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Reflections on Sacred Teachings 3,

Harinma Cintmai
I would like to dedicate this book to all of my secretaries, who surely must have
challenges chanting their rounds some days, due to all of the demanding work and
anxieties that I subject them to.
I would like to sincerely thank Lila Katha dasi for the initial editing of the
book. I want to especially thank Sarvabhavana dasa for his translations, which I
have heavily relied upon, and Jambavan dasa for proofreading the Sanskrit verses. I
would also like to thank all of my disciples who transcribed the many audiotapes,
as well as Jayadeva dasa and Acyuta dasi for proofreading. I would like to thank
Aja dasa, Kripa dasi, and Subala dasa for layout, final editing, and all the things
necessary for bringing this book to press. May the mercy and power of the holy name
purify our hearts. The more we chant with purity, the more Lord Caitanya will
empower us to give people faith in the holy name.
The most basic practice for members of the Hare Krishna Movement is the chanting of
the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swamis (B.T. Swamis)
exposition on Harinama Cintamani adds substantially both to the theological and
practical understanding of chanting Hare Krishna. Bhaktivinodas Harinama
Cintamani, where Haridasa Thakura discusses each of the offenses to the Holy Name,
as well as the stage of chanting in pure love, has already inspired books by
Satsvarupa Maharaja, Sacinandana Swami, and Mahaniddhi Swami. Yet B.T. Swamis
contribution is unique, as he explores subtleties of offenses, and explains how our
daily lives in Krishnas service affect and are affected by our chanting.
Many topics that are of great importance to serious practitioners of bhakti are
discussed here in direct and thought-provoking ways. B.T. Swami fearlessly writes
of sexuality and celibacy, standards for guru worship, realizing our eternal
spiritual form (siddha deha), rejecting fallen disciples, and tendencies to
practice spiritual life as if it were a mundane religion. His question and answer
sections are so relevant that the reader will feel that his or her own queries are
being addressed. Certainly this is an insider book, geared primarily to ISKCON
members who have the courage to face their inner demons and enter into deeper and
sweeter levels of chanting the holy name.
The section on sin and offense explores what draws a person to the most grievous
offense of sinning on the strength of chanting. Theres much here that will help
spiritual aspirants to keep themselves on the path to love of God. B.T. Swami often
relates offenses, fall downs, crisis of faith, and lack of progress to the various
types of experiences that people have, as well as their understanding and learning
gained from those experiences.
Perhaps his most moving episode in this regard is when he recalls preaching in
Communist Europe, alone. Away from temples and devotees, he would often chant
forty-eight rounds a day for spiritual strength. But where was there to chant? If
he was caught chanting he might be deported or jailed. So he would lock himself in
the train bathroom for hours, often making it appear that the restroom was out of
order. Because of his having lived through this situation, he now greatly
appreciates having the association of devotees.
I found much here that inspired, accused, and enlightened me. Reading this book is
a refreshing and revitalizing experience. One feels that B.T. Swami is our
intimate, caring friend, gently yet directly admonishing us to cleanse our hearts
and apply ourselves with joyful seriousness to the task of falling in love with
Krishna through His Holy Name. Sometimes revealing what he perceives to be his own
inabilitiesto remember what he reads in scripture, to curb the restless mindhe
also writes of gratitude for the purifying process of chanting that Srila
Prabhupada so kindly gave us.
Throughout the book, B.T. Swami interweaves recurring themes of personal endeavor
and Krishnas mercy, compassion, and understanding for those who struggle, and
uncompromising, honest introspection. Those for whom this is the first book they
have encountered of the author, will surely eagerly acquire the rest of B.T.
Swamis writings.
Urmila devi dasi
ISKCON Educator
Although the chanting of the Lords holy name may seem simple, the process contains
many significant and profound points. In the Sri Harinama Cintamani, Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu appeals to Srila Haridasa Thakura to speak high philosophy on the
potency and efficacy of the holy name. From time to time we see how Krishna uses
His intimate associates to relay important messages. For instance, He asked
Ramananda Raya to discuss lifes highest goals and continued questioning His
devotee until he finally reached the topic of madhurya-rasa. Lord Caitanya also
used Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya as a medium to explain the topic of liberation. A
similar situation also occurred on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. In this case,
Krishna Himself ultimately arranged for the deliverance of this important message
by purposely bewildering Arjuna in order to induce him to ask specific questions.
Krishna also used Srila Rupa Gosvami to explain the confidential topics relating to
the ultimate associations of the soul in the spiritual world or rasa-tattva. He
then described the progression of abhidheya, sambandha, and prayojana.
In this Sri Harinama Cintamani, Krishna is using Haridasa Thakura, who is a
Mohammedan (Muslim), for a special purpose. This is significant because it shows
that the Holy Name is not based on varna and asrama or on time, place, and
circumstance. It has no connection with caste. As a matter of fact, it is just the
opposite. Each of the previous ages offered specific yuga-dharmas, which could lead
followers to perfection, but in Kali-yuga we do not perform any of these processes
very well. Although in the past, a person could achieve perfection through
meditation, temple worship or yajnas, in Kali-yuga it is much more complex and
difficult. Consequently, we need special weaponry in order to penetrate such modes
of material nature, which manifest as assaults on the mind, senses, and body. For
this reason, as Srila Haridasa explains, the holy name becomes our greatest shelter
in Kali-yuga. Therefore, whatever yajnas or rituals we do perform in this age, we
perform in connection with the holy name.
In Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakuras time, the devotees were chanting
sixty-four rounds a day and were considered fallen if they chanted any less.
However, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has given us an interesting
dispensation by requiring a minimum of sixteen rounds every day. What does this
mean? It means that we are definitely fallen in this age. Kalau sudra-sambhavah:
In the age of Kali practically everyone is born a sudra. Although people
basically have the mindset of sudras, it also indicates the power of the holy name
and the mercy of the carriers of the holy name who give us such minimal
requirements and then cover for us.
In earlier times, just the sight of a sinful person would prompt a devotee to jump
into the Ganges and bathe for purification. Every day we are confronted with
atheists and sinful people at our work place, on sankirtana, or through other types
of interactions. Consequently we may think, What hope is there for us if even
Arjuna, in his position as a powerful ksatriya, fell into a state of bewilderment?
What hope is there for us if even Lord Brahma has his moments of confusion? What
hope is there for us if Lord Indra and the other devas become so disturbed by their
egos, their positions, or their status that even they want to deny Krishna? What
hope is there if even the demons sometimes become stronger than these devas? How
can we, as tiny jivas, overcome such demons in our external environment as well as
the demons in our own minds and senses?
This is the beauty of Krishna appearing in the bhava of Srimati Radharani and Lord
Balarama coming as Lord Nityananda along with His chief cowherd boys. This is the
beauty of Krishna descending with His sakhis and manjaris. This is the mercy of Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu because, as we honor our contract in Krishna consciousness,
Krishna does the rest. This is the power of krpa-siddha, which is particularly
encapsulated in Kali-yuga, and this is the power of connecting with the spiritual
master. The spiritual master is a representative of Lord Nityananda or the servants
of Srimati Radharani; therefore, the guru acts as the lawyer or the facilitator,
which means that I can go back to Godhead by being loyal to Srila Prabhupada. At
the end, Krishna says, This is Prabhupadas man. We do not really become expert
in Kali-yuga because all our activities are full of aparadhas or offenses and are
lacking proper faith and intensity. In spite of such shortcomings, one who comes
under the protection of Lord Nityanandas arrangement will discover the power of
this association.
For instance, a parent may tell the child, I will buy you a bicycle if you just
wash the dishes for several weeks. When the parent sees the child performing their
duty, the parent feels eager to purchase the new bicycle. Obviously, the few weeks
of work could not cover the cost of a bicycle even if the father or mother paid the
child, but they simply want to see their son or daughter fulfill their request.
Then, the parents will eagerly make all the arrangements to provide a new bike. If
we simply try to uphold our side of the contract in Krishna consciousness by
chanting 16 rounds, following the four rules and regulations, engaging in service,
trying to act selflessly, and trying to share what we have, Krishna will help us.
Srila Prabhupada said that Lord Nityananda will have mercy on such souls and will
allow them to return to the spiritual world:
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My
transcendental formto them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.
Bhagavad-gita, 9.22
He definitely knows how much we lack in Kali-yuga. For instance, you may have a
child or friend who has a handicap. Although they may have so many limitations, you
appreciate what they can do in spite of their disability. Now, if they have the
ability to do more but fail to act, you would not have the same level of
appreciation. Krishna knows our genuine handicaps.
In one sense, Krishna consciousness is extremely difficult since our previous
activities under the maha-tattva, which we have engaged in for many lifetimes,
diametrically oppose the activities of Krishna consciousness. However, in another
sense, Krishna consciousness is amazingly simplistic. As soon as our faith
increases we realize, If I just wash the dishes for three weeks, Ill get the new
bicycle. Mommy has already picked it out for me! In the same way we should think,
If I just follow this process, I already have an eternal position and service in
the spiritual world. When I leave this body, Prabhupadas mercy will just pick me
up and bring me into that service. However, in terms of the child, all kinds of
thoughts enter his mind while he washes the dishes. As soon as he sees everyone
else playing, he will want to quit washing and finish the dishes tomorrow. He will
find all kinds of reasons to avoid the service in order to play with his friends
and consequently, he falls behind. Or the child may even think, If I just put the
dishes under the couch, Mommy wont even know that they are dirty. She will just
think that I put them away in the cabinet. The child comes up with all these
alternatives instead of just washing the dishes and receiving the bicycle. He puts
extra energy into discovering ways to avoid the service instead of just using that
energy to wash the dishes. Then, after three weeks, the child expects to receive
the present but the mother reminds him of the four days that he missed.
Consequently he misses the chance to get a new bike although he was so close to
receiving the present.
This example is comparable to our position in Kali-yuga. We receive instructions to
chant sixteen rounds and follow the four rules and regulations, but these
activities alone will not automatically give one love of God. As a matter of fact,
these four principles simply help one reach the level of a healthy, pious human
being, which brings one to the mode of goodness. It is not true that the rules and
regulations will take you back to Godhead. On the heavenly planets, even some of
the entities follow all the rules and regulations. In Kali-yuga, the rules simply
situate us properly so that the Lord and His agents can pick us up. If a helicopter
comes to rescue a person, the pilot may give specific instructions to ensure that
the person stands in the proper place. After the person follows the instructions,
the helicopter will be able to reach the person and pick them up with ease.
However, if one thinks only about the rules and regulations, Krishna consciousness
can seem overwhelming. You may try to focus day after day and, although you may
even remain focused for five years, you could suddenly have trouble. On the other
hand, it is so simple because, if we just remain loyal, we will receive the
necessary assistance. Krishna will find ways to impact upon our consciousness and
help us according to our genuine loyalty. He knows our difficulties and our
capabilities. In this age, our meditation, temple worship, and rituals alone are
not powerful enough to take us back to Godhead as in satya-yuga and other previous
ages. For this reason, the yuga-dharma for this age is to chant the holy name of
the Lord. This is also why we receive the nine processes of devotional service.
Although any one of the nine activities can take us back to Godhead, in Kali-yuga
we do not do any of them very wonderfully. For these reasons, our acaryas place
great importance on the relationship between the guru and the disciple, and on
humility. It really means that we just need to make ourselves available to be
brought back home.
Srila Haridasa Thakura exemplifies this position because he is from an Islamic
background, which according to the caste system, was considered part of a lower
varna and asrama. Nevertheless, we know that he has high quality because of his
full surrender to Krishna. Consequently, Krishna accepts Haridasa Thakura as His
namacarya although he is not a great scholar and he is not coming from a pukka
Vaisnava family. Although some people considered him to be an outcaste, Krishna had
him carry the yuga-dharma for this age. This shows us the actual mercy and power of
the holy name. Just as Krishna used Ramananda Raya, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, and
Rupa Gosvami to speak such high messages, Krishna used Srila Haridasa Thakura to
share this message.
Before entering into this Harinama Cintamani, let us first reflect on Srila
Haridasa Thakuras background by sharing some of his extraordinary pastimes. When
someone is very dear to Krishna or is really trying in their devotional service,
other people become disturbed, and the mayavadis and the demonic class of people
become the most disturbed. If we examine the lives of the acaryas, we will often
see that governors, kings, or other panditas tried to stop them, attack them, or
defame them since their very existence bothered such people. In the case of Srila
Haridasa, he was flogged in the market place because he would not abandon the
chanting of the holy name and would not give up his identity. After all, he is the
namacarya. How could he possibly abandon his service or stop acting as the Lords
instrument? How could he give up his realizations, which were an integral aspect of
his identity from many different pastimes?
Gopala Cakravarti was an astute brahmana who could skillfully speak philosophy and
perform yajnas. However, he was a smarta-brahmana. Krishna is again showing the
significance of purity and simplicity in Kali-yuga. When he heard Srila Haridasa
claim that one could attain liberation at the state of namabhasa or at the clearing
stage of chanting the holy name, he immediately reacted offensively. He responded,
Just look at this sentimental Vaisnava. He claims that one can attain liberation
simply at the stage of namabhasa! Gopala Cakravarti believed that one cannot
attain liberation even after engaging in all kinds of austerities, yajnas, and
studies. He of course disturbed the devotees and they pleaded with him to withdraw
his statements. They did not want him to suffer or cause confusion since others
might accept his position. Gopala Cakravarti could not understand the power of
Krishnas mercy and the power of His representatives in Kali-yuga because he was so
bound by his conviction. He missed the importance of the holy name and the carriers
of the name. He could not understand that all knowledge of the spiritual world and
all understanding of our original identity is contained or somewhat hidden within
the holy name. To the degree that we serve and approach the holy name, the name
becomes the key and unlocks mysteries for us.
For this reason, we can sometimes struggle so much because we have that key but
cannot open the door. We may even seem to lose the key for a while. Similarly, we
sometimes lose the holy name. We may go through periods in which we stop chanting
or rarely even think of the holy name. If we do not experience the results of
opening up the treasures and the doors, after a while we will just become so
distracted that we eventually lose the key altogether. At other times, certain
distractions can cause us to stop chanting. When the mind is too crazy, how can we
chant? How can we capture and run with the mantra when the mind is running after so
many other types of sense gratification? We may notice that, when we start
chanting, it can take some time to really move with the mantra. Sometimes we may
finish all our rounds without really hearing the sound vibration. At such times,
maya will jump right in and even stay with us during the entire japa period,
especially if we cannot focus.
Consequently, it is very difficult to chant while engaging in other activities.
Maya plays so many tricks to prevent us from focusing and really harnessing the
connection. At times when she heavily attacks the mind, a devotee may not even be
able to chant sixteen rounds. He may become so entangled that, even if he has a
block of available time, he may not have the ability to chant. He will then find
different distractions and end up chanting only two or three rounds a day. Later
the devotee will not even chant at all.
Sometimes the mind becomes so intense that even if you have the time to just sit
down in the house or temple for two hours, you would not be able to chant. We have
all seen this phenomenon from time to time on harinama or during other types of
preaching activities. When you ask a person to chant Hare Krishna, he or she simply
does not have the capability to say the mantra. Sometimes a person is so sinful
that the name will not vibrate on their lips. Their consciousness is so gross that
it blocks them from repeating this transcendental sound. At another time, the
devotee may easily chant sixteen rounds because the various distractions have not
captured their mind. For instance, when you feel comfortable with your activities
during that day or the previous week, fewer obstacles will disturb your japa.
If we lack confidence in the holy name or if we call out to the Lord offensively,
how can we expect to smoothly associate with the name? For example, if you are
traveling with someone but are unsure of the destination and are not comfortable
with their association, you may stop after traveling only a short distance. If you
do continue to walk with them, you may think, Is this person really my friend and
well-wisher? Maybe this person doesnt like me. Actually, I am not sure if I
actually like them. What is this persons ulterior motive? Although you may be
traveling with this person, you feel very uncomfortable due to the many
Just imagine someone calling to you from across the street but, while saying your
name, they are also speaking harsh words. Instead of crossing the street to see the
person, you will probably walk the other way because you realize that they do not
have good intentions. You will not want to associate with the person because they
may even assault or offend you due to their negative feelings. Consequently, you
will have no desire to hear them calling your name and may even ignore them
completely. Should Krishna respond to our own harsh and offensive calls? If we call
the holy name in such a way, we will simply create obstacles and stagnations. If we
do not trust the holy name, we will not receive the full benefit of its
Srila Haridasa Thakura is helping us in many wonderful ways to see the power of the
holy name. When the prostitute came to tempt Srila Haridasa, who was focused on
trying to serve Krishna, he did not fall prey to the temptation or try to avoid
her; rather, he converted her and raised her consciousness. Sometimes very powerful
yogis perform all kinds of austerities and have all different types of sakti but,
when it comes to the lust aspect and an opportunity presents itself, they fall
prey. If the opportunity does not arise, they may remain properly situated but, as
soon as the temptation arises, they succumb. There are many yogis who come from the
pilgrimage places and have been naistika-brahmacaris and engaged in rituals since
birth. However, after they come to America or Europe, the majority of them fall
down. They become overwhelmed by the West and by the different levels of exchange
between the men and women. The feminine energy overwhelms them and more often than
not, they fall down. Without special mercy in Kali-yuga, one will have problems.
Srila Haridasa surpassed the temptation due to the power of the holy name. This is
the potency of Haridasa Thakura and this is why Krishna has asked him to share.
Chapter 1
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
Srila Haridasa fell at the Lords lotus feet and clasped them tightly. His entire
body went into rapture, and he offered humble prayers punctuated by shivering and
tears. In a choked voice Srila Haridasa said, My Lord, Your wonderful pastimes are
unfathomable. I am unfortunate and illiterate. My only anchor is Your lotus feet.
What is the use of asking questions of a worthless person like me?
Harinama Cintamani, 2
As he embraces Mahaprabhus feet while trembling and crying, there is a
transmission of love and empowerment. He feels humbled by the idea of speaking and
entirely unqualified, but at the same time, he does not block the transmission and
asks the Lord to use him and speak through him. Krishna could have spoken directly
but He wants to glorify His devotee. He comes through this medium to emphasize the
accessibility of His mercy despite a seeming lack of qualification. It seems that
every chapter begins and ends with this exchange of love. Srila Haridasa feels such
love and affection since Mahaprabhu is with him and is asking him to speak. He just
wants to be available and used according to the Lords desire. Lord Caitanya is
very pleased to be with His servant and the servant is even more pleased to be with
the Lord. As each chapter develops, they engage in this wonderful drama of
presenting many enlightening topics on the holy name.
In Chapter One, Srila Haridasa mentions three varieties of sukrti or pious
activities. The first category is called karmonmukhi or piety derived from fruitive
activities. Next is jnanonmukhi or piety derived from the cultivation of knowledge.
The third category is bhaktyunmukhi or piety derived from devotional service. Each
type of pious activity results in some type of boon or blessing, but the sukrti
connected with devotional service helps bring forth our original identity. The
other types of sukrti help facilitate but they do not sufficiently uncover our
eternal nature.
Srila Haridasa Thakura then mentions that the primary process in this age is the
chanting of the holy name:
The Lords holy name is always present, therefore it is the most efficient process.
When the means becomes the end, the process becomes identical to the objective, and
thus it is easy for the jivas to attain liberation by Your mercy.
Harinama Cintamani, 10
The yuga-dharma in Kali-yuga is unique due to the similarity between the means and
the end. The goal is fully contained within the holy name. For example, several
days ago someone gave me a present that was wrapped in an interesting way. They
placed the present into a small box, which was then placed into bigger and bigger
boxes. It was almost a mystery. After opening several boxes, I thought that the
person might have tricked me by giving me nothing but boxes. I might have even
considered throwing the last box away but I finally found a present. In a similar
way, when we chant the holy name, the gem is there but we must first remove the
layers to appreciate it.
Questions & Answers
Question: Although Lord Caitanya is atmarama or self-sufficient and can do
everything Himself, He instead petitions His devotees to help and allows them to
get the credit. Can you elaborate on this point?
Answer: This is an excellent reminder for leaders about the importance of
empowering other people through intelligent, conscientious delegation and of
properly engaging them according to their propensities. Good leaders do outstanding
work themselves; great leaders inspire others to do extraordinary work. From Lord
Caitanyas example, we also see the importance of a leader facilitating others as
well as the importance of a dependant being a receptive vehicle. Of course, the
unalloyed servants of Lord Caitanya were used to the highest level because they
were free from kama (lust) and ahankara (false ego).
Lord Caitanya spread the yuga-dharma throughout Bharata-varsa or India, and He left
Srila Prabhupada with the rest of the work to be executed throughout the world. In
the Sri Caitanya Mangala written by Locana Dasa Thakura, Lord Caitanya reported
that He would spread the yuga-dharma throughout India, but a special devotee of
His, a senapati-bhakta or a transcendental field commander, would later go out into
the world and extend mercy to the many souls who are trying to escape the Lords
Lord Caitanya used Haridasa Thakura to glorify the holy name and to explain many
different topics relating to His potencies. He used and empowered Srila Rupa
Gosvami to analyze the various levels of spiritual exchanges between the jiva and
the Lord. He empowered Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya to reveal and explain the real
truths about liberation. He empowered Srila Ramananda Raya to reveal the
confidential mellows of Krishnas conjugal dealings. In the same way, He empowered
Srila Prabhupada to spread His mercy in Kali-yuga throughout the global arena.
We normally find in most dealings that leaders are more interested in getting the
credit, controlling others, and harvesting the power within themselves. A genuine
leader, especially a spiritual leader, is particularly recognized by the wonderful
way in which he or she distributes power. They empower others and eagerly desire
their dependants to get the credit. Krishna can obviously do so many things
Himself, but He wants His devotees to be glorified. Thus, He uses and empowers
Question: The Harinama Cintamani mentions that these teachings of Haridasa Thakura
are not for faithless materialists. This confuses me because we are to distribute
the holy name and the knowledge of the holy name to everyone. Can you help me
understand this better?
Answer: People who have no faith that the chanting of Lord Haris holy name is the
best of all spiritual activities, are naturally averse to spirituality. When they
hear the holy name, it does not interest or attract them. For example, when we go
out to chant and dance in the streets, we give everyone a chance to hear the Hare
Krishna mantra. However, we would explain the spiritual significance of harinama
only to those who have at least some faith and receptivity.
When we fanatically try to preach the glories of the holy name to faithless people,
we actually commit an offense because we induce them to blaspheme God and His name
even more. Regardless, it is not harmful for faithless people to keep hearing Hare
Krishna since this will gradually purify their hearts to a point in which they will
be able to accept the transcendental position of the holy name.
The ninth offense to be avoided while chanting the holy names of the Lord
emphasizes that one should not preach to the faithless. We have seen from time to
time a very interesting phenomenon in which devotees who were initially
antagonistic have joined the movement. However, their initial antagonism mainly
stemmed from their poor fund of knowledge as well as their lack of awareness or
confusion about the Krishna conscious teachings. After a preacher explained various
points to them, which gave them higher knowledge and clarification, the same people
who were very inimical not only became favorable, but also joined the movement.
Therefore, we should not focus our energy on being disturbed with those who are not
initially favorable, because many people simply need to be assisted in their
understanding. At the same time, we do not have to continually confront people who
really have no desire to understand higher truths. The more such people hear about
the science of bhakti, the more they become inimical. Such people should of course
be avoided.
The more we chant with purity, the more Lord Caitanya will empower us to give
people faith in the holy name and to convert them from faithless materialists into
sincere devotees. If we are really concerned about distributing the holy name to
everyone, we should work on ourselves in order to perfect our own chanting. If our
goal is to spread the pure chanting of the holy name, then our preaching activities
can affect the whole world.
Chapter 2
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In Chapter Two, Srila Haridasa explains that any object is known by four
characteristic features: name, form, qualities, and activities (Harinama
Cintamani, 12). All objects have these principal features and can be understood
through this type of analysis. The nama or name reveals how it is vibrated or
discussed. We study its rupa or form to discover how it appears and presents
itself. The guna or qualities give us more information about its character, and the
lila or pastimes provide even greater details about its activities.
Srila Haridasa explains that the impersonal conception could not be wholesome or
complete because it neglects the rupa and the guna. Although the impersonal
conception may have some type of nama, it entirely lacks any lila or pastime. Lila
involves the rupa and guna. It involves the association of people and the quality
of that association. Although these four characteristics are with us here in the
material world, they are based on separated activities. They are based on our
connection with the illusion and the false ego. They are based on a certain kind of
insanity. However, the nama, rupa, guna, and lila are real and each soul has its
ultimate, permanent identity and name.
Our Eternal Position
All these names that people call us such as nicknames, family names, or first names
are temporary. Even though we have had thousands and millions of such names, we do
have our own eternal name and form. This knowledge of our eternal position should
give us solace because our imperfect body, which may be too fat, too skinny, too
tall, or too short, is not us. We will simply wear these costumes until we realize
that we have our own beautiful rupas. Have you ever seen a picture of an ugly
entity in the spiritual world? No. The nature of the soul is full of beauty in all
Although we must now deal with this temporary baggage, we should simply try to
maintain the body in order to focus more on our real identity. We want to speed up
in order to let our real presence manifest. Not only do we have an eternal form,
but we also have eternal qualities. This fact can assist us in our association with
the devotees because it can help us bypass some of our own weaknesses and those
that we see in others. Each person actually has an eternal form with eternal
qualities and their current activities are just temporary stages in the passing of
time. This can help us move beyond certain issues with ourselves and with others.
We have an eternal age which means that we do not have to deteriorate, grow old, or
experience difficulties. We do not have any type of sicknesses or periods of
boredom and loneliness associated with our real identity. None of these troubles
have any connection to our eternal identity.
Srila Haridasa is revealing to us the potency of the holy name, which will disclose
to us our own pure and effulgent name and qualities. It will reveal to us those
residents in the spiritual kingdom who know us as well as the lilas which take
place. It will reveal the services we most like to do for Radha and Krishna and the
ways in which They reciprocate with us. All of this gradually unfolds as we hone in
sufficiently to the holy name and let the name do all the necessary cleansing.
In this second chapter, Lord Gauracandra tells Srila Haridasa:
Taking birth in a low family and caste, you have proven to the world that Lord
Krishna is not obtained merely by amassing wealth, position, lineage or refinement.
Whoever has developed unflinching faith in unalloyed devotional service to the
Supreme Lord is factually superior to the demigods. You are learned in all the
truths of the holy name of the Lord; your spiritual conduct is exemplary; and you
are an expert preacher. So, Haridasa! Kindly reveal to Me the unlimited glories of
the holy name. Allow Me to savor your words.
Harinama Cintamani, 11
Lord Caitanya explains that the most advanced Vaisnava is one who has a natural way
of enthusing and reminding others to take shelter of the holy name. As we fully
bathe in the holy name and make it ours, we will become electrified through its
association and become eager to share it. Sometimes devotees who are deeply
relishing the holy name can even inspire others to chant or hear more attentively
just through their association. Some devotees chant with such attachment that their
chanting just enchants and captures others. It may even cause us to hanker for the
type of attachment that will allow us to just dive into the holy name and become
intoxicated. For a very advanced Vaisnava, this happens automatically. Their
bhajanas and lectures become so wonderful that other people feel excited and want
to hear more. When such souls directly call on the Lord through japa, it has an
impact on the entire environment.
Sixty-four Qualities of the Lord
During the discussion between Srila Haridasa and Lord Caitanya, Haridasa Thakura
not only stresses the potency of the holy name but he also wishes to emphasize the
supremacy of Lord Krishna. He discusses the sixty-four transcendental qualities of
the Lord in order to show how and why Krishna is the summum bonum. Krishna is the
supreme autocrat who has numerous different energies and manifestations. The living
entities also have many of the qualities of the Lord, but only fifty, and not in
totality. The demigods such as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva have fifty-five qualities
but even they do not have these fifty-five in totality. Certain special
incarnations of the Lord such as Lord Rama and Lord Narayana have up to sixty
qualities but only Krishna has all sixty-four qualities.
Four Special Qualities
This means that there are four special qualities that no one else has except for
Krishna. First of all, Krishna is the performer of wonderful varieties of
pastimes, especially His childhood pastimes in Vrndavana (Harinama Cintamani, 14).
We do not see these special pastimes manifest in any other incarnation or plenary
expansion. Secondly, He attracts living entities all over the universes by playing
on His flute (Harinama Cintamani, 14). We do not see Lord Narayana or any other
incarnation with the flute. Only Krishna has this special arrangement of love and
attraction. Next, He is surrounded by devotees endowed with wonderful love of
Godhead (Harinama Cintamani, 14). The other incarnations or expansions do not have
associates with such intensity. Finally, He has a wonderful excellence of beauty
that cannot be rivaled anywhere in the creation (Harinama Cintamani, 14). Even
though the same Krishna comes as Matsya, Kurma, Nrsimhadeva, Vamanadeva, and
Narayana, none of these forms are as beautiful as the Lord in His three-fold
bending form who plays on a flute and gives such care to the cowherd boys and to
His divine consort, Srimati Radharani.
Again we see that we are all like God, the same in quality but different in
quantity. The essential qualities which are associated with the Lord are a part of
our own eternal nama, rupa, guna, and lila but different in quantity. We are so
close to the Lord that these qualities are within us. However, although these
qualities are a part of the soul, they become dull due to the influence of the
bahiranga-sakti or the lower energy. Srila Haridasa Thakura continues:
The conditioned jiva in contact with the illusory material nature experiences a
state of consciousness diametrically opposed to Krishna consciousness. Because he
identifies with his material body, the jivas name, form, qualities and activities
are all separate and different from his real spiritual self.
Harinama Cintamani, 14
Of the four characteristic features (name, form, qualities and activities), the
Lords holy name is the original, because it awards cognition of the other three.
Harinama Cintamani, 15
Srila Haridasa is making a very powerful point. Of all these four characteristics,
the chanting of the holy name is the primary religious activity of a Vaisnava
because it brings awareness of form, qualities, and activities. This means that the
rupa, guna, and lila are all based on the connection with the nama. Therefore, as
we properly connect with the holy name, it then brings us or escorts us to our
connection with our form, qualities, and our eternal lila. This material nature
has nothing more superior to offer than the holy name (Harinama Cintamani, 15).
a-brahma-bhuvanal lokah
punar avartino rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of
misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My
abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.
Bhagavad-gita, 8.16
The Solace of the Holy Name
In this material nature, the jiva and the holy name are the two most outstanding
aspects because of their connection with the spiritual kingdom:
golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana
rati na janmilo kene tay
samsara-bisanale diba-nisa hiya jwale
juraite na koinu upay
The treasure of love of God has descended from the spiritual world of Goloka
Vrndavana, appearing in this world as the sankirtana movement of the chanting of
Lord Haris holy names. Why am I not attracted to it? Day and night I burn from the
poison of material existence, but still I refuse to take the antidote.
Ista-deve Vijnapti, 2
The jiva is just temporarily undergoing some type of intoxication or amnesia due to
his forgetfulness of his spiritual identity. Everything in the material world is
secondary and part of the prison but the holy name and the jiva are the real
solace. We just need to remove the covering. Even though the material world is
hell, the treasure is there. Srila Haridasa has described the potency of the holy
name, which can reveal the form, the qualities, and the lila. Even though we are in
the prison, we have the key or the means to escape. The holy name is in fact such a
Principal and Secondary Names
Srila Haridasa continues:
The Holy Name can be categorized into two types: principal and secondaryThe
principal names of Lord Krishna describe His transcendental pastimes and contain
all of the Lords spiritual excellences. They are, for example: Govinda, Gopala,
Rama, Sri Nandanandana, Radhanatha.
Harinama Cintamani, 15
These names deal distinctly with the eternal lilas of the Lord and the highest
exchanges with His associates.
The Vedas address the Lord with names that characterize His affiliation with the
material nature. These are His secondary names, e.g. Creator, Supersoul, Brahman,
maintainer and annihilator of the world, Yajnesvara, Hara, etc.
Harinama Cintamani, 16
These secondary names including Visnu, Isvara, or Allah are all referring to God in
terms of His involvement with His creation rather than in relation to His eternal
pastimes with His eternal associates. Srila Haridasa also describes a difference in
potency between the primary names and the secondary names. Although we tell
everyone to chant any name of God, there is a gradation or difference between the
names. The potency of chanting Lord Narayanas name is not the same as chanting
Krishnas name. Therefore, Haridasa Thakura gives us the direct name of the Lord to
chant, honoring Krishnas supremacy.
However, the most consequential result of chanting the Lords nameslove of
Godheadis to be attained only by saintly souls who invoke the principal names of
Harinama Cintamani, 16
Srila Haridasa ends this section by discussing the two kinds of vyavadhana or
disruption in the chanting of the name.
The first type is known as varna-vyavadhana or disruption in the syllables. For
example, in the Bengali word hathikari, the first syllable ha and the last syllable
ri can be put together to give Hari, a name of Krishna. But because the syllables
thika are inserted in the middle, the repetition of hathikari will not give the
actual benefit of chanting the holy name, i.e. Krishna-prema.
Harinama Cintamani, 16-17
The second type of vyavadhana is called tattva-vyavadhana or disruption in the
philosophy or conclusions. This is a very heinous offense. Lord Krishnas name and
Lord Krishna Himself are no different. But someone who is polluted by the mayavadi
philosophy imagines them as two dissimilar entities.
Harinama Cintamani, 17
Even though such people may chant the holy name, they do not connect with or take
full shelter of it. They do not realize that Krishna is descending to the world as
the holy name and is giving us our original name, form, qualities, and pastimes in
connection with Srimati Radharani and Krishna.
Questions & Answers
Question: At times we see that some devotees lose their taste for the holy name or
stop chanting all together. Does this result from lack of practice or from
Answer: Both of these causes are similar. Our chanting becomes more complex,
difficult, and even boring due to offenses which happen because of improper
practice. Due to improper thinking, desires, and actions, we make mental, verbal,
and physical offenses that interfere with our connection with the holy name.
Consequently, just as we might call a person in a vulgar manner and not receive a
response, we will not develop a deep connection with the name if we do not call on
the Lord in the proper consciousness. At other times, when we are chanting more
attentively, we will also see results in our thoughts and habits. We will feel less
angry, sad, disturbed, or bothered by external incidents.
However, if you are just thinking about your bills, you will have a much harder
time focusing on the name. If you feel lusty or feel distracted in other ways, the
chanting becomes much harder. When you chant better, although these same issues may
still exist, somehow you just leave them aside. The problems will always be there
but you just leave them on the shelf and move along with the holy name. Then you
will feel much more protected and energized. When we have a good day of chanting,
our whole day seems much better. Although the social aspect may not go so well, you
will not be bothered to the same extent. If we feel more anxious or agitated, we
should look at the quality of our japa. We might find it lacking which means we are
interacting without sufficient protection.
Question: You explained that this process completely depends on the mercy that we
receive from Krishna and Lord Nityananda. What is the quickest way to get Their
Answer: Greed. However, we are not referring to spiritual lust or an opportunistic
mindset that just wants to receive without having any concern for others. It means
genuine spiritual greed. How do we get something in the material world? Greed. You
think about the object and then strategize. You look for opportunities to come
closer and closer to the object until you obtain it. It is a constant meditation
that keeps you determined until you acquire the desired object or goal. We have to
have greed and knowledge. If you know the wonderful qualities of an object, you
will somehow manage to keep yourself in line until you get it. From time to time,
we all have some things in our lives that we desperately want. Although they may be
hard to obtain, we will find ways to connect or at least try with all our energy
because of its importance to us. If something has no value to you, even the
slightest obstacles can cause you to give up because you do not want to do it
anyway. Often we lose determination because we really do not want to do the
activity or service and are just waiting for any opportunity to quit. And Krishna
will provide us with many opportunities. He may give you wealth, poverty, or bad
health and even let maya test your desires.
Question: How can we get that greed or desire?
Answer: Reading about the desired goal, as we are doing right now, can help us
honor it more. As we go deeper into the books, especially the Caitanya-caritamrta,
Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other works of the acaryas, we will begin to think more
about the nature of the goal. We will begin to wonder what is really available and
what people experience when they reach that end. As we hear about the wonderful
nature of the goal, we will also want to experience it. If we do not hear more
about the possibilities available to us, the day-to-day activities will simply
distract us. This can cause us to lose determination. If we do not allow the holy
name to come with us and we do not move with it, we will not know of its
extraordinary qualities. If our attraction to temporary things does not decrease,
we will not have a desire for the primary things. We will remain too occupied in
the temporary realm.
For this reason, one must have a certain disgust for the status quo in order to
accelerate. People who have too much attraction to the material nature are just
miserable. They are losers and sufferers because they identify with the suffering;
consequently, they will suffer. Although too much aversion can be excessive, we do
need to have a natural mood of disgust towards the material. When that natural mood
arises, we then have the facility to connect with our original nama, rupa, guna,
and lila. Otherwise we will remain connected to all of these illusory
characteristics that are part of the drama. We will continue to associate our nama,
rupa, guna, and lila with the temporary and remain absorbed in such.
Krishna Himself sometimes arranges to make material life miserable for us so that
we will move away from the temporary. Sometimes He intervenes to such an extent
that all of a persons material plans fall apart. Many young devotees come to
Krishna consciousness and think that they will become pure devotees in six months.
By the seventh month they lose enthusiasm and by the eighth month they are just
totally drained and bored. They do not know what to do next. Sometimes, even after
a few years, such devotees will leave and become involved in heavy sense
gratification. They will drink or engage in all the so-called pleasures of the
material world until they finally realize, Big deal. Im not happy or satisfied. I
am completely bored. People only talk about money and their endless problems. Where
is the prasadam? Where are the Deities and the devotees? Where are the festivals?
Hundreds of devotees had to undergo such experiences in order to see the devotees
as their real family.
When you go home to visit your relatives who are not spiritually inclined, you will
just become completely bored. All they want to do is watch television seven hours a
day and eat abominable food. They sleep fourteen hours and complain about
everything. Sometimes they do not even bathe. You might be in the kitchen trying to
cook but suddenly someone comes in and takes some bhoga right out of the pot. You
might try to offer an arati but someone else comes in and puts the radio on very
loud. After awhile you will begin to wonder why you came. Nevertheless, sometimes
people have to go through the experience.
Other people might go to another extreme. They might decide to get an apartment and
live alone in order to be peaceful. Then it is just them and the walls. We have to
have association and relationships. For the first five days, they might sleep ten
hours and eat seven times a day but after awhile, they just become fried. However,
one might need to have some of these experiences in order to realize the value of
devotional service.
For this reason, the Vedic system was designed to carry people through many
experiences. For instance, at an early age one would live in the gurus asrama as a
brahmacari. Later one would take to grhasta life in order to deal with so many
different issues. Then a person would be ready for vanaprastha and later sannyasa.
By that time, a person has experienced different relationships and economic
development, and has produced a few little children who look like them. They have
done everything and can take to Krishna consciousness in a deeper way. Actually, at
this stage, it is very deep because the mind does not carry feelings of regret.
When maya tries to kick in, they just kick maya right out because they know the
consequences. On the other hand, it is an unfortunate scenario when we find a
sannyasi who is now looking for a wife at the age of fifty. Maya suddenly kicks in
and reminds the person of the experience he missed. Someone else might suddenly
become enamored by money and become deviant as a result. We may still have a taste
for many other desires that can spring forth if the bhakti has not matured.
Hopefully, we have burned these desires up in previous lifetimes. When devotees are
very fixed, they may have special mercy, but in most cases, they have engaged in
all types of activities in past lifetimes. They may have resided in the heavenly
planets or had the position of a deva. They may have been in the Himalayas and may
have been gandharvas or vidyadharas. Most of the time, when someone is extremely
fixed, they have had many experiences and have paid their dues, which means that
they no longer have much genuine affection for the external. They really want the
higher taste and will not feel satisfied with their ordinary activities. Another
person might have such a desire to become a famous musician that they really will
not be happy until they have been through the experience. It may take many
lifetimes to have that experience.
Nevertheless, in Kali-yuga there is special mercy. Lord Nityananda knows that the
people are unqualified and have so many attractions. If we can just somehow take
shelter of the holy name and try to push the mind out of the way, we will receive
additional credits to move through these kinds of obstacles. If we just try to
associate with those who are more fixed and who have the taste, we will also
gradually get the taste. And, if we can just try to avoid offenses and try not to
envy the advanced devotees, we will find that our own quality will increase and we
will become less disturbed by other material allurements. On the other hand, if you
associate with devotees who have amazing fascinations or attachment for certain
types of sense gratification, they will fuel your own little flame until you also
become more addicted to that type of enjoyment. This is the power of association.
