Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
May 12, 2003
[During the evening class that preceded this morning walk of May 12, 2003 in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, Shrila Gurudeva corrected the misunderstanding that book distribution is not bhakti.
He clarified this by his statement of reconciliation: "If book distribution is performed for one's own purposes, such as personal material profit or reputation, then it is not pure bhakti. A devotee must think, 'I want people to have this book and read it thoroughly so that they will enter into a deep understanding of bhakti.' Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu returned from South India with Shri Brahma-samhita and Shri Krishna-karnamrta, and He requested His devotees to make a necklace of the teachings therein. Why? Because there is so much conclusive philosophical truth in those books, and without knowing all the subjects therein, one cannot enter the realm of bhakti.
"When book distribution is performed on the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to please Guru and Krishna, then it is real bhakti, otherwise not. Be careful about this. While distributing Jaiva-dharma, for example, you should think, 'I am doing this to please my Gurudeva and Krishna, so that everyone will know what is written in Jaiva-dharma.' You may tell people, 'Jaiva-dharma includes everything, from top to bottom, about how to develop your bhakti from the beginning. If you want to read only one book, then you will have to read Jaiva-dharma by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. From the conclusions of Bhagavad-gita starting with saranagati, and continuing to maha-bhava, everything has been explained in this book. So you must read and follow Jaiva-dharma.'
"Know that book distribution is essential. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did it Himself, and we must follow His example. But always be careful. Your book distribution should not be sanga-siddha or aropa-siddha bhakti." *(See Endnote 1 and 2)
Then on this morning walk, he continued his clarification:
Jayanta dasa: Shrila Gurudeva, as we are doing our service, how do we know in our hearts that we are actually pleasing you?
Shrila Gurudeva: Your soul will be happy. You will realize, "I am happy." If one is truly rendering service to Shrila Gurudeva, he will realize this. By seeing Gurudeva's face, you will feel his benediction and mercy. On the other hand, if guru or Vaisnavas are not satisfied with you, you will know it – because you feel some unhappiness.
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
["The supreme occupation for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self."]
The symptom is that one will surely be happy.
(To Atula-krsna dasa) Can you tell us why Valmiki wrote the Ramayana, and why did he teach Ramayana to Lava and Kusa (the sons of Rama) to distribute Rama's hari-katha everywhere? Valmiki could have simply meditated on the pastimes of Lord Rama in his mind. Why did he write the Ramayana?
LAarrivalAtula-krsna dasa: He did so by the order of his Gurudeva, Narada.
Shrila Gurudeva: Why did Narada give such an order?
Atula-krsna dasa: Narada wanted everyone to hear this hari-katha, for their benefit. By his desire Valmiki saw all of Rama's pastimes in his trance and manifested those pastimes to the world. Narada knew that this was the desire of Lord Shri Ramacandra Himself – that everyone would hear His hari-katha.
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah
["Nectarean discussions about You are the life and soul of those who are tormented by separation from You, and greatly learned personalities, such as Brahma, Siva, and the four Kumaras, sing of them. Those narrations vanquish the distress of past sins (prarabdha and aprarabdha). Immediately upon being heard, they bestow the highest auspiciousness, and especially the wealth of prema. The nectar of Your narrations is expanded by those who glorify Your pastimes, and therefore such narrators are truly the most generous benefactors in the world."]
Shrila Gurudeva: That is why Shrila Vyasadeva wrote Shrimad-Bhagavatam. And that is why Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami preached and thus distributed that book everywhere.
Expressing the moods of Shrimati Radhika and other left wing gopis who were uttering this verse beginning tava kathamrtam, our acaryas have commented thus: Some preachers carry Shrimad-Bhagavatam here. [Shrila Gurudeva was holding his bead-bag his hand in as he spoke. He put his bead-bag under his armpit, motioning as though he were tightly holding a book there]. They preach and distribute the hari-katha of that book, and preach that the book is the authority regarding what they are speaking. In the mood of Shrimati Radhika, our acaryas comment that such preachers are cheaters and murderers (buri da). Why are they murderers? [*See Endnote 3]
Atul-krsna dasa: They cut out all one's material desires, material entanglements, and material attachments. Thus, no one is able to stay in this world and be happy with family, friends, or home. They must leave and become like mad persons.
