Granthraj Srimad Bhagavatam ki jaya!
Has it ever happened to you that you are requested to give a Bhagavatam class in Sridhama Mayapur before all the exalted devotees and you are suggested to choose the verse that you want to speak from. And so you choose the verse and then you inform what that verse is and they say ok. You even write it in an email and then you come to sit down to give class, guess what, its another verse, its another Canto! Hare Krishna! I think Krishna is having a good laugh at me today. So be it! Well we may get to say something about what I was thinking to say but alas time is also very short. The verse on the board is Canto 7, Chapter 2, verse number 8. Its part of a translation of two verses. We will read together the second of these, the verse number 8.
bhurina rudhirena vai
bhrataram me gata-vyathah
Verse 7 is as follows
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead has given up His natural tendency of equality toward the demons and demigods. Although He is the Supreme Person, now, influenced by maya, He has assumed the form of a boar to please His devotees, the demigods, just as a restless child leans toward someone. “I shall therefore sever Lord Visnu’s head from His trunk by my trident, and with the profuse blood from His body I shall please my brother Hiranyaksa, who was so fond of sucking blood. Thus shall I too be peaceful.”
Before speaking something I beg for the blessings of all of you present, such an august assembly of Vaisnavas and Vaisnavis, that we may say something illuminating and inspiring. What Hiranyakasipu has to say may not be very illuminating and inspiring for the devotees because he is plotting to kill the Lord. But it becomes a kind of inspiration knowing, as we do, that his plot will be foiled!
Today is the first day of the ISKCON leadership sanga and I am most honoured to speak, discuss Bhagavatam on this occasion. I have to say that Mother Laxmimoni would not take no for an answer. So here I am. All glories to Mother Laxmimoni and her wonderful service of arranging this entire event.
As I said I had another verse in mind and we may get back to something from today’s verse but let me move on to what I had in mind and we will see where we go in the very limited time we have.
I chose a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 8, Chapter 7, verse 39.
pranaih svaih praninah panti
This is Lord Siva speaking and he is speaking to his wife and he is expressing his resolve to help the demigods who are in trouble because they have been churning the ocean, the Cosmic Ocean, together with the demons, with the intention to create nectar. But they are in trouble because they haven’t produced nectar. They have produced something else. Here is the translation:
“People in general, being bewildered by the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are always engaged in animosity toward one another. But devotees, even at the risk of their own temporary lives, try to save them.”
So this is describing or this is in the context of, what Srila Prabhupada would call a reversal, a reversal of events. Events are going in some direction and then something happens by some arrangement. Ultimately we may say the Lord’s arrangement and this is a reversal, something unexpected. I thought to raise this subject of poison because, of course we are talking about leadership and it struck me that Lord Siva is identifying what is spiritual leadership in his own example and he uses the word sadhu, sadhavah ksana-bhanguraih pranaih svaih, they who recognise that life will be finished in a moment, ksana, ksana-bhanguraih, it will be broken in a moment and recognising that the sadhus are willing, are ready as Prabhupada translates ‘to risk their own temporary lives’ for others. For which others? For those who are in conflict, which is the tendency in this world. People in general being bewildered by the illusory energy of the Lord are always engaged in animosity with each other.
Actually I said that the demigods had approached Lord Siva. In fact its both parties, the demigods and the demons have approached him to solve this. But I want to raise the point that in a sense, taking this in an extended sense, the poison problem can arise in any situation, where there is an endeavour, a sincere endeavour to create something, to accomplish something. And I would suggest that if you study, especially in the first three Cantos of Bhagavatam, very much of the description of the efforts to create the universe, a feature of this creation is, there is always trouble. You start off and then there is trouble. You start again and there is more trouble. Okay, lets try it again! Lord Brahma has to give up his body at one point, his gross body but again he pursues his mission with determination.
So the question that I think we all have when trouble comes is how to deal with it. And especially it is a question for leaders. How to deal with challenges in a Krishna conscious way and I would suggest that Lord Siva is good to remember in this context because he was so willing to take trouble, such trouble that he actually takes on a kind of wound which becomes a permanent mark, which actually is a glorification of Lord Siva. He is known as Neelkantha because of his blue throat, because he agreed to take this poison.
Srila Prabhupada once referred to the age of Kali as the age of misunderstanding. We all have this experience. Misunderstanding may come despite our best efforts to be understood and often this is the beginning of the problem. We want to make sure that we are understood, when perhaps what is needed first of all is to understand what someone is trying to communicate to others. Now I want to expand on this but time is short.