Some devotees completely gave up intoxications but due to association with fringe
devotees who take intoxication at times, it sparked their own desire and ignited
that lower passion. Suddenly they began to return to that type of lifestyle.
Association is very important because of our many dormant patterns. Higher bhakti
is dormant and past sense gratification is also dormant. They can come out one way
or the other. We need to have sufficient greed and constantly remind ourselves of
the available treasures. For this reason, hearing and chanting are essential. If we
do not hear and read, in time we will lose our sense of direction. We will lose the
desire to chant and eventually lose the desire to reject maya. With all of the
available technology these days, we have no reason to not absorb ourselves more.
There are so many books out now, but even if someone cannot read, there are so many
other ways to hear. It is so easy to have Prabhupada, the guru, or many devotees
present with you through tapes and videos. In earlier times, these options were not
available. Even in the early days of the International Society for Krishna
Consciousness (ISKCON) we had only one or two books. Now we have the VedaBase where
we can research almost any topic we want. Furthermore, various devotees have
undergone so many different experiences that have been taped or recorded.
There was a time in the movement when most of us were only between eighteen or
twenty years old. At that time, a devotee might have been considered senior at
twenty-six or twenty-seven although he or she may have only read the Bhagavad-gita,
Sri Isopanisad, and several cantos of the Bhagavatam. Today we have devotees who
have read the Bhagavatam many times and thoroughly know sastra. We have some
brahmanas in our movement who can quote verses from many different books so
expertly. It is amazing. We all have the ability to take shelter of scripture and
of the entire process. However, if we still do not take shelter, it means that we
have too much attraction for the temporary. In such a case, we either need to
intensely pray to Krishna to help us be freed of such desires, or we just have to
act upon them and hope that we do not get stuck before this life comes to an end.
We may just have to follow the dictates of the mind and senses until we can get
such experiences out of our system. Then we may finally be able to appreciate the
association of devotees and chant with a clear consciousness. Some people begin to
appreciate devotees the most when they have been away from devotee association for
extended periods of time. Just imagine a situation in which you are put into
confinement or into some situation in which you cannot chant. You would just be
hankering for your beads and for the ability to chant the holy name. In other
cases, you might be caught in a situation in which other people cannot hear or know
of your chanting. In such a situation, you may have to lock a door, take a long
walk, or find other ways to discreetly chant. Later, you will relish the
opportunity to be with a devotee.
When I traveled on trains in the early days in the former Communist countries, I
would lock myself in the bathroom and chant in order to avoid getting caught. In
such countries at that time, you could be arrested for carrying books or preaching
so I had to be very careful. I am already obvious by my dark color so people were
always watching me.
In those days, I was passionate and, in order to chant, I had to be standing and
chanting. Just imagine some foreigner in the public chanting in such a way. In
those days, I would chant forty-two rounds a day, which meant that I had to find
long blocks of time to chant somewhere. Imagine being locked for three to four
hours in a funky bathroom and just chanting. However, since it was more difficult,
I relished the holy name even more. People would knock on the bathroom but I would
just keep chanting. Sometimes I would even make the bathroom seem broken and then
two or three hours later I would walk out.
Although the toilets were terrible in such places, I was relishing. I wanted to
connect with the name, knowing that it was the only connection I had. There was no
arati, no Deity service, and no devotees. All I had were my rounds and the books.
Sometimes I would see the devotees three or four days later, and we might meet in
the early morning or later at night, but until then I only had the holy name.
Consequently, I had so much more intensity about chanting.
Krishna can make arrangements for us if we ask Him to help us in our growth and
really mean it. He will help us more and more. However, if we ask Krishna for help
and call His name but we do not really want the help, it will not manifest. We are
our greatest enemy. Haridasa Thakura is really telling us that the means and the
end are the same. It is just a matter of constant unfoldment. In Kali-yuga, because
of the difficult situation, the Lord brings it right before us and just slightly
covers it over so that we can gradually uncover the treasure and relish its nectar.
Chapter 3
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
When Lord Caitanya asks Srila Haridasa Thakura to speak on namabhasa or the
unclarified name of God, His great devotee once again feels overwhelmed with
ecstatic emotions. The merciful Lord Caitanya stretched out His lotus-like hands
and lifted up Srila Haridasa (Harinama Cintamani, 19). The reciprocity and love
that exists between Mahaprabhu and His devotee is awesome. Although the Lords
request completely humbles Haridasa Thakura, he simultaneously feels extremely
fortunate to have a chance to share this knowledge and render such an intimate
service. We should take advantage of this extraordinary conversation, which gives
us the opportunity to hear directly from a nitya-siddha and from Krishna Himself
who is speaking through His great servant. People do not always have the ability to
connect with such a valid source of knowledge so we should appreciate this chance
to hear directly from Krishna and His surrendered devotee. They have the capacity
to destroy ambiguity and confusion. Unless we clearly understand how we should act
and why we should perform certain duties, we will feel this ambiguity in our lives.
For instance, if you want to travel to another city and need the proper directions,
you should approach a person who travels or lives there because he or she can give
clear instructions. Similarly, these great personalities can clear away our
ambiguity through their instructions because Krishna has empowered them to help us
connect with our eternal home. Furthermore, they expertly know how to deal with the
specific disease that ails us due to the three modes of material nature. We should
always take shelter of such instructions and we should utilize this opportunity to
take shelter of Srila Haridasas instructions on the holy name.
Stage of Namabhasa
In Chapter Three, Srila Haridasa gives a detailed explanation of the stage of
namabhasa along with its benefits and limitations.
Lord Krishna is the omnipotent spiritual sun, and He and His name are identical.
Thus, the holy name is like the all-powerful, brilliant sun that disperses the
darkness of maya or nescienceBut sometimes clouds and mist obscure ones vision,
and then the sun is not visible. The jiva is covered over by the cloud of anartha
and the mist of ignorance. The cloud and mist spread a blanket over the jivas
vision so that he is unable to see the sunlike holy name. The sun is too big for
any cloud or mist to cover, but if the jivas vision is obfuscated, then the sun is
hidden from him.
Harinama Cintamani, 19
The jiva allows the clouds to cover the holy name and, although the name is
extremely powerful, the jivas free will permits him to temporarily connect with
different aspects of the illusion. The anarthas in particular prevent the jiva from
experiencing greater reciprocation with Krishna and the holy name. Srila Haridasa
refers to these blocks as clouds and mist that obfuscate the souls vision.
Ignorance and especially anarthas maintain this covering. As we gain knowledge and
gradually free ourselves of anarthas, the sun will begin to manifest in its full
radiance and potency. However, the neophyte has the tendency to minimize the
seriousness of the coverings and to even act in ways that amplify the anarthas.
Clouds of Anarthas
Haridasa Thakura then categorizes these clouds of anarthas into three groups. The
first cloud is asat-trsna or thirsting for the illusory. This cloud results from
desires for so-called material gains that are temporary, relative, and
insubstantial. We often feel that we need to have these experiences although the
gains never last permanently. Hrdaya-daurbalyam is the second cloud, and refers to
a weakness of heart and mind. Although we distinctly have some desires for purity,
self-realization, and unconditional service, a weak constitution indicates that our
unhealthy desires far outweigh our positive desires. Furthermore, Krishna responds
to the aggregate of our desires. If these unhealthy desires remain strong, they
will produce inauspicious results because the Lord in the heart constantly monitors
our consciousness. If our desires for sense gratification and deviation are
stronger than our desires for devotion, we will continue to encounter
inauspiciousness in our environment as well as in our mind. Finally, anarthas or
offenses form the third cloud. These anarthas are responsible for so much of the
suffering that the jiva experiences.
Dwindling Creeper
Why does a devotees devotional creeper fail to blossom nicely although he or she
may seem to have determination, engage in prayer, and somewhat follow the
principles? A devotee who does not properly understand the causes of stagnation may
begin to doubt the process and look everywhere to find a justifiable reason for
leaving the royal path of devotion. He or she may even find justifiable reasons to
remain angry with Krishna. Although the devotee may decide that the process lacks
potency due to the stagnation or set back, a falldown actually indicates its real
potency. It is so potent that a deviant cannot maintain a faade. A falldown should
also remind us that Krishna is constantly monitoring and personally rectifying each
situation. It indicates the presence of a discrepancy that can cause a devotee to
minimize the path of bhakti.
An excessive amount of jnana-misra bhakti, yoga-misra bhakti, and karma-misra
bhakti will contaminate the devotional creeper until it weakens, dwindles, and
sometimes even takes a temporary death. If we take a medication that does not
affect the weakened creeper in any positive or negative way, it indicates its lack
of efficacy. A powerful medicine should immediately begin to cure our sickness. On
the other hand, if we have a potent medicine but fail to take it properly, our
sickness will continue to worsen. These factors can help us determine the potency
of a medicine.
If a self-willed devotee who deviates internally and externally has the same level
of consciousness as a very loyal devotee who takes constant shelter of sadhu,
sastra, and guru, it means that this process is simply mythological or sentimental
and we should pursue another path. However, the process works and the creeper will
grow if we give it protection and nourishment. If we see the creeper dwindling, we
should immediately follow Haridasa Thakuras instructions by rooting out the
anarthas and aparadhas. We all have so many of these weeds, and if we continue to
locate them through constant introspection, we will then be able to pull them out.
We Must Constantly Grow
We should constantly grow in our level of maturity and in our appreciation of the
gift given to us by our great predecessors. We should gradually begin to experience
the theology in such a deep way that, when we read the books, we will no longer
categorize them as just historical accounts of bygone ages. Devotees cannot
continue in the devotional process for months and years without somehow developing
a genuine taste for service because the taste for sense gratification will once
again increase. A devotee cannot just continue to repress but he or she must
genuinely mature and unfold. Sometimes we repress because we lack steadfastness and
do not follow the science properly; therefore, the material desires will overwhelm
us since we have simply repressed them instead of fully eradicating them. The
unhealthy desires can even manifest in such a strong way that they drag us away
from devotional service. If they do not attack us with that intensity, we may stay
in the process of devotional service but we will continue to serve in the spirit of
retirement. We then turn Krishna consciousness into a religion and no longer
inconvenience ourselves through service.
However, love means that we want to arrange for the enjoyment of the beloved and
feel eager to move beyond our own personal comfort zone to ensure their pleasure.
When we lack taste and faith, although we may continue in our service, we will
serve mechanically or systematically by remaining within our comfort zone. Although
we have to maintain body and soul together in a practical way, which is an integral
part of our preaching, we are not an ordinary religion and comfort is not our major
priority. We are not even an ordinary process in Vedic culture nor do we simply
honor varnasrama-dharma as our goal. We do not want to just become loyal members of
a powerful institution but we want to experience the theology in such a way that
our lives preach our message. We want people to feel amazed by our culture of
devotion. If the participants are wholesome, the families are strong, and their
physical and psychological needs are met, this devotional culture will certainly
amaze people. Most important, they should see how the spiritual care offered to
those in the immediate environment extends outwards. We must first influence our
own families and communities in order to influence the society. If we cannot first
help ourselves, how will we execute the commission of these great acaryas who want
us to assist them in global transformation?
Sambandha is the Foundation
Before delving fully into the depths of namabhasa, Srila Haridasa explains that the
preceptor has a duty to inaugurate the devotees into the proper understanding of
sambandha. Without clearly establishing our own identity and relationship with
Krishna, we may as well build a house without a foundation. We can engage all our
energy in building the most gorgeous tower, but if the ground floor and initial
beams weakly totter to and fro, the seemingly gorgeous structure will simply
collapse. Without a proper understanding of sambandha, the devotee will not develop
a sufficient understanding of abhidheya and prayojana.
The Power of the Holy Name
After establishing this knowledge as a secure foundation, Srila Haridasa then tunes
us into namabhasa.
Verily, namabhasa is one of the jivas greatest virtues. It offers him more good
fortune than religiosity, vows, yoga, sacrifices and so on, put together.
Harinama Cintamani, 22
Despite the fact that anarthas still contaminate the chanting, this stage alone
gives more benefits and blessings than the combination of all these other pious
activities. It shows the power of connecting with the holy name, which comes
directly from the spiritual world:
golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana
rati na janmilo kene tay
samsara-bisanale diba nisi hiya jwale
juraite na koinu upay
The treasure of love of God has descended from the spiritual world of Goloka
Vrndavana, appearing in this world as the sankirtana movement of the chanting of
Lord Haris holy names. Why am I not attracted to it? Day and night I burn from the
poison of material existence, but still I refuse to take the antidote.
Ista-deve Vijnapti, 2
The holy name is our fax line to the spiritual world. When we send a fax to another
person, we may not always receive an immediate response but we can still access the
person since our message reached its destination. Even though the full reception of
the holy name does not occur in the namabhasa stage, we do in fact make a genuine
connection. Although the chanting lacks perfection at this stage, the holy name is
still so powerful that we must carefully honor it and properly perceive the
chanters of the name.
Four Attitudes in Namabhasa
The four attitudes in namabhasa chanting are sanketa (unintentionally), parihasa
(in jest or ridicule), stoma (derisively) and hela (with disregard and neglect).
Harinama Cintamani, 22
Sanketa Attitude
Haridasa Thakura breaks the first attitude into two categories:
1) when one, though intending to chant Lord Visnus name, has a material conception
of it, and 2) when one has something entirely different than the Lord or His name
on his mind, but chants the holy name being somehow or other reminded of that
transcendental sound.
Harinama Cintamani, 22
Some people may have an improper conception of the holy name and, although they may
chant as a way to connect with the demigods, affect their karma, gain wealth, or
annihilate their enemies, they will still gain some blessings. They still have the
association of the holy name with some of its potency despite their lack of
awareness. He then gives us an example of such chanting:
The yavanas eat cows, yet in spite of this they can attain liberation by uttering
haram, an ordinary word in their language (Urdu) where Lord Krishnas name is
automatically chanted. The power of the holy name is never diminished even if
chanted in sanketa-namabhasa.
Harinama Cintamani, 22-23
Although a person can benefit from the recitation of the word and even attain
liberation, they will not get pure love of God. The holy name has such potency that
even the sound vibration of the word haram will invoke the Lords name and benefit
the person. This seemingly accidental utterance of the holy name indicates some
unusual karmic arrangement meant for the persons benefit.
Parihasa Attitude
The second attitude, parihasa, can also lead to liberation. For example, Jarasandha
chanted in jest or ridicule but he attained liberation. Sisupala chanted derisively
but he also attained the same destination.
Even chanting inattentively and with disregard results in deliverance from the
pangs of material existence. Namabhasa chanting can purify anyone; people of low
upbringing like mlecchas, gross materialists, and lazy persons can all avail of
this opportunity to obtain liberation.
Harinama Cintamani, 23
One can chant the name in two different ways, faithfully or neglectfully.
Faithful chanting that is still afflicted by anarthas is known as sraddha-nama, as
You Yourself have explained, my Lord. The element of real sraddha (faith) is absent
in the four attitudes of namabhasa chanting, and sanketa chanting is tinged with
neglect. Nonetheless, even hela-namabhasa (chanting with neglect) gives one
liberation, what to speak of faithful chanting.
Harinama Cintamani, 23
Due to the lack of deep faith, one will not experience the full benefits associated
with the holy name. Short of Krishna-prema, every other success is available in
namabhasa. (Harinama Cintamani, 23). Simply at this stage, a person can achieve
many objectives such as liberation, mystic powers, and wealth although individual
karma also influences the results. Although namabhasa offers many varieties of
success, it cannot give krnsa-prema or the pure name. Srila Haridasas
glorification of namabhasa disturbed and angered Gopala Cakravarti to such an
extent that he strongly criticized Srila Haridasa. Haridasa Thakura openly claimed
that a person could attain liberation from the stage of namabhasa but Gopala
Cakravarti simply saw him as some sentimental practitioner. Gopala Cakravarti
thought that a person must perform endless yajnas and practice austerities for many
lifetimes in order to attain liberation so, when Haridasa made his claim, Gopala
Cakravarti felt extremely disturbed. Nevertheless, we accept Srila Haridasas
explanation of namabhasa as perfect.
Two Kinds of Namabhasa
Srila Haridasa Thakura then describes the two kinds of namabhasa: chaya and
The scriptures are filled with words like namabhasa, vaisnava-abhasa, sraddha-
abhasa, rati-abhasa, prema-abhasa, mukti-abhasa, etc. The suffix abhasa has a
special meaning and is of versatile application... Factually, abhasa (faint or
indistinct presence) is of two sorts: svarupa-abhasa and pratibimba-abhasa.
Svarupa-abhasa is the partial infiltration of the full brilliance; for example, on
a cloudy day the light of the sun is present, but the full brilliance of the sun is
shaded by the clouds.
Harinama Cintamani, 24
If we simply remove these clouds of false ego, ignorance, aparadhas, and anarthas,
we will experience the full presence of the effulgent name.
On the other hand, pratibimba-abhasa reflects a distorted image of the real object,
just as sunlight is misrepresented when reflected off the surface of water. This
distorted reflection allows only inaccurate perception of the original source of
light. Pratibimba-namabhasa appears when the rays of the holy name reflect off the
lake of mayavadi thought, bequeathing sayujya-mukti upon the mayavadis who chant
Harinama Cintamani, 24
This second category is much more serious than the first because it can even cause
a devotee to give up their shelter of the holy name. He warns us against the
mayavadi perception, which minimizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead along with
our own eternal personality. It minimizes our eternal relationships,
responsibilities, obligations, and services that exist in the spiritual world.
People who have this mayavadi tendency in their consciousness will not attain the
highest goal. We should carefully avoid such people because their contaminating
association can divert us from our initial contact with the benefits of the holy
Chanting in pratibimba-namabhasa increases ones offenses. According to the
mayavadis, Lord Krishnas name, form, qualities and pastimes are all illusory,
false, temporary and contaminated.
Harinama Cintamani, 25
Such people do not really want to know Krishna. Although they may engage in some
basic Vedic activities, they will miss the final goal and fail to properly
understand the ultimate siddhanta. The chanting is very powerful and namabhasa is
capable of leading a person to prema, but if this type of mentality contaminates
the persons consciousness, he or she will gradually slide down.
I bow down to that fortunate soul who has freed himself from committing
namaparadha, offenses against the holy name, in the namabhasa stage. This namabhasa
stage is far beyond knowledge and fruitive work. And if ones sraddha is
furthermore rooted in rati or attraction and is offenseless as well, then gradually
it will lead to the pure name.
Harinama Cintamani, 23
He concludes this section by saying:
Diligently avoid the association of mayavadis! Please serve those who are attached
to chanting purely! O Lord Caitanya, this is Your injunction and whoever follows it
is very fortunate. Those who disregard and disobey this instruction are wretches
who will suffer eternally. O my Lord! Please bless me so I can reject bad
association and take shelter at Your lotus feet! There is no other way.
Harinama Cintamani, 27
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you explain why it is said that the namabhasa stage is greater than
religiosity, vows, study of the Vedas, yoga, and sacrifice put together?
Answer: Yes, here we are referring to chaya-namabhasa, or the faint shadowy name,
which is free of offenses but is still not pure. In the Skanda Purana, it is said,
Lord Hari has gathered from charity, vows, austerities, pilgrimages, the demigods,
the great saints, the rajasuya and asvamedha-yajnas, and the study of
transcendental knowledge all their powers to bring auspiciousness and remove sins,
and placed these powers in His holy names. The results of pious religious
activities, austerities, and yoga such as sense pleasures, liberation, and mystic
powers are included among the benefits that namabhasa brings.
Pious deeds are all material; they are only a means to attain an end. Once the end
is attained, the means are thrown away. However, the holy name of Lord Hari is
spiritual. The holy name may be the means to attain an end, but when one attains
the end, he or she finds that the holy name itself is also the end. In fact, all
the different limbs of devotional service take shelter of the holy name of Lord
Despite all the benedictions we mentioned, we should remember that namabhasa does
not grant pure love for Lord Krishna, which is the highest goal of life. So, as we
continue chanting and trying to avoid offenses, let us pray for the mercy to
develop strong faith and attraction which will make the sun of the pure name shine
in our hearts.
Question: The sahajiyas and the Mayavadis also chant the holy names. Do both of
these cases represent namabhasa? Which groups chanting would be more potent?
Answer: In one sense, the chanting of the sahajiyas and the Mayavadis can be called
pratibimba-namabhasa (reflection of the name) because they yearn to attain material
pleasures or impersonal liberation. However, often this pratibimba-namabhasa turns
to nama-aparadha. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has explained that,
although both are offensive, the sahajiyas chanting is better than the Mayavadis.
To understand why, we have to elaborate on the general characteristics and
activities of these two groups.
The sahajiya is a type of neophyte devotee of Krishna who is only interested in
Krishnas personal pastimes and disregards the activities of the devotees. They do
not have the strong foundation of sambandha because they neglect the study of Vedic
scriptures and refuse to follow viddhi-marga, or the path of regulative principles
in devotional service. Such people consider themselves spontaneously elevated to
the highest level of bhakti and imitate the conjugal pastimes of Krishna. Thus, in
the name of devotional activities, the sahajiyas are addicted to all kinds of
sinful acts including illicit sex, intoxication, etc. In Vrndavana you can meet
such sahajiyasthey have chanting beads, but they also have dozens of women and a
marijuana pipe.
The sahajiyas do chant the holy names, but often they concoct their own mantras
that are not authorized by sadhu or sastra. While chanting, they make a show of
ecstatic symptoms like crying, shivering, and falling on the ground, which is only
a cheap imitation of the genuine advanced features of devotional service. This
behavior can be misleading and bewildering to some beginners in Krishna
consciousness. One should be aware that the sahajiyas can actually present the most
danger to authentic bhakti because their actions imitate those of an advanced
devotee but lack authenticity. However, there is some hope for the sahajiyas
because as soon as they come in contact with a pure devotee, they will be able to
drop all pretension and become real lovers of Krishna.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.24 reveals the real condition of such pseudo devotees:
tad asma-saram hrdayam batedam
yad grhyamanair hari-nama-dheyaih
na vikriyetatha yada vikaro
netre jalam gatra-ruhesu harsah
Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of ones chanting the holy
name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place,
tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.
Even though the sahajiyas imitate the symptoms of love of God, they remain
stonehearted because they do not accept the bona fide process to purify their
hearts. Therefore, the sahajiyas chanting is considered on the level of
namaparadha because they criticize the devotees of the Lord, disregard the Vedic
scriptures, give concocted interpretations on the holy name, and continue to
indulge in sinful activities.
While the sahajiyas at least accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
the Mayavadis think that everyone is God. They claim, The demigods are God, I am
God, and you are God. Therefore, they say that one can chant any name and become
liberated. However, only the holy name of the Supreme Lord will be effective for
attaining pure love. The Mayavadi sannyasis usually avoid chanting and dancing
because they consider it to be sentimental. They may even utter the Hare Krishna
maha-mantra but only to attain impersonal liberation.
The Mayavadis are very proud of their scrutinizing study of Vedanta. Since they
think that perfecting the knowledge of Vedanta is the all in all, they are not so
interested in the chanting of the holy name. A devotee must know the importance of
simultaneously understanding Vedanta philosophy and chanting the holy names. If by
studying Vedic scriptures one becomes an impersonalist, he or she has not been able
to understand the purpose of the Vedas.
As we will discuss later in this book, offenseless chanting leads to remembering
the form and the pastimes of the Lord. However, the Mayavadis can neither think of
the form of the Lord or of His pastimes because they do not believe that the Lord
has form and pastimes. They think these are all maya, illusion. The Mayavadis
equate the holy name of the Supreme Lord to the names of the demigods, criticize
the Vaisnavas, and consider chanting a mere pious activity. For this reason, Srila
Haridasa Thakura explains that their chanting is pratibimba-namabhasa, which is a
major aparadha, and therefore cannot be counted as namabhasa at all. Even though
they pronounce the holy name, they do not access the potency of the name.
At the end of this chapter, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Haridasa Thakura strongly
warn us against hearing from the Mayavadi philosophers. Milk touched by the lips of
a serpent has poisonous effects. Similarly, hearing the Mayavadis chant will have
a poisonous effect on our spiritual life and will block our devotional progress. We
should always remember this when a question arises about the chanting of other
names. We should chant the holy name of Krishna rather than anyone elses name.
Similarly, we should avoid the association of sahajiyas. Their association changes
the transcendental devotional service of Lord Krishna into sense gratification, and
when sense gratification enters the mind of a devotee, he or she is contaminated.
With such a materialistic mentality, a devotee cannot properly think of Krishna.
We should be on guard to avoid such association, especially when visiting the holy
places in India. We find nondevotees, Mayavadi sannyasis, prakrta-sahajiyas, mental
speculators, and many others with material motives going to live in Vrndavana and
other pilgrimage places. Many of these people go there to solve their economic
problems by becoming beggars. We should very carefully avoid mixing with them.
Srila Rupa Gosvami describes six ways to properly associate with devoteesgiving
charity, accepting charity, accepting food, offering food, talking confidentially,
and inquiring confidentially.
We should also examine ourselves to see whether or not we have any hidden sahajiya
or Mayavada tendencies still lingering in our hearts. Do I want to enjoy Krishna or
be His humble servant? Do I want to become God or serve God? Do I chant Hare
Krishna to experience higher sense pleasure and liberation or to attain pure love?
Srila Jiva Gosvami warns that thinking of oneself as an associate of the Supreme
without following in the footsteps of the gopis is as offensive as thinking of
oneself as the Supreme. It is an aparadha to think in this way. Still, in terms of
chanting, the sahajiyas are better because they at least accept Krishna as the
Supreme Lord, but the impersonalists are hopelessly atheistic. Unfortunately, both
of these groups mislead others from authentic devotional service.
Chapter 4
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In the Fourth Chapter, Srila Haridasa lists the ten offenses against the holy name
and then closely analyzes the first offense. Throughout the remainder of this
Harinama Cintamani, Srila Haridasa will give an amazing elucidation on each
particular offense. Every morning we recite these ten offenses before chanting our
rounds but this repeated recitation may desensitize us to the deeper meaning. We
must remember that these grave offenses will inhibit the full effect of the
chanting. From time to time, we must revisit these offenses in a deeper mood in
order to take a personal inventory and determine our own level of freedom from
these aparadhas. If our taste is diminishing and our chanting is full of
complexities, we need to look for the causes of the obfuscations. Why do we feel
embarrassed when we call out to Krishna? What aspects of our consciousness take us
away from His shelter and create the craziness and insanity that keeps us in this
material world?
Our Only Shelter is Krishna
Srila Haridasa humbly begins:
O Lord, whatever I say will be on Your prompting alone. I am a mere puppet. The
scriptures enumerate ten offenses against the holy name, and I am very fearful of
these offenses. I will list them one by one; please give me strength to avoid these
offenses, my Lord.
Harinama Cintamani, 29
After listing the ten offenses, he then begins a detailed explanation of the first
offense, which is to criticize or blaspheme a saintly person. He first describes
the twenty-six qualities of a sadhu which are of two kinds: svarupa and tatastha.
Of all these qualities, the devotees acceptance of Lord Krishna as his or her only
shelter is primary and is called the svarupa-laksana. In comparison to this
quality, all the other qualities are simply ornaments that enhance or amplify the
essence. The svarupa-laksana is the chief quality and the real identity of the
jiva. Consequently, the most significant aspect of a genuine Vaisnavas identity is
that he or she accepts Lord Krishna as the only shelter.
All the other qualities such as mercy, tolerance, truthfulness, or compassion
simply ornament the Vaisnava. Ornaments do not have much of a purpose unless they
decorate an object but once they fulfill this purpose, they have great value and
enhance the object itself. Srila Haridasa knows the difficulty of accessing our
primary identity in this age of Kali and of making the necessary transitions. In
previous ages, a person could reach perfection through meditation, temple worship,
or yajnas, but in Kali-yuga, we cannot even perform one of the nine-fold activities
nicely. Although just one of these nine activities can result in full love of
Godhead, we engage in all nine and still have problems. Fortunately he gives us a
special way to have hope in spite of the constant challenges in this Kali-yuga. The
holy name is our source of hope.
These qualities can be divided into two categories: svarupa, or the direct and
indigenous qualities of any substance, and tatastha, qualities that are ornamental
and which are visible when the substance comes in contact with something else. The
sadhus acceptance of Lord Krishna as his only shelter is his svarupa-laksana, and
all the other qualities are tatastha.
Harinama Cintamani, 30
Draupadi perfectly displays this quality. Although she had such powerful husbands
and so much opulence in the palace, nothing could really give her full shelter or
protection. When Duhsasana insulted Draupadi by attempting to pull off her sari,
only Krishna could protect her and she immediately sought His shelter with full
dedication. Haridasa Thakura and Sudama, Krishnas school friend, also displayed
this characteristic. Whether Krishna is supplying or withholding, the great sadhus
and acaryas always remain fixed under His shelter. They have the ability to
appreciate Krishnas presence in all circumstances:
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me,
as pearls are strung on a thread.
Bhagavad-gita, 7.7
A high quality devotee always sees Krishna as his well-wisher, ultimate protector,
and provider. Regardless of the external arrangements, Krishna says, kaunteya
pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My
devotee never perishes (Bhagavad-gita, 9.31). He does not say that His devotees
will not undergo struggles or challenges in terms of the body, mind, and
environment but, in spite of such obstacles, the great acaryas always remain fully
cognizant of Krishnas presence.
We should view service as a wonderful opportunity given by Krishna to reciprocate
with Him through a loving offering. We should serve in the mood that the results
depend on us and unless we put forth an endeavor to execute our services, they will
not get done. While we serve meticulously with great care and attention, and
endeavor to do the right activity in the right way, at the end of the day we must
realize that all the results actually depend on Krishna alone. We are not the doers
or the controllers; rather, Krishna is the only ultimate controller. If Krishna
ultimately wants to save us, nothing can alter that arrangement. If Krishna wants
us to experience a specific difficulty, we can expertly make so many arrangements
but they will just fall apart.
We have all experienced such circumstances in our own lives. At times, we may
invest so much time and energy into a project that simply will not manifest or
unfold according to our expectations. At other times we may embark upon a complex
project with sincerity and dedication, and then an almost impossible outcome
becomes an established reality. We have each had these experiences and we simply
need to reflect more on Krishnas active presence in our lives so that we can offer
more in return.
Srila Haridasa then explains that saintliness depends upon the svarupa-laksana:
External designations (such as the four social and religious orders of brahmana,
ksatriya, vaisya, sudra and brahmacari, grhasta, vanaprastha and sannyasi) are not
the symptoms of a sadhu. The scriptures expound that the quality of complete
surrender to Lord Krishna is the hallmark of a sadhu, and he alone can chant
Krishnas name purely.
Harinama Cintamani, 31
After describing the true qualities of a sadhu, he then tunes into sadhu-ninda or
offenses against the devotees of the Lord. He is not just referring to an offense
against a high level devotee, but he is showing how any type of vaisnava-aparadha
will check and cancel a devotees spiritual life. If criticism is made against a
sadhu for sins committed prior to his surrendering to Krishna, that is likewise
another serious offense; such a faultfinder surely invites the wrath of Lord
Krishna (Harinama Cintamani, 32).
Lovingly Address Problems
Vaisnava-aparadha not only includes offenses against a pure devotee but it also
results from an offense against a devotee who has accidentally fallen. If we engage
in too much unhealthy criticism of a devotee who has come out of a negative
situation due to weakness of heart, we can weaken and destroy our own devotional
creeper. We have the duty to be spiritual scientists who constantly monitor in
order to discover the proper course of action. We want to be servants by constantly
trying to facilitate others, working first on ourselves, and then lovingly
addressing problems when they arise. If we ignore or deny a problem, we actually
reinforce it and minimize our duty as servants of each other.
Srila Haridasa lets us know that, although we have a duty to address deviations, we
must look at our consciousness when we approach such delicate situations. If we
approach a person in order to bring about their demise or advertise our own
advanced position without really caring about their well-being, we have placed
ourselves into a very dangerous position. For instance, we should not really
chastise a child without simultaneously giving love. A parent who gives love to the
child also has the ability to correct because the child will then recognize the
chastisement as another expression of love. However, a parent who does not give
protection, care, or affection should not really involve themselves in the
chastisement of the child.
Similarly, if a devotee criticizes the deviation of another devotee without
genuinely trying to assist them in their spiritual life, such a negative mentality
can cause serious consequences in the devotees own devotional life. This should
remind us of the importance and rarity of each devotee. The entities have come from
many universes in order to participate in Lord Caitanyas movement and in His wave
of devotion. Although a person may have a crazy personality, we should not dismiss
the special position of any soul who has somehow come to Krishna. Even though the
soul may only temporarily remain in the Lords service, he has chanted the holy
names and has contacted the spiritual world through the transmission of the name.
This offense explains some of the troubles in our own lives and in the institution,
which result from a minimization of the importance of devotees and from too much
exploitation and capitalization. When we see a problem, we may simply engage in
faultfinding instead of lovefinding. In other cases, we may either ignore the issue
or try to deal with the problem without a sufficient amount of concern for the
person. If we jump into the crisis without looking for the cause of the problem, we
may then create another problem. In this process we make offenses to our peers and
to the devotees in general which weakens the devotional creeper. Mahaprabhu is
calling to souls all over the world who come from many different backgrounds.
Furthermore, the devotees have come from all different experiences in their past
lives and have been apsaras, gandharvas, vidyadharas, yogis, or sruti-dharas. In
spite of all these experiences, they have simply come to engage in saranagati in
which the prime quality is to accept Krishna as ones ultimate shelter. In this
lifetime, they have had to relinquish siddhic powers or opulences and instead
experience many complications, which can then cause them to minimize their identity
and the extraordinary nature of their connection.
When a person has a failure or makes a mistake, it is simply an aspect of that
person but it does not mean that he or she is a failure. It is dangerous to see
ourselves as failures. Although we may make mistakes in our lives, we can
acknowledge the accident, learn from the experience, and move on in a more positive
way. Once a person thinks, I am a failure, this mantra will disturb their entire
life because they have accepted mediocrity and deviation. The devotee then accepts
their position as mayas agent and soon begins to act accordingly. However, if we
see the failure from another perspective, we can use it as a chance to change. The
failure may have resulted from inattentiveness and a lack of appreciation. It could
mean that the individual did not properly remove the clouds that blocked the sun
from shining through. It can help the devotee recognize the importance of weeding
out the offenses instead of watering them more than the creeper. If the devotee
thinks in this way, he or she can search for better association and take the
scriptures more seriously.
Danger of Offenses
We have many stories throughout the sastra that clearly portray the danger of an
offense. For instance, in the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva
Gosvami describes the downfall of Saubhari Muni. He was a powerful yogi with
amazing siddhic powers who was practicing his austerities under the water. At one
point, Garuda arrived at the Yamuna River in order to eat fish but Saubhari Muni
gave the fish shelter under his care. Saubhari Muni actually committed vaisnava-
aparadha since he impeded the plans of Garuda, a great Vaisnava devotee of the
Lord. This offense weakened the Munis spiritual immune system to the point that,
when he saw two fish copulating in the water, he became agitated and completely
lost his equilibrium. Out of a desire for sense gratification, he emerged from the
water and, after obtaining many wives, he began to enjoy life. Of course he later
regretted his actions but, due to the aparadha, he temporarily fell into complete
sense gratification. The desires, which had seemingly diminished, suddenly
reappeared with renewed strength and forced him to act accordingly.
We can see the consequences of an aparadha even in our own environment. Sometimes a
devotee may seem quite strong in their spiritual practices but suddenly fall prey
to a serious deviation. Even though the devotee had knowledge and strength, he may
fall prey to the very deviation that he preached against. This means that some of
the mercy has been withdrawn due to offenses and especially due to sadhu-ninda.
Srila Haridasa then describes the two types of bad association that cause one to
disrespect devotees. They include the association with a person who is too attached
to the opposite sex and with a nondevotee. If one intimately associates with such
people, one will gradually begin to think, speak, and act like them. Finally, the
devotee will lose the mercy. He concludes Chapter Four by evaluating the position
of the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari, and uttama-adhikari.
If anyone offends a sadhu in a moment of delusion and madness, he must fall at the
sadhus feet and repent bitterly; weeping and full of contrition, he must beg
forgiveness. He should declare himself a fallen wretch in need of a Vaisnavas
grace. A sadhu is very merciful; his heart will soften and he will embrace the
offender, thus exonerating him from his offenses.
Harinama Cintamani, 37
Questions & Answers
Question: We may not always want to speak to other devotees about their deviations
since we fear that our words may damage them instead of help them. As a result, we
decide to avoid the issue entirely. Is this also an offense?
Answer: It is a matter of consciousness. Our interactions with other people do not
always depend on our actual words and actions since our consciousness often has a
more significant effect. In a culture of love, we want to find the best means to be
available to assist the beloved. In this mood, we call each other prabhu. In some
cases, a parent may help the child by reinforcing proper behavior, but in other
cases, the parent may need to check an inappropriate behavior as a way to instruct.
However, in each case, the parent should constantly consider the well-being of the
child and act accordingly. If we arrogantly approach a person while thinking of
ourselves as superior, we may simply intend to belittle them, which will definitely
not help the situation. We should constantly try to find ways to genuinely assist,
and after reflecting on the persons ultimate welfare, we try our best. Although we
may still make a mistake, if we have approached the situation with the proper
consciousness, the mistake will not be so serious. On the other hand, when the
consciousness is not in the proper place, we are definitely held fully accountable.
Question: In terms of vaisnava-aparadha, although we may recognize the symptoms of
an offense, we may not be able to recognize the particular devotee who we offended.
How do we know who we have offended and how do we rectify the aparadha?
Answer: If we chant the holy name without tears pouring from our eyes and without a
deep feeling of love, it indicates that we commit offenses. We constantly make all
types of accidental offenses in our daily lives. In general, we should think, I am
an offender. I have a material body which means that I have turned my back on
Krishnas lila. I constantly think of sense gratification, and if circumstances
permit the fulfillment of my senses, I may take advantage of the opportunity. I
offend others by constantly thinking of my own needs first. When I come before the
Deity, most of the time I do not even really recognize the full presence of Krishna
in His arca-vigraha. When I water tulasi, I do not really understand her exalted
position as Krishnas pure servant.
If we first accept that offenses constantly contaminate our basic condition, we
will naturally have a certain mood of humility along with a desire to rise above
such blocks. Secondly, we should try to see all our interactions with the devotees
as an opportunity to serve our spiritual master. We have asked the devotees here at
the Gita Nagari farm community in rural Pennsylvania to serve each other as if the
success or failure of their own spiritual lives depends on their quality of service
to the other devotees. If we take each devotee seriously without considering their
position as our senior, junior, or peer, we will have the ability to approach
everyone with a genuine mood of concern and love. Then we will not find ourselves
bogged down by endless offenses because we will constantly try to see Krishna or
guru in each interaction. We will relate to each devotee with great care and
Even if we can maintain this conscientious mood, we must still feel humble and
constantly pray for forgiveness from our offenses. If we feel an uncertainty, we
can always ask a devotee if we have offended them and then beg for forgiveness.
Even if we have not offended the devotee, it will help us become more conscientious
in our interactions and may even improve the quality of our relationship with the
particular devotee. Hopefully we can deeply relate in the spirit of genuine sadhus
and Vaisnavas.
Question: When we see a sadhu, we may need to exercise our power of discrimination
in order to determine right from wrong. What if we mistakenly view a genuine saint
as a deviant? Is it an offense?
Answer: Yes, but it still depends on our intention. Adherents to the New Age
philosophy and many people in general think that judgment should be avoided but our
view completely opposes this mentality. Although we do make judgments, we must
consider the way in which we evaluate situations. Love means monitoring, concern,
and protection. It means that we should look at ourselves and at others in order to
determine the best course of action. We should put our energies into lovefinding
and examining behaviors according to the sastra. We want to know if certain
behaviors correspond to the words and actions of guru and the previous acaryas. We
should hear and watch another person but we should make the evaluation as a way to
advance. We should eagerly desire to know more about our eternal home and should
try our best to receive the blessings of the acaryas.
In this chapter, Srila Haridasa explained that love of God is contained within the
heart of the pure devotees of Krishna and is available by hearing and associating
with such souls. Krishna allows the transmission of love to flow from the heart of
the unalloyed devotee to the aspirant. In order to increase the transmission, we
can honor the remnants of food from the pure devotee, the dust from their lotus
feet, and the bath water from their feet. He is helping us understand the
importance of a sadhu and is giving ways to rise above the namabhasa platform.
