the conclusive purports of devotional service and was
empowered by the ocean to spread this water over the sea of Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu Himself. Thus the ocean of Caitanya Mahaprabhu became filled with
the jewels of the knowledge of pure devotional service.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

According to revealed scriptures, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself,
the origin of all knowledge–perfect knowledge. Here, Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu, the ocean of knowledge of the conclusive purports of devotional
service, is taking the part of a student and asking questions, and He
empowered Sri Ramananda Raya to give perfect answers. Thus Caitanya
Mahaprabhu is compared to an ocean and Ramananda Raya to a cloud that draws
water from the ocean and then showers the water across the ocean as rain.

We resume our discussion of the conversation between Ramananda Raya and Lord
Caitanya.

TEXT 243

anyonye mili’ dunhe nibhrte vasiya
prasnottara-gosthi kahe anandita hana

TRANSLATION

Thus they met time and time again, sitting in a secluded place and
jubilantly discussing devotional service by the question-and-answer process.

TEXT 244

prabhu puche, ramananda karena uttara
ei mata sei ratre katha paraspara

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked the questions, and Sri Ramananda Raya gave the
answers. In this way they were engaged in discussion throughout the night.

TEXT 245

prabhu kahe,–“kon vidya vidya-madhye sara?”
raya kahe,–“krsna-bhakti vina vidya nahi ara”

TRANSLATION

On one occasion the Lord inquired, “Of all types of education, which is the
most important?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “No education is important other than the
transcendental devotional service of Krsna.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Texts 245 to 257 are all questions and answers between Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya. In these exchanges there is an attempt to
show the difference between material and spiritual existence. Education in
Krsna consciousness is always transcendental and is the best of all forms of
education. Material education aims at increasing the activities of material
sense gratification. Beyond material sense gratification is another negative
form of knowledge called brahma-vidya, or impersonal transcendental
knowledge. But beyond that brahma-vidya, or knowledge of the impersonal
Brahman, is knowledge of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Visnu. This
knowledge is higher. And still higher is devotional service to Lord Krsna,
which is the topmost form of education. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam
(4.29.49), tat karma hari-tosam yat sa vidya tan-matir yaya: “Work meant for
pleasing the Supreme Lord is the best, and education that enhances one’s
Krsna consciousness is the best.”

Also, according to Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23-24):

sravanam kirtanam visnoh
smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam
sakhyam atma-nivedanam

iti pumsarpita visnau
bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha
tan manye ‘dhitam uttamam

This is a statement given by Prahlada Maharaja in answer to a question
raised by his father. Prahlada Maharaja said, “To hear or chant about Lord
Visnu, to remember Him, to serve His lotus feet, to worship Him, to offer
prayers to Him, to become His servant and His friend, to sacrifice
everything for His service–all these are varieties of devotional service.
One who is engaged in such activities is understood to be educated to the
topmost perfection.”

COMMENT

This is the first in the series of questions and answers, and it seems
appropriate in this environment of education, but as Srila Prabhupada says
at the beginning of the purport, these questions and answers are meant to
highlight the difference between the material and the spiritual. Material
existence begins from the basic misconception that “I am the body and
everything in relation to the body is mine.” More or less everyone is in
this bodily concept of life. They strongly identify with the body and are
deeply attached to things related to the body. And because they identify
with the body, they think the goal of life is to give pleasure to the senses
of the body. Whatever they do is more or less for the sake of the body.

Srila Prabhupada gives the example that if you are performing a mathematical
calculation and you make a mistake in the first step, then even if you
perform all the other steps perfectly, you will likely stray further and
further away from the actual answer or solution. If we begin from the
mistaken premise that “I am the body,” even if everything else we do is
perfect in terms of the body, because we made the most fundamental error in
the very first step, we will end up further and further away from the actual
goal.

The body itself is full of miseries. As soon as we accept a material body we
accept the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease
(janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi), and so many other miseries (tapa-traya). Everyone
wants relief from these miseries, but as long as they are in the body–in
the bodily concept of life–although they may adopt some measures that may
give some temporary relief, ultimately they cannot escape the miseries of
material existence, and often the remedies they accept are more troublesome
than the troubles they are meant to address.

That is the basic situation in material life, but because of maya, people
are not aware of their actual position. Maya has two potencies: one throws
us down, and the other covers us. Because we are covered, we think we are
happy, even though any sane or sober person can see that we are not, that we
are always subjected to various types of miseries. But because of the
covering potency of maya, we think we are happy. Of course, things are
getting so bad that it is becoming harder and harder to maintain the
illusion of happiness, but even then, if you ask, “How are you doing?” most
people will say, “Fine.”

Srila Prabhupada gives the example of a patient in a hospital. He has
suffered a severe trauma and has tubes all over his body; his arm is in a
cast, his leg is in traction, and he has so many contraptions about him
meant to counteract the suffering. But if you ask him how he is, he will
say, “I’m okay; I’m doing good.” [laughter]

That is our position, and when one becomes a little sober and actually
realizes his or her position, he or she will try to make a solution, to get
out of the material miseries, the bondage of material existence. He or she
will inquire, as Sanatana Gosvami inquired of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ke
ami, kene amaya jare tapa-traya?–“Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries
always give me trouble? How can I get relief?” That is the beginning of
human intelligence. Until we come to make such inquiry, we are engaged just
like animals–eating, sleeping, enjoying sense gratification, and arranging
for shelter and defense.

