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The real question

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gd_badger_2.jpgShrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
June 21, 2007
Badger, California
Morning Walk

Shrila Gurudeva: Yesterday we explained two questions.

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: Yes, the questions that were answered by Kavi and Havi.

Shrila Gurudeva: What was the first question?

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: The first question was, "What is the ultimate good, the ultimate benefit?"

Shrila Gurudeva: (To Srauti Maharaja) Can you answer?

Shripad Srauti Maharaja: "What is..." Mmm...

Shrila Gurudeva: It takes you so much time to answer?

Shripad Tridandi Maharaja: "What is the process to achieve...?"

Shrila Gurudeva: That was not the actual question.

Shripad Damodara Maharaja: "What is the easiest way for someone to become free from the cycle of birth and death?"

Shrila Gurudeva: The question was: "What is Bhagavata-dharma?"

Speaking to the nine Yogendras, King Nimi said: "Please speak about how one engages in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord, if you consider me capable of properly hearing these topics. When a living entity offers loving service to the Supreme Lord, the Lord is immediately satisfied, and in return He will give even His own self to the surrendered soul." (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.31)

By engaging in the process of Bhagavata-dharma, all problems will very easily disappear, the endless pain of endless births will cease, and krsna-prema will manifest.

This was the question. What was the answer?

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: One must associate with sadhus. By the association of a sadhu and the holy name...

Shripad Madhava Maharaja:

ye vai bhagavata prokta
upaya hy atma-labdhaye
anjah pumsam avidusham
viddhi bhagavatan hi tan
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.34)

"Even ignorant living entities can very easily come to know the Supreme Lord if they adopt those means prescribed by the Supreme Lord Himself. The process recommended by the Lord is known as bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

Shrila Gurudeva: This is the same teaching given by Krishna Himself, regarding how He can be easily attained; how we can very easily attain His love and affection. By sravanam (hearing about Him), kirtanam (chanting His names and glories), and smaranam (remembering Him), the pain born from all problems will easily disappear.

After this, Kavi explained: You have forgotten Shri Krishna. So, first go to guru, accept him, and serve him. In this way, you will be able to serve Krishna.

bhayam dvitiyabhinivesataù syad
isad apetasya viparyayo 'smrtih
tan-mayayato budha abhajet tam
bhaktyaikayesam guru-devatatma
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam, 11.2.37)

"Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is affected by the potency for illusion, called maya. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should accept as his worshipful deity and as his very life and soul."

Kavi also explained:

yan asthaya naro rajan
na pramadyeta karhicit
dhavan nimilya va netre
na skhalen na pated iha
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.35)

"O King, one who accepts this process of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead will never blunder on his path in this world. Even while running with eyes closed, he will never trip or fall."

If one follows this path, even if he runs with his eyes closed he will not fall down. What is the meaning of this verse?

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: For those who are on this path – which has been given by Shri Krishna – practicing sravana, kirtana, and smarana under the guidance and shelter of sad-guru, it does not matter how difficult that path is.

Shrila Gurudeva: No, that is not the meaning.

Shripad Sajjana Maharaja: Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments that running with one's eyes closed means that even if someone is not conversant with all the sastras, but he performs nava-vidhi bhakti (the nine-fold process of bhakti), he will be assured of success. Am I understanding this correctly?

Shrila Gurudeva: No. (To Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja) What is the meaning?

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: This path of Bhagavata-dharma is directly given by Shri Krishna. All the difficulties and pitfalls that are in the paths of karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, and astanga-yoga will have no effect on the devotee because Bhagavata-dharma is the nature of the soul. The soul's natural position is to serve Shri Krishna. So if the soul submits to this process of pure bhakti, he is protected. Even if he is not perfect in following, he will still be supported.

Shrila Gurudeva: (To Shripad Tridandi Maharaja) Can you tell something more about this?

Shripad Tridandi Maharaja: You have to have courage and faith to keep on moving.