Shrila Gurudeva: So, we should also distribute books. Book distribution is not aropa-siddha-bhakti or sanga-siddha-bhakti. If it were either one, then why did our predecessor acaryas like Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Shrila Rupa Gosvami write books? Why did Shrila Rupa Gosvami tell Shrila Jiva Gosvami to print and distribute those books? And why did Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu do so? He found Brahma-samhita and Krishna-karnamrta in handwritten texts on His trip to South India. Knowing them to be very authoritative, He took them with Him to present to His devotees, and requested them to copy and distribute them.
So, we will have to reconcile the apparent contradictions regarding what category of bhakti book distribution fall under. If one sells books for a selfish motive, to make profit and thereby manage his worldly affairs, his activities would be called aropa-siddha; otherwise not.
Atula-krsna dasa: Shrila Gurudeva, one question comes. Someone may say, "It is my Gurudeva's desire that his books are distributed, so I will distribute books. But I have no need of hearing hari-katha or reading those books."
Shrila Gurudeva: This is aropa-siddha. You must know what you are distributing, just as Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami and Lava and Kush knew what they were speaking and singing. You must know what you are giving to others. (To Prema Prayojana dasa) Do you understand?
Prema-prayojana dasa: Yes.
Shrila Gurudeva: Do not be so bold. Do not say anything against my teachings or the teachings of our guru varga.
Prema-prayojana dasa: I only repeated what you have said many times, but not all of the details.
Shrila Gurudeva: We should reconcile all apparent contradictory statements, otherwise so many devotees will be discouraged and misguided. Why do you personally take books under your arm and act like a 'murderer?'
Prema Prayojana dasa: For guru-seva.
Shrila Gurudeva: I have told what you told – that book distribution is aropa-siddha-bhakti – but only when it is done for personal, material profit. You will have to harmonize all my instructions on the matter.
Brajanath dasa: Is book distribution one of the 64 angas (limbs) of bhakti [described in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu]? *[See endnote 4]
Shrila Gurudeva: Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura cleaned away the stool passed by his Gurudeva. Where is this written as a limb of bhakti? Still, it is the purest bhakti.
Prema-prayojana dasa: Does the category of bhakti one performs depend on the adhikara (qualification) of the person performing the activity? If such persons have no bhakti adhikara, no sambandha-jnana (realization of one's relationship with Krishna), how will their activity be called bhakti?
Shrila Gurudeva: Even without your sambandha-jnana, the limbs of bhakti are so powerful that they will surely affect you – like fire. I heard that a child, despite the protest of his mother, put his hand into a fire, and his hand was burned; and after that he would not go near a fire. Similarly, the, pure limbs of krsna-bhakti are so powerful that even a person like Ajamila was transformed by this performance. Ajamila was so sinful that there was no sin he had not committed. Valmiki also committed innumerable sins, but what became of him? He was touched by Narada and became perfect.
On the other hand, if one criticizes a Vaisnava or commits an offense against him, this will destroy his bhakti. Whether or not a person has sambandha-jnana, his bhakti will disappear. Of course, if one truly has sambandha-jnana, he would never commit such an offense. This is one of the symptoms of one who is blessed with sambandha-jnana.
Prema-prayojana dasa: When is one qualified to do visrambhena-guru-seva (intimate service to guru)?
Shrila Gurudeva: When one has sambandha-jnana with Gurudeva, he will be of this conviction: "I cannot serve Krishna now, but simply by serving my Gurudeva, I can get his mercy to attain Krishna's service. There is no other way." He will serve his Gurudeva with that conviction.
When I first joined the matha, I had no sambhandha-jnana at all; but I gave my heart, and all the attachment I'd had for my wife, children, father, mother, and all material possessions, unto my Gurudeva's lotus feet. When I told him this, he began to weep – and then he kept me as a private servant. I would sit on his bed, massage him, wash his clothing, and prepare whatever he wanted prepared. At that time I had no sambandha-jnana, but I surrendered to him, and by his mercy, you are all now honoring me.
Devotee: Shrila Gurudeva, I have a question. When we distributed [Shrila Prabhupada's] books in the past, some people would immediately throw away the books because they couldn't understand them. Are there certain books that you would like us to distribute to the public on a general basis?
Shrila Gurudeva: Try to realize what you are distributing. If you are distributing Gita, you must know the purport of the Gita. Can you tell me its purport?
Devotee: The purpose of Gita is giving them Krishna; giving them contact with the spiritual master.
Shrila Gurudeva: What is the purport of the Gita? What is the essence of Gita?
Devotee: To surrender to Krishna through the spiritual master, and to develop pure love of Krishna.