When one actually inquires, as Sanatana Gosvami did of Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
one is considered to be a human being. And in answer to the question “Who am
I?” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, jivera ‘svarupa’ haya–krsnera
‘nitya-dasa’: “The constitutional position of the living entity is to be an
eternal servant of Krsna.” Krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’ means that we are servants
of Krsna even after liberation.

Between the karmis, who work to earn money and spend it for gross and subtle
enjoyment, and the bhaktas, who understand that they are eternal servants of
Krsna and engage in devotional service–in between the karmis and the
bhaktas are the jnanis. Because the jnanis recognize the miseries of
material existence and want to escape them, they are more elevated than the
karmis, but because they do not have knowledge of Krsna or of the living
entity as the eternal servant of Krsna, their approach is negative. They
think, “I am an individual and am suffering, so if I give up being an
individual I won’t have to suffer. I have desires and by pursuing them I
suffer, so I will give up desire. I have thoughts and my thoughts lead to
misery, so I will give up thinking. I have feeling and my feeling leads to
misery, so I will give up feeling.” So they want to negate their individual
existence–no more feeling, no more thinking, no more desiring, no more
working–and to merge and become one with God.

Ultimately the principle is the same. The karmis want to become the chief
(just like now there is so much competition to see who will become the
president), and the jnanis, the impersonalists, also want to become the
chief–by merging and becoming one with the Supreme. But the real solution
is to become the servant of the Supreme (jivera ‘svarupa’ haya–krsnera
‘nitya-dasa’). That is real knowledge. Therefore Sri Ramananda Raya says
that other than knowledge of devotional service, which is the constitutional
activity of the living entity, there is no real knowledge. The rest is
illusion. And Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that material education makes
one more and more foolish, because it is based on the body. To identify with
the body is foolish, and mundane education, which reinforces the bodily
concept of life and ultimately teaches one how to earn money and enjoy the
body, makes one more foolish. The only real knowledge is knowledge of
devotional service.

Before I met Srila Prabhupada and the devotees, I had been seeking. And when
I met Prabhupada, I understood that he was the teacher for whom I was
searching. And I surrendered to him. Without surrender, one cannot get
knowledge. We see in the Bhagavad-gita that it was only after Arjuna
surrendered that Krsna began to instruct him. Arjuna said,

karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah
prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me
sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam

“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of
miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain
what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto
You. Please instruct me.” (Bg 2.7)

Krsna immediately assumed the position of teacher and chastised his
disciple:

asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
nanusocanti panditah

“While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of
grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.”
(Bg 2.11)

First is surrender. Without surrendering to an authority, a spiritual
master, one cannot get transcendental knowledge.

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from
him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can
impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Bg 4.34)
Pranipatena means “by offering obeisances”–by surrendering.

So I surrendered to Srila Prabhupada, and after serving in the Boston temple
for some months I got a letter from him: “I enclose a letter from your
father, which will speak for itself. From this letter it appears that you
are a good scholar with a good background in your education. So if you wish
to make further progress in your educational career, that will be a nice
asset for our Krsna consciousness movement.” Srila Prabhupada continued,
“You have a taste for psychology and divinity studies, and this is very
nice. Of course, our Krsna consciousness movement is on the line of
divinity, and we have got so many books about the science of divinity.”
Srila Prabhupada used the word “divinity.” Religious studies had not really
begun or become very popular yet. But there were schools of divinity.
Finally, he concluded, “I like the idea that you should make a thorough
study of all theological schools, and in the future if you can explain our
Krsna consciousness movement as the post-graduate presentation of all
theological theses, it will be a great accomplishment.”

When I received the letter, I was unsure how to proceed. I did not want to
go back to the university, but I knew that the order of the spiritual master
was the first and highest consideration. Still, I wasn’t sure if Prabhupada
was giving me an order or just offering an option. I consulted my temple
president, and he also couldn’t say. So we concluded that I should write and
ask Prabhupada directly. I wrote, “If you are instructing me to pursue my
studies, then I will gladly do whatever you say, but if you are giving me
the choice, then I would rather stay in the temple with the devotees and
worship the Deities and go out for sankirtana.” A week later another letter
came from Srila Prabhupada: “Yes, there is no need of any further
education.” [laughter] He wrote, “When Lord Caitanya was discussing with
Ramananda Raya who is the best-educated man, the answer was that a person
who is Krsna conscious is the topmost educated man. Similarly, Prahlada
Maharaja stated before his father that one who has taken to Krsna
consciousness is the best-educated man. I think therefore that in all
circumstances you should steadfastly continue your Krsna conscious
engagement, rather than joining any more universities.”

Now we shall proceed to the next question and answer.

TEXT 246

“kirti-gana-madhye jivera kon bada kirti?”
“krsna-bhakta baliya yanhara haya khyati”

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then asked Ramananda Raya, “Out of all glorious
activities, which is the most glorious?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “That person who is reputed to be a devotee of Lord
Krsna enjoys the utmost fame and glory.”

PURPORT

The greatest reputation a living being can have is to be a devotee of Krsna
and to act in Krsna consciousness. In the material world everyone is trying
to be famous by accumulating a large bank balance or material opulence.
There is a steady competition among karmis attempting to advance in a
wealthy society. The whole world is turning in accordance with that
competitive mood. But this kind of name and fame is temporary, for it lasts
only as long as the temporary material body exists.