The sastra gives us an understanding of the nature of a genuine sadhu and guru,
which means that we must carefully scrutinize the sastra in order to make an
evaluation. We should not just accept everything indiscriminately. Our acaryas did
not have this mood. They did not want people to deny the sinful nature of the
material energy or overlook Krishnas beauty or variegatedness. In order to
genuinely examine the nature of an object or person, we must examine the nama,
guna, rupa, and lila. This requires a certain amount of scrutinization.
Question: A devotee may be highly spiritual but still have greed, anger, and other
negative qualities. How do we make an overall evaluation of such a person?
Answer: It just means that the devotee may not be at the highest level. A devotee
can chant the holy name and have some good qualities but still suffer from greed,
lust, anger, or other similar qualities. We should respect the person and recognize
him or her as a devotee, but since the person has not reached a high level of
devotion, we do not have a duty to follow their example or even take their
association. However, we still need to carefully scrutinize the situation. A
devotee may exhibit anger as an aspect of love because a devotee should show
concern and address deviation. Each person has emotions, which manifest in
different ways according to their particular connection with their beloved.
Nevertheless, we still need to understand from sastra the proper behavior of a
sadhu and use the examples in the scripture to recognize a deviation. We should not
deny an improper situation. We should realize that such behavior is not first
class, and if we are taking such a persons association, we should remain vigilant
in order to avoid picking up such negative qualities. If possible, we should try to
relinquish our own negative qualities so that our association can help the person
work on their weaknesses.
Question: Can you explain the difference between being discerning rather than
Answer: Once again we must look at our own purpose behind a judgment. Judgment can
be wonderful if we desire to serve and care for others. For example, we can learn
to serve better by watching those devotees who chant and serve nicely. We can try
to make ourselves more available either directly or indirectly by understanding how
to help another person in their Krishna consciousness. We can use judgment in order
to understand our own role in a problematic situation or use it to closely monitor
our chanting. In these cases, judgment has positive effects. However, we can also
use judgment in improper or even harmful ways. For instance, we may simply want to
examine another person in order to discover their faults or weaknesses, which will
help us justify our own treatment of them or our own reasons for not thinking of
them positively. We may simply use judgment to increase our own feeling of
superiority or to support our own illusions.
We should examine situations as a means to improve our own quality of service. We
should try to understand how to help and support others with their successes and
difficulties. When someone is successful, we can find ways to honor their success,
and when they are struggling, we can look for ways to relieve them of their issues
or problems. In this sense, judging actually means serving and caring for other
people. We should always monitor our own actions and our effects on other people.
We should genuinely care about others so that we can have quality association. We
can always learn from others who are more expert in certain areas. It is all just a
matter of our eagerness to grow and serve.
Question: What if the challenges cause us to lose our determination?
Answer: It means that we must increase our faith in Krishna. The primary quality of
a mature Vaisnava is his or her full dependence on Krishna. If we can only engage
in serious service under favorable conditions, it means that we have come under the
influence of the duality. It has captured us if we eagerly absorb ourselves in a
project in the presence of flattery and ingratiation but check out as soon as the
encouragement wanes.
In our lives, the decision to either honor the duality or focus on transcendence
constantly confronts us. We should always expect such challenges because the
material world will inevitably present problems and institutions must always deal
with issues. Every institution, whether spiritual, commercial, political, or
educational must go through different cycles. In spite of the constant alterations,
it is important to keep the essence as the focal point. Although we may constantly
try to reach that essence, maya purposely arranges various distractions. Her duty
is to test our true desires. Do we want wealth, fame, or sense gratification? She
will offer it and even give us reasons to justify our deviations. She will even
create issues just to frustrate us, but hopefully we will not allow her maneuvers
to succeed.
Question: We have all heard the prayers of Queen Kunti in which she asks for the
calamities to come again and again. Many of us have been through so many calamities
that we no longer feel so comfortable with that prayer; rather, we feel
apprehensive. How do we keep that pioneering spirit in spite of this apprehension?
Answer: Queen Kunti and other high level devotees are not masochists or sadists who
just want misery, pain, and suffering. She prays in the mood that, if such
calamities will increase her meditation and devotion to the Lord, let them come
again and again. She eagerly wants to undergo any experience or challenge that will
increase her meditation on Krishna. The Lord can take all of our material
possessions away from us, He may make us extremely infamous or He may have us
undergo the most chronic type of disease; however, if such a struggle can help us
return home, we should eagerly celebrate the challenge.
Question: Earlier you said that consciousness has a greater effect on a situation
than words and even actions. How much does an offensive consciousness affect our
difficulties in devotional service even if externally we maintain proper etiquette?
Answer: This is one of the powerful aspects of Lord Caitanyas mission in Kali-
yuga. In earlier ages, offensive thoughts, words, and actions were almost on the
same level, but in this age, thoughts do not have the same consequences as the
external offense. However, when we notice an improper thought, an alarm should ring
because the improper thoughts often turn into words and actions. The service
attitude and consciousness ultimately allow the creeper to break through the modes
of material nature. All of our external services should ultimately affect the
internal consciousness. We do not simply stop our work and meditate on Krishna. If
one has that level of purity, one can still affect the environment due to their
high level of bhajana, but for most of us we engage the senses in sadhana-bhakti in
order to affect the consciousness. As the quality of our consciousness increases,
we will serve with more purity. Krishna is atmarama and needs nothing from us. Why
then do we engage in service? All of our activities are meant to rid ourselves of
the different kinds of clouds that prevent us from accessing our original svarupa.
Actually our main purpose is to cleanse and refurbish ourselves in order to remove
the craziness and the unnecessary anarthas.
Chapter 5
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In Chapter Five, Srila Haridasa examines the second offense, which is to consider
the names of the demigods such as Lord Siva and Lord Brahma to be equal to, or
independent of, the holy name of Lord Visnu. Although we recite these offenses
everyday, we should always try to develop deeper levels of understanding by
reflecting on their meaning and sharing our reflections with others. This offense,
considering the demigods to be independent of Krishna, is not so common among
present day Vaisnavas because we have clarity about the existence of the Supreme
Personality of Godhead. This mentality seems to be more prevalent among people who
come from cultures that do not clarify the actual identity of God. This lack of
clarity may lead to confusion about the uniqueness of Krishna in His most direct
manifestation. If one comes from a background that highly emphasizes the importance
of the devas, one will then have the tendency to think of such devas as Supreme or
on the same level as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In some of the third world countries, people worship the many gods who oversee the
workings of the material nature such as the gods of the sun, rain, or moon but such
worship can also cause confusion. Furthermore, a thorough investigation of the many
different sastras, especially the Puranas, can also bewilder a person. The Visnu
Purana claims that Visnu is the supreme, the Siva Purana claims that Siva is the
supreme, and the Garuda Purana emphasizes Garudas exalted position. The Brahma
Purana often suggests that Lord Brahma is supreme or that Brahma, Siva, and Visnu
are on the same level. If people study the different Puranic literatures without
understanding the difference between the Bhagavata Purana and the other Puranas,
they may then accept Brahma or Siva as Supreme or accept Brahma, Visnu, and Siva as
equal. Why do these scriptures add to the ambiguity and confusion that already
prevails? If Krishna is supreme, and if the purpose of the Vedas is to know Him,
why has He given all these various scriptures to humankind? Vedais ca sarvair aham
eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta,
and I am the knower of the Vedas (Bhagavad-gita, 15.15). Our discussion on this
chapter should help us answer this question.
Avoiding Sectarianism and Offenses
Although modern day Vaisnavas do not tend to make this offense, we are often guilty
of another type of problematic mentality. Instead of worshipping the demigods as
God, we may actually make offenses against them or against the other prophets and
teachers. We should be chaste to Srila Prabhupada according to his deliverance of
this message and we should remain focused on our own commitments; however, we must
be extremely careful to avoid sectarianism and offenses. We do not have to accept
the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, or the other acaryas but we still must
carefully try to avoid offending them. In the previous chapter, we already
discussed the danger of committing offenses against saintly people. Although a
devotee should try to share with enthusiasm, act compassionately, and always try to
learn, he or she should approach these activities with caution. This is the beauty
and also the danger. We do not just accept differences or deny certain issues that
require our scrutiny, but we should approach such issues according to the examples
of the previous acaryas. They approached such issues with care but in an emphatic
manner. They wanted to elevate and convert in order to constantly amplify the
When Lord Caitanya preached to the Mohammedans and the mayavadis, He did not want
to smash them; rather, He wanted to help them understand a higher truth. This is
the nature of our mission. Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda could have simply
smashed Jagai and Madhai, and Lord Caitanya initially had that intention but Lord
Nityananda reminded Him of the presence of Kali-yuga. Everyone has some heavy
qualities so instead of smashing the people, the Lord turned them into devotees and
gave them bhakti, which penetrates and speaks for itself. The bhakti will appear in
such a way that people will naturally see it as higher and want to embrace it. We
do not want to try to convert others in such a way that we minimize their alliance
or thoroughly defeat them. We have not yet been effective at global transformation
because we preach to people, or at people, without respecting who they are or what
they already have.
Although we have postgraduate knowledge, we should not disrespect someone at the
secondary or primary level. If we approach people disrespectfully, they may sense
our mood, which will prevent them from listening to us. If a person has committed
themselves to a certain process, but we just try to prove the insignificance of
their alignment, they will close down and not even want to hear our philosophy.
However, we can encourage the person and appreciate their understanding of God and
dedication to their alignment while simultaneously trying to give them higher
knowledge. If we approach them in this way, what sane person would not express some
level of interest? If they are really pious and truly want a faster way to access
the goal, they will have some interest. And, if they are pious, we have the
responsibility to find ways to connect them to Krishna and to help them access
deeper levels of understanding. If they lack piety, it is a different matter
because they may envy and even hate God, but so many people are pious.
When we speak such statements as krsnas tu bhagavan svayam or aham sarvasya
prabhavo to people who hate the Lord such as the mayavadis, our words will not have
any influence on them. They want to be the Lord and such specific information about
the Godhead may even anger them. However, there are also individuals who accept
impersonalism simply because they do not have any knowledge of a personal God. When
the connection of bhakti-rasa comes into their jurisdiction, it entices them.
Similarly, other people worship the demigods because of their upbringing, but if we
help them acquire more knowledge, they may then move away from such worship.
Sometimes in our zeal we can be quite harsh.
In South Africa, numerous people engage in demigod worship and tantric activities,
and many of our ISKCON devotees who joined there also came from similar
backgrounds. When these devotees would visit their families and communities or have
programs, they would disrespectfully take the demigod pictures right off the altars
and even harass the people. The devotees would place pictures of Prabhupada and
Gaura-Nitai on the altar instead. What was the result? In most cases, people just
became angry. Consequently, some people even made offenses against Prabhupada and
the devotees. Initially, they seemed tolerant out of respect for a sadhu but as
soon as the devotees left, they felt relieved and would not invite them back again.
We have the duty to avoid this offense and we should also try to help others who
have the misconception that the demigods are independent of Krishna. We can try to
help them understand that the benedictions given by the demigods ultimately come
from Krishna. If we want bhakti, we must approach Bhagavan through the process of
seva or service; however, many people have more interest in fruitive activities
than in bhakti. Such people will naturally have more attraction to the devas. Some
of these people may simply lack clear knowledge about the nature of true happiness.
They may think that happiness is attainable by removing certain material obstacles
from their lives and that this type of happiness is spirituality. It then becomes
our duty to show them that real happiness is not just about improving ones
material lot but is a matter of gaining freedom from the material prison.
Srila Haridasa says, Some persons argue that, since Lord Visnu is accepted as the
all-pervading Absolute Truth in the Vedas, the Lord is present in all the demigods;
therefore the worship of the demigods is equivalent to the worship of Lord Visnu.
This argument is fallacious (Harinama Cintamani, 41). Although one may have a
connection with the divine rays of Krishnas body, there is the sakti and the
saktiman. These two are not the same. The suns rays are similar to the sun globe
in essence, but they are not the same as the globe. If one has a poor fund of
knowledge, it can be quite difficult to understand Krishnas supreme position. Lord
Brahma tells us:
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna, who has a body of eternity,
knowledge and bliss. He has no beginning, for He is the beginning of everything. He
is the cause of all causes.
Brahma-samhita, 5.1
There are many isvaras but there is a parama-isvara. Brahma is great and is the
most intelligent being in the material world but even he is aware of Gods
The devotee who has taken single-minded shelter in the holy name is a truly
elevated soul. He worships Krishna and no one else as the Supreme Lord. He does not
attack other scriptures and other deities, such as the demigods; he worships and
respects them as servitors of Lord Krishna.
Harinama Cintamani, 45
Do Not Blaspheme Bona Fide Scriptures
When we discuss the Vedic scriptures, we should not blaspheme them or other
literatures in pursuance of the Vedic version. Actually, we should not blaspheme
any bona fide scriptures even if they are less evolved.
He always refrains from dry speculation. When different scriptures try to establish
the superiority of other demigods, it is only to facilitate the limited ability of
a particular mentality to grasp the Absolute Truth.
Harinama Cintamani, 45
Since the Puranas are in different modes, they will describe certain deities as
supreme according to those modes. When a person is in a certain mode, he will
accept a specific entity or personality as supreme according to his pursuance of a
specific type of goal. We know that Lord Siva has his own planet and eternal
associates. For such associates, Siva is supreme. Other souls may reside
temporarily on different planets with supreme controllers for each particular
environment. However, that is just a small aspect of the total creation.
Srila Haridasa continues, A devotee should not accept remnants of food or garlands
from a mayavadi, even if they were offered to Lord Visnu, because a mayavadis
worship is impure (Harinama Cintamani, 45). He then concludes this chapter by
saying, Illusion and madness blind the jiva, and thus he thinks that others are
also on the same platform as the Supreme Lord Visnu. The only remedy is to repent
intensely and meditate on Lord Visnu, Krishna, for by this remembrance offenses are
dissolvedLord Krishna is an ocean of mercy and forgiveness; the devotee must
disassociate himself from demigod worshippers and polytheists, and seek the company
of devotees who exclusively worship Krishna as their Supreme Lord (Harinama
Cintamani, 46).
Questions & Answers
Question: After reading so many different Puranas, I have come to the understanding
that all the avataras are not Krishna although they are all a part of Krishnas
plan. The gods simply come with specific jobs in order to fulfill Krishnas plan.
Prabhupada has given the highest system but many people cannot accept or do not
want to accept Krishna as the Supreme Lord.
Answer: Your point is very powerful. We know that Lord Siva, Buddha, and
Sankaracarya have specific reasons for descending. Ramanuja and Madhvacarya also
had certain messages to deliver. Krishna facilitates according to the consciousness
of the people and also according to the time. There are bona fide scriptures, which
explain the process of worshipping Lord Siva in order to attain certain results.
There are bona fide ways to worship Lord Rama and ways to pursue material desires.
Krishna constantly arranges ways for the living entities to serve according to
their desires. As we previously mentioned, we must carefully avoid offending these
bona fide practices, which offer different types of achievements. If you want to
become a general practitioner, you take general courses in medicine, but if you
want to become a surgeon, you will need to take more specialized classes. It is
just a matter of taking the proper courses, which will give the desired result. As
Vaisnavas, we are always eager to honor our own sadhu, sastra, and guru as well as
the sadhu, sastra, and guru of other bona fide traditions. All systems may have
bona fide activities according to sadhu, sastra, and guru but a person must examine
the goal of each system.
Chapter 6
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In Chapter Six, Srila Haridasa Thakura discusses the third offense, which is to
disobey or disrespect the orders of the spiritual master. After concluding our
discussion on the second offense, we can see how some of these topics are difficult
to grasp. Siva-tattva is a difficult topic, especially since he is in a very
interesting category. Visnu-tattva and guru-tattva can also be very complex.
Especially in Kali-yuga, guru-tattva is extremely complex and our institution makes
it even more complex. That is the difficulty and also the beauty. For example, in a
traditional Vedic situation, a guru is supreme in his matha and is accepted as the
primary autocrat. Normally the focus is not on global propagation. However, Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and our own A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada emphatically wanted to take this message and spread
it all over the universe. This is Lord Caitanyas order.
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
In as many towns and villages as there are on the surface of the earth, My holy
name will be preached.
Such compassionate souls were ready to make certain adjustments in order to
distribute the essence in a way that would help the greatest number of people. That
is wonderful but also dangerous. It is wonderful to see how Srila Prabhupada made
devotees all over the world and picked up people from all different kinds of
backgrounds. However, it is dangerous because the different levels of diversity can
minimize the unity and cause more challenges, complexities, and confusion.
Nevertheless, such great acaryas are pioneers and they take risks.
Srila Prabhupada took an amazing risk by giving sannyasa to young boys. Some of
them were as young as twenty years old. In Kali-yuga, all the asramas and varnas
are complex and sense gratification is extremely pervasive but Srila Prabhupada was
merciful and was a spiritual utilitarian. He was ready to help us become qualified
by giving us all an opportunity. It is not that first initiation, second
initiation, sannyasa, or guruship elevates us to that platform. It means that we
have more facility and blessings to rise up to such a standard.
Although the guru is normally the autocrat, we now have an international society
and we have agreed to limit such autocracy as spiritual mentors so that we can work
together for the benefit of the world. In this effort, there is great power and
unity because, in this global or international organization, the devotees have such
an amazing immediate and extended family. This can give strength, encouragement,
and solace while assisting us in our growth, but it can also cause confusion.
Guru is the Door
Every morning we chant the Sri Gurvastakam and perform guru-puja. Every time we
greet the Deities, we bow down and access the pranama or name of the guru. We also
hear and understand that we cannot advance without the mercy of the spiritual
master. The guru is the door through which we can connect with God and the
spiritual world. Although we are to accept the guru as the door, at the same time,
we often see that the guru has many relative considerations and even has neophyte
or immature patterns. How can we focus on the guru as servitor God and as foremost
to our spiritual elevation if we see some administrative and even spiritual
The disciple has an awesome task. How should we understand our connection with the
present day gurus when we have the founder-acarya? How do we keep the founder-
acarya in the center, understanding that his standard is topmost and that we should
try to rise to that standard? At the same time, how do we accept our own guru who
may not be on that standard? How do we still maintain the love and affection for
our guru in the mood that the guru is the all in all? How are we to maintain strict
faith in the guru when we have seen that gurus fall? How do we do all of this in
Kali-yuga? Although the guru may make administrative mistakes, how do we keep our
faith in his spirituality? How do we separate his lack of effectiveness in some
material areas from his spiritual effectiveness or spiritual potency? Some devotees
make many offenses because, although they have very pukka gurus, the gurus may just
be poor managers. The guru may have such brahminical tendencies that dealing with
ksatriya or vaisya issues is out of his nature. How does one maintain a sense of
focus or stability when these factors exist? We can directly turn to Haridasa
Thakura because it is surely beyond me. As we keep these questions in mind, let us
see what he has to offer us.
Guru is Not an Ordinary Mortal
The diksa-guru and the siksa-guru are both intimate servitors of Lord Krishna. They
are eternally situated in the Vraja mood of service; they are manifestations of
Lord Krishnas energy.
Harinama Cintamani, 51
Never make the mistake of judging the guru as an ordinary mortal. The spiritual
master is the representative of Lord Krishnas potencies, sent by the Lord as the
eternal master of the disciples. He must always be worshipped as an eternal
associate of the Supreme Lord, nourished by the Lords superior spiritual potency.
However, one must never consider the spiritual master to be the Supreme Lord; this
is mayavadi philosophy, not in line with the pure Vaisnava conclusions.
Harinama Cintamani, 51
Although we must be careful not to minimize the position of the guru, we must also
be careful not to over emphasize the position. We want to respect the guru as a
high level servant, but, at the same time, we do not consider the guru to be God.
Rejecting the Guru
The spiritual master is to be worshipped first; only then may one worship Lord
Krishna. The spiritual master should be offered different paraphernalia like a nice
seat, shoes, foot bath, cloth, etc.; then with the spiritual masters permission
one may worship the Deities of Sri Sri Radha and KrishnaOne who disrespects the
spiritual master commits a serious offense that will expel him from the path of
pure devotion. The spiritual master, Lord Krishna, and the Vaisnavas must be
worshipped with equal devotional fervor. Undeviating faith and devotion in the
spiritual master will lead to pure chanting and the final goal of obtaining love of
GodKrishna-prema. If by some misfortune the spiritual master falls into bad
association, he gradually loses his spiritual realization and potency. At the time
the disciples met him, the guru was bona fide and realized, but later, due to
offenses against the holy name (namaparadha), he became bewildered by maya and
bereft of knowledge. In this condition he detests Vaisnava company and the chanting
of the holy name; gradually he becomes enslaved by lust, greed, wealth, and women.
If by the mercy of Lord Krishna the disciple can see through all this, then he will
reject his guru.
Harinama Cintamani, 51-52
We previously read that no one can make any advancement except through guru.
Although we should see the guru as an eternal associate of Krishna and never see
his mistakes as ordinary, we now hear that the guru can be rejected. This is mind-
Rejecting Wayward Disciples
The spiritual master must be strict with his disciples. He must correct a
prospective disciple before initiating him, and punish the wayward initiated
onesIf both maintain their pure positions and are bona fide, their eternal
relationship is never jeopardized. However, if the spiritual master is later
exposed as perfidious, the disciple must immediately repudiate him. The same is to
be done by the spiritual master if the disciple is similarly exposed. If such
repudiation is not carried out by both parties when it is necessary, then they
stand to be doomed.
Harinama Cintamani, 52-53
The spiritual master has the duty to reject a sinful disciple who does not make any
changes and the disciple must also reject a guru who deviates and offends the
Vaisnavas. If the guru is not able to elevate the consciousness of the disciple and
is not helping the disciple to understand his or her discrepancies, in time such a
connection will drain the gurus consciousness. Consequently, he will begin to
think in the same way as the deviants.
The guru has the duty to elevate the disciples, and if he cannot elevate them, he
should reject them. By rejecting deviant disciples, they will clearly understand
that their behavior is improper. If the guru gives the disciple many opportunities
to change but the disciple still does not alter his or her behavior, the guru
should not own immediate responsibility for such a deviant person. If the guru
maintains the relationship, he actually minimizes the royal path of devotion by
reinforcing the deviation. If the guru does not have sufficient sakti and potency,
such disciples will eventually cause the gurus downfall.
Offenses to Guru
The spiritual master must be a pure devotee of the Lord. The scriptures recommend
that both the spiritual master and the disciple place each other under strict
scrutiny before mutual acceptance. This precludes the kula-guru or traditional
family guruNever disrespect the articles used by the spiritual master: for
instance, his seat, bed, shoes, vehicle, footstool, bath water, etc.
Harinama Cintamani, 53
How do we deal with this in our institution? For instance, our institutional policy
now states that one can sit on the same seat or vyasasana as the guru. This is not
bona fide and is actually very dangerous.
Stepping on his shadow, worshipping another person in his presence, giving
initiation while he is still alive, trying to impress others with ones spiritual
knowledge in his presence, and trying to control him are to be totally rejected.
Whenever and wherever one sees his spiritual master, he should offer his prostrated
obeisances to him with prayers. The gurus name must be uttered with great
reverence. His orders are never to be disobeyed.
Harinama Cintamani, 53
First we need to understand sastra, and if we must act outside of sastra, we should
at least understand the danger. Although we might agree to implement a change, we
should understand that it is meant for the benefit of the greatest number of
people. If we act improperly but consider it to be proper, it will later bring
confusion and impotency. We should be ready to embrace sastra at all times and
accept the consequences as they come.
This is the safe route, but if for some reason we do not follow this route, we
should explain the sastra and then give our reason for acting differently.
Otherwise it creates confusion and minimizes the legacy that Srila Prabhupada has
given us. It will also become increasingly difficult to know the actual standard.
If we make changes according to previous changes, we will begin to water down the
system. By acting outside of sastra, we will also receive less protection. However,
if we must act differently due to some mitigating circumstance, we should clearly
understand how the change will help us focus on the essence. Otherwise, we
gradually minimize the essence and, although we may act in a functional way, it
will not necessarily be transcendental.
The gurus name must be uttered with great reverence. His orders are never to be
disobeyedFall humbly at his feet and beg shelter from him, and in this way act to
please him. Simply by behaving thusly, one can easily develop a taste for chanting,
which in turn offers all perfection.
Harinama Cintamani, 53-54
Developing Faith in Guru
These complexities are amazing. How do we accept the guru as absolute when we see
that he is often relative? How do we avoid sectarianism when the essence revolves
around the guru-disciple relationship? How do we remain chaste as ISKCON Vaisnavas,
protect our society, and honor our own connection without attacking another
persons bona fide relationships? How do we have strict faith in spite of the fact
that the guru can fall? Weak faith will minimize ones ability to break through the
modes of nature so we need strong, strict faith. These are very delicate topics.
First, we should have a general understanding of our position as present day
spiritual masters. We have a founder-acarya who is a nitya-siddha coming in from
the spiritual world and is at the highest level of devotional service. A person
should normally try to have a first class guru because he will be able to give
better guidance, protection, and solace. However, along with these advantages, the
consequences of offending such an exalted spiritual master will also multiply. How
can one still execute the duties of guru without being on the first class level?
Our position is somewhat similar to a young girl who becomes pregnant at a very
early age. Although she is a mother at thirteen or fourteen years old, she is still
a child. If she thinks of herself as a full-fledged mother, she will not develop
the proper maturity and will not learn the necessary skills to properly execute her
duties. She might even harm or kill the child. On the other hand, if she does not
think of herself as a mother, she will also harm the child because she will neglect
her duties or just want to play. She is a mother and has a serious responsibility,
and it is her duty to take shelter of a mature mother who can then guide and help
her to properly mature.
We can use this example to understand our position as spiritual masters. To think
that people cannot become gurus does not follow sastra and will bring failure or
will block Krishnas mercy from coming through. On the other hand, if a person
thinks that he has already reached this level, such a mentality will prevent
Krishnas full mercy from coming through. It will prevent the guru from maturing
sufficiently and, as Haridasa Thakura just stated in the Harinama Cintamani, it
will bring doom to the disciple as well as the spiritual master.
There are many statements from sastra regarding falldown:
If while chanting the holy names of the Lord with his many disciples a madhyama-
adhikari becomes more or less affected by the reactions of their karma, then his
falldown is assured. According to the statement, jivan-mukta api punar yanti
samsara-vasanaA person considered liberated in this life can again fall down and
desire the material atmosphere for material enjoyment, even a madhyama-adhikari
chanter of the holy names can again fall down into material existence. That is why
mundane pride in the form of worldly association and accepting many disciples
simply produces ku-phala, or evil results.
Caitanya-bhagavata, Adi-khanda, 16:172 purport
In other words, in his purport to the Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
says that a devotee can practically reach the level of the uttama-adhikari and even
experience symptoms of bhava, but if he has too many sinful disciples or becomes
proud of his activities, his previous desires can creep into the mind and cause
falldown. There are examples in the sastra that show that a liberated person can
again fall down. This is not just an issue unique to ISKCON. The sons of
Advaitacarya went in different directions and into deviations. Rupa Kaviraja also
fell from his position although he was one of the leading panditas and a powerful
preacher and philosopher. Mukunda dasa and many other great Vaisnavas gave him
benedictions and he was even experiencing bhava and the first levels of prema, but
because he offended Krishna-priya Thakurani, he began to preach sahajiyaism. Even
though he was so fixed in sastra and so respectful of the Vaisnavas, his
consciousness changed and he began to preach that only a renunciate could be a
guru. He later fell down due to these offenses.
The scriptures give us examples of such unfortunate occurrences that happened in
the past and explain the reasons for such falldowns. Narahari Sarakara, a close
associate of Lord Caitanya, explains in his Krishna-bhajanamrta how to deal with
the falldown of a spiritual master. Most of Lord Nityanandas children did not have
sufficient spiritual potency and they fell. Some of them even died when Abhirama
Thakura offered obeisances to them. Only Virabhadra Prabhu remained.
Did Srila Prabhupada want us to become full gurus? After examining all of these
issues, we cannot fully blame the devotees for thinking that all the present gurus
should just act as rtviks or not act as gurus at all. Perhaps Krishna consciousness
does not even work in Kali-yuga. After hearing all the different responses to these
issues, some people even lose faith.
Srila Prabhupadas Instructions
In a room conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Mohsin Hassan in Detroit on
July 18, 1971, Srila Prabhupada clearly indicates that the renuciates and grhasthas
should be able to initiate and make disciples in the future:
Mohsin Hassan: After you, is it any decision has been made who will take over?
Prabhupada: Yes. All of them will take over. These students, who are initiated from
me, all of them will act as I am doing. Just like I have got many Godbrothers, they
are all acting. Similarly, all these disciples which I am making, initiating, they
are being trained to become future spiritual masters.
Mohsin Hassan: How many swamis do you initiated, American? Im speaking just on...
Prabhupada: About ten.
Mohsin Hassan: You have ten swamis. And outside of swamis, whats the lower...
Prabhupada: Now, theyre competent. They can, not only the swamis, even the
grhasthas, they are called dasa adhikari, and brahmacaris, everyone can, whoever is
initiated, he is competent to make disciples. But as a matter of etiquette they do
not do so in the presence of their spiritual master. This is the etiquette.
Otherwise, they are competent. They can make disciples and spread. They can recruit
more members in this. They do, but they are being trained up. Just like here in
this meeting, one of my disciples, he is acting as priest. It is not myself; he is
acting. So some of my students, they are acting as priests, some of them are
swamis, so they are competent to make disciples.
When Prabhupada formed the GBC, he said in a conversation at the founding meeting
on May 25, 1972, [The GBC] must act like me. As I am old man, I am traveling all
over the world. Now to give me relief, the GBC membersI shall expand into twelve
more so that they can exactly work like me. Gradually they will be initiators. At
least first initiation. You must make advance. That is my motive. Even when
Prabhupada formed the GBC, he wanted the members to eventually initiate and make
disciples. Srila Prabhupada states in the purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.9.43,
One who is now the disciple is the next spiritual master.
We also have Prabhupadas famous letter to Tusta Krishna on December 2, 1975:
Every student is expected to become Acarya. Acarya means one who knows the
scriptural injunctions and follows them practically in life, and teaches them to
his disciplesKeep trained up very rigidly and then you are a bona fide Guru, and
you can accept disciples on the same principle. But as a matter of etiquette it is
the custom that during the lifetime of your Spiritual Master you bring the
prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept
disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession. I want
to see my disciples become bona fide Spiritual Master and spread Krishna
consciousness very widely, that will make me and Krishna very happy.
Although the guru may not necessarily be an uttama-adhikari, if a devotee takes
proper shelter, the spiritual master still has the ability to deliver the goods.
The second-class devotees are therefore meant for preaching work, and as referred
to in the above verse, they must loudly preach the glories of the Lord. The second-
class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or
nondevotees. Sometimes the first-class devotee also comes down to the category of
the second-class devotee for preaching work.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.3.24
In a letter to Janardana on April 26, 1968, Prabhupada wrote, A person who is
liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are
less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly
following the disciplic succession. Of course, it is better to take shelter of a
fully liberated soul if such a person is available. However, if a person takes
shelter of a non-liberated soul, the transcendental current of the parampara exists
and can manifest as long as the guru takes shelter of the current or the fully
liberated soul. Then the guru becomes a puppet for higher agents.
In the purport to Bhagavad-gita 11.54, Prabhupada writes, One cannot understand
Krishna by mental speculation. For one who does not take personal training under
the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, it is impossible to even begin to
understand Krishna. Prabhupada emphasizes that, without personal training, it is
actually impossible. Personal training means personal association and guidance.
Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples through his own example as well as
through his books and tapes. Srila Prabhupada also has and still is reaching out to
the devotees through the disciples he personally trained as they train others.
In the above references, Srila Prabhupada helps us answer many of the concerns that
we previously addressed. We read in the Harinama Cintamani that a disciple can
reject an improper guru and we discussed the reasons for his deviation. We also
read about the importance of faith in spite of such falldowns. Even if we have a
guru who is not an uttama-adhikari, as long as he is following and taking shelter
of the transcendental current, the current will prevail and will reach out to help
the disciple.
The Name of the Guru
Srila Haridasa then discusses the way to call on the name of the spiritual master.
Srila Prabhupada has said that the guru should not be addressed in familiar terms.
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa says that the gurus personal name is to be stated with
great respect and proceeded by om visnupada. In the purport of Srimad-Bhagavatam
1.1.15, Srila Prabhupada writes, The pure devotees whose only business is serving
are honored by the names Prabhupada and Visnupada, which indicate such devotees to
be representatives of the lotus feet of the Lord. Despite these sastric
references, we have now made a decision to prohibit the use of such names. We made
this decision because some people associate the names with previous deviations,
which consequently give them anxiety and cause them to have unhealthy conceptions.
However, such names are bona fide according to the sastra and are to be used.
The Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika says, guru nama na grhniyat-iti sastra anusasarat: One
should not address the guru by his name. If for some reason our actions do not
entirely follow the sastric guidelines, we should clearly indicate the reasons for
our behavior so that we will not cause more confusion later. We want to propagate
this mission on the international level so that we can benefit the greatest number
of people. Some devotees feel that certain aspects of the guru-disciple
relationship are not in full harmony with the sastra, which is dangerous, but other
devotees feel that the present adjustments will facilitate the growth of our
movement on a much larger scale.
Results of Disregarding the Guru
We find additional references in the Manu-samhita in regard to the gurus name.
Let him not pronounce the mere name of his teacher (without adding an honorific
title) behind his back even, and let him not mimic his gait, speech and deportment.
Wherever (people) justly censure or falsely defame his teacher, there he must cover
his ears or depart thence to another place. By censuring (his teacher), though
justly, he will become (in his next birth) an ass; by falsely defaming him, a dog.
Manu-samhita, 199-201
This means that, if a person does not properly respect their bona fide guru, they
may even have to take birth as a dog or an ass in the next life.
The Gaudiya Vaisnava-abhidhana, Khanda 3 also describes the results of disregarding
the spiritual master.
Jaya Gopala was ostracized by Lord Nityananda Prabhus son, Srila Virabhadra
Gosvami who was an incarnation of Lord Visnu Himself. Jaya Gopala obtained a high
education. His guru was illiterate; he was ashamed of him so he told people his
parama-guru was his guru. Srila Virabhadra sent a letter to Srila Srinivasa that he
and other Vaisnavas should not speak to Jaya Gopala for he was a great offender.
One who does this as Jaya Gopala transgresses the mercy of the disciplic
In this case, Jaya Gopala tried to jump over his own guru to his parama-guru. Srila
Virabhadra who was actually an incarnation of Lord Visnu then instructed the
Vaisnava community to avoid Jaya Gopala because of his great offense.
Krishna consciousness is very unique in comparison to orthodox religiosity and
spirituality due to its emphasis on the guru-disciple relationship. A person does
not necessarily need a guru to obtain bhukti, mukti, or siddhis, but if he or she
wants bhakti, the person must come through the spiritual master. Krishna Himself
has made the arrangement for us to come to Him so we must come through the door
that Krishna gives us. It is ultimately all about Krishna. Since He tells us to
approach Him through the spiritual master, we honor the position of the guru.
Without Krishnas instruction, we would not need to focus so much attention on the
guru, but because Krishna made this arrangement, we take the gurus instructions as
our life and soul. Since Krishna tells us to approach Him through a bona fide
spiritual master, we must realize that He will not accept us unless we come to Him
in this way.
As we endeavor to become more serious, we can ask Krishna for more guidance and
facilitation which will ultimately come. If a disciple is serious, he or she will
receive all the necessary help from Krishna through sadhu, sastra, and guru. If a
disciple is very serious, Krishna will work through a particular connection to help
the devotee beyond the immediate power or knowledge of the guru. Krishna may also
assist such a devotee by coming through the gurus essence or presence in order to
give that soul the necessary guidance or assistance. On the other hand, a disciple
can even take shelter of an uttama-adhikari, but if the disciple is not serious, he
or she will still miss out. Ultimately, we have to work on ourselves in spite of
our gurus level of advancement.
Some devotees are intensely seeking the shelter of a maha-bhagavata, which is
wonderful although such a connection will not necessarily lead to an easier
connection in Krishna consciousness. Actually, such a powerful connection can even
place the devotee in a dangerous position if he or she makes offenses in the
proximity of such an elevated soul. If we abuse Krishnas mercy and kindness when
He gives us such opportunities, we will suffer greater consequences. The main point
is that we still have to work on ourselves.
There is actually only one guru, Lord Nityananda. In essence, we could consider
every guru to be a rtvik of Lord Nityananda since every guru should serve in the
mood of Srimati Radharani or ultimately under the shelter of Lord Nityananda. A
certain element of maya is affecting any guru who claims proprietorship over his
disciples or territories. Every guru should care for souls on behalf of Lord
Nityananda, the original guru.
We Need Personal Care and Guidance
Without personal care or guidance, no one can understand Krishna. We also must have
strong sraddha or faith in order to advance. How do we have strong faith during
Kali-yuga when we see so many relative changes and deviations? It is not easy but
it is not impossible. Since Krishna knows our field of activities, He also knows
our difficulties. Since He knows each persons adhikara, we just need to honestly
try our best. We must not be overly grandiose in our perception of the guru by
thinking of him as God or thinking of him as some type of mystic but, on the other
hand, we must not minimize the position of the guru who must also carefully avoid
acting beyond his range of realization and capacity.
We should never think of Krishna consciousness as mediocre or normal. It is not
based on religiosity but on Krishnas active presence in all situations. It is
actually an offense to prevent Krishna from coming through us. It then becomes an
offense to the parampara, to the holy name, and to the people that we should help.
If we think and act small, we will prevent Krishna from manifesting in our lives
and making the necessary arrangements. Krishna has arranged the bona fide door and
we have a duty to go through this door to reach Him. Ultimately it is all about
Krishna and His parts and parcels.
The guru acts as an agent to help the disciple consolidate his or her love, which
is eternally associated with the Divine Couple. Unless the disciple properly
follows the practices, the love will not manifest in a healthy way. If the
relationship is distorted either by the disciple or the guru, the love will not
mature and proper advancement will not take place. For this reason, we give such
attention to the guru-disciple relationship because we no longer want to visit the
heavenly planets, connect with the devas, or attain moksa. We want to finish all of
these activities once and for all so that we can finally return home.
Krishna knows the nature of our consciousness and the number of lifetimes spent in
deviation. He is reaching out and arranging an agency to help us become free of our
offenses and deviations. He is helping us through the personal guidance and
chastisement of the guru so that we can become sane again and receive His full
love. When we minimize the relationship between the guru and the disciple, the
whole mission suffers. We all have the duty to act as proper disciples and proper
mentors, either diksa or siksa. We should act in such a way that our lives preach
our message. Prabhupada has said that the householders, sannyasis, and all of his
other students should receive the proper training to become gurus. Each of us
should be acarya through our own examples.
Questions & Answers
Question: We now have an international organization that calls upon us to make
adjustments according to time, place, and circumstance. I have been trying to lay
the foundation for a constitution in ISKCON and have been dealing with these types
of issues regularly. However, such issues never arose before in the Vedic
tradition. How do we accept this organizational principal of subordinating
ourselves to a greater international goal?
Answer: It is really complex. As a barometer, we should try to see the organization
as Prabhupadas body and a body can become sick or weak. How much is the soul of
the body actually activated? As we brainstorm over such issues, we should
constantly ask, How would Prabhupada want us to act? Then we just do our best. If
we have good intentions and try to act according to Srila Prabhupadas desire by
examining his books and actions, we may still make mistakes but they will not be so
serious. We just need to continuously ask, How would Srila Prabhupada best want us
to approach this issue?
It becomes dangerous when we start relying too much on our own intelligence or when
we start creating a society based on failures. We can create many policies or laws
according to past failures but this will simply take us farther and farther away
from the essence. We will begin rationalizing and justifying all types of behaviors
because institutions in the material world always have discrepancies. If we
function based on a culture of failure or deviation, we will not get sufficient
divine intervention. Sometimes we need to minimize seemingly functional decisions
in order to embrace the transcendental. Although we may act in ways that seem
sociologically or institutionally functional at a certain time, the problem may
later change or the change may later cause more problems. For this reason, when we
make a change, we need to revisit the actual sastric conclusions.
Sastric conclusions can also lead to confusion these days since we can find
references to support all types of activities. Nevertheless, this is not so serious
because, even if we find evidence to support different conclusions, we can then
honestly investigate them in order to find the results. Although we can use sadhu,
sastra, and guru to go on different paths, which is permissible, we need to
honestly determine if the activity is based on sastra and if it is producing more
Krishna consciousness. In this mood, the gosvamis sometimes scrutinizingly studied
sastra from different angles but the essence always involved the glorification of
the Lord. If we celebrate the diversity, we can bring about greater acceleration
and achievements.
