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Our conspiracy: spread the debt

Our conspiracy: spread the debt

It is always amazing to me that devotes make such efforts to come together to make this event. I especially want to thank specifically the devotees who have helped to make this happen.

As we heard from Madhavananda prabhu when he explained the word krita-jna, which is Sanskrit for ‘gratitude’, this is one of the sixty-four qualities of Krishna. We can feel gratitude because Krishna feels it. And Krishna feels gratitude forever. When we do some service for Krishna, Krishna – unlike us, who can forget – never forgets. In this way, this whole event is an expression of gratitude and today we are channelling our gratitude to Krishna through the guru while we call this event Vyasa-puja, because Vyasa is in a sense the original guru, but he is also a model disciple.

You all know the story when Vyasa feels despondent. Why? He suspects why, but he needs confirmation. And of course, Narada has this ability to appear just at the right time. Srila Prabhupada says that Narada is our guru. That is nice because he is also Vyasa’s guru. And being Vyasa’s guru Narada is indeed also our guru.

So, Vyasa is a model disciple. How to understand that? After meeting Narada and hearing from him, Vyasa takes the instructions to heart. He doesn’t waste time. He doesn’t first do his own things. He immediately sits down to meditate. His meditation is on the Supreme Lord, because he understands from his guru that he must compose a literature about Him. And as he sits in his meditation, he sees the two: the Lord, the purusa, and maya. He actually sees them. By the grace of his guru, Vyasa actually sees them.

Imagine that you could see, like Vyasa does… Would you like it? That is the opportunity that we get from Srila Vyasa-deva and all of his followers. If you would see Krishna and maya, what would you do? That was the transformation for Vyasa. It became completely clear to him how to serve Narada, how to serve his guru.

Vyasa’s example invites us to think about what it means to be a disciple. We have also other models, described in Sri Caitanya Caritamrita. There is the guru of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Isvara Puri. Sripad Isvara Puri’s guru was Madhavendra Puri. And it can be traced all the way back, but Isvara Puri was celebrated especially for being such a good disciple of Madhavendra Puri. He is famous for how nicely he took care of his guru when Madhavendra Puri became very elderly.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is for us the great master, but he is also a model disciple. Model disciple of Isvara Puri. The picture we get of him being a model disciple is how he receives the mantra from Isvara Puri and how he then responds to receiving it. Krishnadasa Kaviraja tells us that as soon as he begins to meditate and chant the mantra he received, Mahaprabhu immediately feels overwhelmed by ecstatic emotions. As soon as he hears it, he immediately starts to feel ecstatic emotions, so intensely that he becomes worried.

Have any of you had this problem while chanting Hare Krishna? No? Me neither, truth be told.

Lord Caitanya has this problem. So, he – and this is again his being a model disciple – goes to his guru to discuss his problem. Sometimes disciples feel so embarrassed about their problems, that the last person to whom they would go is their guru. Lord Caitanya goes immediately. He finds out that what he thought was a problem is not a problem. “You feel ecstatic emotion? That is great! That is what is wanted!”

Of course, we also celebrate Srila Prabhupada as an ideal disciple, who repeatedly made this point, “Because I took to heart the instructions of my guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, therefore I have been successful in my mission.” Several times he said, “I always feel that my spiritual master is with me.”

Srila Prabhupada wants us to read his books about Krishna and His devotees. One of these famous devotees in Srimad Bhagavatam is Dhruva Maharaja, who is another ideal disciple of Narada Muni. Initially, Narada discourages Dhruva from his purpose. He says, “You are just a little boy, go back home.” But Dhruva says, “No!” Prabhupada explains that sometimes a guru would test his disciple. So, Dhruva refuses to go home, because he is a ksatriya, and ksatriyas have the determination to get what they want. We know the story of how he becomes successful after doing many severe austerities, chanting a mantra, and worshiping Krishna. And then—as it is explained in Canto 4—after a long and glorious life the time comes for him to return back home, back to Godhead, and he remembers his mother. His mother, Suniti, had given him an advice, “You want to find the Lord? The sages always go to the forest.” By that Suniti becomes her son’s guru. In his purport, Srila Prabhupada explains that she becomes the patha-pradarsaka-guru of her son. Patha means path, and pradarsaka means the one who shows. Srila Prabhupada also says that patha-pradarsaka-guru may also be called siksa-guru. In his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 4, chapter 12, verse 32 Srila Prabhupada says, “It is the duty of the siksa-guru or diksa-guru to instruct the disciple in the right way, and it depends on the disciple to execute the process.” So, the guru has a duty, and the disciple has a duty. And it is fully up to us, after we get instruction, to take this instruction to heart. There is a saying in English: “The ball is in your court.” So, we have to hit the ball, we have to take it, and do it in an expert way.