COMMENT

It may not even last that long. For years Bill Gates was reputed to be the
richest person in the world, and then one year it was announced that the
owner of Ikea was the richest. Then there was a whole confusion–was he or
wasn’t he? After a few days the statement was retracted: “Actually, much of
his wealth is in the names of trusts; it is not his.” So Bill Gates was back
on top. Then there was a controversy over which is the tallest building in
the world. For years it was the Sears Tower in Chicago. Then someone built
one in Kuala Lumpur that, with its tower on top, was higher. In Chicago they
continued to advertise the Sears Tower as the tallest building in the world,
though, because they did not count the tower on the other building. And in
Kuala Lumpur they advertised their building as the tallest in the world.
There is always competition for reputation.

Somehow or other, people want to be famous. Movies stars, sports heroes,
rich people–all are famous. But the fame attached to being rich or
glamorous lasts only as long as the body.

One of the founders of industry in the United States was Henry Ford, and he
became one of the richest men in the world. Later, his great grandson Alfred
Ford came to meet Prabhupada. Inevitably, the young man must have thought,
“I am the great grandson of Henry Ford.” When he met Prabhupada, the first
thing Srila Prabhupada said was “So, you are the grandson of Henry Ford?”
“Yes.” “And where is Henry Ford now?” Prabhupada’s statement immediately
took the young man off the bodily platform. Yes, where is he now? That is a
good question. Is he an ant or a worm in stool? We don’t know where he is
now.

At best, one’s fame will last only as long as one’s body. And then we don’t
know where we will go or what we will be. We are under the stringent laws of
material nature.

purusah prakrti-stho hi
bhunkte prakrti-jan gunan
karanam guna-sango ‘sya
sad-asad-yoni-janmasu

“The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life,
enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that
material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.”
(Bg 13.22)

Prabhupada remarked that people are worrying whether their children and
grandchildren will have gas to drive their cars, but they are not thinking
that they may become cockroaches in the back seat of the car. [laughter] The
son may be driving a big car, while the father is in the back in the body of
a cockroach. The fame that is attached to the body is short-lived–very
short-lived. At most it lasts as long as the body, and often not that long.

Therefore Ramananda Raya says that one who is reputed as a devotee enjoys
the utmost fame.

PURPORT (continued)

One may become famous as a brahma-jnani, an impersonalist scholar, or one
may become a materially opulent person. In either case, such reputations are
inferior to the reputation of Krsna’s devotee. In the Garuda Purana it is
said:

kalau bhagavatam nama
durlabham naiva labhyate
brahma-rudra-padotkrstam
guruna kathitam mama

“In this Age of Kali, the fame of one who is known as a great devotee is
very rare. However, such a position is superior to that of the great
demigods like Brahma and Mahadeva. This is the opinion of all spiritual
masters.” . . .

The Garuda Purana similarly states:

brahmananam sahasrebhyah
satra-yaji visisyate
satra-yaji-sahasrebhyah
sarva-vedanta-paragah

sarva-vedanta-vit-kotya
visnu-bhakto visisyate
vaisnavanam sahasrebhya
ekanty eko visisyate

“It is said that out of thousands of brahmanas, one is qualified to perform
sacrifices, and out of many thousands of such qualified brahmanas expert in
sacrificial offerings, one learned brahmana may have passed beyond all Vedic
knowledge. He is considered the best among all these brahmanas. And yet, out
of thousands of such brahmanas who have surpassed Vedic knowledge, one
person may be a visnu-bhakta, and he is most famous. Out of many thousands
of such Vaisnavas, one who is completely fixed in the service of Lord Krsna
is most famous. Indeed, a person who is completely devoted to the service of
the Lord certainly returns home, back to Godhead.”

COMMENT

Because we identify with the body, we identify ourselves as residents of the
planet earth. Actually we are not the body. We are spirit souls, meant to
get out of this material world and return to our real home with Krsna. But
we identify with the body and consider the planet earth–or the United
States, or California, or Los Angeles, or this neighborhood or street–to be
our home. And we are very worried what the people around us think of us.
Sometimes we don’t want to be too open about being devotees because we don’t
know what people will think of us, and what they think could affect our
material advancement or the congeniality of our social interactions. So we
are very careful how we present ourselves, so that people think we are okay,
that we are like them–not different.

But the total population of living entities is much greater than the
population in our neighborhood or city or state or country or even planet.
There are living entities–people–everywhere. And most of them are in the
spiritual world. The whole material creation is just one fourth (ekamsa) of
the kingdom of God. This one fourth is the prison house. We are the
prisoners, and we are trying to impress the other prisoners so they will
think that we are like them. “We are as criminal as you are. We are as
ignorant as you are. Don’t think we are any different from you.” [laughter]
We try to dress and speak and act like they do, to fit into that society. We
are not thinking of the real population, the liberated souls who are outside
the prison, that they are the people whom we should really be trying to
impress–not the criminals, the fools and rascals. We should act to please
guru and Krsna and their servants.

The fame of a devotee goes beyond this planet. Narottama dasa Thakura
glorifies the spiritual master that his fame is spread throughout the three
worlds (ebe yasa ghusuk tri-bhuvana). That is real fame. It is not dependent
on the body or on the recognition of ignorant fools. And it extends beyond
the material world to the spiritual planets, to the Lord and the pure souls
who live with Him. “But,” one may question, “what about the famous people
here, the political leaders and intellectual giants–what about them? They
are famous.” The Bhagavatam says that those people who are not God conscious
are like bigger animals that are praised by smaller animals. Such a
statement might sound harsh, but if you identify with the body, you are an
animal.