The times are now different. Sometimes we do have to change certain issues or
details in order to keep the essence and then we must carefully reexamine the
change to see if we have in fact kept the essence. When this question was placed
before Prabhupada, he just said, It is not easy. The acarya or the advanced soul
should and must make changes because he should always endeavor to have the most
powerful effect. It will always change because Krishna consciousness is alive. How
do we carefully determine which changes to make and how to make the changes?
Prabhupada said that it takes realization and it is not easy. As we come together
as a family with different understandings and amazing sensitivities, we should try
our best to consider the ways in which Prabhupada would respond to certain
situations. After we examine his responses to similar issues in the past, we make a
decision and try our best.
Question: A devotee might take diksa from a certain guru, but due to geographical
changes or situations, the disciple may now receive more support from his siksa-
guru. We read today that both are equally important. Is it absolutely necessary to
have diksa initiation or can a devotee just take siksa initiation? Also, do you
feel that, in the past, too much emphasis has been placed on the diksa-guru?
Answer: The GBC (international board) has also come to the same conclusion that too
much emphasis has been placed on diksa. If we look at many of these issues from a
practical perspective, we can easily see a resolution. In a family you do not just
have a father. It would be unhealthy or even dysfunctional. You have a father,
mother, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and cousins. You benefit from each
relative individually because the uncle or grandmother may have more to offer than
the father in certain areas. Some of the divorces in our movement happen because
the husband and wife sometimes try to fill all their needs through each other. This
level of dependency is unhealthy because there are certain needs that a man can
only get from another man and a woman can only get from another woman. If you focus
only on that one person, you will become frustrated and you will frustrate your
It is also unhealthy for a disciple who learns only from the guru and for a guru
who allows such dependency. The guru should encourage the disciple to learn from
other senior devotees in order to facilitate the development of a healthy culture
instead of a cult. Normally the main instructions will come from the diksa-guru but
Krishna may also come through a siksa-guru. As we mature more as spiritual masters,
we will have less of this proprietorship consciousness. We will eagerly want to see
that our disciples are receiving the necessary help and we will want to encourage
them to receive that help however possible.
When we see one devotee assisting another in their spiritual growth, we should feel
happy; however, when we have some insecurity, we will think that only we can give
that help. On the other hand, although we accept and value siksa relationships, we
should not minimize the significance of initiation because a disciple is also
entering into a family or mission. Each spiritual master preaches in different ways
and has different types of disciples. When we take shelter of a guru, we not only
accept a father but we also accept brothers and sisters who we should connect with
in various ways just as we would connect with our extended family. We must not
ignore the fact that the guru is also a personality. Although the guru is one in an
impersonal sense, we should ultimately realize that it is all about Krishna. If the
siksa-gurus are helping a devotee to love Krishna more, the parent should be happy.
Question: You spoke on the importance of receiving personal training from the
spiritual master. In a lecture given by Srila Prabhupada, he also explained that
the guru should observe the prospective disciple for some time and the prospective
disciple should have the opportunity to observe the guru. In Srila Prabhupadas
case, many of his late disciples did not have this opportunity.
Answer: The spiritual master takes risks. The general principle is that a person
should carefully scrutinize the guru, and once the person decides to accept the
guru, he or she should try to learn and receive help. However, if a person finds a
deviation after properly evaluating the situation, he or she should reject the
guru. The guru takes risks on behalf of Krishna but such risks also carry
consequences. Sastra tells us that if we accept unqualified disciples and do not
raise their consciousness, we will suffer the consequences.
Practically all of the current leaders in ISKCON are sick. Although this partially
results from our own physiological, sociological, and spiritual makeup, it also
results from the different disciples along with their various kinds of deviations.
Such consequences are part of the job but a guru should still try to minimize the
quantity of unqualified disciples. For this reason, if a disciple continues to
deviate year after year in spite of many warnings, I may sometimes send a letter to
inform the person that I no longer see him or her as my disciple. Whatever I
receive from my disciples I am supposed to offer to my guru, and if I allow or
reinforce such deviations and even offer them to Prabhupada, it sabotages the
entire parampara system.
The love comes through when we let a devotee know that he or she needs to change
their life. Once the person pulls their life together, we can revisit the guru-
disciple relationship. When I began doing this many years ago, some of the gurus
were shocked but when the Harinama Cintamani came out, it clearly explained the
position of the disciple and the guru. They both have the jurisdiction to reject
each other if they are not proper.
Question: What activities can we do to strengthen our faith in the spiritual
Answer: First of all, the spiritual master should act in such a way that will
minimize confusion. We have the duty to preach. We are not bhajananandis so we have
the responsibility to act in a way that will increase the preaching collectively
and individually. As spiritual masters, we should carefully act in ways that will
not confuse the neophytes. For this reason, if I really feel that one of my actions
could be misunderstood, I explain my reasons.
Sometimes when I am in Gita Nagari, I will return to the Institute House after
mangala-arati and return late for guru-puja if I am slow with my own Deity puja. At
other times when I am on a writers marathon, I will not attend some of the
programs. When this happens, it is my duty to explain my behavior so that it will
not confuse or minimize the proper standard. We should be aware of the higher
standard. Nevertheless, it can still create confusion because we obviously teach
through example. From time to time, we have to check to see if our example could
confuse others and then make adjustments.
We notice that most of Srila Prabhupadas servants fell down because of the
tendency to become too familiar. The servant sees that the guru eats, sleeps, or
becomes sick and he may begin to think of the guru as just an old man. Unless the
servant works on himself, he will fall down. Hari Sauri Prabhu said that he would
constantly read in order to focus on the meaning of guru. A personal servant of the
guru may claim that he does not have sufficient time to read due to the nature of
their schedule but in general such a claim is nonsense. If we really want to read,
we will find time even if we just do it briefly. If we have sincerity, we will have
quality. If our consciousness is proper, we can gain so much insight from just
thirty minutes of reading. However, if our consciousness is not proper, we can read
for six hours without even really understanding the subject matter.
In the early days, we sometimes worked so hard that we had to find ways to read
between different preaching activities. We would have long harinamas, sleep in
vans, and shower in gas stations just to preach but we would relish any chance to
hear. We are not suggesting that people live in this way now but we made tremendous
advancement during those times of pioneering and sacrificing.
When we have the ability to really organize our schedule systematically and have
two hours to honor prasadam, two hours to bathe, five hours to read, or forty-five
minutes to chant gayatri, maya will attack us even more. I can see that I have made
the most advancement when I took the most risk for Srila Prabhupada. I have been
the happiest when confronted with problems or difficulties but still tried to act
in a way that would please Srila Prabhupada.
I just continue to pray to Prabhupada to use me in the right way. When I get too
comfortable, I just start contemplating so many different problems connected with
the nature of the body. We are not simply trying to trick ourselves into accepting
Krishna consciousness but it is a powerful science. When we allow Krishna to do the
necessary, we will excel far beyond our own ability. Sometimes we just have to take
the risk and depend on Krishna. Then Krishna will do the necessary in so many
amazing ways. We have all seen this happen from time to time.
Chapter 7
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
The fourth offense is to blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature in pursuance
of the Vedic version. Once we avoid these offenses, we will experience the full
potency of the holy names. The sruti-sastra (the Vedic literature), which includes
the Upanisads, the Puranas and other corollary scriptures, has emanated from the
Supreme Lord Krishnas own lips (Harinama Cintamani, 55). All scriptures do not
emanate directly from the lips of God. In other religious traditions, some of the
prominent followers or disciples often taught the scriptures according to their own
perceptions. For instance, the Gospels in the Bible were taught according to Mark,
John, Luke, and others. Although countless commentaries exist on the various
scriptures in the world, we understand that God Himself has given us the Vedic
scriptures. It contains transcendental knowledge that is beyond the range of the
material senses, and this knowledge is understood by Lord Krishnas grace alone
(Harinama Cintamani, 55). Therefore, we could reasonably assume that we should
accept all the words in the Vedic scriptures without argument since they emanate
directly from God. The following discussion will raise some controversial points
since it is a very delicate issue.
Humans Have Four Natural Faults
Human beings are born with four natural faults: they commit errors, they are
subject to illusion, they have the propensity to cheat, and they have imperfect
senses (Harinama Cintamani, 55). Although these four defects make it very
difficult to comprehend spiritual literature and engage in the process of devotion,
the human body and mind practically wear these defects as ornaments. Nevertheless,
as we gain freedom from some of these defects, we will understand all aspects of
life more clearly. Not only will we have this deeper understanding of life, we will
also perceive and experience many higher realities. When our senses become less of
a disturbance, our tendency to cheat will decrease and our awareness of the
illusions will increase so that we no longer accept or play into them. On the other
hand, when these four defects dominate our existence, we will not only criticize
the scriptures, but all aspects of the royal process of devotion.
The Literary Incarnation of Krishna
In the Vedas there are ten principal instructions; the first is that the proof or
basis of real knowledge is the Vedas, and the other nine are ascertained from the
Vedas as the teachings that destroy nescience and establish true spiritual
knowledge (Harinama Cintamani, 56). The first three teachings pertain to Krishna
and the second three to the jiva. The last three teachings explain acintya-
bhedabheda-tattva, abhidheya, and prayojana.
When all the cardinal conclusions of the Vedic philosophy are brought together,
they add up to pure devotional service, by which the jiva attains pure love of
Godhead. Wherever the principal teachings are applicable, it is wrong to substitute
secondary teachings in their place. These principal meanings all indicate and
uphold the science of Krishna consciousness. To artificially impose secondary
meanings upon the Vedic statements is a sin that distances one from the Absolute
Harinama Cintamani, 59
Tampering with the scriptures and imposing improper conclusions is a part of this
The devotee who is attached to chanting the pure name will also have the knowledge
of the Vedas revealed to him. Gradually hell also attain Krishna-prema. The Vedas
unequivocally declare that by chanting the holy name one experiences ecstatic
bliss, as the holy name is the source of everything. The Vedas further explain that
all the liberated souls are residing in the spiritual sky and are always engaged in
chanting the pure name.
Harinama Cintamani, 59
Srila Haridasa concludes this chapter by saying:
Therefore avoid committing the offense of criticizing the sruti scriptures. Absorb
yourself in constant chanting of the holy name. If inadvertently one criticizes the
sruti then he should sincerely repent his error by properly glorifying the sruti.
He should worship the Vedic literature and Srimad-Bhagavatam feeling great joy and
respect, offering flowers and tulasi. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the essence of the Vedic
teachings and is the literary incarnation of Lord Krishna. The Bhagavatam will
certainly shower mercy upon the offender, because the Bhagavatam is an ocean of
mercy. Only the reprobates criticize Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Harinama Cintamani, 61
There is the book Bhagavata and the person Bhagavata. We take both of them very
seriously. We accept the literature as a literary incarnation of Krishna. Through
the sastra, we understand sadhu and guru, and learn to distinguish first class
bhakti from misra-bhakti. The scriptures also help us understand what is offensive
behavior. Since we see and evaluate through the eyes of the sastra, we can develop
our full perception. Sastra means to cut. It cuts through nescience and ignorance,
and helps us destroy the cheating propensity, the tendency to fall into illusion,
the tendency to make mistakes, and the imperfect senses. It also gives us
information that is both nominal and phenomenal.
Misinterpretation of Sastra
Since time immemorial, people have engaged in the most heinous deviations, which
were supposedly based on scripture. For instance, the current fanaticism, which
manifested on September 11th stems from this type of deviation. Such people believe
that they are living their lives according to the essence of the Koran and that
their scripture fully justifies their reasons for killing the infidels. The Koran
does in fact have such references. We can find all types of statements, which
propagate the annihilation or killing of people who disturb the spiritual progress
of the planet or the society.
In South Africa, the Afrikaners pervertedly embraced the Bible vigorously to help
maintain apartheid. The Bible says, Honor thy father and thy mother. The people
approached this commandment in the spirit that a person should only honor their own
parents and not the parents of another person. According to this mindset, an
individual should very carefully deal with his or her own group or race without
giving any consideration to another group. In this case, the people have taken a
seemingly obvious commandment out of context. Of course, a person must first act
respectfully at home since that respect will then extend itself.
We must take all our relationships seriously because our interactions with each
soul are karmically arranged. The soul does come into a body in a certain part of
the world and has specific parents, which means that it does have certain
allegiances to karmic responsibility. However, the people took this statement out
of context. This type of misinterpretation has always gone on and unfortunately
will always go on. It can even result in the exact opposite of what the scripture
intended to offer to humankind.
Fanaticism vs. Excessive Rationalism
A major concern now exists in relation to this topic. Should a person accept the
literal meaning of scripture or its essence? It is not an easy issue to address and
historically, it has always been very complex. In 2001, I had an interesting
discussion at the European GBC meeting with His Grace Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu. I
mentioned how our movement is experiencing an element of fratricidal war, which may
become an even greater problem in the future. We are fighting on many fronts as
modern day Vaisnavas; however, one of these fronts is underlying and not noticed by
most devotees. Nevertheless, there is a war. Fanaticism is on one side and
excessive rationalism is on the other side.
The fundamentalists see everything from a literal perspective with all good
intentions. They focus more on the ritual and the form, and any challenge or change
to the literal interpretation disturbs them. On the other hand, the excessive
rational dabblers are embracing a new age or religious lifestyle rather than a
transcendental lifestyle. They are so captured by modernity that they practically
embrace it as a religion and evaluate all things according to this vision. This
side also includes those who have literally lost faith due to events in their own
lives and in the institution. They also oppose the literalists. Both sides want to
present their own case without understanding the other side and only accept their
own views as correct. Actually, this mood is offensive on either side. Of course,
this battle is nothing new but has always gone on in all religious institutions.
In Bhaktivinoda Thakuras time, this was also a very serious issue. Sahajiyaism was
rampant which meant that people were not honoring the spiritual rule and law. They
thought that they could have the experience without paying the dues and that they
had attained a high level despite their lack of a full understanding. At the same
time, pluralism, which was not so much a part of ancient Vedic or Hindu lifestyle,
was expanding. The world was becoming more centralized due to the increase in
communication and diversity, which lead to an increase in peoples awareness of
diverse cultures, religions, philosophies, and sciences. In earlier times,
Darwinism, Christianity, and in some cases even Islam were not prevalent, but in
Bhaktivinodas time all of these traditions or beliefs swept into Bharata-varsa.
Many Western thinkers such as Emerson and Thoreau who had some insight into the
human condition also became appealing to the people. While the sahajiyas were
becoming more dominant, Christianity and Islam were also entering at a faster rate.
This combination produced a certain class of philosopher or spiritualist called the
bhadralokas. They were intelligent middle and upper-middle class Bengalis who
rejected the Puranic and Vedic teachings. They saw these scriptures as mythological
and speculative, and in many cases, they felt disturbed to see people embrace these
Consider the effect of this conglomeration on Bharata-varsa. The sahajiyas were
active, and although they had real knowledge, they were following it in an improper
way. The Western ideas and philosophy that entered the country made the Vedic
knowledge seem old-fashioned, crude, or ridiculous, and Christianity categorized
the Vedic practices as idol worship or mythology. As these people read and
reflected on the sastra, it certainly disturbed them. They read about a God who is
seemingly promiscuous, who propagates war, and who seemingly breaks His promises.
In other words, through their analysis they saw a lack of ethics and principles.
Through their vision, they could not accept such immorality as religion. Some of
them even rejected all aspects of Vedic culture.
Others accepted the Krishna of the Bhagavad-gita but simply saw Him as
mythological. Consequently, if something did not fit into their conception of
Krishna from the Bhagavad-gita, they threw it out and saw it as some type of
speculation created by foolish people whose thoughts became part of a theology.
These bhadralokas were bothered by the sahajiyas activities and understanding of
the sastra, and were enhanced and captivated by Western lifestyle and science which
seemed more sophisticated.
Even we, as Vaisnavas, know that some of the scriptural statements may sound
unrealistic. For example, the sastra states that Maharaja Ugrasena had four billion
personal bodyguards. Six hundred million warriors fought in the Battle of
Kuruksetra in a seemingly small area. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that Daksas
head was removed and a goat head was put on him. Vamanadevas toe pierced the
covering of the universe and caused the Ganges to fall on the head of Lord Siva.
Maha-Visnu lies down on the Causal Ocean and countless universes emanate from His
pores. Lord Brahma has four heads and some Brahmas may even have thousands of
heads. We could give endless references of such extraordinary examples.
The Vedic scriptures could definitely bewilder a person who hears such phenomenal
information. How can people base a major philosophy on a God who brings a wonderful
servant and eternal assistant to a battlefield to fight? How can people embrace a
chivalrous God who also personally kills others in battle? How can people embrace a
God who runs out in the middle of the night with other mens wives? From a rational
perspective, this not only sounds improper but unethical. When the bhadralokas read
such statements, they of course questioned its validity. They assumed that the
illiterate villagers simply created such mythology as a result of their own
fantasies. Consequently, such wealthy scholars felt embarrassed about their
association with these scriptures and they created their own philosophies. In some
ways, they simply relied on the Bhagavad-gita and rejected the Puranas.
In other cases, they became completely atheistic. Not only did they reject Vedic
theology, but they also rejected all types of religion. Since their own religion
and culture had so many discrepancies, they simply felt that sophisticated humans
should not play into such phenomenon. The Christian missionaries, Western
scientists, and even Hindu scholars did not understand such descriptions, which
simply bewildered them. Many who did accept the scriptures just engaged in
sahajiyaism without understanding the essence.
Literalism Vs. Essence
What did this mean for Bhaktivinoda and what does this mean for us? Bhaktivinoda
was also a scholar from the upper-class who felt concerned about the bhadralokas.
He was disturbed by the sahajiyas and saw the danger in taking the scripture too
literally. On the other hand, he also recognized the danger of interpolating and
speculating. Literalism versus essence is a very complex issue. We could also look
at the issue in terms of tradition versus modernity, rationalism versus religion,
or even reason versus faith.
Religious seekers do not usually have to think about these issues and they really
do not need to at a neophyte level. Nevertheless, Bhaktivinoda performed
revolutionary actions that even most Vaisnavas today have trouble processing. In
most cases, they prefer to avoid the subject. Bhaktivinoda emphasized adhunika-
vada, which means that we should and must evaluate modern concerns while we
simultaneously hold on to the essence. He wrote his Sri Krishna-samhita in a
powerful way just for this purpose, but he then ran the risk of offending all
The literalists were very steeped in their own belief systems and fully accepted
all aspects of sastra without question. They considered any other position to be
sacrilegious or deviant. However, Bhaktivinoda was not interested in antiquity or
modernity and he did not fully embrace or disregard either position. Instead, he
felt that we should not take Vedic culture as the all in all, but we must evaluate
it in order to see its relevance at certain times and places. At the same time, we
do not throw Vedic culture away and just accept a lifestyle according to
sociological or rational considerations. Bhaktivinoda had to deal with both sides.
I think that what he gave us will be very important for our own ISKCON society in
the future.
As we are growing, we have a chance to go deeper into our individual understanding
and into our ability to represent Prabhupada as an institution. Hopefully our
ability to understand Mahaprabhus offering to the world is also increasing. Growth
pains often create fear, attack, bewilderment, and even lack of faith. For
instance, we now have devotees who are learning Sanskrit and Indology at different
universities and are reading many texts in the actual languages. As a result, some
of them are losing faith in the process, but some of them are becoming much more
fixed. Some are understanding the depth of what Prabhupada has given us and how it
connects to the other great acaryas in so many amazing ways. They are understanding
why Prabhupada presented certain points with a specific kind of emphasis.
Bhaktivinoda explained that certain parts of the scriptures are particularly meant
to increase faith and motivate the neophyte. Certain aspects of the scripture are
particularly meant to enhance the consciousness of the kanistha-adhikari in order
to help that person in their progress in devotional service. Some parts of the
scripture are not entirely, one-hundred percent literal but the essence is present
and should be embraced.
Bhaktivinoda explains that a difference exists between faith and belief. A belief
system involves rituals or traditions from the past that extend into the present
and may or may not continue in the future. Although a person may have to adjust or
investigate their beliefs, it should not affect their faith, which should always
remain essential. He explains this in terms of paramartha-prada and artha-prada.
Paramartha-prada are eternal spiritual activities, which we must accept at face
value. Artha-prada deals with the material creation, which includes anthropology,
sociology, literature, or any other relative aspect of nature. Although the artha-
prada may appear in the scriptures and explain history, sociology, politics,
finance, etc., it can be scrutinized and then accepted or rejected. However, the
paramartha-prada is essential to transcendence and must prevail regardless of time,
place, and circumstance.
Obviously most people do not want to even approach this topic. Most Christians and
Muslims want to accept their own scriptures from a completely literal perspective
and most Vedic practitioners also prefer to accept the scriptures in this literal
way, which is normal at a certain level of consciousness. Actually, for most people
it should be accepted in this way because it will give them faith, determination to
function, and the ability to focus. However, deep spirituality is at an even higher
level. Krishnas love constantly comes through, even in additional ways. Although
we should maintain our previous activities according to the ways in which Krishna
gave His love in the past, it constantly comes through in refreshing waves.
Time, Place, and Circumstance
In the previous chapter, we discussed the difficulty involved in making changes
according to time, place, and circumstance. Prabhupada simply said, It is not
easy. However, he also addresses this issue in several of his books. The Caitanya-
caritamrita, Adi-lila, 7.38 says, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in order to
deliver all the fallen souls. Therefore He devised many methods to liberate them
from the clutches maya. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport:
It is the concern of the acarya to show mercy to the fallen souls. In this
connection, desa-kala-patra (the place, the time and the object) should be taken
into consideration....In this verse the words saba nistarite kare caturi apara
indicate that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to deliver one and all. Therefore it
is a principle that a preacher must strictly follow the rules and regulations laid
down in the sastras yet at the same time devise a means by which the preaching work
to reclaim the fallen souls may go on with full force.
Every powerful acarya made certain adjustments because they were not living in the
past. They were experiencing Krishnas love at that moment so that it radiated
through them and extended to others. They were always vibrant and full of
creativity but chaste. Nevertheless, the dangers always exist.
For instance, the story of Puranjana in the Srimad-Bhagavatam is allegorical. There
are various stories that present a message instead of a literal history. We must
know what is allegorical and what is literal. In some cases, if we think
differently, we may even risk offending the scripture. It is an offense to
blaspheme the Vedic literatures and even their corollaries. At the kanistha level,
a devotee should just accept the scripture as it is. However, the madhyama and
uttama levels are different. At the uttama level, everything revolves around
Krishna because the devotee is totally in tune with the Lord. He or she is no
longer influenced by the duality or illusion and sees everything as essential and
primary. At the madhyama level, the devotee does scrutinize and makes more of an
investigation into the actual meaning of the sastra.
Jiva Gosvami played down parakiya-rasa in his writings so that the sahajiyas and
people in general would not become confused or offensive. He played down unwedded
love, which is the highest and emphasized wedded love. Although he came directly
from the spiritual world and is integrally associated with unwedded love, he toned
down his writings for the benefit of humankind. Due to the large number of
sahajiyas, baulas, and bhadralokas present during Bhaktivinodas time, he would
actually use sahajiya terminology when he wrote as a way to entice them and then
help them become more genuine. He even used a pen name when he wrote in this way.
Since he often focused on the scholars, he even used their modern language in order
to eliminate the blocks and help them embrace the message. I am sharing some of
this because it relates to the verse and also because it is one of the major
services that I feel I have on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. In the future, this
service will probably increase and provide an opportunity to help bridge the gap
between these polarities in our Vaisnava institutions and with other religions as
well. Some people must act as bridge workers or facilitators.
The mature spiritualist will feel excited to see how their worshipable Lord is
present in all theologies and in the deepest aspect of their own theology.
Therefore, they celebrate the diversity rather than allow it to disturb them. For
instance, in Christianity Saint John of the Cross was intensely experiencing
madhurya-rasa and, in some of his writings, he would even describe himself in the
form of a female. He wrote that the Lord would embrace him and put His head on his
breast. These descriptions distinctly indicate a connection with the Lord in
madhurya-rasa, which is based on tremendous spiritual potency, realizations,
commitments, and endowments. In exceptional situations, the Lord in the heart can
certainly allow such people to connect with the highest experiences. Saint Theresa
of Avila is another wonderful example. There are some Sufi Muslims who also exhibit
this level of God consciousness, which distinctly shows that Krishna has honored
and blessed them in the most amazing ways. Unfortunately, most spiritual
practitioners will only accept their own process as genuine and will consider all
other processes as secondary. This mentality often leads to offenses.
Bhaktivinoda expertly dealt with these either/or situations. We have devotees in
ISKCON who see any type of change in how we perform harinama-sankirtana, how we
give class, or how we address certain issues as maya. When they see women leading
kirtana, women giving class, or an overemphasis on children, they immediately
categorize it as maya. We want to make major changes. They think that any
innovative discussion will simply bring down Krishna consciousness. Their concern
is genuine but conservative. We actually have people who think in this way.
Both Modernity and Antiquity are Important
A few years ago in Mayapur, I met with some bewildered gurukulis who had been told
that playing sports is maya. What are these children supposed to do? It is already
quite difficult for them to sit down each day to hear various lectures for one or
two hours from the adults who engage in many austerities. Of course they need to
hear and study but they also need to exercise their bodies and minds. It is perhaps
unhealthy for visitors to come into their school and try to convince them that
sports is maya. They tell the children not to exercise, bond together, or play
together. However, the scriptures explain how Krishna and Balarama run through the
forests and play all the time. In Caitanya-lila, the Lord and His associates engage
in water sports and so many different activities. Some will feel that this type of
preaching is conservative and approaching fanaticism.
Every spiritual organization has its conservatives and its radicals but either
polarity can be dangerous. Organizations also have concessionists who just want
peace and make no endeavor to find a higher quality or truth based on time and
place. This type of accommodating mood is also really dangerous. When we join the
movement, we usually expect it to be simple, but then we discover all the different
aspects of Vaisnavism. Since time immemorial, the Vaisnava theologies have gone
through all types of intriguing things. Considering these points, how do we have
greater faith and more determination? How do we experience Krishna consciousness in
a more vibrant way? How do we remain loyal, not only to Vaisnavism, but to our
particular form of Vaisnavism which Srila Prabhupada gave us? At the same time, how
do we honor bhakti in other religions and even in other aspects of Vaisnavism?
Obviously it takes a serious amount of maturity and appreciation.
Bhaktivinoda made the point that both modernity and antiquity are important. We
should evaluate modernity in order to ascertain the essential factors, which allow
Krishna to come through. We should also value antiquity in order to see how our
tradition is relevant and alive for us. Rationalism also has a role but should not
be relied on as the all in all. If some aspect of the spiritual science does not
fit into a persons rational understanding, he or she may simply throw out religion
altogether just as some of the bhadralokas did. Tradition is very important but
tradition itself must be evaluated and must be relevant. We do not just accept a
belief because our ancestors have passed it down to us; rather, we should be ready
to have our beliefs tested, adjusted, and altered. Our beliefs are part of
tradition and part of the artha-prada, but they should not distract us from our
faith or the paramartha-prada.
While Bhaktivinoda was endeavoring in this way to address certain issues, some of
the people who joined him wanted to tamper with transcendental or essential truths.
In the same way that he addressed the literalists, he strongly checked such people
in order to point out their unhealthy mindsets. He wrote his book, Sri Krishna-
samhita, and several other works to help the world have a proper balance. In his
own life, he maintained this proper balance by remaining chaste to the legacy that
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave and, at the same time, by remaining expansive,
eclectic, and aware of other religions. He constantly employed diverse ways to give
The Nature of a Pure Devotee
In regard to Bhaktivinodas point that we can evaluate scriptural knowledge, which
relates to matter, discussions have arisen about the nature of a pure devotee. One
side claims that a pure devotee is all-knowing and can never make improper
decisions or mistakes, and the other side says that a pure devotee can make
mistakes and we can make an evaluation. However, the pure devotee is pure because
he is Krishnas puppet and is exactly in line with Krishnas desire. He is
protected by the sastras and backed up by the sadhus. His purity results from his
full surrender to Krishna. Those with a certain amount of fanaticism support the
two extreme positions but some may question these views.
We see that a pure devotee forgets verses or that he or she may not know how to
repair an air-conditioner or an automobile. Considering this point, what does it
mean for a pure devotee to know everything? It means that the devotee knows
everything in terms of Krishna. The pure devotee knows the root; therefore, he or
she knows the essential truths or can know them due to Krishna in the heart.
Nevertheless, people at one extreme will consider it offensive to think differently
because they will claim that a pure devotee acts perfectly at all times and knows
all concerns. People at the other extreme will claim that people can look at the
pure devotee in a relative way and can accept or reject certain aspects of the
devotee. Both of these extremes are present within ISKCON and are growing in both
The danger arises when one side actually offends the other and increases the other
groups illusion. When devotees who have lost faith or have been too absorbed in
their own intelligence hear or experience the fanatical side, they will move
farther away. On the other hand, when the fanatics see the deviations of those who
have turned to rationalism or excessive liberalism, their fanaticism will increase.
It creates a lack of communication and appreciation, and causes an unhealthy
environment. This underlying conflict happens in all types of religions and
institutions. It is nothing new. However, the two sides must not maintain this
opposition or even create a compromise, but instead they must create a healthy
synthesis, which shows truth and value on both sides. The synthesis should show how
the essence includes both sides.
For instance, a pure devotee knows all things because of his position as a servant
of Krishna; however, in terms of material nature, the pure devotee is not God and
is not functioning on some mystic power that gives him the ability to know or
control all aspects of the Lords creation. Some people will lose faith in the pure
devotee because they do not understand the meaning of purity. Other people will
overcompensate by elevating the pure devotee to the position of God. The Christians
have done this in their religion by elevating Jesus to the position of God
incarnate instead of accepting him as the son of God.
Normally a preacher will adjust his or her mood for the kanistha mentality so that
the people will not have to think about all of these issues and can just follow in
a literal way. It is dangerous in one sense because it can minimize Krishnas
vastness and His constant ever-fresh presence that is not just a part of antiquity.
Although Krishnas activities exist in the past, we should feel excited about His
current activities and anticipate the unfoldment of His future activities that will
manifest in countless varieties of forms.
Bhaktivinodas statements are the most delicate in his discussion on sastra,
especially when he presents the notion that material considerations in the sastra
can be studied, adjusted, accepted, and even in some cases rejected. Furthermore,
when the pure devotee deals with material nature, it is part of the artha-prada and
does not have to be taken as the paramartha-prada. However, people can stretch this
to all sorts of limits.
When the pure devotee enters the material world, the devotee may pick up some of
the socialization of the material energy because he or she takes on certain
humanlike qualities. Some people will see this in a very wonderful way because,
when Krishna sends His representatives, they connect with us to such an extent that
they take on certain patterns in order to help us in a more relevant way. They will
see it as an amazing exhibition of Krishnas power since He allows such pure
devotees to have a kind of humanness.
On the other hand, some people may become very disturbed since they think it
minimizes the position of the pure devotee who can never make errors. When such a
person considers these humanlike qualities of the pure devotee, it will shake their
whole belief system because they will doubt the devotees purity. However, another
person will feel even more excited when they think about Srila Prabhupadas life
and struggle. They will appreciate how Krishna worked through His pure devotee and
put him in so many challenging situations. Although a seeming error or mistake made
by the pure devotee is real, it is also part of his perfection because the pure
devotee is Krishnas fully surrendered servant.
Krishna May Cover Over a Pure Devotee
At the end of the day, people will find it hard to continue maintaining their
ultraconservative rationalizations. There were certain things that Prabhupada did
not know which should not reduce our ability to see him as a pure representative of
Krishna. Hari Sauri prabhu gave a good example. In one discussion, some devotees
argued that Prabhupada knew everything but Hari Sauri mentioned the Robin George
case as an example. Prabhupada told the leaders to send the girl back to her
parents but the leaders interpreted Prabhupadas statement differently. They
thought he made this statement for the public but that he really wanted everybody
to take shelter of Krishna. They could not understand how Prabhupada could tell
them to send the girl back to her demonic parents who were atheists and did not
want her to engage in Krishna consciousness. They felt that it was their duty to
kidnap the girl, which would make Prabhupada very happy. Later the case escalated
to the point that ISKCON lost millions of dollars as a result of not following
Prabhupadas instructions. When he later found out that the devotees had not sent
the girl back to her parents, he was shocked. He thought that she had returned to
them. Hari Sauri used this example to show that Prabhupada did not know the girl
had not returned to her parents until later. The pure devotee is not God but
Krishnas unalloyed servant; therefore, he knows as much as Krishna allows or wants
him to know.
In another case in Bombay, Prabhupada said that Krishna covered him over while he
dealt with the cheating landlord and that normally he would have seen right through
such a situation. Krishna can turn a person off and on. A pure devotee is a puppet
who allows himself to be turned off and on by Krishna. However, most people do not
want to entertain this type of discussion. These points may even disturb some
people, which is scary because, if we are not careful, we will turn Prabhupada into
a Jesus. Then we gradually create the rtvik philosophy by claiming that it all
stops with Srila Prabhupada. This mindset can also lead to offenses against other
Vaisnava systems and other religions.
Follow Lord Caitanyas Example
Our duty is to follow Lord Caitanyas example. He was humble even with the
mayavadis and offered them obeisances, but He then let His own life make an
influence. Even when He went to the Siva temple, He offered His respects. We just
read in one of the previous chapters that we should not offend the demigods.
Although we do not directly worship them, we do acknowledge their position as
agents for Krishna. In order to remain focused on the essence and to maintain
balance, a person must move beyond the kanistha platform. Nevertheless, people
often get stuck on this level. Some people can only maintain their determination to
follow by thinking of their process as the only way.
My older sister who is a Jehovahs Witness has this mood. She is convinced that
unless you call God Jehovah and follow their teachings, you will not enter into the
kingdom of God. Due to her strong conviction that they are the chosen ones, she
follows their ethical and moral teachings in a very pukka manner. A Jewish person
may also feel this strong loyalty to their tenets since they also accept their
group as the chosen ones. For some people, this type of philosophical understanding
gives them a reason to exist and helps them maintain their determination to follow
their process. If such people do follow honestly, they will gradually become more
mature and more inclusive.
Sometimes we do not want to overly disturb a person at that level because they may
just lose faith in God altogether. At times, Prabhupada would ask the Christians,
Why dont you serve properly? Why are you killing? If one chooses to follow
Christianity, at least follow all of Jesus instructions. In many cases, if such
people do follow properly, they will go to the heavenly kingdoms and then connect
with a pure Vaisnava who will take them to the next level. If someone engages in
genuine bhakti, even at an elementary level, it will later bring them to a higher
Recognize the Need for Change
When some devotees read about Bhaktivinoda Thakuras life, they may just put it
aside. They may think that his only purpose was to convince the bhadralokas or
pacify them so that they would not become too upset. All of these points are real
but it is what he gave us, what he said, and what he did. He maintained a very
healthy balance and helped us realize that we should not be interested in antiquity
or modernity. We are interested in seeing Krishnas love and presence come forth.
Therefore, we must also be able to recognize the need for changes. We can change
the artha-prada in order to enhance the paramartha-prada. This should be the basis.
In terms of the secondary aspects of sastra, we can keep it, alter it, change it,
or throw it out as long as it helps the primary aspects of sastra. When it does not
support the primary, then we should not embrace it. This means that we must
understand the nature of the primary through sufficient study and appreciation.
Ultimately, it involves realization.
Bhaktivinoda simply concludes by acknowledging the danger. In terms of allegory,
one may not know where to stop. A person could say that the heavenly planets and
hellish planets are purely allegorical, and Yamaraja is just meant to scare people.
The different incarnations are meant to help people accept the constant presence of
God and the Bhagavad-gita is not really a war but a battle between the senses. We
could go on and on. People who lack faith and just examine sastra from an
intellectual or rational perspective will examine the scriptures in this way.
Prabhupada would attack Radhakrishnan and even Gandhi for presenting the Bhagavad-
gita as an allegory emphasizing a humans battle with the senses instead of as an
actual war.
Our scriptures are very rare and unusual which is also Krishnas way of
categorizing or weeding out certain people. Those who see the sastra as mythology
do not have the sukrti or karma to come closer to Krishna. He has His own way of
keeping them at a distance. However, we must carefully avoid blaspheming the
scriptures by throwing them out or even misinterpreting them. We must also be
careful about misunderstanding the essence of the scriptures. We often just think
that blasphemy means to attack or reject the scriptures, but it can also border on
interpolating and speculating about its meaning.
We have a deep philosophy but very practical. Prabhupada was fixed in this
philosophy, which is why he made certain changes and emphasized specific areas. His
concern was how to give us the highest Krishna consciousness based on the present
day situation and on our particular contaminations. These teachings are very
complex and sacred in many ways. They are almost of a secretive nature because the
knowledge has not always been so available at all times to the general mass of
people. However, Lord Caitanya said there would be a senapati-bhakta who would come
after Him and literally go to every corner of the globe to spread His mission.
Srila Prabhupada fulfilled this prediction by engaging in an extremely powerful and
unusual activity. His activities were also extremely dangerous and confusing for
the doubting mind or the deviant person. Nevertheless, he delivered this very
important knowledge in such a tactful way in order to give us the highest
connections to the spiritual world. We must simply hold onto it, embrace it, and
experience it more and more.
Questions & Answers
Question: There are so many religions that are not meant for everyone. Each person
must examine these religions in order to discover their main principles. A person
needs to find out whether the religion is based on a single person or whether it is
based on the solid principles of the sastra. In India, the people have accepted
different religions for so many reasons. The Christians gave food and clothing to
the poor so they accepted. The Muslims threatened the people with death if they did
not practice Islam. However, I personally believe that Srila Prabhupada has given
the highest religion available. If you accept a religion based on the solid
principles of sastra, you can never go wrong. However, if you base the religion on
a person, one day it will simply vanish. A person needs to look within themselves
and discover their own reasons for accepting a religion.
Answer: These are very good points. We see that some people have trouble later in
their spiritual lives because they have based their beliefs on a person or on some
type of utilitarian activity instead of on a philosophy. Just as you mentioned, the
Muslim and Christian sectors have influenced India in specific ways. We can also
include the smarta-brahmanas who were born as brahmanas but were not acting as
such. They caused people to feel disgruntled and discouraged so that, when the
Muslims came into the country, the people strongly embraced the new theology. This
new religion gave them a sense of identity whereas the pukka brahmanas had labeled
them as outcastes. Many of these changes were simply reactions to these external
influences that have become a part of the process. This happens in religious
institutions at different times in history. We must continue to extract the real
essence of the sastra and then discover the ways in which it relates to our own
Our devotees in ISKCON are becoming either stronger or weaker. When these issues
arise, if a devotee has a genuine and strong desire to really know Krishna, it will
become stronger and stronger. Otherwise they will find themselves drifting away. In
many cases, our devotees still have the consciousness of the residents of the
heavenly planets. Prabhupada once said that most of his disciples want to go to the
heavenly kingdoms, which means that they still want to use God to gain some type of
pleasure or experience. Unfortunately people will then become angry if they do not
receive the desired result. They will constantly be disturbed because their lives
revolve around their minds and senses. When they finally move away from such self-
absorption, they will be able to connect more with transcendence. Then certain
arrangements will take place that can allow them to grow and expose their
weaknesses. If they have enough humility, they will genuinely work on their
weaknesses when they find them. When they lack humility and have too much self-
centeredness, they will just move in the other direction and place the blame
elsewhere. They will find so many ways to justify their reason for leaving ISKCON
or leaving spiritual life altogether.
We must look at the essence and realize that Mahaprabhu has given us something
special. He gave us this sweet Vaisnava culture, which is not limited to any
temple, zone, ritual, institution, or even ISKCON. Although we have a wonderful
institution that gave us the culture, we should look closer to find the essence. We
will continue to honor the essence if we really have a sincere desire to want to
embrace it. However, if we do not have a sincere desire, the Lord will take away
our intelligence and allow us to embrace some type of deviation.
Question: As followers of Srila Prabhupada, we accept that his commentaries, his
writings, and even instructions are on the same level as the sastra. We also have
the understanding that Prabhupada gave us the law books for the next ten thousand
years. Does the process of evaluating certain aspects of sastra according to time,
place, and circumstance also apply to Prabhupadas teachings? If so, how do we
avoid extreme liberalism and extreme fanaticism?