I am going to first ask those of you who were here two years ago, when I also spoke Bhagavatam class if you can recall, I know its two years ago ago, what do you expect. But two years ago I was sharing with you something that I learnt in the spiritual leadership seminar which took place at that time. And what I learnt was, one way to understand leadership is in terms of three principles that a leader should give. Number one vision. Number two inspiration. And Number three, does anybody remember, (devotee responds: facility) facility. Give that man a gulabjamun! Hare Krishna! (applause) One should facilitate.
If we think about Srila Prabhupada, all of his activity and his preaching, who can think of a better leader than Srila Prabhupada, as one who gave the complete vision of Krishna consciousness, who gave unlimited inspiration, who gave facility, who facilitated us. I remember coming here the first time 1978, revealing my age, there were three buildings, there was Srila Prabhupada’s bhajan kutir, there was the Long building, there was the Lotus building. I feel nostalgia for those days. Now we have so many structures, all of course which are expressions of the sincere love of the devotees. So not to minimise this but I do like to remember that time when there were mainly fields.
Ok, vision, inspiration and facility. Could it be that sometimes misunderstanding comes because you and I have different partial perceptions of the vision and we take our particular vision or understanding of the vision as the whole vision and we may want to say, this is the whole vision, your’s is not the vision. That may be one possibility of misunderstanding.
Different inspirations, someone is inspired by, you know, lets keep it simple, especially by prasadam, someone else especially by kirtana. So someone says we have to do prasadam distribution, some says we have to do kirtana everywhere. This can be a kind of cause for misunderstanding.
There may also be differences in understanding about facility. How much do we appreciate what facility is being given to us. So in terms of quantity but also other aspects of facility. We may not see where facility is, when its there. Or we may not understand the best way to use facility that is given.
Well all of these reflections led me to recall that Kapiladeva in speaking to His dear mother Devahuti itemises three types, actually four types of bhakti. Of course we want to all practise pure devotional service. But alas sometimes, because as we heard yesterday the modes of nature are always competing with each other and we just might some of the time feel some of the influence of those modes. So I though its good that we review the descriptions of devotional service predominated by these three modes. Shall we do this? Ok.
It starts from the bottom and goes to the top. Canto 3, Chapter 29, verse 8 we have,
“Devotional service executed by a person who is envious, proud, violent and angry, and who is a separatist, is considered to be in the mode of darkness.”
Now before I go on, I want to suggest, on the principle that Srila Prabhupada suggested that or encouraged that we discuss Bhagavatam from all angles of vision, I want to suggest, what if, just what if, we heard these verses not in terms of individuals but in terms of collectivity of devotees, of the society as a whole or a particular community of devotees in which we may reside, in which we may be involved.
Could it be the case that sometimes, although I may be engaged in suddha-sattva devotional service, that the community is a bit tinged. Again with so much no doubt sincerity but the road to hell is paved with what, good intentions. Ok, with that in mind let us hear about devotional service in the mode of passion.
“The worship of Deities in the temple by a separatist, with a motive for material enjoyment, fame and opulence, is devotion in the mode of passion.” (SB 3.29.9)
We should notice the word separatist here, bhinna-dṛg is the Sanskrit, one who is separate, thinking difference, thinking I am different, we are different, its me and Krishna only. Of course that gets into the definition of the prakrta bhakta. Moving on.
“When a devotee worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offers the results of his activities in order to free himself from the inebrieties of fruitive activities, his devotion is in the mode of goodness.” (SB 3.29.10)
Now here again I want to see if we can stretch ourselves a little to appreciate these statements with a different angle of vision and for this I need to invoke the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle spoke of what he called ‘virtue ethics’ and in his notion of ‘virtue ethics’ you have a virtue and then you have two extremes. One extreme going one way and another extreme going the other way. Example is courage. Courage is a virtue. To do something without consideration of dangers, taking unnecessary risks, that’s one extreme. Cowardice is another extreme.
So lets take this and apply it to the idea of the three modes of nature and instead of thinking of a hierarchy, mode of ignorance, mode of passion, mode of goodness at the top, what if we think of a triangle with mode of goodness at the top and the other two modes down at the bottom. I think this helps us to appreciate that this Krishna consciousness movement as a collectivity is not only or maybe I should say is inclusive of, its not only about going forward, Krishna prema, its about teaching the world virtue and that’s only possible to that extent we individually and collectively are virtuous.