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah

“One who identifies his self as the inert body composed of mucus, bile, and
air, who assumes his wife and family are permanently his own, who thinks the
land of his birth is worshipable, or who sees a place of pilgrimage as
merely the water there but who never identifies himself with, feels kinship
with, worships, or even visits those who are wise in spiritual truth–such a
person is no better than a cow or an ass.” (SB 10.84.13)

Srila Prabhupada used to say that if a dog is thinking, “I am a bulldog,”
and if a man is thinking, “I am a British man,” what is the difference? Both
are on the bodily platform. So the famous people of this world, who are
praised in this world, if they have no spiritual consciousness, are nothing
more than bigger animals being praised by smaller animals.

sva-vid-varahostra-kharaih
samstutah purusah pasuh
na yat-karna-pathopeto
jatu nama gadagrajah

“Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise those men who never
listen to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna, the deliverer from
evils.” (SB 2.3.19)

And after all, what is the significance of an animal? The lion is the king
of the jungle, and the other animals are afraid of him–“The lion! The
lion!” But what does it amount to? It has no significance, being king of the
animals in the jungle.

We want to be famous in human society, and actual human society means God
conscious. Without religion, without God consciousness, there is no
difference between a man and an animal (dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah).

Now we come to the next question and answer.

TEXT 247

“sampattira madhye jivera kon sampatti gani?”
“radha-krsne prema yanra, sei bada dhani”

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Of the many capitalists who possess great
riches, who is the topmost?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “He who is richest in love for Radha and Krsna is
the greatest capitalist.”

PURPORT

Everyone in this material world is attempting to acquire riches to satisfy
the senses. Actually no one cares for anything other than acquiring material
possessions and maintaining them. The wealthy are generally accepted as the
most important personalities in this material world, but when we compare a
material man of wealth to one wealthy in devotional service to Radha and
Krsna, the latter is found to be the greatest capitalist. According to
Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.39.2):

kim alabhyam bhagavati
prasanne sri-niketane
tathapi tat-para rajan
na hi vanchanti kincana

“What is difficult for the devotees of Lord Krsna, who is the shelter of the
goddess of fortune? Although such devotees can obtain anything, O King, they
do not desire anything.”

COMMENT

Sri Bilvamangala Thakura prays,

bhaktis tvayi sthiratara bhagavan yadi syad
daivena nah phalati divya-kisora-murtih
muktih svayam mukulitanjali sevate ‘sman
dharmartha-kama-gatayah samaya-pratiksah

“If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very
easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is
concerned, I think that liberation stands at my door with folded hands,
waiting to serve me–and all material conveniences of dharma [religiosity],
artha [economic development], and kama [sense gratification] stand with
her.”

By engaging in devotional service, devotees are offered every facility,
including liberation. Yet they are so satisfied in devotional service that
they do not desire anything else–only more service.

A devotee is satisfied in the service of the Lord, whereas materialists are
never satisfied. They always want to increase their material acquisitions.
Some decades ago John Paul Getty was the richest man in the world. A
newspaper reporter interviewed him: “You are the richest man in the world.
You have everything you could possibly want. Can you give us your philosophy
of life in one word?” He said, “Yes–‘More.'” [laughter] He always wanted
more. That means he never had enough. He was always in want.

“You have everything money can buy,” the reporter continued. “When you are
alone–when there is no one around–what do you think about?” And he
replied, “I think about how to pay the bills.” [laughter] The same
principle–the big animal and the small animals. The small man is thinking,
“How to make the payment on the car? How to make the payment on the house?”
and the big man is thinking, “How to make the payment on the
multi-billion-dollar acquisition,” but the consciousness is the same.

A devotee is satisfied in the service of the Lord, so he is the richest. He
has what he wants, whereas others, who always want more, are poor–always in
want. The devotee has the treasure of love for Radha and Krsna within his
heart, whereas others look for treasures outside of themselves, treasures
meager and mundane in comparison.

There is a story about Emperor Akbar. Although a Muslim, he was open to
Hindus, and among the Hindus in his court was the great singer Tansen. Akbar
thought, “Tansen sings so beautifully, but what about his teacher? I wish I
could hear him sing.” Tansen’s teacher was Haridasa, a saintly person who
lived in Vrndavana. But he wouldn’t sing for a king. He sang only for Krsna.
So the king disguised himself as an ordinary person and accompanied Tansen
to Haridasa’s hut. According to one version, when Akbar heard the beauty
(both spiritual and material) of Haridasa’s voice, he was overwhelmed and
removed a royal pendant that was concealed under his cloth and threw it on
the floor in front of Haridasa. Then Haridasa knew he was the emperor.

The king wanted to reward Haridasa and said, “I can never repay you for
this. Yet I want to give you something, whatever you want, whatever is in my
power to give.” Haridasa took him a short distance to the Yamuna River and
asked him to repair the cracks in the steps of the ghata. The emperor
replied, “I could give you anything you want, and you are asking me just to
repair some cracks in the steps?” Haridasa said, “Put your face in the water
and see what is there.” The emperor put his eyes in the water to look at the
steps under the water, and by Haridasa’s mercy he was able to see the actual
feature of the Yamuna River and the spiritual Vrndavana. He saw that that
ghata was made of cintamani stones, spiritual gems more precious than
anything the king had in his treasury.