Shrila Gurudeva: There is more. The purport is much, much higher than that; you cannot even imagine its true purport. Man mana bhava, mad bhakto. What do you understand from this sloka? Have you read it?
Devotee: Just try to understand, and surrender to the spiritual master.
Shrila Gurudeva: Have you heard this sloka?
Devotee: Yes, I have, but I forgot it.
Shrila Gurudeva: There are two important slokas: The first is "man mana bhava," and after that there is "sarva dharman partiyajya." Which sloka's mood is superior? I know that you cannot say. "Man mana bhava" is higher. [In Shrila Gurudeva's book, Prabandhavali, there is a very elaborate explanation of this verse which explains why it is superior]
Radha-kanta dasa: Someone made a statement that establishing a guru-kula is also considered aropa-siddha-bhakti.
Shrila Gurudeva: Yes, it is aropa-siddha-bhakti. We see that thousands of guru-kula students became upset, and they went against their Gurudeva. Why? If the teachers representing Gurudeva are pure bhaktas and are able to teach pure bhakti as Prahlad Maharaja taught his fellow students, then his teaching activity is bhakti; otherwise not. Giving only worldly knowledge as given by Sanda and Amarka, the sons of Sukracarya, who is the guru of Hiranyakasipu, is not bhakti.
Prema-prayojana dasa: Shrila Gurudeva, there is a discussion in the end of the Brahma Samhita regarding Brahmaji doing the creation. It says there that Brahmaji had a direct order from Bhagavan to create, and that he is surrendered to Him. Also, he remembered Him during the act of creation. But Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said that Brahma's service is anukula-posaka gauni-bhakti (favorable for the nourishment of bhakti, but secondary), it is not mukhya (direct, prominent, or primary) bhakti.
Shrila Gurudeva: Because Brahma was engaged in creation, his chanting of gopala-mantra and kama-gayarti-mantra was performed only for the power to create, not for gopi-prema. There is much difference in the prayers of Brahma and the prayers of Uddhava. Brahma prayed to take birth anywhere in Vrindavan, but Uddhava did not want this. He wanted to become one of the particles of the foot dust of the gopis. He prayed:
ya vai sriyarcitam ajadibhir apta-kamair
yogesvarair api yad atmani rasa-gosthyam
krsnasya tad bhagavatah caranaravindam
nyastam stanesu vijahuh parirabhya tapam
["The Goddess of Fortune herself, along with Lord Brahma and all the other demigods, who are masters of yogic perfection, can worship the lotus feet of Krishna only within their minds. But during the rasa dance, Lord Krishna placed His feet upon these gopis' breasts, and by embracing those feet the gopis gave up all distress."]
What is the meaning? He wanted the dust of the gopis' feet on his head, and therefore he is superior. Narada is still more superior, and he is very tricky. To understand Narada is very, very difficult. [Narada performed bhajana and became Naradi-gopi, a topmost associate of Krishna. Uddhava hankered for the lotus foot-dust of the gopis, but he still maintained the mood of an associate of Krishna in Dvaraka. -ed]
To chant harinama and to worship the Deity is svarupa-siddha-bhakti. *[See Endnote 5] If a person is thus engaged, but at the same time he is criticizing others and committing offences, and another person is not engaged in worship but is only clearing away the stool of his Gurudeva and massaging him, who is superior?
Prema-prayojana dasa: The second personality.
Shrila Gurudeva: Though he is not engaged directly in svarupa-siddha-bhakti, he is far superior. What have you understood? What have I said?
Shripad Tridandi Maharaja: The person who is doing guru-seva is close to...
Shrila Gurudeva: One person is clearing away the stool of his Gurudeva and washing his Gurudeva's clothes, and the other person is performing the activities of svarupa-siddha-bhakti such as sravana (hearing), kirtana (chanting), and smarana (remembering Krishna), but criticizing others and thinking, "I know more than anyone else in the world." Who is superior?
New devotee girl: Have you seen Krishna?
Shrila Gurudeva: Yes, yes, yes. He is very beautiful, and very charming. You can also see Him, but you must participate in a process in order to be able to do so. If a girl wants to marry and associate with her husband, how can she do so? There is a process. If you want to be a doctor, you will have to follow a process. If you want to be a judge, you have to partake in a process; otherwise you cannot become a judge. Similarly, there is a process to see Krishna.
(To another devotee) Do not shake your fingers or hands when chanting.
Devotee: You've told me this before.