The word guna happens to mean not only rope, that which binds, it also means, as we know, quality and it also means virtue. So devotional service in the mode of goodness can be working us to a position where people of the world will be more inclined to say ‘Oh yeah, those Hare Krishna’s! They are really nice people!’ Some people do that but I beg to submit, not enough. Not enough are saying, ‘Oh yes the Hare Krishna’s! They’re good people!’
Ok, then we have the transcendental, free from the modes, devotional service.
“The manifestation of unadulterated devotional service is exhibited when one’s mind is at once attracted to hearing the transcendental name and qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is residing in everyone’s heart. Just as the water of the Ganges flows naturally down towards the ocean, such devotional ecstasy, uninterrupted by any material condition, flows towards the Supreme Lord.” (SB 3.29.11-12)
What do you think, do we want not just individually but collectively, uninterrupted by any material conditions, that our movement moves forward to spread Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. What do you think? (Haribol!) Sound like a good idea? I only heard a couple of Haribol! (devotees: Haribol!)
Again time is short I have so much more to say but back to Lord Siva. Lord Siva appears in Navadvipa dhama as Hamsa vahana Siva over in I believe its Madhya dvipa. He is called Hamsa vahana Siva because he is riding not on Nandi the bull but rather he is riding, he borrowed from Lord Brahma his hamsa. Why? He was in such a hurry, he was in a total hurry as we would say in America, he was totally in a hurry, right! Teenagers all say that, he was totally in a hurry, to come to this place. Why? In order to hear Gaura lila from Suta Goswami. That anxiety, that anxiousness to hear Gaura lila we know that is the solution and that is how Lord Siva we could say in this context is swallowing the poison.
The poison of so much good intention which it leads to unfortunate situations. In these unfortunate situations we all need to step back and recognise, despite all our good intentions something has arisen. Now we really need to take shelter of the devotees of the Lord, the sadhus, to remember that the business of our society is to be a society of sadhus and sadhavis. That is our business more that anything else in the public sphere of expanding this mission.
So I will ust end by saying, I suspect, I haven’t seen the schedule yet, but I suspect that in the ILS there will be several workshops and so on, on outreach and this is as it should be. I just want to suggest that along with the outreach there needs to be inreach. Because without the inreach, which looks critically at ourselves individually and collectively, our best intentions are not going to bring the result, the nectar which we are all hankering for.
Granthraj Srimad Bhagavatam ki jaya!
Devotee: Hare Krishna Maharaja! So you were speaking about devotional service in the three modes and this is something that devotees often speak about. And of course we want to perform devotional service ultimately in a way that is not influenced by the modes. We spoke of how the, how we are perceived according to how we perform our devotional service and I a wondering, its difficult for me to understand what the difference is in the result of our devotional service when its practiced in the three modes. You can say maybe its not very pleasing to Krishna in terms of our conciseness and everything.
Maharaja: I will give one quite graphic example from my own experience in Germany 1975. Some of the devotees here will remember. One day on a Sunday morning, where you there Maharaja, at the temple, the temple found itself surrounded by police cars. I wasn’t there. I was in Denmark. You were there. What was this a result of. The devotees were out doing a lot of as we say collecting and they were doing it very successfully but they were doing it for the most part under false pretences. They were telling people we are collecting for X Y and Z, which we were not collecting for and alas karma, I think we can say something like collective karma caught up with us. So I would say this would be an example for devotional service in the mode of passion.
Again everyone had the best of intentions and we were convinced that we are beyond the modes of nature and therefore we can do this. I am sure although I haven’t yet had a chance to read that in Vaisesika Prabhu’s book, we get a thorough schooling in how this is not the way to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. Yes? Thank you. (laughs) So thats one example. I am sure others could think of others.
But this became, this had huge negative consequences for our movement in Germany for years! The way we got ? through the coals of the German press unbelievable. There was no mercy. Well actually there was mercy because the movement continued. Devotees continued distributing books. They wrote to Srila Prabhupada and reported that despite all of this we are still distributing and people are still taking books and Srila Prabhupada said, ‘Yes let it increase, let it increase!’ And so it did.
Devotee: So the conclusion we can draw from this is that if we are performing devotional service affected by the modes there is going to be karmic consequence.
Maharaja: There could, I would say there is, this is my understanding, yes there can be, if not, thats a big subject but. Certainly something will be there which is there for us to push us forward to pure devotional service. We may call it karma, we may call it the Lord’s direct intervention but in any case something will be there.
All right I think we will stop here. Thank you all for your kind attention and I wish you all the best for today and for the remaining days of the ILS conference.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Anantakoti Vaisnava vrnda ki jaya!