When the king brought his head out of the water, he looked at Haridasa and
said, “With all the wealth in my treasury, I cannot do what you have asked.”

Our standard of wealth and riches in the material world is so poor. Once,
when Srila Prabhupada visited Hong Kong, the devotees arranged to receive
him at the airport with a Rolls Royce. At the press conference that followed
his arrival, a reporter said, “You are supposed to be a spiritual person.
Why are you riding in a Rolls Royce?” In response, Srila Prabhupada cited a
verse from the Brahma-samhita (5.29):

cintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vrksa-
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
laksmi-sahasra-sata-sambhrama-sevyamanam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending
cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded
by millions of purpose trees, and always served with great reverence and
affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune.” Srila
Prabhupada said, “I come from the spiritual world, where everything is made
of cintamani gems, which are more precious than gold and diamonds. Even if
my disciples had received me in a solid gold car, it would not have been
good enough [laughter], but because that was the best they could do, I had
to accept it.” [laughter] After Srila Prabhupada related this story to me,
he looked at me and remarked, “What else can you say to such people?”
[laughter]

Although what Prabhupada told the reporter was spoken in an ironic way, it
actually illustrates the point that this world of death (martya-loka) is not
opulent. Matter is all so gross–even gold, platinum, and diamonds. Diamonds
are just coal, compressed coal. All matter is dead. It has no life, and it
can never satisfy the soul. Therefore Srila Prabhupada wrote, “One who has
tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Krsna, in the course of his
advancement in Krsna consciousness, no longer has a taste for dead, material
things. . . . When one is actually Krsna conscious, he automatically loses
his taste for pale things.” (Bg 2.59 purport)

Somehow, soon after I joined, I wrote Srila Prabhupada about the great gift
that he had given us, the gift of Krsna consciousness. And in the same
letter about the topmost educated man, he wrote, “I am so pleased to learn
that you have taken Krsna consciousness as the most valuable gift. One who
can understand this is not an ordinary living entity but is the most
fortunate.”

TEXT 248

“duhkha-madhye kona duhkha haya gurutara?”
“krsna-bhakta-viraha vina duhkha nahi dekhi para”

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Of all kinds of distress, what is the most
painful?”

Sri Ramananda Raya replied, “Apart from separation from the devotee of
Krsna, I know of no unbearable unhappiness.”

PURPORT

Concerning this, the Lord states in the Vedic literature:

mam anaradhya duhkhartah
kutumbasakta-manasah
sat-sanga-rahito martyo
vrddha-seva-paricyutah

“A person who does not worship Me, who is unduly attached to family, and who
does not stick to devotional service must be considered a most unhappy
person. Similarly, one who does not associate with Vaisnavas, or who does
not render service to his superior, is also a most unhappy person.”

There is also the following statement in the Brhad-bhagavatamrta (1.5.44):

sva-jivanadhikam prarthyam
sri-visnu-jana-sangatah
vicchedena ksanam catra
na sukhamsam labhamahe

“Out of all kinds of desirable things experienced in the life of a living
entity, association with the devotees of the Lord is the greatest. When we
are separated from a devotee even for a moment, we cannot enjoy happiness.”

COMMENT

The real life of the living entity is devotional service–jivera ‘svarupa’
haya–krsnera ‘nitya-dasa.’ Devotional service can be executed in the
association of devotees. Without the association of devotees there is no
happiness, because there is no chance to hear and chant about Krsna. Such a
so-called life is worse than death. Therefore Sri Prabodhananda Sarasvati
prays, kaivalyam narakayate. Kaivalya, merging into the impersonal Brahman,
is worse than hell, because at least in hell you can preach–chant and hear
the glories of the Lord–whereas in impersonal Brahman there is no
devotional service, and there is no happiness. It is worse than hell.

That is the vision of a devotee. His life is devotional service, and
devotional service is performed in the association of other devotees. He
needs the association of devotees; he is addicted to the association of
devotees, and if he doesn’t have it, it becomes very painful. As Srila
Prabhupada said, “Instead of thinking, ‘Unless I have a drink, I will go
mad,’ one should think, ‘Unless I associate with a sadhu, I will go mad.’
When we can think in this way, we will become liberated.” (TLK 24)

Unfortunately, in the bodily concept of life, as the verse in the purport
says, one who is unduly attached to family is bound to suffer, because in
the end family members are bound to be separated. Death will separate us
from all our mundane attachments (mrtyuh sarva-haras caham), and even apart
from death we may be separated by other circumstances. Therefore we should
transfer our attachment to devotees, sadhus.

prasangam ajaram pasam
atmanah kavayo viduh
sa eva sadhusu krto
moksa-dvaram apavrtam

“Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the
greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when
applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.” (SB
3.25.20)

The Lord said, “A person who does not worship Me, who is unduly attached to
family, and who does not stick to devotional service must be considered a
most unhappy person.” Without the association of devotees, one can neither
take to devotional service nor continue in devotional service.

krsna-bhakti-janma-mula haya ‘sadhu-sanga’
krsna-prema janme, tenho punah mukhya anga

“The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krsna is association with
advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krsna awakens,
association with devotees is still most essential.” (Cc Madhya 22.83)

Prahlada Maharaja was born in a family of demons, but because he had the
association of Narada Muni while he was in the womb, he became a devotee.
And he could not live without the association of devotees, so he preached to
his demonic classmates and got them to chant and dance and become devotees.
Sometimes Prabhupada’s followers go to a new place where there are no
devotees, but they cannot stay there unless they make devotees. They just
cannot live without devotees.