Shrila Gurudeva: (To Dhira Krishna das) Can you explain this?

Dhira Krishna das: It has already been emphasized that we should serve Gurudeva as our own atma. In that type of...

Shrila Gurudeva: You cannot explain it; better to listen to my explanation.

Speaking the words of Kavi, Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami says that if one who is on this path closes his eyes and runs very quickly, he cannot fall down or be derailed. What is the meaning? Vaidhi-bhakti is slow-going. The devotee practicing vaidhi-bhakti carefully opens his eyes, but his progress is very slow-going.

On the other hand, those who follow raganuga-bhakti are 'closing their eyes.' This means that even though they may neglect some limbs of bhakti, like dvaraka-dhyana (meditation on Krishna's pastimes in Dvaraka), or certain aspects of arcana, they are successful.

They are always weeping in this way:

evam-vratah sva-priya-nama-kirtya
jatanurago druta-citta uccaih
hasaty atho roditi rauti gayaty
unmada-van nr yati loka-bahyah
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.40)

"By chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, one comes to the stage of love of Godhead. Then the devotee is fixed in his vow as an eternal servant of the Lord, and he gradually becomes very much attached to a particular name and form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries or shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion."

The devotional activities described in this verse are not about vaidhi-bhakti. The devotee described here is always weeping, and laughing; devoid of any shame. This is the meaning.

When one follows raganuga-bhakti, there is no harm if he neglects the few limbs of vaidhi-bhakti which are not favorable for the cultivation of raganuga. By the process of raganuga-bhakti alone, even if he neglects other processes, he will attain all success. This is the hidden meaning of 'running with eyes closed.'

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Can we say, then, that the entire first answer of Kavi refers to raganuga-bhakti?

Shrila Gurudeva: He begins his reply from vaidhi-bhakti, which includes his utterance of the verse beginning "bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah," and he concludes with this reference to raganuga-bhakti.

Vrindavan das: In regard to what you were saying about the devotee on this path being able to reach perfection while running with his eyes closed, does this support the statement that bhakti is not dependent on anything? Is that the understanding?

Shrila Gurudeva: The meaning is that in vaidhi-bhakti you follow certain rules and regulations, with very slow progress. You must go very carefully, with open eyes, respecting all and following all regulations of the bhakti line. Then, after a long time – after many births – raganuga-bhakti will manifest. 'Closing one's eyes and running very fast' refers to the raganuga sadhaka's neglect of the limbs of bhakti that are not favorable for his advancement in raganuga-bhakti. There will be no chance of falling down for him; he will continue to perfection.

Here in this verse (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.40), there is no mention of the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti. The devotee described in this verse is a maha-maha-bhagavata. As mentioned, he will not fall down, even if he neglects some of the limbs of bhakti, and he will progress rapidly.

Abhirama das: Shrila Guru Maharaja, is it favorable for our bhakti if we follow Kartika-vrata in Badger? [Kartika-vrata is a one month vow (Oct.-Nov.) to follow certain regulations, restrict the intake of certain foodstuffs, and visit the pastimes places of Krishna in Vrindavan]

Shrila Gurudeva: Surely. You can follow it anywhere. And we must follow Caturmasya-vrata [a four-month vow of restricting the intake of certain foodstuffs]; not only in Badger, but everywhere in the world.

Padmanabha das: Gurudeva, does 'closing his eyes and running' mean that the sadhaka is not following at least the basic principles of...

Shrila Gurudeva: You have not understood, and therefore you cannot ask a proper question. Try to understand what I have just explained.

Padmanabha das: I understood a little bit, Gurudeva.

Shrila Gurudeva: You cannot understand. You will have to become like them (the sannyasis and brahmacaris present); being without wife and without possessions; always thinking and hearing bhakti subjects, and serving. Then you will be able to easily understand.

Indupati das: We see many devotees who go to Vrindavan and simply absorb themselves in chanting. They ignore many limbs of bhakti and simply chant in Vrindavan, but after some time they leave the process entirely.