Answer: We can divide some of these points into two categories because at times
Srila Prabhupada has made two different statements in relation to the same issue.
Then we examine the context in which he made the statement and we look at the
amount of emphasis placed on that particular subject. Did he just give the
instruction in one or two situations in a specific type of environment or did he
give the instruction ten or twenty times in all types of situations? It is not a
problem that Prabhupada gave different instructions in different situations, but we
need to understand the environment and the context. We may also want to examine the
level of importance by finding out the number of times he gave a certain
instruction. In some specific situations, he may have given an instruction for one
particular person. For instance, when the devotees published Prabhupadas letters,
several devotees felt uncomfortable and they had good reasons to feel that way.
Although we want to have access to all of Prabhupadas words and activities, they
may be dangerous for neophytes because some of Prabhupadas instructions were meant
for specific disciples and only for those disciples. They were not meant to be
universally embraced.
For instance, as a spiritual master, I may also give specific instructions to
different disciples. If a disciple tells me, I am really suffering, making
offenses, and breaking principles, I may say, It would be good for you to get a
pious job and then visit the temple on weekends. The disciple may need this
instruction because he or she just cannot function in a communal environment due to
their many sinful desires. The purification process may just be so much on the
devotee that, if he or she stays in that environment, he will just end up
blaspheming Krishna and the devotees. That disciple may need a certain amount of
sense gratification in their life and a certain distance from the Deities and
devotees so that, when the disciple does visit, he or she will be able to
appreciate the environment. If other devotees hear this instruction, they could
interpret it in a general way. They may then think that the guru wants the devotees
to get jobs instead of living in the temple and engaging in sankirtana or Deity
worship. However, the instruction is meant for a specific situation and is not a
general principle. That type of misinterpretation can happen. We may claim that
guru gave the instruction or Prabhupada gave the instruction but he may have given
the instruction to a particular person under certain circumstances. We sometimes
have to look at his statement in the context of the situation.
Some people would hang me for discussing such issues because it is a delicate
topic. It makes some people uncomfortable to have to think about matters on this
level because it can shatter their entire belief system. However, Bhaktivinoda
emphasized that faith and belief are different. We may be able to adjust or examine
our belief system without challenging our faith. It should not disturb us that
Prabhupada has addressed situations differently. We see the beauty and the
variegatedness, and we see his personal concern manifest in his dealings with each
person and situation. It should make us even more excited about Prabhupadas
potency. He is not just a general doctor who gives the same medicine to everyone
but he gives some general medicine and also some specific medicine.
This would bewilder some of Prabhupadas secretaries to such an extent that some of
them even blooped. In some situations, Prabhupada would instruct or relate to a
devotee in one way, and when someone else came to see him, he would instruct them
in a completely different way. We see this type of variegatedness because of
Prabhupadas concern for each individual soul. For instance, a devotee may come to
see him after performing some wonderful service but that devotee might also have
brought their entire false ego with them. The disciple might then show pictures of
all the buildings they built or describe all of their amazing activities but
Prabhupada would almost ignore him. Another devotee who only engaged in an
insignificant service might come to see Prabhupada and he would glorify the person.
Such interactions may appear very strange to a servant who could then conclude that
Prabhupada has favorites. However, in this type of situation, Prabhupada responded
to the devotees consciousness and mood. This is personalism and this is Krishnas
mood. Krishna deals with every aspect of His creation in the most personal way. His
pure devotee should also have the same mood as the Lord.
Question: In the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Prabhupada says that,
although a pure devotee may make an imperfect translation, we should still accept
it as faultless. However, after Srila Prabhupada left the planet, his own purports
in the Bhagavad-gita were changed? How should we see such alterations?
Answer: People see it in two ways. First, we know that, although we may feel a
little reluctant to take scripture literally, the essence is there. If someone
takes it in the literal sense, the essence will come out in that sense. When
Prabhupada came to America and wrote his books, he happily encouraged the devotees
to edit them in order to make them more presentable, especially to the scholars. He
wanted them to focus on grammar and syntax. However, Prabhupada was on the planet
and could see their changes. Since he could look at the final product, such changes
did not cause any major disturbances. Some devotees even prefer the old, unedited
Bhagavatam because of its unique mood.
Once the acarya leaves the planet, it becomes very dangerous to make changes on his
personal work because the acarya cannot give the final approval. Consequently, some
devotees feel very nervous about such changes. On the other hand, other devotees
feel comfortable because the editors who made the changes are the same editors that
Srila Prabhupada personally trained and blessed to make the original alterations.
Some devotees feel that they understood what to adjust and what not to adjust.
Devotees will look at this issue in these two different ways. Some devotees feel
that certain changes are delicate but the editors will claim that such errors were
obvious mistakes made by the previous transcriber. In some cases, the editors have
clearly shown such mistakes. For instance, Jayadvaita Maharaja has helped people
feel more comfortable by letting them hear the original tape. When some of the
devotees initially edited Prabhupadas books, they were quite new within the
movement and did not always hear a word or statement properly. Now we know
Prabhupadas language and his terminology. In these cases, the devotees can refer
back to the original tapes. On the other hand, the mistakes do not concern some
devotees because the essence is there and the transcriber is Prabhupadas man. They
may point out that Prabhupada used Radhakrishnans Bhagavad-gita at one point until
he had his own.
In general, once the acarya leaves, tampering with any of his work is a delicate
issue. However, we have a whole contingent of devotees who are very sincere and who
feel that Prabhupadas books should be edited and footnoted. They feel that some of
Prabhupadas statements could really disturb people in modern day society due to
their general way of thinking. Certain statements may have connotations that can
cause people to really back away. People could interpret some of Prabhupadas
statements about women or race in many ways.
A very controversial example is when Prabhupada says, Women appreciate a man who
is expert in rape. If a rape victim or a victim of another type of abuse reads
such a statement, it could cause them to flip out or experience posttraumatic
stress. When some people read Prabhupadas books and hear such statements, they may
literally put it down and even blaspheme him or the movement because some of the
issues may come out in a way that offends their present day minds. When some women
read that a womans brain is smaller than a mans, they may immediately shut the
book in anger.
Most of the schools now will not even use Prabhupadas books because they seem
chauvinistic according to present day considerations. Even the Sri Siksastaka
prayers say, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful
women. In such cases, when Prabhupada refers to a woman, he sometimes means the
opposite sex. For a man, it means a woman and for a woman, it means a man. However,
a person may just see the text or book as chauvinistic and they have a valid
justification according to their conditioning.
Considering these factors, some devotees feel that we should edit Prabhupadas
books. However, at what point do we stop if we take this course of action? Some
devotees think that we should footnote his books and others think that we should
write additional books so that people can enter into his books in the right
consciousness. Of course I agree that it is better to leave Srila Prabhupadas
books with only the most basic editing and write our own books to assist the people
in accepting the acaryas books.
These are heavy issues. Recently several leaders told me that they do not feel
Prabhupadas books should be distributed to the public or to the masses because
certain aspects of the books will turn them against our movement. Some of the
leaders who feel this way are even sannyasis, gurus, and scholars. Since we do
distribute Prabhupadas books to everyone, the devotees need to speak and write for
the public in order to help them approach the books with the proper understanding.
This issue is very significant at this time because the terrorist attacks have
caused people to examine fanaticism more closely. The investigation into fanatical
behaviors and groups will begin to increase as a result. Due to the current events
in society now, Prabhupadas books may especially bother some intellectual or pious
people to such an extent that they will not even want to come into our movement.
Nevertheless, these factors will also change according to the social and economic
factors that always fluctuate throughout time.
Prabhupada wrote his books in a way that can reach generation after generation. All
acaryas give the essential knowledge, which can connect us with transcendence, but
we still have a need to help others understand this fact. At this point, we should
examine the artha-prada in order to find ways to help the people in general embrace
Krishna consciousness. Otherwise we would not need present day personal guidance.
The acaryas are giving the knowledge directly from the spiritual world but the
events in the material arena will affect the way in which people interpret the
message. This happens in so many arenas.
When people who teach and study comparative religion, Indology, philosophy, and
ancient cultures at major universities read Srila Prabhupadas books, many of them
just throw the books away. Many of them who have already been pained by chauvinism
will immediately identify the books with exploitation from the past. Then the book
just pushes a button in an unhealthy way. Some of the scholars in our movement who
teach in the classrooms want to see Prabhupadas books used in the academic
environments, especially the Bhagavad-gita. This was one of their main reasons for
addressing the issue two or three years ago but they got a huge backlash from
others who did not even want to consider the possibility of editing Prabhupadas
books. However, they had valid intentions because they wanted more people to accept
Prabhupadas books instead of finding reasons to reject them. Nevertheless, there
is definitely a danger involved in editing Prabhupadas books in his absence
because where do we set the limit? It is better that they stay as they are while we
do our part by encouraging people to read the entire book and understand certain
topics within context.
Question: You mentioned that St. John was experiencing madhurya-rasa and then you
also explained that the different names of God have different levels of potency.
How was it possible for St. John to experience madhurya-rasa if he was not calling
Krishnas name?
Answer: It is not so difficult because there is Krishnas law and there is also
Krishna who is in the heart. When Krishna sees that a particular servant of His
wants to know and serve Him, and wants to make any kind of necessary sacrifice,
Krishna will reach out for that person regardless of their particular tradition or
body. If we look at the life of St. John of the Cross and even at the lives of
certain acaryas, we will see such dedication and commitment. Of course this is the
exception. For instance, in high school we learn the knowledge according to our
level and age but sometimes one student may be such a high achiever that the
teacher will give the student additional knowledge and books even in that class.
Question: I think that, if people could try to understand the whole picture, they
would not see Prabhupadas statements as chauvinistic. Due to a lack of knowledge,
people categorize such statements according to their present world without
understanding the essence.
Answer: If people would look deeper instead of just taking one or two statements
out of context, they would then see the general spirit. If they examine
Prabhupadas own dealings and behavior, they will also be able to see this general
spirit. However most people do not take the time to look deeper, especially in this
fast paced culture in which computers can access words or themes in a matter of
seconds. Some homosexuals will look for one word that seems to attack
homosexuality, and if they find it, they will discard an entire philosophy, book,
or even group. I have seen this happen in many interviews and have become more
conscious of their perspective.
Sometimes the way our philosophy presents a subject is very heavy on them and just
freaks them out. Sometimes in an interview, after one or two opening questions,
they will pose a question in order to categorize a person. If they feel that you
are homophobic, then whatever you say or do becomes irrelevant. Some women who are
feminists have been so disempowered by men that they will first want to hear a
persons comments about women. After hearing one or two statements that make them
uncomfortable, they then categorize a person in a certain way and often lose
Question: In Islam, the second largest religion in the world right now, the women
are totally condemned. Why dont they question this conduct?
Answer: Many people including women are now questioning and many women have even
left Islam viciously even though they were raised as Muslims. They hate it. Some of
those women have low self-esteem and many other problems because of their
experiences. Your point is quite solid. If people would look more wholesomely, they
would gain a better understanding. However, this should apply to all religions. The
serious minded person must reject the exploitation of all religious doctrines and
should eagerly embrace the essence.
Chapter 8
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In this chapter, Srila Haridasa discusses the fifth offense against the Holy Name:
The fifth offense or namaparadha is to think that the glories of the holy name are
exaggerated. This is against the scriptural injunctions. For instance, it is
offensive to think, The scriptural presentation of the glories of the Lords holy
name is not entirely true, because hyperbole has been employed to increase the
readers faith in the chanting of the nameA thousand names of Lord Visnu are equal
to one name of Lord Rama, and three names of Lord Rama are equal to one name of
Lord Krishna.
Harinama Cintamani, 63-64
Sometimes we preach to people that they can call on any name of God but this
general idea is meant for the kanistha because the names do have different levels
of potency. Through careful examination, we see that one thousand names of Lord
Visnu equal one name of Rama. Three names of Rama equal one name of Krishna.
Sometimes Prabhupada would tell people that they did not need to change their lives
but they simply needed to chant the holy name. However, the secret is that if a
person chants the holy name seriously, he or she will see the need to change and
will in fact change. From an esoteric perspective, when a person chants seriously,
they will understand the need to take shelter of a guru and to change their sinful
Therefore whatever results the scriptures say are gained from chanting are easily
available to the devotee who is attached to the pure name. One who doubts this fact
is a sinner who is doomed because of committing namaparadha. All the revealed
scripturesthe Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Puranas, etc.are filled with
explanations of the super excellence of the holy name. So to doubt these statements
is abominable.
Harinama Cintamani, 65
Once again, Haridasa concludes the section by giving us the method to counteract
this offense.
If this namaparadha is somehow committed, the offender has to go humbly to the
assembly of Vaisnavas and attentively listen to the narrations of the pastimes and
qualities of the Supreme Lord from the lips of a pure devotee. Full of remorse, the
offender must admit his transgression against the holy name and beg forgiveness
from the Vaisnavas. The Vaisnavas are realized in the glories of the name; they
will mercifully deliver the offender from his sins by embracing him. Then the
offensive mentality will be purified and he will be protected from the onslaught of
maya. Offenses against the holy name are committed because of mayas deception. If
a devotee meets or even just sees the face of such an offender, he should
immediately take bath in the Ganges. If the Ganges is not nearby, he should bathe
in some other pure water. In the event that this also is not possible, he should
purify himself by bathing mentally.
Harinama Cintamani, 66
Questions & Answers
Question: Sometimes we preach that people do not have to change their lives but
just chant Hare Krishna. However, we know that this is somewhat of a trick because
if they do chant Hare Krishna with any sincerity, many connections will begin to
take place in their lives and they will surely see why they need to change their
lifestyle. Are there any dangers involved in tricking people? How do we know when
it is improper or exploitive?
Answer: In all of our activities, we share something, receive something, and try to
convince others of something. Some of these exchanges are very overt and direct,
and many of the exchanges are covert and indirect. Everything involves sambandha,
or relationships. However, we must ask, What type of relationship do we have? Is
it about service or exploitation? Does the relationship help us as well as other
people increase our Krishna consciousness or does it jeopardize our spiritual life?
We have heard many times:
anasaktasya visayan
yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts everything in
relation to Krishna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness.
Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, 2.255
We want to particularly take notice of what is favorable for our spiritual life in
contrast to what is unfavorable. We should use this as our barometer. Tricking or
not tricking is not really the essential concern. We should mainly be concerned
about the best way to bring forth more Krishna consciousness.
All of our actions should always be in accordance with the words and actions of our
previous acaryas and bona fide sadhus. As we look at the mission of Lord Caitanya,
we see how He constantly used direct and indirect ways to help everyone. For
instance, one of the reasons He took sannyasa was to minimize the offenses that
some people would commit. They would not be as offensive to Him in His position as
a sannyasi. Who actually is Lord Caitanya? He is Krishna who has appeared in the
bhava of Srimati Radharani and who is in disguise as a devotee. Lord Caitanya also
encouraged everyone to chant the holy names in every town and village. One might
also see this as transcendental trickery because, in each case, He finds a way to
help people consciously as well as unconsciously.
It might be better to think in terms of how to more mindfully make arrangements to
help other people. Lets agitate our minds to find more clever ways to help as many
people as we can in as many ways as we can. Obviously, in some instances, it may
require more subtle or indirect approaches, but in every case, we can judge the
situation by how much the actions and the nature of the relationship is favorable
for developing a higher level of Krishna consciousness.
Question: It is an offense to think that the results of chanting are imagination or
exaggeration. Many benedictions in the sastras often explain that, if one hears a
certain pastime, they will never experience defeat or some other exceptional
result. Are some of these descriptions exaggerations or ways to trick the reader?
Answer: Most of the sastric narrations end with a phala-sruti, or a verse that
offers the result of hearing and reciting the particular story. These are not
exaggerations; everything stated in the authorized scriptures is true. Although
sometimes these benedictions seem to be related more to material life, their
ultimate benefit is spiritual. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura states in one of his
songs that a wise Vaisnava renounces those benedictions and strives to attain love
for Lord Krishna. Therefore, one of the purposes of phala-sruti is to trick the
readers into deepening their faith and commitment to hearing and chanting the
glories of the Lord.
The process of devotional service begins by hearing topics about the Supreme Lord.
When a person has heard these topics properly, he or she can then proceed to repeat
them for others benefit and reflect on their significance. Thus, careful study,
teaching, and practical application of sastra increases our faith and strengthens
our adherence to the devotional principles, which gradually culminates in
unshakable faith in Lord Krishna. Such perfect faith gives us the right to enter
the Lords intimate service and, in due course of time, return to our eternal,
spiritual existence in one of the Lords personal abodes. Ultimately, this is the
purpose and the result of being tricked by the benedictions of the sastras.
Chapter 9
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
What is the difference between a sin and an offense? In Kali-yuga, people cannot
easily recognize sinful behavior because many do not accept the existence of the
Godhead. They fail to recognize that the summum bonum has arranged this universe in
absolute ways and has requested a certain standard of conduct from the living
entities. Once people minimize or try to annihilate the fact that God does exist,
they will find it easier to engage in situational ethics. This means that, if an
action seems logical, rational, and functional according to time, place, and
circumstance, people will accept it as ethical and moral. Many people use this as a
barometer in their daily lives and will categorize those who think differently as
imposing, unnatural, or even fanatical.
In many countries now, especially in Denmark, a large number of people do not
officially marry anymore. It has become almost archaic or old-fashioned. Instead, a
man and woman live together and call each other their partner, which basically
means that they have some mutual agreement instead of an official marriage. People
often feel that, if two mature adults have mutually consented to the arrangement,
it is not wrong or improper. When a society lacks a sense of community and unity,
and fails to honor the Lord and higher laws, people will certainly just make
choices for the moment. However, in even the most basic materialistic situations,
this mentality will simply lead to failure.
On the material level, there is still a need for institutions, long-term plans,
goals, and teamship. People must have the means to reach their goals which requires
teamship. No material or spiritual organization could function if each person acted
according to their own desires and then expected the organization to honor such
whimsical work. A person could not even maintain a job if he or she acted only
according to their own desires. How would a society function if every person
decided to create their own laws? People could then claim that, since they own the
house and the property, they should have the right to make all their own decisions.
However, it does not work that way. For instance, a person may want to get a
certain university degree in six months instead of in four years but the system
does not accommodate our desires. Although there is independence, there are also
distinct laws that people must honor if they want proper certification.
When it comes to higher aspects of life such as philosophy, morality and
religiosity, people tend to act only for the moment which causes chaos and the
tendency to cheat. In terms of religiosity, people turn to God and engage in their
religious practice only when they want something. Even in our day-to-day lives, we
do not live so arbitrarily. Many people may feel that the idea of mentorship or
guruship is archaic. It may seem too imposing since they must give up their power
and freedom, and place themselves under an autocratic type of arrangement. However,
such people are also cheaters because every society has laws and any person who
does not follow the rule of law will undergo punishment.
In every one of our activities, there is some sense of accountability. We cannot
just drive down the street in any way we want or simply decide to stop paying our
taxes. Anywhere we travel, there are rules that we must follow and consequences if
we break them. Even as we engage in our day-to-day services, we must connect with
different types of authorities such as lawyers, doctors, or financial advisors. It
is such an integral part of existence. When one tries to enter into a spiritual
lifestyle, the mind becomes such a rascal. It says, Why do you need someone to
give you instructions? This is unnatural. The mind wants to rebel. This is simply
a cheating mentality because a person cannot even be a good employer or citizen
without honoring criterion, relationships, and authorities. However, when it comes
to the greatest sense of authority, which is God and His representatives, the mind
does not want to submit. Often a person will feel a sense of exhilaration simply by
acting defiantly or erratically.
The Difference Between a Sin and an Offense
At the beginning, I asked a question: What is the difference between a sin and an
offense? Although they are connected in some ways, there are distinct differences.
In society, the basic deviations are usually sins, but as we go deeper in spiritual
life, the deviations may then turn into offenses. Our Western Judeo-Christian
background mainly focuses on sins. There are many laws, commandments, tenets, and
codes that also explain the consequences of disregarding the laws and explain the
way that God views such deviations.
A sin and an offense are quite similar in a way. They have a connection and one
produces the other. Sometimes the words are interchangeable. However, an offense is
much more serious than a sin. If a person sins, sometimes a general type of
prayascitta or reformatory action can relieve them of the reaction. A bank robber
may simply need to spend a certain amount of time in jail in order to regain his
freedom. However, an offense is not so easy to absolve. In order to destroy the
offense, a person must undergo a change of consciousness, and in many cases, the
offender must actually beg forgiveness from the person they have offended. A sin
does not necessarily require a person to make a personal appeal in order for the
cleansing and transition to take place. A person may simply need to pay a fine or
spend time in jail in order to relieve themselves of the consequences of their
actions. Furthermore, an offense can lead to serious reactions. For instance, the
consequences may not only affect the person but may extend to the family, the
village, and even into future generations. Sometimes a heavy aparadha may even
affect generation after generation. The effects of such a great offense may even
disturb an entire region. When a pure devotee takes birth, an entire village or
city can receive blessings and such a person can even liberate those who have a
karmic connection to them. On the other hand, the sastra explains that an offense
against a pure devotee can lead to the suffering of the whole family or village.
When someone accidentally deviates due to overwhelming circumstances, the deviation
is considered to be a sin. However, if the person continues acting defiantly even
after recognizing their improper behavior, it then turns into an offense. On the
other hand, if the devotee feels regret and has sufficient sincerity, he or she
will not fall prey again. In some cases, a devotee may have sufficient knowledge to
recognize an improper action but may still act improperly due to their desires. If
the devotee then tries to counteract their sinful action by chanting extra rounds
or engaging in some other type of prayascitta, he commits the seventh offense which
is to sin on the strength of chanting the holy name. We cannot receive forgiveness
from an offense simply by chanting ten extra rounds or undergoing some general type
of austerity. There must be a sufficient change in consciousness. Furthermore, if
we offended a specific person, we must humble ourselves and beg for forgiveness
along with the change of consciousness. Otherwise we will still carry the effect of
the offense with us.
We Must Root Out the Desire to Sin
Srila Haridasa Thakura continues by discussing this seventh offense against the
holy name. In Chapter Nine, Srila Haridasa says:
Chanting gradually diminishes the propensity to sin and simultaneously purifies the
consciousness. At this juncture, the taste for chanting begins to manifest and the
inclination to commit sinful activities vanishes, though a faint residue of
previous sinful activity still lingers in the consciousness.
Harinama Cintamani, 68
Although we externally stop the sinful activities, the seed or the desire to sin
may still remain in the consciousness and can later grow into a weed again. As
Vaisnavas, we have the duty to stop the sinful behavior and then work on our
consciousness in order to root out the desire to sin. Otherwise, the desire will
gradually produce the unhealthy action. For instance, when someone first stops
drinking or smoking, the desire will remain strong and will even cause a relapse
due to their lack of strength. However, as their mind and intelligence begin to
recognize the destructive results of such habits, the person will also realize that
these substances have simply kept them enslaved. These realizations will help them
develop more of an inner strength and gain enough stability to avoid such
temptations in the future. If they can then use that same emotional psychophysical
energy and direct it in a healthy direction, the inner desire will decrease because
the mind culture will be engaged elsewhere.
Redirect Your Energy
visaya vinivartante
niraharasya dehinah
rasa-varjam raso py asya
param drstva nivartate
The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for
sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher
taste, he is fixed in consciousness.
Bhagavad-gita, 2.59
We must engage in transformation because we cannot just stop acting. We can
temporarily repress our desires but, unless we develop a sufficient understanding
and find a way to redirect that energy, maya will constantly grab us and beat us.
She will continue to beat us if we allow ourselves to remain receptive to her
For example, if someone asks you to engage in a devious activity with them when you
are bored, you may entertain the idea. However, if you have plans which are a part
of your structured life, the enticement to fulfill the unhealthy desire will not
overpower you. There is an old saying, An idle mind is the devils workshop. If
we are not sufficiently using our energy, it will go somewhere. We are all pleasure
seekers by nature who want happiness and satisfaction. We need to allow our
intellect to understand the nature of devotional service and we must find ways to
engage our energies. This is sadhana-bhakti. We must employ our senses. If we fail
to engage ourselves sufficiently and simply repress by acting in a mechanical way,
at some point we will lose it. All these inner desires will surface, haunt us, and
enslave us.
We Must Understand the Effects of Sin
When someone sins or acts improperly, they should have a general understanding of
why it is improper and a genuine desire to be free of such. Otherwise a person who
deviates may not regret their actions until others find out about their deviation.
Although they may feel disturbed about a deviation, they may feel more disturbed
that other people know rather than feeling genuine remorse about their behavior.
They may feel upset that others will not perceive them in the same way or continue
to honor and respect them. They actually feel disturbed that their faade has been
somewhat uncovered. Such a person will not sufficiently grow in their consciousness
and will even continue sinning with the hopes that no one will catch them. Since
the mind and consciousness are not in the right place, they will not be able to
stop their behavior.
We must look deeper in order to root out the seeds that can surface from time to
time. We cannot just cut off the top of the weed because the rain and sun will
nourish the seed until it grows again. Some devotees have received initiation into
the process of devotion but they then commit sins on the strength of chanting the
holy name. Consequently they constantly carry negative karma since they have not
deeply felt a sense of remorse. They simply feel unhappy or morbid but have not
understood the effect of the sin on their contract. Later we will see how it
affects their relationship with their guru.
Srila Haridasa then says:
The receding sinful reactions leave an odor of sinful habit hanging in the air, but
the chanters contact with the name engenders a purity of willpower and mind that
overcomes this clinging stigma of sinPerchance a devotee may commit a sin; still,
he does not have to undertake the penance, or prayascitta, recommended in the Vedas
to atone for and counteract it. Such sins are a passing phase; they will be drowned
in the nectar of the holy name.
Harinama Cintamani, 68
In other words, if a devotee commits a sin, he or she will not have to undergo
certain ritualistic activities to free themselves of the reaction since the potency
of the devotional process will absorb and eradicate the sin. However, if a devotee
commits another sin on the strength of chanting, then he is unsteady. He is a
deceitful person and is doomed due to this namaparadha (Harinama Cintamani, 68).
A person sins due to a certain weakness of heart or as a premeditated action. There
is a vast difference between the two. For example, if a person murders someone else
out of passion or due to an assault, it may be considered self-defense. However, if
a person plans a murder in spite of understanding the sinful nature of the act,
this premeditated murder has a much greater consequence. Srila Haridasa says here
that such a person is sinful and the effects of the aparadha will destroy their
devotional creeper.
A materialist has to perform prayascitta and repent bitterly if he commits sin. But
if he commits sin on the purifying strength of the holy name, then even prayascitta
is futile. He faces certain ruination. Even after untold retribution in hell, hell
not be absolved from this namaparadha. Just the inclination to sin itself results
in enough tribulation for the soul; if he further compounds his difficulties by
deliberately committing sin on the strength of chanting, his fate is most
Harinama Cintamani, 68-69
Krishna Consciousness is Dangerous and Powerful
Knowledge is dangerous and Krishna consciousness is very dangerous because it is so
powerful. When much is given, much is expected. There are billions of people just
in this universe alone. Lord Caitanya only comes at certain times in the history of
the world so not all souls receive His blessings. The special souls who receive
such an opportunity get to hear knowledge which far surpasses mere religion and
ethics. This knowledge gives the conditioned soul information about the spiritual
world along with the souls eternal relationship with the Lord.
If such a soul takes initiation into the parampara process which the nitya-siddhas
have brought from the spiritual world, and he then learns about his eternal nama,
rupa, guna, and lila but still chooses to act sinfully, his position is most
unfortunate and even more dangerous. If a person comes this close to such a potent
process but still remains deviant, he or she will receive even heavier
For instance, an initiated devotee will receive a heavier reaction from a sin that
a new bhakta or bhaktin, and a sannyasi will receive a heavier reaction than a
brahmacari. As we receive more shelter and blessings, the Lord and His
representatives expect more of us. If we then deny the Lords mercy, we make an
even greater assault. If an initiated devotee hears about these offenses but still
continues to sin, he or she will not be totally absolved of the consequences even
after suffering in the hellish planets. Such a person has to have a serious shift
of consciousness and beg for forgiveness in order to free themselves from this type
of aparadha.
He then explains:
A devotee who has taken shelter of the holy name can live in any situationin
household life or in the forest as a hermit. If the household situation is
conducive to chanting, then the life of a mendicant is unnecessary and wrong; but
if household life is unfavorable, the devotee is duty-bound to forsake home. It is
a terrible offense to commit sins on the strength of chanting; this offender is
forever banished from the path of devotional service.
Harinama Cintamani, 69
The chanting is so powerful that devotees do not need to worry about their varna
and asrama. Even if they are steeped in household affairs, it is not a problem as
long as they go on chanting and maintain their focus on the goal. The process
works. The reason that people have trouble in their devotional lives is always
related to sins and aparadhas, which stem from individual desires from the past and
present and relate to how we take advantage of association.
He again ends this chapter by explaining the remedy for the aparadha:
If by some error this namaparadha is committed, one must search out the assembly of
pure Vaisnavas. The propensity to sin is like a highway robber who accosts the
wayfarer. The pure devotees are the guardians of the path who come to ones aid
when the devotee calls aloud for their help. Just hearing that call, the robber
immediately runs away, fearing that the guards will come. The guardians, the pure
Vaisnavas, will console the devotee with soothing words and assurances of their
Harinama Cintamani, 70
In other words, if a person becomes involved in sinful activities which weaken
their devotional creeper, they must purely understand their precarious position and
they must take shelter of Vaisnavas and sadhus. If they then try to take shelter
after having a change in consciousness, that act alone will chase away the robber
or the residue of the sin. It will alter the desire and the environment that the
soul must work through. They will receive a certain strength to move on.
Our Desire to Change Must be Genuine
How does a person change their consciousness if he or she simply remains
preoccupied or distracted by the deviations? When a person has no faith in the
medicine, how can it help them? In such a case, unless their desire changes by
understanding the need for help, the individual will be doomed. For instance, a
drug addict may occasionally try to gain freedom from the drug, but if the desire
for that stimulation is too strong, they will not be able to follow through with
any type of rehabilitation program. Although they may abstain temporarily, they
soon return to the drug and a few months or years later they may again try to
follow another rehabilitation program. Actually the person does not really have a
genuine desire to change. Although they have a basic idea that they should act
differently due to the degraded condition of their life, they still do not have a
profound desire to change. Consequently, no institution, book, therapist, or
workshop will help that person change unless he or she really wants to change. Then
the desire and the help will lead to the change.
Sometimes devotees stay in maya or move back and forth because in the deeper
aspects of their consciousness they really do not want to change. Maya of course
will produce many activities to engage them. They do not have enough deep
appreciation for the wonderful opportunity that will manifest if they can just
somehow follow through in this lifetime. Due to the lack of appreciation, the sin
aggregates and even turns into aparadha.
Questions & Answers
Question: How can a devotee discriminate between an accidental falldown and a
premeditated sin? Some devotees may not consciously plan to sin and then chant
extra rounds but they somehow commit this offense. How can we determine the nature
of a deviation?
Answer: Let us examine Srila Haridasa and Srila Prabhupadas example which they
gave us for our benefit. We should have tremendous fear of any type of deviation.
If a person has great fear of maya, they will not come close enough to risk a
falldown. For example, Srila Haridasa felt that if he did not finish all of his
rounds, he would fall into maya. Even Srila Prabhupada would pray to the Deities
that he would not fall down. His prayer should help us understand that, as long as
we remain very fearful of maya, we will not fall. However, if we do have some
slight deviation, we will immediately have the ability to bounce back. Problems
will arise when we start taking maya for granted. We will begin to think, I dont
need to chant today. After all, most of the time I do just fine. Every now and then
I may take some drugs but I will just fast tomorrow for the entire day. At this
point, it becomes a sin as well as an offense. First we should just have great
fear. Next we must ask ourselves if the deviation occurred just once or on several
occasions. If it continues to recur, we should recognize it as an aparadha.
Question: Once we have taken initiation, do our offenses soon stop completely?
Answer: We will still have traces of offenses, which the Lord does not entirely
hold against us, until we attain a level of full purity. As long as we are seeing
the Deities without fully accepting Them as God, chanting the holy name without
fully understanding it as nondifferent from Krishna, and chanting without tears
flowing from our eyes, we should realize that some obfuscation or static is still
interrupting the process. It means that some slight aparadhas remain but the Lord
does not fully hold it against us because it is Kali-yuga and it is a process of
development. However, if we continue to act inappropriately in spite of having
sufficient knowledge, such a grave deviation will weaken and eventually destroy the
persons devotional creeper.
Question: Ajamila attained liberation just by saying the name of his son, Narayana,
although he was not even thinking about Lord Krishna in any way. How can we
understand this?
Answer: Many of these pastimes contain deeper aspects to the story. Ajamila had
actually been a pukka brahmana and worshiped the Narayana Deity in his youth. After
deviating from the path of devotion, he named his youngest son Narayana. When he
called his sons name at the time of death, he also reconnected the name to his
previous worship of his Narayana Deity. Since his previous puja was still a part of
his permanent, spiritual bank account, he was able to benefit from chanting the
name. However, the benefit really stemmed from his previous worship of Lord
Narayana, which had been very serious at one time. Krishna allowed Ajamila to think
about this son at the time of death which then connected him with the Deity of
Narayana. This connection led to some alteration in his consciousness. Although we
may have a deviation, the beauty is that the Lord never forgets all of our positive
behavior from the past.
Question: If we encourage or try to force an ordinary sinful person on the street
to say the holy name in order to uplift their consciousness, does he or she commit
a sinful activity at that time?
Answer: Encouraging a person to say Hare Krishna is not an offense because we are
not initiating the person into the daily process of chanting as a Vaisnava. We read
earlier that a person can benefit from ajnata-sukrti, which is one of the ways a
person gains devotional credits. If the person chants the holy name or engages in
some service without understanding the devotional process, they do not make an
offense. Although the person may be sinful, he will benefit because he is not
posing as a devotee. Even if they say the holy name in jest, they will still
benefit. However, a person commits offenses when he makes a commitment to the
process and still chooses to sin in spite of such vows.
Question: Are we responsible for offenses in the mind?
Answer: In Kali-yuga, we make mental offenses but we are not held fully
responsible. However, the mental offense is still an offense.
Question: You previously mentioned that, if we repress our desires instead of
transforming them, maya will grab us at anytime. Could you elaborate on this point?
Answer: If the mind remains idle, it will gradually fill itself with undesirable
thoughts and desires. For instance, an idle mind will soon return to past desires
or even attach itself to any allurement in the environment. However, if we properly
engage our minds, we can then direct its wanderings so that the many allurements
will not cause a distraction. In terms of repression, we all want happiness,
security, and relationships. I recently gave a class at Penn State and discussed
the basic needs of a human being. Even psychologists recognize certain basic needs.
If these needs are not met, we will always try to find some way to meet them. If we
cannot satisfy them in the spiritual community, we will soon try to satisfy them in
other environments.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura made the point that the mind needs to be stimulated and
somewhat satisfied. However, if we are just working and working without satisfying
the mind, after awhile, we will leave the service or work in order to find another
engagement. Although we may work with the cows, engage in sankirtana, or oversee
the treasury, if we have no taste or desire to do the service, we may engage our
legs, hands, and arms but withhold our minds. After a period of time, our legs,
arms, and hands will also want other sources of stimulation because we have simply
repressed certain desires without feeling any satisfaction from our current
service. The unhealthy desires still exist but they just remain hidden until an
opportunity arises for them to come forth.
Question: You said that we can perform devotional service in a mechanical way. How
do we transform it?
Answer: This is not such a problem. Most of our activities in our neophyte stage
lack realization and taste at first, but as our understanding increases, the
botherations will decrease. Then our appreciation and taste will naturally
increase. However, it is hard if we are dishonest and too selfish. If we lack
honesty, we will simply pretend which can cause problems. If we are too selfish, we
will not be able to hear or understand the importance or necessity of certain
aspects of the devotional process. Instead, we will simply consider our own desires
and wants. For example, a child may want to play with a knife but the mother may
say, No, it is dangerous. This knife can cut you. Please dont play with it.
Nevertheless, the child is crying and pleading, I want! I want! Give it to me!
This kind of selfishness will prevent the child from seeing the danger. Sometimes a
so-called devotee acts in this way, and due to some unhealthy mindsets, they cannot
see properly. Sometimes we may just need to experience an unpleasant situation.
Although this may seem complicated, it is rather simple. We just need to ask
ourselves if we are really trying to honor the law. For instance, a person can
easily avoid deviation simply by understanding the laws of society and the
expectations. If the person then understands the reasons for such laws, they can
follow without any problem. Some people have such a hard time staying out of jail
or getting arrested because they have a mentality of corruption. When they see some
desirable merchandise, they immediately want to take it without considering the
results. They think they will not get caught again. An honest person will not get
drawn into situations that continuously put them in prison.
Some devotees are so dishonest with themselves and have such a propensity for
deviation that they are constantly drawn into such situations because it is a part
of their consciousness. Some devotees are continuously drawn to intoxications again
and again. They abstain for several months but then suddenly revert to old
patterns. Some devotees go back and forth in this way, bhoga-tyaga. This results
from the cheating propensity but we cannot cheat Krishna. We cannot come to Krishna
with this cheating mentality and expect to become happy. Any unhappiness or
disturbance in our lives should indicate that we are still trying to cheat Krishna.
Consequently, we will undergo so many problems which is also Krishnas way of
helping us see the negative results of cheating.
Chapter 10
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
The ninth offense is to instruct the glories of the holy name to the faithless.
The first essential requirement for chanting Krishnas holy name is sraddha or firm
faith. One who is bereft of it cannot hear the name and is therefore unfit to
chantAccording to Vaisnava etiquette, a person who does not have sraddha for the
name should not be initiated into chanting. If a faithless person is initiated into
chanting or is instructed about the glories of the holy name, he will only defile
and disrespect the name. This is the statement of the scripture. The swine will
crush the pearls strewn before it and the monkey will tear the cloth it is given. A
faithless person will similarly commit increasing offenses to the holy name and
thus invite his doom. Simultaneously, the initiating guru will be dragged down by
his share in these offenses; very soon, he will leave the path of devotional
Harinama Cintamani, 71-72
The Guru Must be Careful
Sometimes a spiritual mentor wants to make disciples in order to increase his
prestige, wealth or influence. A leader may want to build up a workforce, an army,
or a financial base. This is of course a cheating mentality. If a guru has such
desires, he will give initiation to practically anyone who steps forth even if the
person lacks sufficient faith. He may even solicit people to become disciples and
want to initiate people with power or wealth in order to use them in a utilitarian
way. If such a person receives initiation into the holy name despite their lack of
faith, they become an aparadhi against the name and will suffer. Not only are they
sinning but they are also committing offenses. The guru will also suffer because of
his responsibility to give shelter and guidance to such souls. He has initiated a
person who is a hypocrite, and since he is also acting hypocritically, they will
both go to hell.
The spiritual master must perform a balancing act when giving diksa initiation
because he has the duty to be merciful, but he must also be careful. Some spiritual
masters may not give initiation for three to five years. They will wait until the
aspirants have taken many tests, have received recommendations, and have served
under them for some time. After two or three years, the guru may not accept the
aspirant as a disciple. This is in the spirit of acting cautiously. Some gurus will
only give initiation to a small number of disciples so they can personally monitor
the disciples.
It is dangerous for a spiritual master to accept almost any aspirant. Although it
is an aspect of mercy, it is dangerous. The danger also depends on the spiritual
potency of the particular guru. Without sufficient potency, a few offensive or
faithless disciples can lead to the gurus fall. Even if the spiritual master does
have a very high level of potency, he may still suffer somewhat due to initiating
faithless people who later deviate. Prabhupada had a very liberal mood and many of
our acaryas also had that same mood. For this reason, it is very important for the
disciple to understand the nature of the initiation commitment and for the guru to
give a warning of the dangers. However, at certain points the guru may need to cut
the relationship with the disciple if they continue to remain deviant.
For instance, a father may tell a deviant son that he no longer considers the boy
to be his son. Although the father still feels love and concern, he cannot tolerate
such deviations. He may tell the son, Your deviation is so heavy that I can no
long bear to see it. It hurts me so much to watch your behavior that, if you must
act in this way, you have to do it elsewhere. We can no longer remain in contact
and I no longer consider you my son. The father feels tremendous pain but he has
to act accordingly. He hopes that strong action will bring some sanity to the son
or daughter. Considering these points, there are times when the guru must formally
cut the connection with a hope that the disciples behavior will change. Otherwise
Haridasa Thakura says that the guru gradually becomes doomed along with the deviant
Insincere Disciples Can be Rejected
In Kali-yuga, the spiritual master is warned not to take unlimited disciples. The
disciple must also execute caution and feel capable of receiving instructions from
their particular guru. Krishna keeps everyone accountable which means that a
spiritual mentor who just makes disciples for name and fame will have to pay
consequences. It is an offense to give the holy name to the faithless and it makes
the devotional process very cheap. It can also lead to confusion because, when such
faithless initiates act improperly, the deviation may no longer seem so serious. It
will disturb the culture of devotion because some devotees who are already weak
will take to the deviant lifestyle and will use the deviant devotees to justify
their own behavior.