Today I received a phone call from a devotee in South Africa, Ajita Krsna
dasi. She had been living in one of the South African townships, or ghettos,
but it became too oppressive for her. She wanted to move to a community of
devotees, but somehow it didn’t work out. Then she met a very pious, very
good, wealthy lady who owned a large estate in the Knysna forest, which the
lady had developed as a resort with many chalets. The lady is originally
from England, and as a youth, as she made her way by land and sea to South
Africa, she was robbed in Kenya. In desperation, she went to a Catholic
church for help, but she was turned away. Then, by chance, she happened upon
the Hare Krsna temple in Nairobi and spent three months there. She got the
association of devotees, and although she did not become a proper devotee
herself, she came to harbor a dream that the chalet at the bottom of her
property would one day be used as a Krsna temple. So when she met Ajita, she
offered her a place to stay for free. And now Ajita has a perfect
situation–all facilities, natural beauty, and no expenses. Wealthy people
own and rent houses in Knysna to be near the beautiful beach and forest. But
there is one problem: there are no devotees there. Ajita will have to make
them–or meet them.

Even I have my own little story. In Mauritius we had a patron, Mr. Gowtum
Teelok, who was actually a friend of Srila Prabhupada’s. His family owned
sugar plantations, and they held important positions in the government. Mr.
Teelok had a second house on the seaside, and he was always inviting me to
come and spend time there. So finally I went, with one other devotee.
Although it was on the ocean, with a garden with plants and flowers and palm
trees, to me it was like a desert. There were no devotees or Deities. So it
was dry, like being in a desert. So I stayed for a few hours and then
shifted to the temple.

In general, we need the association of devotees, and in particular, we may
have special relationships with specific advanced devotees–our spiritual
masters and perhaps some dear friends. And when we feel separation from some
particular devotee, we feel acute pain. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was
the most advanced devotee, one of the Six Gosvamis, but after Rupa Gosvami
left this world Raghunatha dasa felt so much separation that he wrote in a
poem that Govardhana Hill, which he loved so much, had become like a python,
and that Radha-kunda, which he loved as Srimati Radharani, had become like
the gaping jaws of a tiger. There was no happiness for him, even in his
beloved Govardhana Hill and Sri Radha-kunda.

Narottama dasa Thakura also lamented in separation from Lord Caitanya and
His associates. He wrote that being unable to bear their separation he would
smash his head against the rock and enter into fire.

pasane kutibo matha anale pasibo
gauranga gunera nidhi kotha gele pabo

“I will smash my head against the rock and enter into the fire. Where will I
find Lord Gauranga, the reservoir of all wonderful qualities?

se-saba sangira sange je koilo bilas
se-sanga na paiya kande narottama das

“Being unable to obtain the association of Lord Gauranga accompanied by all
of these devotees in whose association He performed His pastimes, Narottama
dasa simply weeps.” (Prarthana, Saparsada-bhagavad-viraha-janita-vilapa,
“Lamentation Due to Separation from the Lord and His Associates,” 4-5)

Such separation cannot be compared to material separation. In time, material
separation dulls, and one gradually forgets. One may even drown oneself in
other things–another person or some pursuit–to replace or forget the lost
loved one. But in devotional service, separation is not like that. In
devotional service, our relationships are based not on the body but on the
eternal relation between the soul and the Supreme Soul. The relationships
are eternal and continue even after death. Thus Narottama dasa Thakura
sings, cakhu-dan dilo yei, janme janme prabhu sei: “He who has opened my
eyes with transcendental knowledge is my lord birth after birth.” And in
service, that separation becomes blissful.

When Srila Prabhupada first came to America, he was with the devotees all
the time. First he had only one center, in New York City, and there he was
always with them. Then some devotees went and opened the second center, in
San Francisco, and when Prabhupada went there it was very hard for the New
York devotees, because they were used to seeing Prabhupada every day. And
when Prabhupada went to India, it was even more difficult–for all of them.
But he wrote to one disciple, “Please be happy in separation. I am separated
from my guru maharaja since 1936, but I am always with him so long I work
according to his direction. So we should all work together for satisfying
Lord Krsna and in that way the feelings of separation will transform into
transcendental bliss.”

This is the mystery of separation in Krsna consciousness. Although
externally there is separation and lamentation, internally there is
association and bliss. The real thing is the soul, and association on the
spiritual platform is based on the soul–and the Supreme Soul–and is not
limited by the body or time and space. What Ramananda Raya said is certainly
true–the most intense pain is separation from a pure devotee–but at the
same time, the pain of separation can serve as an impetus in one’s
devotional service, and when one becomes more absorbed in devotional
service, the feelings of separation transform into transcendental bliss. One
experiences meeting even in separation. Thus Srila Prabhupada often said
that although he had been separated from his guru maharaja for so many
years, he did not feel that they were apart, because he was connected to his
guru maharaja by service, by following his instructions. “I have written in
the first publication of Srimad-Bhagavatam, ‘The spiritual master lives
forever by his divine instruction and the disciple lives with him.’ Because
I have always served my guru maharaja and followed his teachings, I am even
now never separated from him. Sometimes maya may come and try to interfere,
but we must not falter. We must always follow the chalked-out path laid down
by the great acaryas, and in the end you will see.” (SP letter, November 25,
1973)

In general, we need the association of devotees to be happy. But among so
many devotees, we may have a special relationship with a particular devotee,
like Raghunatha dasa Gosvami had with Rupa Gosvami. Then even in the
association of other devotees we may feel separation from that one
particular devotee with whom we have that special relationship. But even
that separation can be reconciled through service.