Shrila Gurudeva: But I saw you do it again. Be careful not to do this. [Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has instructed that to chant harinama and to serce Shri Shri Radha-Krishna is non-different, and therefore shaking is disrespectful. -ed]
Atula Krishna dasa: Gurudeva, I think you are not less tricky than Narada, and not less difficult to understand.
Shrila Gurudeva: Krishna is also very tricky. He rendered so much service to the Pandavas. He served them as their charioteer, He married his sister to Arjuna, and He was the teacher of His sister's son, Abhimanyu. Why? He is very tricky. If one is not tricky, he cannot be in our Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya.
[*Endnote 1: aropa-siddha-bhakti – the superimposition of the word bhakti on endeavors which by nature are not purely constituted of bhakti or endeavors directly meant for the satisfaction of Krishna. The performer of aropa-siddha-bhakti has some purpose of his own to fulfill and so he offers his activities and their results to the Lord, thinking that the Lord will grant his desires. Because his activities are assigned to bhakti, bhakti is indirectly attributed to them.]
[Endnote 2: Sanga-siddha bhakti – Endeavors associated with or favorable to the cultivation of bhakti.
There are other endeavors which, although not purely constituted of bhakti (i.e. anukulya-krsnanusilana), acquire a likeness to bhakti due to their being established as assistants to bhakti. Such endeavors are known as saìga-siddha-bhakti. An example of this is found in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.23–5) in the statement of Shri Prabuddha Muni to Maharaja Nimi: "One should cultivate compassion towards others, friendliness, offering respect to others, cleanliness, austerity, tolerance, silence, study of the Vedas, simplicity, celibacy, non-violence and so on. One should consider heat and cold, happiness and distress to be the same. One should perceive the presence of the Lord everywhere. One should live in a secluded place, renounce family attachments and remain satisfied with gain that comes of its own accord."
Even though the behavior or practices of bhagavata-dharma described in this verse are not by nature purely constituted of bhakti, they are assistants to bhakti. Thus they are considered to be like associates or parikaras of bhakti. If bhagavad-bhakti is removed from the twenty-six qualities alluded to above by Prabuddha Muni, then Bhagavan has no direct relationship with them. Only when these qualities exist as assistants to or associates of bhakti is their likeness to bhakti affected.]
[Endnote 3: The gopis say, "The wealthy (sri) become intoxicated (mada), as if drunk on alcohol, and then they become rogues and rascals, killing everyone in the world for no reason. They act in this way even though they gain nothing.
"With the aim of whimsically killing everyone for no benefit to themselves, these rogues and rascals summon speakers of Shrimad-Bhagavatam and promise to give them as much wealth as they want. 'Just propagate the teachings of Shrimad-Bhagavatam,' they say. 'Go from village to village, door to door. Speak such topics that people will abandon all they possess – their spouses, their fathers and mothers, their children, their wealth, and all material happiness. Let them become street beggars and die miserably.'
"These speakers travel throughout the world. They go everywhere, from town to town, saying, 'We do not want anything from you. Just chant Hare Krishna and hear this hari-katha.' In this way they spoil everyone's lives. They are hunters and killers of mankind and are certainly bhuri-da, meaning they cause the death of those who hear them, by destroying their happiness and ruining their lives."]
[Endnote 4: [Within the 64 limbs of bhakti, this is #54] Vaisnava-sastra-seva (serving Vaisnava scriptures) – Only those sastras which cause Bhagavad-bhakti to be obtained are vaisnava-sastras. One should faithfully and regularly study such scriptures, hear them from the mouths of pure devotees, and read and recite them with a worshipful attitude. One should know the object to be obtained by such scriptures, that is bhagavad-bhakti, and having full faith in that, one should mold one's life in accordance with its principles. The restoration of, careful keeping of, publication and propagation of vaisnava-sastras are all included within sastra-seva (service to Vaisnava scriptures). (Shri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindu.)]
[Endnote 5: (3) Svarupa-siddha-bhakti
Endeavors purely constituted of uttama-bhakti: All endeavors of the body, mind and words that are related to Shri Krishna and that are performed exclusively and directly for His pleasure without any intervention of karma and jnana are known as svarupa-siddha-bhakti.]
Transcriber, Proof-reader, Distributer: Vasanti dasi
Typist: Govinda-priya dasi
Editors: Shyamarani dasi, Damodara dasa (Toronto), Sudevi dasi (Malaysia), Bhadra dasi (New Zealand), Jahnava dasi