If the guru knows that the person who has approached him for initiation is an
insincere, faithless pretender, yet he heedlessly initiates him simply for material
gain, he commits a heinous offense against the holy name. If the guru was unable to
make a correct assessment, and thinking the disciple to be sincere and faithful
gave him initiation, only to later discover that he is a pretender, he must make
immediate redress for his mistake.
Harinama Cintamani, 72-73
At times, the spiritual master may give initiation to a person who is a risk.
However, if the person later turns out to be a faithless deviant, the guru should
make some redress. If he cannot somehow change or elevate the person, he may either
arrange for chastisement or the annihilation of the contract. Sometimes a spiritual
master personally arranges for the chastisement of the disciple. The disciple may
receive problems directly from the guru so that they will understand the difference
between proper and improper behavior. We can compare this type of chastisement to
the reformatory actions of a father and mother. Sometimes a parent may distinctly
reinforce good behavior, and at other times, the parent may give certain
restrictions. The parent may not let their teenage son drive the car for a week in
order to deter the child from deviant behavior. Prabhupada says that you can
forgive once, forgive twice, and forgive three times, but then you chastise.
If by inadvertence and lack of experience, a mistake such as instructing and
initiating a faithless person occurs, the initiating spiritual master should be
filled with fear and remorse. He has to publicize his offense before the Vaisnava
community and reject that insincere disciple, excommunicating him.
Harinama Cintamani, 73
In other words, insincere disciples attack the spiritual masters immune system and
the Vaisnava community to such an extent that the guru may need to even publicly
expose them from time to time. This rejection will eradicate some of the disease
which the deviant carries into the environment, and it will also send a message to
other devotees. The community should understand that such behavior is deviant and
is intolerable. Srila Haridasa says that the guru must publicize the offense and
reject the disciple. I have done this for many years, and some devotees were
shocked when they heard about it. However, when Harinama Cintamani came out, they
could understand that at certain times a guru must reject a disciple if they
continue to deviate despite continuous warnings.
My mood is that I accept disciples rather easily but I also reject disciples. Of
course a disciple may appear faithful in the beginning but later deviate. For this
reason, some of us give initiation rather quick because we realize that a person
can perform nicely for four or six years without giving any indication that such
consistency will end, but later may become a big deviant. This risk always exists,
and if the devotee does deviate, we must try to help as much as possible and then
even reject a disciple who fails to change. If the guru fails to act promptly,
hell gradually sink into the depths of moral depravity and illusion, and be
disenfranchised from the path of devotion (Harinama Cintamani, 73). When a sin
continues to take place, the spiritual master has the duty to clearly indicate the
proper standard. Although he has compassion and tolerance, compassion does not mean
that the guru or father simply watches the daughter hurt herself. A father who lets
his son remain in the house while taking drugs is basically facilitating the
deviation and allowing the son to remain materially comfortable. If the parent
cannot change the childs consciousness or make them go to therapy, keeping the
child in the house will simply reinforce the deviation. Similarly, if the disciple
will not change after continuous guidance and if the guru does not address the
situation, he actually reinforces the sinful activity.
The Guru/Disciple Connection is Powerful
If, without paying heed to Your instructions, a guru initiates an insincere
pretender, he commits a grievous offense for which he goes to hell (Harinama
Cintamani, 73). We can now understand why gurus sometimes fall down. It relates to
their own immune system, to their relationship with their spiritual master, and to
the quality of those under their care. These three factors will determine the
status of a particular spiritual master. If a guru does not have so much internal
or spiritual strength, the large quantity of deviant disciples will lead to
physical, psychological, and spiritual problems. If such problems continue, it will
eventually lead to spiritual deviation. The connection between the guru and the
disciple is very powerful when both are accountable and understand their
The namaparadha committed by the charlatan disciple slowly but surely diminish the
gurus spiritual potency; finally the guru is ruined. This offense has a
devastating effect on both the guru and disciple: they both must enter hell
(Harinama Cintamani, 73). When a guru falls, we often see that many of those
connected with him also fall. The contract has been disturbed in such a way that
everybody suffers. However, the responsibility of a fall never lies fully with the
disciples because the guru makes choices and he should be or become more
prophylactic by taking shelter of his spiritual master in the parampara system.
Every guru is also a disciple. If the guru takes the necessary shelter, Krishna
will not even hold him fully accountable for all the deviations of the sinful
The Initiation Contract Requires Love
When people enter into this contract without love, it will certainly lead to
excessive deviation and danger in Kali-yuga. If the guru accepts disciples without
feeling real love or genuine concern, it will result in problems. On the other
hand, if the disciples lack sufficient love for their guru, they will simply act
according to their own desires. They will do whatever they want regardless of the
effects. Consequently, Krishna will make both the disciples and the guru pay for
such sinful activities. Furthermore, some disciples come to a point in which they
simply want to be sinful. They stop chanting, make different aparadhas, and act
defiantly which is like stabbing their guru in the back. Since the guru has pledged
to cover for that soul, the spiritual master has to suffer. Krishna then feels
disturbed by the behavior of such a disciple who causes the guru to suffer;
therefore, the Lord then causes the disciple to suffer.
Strong Faith is Essential
In the final paragraph of this chapter, Haridasa Thakura says:
My dear Lord, You are very merciful to Jagai and Madhai. These brothers were born
in a brahmana family, but they became known as the worst reprobates in Navadvipa
due to their virulently violent acts. Their original names were Jagadananda and
Madhavananda. First You invoked sraddha in them and then You gave them the holy
name. O Lord, Your character and activities are exemplary; they shine like beacons
across the world. Let everyone follow Your wonderful example.
Harinama Cintamani, 74
Srila Haridasa shows us that a guru can accept the most sinful person as a disciple
if he has first instilled faith within the person. Jagai and Madhai were extremely
sinful but Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya blessed them and gave them initiation.
However, the two brothers first changed their consciousness and then Lord Caitanya
and Lord Nityananda accepted them. They wanted to use Jagai and Madhai as an
example because the transformation of such debauchees would help Their preaching
mission. They changed their consciousness by allowing the two brothers to have some
basic faith and then they were able to change their activities. Sraddha is very
important. We want to have determined, strong faith which we cannot fake. If we
have weak faith, we will repress our sinful desires and fail to transform. We will
not feel the necessity to act properly and our desires for sense gratification will
outweigh our desires for spiritual acceleration. Eventually a devotee will not mind
the contamination caused by assaulting the Vaisnavas and he will get progressively
weaker. He or she will then want to engage in other activities despite the negative
consequences. Under these circumstances, Srila Haridasa says that the guru should
reject such a deceitful disciple. It keeps the spiritual master responsible in his
position as a representative and it simultaneously taxes the disciples to recognize
their position and responsibilities.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the position of a guru who initiates an insincere pretender but
does not promptly excommunicate the disciple?
Answer: A mother may have several obedient children but one of her sons becomes a
debauchee. She tries to help the child and encourages her other children to help
him, but if the son will not receive the help, she must eventually send the child
away. What is her position? She always thinks of that child and eagerly waits for
the first opportunity to help her son. Although her love remains strong, she needed
to send the child away while hoping that her action will bring him to his senses.
At times she may send his father or other siblings to try to connect with him
because she constantly remains concerned about his well-being.
Question: What does rejection actually mean?
Answer: That depends on the guru. Rejection could mean that the guru no longer has
a responsibility for the disciple. For instance, if you stop paying for your
insurance and then have an accident, the company will simply tell you that you no
longer have a valid insurance plan. It means that you no longer have coverage.
Question: If a spiritual master does not reject deviant disciples, Krishna will
hold the spiritual master responsible. What if the spiritual master does not know
the extent of a disciples deviation? Does he still have the same level of
Answer: Yes, he is still accountable. Although he may not know the exact level of
deviation, Krishna will give him some basic understanding. One year I had to make a
general proclamation to my disciples in West Africa. Since some of them had
remained deviant for several years, I had to let them know that I no longer
considered them disciples. This action gave some of them a chance to understand the
seriousness of their deviations and an opportunity to try to change. I clearly
stated that any of my disciples who had not followed the principles for several
years would no longer be considered a disciple. Some of them contacted me and asked
for forgiveness. They wanted to try to do better and they were accepted. Others did
not respond in this way and I do not take responsibility for them. I sent letters
to some disciples in America in order to give them the same message. After trying
to guide them and send them all kinds of help for years, I had to let them know
that they have broken the contract. A contract involves two parties, and since they
have chosen deviation, they have broken that agreement. They now have the freedom
to act according to their own desires, but they must take full responsibility for
their own actions. I no longer have any responsibility. In a few cases, the person
tries to change and I immediately accept them back after they make apologies to
Srila Prabhupada. Sometimes I have asked them take part in a yajna again in order
to reconfirm their vows. At other times, I may ask the person to write a letter of
apology so that they will gain clarity. Then they should beg the mercy of Srila
Prabhupada. Since I have to give their offerings to Srila Prabhupada, if they ask
Prabhupada for forgiveness, obviously I will accept them back.
Question: We often hear about past life contracts. If we come into this life with
the contract but also have the element of free will, at what point can or do we
break the contract?
Answer: Before we enter this world, we have each made major decisions about the
type of body and experiences that we will have. Although higher authorities
ultimately make these arrangements, it also results from our previous desires and
also our needs in this particular lifetime. We are more responsible for our
circumstances than we often think. Even though we are responsible, we come in with
credits and debits, and our current decisions will affect our future.
In Russia, at the yearly festival, one swami described a room conversation in which
Prabhupada explained the rarity of the human form. Srila Prabhupada said in the
conversation that not only can a soul be thrown back into one of the 8,400,000
species of life, but a soul may have to go through every single one of these
species before returning to the human form. Therefore, the human form is a very
serious opportunity. In the higher kingdoms, an entity basically works off the
benefits of their pious credits but does not normally return to the spiritual
kingdom. In the lower regions, the bodies undergo too much suffering which inhibits
the practice of spiritual activities. The human body is very special because we can
finish the entire cycle from this body.
I was shocked to see that Srila Haridasa put so much emphasis on this point. He
mentioned that many will not return to the spiritual kingdom from the heavenly
planets because of the general mood of enjoyment. The entities are basically on
vacation, and when it ends, they then go back to work. The human body is so special
that, if we fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we may not have this chance
again for thousands and thousands of more lifetimes. It is very rare to come in
contact with the guru and to take advantage of such association.
Chapter 11
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
The eighth offense is to consider the chanting of Hare Krishna to be one of the
auspicious ritualistic activities offered in the Vedas as fruitive activities. In
the eleventh chapter of Sri Harinama Cintamani, Srila Haridasa looks at this notion
of mixing both pious activities and fruitive activities with authentic
spirituality. Authentic spiritualists are quite rare. Although many religionists
involve themselves in all types of traditions, it is often the same old paradigm.
They simply engage in rituals, hymns, yajnas, austerities, prayers, and chants to
gain material benefits or to avoid some type of suffering. Most religious people
execute their practices with these goals in mind. Although they do approach the
saints, the spiritual masters, and even God, they come with specific expectations
and want God to adjust certain aspects of their material lives.
He is Always My Worshipful Lord
However, Lord Caitanya expresses a completely opposite mood in His Siksastaka
aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me
roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He
is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful
Lord, unconditionally.
Sri Siksastaka, 8
The Lord always considers the ultimate welfare of each soul and always makes
arrangements to ultimately benefit the eternal jiva. A surrendered devotee accepts
this truth, understanding that his or her immediate desires may not be the most
beneficial for the soul. Whatever is pleasing to the Lord is also pleasing to His
devotee. Therefore, the Lords servant is ready to embrace anything and everything
that pleases the Lord.
Everyday we have the opportunity to use our relationships with the devotees and our
spiritual masters as a chance to practice for our ultimate associations in the
spiritual world. They help us evaluate our level of selfishness and give us an
opportunity to address the false ego, which blocks us from experiencing the pure
avenues of loving exchanges. The false ego really manifests when we are held
accountable to the devotees and the spiritual master. If we do not have genuine
love and appreciation, we will have the most embarrassing views of what we are and
what we need to work on.
The Mercy is There
It is not an accident that many of Prabhupadas servants fell down. Since he is
such a pure-hearted person, he wrote his books and addressed issues with the utmost
honesty. Consequently, many of them left his service at some point. We can look at
this phenomenon from two perspectives. On one hand, we could consider Krishna
consciousness to be so difficult that, in spite of associating so closely with the
pure devotees of the Lord, the mind and intelligence still continue their
relentless attacks. Under those circumstances, the mind and the desires for sense
gratification may even become amplified because of the proximity to such
unadulterated purity. When we lack accountability in terms of what we do, say, and
think, we will easily be able to hide our desires.
When we see such servants and even leaders fall, we may ask, If this devotee could
not remain fully fixed day after day in their devotional service, how can I expect
to stay focused? However, from the other perspective we can constantly see Srila
Prabhupadas mercy manifesting in these circumstances. Although a person may have
had a temporary setback, Srila Prabhupada will extend his help as long as the
person accepts the connection.
In so many cases, as the time of death approaches, Prabhupada will reach out in
amazing ways. In terms of some of the personal servants, as well as devotees in
general, who somewhat strayed from the path, Krishna may arrange a period of slow
transformation or a slow death in order to redirect their focus. These are not
accidental circumstances. They should remind us that we never lose our devotional
investments, which permanently remain with us. In some cases, we may have left
Krishna consciousness for many years, but the process is so powerful that Krishna
continues to allow us to work on ourselves in different ways. At times we may even
deny the problem, procrastinate or find scapegoats but Krishna still allows us to
work on our weaknesses. Many devotees who do leave the society eventually return
because powerful seeds were planted.
Sruta Kirti Prabhu served Srila Prabhupada for two years, the longest of all his
servants. When devotees such as Sruta Kirti describe their experiences with Srila
Prabhupada, they help us see how Prabhupada was so personal and even humanlike,
which is an even greater expression of Krishnas mercy. When Krishna comes or sends
his special servants, they take on many humanlike qualities, which help us
understand and relate to them better. Otherwise they would act on such a high level
that we would simply worship them instead of working on ourselves because we would
not be able to relate to their high level of devotion. If people are genuinely
honoring deep spirituality in Krishna consciousness or in any tradition, we should
respect their authentic spirituality which is such a rare commodity.
The Difficult Nature of Service
The experiences of such personal servants should also help us appreciate the
difficult nature of the service. It deals with real spiritual transformation.
Consider the idea of traveling all around the world with your spiritual master and
constantly remaining attentive to his needs. While living in the room next to your
teacher, you simply wait for his call which could come at any moment. In one sense,
you have no personal or private life because your whole existence revolves around
his service. This type of full surrender is ultimately the position of true
spirituality in its highest expression whether we refer to Krishna consciousness or
to any other bona fide process. At this level, one fully identifies with the object
of ones love.
For many of us, after spending several weeks or months in this sattvic rural
environment here in Gita Nagari, we may feel restless as the passions become
activated. Nevertheless, we are very blessed to be here with Sri Sri Radha-Damodara
in our midst. This beautiful, rural environment also gives us more of a chance to
be introspective if we do not hide, but it also makes it more difficult because of
the mirror effect. We have a smaller opportunity to hide than in the passion of the
cities and sometimes we even see devotees running away from the medicine that can
actually help them. Even just engaging in the same service for an extended period
of time can have the same effect on us.
Just imagine a service that requires a servant to be on call twenty-four hours a
day. Sometimes a doctor may have to work forty-eight hours or twenty-four hours
straight but then remain on call for several days. It is very intense because a
person must focus all their energy on that duty. Unless a person can recognize the
importance of their duty and have a certain love for the people under their care,
their job will become very difficult. Many doctors and caretakers who lack this
level of professional integrity may even abuse their patients and just mechanically
perform their services. Sometimes the doctors may give inaccurate evaluations
because of the constant pressure to persist. If the mind refuses to accept the
duty, the person will almost grudgingly execute their work. Many doctors even kill
their patients on the operating table due to mistakes or create complexities that
will disturb the person for the rest of their lives. Only a small number of
malpractices are ever discovered because in most cases the patient does not know
and the doctor will obviously not tell. People have their human weaknesses and
bring them into the work force or even into the devotional process. In order for a
servant to persevere in such an intimate service to the spiritual master, he or she
must have a certain level of integrity and love.
We Must Develop Full Surrender
After I finished my Deity service yesterday, I tried to watch the news, but since
it was Sunday, a minister appeared on the television instead. Although he spoke on
many nice topics, his main point was that, if you want wealth, health, or
abundance, you should go to God. Of course this is a reality but a very elementary
reality. Sometimes we can rely on the maxim Give us our daily bread, but we
recognize Thy will be done to be a higher conception that appears so prominently
in all scriptures. We can engage in karma-kanda or fruitive activities, which play
a part in Vedic cosmology, but it is more advanced to develop saranagati or full
surrender. It does not mean abandoning our individuality or freedom but it means
ascending to our highest expressions of true freedom. It means acting in ways that
will free us from our state of imprisonment.
Our way of life is difficult due to the type of spiritual commitment that guru and
Krishna ask us to follow. Jesus himself has said that, if you are not ready to
give up everything for my namesake, you cannot be my disciple (Luke, 14.33). This
shows how such a high level of surrender is not limited to Krishna consciousness
but does in fact appear in other bona fide traditions. Jesus felt very unhappy
about those who wanted to pursue other distractions rather than commit as
disciples. He said, Let the dead bury the dead (Luke, 9:60). Obviously we should
not deny the basic activities that require our attention, but when one has fully
committed to the spiritual world, everything else becomes secondary.
Srila Prabhupada, who exemplifies this level of surrender, fully absorbed himself
in his primary service to his guru and Krishna. While traveling from country to
country, he made himself fully available up until the last moments of his existence
in this realm. Someone may argue that we cannot imitate Srila Prabhupada, Rupa
Gosvami, or Jiva Gosvami, but they have come to show us how to live and how to die.
Even though religiosity has turned into a big market now, at least people are
making some attempt to approach God. The second largest topsellers in the
bookstores now are spiritual self-help books. However, many of these consumers
simply want to be God or use God. Although it is a step up from gross materialism,
it is not a step into transcendence. People who want to embrace transcendence
should do it with more haste and let their own examples shine through. Approaching
the Supreme involves much more than just the fulfillment of our own needs and wants
because the Lord always meets our real needs. Furthermore the lives of the devotees
show how Prabhupada always comes through in times of need.
Real Devotion or Pious Activities?
In Chapter Eleven, Haridasa Thakura examines the difference between real devotion
and pious activities:
The scriptures have unequivocally declared the Supreme Lord Krishna to be the only
subject and object of research, and the process to find Him has likewise been
clearly indicated. According to the individual researchers abilities, this
singular process became many.
Harinama Cintamani, 75
This means that bhakti or full surrender to the Lord is really the only process.
Therefore, if one mixes bhakti with other distractions, it then becomes karma-yoga,
jnana-yoga, astanga-yoga, and so on.
Thus different paths like karma, jnana, bhakti, etc. sprang up. Those who are
engrossed in materialism are recommended to pursue the path of karma for
purification of consciousness. For souls deluded by the illusion of maya, the
suggested path is cultivation of monistic philosophy. And for the rest of the
jivas, pure devotional service is most suitable.
Harinama Cintamani, 76
In other words, these different paths are meant to accommodate each type of
mentality. If a person wants wealth, a good spouse, fame, longevity, or health, the
Vedas prescribe certain methods to fulfill those desires. However, if we want
Krishna, we must be ready to give ourselves, which means first freeing ourselves of
other attachments. These attachments, which may seem as attractive as the goal, can
even cause a servant to leave the service of such a great soul. As a result, a
devotee may be temporarily drawn into an experience in order to investigate and
explore. If a person is fortunate, he or she will be able to quickly understand the
nature of the experience so that the desire will no longer dominate their
consciousness. However, some people may not have to directly go through every
experience because they have already had them in previous lifetimes. Consequently,
due to the impressions left on the consciousness, the person may not need or want
to pursue each type of sense gratification.
Quality Association is Very Important
Quality association can also help us relinquish our attachments at a faster pace.
To the degree that one takes shelter of the proper association, one will gain
clarity, realizations and even help in penetrating certain barriers that might
normally take lifetimes to overcome. The advanced devotees have this power. For
instance, a musician or an athlete may intensely endeavor to excel on their own,
but if they come in contact with a high achiever in their field, the expert can
then pass down so much wisdom to them. Although those who have excelled in certain
fields may have succeeded as a result of their own strong interests and desires,
often they have attained a higher success after studying and associating with the
experts. Due to such high quality association, they have achieved high levels of
expertise. The same phenomenon occurs in devotional service. The scriptures give us
all a chance to indirectly associate with the best, and according to our
consciousness, Krishna will arrange the necessary physical associations and also
come through the heart in so many ways.
Persons absorbed in material life begin to worship the Supreme Lord out of fear of
death. The Lords lotus feet are the perfect shelter, free from anxiety. They are
the only means to cross over the unlimited ocean of nescience (Harinama Cintamani,
76). When people begin to realize that everyone must die, they suddenly find an
interest in spiritual activities. Although our existence obviously ends in death,
people have the tendency to deny this blatant reality. Material life means birth,
maintenance, and death or annihilation. Despite our lack of vision, certain events
in our lives often remind us of our own appointment with death. This reminder
usually comes when a friend, relative, or associate dies since we generally do not
see death on an everyday basis in America. In some places, people must literally
confront death everyday due to the nature of their environments; however, in
America we may only see a dead body in a funeral home or in a random car accident.
Nevertheless, a funeral may give us the needed reminder that we will also end up in
a casket one day and will no longer exist in our present forms. Due to this
realization, some people will suddenly start to engage in various rituals or
spiritual activities, but it means that their fear of death still predominates over
the idea of full surrender and service to God. Ultimately it is better to come to
devotional service without all these other concerns because they will limit our
experiences and realizations in devotional life.
Pious Activities Have a Valuable Role
Even though the Lord is being worshipped, because the process of worship is
mundane, it is known as pious activity or subha-karma. Subha-karma includes:
altruistic work, sacrifices, ablutions and holy baths, fire sacrifices, charity,
yoga, the practice of varnasrama-dharma, pilgrimages, vows, offerings to the
forefathers, meditation, cultivation of empirical knowledge, propitiation of
demigods, penances, austerities, etc.
Harinama Cintamani, 76
Although all these activities are tenets of religion, they are not in the mood of
full surrender or saranagati. A deeply surrendered devotee will think, You are
free to appear or not appear according to Your will and can even place me into the
most brokenhearted position. You may not fulfill my particular desires according to
my expectations or not fulfill them at all. However, I understand that You are my
ultimate well-wisher and are always providing the best for me. Of course this
position is not easy to attain. It requires constant work until it genuinely comes
from the heart.
Srila Haridasa explains that all of these activities are on a mundane platform.
The holy name is the means of sadhana. Out of His causeless compassion, the Supreme
Lord incarnated as the holy name, making Himself available to the jivas. Thus the
holy name is accepted by the pious jivas as the best means of perfection. The
scriptures recommend the Lords name as the most efficacious means to obtain the
Absolute, but the jivas misunderstood this to mean that chanting is one of many
subha-karmas. This misconception is similar to Lord Visnu being seen as another
demigod like Lord Siva and Lord Brahma.
Harinama Cintamani, 77
Although we must not consider these pious activities to be on the same level as the
chanting of the holy name, they do have a valuable role in raising the
consciousness of the jivas. It is a part of religiosity which helps people approach
God although they approach Him with conditions. They think, Yes, I will serve,
but.... Sometimes the but is stronger than the yes which can even eradicate
the service at times. Anytime we say, I will serve, but..., I will love you,
but..., or I will surrender, but..., that but becomes our greatest enemy.
Although we should try to honestly recognize our conditions, we should gradually
find ways to transcend them so that we can eventually eliminate the but. If we
deny that we have certain conditions, they will stay strongly engrained in our
consciousness. For this reason, the type of service that requires twenty-four hours
of attention everyday can really force us to examine our level of unconditional
service. Is our love strong enough that we actually enjoy an inconvenience? In real
love, the lover genuinely enjoys any inconvenience because he or she understands
that it benefits the beloved.
Those devotees who had the ability to regularly render strong service to Srila
Prabhupada also had a high degree of love. Their level of expertise was not
necessarily a significant factor because many devotees were expert in so many
areas. Whether they were servants, cooks, or secretaries, their level of service
directly corresponded to their level of love. It also depended on the prominence of
the false ego after some cleansing takes place in the association with the
spiritual master. In some cases, those devotees who had that association are now in
heavy maya and are working on some of the same issues that they did not
sufficiently work on while directly serving Srila Prabhupada. Consequently, they
must still work on the same issues at a later time.
The means to self-realization are of two kinds: principal and secondary. Subha-
karma is the secondary means, and the Lords holy name is the principal means.
Though the holy name is counted as a means, it is nevertheless eternally the
principal means. All subha-karmas are always considered to be only secondary means.
Harinama Cintamani, 77-78
Secondary practices are not wrong as long as we understand their purpose and use
them to help the primary. Problems occur in any spiritual process when the
practitioners confuse the secondary as the primary or the secondary becomes more
prominent than the primary. The state of joy experienced in brahman realization or
sayujya liberation is merely the cessation of material suffering (Harinama
Cintamani, 78). These substandard religious principles merely end some of the
material miseries by pacifying the mind, body, and intelligence but they do not
bring about a real transformation or cure. For this reason, such practices do not
satisfy the Lord because He does not want us to simply dull our painHe wants to
take us fully away from the pain.
We Must Eventually Move Beyond Pious Activities
The holy name must be chanted in the association of sadhus: then all the material
inebrieties and anarthas disappear, being replaced by the pure name of Krishna. The
practice of any subha-karma must be discarded upon attainment of the shelter of the
ultimate destination; but chanters never have to give up the holy name, they simply
chant the pure name in the perfected stage. The Lords holy name is diametrically
opposite in nature to the mundane subha-karma activities.
Harinama Cintamani, 78
At some point, the subha-karma activities must be abandoned because they are simply
steps towards the higher goal. However, in terms of the holy name, the means and
the end are the same. When we chant, we are asking for Krishna and begging for His
association. Although static still obstructs the pure reception of the Name, the
goal is to call on the Lord, associate with Him, and serve Him. Within the means,
the end also exists.
Srila Haridasa then gives a way to address the aparadha or sickness in order to
cure this stagnation. The aparadha of equating the holy name with subha-karma is
committed because of sinful activities (Harinama Cintamani, 79). This tendency to
equate pious activities with pure spirituality increases due to sinful activities
as well as sinful consciousness. As a result, people will identify the rituals as
the goal which indicates the presence of some underlying sins. They have a greater
tendency to approach God for the fulfillment of their material desires.
Immediate countermeasures must be undertaken. Offenses to the Vaisnavas are in fact
sinful activities. As a result of these offenses, the jiva acquires the perverted
mayavadi understanding of the holy name. Only the association of devotees can
exculpate such offenses. To rid himself of namaparadha, one must approach a
householder Vaisnava who originally came from a very low caste; this is to stamp
out any false understandings of designation and caste distinctions. The offender
should then smear all over his body with great respect and faith, the dust of the
feet of that Vaisnava. He must also eat the remnants of the Vaisnavas food and
drink the water that washed his feet. In this way, the proper attitude towards the
holy name will again develop within the offenders heart. The whole world sings of
how Kalidasa was saved from this namaparadha by the mercy of the Lord.
Harinama Cintamani, 79
Haridasa Thakura shares that these sinful mentalities and offenses against the holy
name directly result from sinful actions, sinful thoughts and ahankara or false
ego. In order to address the offense, the offender should humbly seek out a
Vaisnava who even took birth in a lower caste and give them full reverence and
respect. This is a way to humble oneself and gain freedom from the cause of
unhealthy alignments. The humility helps purify and even cleanse.
We will find that, if we simply try to embrace humility, things will just unfold in
a natural way. It does not mean foolishness or naivety but genuine humility.
Problems often arise in relationships because each person considers their own ideas
to be supreme and the other person to be insensitive. Although each person may have
a valid opinion or perspective, they will not be able to resolve their differences
without developing a deeper appreciation for the other person along with their
proper or improper perceptions. Humility is an essential factor because it helps
each person step back from their own conceptions and look into someone elses life.
In this case, Srila Haridasa encourages a humble approach by submissively taking
shelter of another person and begging for their mercy.
Chanting is the Yuga-dharma
In Kali-yuga all other processes except the holy name are incapable of redeeming
the fallen souls. Therefore the chanting of the holy name is the yuga-dharma. The
chanting of the holy name of the Lord is the most efficient religious practice in
all the ages. In Kali-yuga, unlike other ages, there is no other religion
available; thus the holy name appears as the only religion that can redeem the
fallen soul.
Harinama Cintamani, 80
These statements are not sectarian since the different varieties of religious
practices are available in all ages. However, the holy name is the most direct
process in an age when we do not have the ability to nicely perform all of these
rituals. God has extended His mercy to such an extent in this age that we just have
to do our part by genuinely calling on Him. The importance of calling on the name
of God appears in all the traditions of the world. It does not simply refer to the
articulation of the word but it means that, when a person calls, they should be
ready for service, guidance, chastisement, realizations, and also exposures.
Questions & Answers
Question: As soon as I finish working on one of my bad qualities, I always find
some other area that needs improvement.
Answer: When we first join the movement, none of us really realize the nature of
our commitment. If I really knew the deeper aspects of this commitment, I may never
have taken up this process. If I knew about the intensity of the cleansing which
happens on so many levels, I may have just continued practicing my own sadhana and
meditations. However, by Krishnas mercy, Prabhupada purposefully tricked us by
saying, Just sing, dance, chant Hare Krishna, and be happy.
Of course these simple statements are quite real but any important goal requires
serious work, which in turn leads to serious results. If a person tries to obtain
wonderful results through a superficial process, he or she will rarely attain the
goal or will only attain a temporary result. Even a material goal requires serious
commitment, investigation, purification, and involvement. I am so happy that I did
not realize thirty years ago the exact nature of this process. Everyday offers a
new chance for introspection and for examining how to become more serious. Any
other path in the secular world would have been extremely boring.
I had already engaged in so many spiritual processes. I acted as a Christian
evangelist and participated in the Muslim and Buddhist philosophies. I was also in
the Grail and in the Rosicrucians. I have not been married but have had what some
would call a common law relationship. I am so happy that I have had all of these
experiences so that I no longer have to curiously wonder about the nature of an
experience. I was with the super rich and with the poorest of the poor. I had
friends and associates from all different sectors. I just thank Krishna for moving
me through those experiences.
When the mind gets somewhat crazy, and my mind is just as crazy as anyone elses, I
can ask the mind, What is the best you can offer? The mind may respond, What
about wealth? What about travel? What about beautiful women? All of these
allurements were accessible before I became a devotee so they are no longer a big
deal. Then the intelligence says, What about adventures outside of this world in a
place devoid of sickness, disease, and duality?Yes! We are very blessed to be in
Gita Nagari with Sri Sri Radha-Damodara in our midst. This beautiful, rural
environment also gives us more of a chance for introspection if we do not hide.
However, it also makes it more difficult because of the mirror effect. We have less
of an opportunity to hide than if we were in the passion of the cities. Sometimes
we even see devotees running away from the medicine that can actually help them.
While preparing to travel and preach, I am doing two types of research. I am
reading Prabhupadas books and also trying to stay on top of the cutting edge
information in terms of the business, new age, interfaith, and medical communities
since I also preach to these groups. I have been reading some books written by
spiritualists who are mainly impersonalists. As I came over here this morning, I
smiled and thought, Their views are very interesting and maybe even logical but
where is Krishna? I also felt sad that so many spiritualists consider samadhi or
nirvana to be the ultimate goal. Their contradictions seem so obvious. Some of the
great thinkers of the day say, You should engage in all of the spiritual
activities and rituals to realize you were that all along. You are God and you
always were God. Such a philosophy could not enthuse a Vaisnava if in the end it
all means nothing. After all the struggles, these spiritualists believe that there
are no relationships, personalities, or spiritual world, but just the one cosmic
energy. One author after another has these conceptions.
Even if both concepts were the absolute truth, I would still choose the
relationship and the adventure in the land of romance. These pictures depicting
Krishnas pastimes are just awesome. Krishna is not just an old man with a beard or
just a powerful energy. The Lord has wonderful cows, fountains, plants and
associates all in the mood of loving exchanges. Most theologies do not deal with
these truths on the surface, but if you search deeper, you will find it.
Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bernard and Saint John of
the Cross were all in the mood of conjugal love with the Lord. Their poems,
prayers, and writings all expressed this type of personal relationship with God.
Saint John of the Cross wrote about the most amazing exchanges with the Lord in the
mood of madhurya-rasa. He saw himself in a feminine body because he was actually
referring to the relationship between his soul and the Godhead. He went much deeper
into his religion than just asking God for a material boon. He was ready for the
Lord to use him in any way necessary. His dedication and austerity were so powerful
that nothing took precedence over full surrender to the Lord.
Even in their own institutions, most of these saints were considered radicals or
revolutionists because the general consciousness of the congregations did not
surpass the mood of asking God for their daily bread. Consequently, some of these
saints started their own branches or orders. Saint John was so hungry for God that
the orthodox practices of an institution could not limit his progression. He wanted
to have the full experience; therefore, he sufficiently worked on himself. Some of
them even left comfortable environments to branch out. They took leaps of faith and
great risks, but due to their surrender, they also received deep reciprocation.
Spiritual life means real transformation rather than the maintenance of a material
or spiritual status quo and it means removing all the secondary barriers. Haridasa
Thakura gives us just a small glimpse of this process. As I said, I am glad that I
did not know the exact nature of the process because I may have considered it to be
too much work or found reasons to procrastinate. However, it was Krishnas mercy
that I did not know. As I look back over my life, I have always been engaged in
some spiritual pursuit and forced either directly or indirectly to think about God.
In many of our cases, we have inevitably come to this process due to practicing so
many of these principles in previous lives. We probably have already been yogis and
rsis at some time in the past. Sometimes the smarta-brahmanas claim that a person
can only become a pukka Vaisnava after taking their birth in Bharata-varsa. They
may tell the devotees, Maybe in your next lifetime you can take birth in India and
then become a proper brahmana.
They do not realize that so many devotees have already had those bodies in so many
lifetimes, but in this lifetime, they have come in Western bodies to join Srila
Prabhupadas mission. Since Prabhupadas mission is spreading all over the world,
they have come in different countries, gender, races, and backgrounds due to Lord
Caitanyas mercy. For this reason, when many devotees first came in contact with
some aspect of Indian or Vedic culture, they had an immediate attraction which they
could not explain. Some devotees felt uncomfortable with meat eating from the very
beginning of their lives because it was not a part of their past background or
consciousness. When some devotees saw the Deities for the first time, they had
immediate flashbacks from their experiences in past lives. Some devotees may have
flashbacks after visiting a holy place because they may have spent years meditating
in a cave.
The real work involves becoming fully God conscious while living in the hellish
environments of the modern Western world and maintaining spiritual principles under
these circumstances. When I gave a presentation on sex and the leadership crisis
recently, I listed many of the gurus or yogis who have come to the West from India
in the last twenty to thirty years and most of them have fallen down, mainly to
promiscuous activities. They have been in the asrama for their entire lives, and
the Western environment and culture completely overwhelms and bewilders them. They
have no experience in dealing with the feminine energy.
It is definitely more difficult to live in a challenging environment and maintain
proper principles than to simply avoid the environment altogether. The actual
strength of a spiritual practitioner does not fully show until they must face
challenges. The strength of an actual celibate does not show if he or she simply
lives in a cave, monastery, or convent. A persons strength actually shows when he
or she must deal with the opposite energy and honor it without exploiting. That is
the real test.
Srila Prabhupada gave us this intense mission of practicing Krishna consciousness
outside of the holy dhamas, which involves preaching and chanting at malls,
airports, or other public places. If a person can remain strong in spite of these
external factors, it indicates their level of strength. A person may decide to
remain in Vrndavana for the rest of their life, which is good, but their real
strength will show when they leave Vrndavana. A persons ability to maintain a
strong consciousness will then show. At times we can avoid certain situations,
which may have its value to an extent, but real strength means being in the world
but not of it.
In some cases, we may have been taken out of the peaceful yogic practices in
previous lifetimes and have just been thrown together to execute Srila Prabhupadas
mission. It is not such an awesome task to understand your previous lives. If you
just think about the types of attractions you have had, you can realize that you
have been in monasteries or nunneries and you have been yogis and rsis. Now all of
these experiences just remain a part of the consciousness. One does not have to do
a past life regression to gain full awareness of each lifetime because our
consciousness can indicate our past.
However, this means that we will have to work on many subtleties, which makes this
transformation quite awesome. Nevertheless, it must always be accompanied by mercy.
Full surrender always involves very strong determination with selfless and
compassionate effort. However, no matter how wonderful our effort may be, it is
never enough. We all need causeless mercy to accompany our efforts. Haridasa
Thakura has profoundly explained the marriage of effort and mercy and obtaining
full surrender.
Chapter 12
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
Srila Haridasa then analyzes inattentive japa, another type of namaparadha. All
weaknesses basically stem from inattentive chanting and conversely, our weaknesses
and sins affect our chanting and our thoughts. It is all interconnected. When our
consciousness is not at a high level, we will find it difficult to chant or may
even stop chanting altogether. However, the holy name helps us gain more strength
to move through the various challenges and rise above the distractions that cause
our minds to lose interest in the name. By chanting, we gain strength and
determination and by serving nicely, we develop eagerness to chant. An interesting
relationship exists between our japa and our other activities. The chanting is a
good barometer to measure the quality of our lives and consciousness. If we have no
desire to chant, it means that we are holding on to so many unhealthy attachments.
The chanting is a plea to Krishna to free us from all unhealthy attachments and all
Srila Haridasa continues to explain:
O Lord Caitanya, You instructed Srila Sanatana Gosvami here in Jagannatha Puri, and
Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami in South India, that the holy name must be chanted
attentively. Inattention in chanting is namaparadha. One may carefully avoid all
other namaparadhas, yet still not experience the ecstasy of the pure name. This is
an indication of another type of namaparadha known as pramada, which restricts the
natural growth of pure devotion.
Harinama Cintamani, 81
Even though we may expertly avoid the other ten offenses, if we do not attentively
chant the holy name, we will not properly experience the resultant taste, ecstasy,
and realization.
Inattention Manifests in Three Ways
Inattentiveness and negligence are synonymous. Negligent chanting sows the seeds of
anarthas, which soon fructify. Inattentiveness is of three kinds. The first is
called audasinya, or apathetic devotional service, meaning a lack of fixed
resolve in sadhana.
Harinama Cintamani, 81
Inattentiveness involves much more than just negligent japa because the holy name
is an entire culture. It also means inattentively executing our sadhana. This is
the first aspect of inattentiveness. It means serving in a begrudging way in order
to finish without understanding its ability to cleanse the heart. We may
mechanically follow the orders of a superior without really appreciating the
potency of the service. The second type is jadya, laziness or even inertia
(Harinama Cintamani, 81). We usually consider inattentiveness to refer specifically
to an unfocused mind but lackadaisical service or laziness also falls within this
category. This means acting mechanically or in a blas manner. The third kind is
viksepa, which means distraction or misplacing ones attention in engagements
not directly connected with sadhana-bhakti (Harinama Cintamani, 81). In the Nectar
of Instruction, Srila Rupa Gosvami states:
atyaharah prayasas ca
prajalpo niyamagrahah
jana-sangas ca laulyam ca
sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati
Ones devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following
activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required;
(2) overendeavouring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3)
talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) practicing the scriptural
rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of
spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and
working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly minded persons
who are not interested in Krishna consciousness; and (6) being greedy for mundane
If we excessively indulge in these activities while trying to perform devotional
service, they will cause falldown. Actually, all of these instructions are just
aspects of saranagati which means doing the right thing in the right consciousness.