“There are two ways of association–by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words,
and vapuh means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes
appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally.
Therefore we must take advantage of the vani.” (Cc Concluding Words)
Further, by following the instructions of the spiritual master and previous
acaryas, we become eligible to go back home, back to Godhead. And in the end
we all will meet in the spiritual world, in service to Krsna. As Srila
Prabhupada said, “We will have another ISKCON in the spiritual sky.”

Sometimes, because we are still affected by the bodily concept of life, we
don’t see each other from the purely spiritual point of view. But we should
try to see the good qualities and service of the devotees–and see ourselves
as their servants. In pure devotional service, we want only to serve and
please Krsna and His devotees. Although Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, jivera
‘svarupa’ haya–krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’–we are the eternal servants of
Krsna–He stated further, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: “I
am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna”–not
directly the servant.

Once, when there was some dissension or disagreement among the devotees, a
disciple asked Srila Prabhupada, “What can we do to improve our
relationships?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “If each devotee thinks, ‘I am
the servant of the servants, there will be no problem.'” Unfortunately, if
we still have that conditioning that we want to be the master, we may want
the other devotees to serve us and give us what we want. But gopi-bhartuh
pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah; we are servants of the servants of the
servants of Krsna. We place no demands on our masters–that is not pure
devotional service.

After Nrsimhadeva killed Hiranyakasipu, He offered Prahlada, “You take any
benediction you want.” And Prahlada replied, “I don’t want anything from
You. By constitution You are my master, and by constitution I am Your
servant. We have no other relationship. If I wanted something from You in
exchange for my service, I would not be a servant. I would be a businessman.
I do not want to do business with You, to take some reward from You in
return for my service.” He said, “If a servant does service to get something
in return, he is not a real servant, and if a master gives something in
return in order to maintain his prestigious position as master, he is not a
real master.” A real master doesn’t give anything except pure devotional
service–more service. And a real servant doesn’t ask for anything except
more service. That is the only exchange–nothing else.

Prahlada said to Nrsimhadeva, yas ta asisa asaste na sa bhrtyah sa vai
vanik: “One who desires some material benefit in exchange for devotional
service cannot be Your pure devotee. Indeed, he is no better than a merchant
who wants profit in exchange for service.” (SB 7.10.4)

asasano na vai bhrtyah
svaminy asisa atmanah
na svami bhrtyatah svamyam
icchan yo rati casisah

“A servant who desires material profits from his master is certainly not a
qualified servant or pure devotee. Similarly, a master who bestows
benedictions upon his servant because of a desire to maintain a prestigious
position as master is also not a pure master.

aham tv akamas tvad-bhaktas
tvam ca svamy anapasrayah
nanyathehavayor artho
raja-sevakayor iva

“O my Lord, I am Your unmotivated servant, and You are my eternal master.
There is no need of our being anything other than master and servant. You
are naturally my master, and I am naturally Your servant. We have no other
relationship.” (SB 7.10.5-6)

In the mood of pure devotional service, our relationships are very
congenial, with Krsna in the center. In the bodily concept, each one of us
wants to be the center. I keep myself in the center–“I,” “me,” and “mine.”
In the spiritual concept of pure devotional service, Krsna is the center and
we all are His servants, but not direct servants–servants of the servants.
When we serve in that mood of pure devotion, Krsna is pleased and His
servants are pleased–everyone is pleased. And each of us automatically
becomes happy and satisfied. We just have to keep Krsna in the center; then
everything else will follow.

yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama

“Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is
Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory,
extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.” (Bg 18.78)

Hare Krsna.

Are there any questions or comments?

Maha-sakti dasa: Going back to the earlier part of your lecture, about
Prabhupada in the early days, his mission was to destroy impersonalism and
voidism (nirvisesa sunyavadi). Back then many of us were hippies and were
into the idea of satiating our senses. And Prabhupada was talking about
these impersonalists, who were trying to merge and refrain from desire. We
were wondering, “Who is he talking about? Maybe they are in India, but in
America we don’t have that experience.” In America back then everyone was
into enjoying their senses and sense gratification, especially with free
love. And that hasn’t changed much. In the New Age movement there is a big
emphasis on not repressing your senses. “Engage your senses. Don’t restrain
them, because that is artificial. Engage them, because that is the real path
to understanding who you are and attaining happiness.”

I guess the question pertains to some degree to ourselves as devotees,
because although there’s no ambiguity about the process, there may be a
moment when we start to feel unhappy or unfulfilled–“Devotees are not
giving me what I want.” So how do we live a healthy, happy spiritual life
without feeling “I am not getting what I want; I am feeling repressed,” and
anger and so many things coming up in the mind–lust, anger, and different
things? How do we grow as a society and attract new people, show that this
is the right way of life and that one can be happy at the same time?

Giriraj Swami: Do you have any ideas? I am sure you must have thought about
it.