His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Swami gives a nice example of juggling, of the three balls that we have to keep in the air. One of the balls is everything that we are doing to maintain our material conditions of well-being. The second ball is our sadhana. Sadana bhakti. Some devotees think, ah, sadhana, no time. Well, it is an art of juggling, to make time for it. The sadhana or chanting, listening, reading, and keeping good association. Those are just two balls, which are easy to juggle. But add one more ball and now it gets complicated. The third ball is the mission.

The guru, following his guru, who is following his guru, who is following his guru, …. who is following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is following his guru, … has a mission… And this mission is an integral part of the whole package. Why? Because when we take shelter of our guru, we accept a debt to pay. The debt for all that we have received from the one who had opened our eyes with the light of knowledge. We might try to pay back by getting our guru some nice gifts, and donations, by attending his Vyasa-puja, and his Saturday sangas. That all is very nice, but the real paying back of the debts is the process of paying it forward. There is this expression: “Pay it forward.” That means, we are not paying back what we have received, because it is impossible to pay it back. Then, what to do? Give up? No! We have to pay it forward. And this paying forward is very interesting, because we are sharing our debt with others, and in that process, we are putting more and more and more people in debt. It is actually our conspiracy…

Where this debt originally comes from? The debt originates with Krishna. He has a debt to his devotees. He is telling the gopis, “Your love for me is so great, I cannot pay it back. So, you have to be satisfied with your own devotion, with your own goodness.” But it is not that Krishna is getting himself off the hook that way, by saying some nice charming words. The gopis had put Krishna in a really difficult situation by having given everything to Him, including their reputation. There was no coming back to their families after joining Krishna. And what Krishna does? Krishna appears as Caitanya Mahaprabhu to pay back that debt to the gopis. He pays it back by taking on the austerity. He takes formal sannyasa, a life full of austerities. In his austerity, he chants, dances, and remembers Krishna constantly in such a way that he is overwhelmed, and from him radiates this intense feeling of love for Krishna. And in that way—as guru for all of us—he gives us that debt to carry on, to spread it all over the world.

We are being asked to become expert performers. Jugglers become experts by practicing. Sometimes they drop a ball and then they just pick it up and try again and again, and at some point, they do it without even looking. That is what we are aiming for. We must become masters of juggling with these three principles. This aim we are celebrating today.

How to become successful in this practice? Srila Raghunatha Das Gosvami gives us a hint in his twelve verses of teachings to the mind, “My dear mind, please turn your attention to your guru (or gurus, because there are diksa-guru and siksa-gurus), turn your attention to Vrindavana, to the residents of Vrindavana, to all Vaisnavas, worship them, offer respect to brahmanas, the pious people of this world, give attention to the mantra given by your guru, to the holy name given by your guru, and take shelter of the divine couple, ever fresh, young Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.” That sounds good! How do we do that? By having given up all pride. Make an unprecedented attachment, atitaram. Make an intensive endeavour to not be complacent. Make a great endeavor.

So, proceed with this juggling and be grateful to Krishna that we are together, that we have each other. It is important to feel the gratitude to the Lord. Today we are “channelling” this gratitude for Vyasa, through the guru and the previous acaryas. This celebration is our gratitude for Krishna.

This gratitude we can celebrate every single day—and this Prabhupada has told me personally—by thinking of how this movement can be pushed forward, not only outward, but also inward. Prabhupada says, “If a devotee becomes a pure lover of Krishna, then that is perfection!”

Thank you all very much indeed. Hare Krishna!  

—From the Vyasa-puja address to disciples and friends by Krishna Kshetra Swami on December 23, 2023 in Cordoba, Argentina