Shrila Gurudeva: Such persons are not at all following raganuga. Raganuga-bhakti is very rare; very rare. Whether in Vrindavan or anywhere else, such ordinary devotees are prone to commit offenses.

What I explained is for raganuga-bhaktas like Raya Ramananda. He was taking care of young and very beautiful naked ladies, without being at all affected. Can you do so?

Indupati das: No, Shrila Gurudeva.

Shrila Gurudeva: One who tries to do so without having Shrila Raya Ramananda's qualification, thus neglecting the regulative principles, is simply lusty. Only persons like Shrila Svarupa Damodara and Shrila Rupa Gosvami can do such things. They are qualified, and the attainment of their qualification is our life's aim and object.

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Some persons say, "Shrila Gurudeva is preaching raganuga-bhakti. We should therefore only hear rasa-katha, and in that way we can enter into raganuga-bhakti."

Shrila Gurudeva: What am I explaining here? Raganuga-bhakti? Or what?

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: You are explaining vaidhi-bhakti also.

Shrila Gurudeva: I am discussing mostly vaidhi-bhakti. I am not discussing anything at all about rasa-lila. Those persons are speaking falsely.

Shripad Sajjana Maharaja: Sometimes it is said that this path of bhakti is like a sharp razor's edge. Is this only said in relation to nava-vidha-bhakti (the nine-fold process of vaidhi-bhakti)?

Shrila Gurudeva: It is this world that is like the sharp edge of a razor (ksurasya dhara), not bhakti. Bhakti is very soft. You do not understand? This world, which made of ignorance, is ksurasya dhara; there are problems everywhere. Give up this ignorance and come to bhakti. This is the meaning of the verse you refer to.

What was the second question of Nimi Maharaja to the Nine sages?

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: "What are the qualities of the different grades of devotees who are practicing Bhagavata-dharma?" The grades of devotees are uttama-bhagavata, madhyama, and kanistha.

Shripad Tridandi Maharaja: "And what are their activities? How do they speak? What do they do?"

Shrila Gurudeva: What is their behavior?

sri-rajovaca
atha bhagavatam bruta
yad-dharmo yadrso nrnam
yathacarati yad brute
yair lingair bhagavata -priyah
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.44)

Maharaja Nimi said: Now please tell me in greater detail about the devotees of the Supreme Lord. What are the natural symptoms by which I can distinguish between the most advanced devotees, those on the middle level, and those who are neophytes? What are the typical religious activities of a Vaisnava, and how does he speak? Specifically, please describe those symptoms and characteristics by which Vaisnavas become dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

What was Shri Havi's first answer to this question?

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: The first answer is about the uttama-bhagavata, the most advanced, first-class devotee. "Bhagavata bhavam atmana – The uttama-bhagavata sees his own mood of love for Shri Krishna in all living entities. He sees his own bhava (mood of devotion) in all other persons."

Shrila Gurudeva: What is an example of how he thinks?

Shripad Bhagavata Maharaja: He thinks, "Everyone is engaged in Shri Krishna's service. Everyone has the mood (the bhava) that I have."

Shrila Gurudeva: Prahlada Maharaja sees all living entities and every aspect of creation in Shri Krishna. He is an example of an uttama-bhagavata.

And who is the madhyama?

Shripad Sajjana Maharaja: A madhyama-adhikari has four different relationships. He sees the Supreme Lord and worships Him in his heart. He sees the devotees and engages in the six exchanges of love. He preaches to the innocent and ignorant, but he avoids, or neglects, the envious.

Shrila Gurudeva: You are not explaining this clearly. Who will explain it?

Shripad Nemi Maharaja:

isvare tad-adhinesu
balisesu dvisatsu ca
prema-maitri-krpopeksa
yah karoti sa madhyamah
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.46)

"An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikari, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent, and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

Shrila Gurudeva: What do you mean by 'maitri'?