Maha-sakti dasa: I know that this is the right path. We may just need to
learn how to relate to Vaisnavas more in the right way. In a sense, we are
very new, and maybe we haven’t yet learned how to be a Vaisnava society.
Rupa Gosvami talks about revealing one’s mind and that kind of thing, and if
we did that more, our mood might be a little more joyful. We would enjoy our
service more. So maybe it is a matter of time–and continuing the preaching
spirit. I don’t know.

In reality, we are not repressing our senses at all. We are really engaging
our senses. With constant festivals we are constantly glorifying devotees
and different incarnations of Krsna, and we are always taking prasada. So
there is no question of repression. But still there is the problem that lies
within. There is the residual karma that seems to bother us, and that is the
question–how devotees can deal with that within the society and not feel
that they have to go outside in order to take care of that issue.

Giriraj Swami: Somehow I think of late 1969 or early ’70 in the Boston
temple. Tamal Krishna Goswami had come for the first time. He was a legend
from the West Coast, and Brahmananda Prabhu from New York, who was the
legend on the East Coast, drove up to meet him. In the evening, after we had
a little prasada–perhaps hot milk and puffed rice with peanuts–we were all
standing in line to wash our plates in the sink, and Brahmananda Prabhu said
to Tamal Krishna Goswami, “Everyone wants love, so if we just love each
other everyone will get what he wants and everyone will be happy.” It
sounded logical and sensible–and true.

To really love someone, however, one must be pure. Otherwise, what passes as
love, as Srila Prabhupada said, is actually lust. For example, a boy tells a
girl, “I love you,” and the girl tells the boy, “I love you,” but actually
it is not love. It is lust. And if either partner does not get from the
other what he or she wants, the relationship breaks. When we become more
advanced, more pure in heart, we can actually serve with love. Love isn’t
just a sentiment. It is a process that manifests in service. And to cleanse
the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam), we have the chanting of the holy name,
offenseless chanting of the holy name. That will cleanse the heart, and that
will create the type of relationships that we want.

We want a culture of service, vaisnava-seva. Even before love develops, we
can create a culture of service and follow Vaisnava etiquette. Proper
etiquette guides our relationships and makes our interactions more
congenial. In Vedic culture peoples’ roles are defined, and the behavior
appropriate to each role is defined–how to relate to others. It was
mentioned in the quotation in the purport that one who does not serve a
superior is a most unhappy person. In essence, there are three different
relationships–a subordinate to a superior, an equal to an equal, and a
superior to a subordinate. A subordinate should sincerely serve a superior,
the superior should affectionately guide the subordinate, and equals should
be friends. And we should carefully avoid the contaminated forms of those
relationships, in which the subordinate is envious of the superior; the
superior exploits the subordinate; or the equals, instead of having genuine,
open friendship, feel proud of themselves.

So we want a culture of selfless service and etiquette. Srila Bhaktivinoda
Thakura says that there are different levels of conversion. The first level
is spiritual or religious, but the cultural level may take longer. Devotees
may quickly grasp the fundamental spiritual principles–“I am the eternal
servant of Krsna”–but it may take longer to understand and adopt the
culture of service. And it has become even more difficult now, because the
sublime culture that existed in India is rapidly deteriorating, with so much
influence from the West. And the Indians who come to the West become further
influenced by Western ways. So we do not see the Vedic or Vaisnava culture
in practice as much as before.

We are in Kali-yuga, and it is getting worse. But we need that Vaisnava
culture, and we need spiritual purity. The main thing is purity of heart,
and that comes from the process of devotional service, especially from
offenseless chanting and hearing about Krsna and serving Krsna’s devotees.

kaler dosa-nidhe rajann
asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krsnasya
mukta-sangah param vrajet

“My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one
good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra,
one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the
transcendental kingdom.” (SB 12.3.51)

Maha-sakti dasa: And reading, too, is important. We have been reading today.

Giriraj Swami: Indeed. Reading, which comes in the category of hearing,
teaches us who we are, who Krsna is, what the material world is, what the
spiritual world is, and what our relationships are. It teaches us what the
goal of life is and how to attain it. Reading is most important, and Srila
Prabhupada advised that we should read for one or two hours every day.

We are in the age of Kali. Kali means “quarrel.” In the age of Kali people
quarrel over the smallest thing. They make such a big thing out of a small
thing.

Practically, I always feel that there are two things that can help devotees
appreciate other devotees. The first is preaching. When you go out and meet
people, you see the difference between the people you meet and the devotees,
and you appreciate devotees more. Unfortunately, in some places devotees
don’t preach so much anymore. Most are grhasthas who live outside of
temples, and not many are actively preaching. But if you go out and meet
people and speak to them–and see what kind of reactions you get, what kind
of people you are dealing with–you come to appreciate devotees more.
Otherwise, familiarity can breed contempt.

The other way is to be separated from devotees for some time. You may end up
in the beautiful Knysna forest without devotees. Then you appreciate
devotees.

It is very important that we have good relationships. If we have strong
sadhana–hearing and chanting–and loving relationships, we will grow and
prosper. But if our relationships are poor and our sadhana is weak, we will
tend to disintegrate.

Devotees are very nice. Sometimes we have to speak critically to distinguish
between the devotional creeper and the unwanted weeds, so we can grow and
flourish. Otherwise, devotees are chanting, and they are serving. They are
the best people in the world.

Hare Krsna.

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