By a special stroke of good fortune, a jiva develops enough sraddha to take shelter
of the holy name. By regularly chanting a fixed number of holy names with special
care and attention, he gradually progresses towards anuraga, or spontaneous
attraction for the Lords holy name. He should chant his prescribed number of
rounds on a tulasi-mala and gradually increase his chanting with time. Before he
reaches the stage of anuraga, he must be extremely cautious about his chanting.
Harinama Cintamani, 81-82
Sraddha always plays a significant role because our level of faith determines our
level of love which determines whether we follow enthusiastically or begrudgingly.
Break Free From the Internal Battle
All of these distractions such as laziness, weak sadhana, or just inattention cause
the mind to go in so many directions. For instance, I personally noticed the
struggle within my own existence this morning. The body said, Swami, you are sick.
You have a fever, sore throat, and a headache. You have the flu. The mind said,
Yes, you are sick. Therefore you should be sad and angry. The intelligence said,
Sickness will always come and go. What is the big deal? Most of us constantly
undergo this internal battle. The mind complains and the body shouts even louder
while the intelligence rationally points out the inevitable problems of the
material body. Through practice and careful examination of our issues, we want to
come to a point in which the disturbances of the body and mind no longer affect us
to the same degree. Then when we greet our body and mind each morning, we will
simply hear its complaints but then listen to our intelligence.
We do not want to deny the needs of the mind and body but we also do not need to
fully identify with them. We must address mental or physical issues at times, but
we can still find ways to avoid full absorption in the distractions. We may need to
let the body rest due to a sickness but we can still find other ways to serve in
spite of the obstacle. We do not have to give in to the body and mind nor deny the
need to maintain body and soul together. When the mind comes up with a disturbing
proposal, the intelligence can acknowledge the thought and simply move on. We do
not have to own the thought or completely give in to the minds demands and
problems. We can just tell the mind, I hear your complaints and I realize that you
are having a rough day today. When the body complains, we can also say, I also
hear your complaints due to the pain. Where does it hurt today? At least last week
you only had pain in two places. Then we can move on. We have to begin separating
the secondary aspects of ourselves from our authentic selves. Although we must deal
with the secondary principles, we do not need to fully embrace them.
While examining this concept of saranagati or full surrender and love, we have the
basic platform of sadhana that can help us genuinely embrace this level. Although
we are functioning on this basic platform, we are keeping our minds fixed on higher
goals, which turns the process into an intriguing adventure. We will begin to
realize that the philosophy is in fact a reality. Krishna engages His bahiranga-
sakti or material energy in incredible ways. Even though the jiva is eternal, the
soul can jump in and out of all types of situations and take on all varieties of
costumes, responsibilities and roles in the endless dramas. We will then recognize
the material world as a reflection of something entirely divine and sublime. We
must keep our sight on the goal, but without sufficient quality association, it
will become a difficult task.
Chant in Quality Association
Srila Haridasa continues to help us understand the importance of quality
association. The remedy for the offense of equating chanting with pious activities
is to humbly beg for the mercy of qualified sadhus. The remedy for inattentive
chanting is similar.
One must make it his daily routine to chant for an hour in the company of a saintly
Vaisnava in a lonely, secluded spot. Taking note of the Vaisnavas devotional
attitude and his relish for the holy name, the neophyte should try to emulate this
mood and gradually rid himself of his apathy to chanting.
Harinama Cintamani, 82
If an aspirant associates with a devotee who does not suffer from laziness,
inattentiveness or weak sadhana, the association will help the offender become
fixed in the holy name. The devotee will gradually increase the quality and
quantity of their japa.
Step-by-step, his mind and attention becomes fixed in the holy name. By constant
chanting, the mellow of the holy name makes him anxious to taste more of that
nectar. He is attracted to be in the presence of tulasi-devi and to reside in a
place of Lord Krishnas pastimes. Always seeking the association of saintly
devotees, he takes up their discipline. He follows in the footsteps of previous
pure devotees in relishing the sublime joy of intimate devotional service, or
bhajana. He begins with an hour of bhajana, then two, then increases it to four;
finally, he chants not less than three lakhs of holy names a day. This helps him to
soon sever his links with materialism.
Harinama Cintamani, 82
Meditate on the Holy Name
Another effective method to remove apathy towards the holy name is to sit in a
closed room alone and meditate on the name as did the previous sages. If that is
not possible, then one should cover the head and face with a cloth and concentrate
on the holy name. Slowly, one develops attraction for the holy name. Apathy and
inattentiveness will gradually vanish.
Harinama Cintamani, 82
Srila Haridasa now gives us some practical techniques to improve our japa. If we
pay too much attention to unnecessary distractions, Srila Haridasa suggests
chanting in a secluded room so that the environment will not captivate us. If the
distractions in the room still bother us, he then tells us to cover our heads. In
other words, we can make practical arrangements if they will help us focus on the
holy name. Some devotees may chant more attentively while sitting but others may
need to walk to keep the body awake. For some people, chanting in a room alone may
not help them focus because the mind will simply take over. Other devotees may have
trouble chanting in a group because the other chanters distract them from the holy
name. That devotee may benefit more from a quiet environment. Each individual must
look at their own mind to determine if it is wandering or attentively chanting.
Then each of us must do the necessary to focus on Krishnas name.
Laziness is a Serious Problem
Indulging in laziness (jadya) prevents a person from relishing the nectar of the
holy name. He begins by chanting and remembering the holy name, but very soon feels
it unendurable and wants to sleep (Harinama Cintamani, 83). Some devotees may
simply chant or read as a quicker way to fall asleep. It relieves them of any
insomnia and in five minutes, they have fallen deep asleep. Either the
consciousness does not relish the subject matter or the body simply needs more
rest. In most cases, it usually deals more with the mind than the body which may
suffer from laziness and not really appreciate the chance to associate with these
great personalities. The scriptures give us an opportunity to connect with the
personal ecstasies of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, or Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.
Approaching the books in this mood will assist us in overcoming this difficulty.
In this age of Kali, it is difficult to overcome inattentiveness. Devotees who
suffer from this offense may benefit from carefully studying the scriptures with
the intention of sharing the knowledge with others. Many people find it hard to
read the scriptures, and when they do study, they do not retain or realize much of
the subject matter. This often happens in Kali-yuga. Even a brahminically inclined
devotee may go through periods of inattentiveness. Therefore, we need to find ways
to harness and train the mind. For this reason, it is important for devotees to
give classes and share their realizations because it will force the mind to
carefully grasp the subject matter and make it more accountable. Otherwise we can
read an entire book without really absorbing any of the information due to the lazy
mind. Not only does the mind suffer from laziness, but it can also go off on
tangents or simply refuse to embrace the subject. The mind can be very wild.
Work on Harnessing the Mind
One technique to harness the mind is to mark certain places in the book and then
review that page again at a later time. It forces the mind to return to the book
and ponder over the specific idea or concept. For instance, yesterday I marked some
outstanding points in this book in order to share them while speaking on this
subject matter. My mind will not remember or imbibe all that I read so I marked
certain pages that I directly wanted to share with you. It also will force the mind
to come closer to the actual material.
Each of our minds functions differently. According to its nature, we should find
ways to harness the subject. Just in the last few years, I have had a harder time
remembering things, which also relates to the body, stress, disciples, and altitude
shifts or radiation on airplanes. Sometimes I cannot even remember my own telephone
number, what to speak of other detailed information. Therefore, if I need to
remember a specific piece of information, I visualize it since I am more visually
oriented than audio oriented. Each person learns in a different way. Some people
can grasp concepts better through a tactile experience while another person might
need an audible or visual aid. Nevertheless, everyone learns more by interacting
with the material since it forces a person to process it more carefully. Teaching
and sharing forces us to deal with all these methods of learning; therefore, the
best way to learn is to teach.
As I travel and give seminars or workshops, especially in the past two years, I
usually include a homework assignment which requires the devotees to share or teach
at the end. This will help them internalize the message and carry away practical
knowledge that they can apply in different circumstances. Otherwise, they just hear
another lecture which is definitely powerful, but not as strong in Kali-yuga due to
the crazy mind. However, if we can internalize the message, it will mean much more
to us.
I have so many big bookshelves in my room here, in Washington, and even in Africa
but it shocks me to realize how little I have internalized or remembered from the
material. Sometimes I may even pick up a book and notice my marks but it seems to
be a completely new book. Hopefully your memory and ability to grasp a subject
matter is much stronger but it varies. Nevertheless, despite our assets and
handicaps, we should find ways to deal with our own mind, intelligence and body so
that they will not enslave us.
Drive Misguided Thoughts Away
Srila Haridasa then gives us another antidote to overcome viksepa or distraction.
Distraction in chanting produces a type of illusion, causing serious offenses
against the holy name that are very difficult to overcome. This illusion leads to
craving for wealth, women, position, success and even cheating. When these
attractions cover the heart, the neophyte gradually loses interest in chanting of
the holy name.
Harinama Cintamani, 83
Interestingly, the attraction to wealth, the opposite sex, profit, distinction, and
adoration all result from distraction in the chanting.
One must make a constant effort to drive these thoughts away from the mind and
diligently follow the rules of Vaisnava etiquette. This endeavor will bring back
his good fortune. He must begin by observing ekadasi vows, appearance days of the
Lord and other important festival days. He should spend the entire festival day and
night chanting and singing the glories of the Lord in association of saintly
devotees. The ideal way to observe these festivals is to be in one of the dhamas
(Navadvipa, Vrndavana, Puri, etc.) with sadhus (pure devotees in the line of Srila
Rupa Gosvami) reading and discussing sastra (Vedic literatures like Bhagavad-gita,
Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures).
Harinama Cintamani, 83-84
In other words, the holy dhamas, festivals and ekadasis offer us distinct ways to
recharge ourselves.
Chanting Should Not be Rushed
One must diligently complete the prescribed number of holy names according to his
vow, and he must always check that he chants his rounds sincerely. Those who chant
distractedly are always eager to somehow complete the fixed number of holy names
and be done with it.
Harinama Cintamani, 84
In other words, we should not rush to finish our sixteen rounds and then consider
the meditation finished for the day.
The devotee should make it a regular practice to spend a little time alone in a
quiet place and concentrate deeply on the holy name. He should utter and hear the
name distinctly. It is impossible for the jiva to single-handedly avoid and
overcome the illusion of distraction. By the mercy of the Lord, however, this is
accomplished with ease. Therefore it is essential to fervently beg for the Lords
grace with great humility. This is the jivas only means of salvation.
Harinama Cintamani, 84-85
We Cannot Succeed on Our Own Strength
Effort is very important but is not enough without sufficient mercy. Conversely,
mercy alone is also not enough without sufficient effort. We should recognize our
strong points as well as our weaknesses and then try our best. When we realize that
we suffer from laziness, inattentiveness or any of the other ten offenses, we
should then try to work on ourselves in order to root out the aparadhas. We want to
put forth more effort while simultaneously praying for mercy. We want to try harder
so that the Lord will definitely give us more mercy.
Nevertheless, we should always remember that we cannot succeed on our own strength.
Although we may take shelter of good association, the mind always has the tendency
to rebel and the intelligence may not have sufficient strength to control the mind
and senses. However, we know that it is possible to succeed due to the presence of
Krishna and guru. People have reached the goal since time immemorial and can still
attain it now. Therefore, we should embrace and celebrate our own struggles and
Questions & Answers
Question: How can I see and accept the miracles as a reality rather than just an
unrealistic conception?
Answer: It does not require so much of an endeavor. Just examine the material
nature and even the body. The brain alone has billions of cells and can remember
millions of facts. The heart pumps tremendous gallons of blood every single day.
Just by examining these simple functions of the body, we can already see amazing
miracles. Krishnas miracles are constantly unfolding at all times, but we need to
acknowledge their presence in the environment. If we consider the miracles to be
far away, they will be far away for us. And if we consider the process of devotion
to be extremely difficult, that will also be our reality.
Question: The mind constantly runs in so many different directions but I have found
it helpful to sit in the same place at the same time everyday and focus on the
Deity of Krishna. I can concentrate on Krishnas feet or face which helps me to
control the mind. Also, if someone interrupts my japa, I start the round over again
since it breaks my concentration.
Answer: These are nice techniques. Each devotee will find different ways to help
them focus on the prayer. We need to look closer at our own situations in order to
implement techniques to assist our japa. Obviously regulation always helps because
it will condition the body, mind and intelligence to perform certain activities in
spite of the struggles. We all have ups and downs, but if we have a highly
regulated schedule, we will still sufficiently benefit from our routine in spite of
the trouble in the mind or environment. People in the secular world often lack any
sense of regulation; therefore, they simply act according to the moment, which
scatters their energies in all directions. We will find that high achievers have
specific routines and regulations. They are more conscious of the time factor and
are able to better manage their lives.
If we have a sense of accountability and regulation, we will not as easily fall
prey to mayas tricks and allurements. We will condition ourselves to certain
activities. For instance, if we always chant our japa in a certain room of the
house or temple, when we walk into that room, we will automatically pick up that
spirit because the mind will connect the activity to the room. The mind will then
find it easier to chant the holy name in that space.
Question: One more process that I find helpful is to sit and pray in front of
Krishna and mentally offer Him a rose after every mantra. This way the mind will
not run far away.
Answer: Very nice. Sometimes devotees have interesting ways of chanting. For
instance, during the first half of my japa, I sit in front of Prabhupada, and if I
do not chant nicely, I visualize Prabhupada giving me a loving kick. I visualize
Srila Prabhupada extending his feet, which can offer blessings or a kick. Sometimes
the first part of the chanting may be rough. As you prepare to chant, you have all
of this bodily, mental, and intellectual energy which is going in all different
directions. If you do not start chanting attentively from the beginning, sometimes
the entire sixteen rounds will be inattentive. Therefore, when I first sit in front
of Prabhupada, I mentally visualize his lotus feet and try to catch them in a
merciful way instead of in a kick. In this way, I meditate on his feet during my
first few rounds.
Question: At times I may try to chant while walking with the children but sometimes
they just talk and talk. When I try to chant intermittently, it seems that I can
focus some of the time but at other times I do not seem to be in either world.
Answer: For most of us, chanting sporadically makes the process harder. For
instance, in a conversation, if someone continuously interrupts you, it is easy to
lose your thoughts. In terms of japa, interruptions can also cause us to lose our
focus. Although consistent chanting is preferable, we do not always have an
extended period of uninterrupted time. However, we should not allow ourselves to
feel comfortable with that type of sporadic japa because we will then eventually
feel comfortable with inattentive rounds. We will forget what it means to chant
with quality.
Question: Sometimes I want to chant extra rounds in order to come closer to the
holy name and honor the idea of constant chanting.
Answer: This means that we have had a period of exclusive japa and later we can
chant between other activities. For example, Haridasa Thakura chanted countless
rounds out loud but he also chanted in his mind. He did not just sit all day in one
spot to chant his rounds. We want to reach a point in which the mantra becomes a
part of our existence and all of our activities become walking meditations. We will
then develop the ability to constantly think of the Lord and become fully absorbed
in the holy name.
Question: I sometimes feel as if I am being pulled from one world to another but
the chanting makes me feel detached from my day-to-day affairs.
Answer: This is the danger of chanting the holy name. This often happens to people
when they first come to Krishna consciousness. They may say, Im losing my desire
to work and make money. I have even lost my desire to listen to rock music. Sruta
Kirti Prabhu mentioned how George Harrison lost so many desires after chanting the
Hare Krishna mantra, which meant that it shifted or affected his consciousness. He
began losing his desire for mundane hymns and songs, which does in fact happen.
When we connect with the little boy who plays the flute, He will take away all of
our material desires. When a person initially begins devotional service, they may
soon find their interest in the same old movies, places, and activities
diminishing. Their interests change due to the effect of devotional service. The
person may no longer have the same interests as their old friends or associates. If
that association revolved around sense gratification, the person will no longer
have the same enthusiasm for those types of activities.
Question: That seems impossible for me at this stage, almost another world.
Therefore, is it still beneficial to always chant?
Answer: At times we should be careful. For instance, if we deeply absorb ourselves
in the holy name while driving a car, we may put others or ourselves in danger
because we will not be able to give our full attention to the vehicle. Many
devotees simultaneously chant and drive which is really not healthy because the
ears are engaged in hearing the name and the hand is engaged with the beads. Since
the drivers senses are distracted, it will be harder to respond quickly in an
Chapter 13
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
The last offense, maintaining material attachments of I and mine even after
understanding so many instructions on the matter, is very difficult to overcome.
Why do we still have attachments after chanting so extensively? This query may lead
a person to doubt the potency of the holy name if, after ten or twenty years of
chanting, they still have deep attachments. Sometimes the attachments may even seem
to temporarily disappear but then resurface at a later time. Interestingly, this is
the last offense which we recite everyday. Hopefully we think about all the
offenses before we chant daily and try to apply them to our lives.
Drenched in tears of ecstatic love, Srila Haridasa Thakura went on to explain, in a
choked voice, the last of the offenses to the holy name. My Lord, this last
namaparadha is the worst kind of offense. Its presence restricts the free flow of
divine love, prema. Even after having taken spiritual initiation, most materially
attached persons cannot fully give up bodily designations. They maintain a me and
mine mentality that sidetracks them from the path of devotion. Physical
designations, e.g. I am a brahmana, I am Vaisnava, I am a king; or this is
my position, wealth, son, grandson and so on, symptomize spiritual immaturity and
are deterrents to proper cultivation of devotional service. This terrible offense
is only ameliorated when one surrenders to the holy name.
Harinama Cintamani, 87
If we carefully avoid all of the other offenses while chanting this potent name of
God, why would this last offense still cause us problems? Although we may avoid the
offenses, we always have to deal with a mental counterpart. We constantly need to
examine our aspirations and realizations; otherwise, we will engage in so many
services without really connecting with the essence. We will still receive some
benefits but not in full. We can even chant for many lifetimes without getting the
results if we chant offensively. Why can a person chant for many lifetimes while
avoiding the nine offenses but still have material attachments?
The Six Limbs of Surrender
As we delve into this chapter, Srila Haridasa will help us understand these
questions, which deal with the six limbs or branches of surrender given by Srila
Rupa Gosvami that we hopefully reflect on from time to time.
Every devotee must cease all namaparadhas and surrender completely to the holy
name. According to the scriptures, the process of surrender has six limbs. It is
beyond my ability to describe them in detail. Yet I shall touch upon these six and
place them before Your lotus feet. The vow to accept everything favorable for the
execution of devotional service; likewise, to reject anything unfavorable; to be
convinced that Lord Krishna will always give protection; to depend wholly on
Krishna for everything; to always feel meek and humble; and to throw oneself at
Lord Krishnas lotus feetthese are the six limbs of surrender.
Harinama Cintamani, 87-88
As we chant and engage in all the varieties of devotional service, we must give
these six limbs sufficient attention. The first and second limbs, accepting
everything favorable for the execution of devotional service and rejecting
everything unfavorable, are not always easy to pinpoint because we often find many
ways to justify and incorporate unfavorable things into our lives, which inevitably
lead to problems. During our regular execution of devotional activities, we need to
honestly examine whether or not something genuinely supports our devotional
The following questions can help us make this evaluation: Does this activity
increase my desire to associate with Vaisnavas? Does it increase my desire to
chant? Does it increase my desire to follow the four rules and regulations? Does it
increase my ability to avoid the various offenses? If we take the time to honestly
answer these questions, they will definitely help us determine whether or not an
activity supports our devotional life. For instance, someone may find that staying
up late and watching television does not increase their desire to chant the holy
name or going to the disco does not support the four rules and regulations. When we
realize that something does not assist us in our spiritual progress, we should
reject it. We should also realize that each person is different. Although something
may help one devotee increase their appreciation of the process, it may actually
hinder another devotee. We need to honestly examine our own situations, and after
making this sincere evaluation, we should give more attention to that which helps
our devotional life. Otherwise we will still maintain material attachments in spite
of trying to avoid the other nine offenses because we will not reject unfavorable
behaviors or fully depend on Krishna.
Depend on Krishna
Srila Haridasa already told us that the svarupa-laksana or the primary quality of a
sadhu is full dependence on Krishna. Although a sadhu may have all the other
qualities, they simply ornament the svarupa-laksana, which constitutes healthy
devotion and healthy Krishna consciousness. We cannot fake this quality. We can
engage in so many services even with expertise but most importantly, we must have a
consistent and increasing dependence on Krishna. This dependence is indicative of
surrender, which is one of the major tenets in spiritual life.
Holding onto artificial possessiveness will not ultimately help us. In this very
first paragraph, Srila Haridasa Thakura explains that we can take initiation and
even go on in our service while still committing this tenth offense of maintaining
material attachments of I and mine. This possessiveness means thinking of
oneself as the controller, identifying with the body and mind, trying to lord it
over all that one surveys, and even trying to participate in the material energy
rather than using it in Krishnas service. The primary quality, or svarupa-laksana,
already includes all of the six limbs of surrender since they help the devotee
fully depend on Krishna. Krishna consciousness means depending fully on Krishna. It
means recognizing Krishna as the source of everything and as the ultimate
proprietor, well-wisher, and object of our affection.
The mind and senses must undergo intense rectification to reach this point;
therefore, Haridasa Thakura tells us what to avoid and gives an elaborate
explanation of each offense. Maintaining material attachments means that we still
lack the essence or full dependence on Krishna. If we do not eventually address our
lack of dependence on Krishna, it can cause us to become entangled again in the
material energy.
One must give up false designations like brahmana, sudra, father, husband, king,
subject, master, donor, maintainer. Relinquish all attachments to money, body,
sons, wife, etc. Instead, one should center the attachments and relationships
around Krishna, thinking: He is the real Master and Lord, and His will is my
imperative. I am ready to act only to fulfill Lord Krishnas desire and wont even
think about my own wishes. I will adjust my household affairs for the Lords
satisfaction. By His wish I will cross the material ocean. In times of both joy and
sorrow I will remain eternally Lord Krishnas servitor. Only by His desire can I
become compassionate to the suffering of others. All my moments of material
enjoyment and my moods of austerity are experienced solely due to the Lords will.
Harinama Cintamani, 88
Try to keep these points in mind because we will enter into difficult and even
controversial subject matters in the next chapter. This offense, maintaining
material attachments even after understanding so many instructions on the matter,
is a serious issue that confronts most spiritualists in general. After we come to
the transcendental process, we have all the knowledge before us. In no way do we
lack knowledge or wisdom through our Vaisnava connection. Our great acaryas have
written so many books and explained the subject matters in so many amazing ways.
They have given us knowledge in relation to the goal, along with their association
through their books. Therefore, we need to closely examine our reasons for
continuing to maintain material attachments.
According to Srila Haridasa, we are not trying to become void of attachments but we
are trying to relinquish material attachments. We do not need to give up
relationships in most cases, but we need to have proper relationships that keep
Krishna in the center. It is easy for some to speak about the essential tenets of
bhakti but more difficult and important to fully live by them. Much of our success
depends on our ability to develop healthy attachments and avoid unfavorable
attachments. If we try to avoid all attachments, it simply turns into denial or
repression which will lead to failure. We need to properly place our attachments.
False Ego is the Underlying Disease
One unable to accept the six limbs of surrender is a prisoner of false ego who
always thinks in terms of me and mine (Harinama Cintamani, 89). The false ego
is the underlying disease that stops atma-nivedana.
He proudly declares, I am the master here. This household and family belong to me.
The fruits of work are mine by right of labor, and I am their enjoyer, whether they
be bitter or sweet. I am my own protector and maintainer. This woman is my wife,
here is my brother, he is my son. By the sweat of my brow I earn my own living.
Success is the reward of my endeavors.
Harinama Cintamani, 89
Why is this mentality unhealthy? Perhaps a person succeeded through their own
endeavors but it is unhealthy for the person to claim full responsibility for such
accomplishments without acknowledging the Lord.
Full spiritual benefit is not acquired simply by avoiding the ten namaparadhas.
These ten offenses have their distinctive features; in being warned to avoid them,
one is actually being ordered to positively implement the specific saintly
qualities that render these aparadhas impossible.
Harinama Cintamani, 90
Although we need to avoid these offenses, we will not acquire the full benefit
simply through avoidance, but it will allow us to engage our energy in a healthy
direction. The actual purpose of avoiding these ten aparadhas is to make room for
the proper connection and activities.
If one continues to chant with offenses, then in spite of many endeavors, he will
never attain pure devotion. The fruitive worker or karmi enjoys heavenly bliss
through karma; the jnani obtains liberation as a result of empirical knowledge; but
pure devotion of Lord Krishna, which is very rarely attained, is available only
through pure devotional service.
Harinama Cintamani, 91
If a devotee continues to make offenses, he or she will not be able to attain
Questions & Answers
Question: After hearing of all of these offenses to the holy name and especially
the tenth offensemaintaining material attachments even after understanding so many
instructionsI feel helpless and hopeless. So many pitfalls appear too difficult to
overcome. How can I really rise above these fears?
Answer: On the one hand, the process of bhakti is simple and sublime, but, on the
other, it becomes more complex and challenging as we move forward. We are full of
unwanted desires and attachments, and the process of Krishna consciousness not only
helps us rid ourselves of them, but it also helps us learn our lessons so that we
do not commit the same foolish mistakes again. At the beginning, Krishna gives us
small tests and, as the years pass and we grow stronger, Krishna puts us in more
complex situations to uproot our deepest attachments. The Lord knows us better than
we know ourselves; He perfectly understands our needs and He will never put us in a
situation that is too difficult for us to overcome.
This type of helplessness and hopelessness very often comes from the mode of
ignorance due to forgetting our eternal spiritual identity. This is one of the
tricks of the false ego. For instance, think about your own life. Was there a time
when you were totally desperate and the Lord sent you exactly the help you needed?
Krishna is always there for us; it is up to us to turn our face to Him in all
circumstances. On our own, we are helpless and hopeless, but we are never alone.
Krishna is constantly sending us guidance through guru, sastra, and many sadhus to
help us become His pure lovers and come back to Him.
To succeed in overcoming material attachments, it is important to develop a healthy
attachment and dependence on guru. One of the duties of a spiritual master is to
destroy his disciples doubts by superior knowledge so that the disciple will
gradually overcome all despondency in spiritual life. If a disciple does not take
proper shelter of guru, he or she will again become attracted to material
happiness, not having achieved the bliss of Krishnas association. Such a weak
disciple will gradually become hopeless and discouraged in his or her attempt at
self-realization and will again become fascinated by the many temptations of maya.
One way to overcome the fear of failure in devotional service is to maintain a
strong conviction that, despite your fallen condition, you will certainly receive
the favor of the Supreme Lord, who is most merciful. Furthermore, once we become
hopeless and despondent about material life and realize that nothing in the
material world will fulfill our hopes for happiness, it becomes easier for us to
have such a conviction. The strong conviction that one will certainly receive the
favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called asa-bandha. A devotee thinks,
I am fallen, wretched, and totally incompetent, but I will continue to hope
against hope that somehow or other I will approach the lotus feet of the Lord.
Thus, placing aside your false prestige based on temporary bodily designations,
appeal sincerely to the Supreme Lord, Krishna, for His mercy. A sincere prayer
never goes in vainthe Lord hears every heartfelt appeal from even the most fallen
soul. If a person who is not even a great or pure devotee of Lord Krishna sincerely
appeals to the Lord for His mercy, the Lord is sure to give it generously. Then you
can experience how wonderful the effects of the Lords mercy are.
Question: How do we know if we are sufficiently greedy for obtaining pure devotion?
Answer: We have to examine our desires, motives, behaviors, and actions to see if
they are feeding our spiritual greed or our material greed. It is interesting how
those things that cause prolonged bondage in the material world grant us entrance
into the spiritual world when they are converted by spiritual energy. For example,
in the Bhagavad-gita 3.37, it is stated that lust, anger, and greed are our
greatest enemies born of the mode of passion: kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-
samudbhavah. When we are greedy to achieve some material success or possession, we
become obsessed by the desire to get it and become almost mad. We may sacrifice all
our time, health, energy, money, and relationships just to feed our greed and get
what we want. Srila Rupa Gosvami warns us that material greed increases by
association with worldly people, jana-sangas ca laulyam ca, and such association is
detrimental to the healthy growth of the bhakti in our hearts.
On the other hand, the price for obtaining pure devotion is also greed or an
intense eagerness for Krishna: tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam. That is the only
price, but it is rarely obtained. Money, prestige, good parentage, beauty, or
educationnone of these will help one get bhakti. Simply this ecstatic, intense
desire is the price. In this life I shall try to achieve Krishnas favor. How
shall I serve Krishna? How can I love Krishna more and more?
This eagerness manifests in a devotees thoughts, words, attitude, and actions.
Bhakti comes from bhakti and is carried by a bhakta or devotee. To increase our
spiritual greed, we must associate with and eagerly serve the devotees. If you lack
such association, you can pray, My dear Lord Krishna, please grant me the
association of those devotees of Yours who will teach me how to increase my love
and attachment for You.
Spiritual greed is nourished by a sincere service attitude. If you really consider
yourself a humble servant or the Lords servant, you will always think, How can I
serve this person? What service can I do now? How can I use all my time to serve
and please Krishna? To be a useful servant, you have to first learn to be a good
master of your mind and senses. Being self-controlled, you will become receptive to
Krishnas guidance from within and thus even more sensitive to the needs of others.
To check whether we are sufficiently greedy for bhakti, we can also examine our
chanting. What are our thoughts, attitude, and desires while we utter the holy
names of the Lord? The Hare Krishna mantra is an appeal to Sri Sri Radha and
Krishna to engage us in Their loving service. Chanting Hare Krishna is the best and
the simplest way to express our desire to serve. To the degree that we chant with
concentration and sincerity, to that degree we are greedy for Krishnas love.
Remember, life is very short and we dont even know when we will die. After so many
failures, why do some of us still choose to try yet another material game, leaving
Krishna aside? Krishna has been waiting for us for such a long time. It is only out
of foolishness that we turn our backs to Him and make Him wait longer. The Lord is
much more eager for us to return to Him than we are. When He sees that a soul has a
spark of desire to attain Him, He makes all arrangements to bring that soul closer.
You have already said yes to Krishna. Therefore, try to see each and every
incident in your life as Krishnas loving intervention to remind you about your
real identity as His darling child and to call you back home. Once you realize what
awaits you, you will not stay even for one moment in material life, for you will be
so eager to be with Krishna and His eternal associates.
Chapter 14
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
Chapter Fourteen addresses all types of devotional offenses and especially those
committed during seva-aparadha or during Deity service. We see that some of these
offenses are quite intricate and detailed. We give our full attention to some of
these offenses while we sometimes overlook others. It is interesting that most of
the offenses revolve around the Deity in the temple and service to the Deity, which
reminds us again of the svarupa-laksana or full dependence on Krishna. It reminds
us of the Deity through the association, rituals and sadhana.
What is the Real, Underlying Issue?
I would now like to embark upon a complex area of discussion. What do most modern
day Vaisnavas have trouble with in their devotional lives? It most distinctly
manifests as a lack of full dependence on Krishna. However, I would like to examine
this question in more detail. What seemingly causes the greatest difficulties for
Vaisnavas so that they do not feel happy in their spiritual lives? If you gathered
hundreds of devotees together who have stopped their devotional practices and asked
them their reasons for leaving, what do you think would be their major response? If
you asked nuns, monks, and priests to give their reasons for leaving the order,
after they have given all of their superficial explanations, what do you think will
be their real underlying issue? In most cases, it will relate to sexuality. This is
a very delicate subject. Why have most of our renunciates fallen down? Why do most
renunciates in the world fall down? Why do most marriages in the world and
especially in the West now end in divorce? Even more pregnancies are currently
ending in abortion than in natural births.
We Are Bombarded by Sexuality
In America, the largest product of exportation is entertainment, which mostly deals
with sexually stimulated material. This means that its greatest exports to other
countries all around the world contain sexual material. For this reason, so many
fanatics hate America because they see American entertainment entering every aspect
of the world culture, which mainly revolves around sensual images. When I was in
Russia, I turned on the news to find out about a plane that crashed near us at the
Black Sea. However, when I turned on the television, I was shocked to see American
movies with Russian dubbing and even MTV. These popular shows are being shown in
countries that do not even have a good relationship with America. Consequently, the
exportation of these products all over the world is affecting the entire global
The following statistics can remind us of the type of background that surrounds us
as we begin the process of devotional service. I want to list some of these
statistics in order to give an idea of the difficulty that most people have with
sexuality. First of all, pornography is actually one of the biggest growth
industries, which makes almost 13 billion dollars every year. 1 According to U.S.
News and World Report, there were 40,000 sex-oriented websites on the Internet in
2000 and the number is growing everyday. 2 These websites are not only accessible
to adults, but recent surveys indicate that such websites are also easily
accessible to children and teenagers. A survey conducted in 2000 by the Crimes
Against Children Research Center found that among youth between 10 and 17 years of
age, twenty-five percent of the youth had a least one unwanted exposure to sexual
pictures during the previous year. 3 Besides the increase of sexually explicit
material on the Internet, statistics also show the increasing prevalence of
adultery and sexual abuse throughout our society.
According to a Gallup poll, conducted May 10-14, 2001, statistics revealed that
fifty percent of partners in marriage have taken part in sexual relations with
someone other than their marriage partner. 4 Evidence shows that approximately
twenty percent of women and five to ten percent of men have experienced some form
of sexual abuse as children. 5 The average American man thinks of sex almost every
thirty minutes. All over the world, and especially in the West, people are
bombarded by genitality. Practically every major product is advertised in a sexual
way in order to affect peoples way of thinking.
The Issue of Sexuality Causes Disturbances
Many people are struggling from neuroses and psychoses, which are often connected
to sexual anxieties. If we analyze the restlessness that sometimes overcomes
devotees, we will find in the majority of cases that it also has some connection to
sexuality. Why did Kala Krishnadasa leave Lord Caitanyas service? The bhattatharis
basically enticed him by offering the allurements of gross and subtle sex in the
form of kingly enjoyment and sensual pleasures. It meant that he could enjoy such
pleasures while thinking of himself as important and as the lord of his
possessions. Consequently, he left Lord Caitanyas service. Since sexuality is such
a serious issue which causes so many disturbances, it is important to understand it
on a deeper level. This issue is at the core of our current subject matter because
it is not a matter of avoiding attachments but a matter of developing healthy
Throughout India and the world, there have been amazing yogis, sastris, gurus, and
even so-called incarnations who have all fallen down. If we analyze each tradition
such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and even our Vaisnava line, we will also
find the same phenomenon taking place. Why? First of all, this modern mentality is
constantly thrust on people, which causes them to perpetually think along the same
line. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, a lifetime celibate, explains that
sexuality cannot be avoided any more than life itself since it is integral to the
identity of the soul. As a lifetime celibate, what message is he sending us? There
is absolutely nothing wrong with sexuality. Just as people are having so much
trouble trying to make vows of celibacy, people are also having trouble remaining
accountable to one partner in a relationship because, in Kali-yuga especially,
people do not like consistent accountability. My experience in this lifetime as a
celibate for thirty years has given me interesting realizations. You could say that
I have spent most of my life in this asrama. As we look at our scriptures,
communities, and at ourselves in the past, present, and future, we should
understand the importance of this issue.
We Cannot Deny Sexuality
The attempt to deny sexuality will lead to just as much of a failure as the
movement for promiscuity that now permeates present day society. People consider
promiscuity to be permissible if it helps one secure enjoyment, health, and social
standing. They feel that people should act as mature adults and honor whatever
feels comfortable to them whether it means heterosexuality, homosexuality,
monogamy, and so on. That extreme is just as unhealthy as the conception of sex as
dirty, nasty, or improper. Both types of mentalities are causing extensive problems
in the world and among spiritualists.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati does not deny sexuality; rather, he sees it as an
essential and integral part of the soul and of life. By repressing sexuality and
the sexual energies, people are killing themselves through anxieties, fears, bad
relationships, neuroses, and psychoses. On the other hand, people are also killing
themselves by thinking only through the genitals which leads to promiscuity,
pornography, and incest. Excessively meditating on acceptance or avoidance leads to
problems. Try to stay with us as we discuss this subject matter because it could
help you and many other people.
Often people in the monastic asrama and the grhasta-asrama think of sex as
something bad or dirty; therefore, they carry this unhealthy mentality into either
situation. It also increases the number of divorces within our society and the
excessive mood of bhoga-tyaga, which keeps people swinging from one extreme to the
other. What happens after devotees divorce? Many times they begin to look for a
looser partner as a result of not engaging in Krishna consciousness in a healthy
way. Then they go to the other extreme by leaving the husband or wife and accepting
a karmi girlfriend or boyfriend. Due to excessive unhealthy repression, the person
suddenly goes to the opposite extreme.
We should not practice celibacy as a form of avoidance or loneliness. Why does a
sannyasi look for a wife at forty-five or fifty years old? Why does a woman who has
worn white for ten or fifteen years suddenly look for a husband? She may feel such
anxiety and even hate the society because she regrets not having a husband. In some
cases, maybe they should have had a husband but in other cases, they should have
tried to understand how to properly channel their energies. We can never fully
avoid sambandha or relationships. Everything and everyone is in some type of
relationship with something or someone else. The opportunity for union is an
inherent part of any relationship and all unions are an aspect of divine sexuality
or divine union. It cannot be stopped because it is part of the essential aspect of
a relationship.
We can put aside or stop genitality but not sexuality. Even in our original
svarupa, there is the gopa and the gopi or the feminine and the masculine aspects.
We are all part and parcel of the divine feminine-masculine aspect of God:
mamaivamso jiva-loke
jiva-bhutah sanatanah
prakrti-sthani karsati
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due
to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which
include the mind.
Bhagavad-gita, 15.7
Properly Honor Celibacy
We are eternally part of the Lord and part of the eternal romance. We integrally
belong to the eternal union where everything is interconnected or is about to make
a connection. The main danger to avoid is unhealthy possessiveness or maintaining
material attachments of I and mine. Celibacy is not greater or more spiritual
than a grhasta relationship. One asrama is not better than the other. This
conception is nonsense.
The purpose of celibacy is to decrease this feeling of possessiveness, and if a
person properly practices, it can assist them in this way. If the practitioner
properly honors celibacy, it will help them relinquish this mentality of seeing
others as objects of enjoyment. It will help them realize that they do not have to
own the experience or experience another person in order to relate to them and
honor their existence. It can help the person focus with more humility and
submissiveness due to a decreasing attachment to material things. Hopefully it will
help the person develop more of a genuine heart connection, which ultimately means
minimizing the body and physicality.
However, celibacy alone does not necessarily produce these results. If someone
practices celibacy without love or proper attachments, it then produces a hard
heart and will cause a person to feel angry, disturbed, restless, and anxious.
These last symptoms manifest in a person who is denying their sexuality and lacking
healthy relationships. In all spiritual societies that encourage celibacy, people
are suffering as a result.
We Have to Transform Sex Energy
It shocked me to see the level of anxiety and lust in the communities of nuns. I
had a chance to experience how a woman feels when men just lust over her. Some of
the most intense experiences were in Spain or Italy when I visited different
convents in order to preach and sell Prabhupadas books. Since some of them were
failing to properly channel their energies and were simply repressing them, the
intense lust just shoots out into the environment and practically makes you want to
run out of the room. Many could not control their bodily movements or their eyes
because of the strength of the lust. When I visited some of these convents, I felt
as if some of these frustrated nuns, who have almost never come in contact with
men, were practically raping me. This intense lust results from repression and
frustration rather than a healthy re-channeling of the sex energy. Repression and
anxiety about such emotions actually increases their attachment rather than their
ability to detach. It is natural for a certain chemistry to take place when men and
women come together. After all, the body is just a machine. If we try to repress
it, it can produce artificialness, and if we try to honor it in unhealthy ways, it
can lead to different problems. The idea of celibacy should remain the same even in
a relationship. It should revolve around accepting things favorable for Krishnas
service and rejecting unfavorable things. The relationship should keep Krishna as
the focal point. If Krishna is not the center of a grhasta relationship, it will
not be any different from a grhamedhi relationship.
This energy of kama which usually degrades into genitality is the same energy of
prema in a perverted reflection. We just have to transform it. If someone merely
tries to deny that energy, how will they transform it in order to reach prema? If
the ultimate relationship and union with God involves prema and we are trying to
deny it, how will we transform kama into prema? We will not be able to transform
We are not people who preach that sex is dirty, nor do we condone promiscuity.
There must be control and regulation. The celibate must regulate by channeling the
energies in a healthy way that decreases their sense of possessiveness. A
householder must regulate according to the desire for procreation and for proper
association, which means keeping Krishna in the center.