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: For the madhyama-adhikari there are three different kinds of friendship with devotees. In his friendship with very advanced devotees, he offers everything – his heart and soul and all he possesses. He maintains friendship with devotees on the same level of bhakti as himself, and friendship with instruction for less-experienced devotees. These are the three different kinds of maitri.

Shripad Madhava Maharaja: And prema?

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: Prema is defined in this verse:

anyabhilasita-sunyam
jnana-karmady-anavrtam
anukulyena krsnanu-
silanam bhaktir uttama
(Shri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.11)

Uttama-bhakti is the cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Shri Krishna, in other words, the uninterrupted flow of service to Him, performed through all endeavors of the body, mind, and speech, and through the expression of various bhavas (spiritual sentiments). It is not covered by jnana (knowledge aimed at impersonal liberation) and karma (reward-seeking activity), yoga or austerities; and it is completely free from all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness to Krishna.

This is prema towards Isvara, the Supreme Lord.

Shrila Gurudeva: And then?

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: Balisesu means that the devotee preaches to those who are outside the devotee sanga, and who do not yet understand devotional service. Kanistha adhikaris are also balisesu, and they also need association.

Shrila Gurudeva: What are the symptoms of a kanistha-adhikari?

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja:

arcayam eva haraye
pujam yah sraddhayehate
na tad-bhaktes? canyesu
sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah
(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.47)

"A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prakrta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position."

The kanistha-adhikari has sraddha, or faith, in worshiping the Deity form of the Lord. He may also have sraddha in guru and give proper respect to guru. But he does not know how to recognize devotees, nor does he know on what level different devotees are situated. He does not know how to deal with people in general, and he becomes easily influenced by them. His sraddha is komala (very soft and pliable); it can be shaken at any time.

Shrila Gurudeva: Okay.

Aniruddha das: Can a kanistha Vaisnava preach properly?

Shrila Gurudeva: What will he preach? He barely knows anything about siddhanta. He should serve madhyama-adhikari Vaisnavas and hear from them. Then he will be able to preach properly.

Devotee: Didn't Shrila Svami Maharaja Prabhupada use only kanisthas to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world?

Shrila Gurudeva: He used to tell them that preaching means distribution of books, reading, and associating with higher classes of Vaisnavas. How can a kanistha Vaisnava preach properly if he only knows arcana and worship of his Gurudeva? What can he preach if he doesn't factually understand the other limbs of bhakti, if he cannot differentiate between the uttama, madhyama, and kanistha-adhikari, and if he does not properly understand bhakti-siddhanta?

Devotee: Even though we were kanistha, we always said we were madhyama – because we preached.

Shrila Gurudeva: Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja wanted to somehow engage all those who came to him. He wanted them to develop a taste for bhakti. He considered that by doing the services he gave them they would advance in Krishna consciousness. This was his motive.

(To Subala Sakha das) Have you taken many photos in Vrindavan?

Subala Sakha das: In Vrindavan? Yes.

Shrila Gurudeva: When will our Vraja-mandala Parikrama (coffee table size) book be published?

Subala Sakha das: It will come out soon. A devotee from Holland is working on the graphics and layout...

Shrila Gurudeva: And what are you doing?

Subala Sakha das: I am selecting the photos, and then sending them to him so that he can work on them and put them...

Shrila Gurudeva: I wanted this book to be published, but Niscintya could not do it and you could not do it.

Subala Sakha das: It will get done, Gurudeva. I give a hundred per cent guarantee that it will get done.

The end.

Transcriber: Madan Mohini dasi (New York)
Editors: Syamarani dasi, Damodara das (Canada), Sudevi dasi (Malaysia), Bhadra dasi (New Zealand), Jahnava dasi (Holland)
Proofreader and distributer: Vasanti dasi
Sound-files: Isa das
Bracketed explanations written by Syamarani dasi, from the writings and lectures of Shrila Gurudeva

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