People may find all types of reasons for leaving the shelter of devotional service
or breaking up their marriages, but if we search for the deeper reasons, we will
find that they simply want to enjoy their senses or have not developed any ruci.
They have failed to understand that we must now place this attraction onto Krishna.
Someone who has balanced their energies has taken the Deity as their child or
husband and has taken the mission and their community as their family.
In other words, relationships have to exist. We cannot simply go through all of
these ritualistic activities and expect to somehow control our mind and senses
especially considering our background in these Western bodies. Our culture just
permeates with promiscuousness, and in most cases, we are just products of lust.
Our whole existence along with the body is just a product of lust and in many cases
it was an accident of lust. Considering these factors, we must channel the energy
in a healthy way instead of suddenly trying to stop this energy.
We want to raise this issue in terms of the tenth offense because it addresses the
problem of maintaining material attachments even after properly understanding so
many instructions. After avoiding the first nine offenses, we must find out what is
to be done and how it is to be done. Avoidance creates a foundation, but the more
important component involves what we do after avoiding the negative. What positive
mental and physical engagements should we now pursue? For this reason, so many
sannyasis fall because they know what to avoid but do not focus on the positive.
This makes a huge difference.
For this same reason, even impersonal yogis who have attained impersonal
realization fall down to the element of sexuality. The attachment to money,
property, assets, or fame do not cause as much of a problem as sexuality. Even
Saubhari Muni fell down due to an offense that took away his strength to refrain
from sense gratification.
As the offenses weaken our immune system, this issue will become an even greater
problem. Without better understanding these issues, one is heading for potential
trouble. We may still feel some agitation or disturbance after understanding this
issue but what do we do with that agitation? Only a dead body does not feel some
type of stimulation. A living organism will naturally feel some repulsion and
attraction but how does it react?
In Vedic times, members of the renounced asrama focused on pranayamas and ways of
dealing with the energies in the body in order to ensure more physical control.
These practices simply supplemented the rituals and meditation. The practice of
celibacy required extensive regulation in terms of diet and exercises that would
give more ability to ward off the bombardments. However, the bodies in Kali-yuga
are not so condusive to these practices. We even have trouble following the simple
practices that Srila Prabhupada has given us such as chanting sixteen rounds.
In many asramas within the Vedic culture, an integral daily practice involves these
different types of asanas so that the body which is a machine will not fall prey as
easily to the attractions. However, even while practicing these asanas with masters
of yoga, many practitioners still fall down. We have even seen several recent cases
of famous gurus who engaged in these practices but still fell down with their
secretaries or even with the children of their own disciples who they taught. Swami
Satcitananda and several other powerful yogis and teachers had certain levels of
realizations but later the revelations came out about their duplicitous behavior.
Develop Full Dependence on Krishna
It is not a matter of avoidance or promiscuity but it is a matter of developing
this svarupa-laksana of full dependence on Krishna. Both the celibate and the
householder should develop this mood of full dependence on the Lord while acting
according to the Lords desire. They should recognize that their body and existence
is meant for Krishna. In this way, sexuality under religious principles is also a
way to worship Krishna: dharmaviruddho bhutesu/ kamo smi bharatarsabha, I am sex
life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bharatas
[Arjuna] (Bhagavad-gita, 7.11). Our major concern should always be, How can I
serve and worship Krishna. Neither asrama is more glorious or better than the
other. The major question is our level of full dependence on Krishna. Naturally the
grhasta-asrama can present more challenges since you have to deal more with the
material energy in order to maintain the asrama. In this sense, this asrama may be
more of a risk but consciousness is still the most important factor.
Questions & Answers
Question: What should people do to deal with the heavy influences in the
environment in this age of Kali? They must constantly experience these intense
influences that completely trap them in this cycle of suffering.
Answer: Yes, it is practically impossible to avoid the influence of Kali-yuga in
our modern society. In some places, the degradation is very extreme. In parts of
Europe and South Africa, the bulletin boards are almost pornographic. We cannot
simply avoid sexuality because it is an integral part of existence. However, when
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta made this point, he was not referring to pornography but to
people who labeled sexuality as bad or dirty.
The most important factor is the way we center or focus our energies. Where do we
go from this point? First, we must engage those energies in enjoyable activities,
which will absorb the mind so that the lower passions will not cause such a
distraction. We must always have some type of ruci or taste and, while the grhastas
carry out their prescribed duties, they will be able to focus on Krishnas
enjoyment. If we follow the proper regulations, everything becomes enjoyable in
Krishnas service.
There are many points in this controversial topic that people can easily take out
of context; however, they need to be addressed. I recently heard of a seminar given
by a very senior woman in our society who was married and who told the mothers that
they should not enjoy sex life. Immediately I felt sad because this statement
indicates some very serious spiritual, psychological, and physical confusion. Again
we see this extreme categorization of sex as dirty or bad.
The Manu-samhita and other sastras explain some interesting factors involved in
producing a male child versus a female child. Srila Prabhupada also explains in the
Bhagavatam that if the sex energy of the woman is stronger, the probability of
conceiving a female child is greater. Conversely, if the sex energy of the man is
stronger, there is a greater chance of having a male child. We can clearly see that
the scriptures do address issues of stimulation and emotion. This conception of sex
as dirty indicates the presence of guilt or some other type of dysfunctional
mindset. A healthy perspective involves keeping Krishna in the center.
I was shocked because that statement came from a devotee who is one of the most
senior women in our movement in terms of service and length of time and she was
teaching this to other woman. It is a serious issue, which is also another way of
dehumanizing and disempowering the women. It will create more unhealthy feelings in
women and prevent them from really supporting their husbands. They should have a
nice Krishna-centered relationship that involves teamship and support.
Although it is difficult as a sannyasi to address these issues, since I am a
psychotherapist and very community minded, I am sensitive to these areas and am
more prone to discuss these topics than most. Actually many householders do not
talk about sexuality and even priests do not talk so much amongst themselves about
celibacy. They just struggle and suffer alone but do not openly address their
problems. Consequently it leaves an area of ambiguity, or when people do approach
the subject, they approach it in an unhealthy way. Then people will accept the New
Age mentality by moving to the other extreme which happened in the case of a guru
who fell down in Europe. He even began attacking Srila Prabhupada by calling
celibacy an unhealthy practice. Although he influenced many hundreds and thousands
of people who had some connection with him, this issue has not really been
sufficiently discussed.
I think we should discuss it to gain clarity. The scriptures, as well as Srila
Prabhupada, clearly say that we should not necessarily avoid or repress but we
should honor Krishnas existence by offering Him everything. Then we need to
constantly ask ourselves, Will Krishna accept this offering? If Krishna will
accept it, we should offer it; otherwise, we should reject it.
For this reason, many Muslims in the world strongly patronize prostitution and
pornography. In some of these countries such as Saudi-Arabia, the government does
not use regular civic laws but strictly governs only according to Sharia Law. Parts
of Nigeria are also trying to adopt these strict principles. In these places which
adhere to heavy religious fundamentalism where women wear hoods and even cover
their eyes, the men are often the worst due to such artificial separation. When
they leave those countries, statistics have shown that many just wildly seek
prostitution. In some of those countries, an illicit affair can result in death.
Consequently, the people develop such unhealthy views of sexuality and just go wild
when they leave their country.
Question: It seems that each devotee should have a confidential associate so that
they can discuss their unresolved lust issues. I feel that this is lacking in our
society, especially for myself in a womans body, and it is difficult to find
someone who would totally understand.
Answer: Srila Rupa Gosvami explains in the Nectar of Instruction that devotees are
supposed to reveal their minds. However, a partner or a confidential devotee alone
will not help you channel the energy in a better way because it is a matter of
developing healthy relationships. By becoming more genuine, creative, loving,
compassionate, and selfless, a person will naturally have more ability to balance
their sexual energies. In any situation, if you can communicate in a healthy way,
honor each others existence, and value the other person, you will naturally focus
less on your own body along with its pleasures and demands. For example, another
statistic in America suggests that 90% of peoples thoughts revolve around
themselves. When we live in this type of environment that lacks community,
selflessness, or compassion, the focus then revolves around an individuals
pleasures, needs, and fulfillments, which ends in gross and subtle sex connections.
Question: Thank you for addressing this important and delicate subject matter.
During the last few days, I have been reviewing some of the child abuse cases in
our movement and it is so sad to see how this type of sexual repression led to so
many of the abuses. It also seems that this type of repression reinforces this lack
of accountability and responsibility that we see in our young people, especially in
some of our own men. They tend to use this social philosophical understanding that
one should try to remain a celibate or a brahmacari as a way to shy away from
accountability or accepting a wife and living in a pleasing way. Consequently, this
can lead to all types of perverted thoughts or behaviors. Since you are one who
speaks maturely, what are we going to do in our society to address some of the
young people who have this conception which is destroying the way they behave with
each other?
Answer: This is one of the reasons why I wrote Spiritual Warrior II: Transforming
Lust into Love, which is my most popular book, and outside of Prabhupadas books,
it is one of the most popular books in ISKCON because people are trying to deal
with these issues. We have completely run out of copies and have to reprint once
again. Out of all the books translated into different languages, this book was the
first in practically every country. We talked about celibacy, relationships, love
between a man and a woman, and several other related issues, but from a spiritual
perspective. The proof of its popularity is that this book is being translated into
nine different languages. The abuse of children and women in our movement is
extremely unfortunate. Even the abuse of power by leaders is sometimes just
perverted sex energy or sex frustration. In that position, they then try to control
everyone around them in an unhealthy and even dangerous way.
The amount of child abuse cases is just unbelievable. They are investigating over
200 cases in a movement that emphasizes control of the senses, celibacy,
regulation, and marriage. This phenomenon is symptomatic of something much more
intense. Furthermore, keep in mind that our divorce rate in most countries is even
higher than the karmis who already have such high divorce rates.
Question: While attending the Vaisnava girl school, we watched the Mahabharata
series which showed the different etiquettes and dealings between people. One of
our teachers, a Prabhupada disciple, also explained to us that Kali-yuga came more
quickly because of the insult against Draupadi and women in general. It seems
important for both men and women to understand the value of women, the reasons for
protecting women and children, and the psychological make-up of both.
Answer: Yes. A prominent attribute of a leader is that he or she should have the
ability to protect those under their care. One of the most essential factors is
sarve sukhino bhavantu. This has concerned me to such an extent that I have
requested all of my disciples to go the extra mile in terms of protecting children
and women, and to accept this as a part of their identity as my disciples. People
should feel happy and protected. One of a kings major duties is to ensure the
protection of the people so that they can live in a healthy way. Even the
Bhagavatam tells us that, when people abuse women, children, elders, brahmanas and
cows, their life spans will decrease and the civilization will experience
At one point I said to some of the leaders, It is amazing that although we have so
many powerful and intelligent leaders on our GBC board, many times we come together
and make resolutions which are not so wonderful. After years of participating on
this board, I am convinced that it is due to a type of cloud or covering which
resulted from the failure to protect women, children, cows, elders, and brahmanas.
As we make our decisions, we are trying to work through that cloud which is
sometimes hard to penetrate. Why is it that we have so many intelligent men
individually but collectively we sometimes make unhealthy decisions? Nevertheless,
we also have the Prabhupada factor and sometimes wonderful arrangements will happen
in spite of us.
If a leader does not properly follow their duty to provide sufficient protection,
there will be a karmic fallout. The proof is in these 200 cases under
investigation. Many of these people were in rather prominent positions and were
even teachers who had constant exposure to these children. As a result, the
movement will have to struggle due to the karmic consequences. On another level, it
also resulted from sex energy that was not properly understood or channeled and
then transferred onto a child. This constantly happens in the secular world because
everything revolves around genitality and even a parent has a greater tendency to
be sexually attracted to their child.
Question: As you mentioned, some devotees feel that sex should not be enjoyed and I
have also heard this conception from many devotees within ISKCON. How can we help
to change that mentality?
Answer: When we take prasadam or clean the temple, we should enjoy cleaning the
temple for Krishna or honoring Krishnas remnants. Similarly, we should perform all
our activities in this spirit, as an offering to Krishna for His pleasure. Then we
would not even consider whether or not to bring our mind, emotions, and
intelligence into a situation. We should think intelligently how to wash the pots
very nicely. One major samskara is meant to prepare people before entering into sex
life so that they can focus more on devotion. It will increase their appreciation
of each other as servants of Krishna. We have all of these samskaras in the
scriptures but somehow we miss them. Even in Vedic times, people would announce
their plans to procreate in order to get blessings from the guru, the brahmanas,
and sages. If procreation is dirty or nasty, why did they have these samskaras or
approach the sadhus for blessings? The fact that people share and preach these
conceptions can create tremendous dysfunctional moods which swing from one extreme
to the other. It is very dangerous. I do not understand all of this myself, nor am
I above all of it, but I am just trying to share some points as we discuss these
issues as a family.
Question: Discussions on this subject matter need to continue because, as you
already said, so much is being repressed. I would like to consider the fact that
this is a process of self-realization because we often only view the self as
selfish. Actually there are many aspects of the self that need to be understood and
appreciated. When we first came in contact with Krishna consciousness, we
surrendered the self to the process. We are in contact with the self, but the
external expectations often disconnect us from the self. There is a pleasure in
that surrender but when the expectations come externally and are superimposed on
the self, it seems to form this block that also causes so much repression and
difficulty, obscuring the actual process. Therefore, it seems that simply
discussing these issues will prove to be so valuable. Perhaps we can look at that
overemphasis on selfishness from a different angle.
Answer: The way you explained this point is very nice. The real self is very sacred
and is not to be dismissed or denied. For this reason, we have this principle of
niyamagraha, meaning that we have to be careful not to minimize the rules and
regulations or become overly attached them. It will cause us to forget the essence.
Then in time the society will revolve more and more around rules and laws that we
have to impose because we are not bringing out the natural sweetness and growth in
the individual devotees. Due to this internal stagnation, we will need to impose
more external rules to enforce behaviors that should be a natural or spontaneous
part of growth.
For instance, if the king cannot somehow convince his citizens to follow a
healthier way of life on their own accord, he will need to impose more heavy rules
to force them to follow. Although they will follow under the threat of
chastisement, it will not bring out the best in a person. Some people used to feel
discouraged after noticing that the GBC meetings end with just more and more rules,
especially in the last five to ten years. We need to examine the reason behind this
need for so many rules. Instead of focusing on rules, the devotees may need to
develop a deeper understanding so that they will just naturally do the necessary.
We need to have more guidelines to move towards the essence. The rules will cause
people to act out of fear of chastisement but they will begin to forget the
importance of healthy relationships.
A parent can force a child to act out of fear but it is better for the child to act
properly out of knowledge. Then the child will not just act out of fear of a
whipping but he or she will genuinely want to please the parents and live in a
wholesome way. A need for endless rules indicates that the leaders have not really
touched the peoples psyche in a healthy way; therefore, they impose rules to force
people to act in certain ways. Rules are necessary to provide guidelines but too
many laws signal an unhealthy civilization or environment and an uncontrollable
situation. The government is currently imposing more and more laws or stipulations
due to the terrorism and is even able to take away certain civic rights. This
indicates a situation that is somewhat out of control.
Question: I would also like to thank you for breaking open this topic. In
relationship to this discussion on rules, the Bhagavad-gita says that in the
beginning of devotional service one may not be able to fully discharge all of the
rules, but if one is not resentful of the principles and works sincerely without
consideration of defeat or hopelessness, he will surely reach the goal. This
statement has given me so much shelter over the years. We do not disregard the
rules but we honestly admit our weaknesses in our ability to follow them.
When I travel to different devotional communities, I always feel so fortunate to
have my home at Gita Nagari because I feel that we have a very healthy atmosphere
of love and affection among the devotees in spite of some of the faults. We have
more older ladies and younger men, which helps create this motherly affection
between the devotees. In some Indian communities that have a healthy balance in
terms of sexuality, I have seen a constant expression of affection between mother
and son. We also see how the mothers or elderly gopis just smothered Krishna with
affection even up to the age of twelve. This natural expression of affection seems
to create a nice balance.
Answer: We as leaders are improving and have learned quite a bit from past failures
and successes. Although we were trying in the early years, we sometimes missed this
important aspect of childrearing which is why some of our children have issues with
the society. At very critical periods in their lives when they really needed that
type of affection, many in general did not receive it from anyone. They were simply
put in the asrama and then often taught to think of the mother as maya. Then the
child, maybe a little boy in the brahmacari-asrama, goes home and simply thinks,
Matajis are all maya. Yes, this is very dangerous. Such a mindset is not only
offensive but can distract from the healthy nurturing that a child categorically
However, as we discuss and read with more scrutiny, we can all try to bring these
higher principles into our lives. Srila Haridasa is giving them to us very clearly.
We should accept what is favorable and reject what is unfavorable while carefully
avoiding this mentality of possessiveness. However, he in no way says that we
should avoid relationships, attractions, or associations. We just need to
relinquish possessiveness, which revolves around our own satisfaction, pleasures
and bodily demands, and puts Krishna in the background.
If we bring Krishna into the center, even the type of asrama will not hinder ones
advancement. In the case of Ramanujacarya, he even favored one of his householder
couples over the sannyasis because he found them to be more renounced and dedicated
to keeping Krishna in the center. We are not really into renunciation, unhealthy
attachments, or avoidance but we want to develop a mood of simplicity according to
our situation. Each individual is to make the decision. For most, the grhasta-
asrama is necessary and the idea is to keep Krishna in the foremost position.
Chapter 15
The Harinama Cintamani opens with such a sweet scene in which Srila Haridasa
Thakura feels great awe in the presence of Lord Caitanya.
In this final chapter, Srila Haridasa describes the end result of the chanting
which is actually the revitalization of the beginning because it fully involves us
in our original svarupa. The acaryas do not always discuss the confidential topics
found in this final chapter because of the counterfeits. They do not always make
such teachings so available to the general public or even to the religionists
because such people may misunderstand this confidential knowledge. Without the
proper sukrti and sraddha, this knowledge will not only confuse a person, but will
also cause them to commit offenses that will hurt their progress in spiritual life.
Prabhupadas Warnings
Srila Prabhupada has cautioned us many times against the different mentalities that
hinder devotional service. He warned us about the cheating materialists and the
atheists because they have an issue with God and hate Him. They do not want to hear
or think about Him or associate with those who worship Him. They not only want to
defame Him but they want to try to take His post. Prabhupada also warned us about
the voidists and impersonalists who want to enjoy the sakti, the siddhis, and the
opulences of the Lord without understanding His position as the originator or the
saktiman. He warned us against the smarta-brahmanas who adhere to the rule of law
without understanding the law and enter into the practices without always embracing
them in the proper way. They often focus more on their own fame, distinction, and
adoration than on the glorification of Krishna while viewing Krishna consciousness
in a myopic way.
Lastly, Srila Prabhupada emphatically warned us against the sahajiyas who are
counterfeits although they resemble the authentic practitioners because they deal
with the most confidential aspects of the theology. Due to this close resemblance,
the sahajiyas are often more dangerous because people may not approach them with
their full sense of discrimination; therefore, they will accept these counterfeits
as genuine with greater ease. An obvious deviation that strays from the proper
external practices is much easier to detect.
The Bhajana of Confidential Worship
This last section introduces the whole area of mystery and adventure that is an
integral part of Krishna consciousness. Haridasa Thakura sets the stage by
discussing the different saktis of the Lord and then addresses the position of the
jivas in the material world who have undergone this long, unfortunate journey in
different material bodies. He shows how the holy name rescues the conditioned souls
in this age of Kali and how they should approach the name so that it can carry them
into deeper states of spiritual absorption.
Once again Srila Haridasa is filled with ecstasy and prema while speaking on these
confidential topics, and is allowing Lord Caitanya to use him in such an intimate
way although he feels extremely unqualified. His body is actually experiencing the
amazing symptoms that he alludes to in this last section. The sentiments and
emotions of love that Srila Haridasa feels in his association with Lord Caitanya
are manifesting through the physical body. He calls this section The Bhajana of
Confidential Worship because there are always deeper confidential aspects of all
bona fide systems. Even confidential spirituality has a confidential aspect because
bhakti itself is confidential. It is not secretive but deep because it gives more
intimate aspects of the nature and the eternal identity of the soul which also
contains divine esoteric connections and understandings.
Lord Caitanya starts this chapter by saying:
O Haridasa! Simply on the strength of your wonderful devotion, you are conversant
with all knowledge. All the Vedic philosophical conclusions about the topics of the
Absolute Godhead, the jiva, maya, the pure name of the Lord, namabhasa, and
namaparadha are revealed in your speech. It is therefore rightly said of you that
the Vedas gleefully prance upon your tongue. Lord Caitanya desired that the
percepts of namarasa, the topmost spiritual science of the mellows of the holy
name, be revealed through the mouth of Srila Haridasa; and so the Lord spoke in
that way.
Harinama Cintamani, 99
Srila Haridasa replied, The Vedas proclaim rasa, or transcendental mellow, to be
of the same spiritual substance as the Supreme Absolute Truth and the realm of pure
transcendence. Worldly poets dabble in a rasa that is totally mundane; factually
theirs is not rasa, but a perversion of it.
Harinama Cintamani, 99-100
Even literature and poetry dabbles in this realm of loving relationships,
adventures, union, and separation but Haridasa Thakura calls all of this mundane.
We simply view it as a reflection or glimpse into something much higher. However,
it allows us to see the window through which we can begin to understand the eternal
reality until one day we can fully participate in the highest exchanges of love
which do not impose any limitations on the soul.
The Categories of Souls
Srila Haridasa describes the two categories of souls, the nitya-baddha and the
nitya-mukta. The nitya-mukta jivas are eternally liberated and the nitya-baddha
jivas are eternally conditioned. The exact time when the nitya-baddha jivas fell
under the control of the mahat-tattva or the modes of material nature is
incalculable; therefore, the scriptures refer to their conditioned state as
eternal. The nitya-baddhas can also be divided into different categories because
although they are incarcerated, their freedom is accessible.
He refers to the different conditioned souls as the extroverted jivas and the
introspective jivas. The extroverted jivas simply run after the illusions, and in
some cases, they even hate and envy God. Their position is comparable to a prisoner
who has been placed under confinement for rectification, but since he does not make
any adjustments, he must continue as a prisoner year after year. In the case of the
jivas, they remain imprisoned eternally. On the other hand, there are always some
prisoners who understand their predicament and who want to reclaim their freedom by
enthusiastically doing whatever is necessary to end their period of confinement.
The introspective jivas are divided into two more categories. One type pursues
liberation but void of spiritual variegatedness and spiritual associations, which
keeps them entrapped in the idea of jnana and karma. Although they are pursuing
paths of escape, they are limited in their understanding of the ultimate
experience. Yoga, jnana, and siddhic powers are beyond the normal scheme of the
material realm but they can only reach a certain level of transcendence. The nitya-
baddha jiva who just begins to wake up is enthralled by these practices. For
instance, when a person first wakes up in the morning, they may be somewhat dull or
not fully cognizant but they still begin their daily activities. However, those
fortunate nitya-baddhas who have sufficient faith, credits, and pure associations
reach the highest goal and experience the greatest unfoldments of rasa. Srila
Haridasa tells us how to approach the holy name so that, as we begin to unfold in
the introspective life, we can approach the level of the nitya-muktas.
The Holy Name is the Bud of the Flower of Rasa
Srila Haridasa continues:
The holy name of Lord Krishna is the bud of the flower of rasa. Rasa is the essence
of pure transcendence, and this rasa, by the grace of Krishna, is propagated in the
material world in the form of His holy name...When this flower comes into full
bloom, it manifests the eternal and confidential pastimes of Lord Krishna known as
the asta-kaliya-lila, or the eight three-hourly pastimes. And although this
manifestation is transcendental, it still appears to the devotee within the
material world.
Harinama Cintamani, 101-102
These pastimes eternally go on in the spiritual world, and not only does the
potency of the holy name connect a devotee with this eternal realm, through proper
association and sadhana the devotee can begin to identify and prepare for their
eternal association in these amazing pastimes even while in the material world. For
example, when a person plans to take a vacation or visit their family in the near
future, they continue with their daily duties while simultaneously meditating on
their plans and on the environment that they intend to visit. Gradually the person
is coming closer to the actual experience and associations. In that thinking
process, the person will also begin to consider what is necessary to ensure an
expedient connection with that environment and those associations.
While we serve Sri Sri Radha-Damodara in this environment, our service is now more
of a mental culture or lila-smarana, but such reflections will gradually activate
the reality. If a person anxiously wants to enter into a specific environment, they
will not simply wait for it to naturally manifest but will meditate on the
experience in order to make it a reality. Then the person is already almost
experiencing the environment due to their full absorption in the anticipation. This
is even more true of the spiritual realm because the physical is gross and the
mental is more subtle, which means that the mental is closer to the reality than
the physical world. As we increasingly meditate on the reality, it will not just
remain conceptual but we will actually begin to uncover the reality.
Always Think of Krishna
For this reason, Krishna tells us to always think of Him:
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
atmanam mat-parayanah
Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to
Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
Bhagavad-gita, 9.34
He tells us in the twelfth chapter to always think of Him, but if we cannot
maintain that constant state of remembrance, He then tells us to follow the process
of sadhana-bhakti. If we cannot even follow this properly, He gives us another
alternative. However, He first emphasizes to always think of Him in the mood of
pure receptivity and anticipation. When we genuinely think of Krishna, our other
problems become insignificant. The many distractions no longer bother us with the
same intensity than when the activities of the prison fully capture our minds. When
the nitya-baddha increasingly focuses on the activities of freedom, he or she is
becoming rehabilitated and rejuvenated.
A prisoner who has spent endless years in the prison may almost forget their
identity or the nature of the world beyond the prison walls, but as their date of
parole approaches, their thoughts of the outside world increase as well as their
future plans until their release turns into a tangible reality. We are informed
that, without this proper mentality and sufficient preparation, we will not have
the qualifications to genuinely enter into such an environment.
We Should Not Avoid These Topics
Although Bhaktivinoda Thakura does write about these topics, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
and Srila Prabhupada purposely did not give much attention to lila-smarana or to
discovering ones original svarupa. Srila Prabhupada includes these topics
throughout his books, but has not given much specific clarification or
identification because of the counterfeits who try to enter into such realms
without permission or blessings.
However, it is not that we should just avoid such topics altogether. At the
beginning of every Srimad-Bhagavatam class, we actually chant Jaya Radha-Madhava
which includes the most intimate exchanges between the Divine Couple. And every
morning we water tulasi who is a very confidential servant of Krishna. If we look
at any picture here of Radha and Krishna, we will see intimate expressions of
eternal romance. It is practically an offense to place Radha and Krishna at a
distance from each other and this would disturb any mature devotee.
Ultimately all the jivas are searching for deeper loving connections and all
advanced theologians are gradually understanding that the goal culminates in the
highest expressions of love. Love is not just expressed through rules and
regulations or through institutionalization but it is expressed through sambandha
or selfless relationships. The highest expression of spirituality is union with the
Godhead. We do not refer to union from an impersonal conception in which the
energies connect but we understand union to mean selfless, pure service and
animated, loving exchanges.
Rasa and the Bhavas
Srila Haridasa then describes rasa and the bhavas. Thus one reaches a state of
perfection known as sthayi-bhava, or permanent emotion, which is also called rati.
Four bhavas combine to transform rati to rasa (Harinama Cintamani, 102). Initially
the emotions fluctuate since they first appear as shadow ecstasies but later they
stabilize as ones own identity. That ongoing ecstasy or mellow is called sthayi-
bhava or rati, which combines to form rasa. The elements that stimulate the
sentiments and excite the bhava are Krishnas name, form, pastimes, and
paraphernalia. Anubhava or the physical expression of permanent emotions is later
transformed into sattvika-bhava as they become more intense. We are moving from the
background of rati to the actual emotions and objects of stimulation that enhance
and bring out these emotions such as Krishnas beauty and qualities. Then we see
the physical expressions of the amazing symptoms that the jiva experiences.
Rasa is like a machine. Rati, or permanent emotion, is the axle of this machine.
Once the machine starts moving by the combined energy of the four bhavas, the
permanent emotion or sthayi-bhava is converted into rasa. The devotee, who is the
asraya (a shelter or container of ecstatic love for Krishna), becomes the enjoyer
of that rasa. And the rasa mentioned here is the essence of everything, and is the
highest goal for the jiva. The Vedas expound four goals: dharma, artha, kama, and
moksa (religious principles, economic development, regulated sense enjoyment, and
liberation). But beyond these goals of the Vedas, the actual acme of all perfection
is rasa. Fully realized and perfected beings are entitled to taste that rasa.
Amongst the introspective jivas, he who is attracted to pure devotional service is
the most evolved. The jiva takes up the path of bhakti only after he has accrued
sufficient sukrti (piety) from previous births.
Harinama Cintamani, 103
The sukrti accumulates from different lifetimes, and when the jiva accrues a
sufficient amount, he or she has the opportunity to connect with this deeper aspect
of rasa.
By the grace of the spiritual master, he is initiated into the chanting of the Hare
Krishna maha-mantrathe holy names of the Divine Couple. Although in the beginning
this jiva has sraddha, his desire for material success poses an obstacle on his
path of progress. The spiritual master graces him with a disciplinary process
suitable for overcoming this obstacle; thus he gains spiritual strength from
chanting. Chanting on tulasi beads and meditating on a fixed number of holy names
daily is the best form of worship, and will surely lead to success.
Harinama Cintamani, 103-104
The advantage of performing kirtana, or audibly chanting the maha-mantra on the
beads, is that three kinds of devotional servicehearing, chanting and
rememberingare accomplished simultaneously... Chanting automatically manifests the
other aspects of devotional service, e.g. pada-sevanam, dasyam, sakhyam, atma-
nivedanam, and so on. With full faith that the holy name and the person Krishna are
one and the same, and discarding the namaparadhas, one should chant in a lonely
place with deep concentration.
Harinama Cintamani, 104
The introspective jiva is divided into three categories: kanistha, madhyama, and
uttama (neophyte, intermediate and advanced). The introspective neophyte rejects
demigod worship and worships only Krishna, though with certain material
Harinama Cintamani, 104-105
Although the kanistha devotee actually wants to connect with the adi-purusa or the
Supreme Personality of Godhead and reject demigod worship, he or she has not yet
reached a totally selfless platform of service. The devotee still lacks deep faith,
but due to the presence of all the aspects of devotional service, it is just a
matter of igniting the pure bhakti through the eternal associates of Krishna and
those who have reached the platform of purity. Through the association of the
nitya-siddhas, this little flame begins to grow. Although some devotees are in the
neophyte stage, if they are rightly situated they will mature into the full
appreciation of the rasa.
The Order of Discipline
The order of discipline or sadhana-krama is as follows: The introspective devotee
must at first discard all the ten offenses and simply meditate on the holy name,
trying to chant constantly. He should distinctly pronounce the holy name and
meditate upon the transcendental sound vibration. When his chanting is clear,
steady and blissful he should try and meditate on the Syamasundara form of the
Lord. With chanting beads in hand, his chanting and meditation should seek out the
transcendental form of the holy name. He will indeed see with spiritual vision the
real meaning the name represents. Another method he may employ to see this form is
to sit in front of the Deities, drink the beautiful form of the Lord with his eyes
and meditate upon the holy name.
Harinama Cintamani, 105
First the introspective devotee chants the holy name while avoiding the ten
offenses and then he desperately seeks out the form of Lord Syamasundara. He
understands that the Lords darsana is available and is the ultimate perfection of
all of his senses. The devotee then realizes how the holy name is the key that
opens the door. For instance, if the resident of a house sends you their key, when
you go to the door, you will be able to open it and prepare yourself for their
association. Similarly, the holy name is the key that opens the door to the
spiritual world, and by taking shelter of this key, we are now preparing ourselves
to contact that eternally stimulating and blissful association.
Another method he may employ to see this form is to sit in front of the Deities,
drink the beautiful form of the Lord with his eyes and meditate upon the holy name
(Harinama Cintamani, 105). The holy name is the key, which includes all the other
nine activities of devotional service and helps us embrace them fully. The chanter
rides with the holy name and then seeks out the Lord who appears as the arca-
vigraha in order to make Himself more available to us. He comes to remind us that
His association is for us and that we are meant for Him. We come before Sri-Sri
Radha-Damodara to chant or present Them with offerings, and in many cases, our
whole schedule revolves around Their service. Through this meditation, we are
preparing ourselves to serve eternally without the barriers that constantly
interfere with the love. In your own way, reflect on the importance of Deity
service and the importance of the Deities darsana. Many spiritualists do not give
the Deity to their particular congregations because it is not a part of their
commission. For this reason, great souls such as Mohammed and Buddha did not offer
the Deity.
Although a jiva may fall into the introspective category, if they do not have
sufficient sukrti, they will not have so much interest in the Deity nor will they
have the qualifications. Instead they will pursue the four goals of material life,
which include dharma, artha, kama, and moksa. They will approach God for their
daily bread and for promotion to the heavenly planets in order to increase their
material sense gratification. They will engage in processes that teach how to
pursue these goals because they will not be ready for the most confidential
knowledge until they have attained these temporary goals, sometimes hundreds and
thousands of times. Then the soul will finally cry out and say, I want more!
For example, sometimes a poverty stricken person may have to experience wealth for
quite awhile before they finally have enough of living in mansions and traveling
around the world with fame and opulence. Many times, unless a person has that
experience, he or she will intensely desire to travel, own a yacht, live in a
mansion, or have a private summer house. After obtaining all of these fortunes,
some people eventually begin to acknowledge the futility of these temporary
opulences. Another person may spend lifetimes in the heavenly kingdoms and expend
all of their pious credits, but hopefully at that point they will have a chance to
come in contact with the pure agents of the Lord who have the commission to take
conditioned souls back to Godhead. Those who have that particular responsibility
are rare envoys sent directly by the Lord.
The Name and Qualities of Krishna Will Merge
As Srila Haridasa shares this introduction into this confidential worship, we can
understand why Srila Prabhupada warned us about the counterfeits and those who
meddle in these topics without permission or blessings.
Another method he may employ to see this form is to sit in front of the Deities,
drink the beautiful form of the Lord with his eyes and meditate upon the holy name.
Even after reaching the stage where the holy name and the form of the Lord become
one, he must try to remember the transcendental qualities of Lord Krishna. The holy
name and the qualities of Krishna must merge through constant chanting.
Harinama Cintamani, 105-106
This is real oneness. At this point, the devotee begins to see Krishnas nama,
rupa, guna, and lila as the same. The sound of the holy name or the key is now
connecting with the source or with the owner of the key. The owner or Krishna has
sent the key to the devotee who, in a state of desperation and destitution, is
trying to return to his or her original home. Therefore, Krishna sends out His
representative with the key so that he can guide the destitute devotee. When the
devotee gets the key, the representative of Krishna can continue to guide him until
he unlocks the door and joins the Lord. These eternal ambassadors have been sent
with the knowledge, which means that they can give us the key.
Although we may receive this key, we have to hold onto it and open the door
ourselves. It is not their duty to open up the door for us and push us through, but
after giving us the key, we must each make our own endeavor to push open the door.
These representatives give us a key with our own names on it according to time,
place and circumstance, and they then guide us in the proper direction. As we
engage in our own battles of Kuruksetra, we have the key and the directions to
contact the residents so that their realm of divine romance can eternally captivate
Meditate on the Lords Pastimes
Next, he goes on to practice the remembrance of Krishnas pastimes; generally,
these will be pastimes that facilitate meditation upon the holy name (Harinama
Cintamani, 106). First the devotee receives the key or the holy name and then he or
she tries to avoid the namaparadhas. Then the aspirant begins to understand that
Krishna and His Name are identical and he begins to meditate on the form of Lord
Syamasundara in a suitable way. Now the devotee begins to meditate on the Lords
pastimes which capture the mind and allow him or her to anticipate the association
of the Lord. Later this meditation develops into deeper reflections on the
confidential activities in the Lords particular realm.
Asta-kaliya-lila smarana is also known as svarsiki worship. In this stage of
bhajana, Lord Krishna manifests Himself according to the time and place of the
pastime being meditated upon. Now the devotee realizes the full grace of his
spiritual master, who, in his eternal spiritual form (siddha-svarupa), guides the
disciple to a sakhi or gopi, who in turn introduces him into the pastimes of the
Lord. Of all the gopis Srimati Radharani, the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, is the
acme of excellence...It is therefore essential that the rasika devotee enrolls in
Her yutha or group. Service to Lord Krishna in Vraja is impossible without first
taking shelter of the vraja-gopis. One should enter Srimati Radharanis camp and
serve directly under Lalita Devi.
Harinama Cintamani, 106
We understand that most of our acaryas are connected with madhurya-rasa, which
creates a bias. As Srila Haridasa ends this section, he basically talks only about
madhurya-rasa. Although there are many souls who are eternally situated in other
rasas, these acaryas may not have so much of an interest because the mellow or
flavor is different. There are similarities between a devotee who is preparing to
enter into sakhya and a devotee who will enter into vatsalya, but here Srila
Haridasa focuses on madhurya. The spiritual master guides the devotee and
ultimately introduces them into their ultimate nama, rupa, guna, and lila. We are
mainly being trained under Lord Caitanya in the bhava of Srimati Radharani so this
mellow will naturally be more dominant in our lives than the other mellows such as
the eternal servant, friend, or parent.
Eleven Transcendental Sentiments
The devotee who is naturally inclined to cultivate the conjugal rasa must accept
the superior guidance of a vraja-gopi. The jiva is not entitled to serve Krishna in
conjugal mellow as a male. Pure devotional service to Lord Krishna at its best is
possible only in the form of a vraja-gopi. One can become a vraja-gopi when eleven
transcendental sentiments adorn the heart.
Harinama Cintamani, 108
Srila Haridasa gives a category of eleven and then of five. These first eleven are
the particular sentiments that are a part of the identity of the jiva who will
eternally serve in the conjugal rasa. These sentiments will be revealed through the
heart and through the spiritual master to the introspective jiva who is ready to
fully experience their original identity.
They are: 1) sambandha (relationship), 2) bayasa (age), 3) nama (name), 4) rupa
(form), 5) yutha-pravesa (entrance into a group), 6) vesa (attire), 7) ajna
(permission), 8) basa-sthana (place of residence), 9) seva (service), 10)
parakastha (excellence), 11) palya-dasi-bhava (the mood of a kept maidservant of
Harinama Cintamani, 108
These eleven sentiments are the first characteristics that the jiva will associate
with before entering into the conjugal rasa. Although we are trying to look at
these topics, we are praying for the ability to one day fully understand.
While cultivating these eleven gopi sentiments, five stages of consciousness
develop. They are 1) sravana-dasa (the stage of hearing), 2) varana-dasa (the stage
of acceptance), 3) smarana-dasa (the stage of remembering), 4) apana-dasa (stage of
application), and 5) sampatti-dasa (stage of inheritance).
Harinama Cintamani, 108
The introspective jiva who has the key and who is taking advice from the guide is
now gaining information about his eleven characteristics associated with the soul.
The jiva is beginning to reflect more on the past and present instructions from
guru and sastra, and to accept and gradually inherit this kingdom.
Our Spiritual Identity
So that he may fully understand them, the sadhaka is shown his siddha-deha or
spiritual identity, viz. his spiritual name, form, qualities, service and so on
(Harinama Cintamani, 109). This means that the devotee is still in the material
body, but although he does not have full possession of the experience, he realizes
his original form in the spiritual world.
The spiritual master also discloses to the disciple who his parents are in the
sadhakas manjari-identity, which house she was born in, who her husband is, and so
on. At this point, the disciple must spurn all Vedic religious pursuits and simply
be a fully surrendered maidservant of Srimati Radharani, the camp leader.
Harinama Cintamani, 109
In other words, the disciple has been involved in the duties of vaidhi-bhakti but
now he or she is coming to the point of raganuga-bhakti. The disciple who expertly
follows the tenets of religiosity and spirituality does not throw them away in the
end but he or she becomes that. There is no longer any need for strict
regimentation or rules and regulations because the disciple has taken the key and
is opening up the door. All the guidelines, which the practitioner observed in the
process of following the map to the door, no longer have any significance. The
disciple feels grateful and appreciative, and now puts the key in the door in order
to become fully a part of the eternal experience.
The counterfeits want to abandon the map and the guidelines before they even reach
the house. When the counterfeits hear about the incredible possibilities in the
spiritual world, they try to claim their entrance into the house without the key or
without the proper guidance. Prabhupada has given us these warnings because they
can create tremendous disturbances. It explains why this type of knowledge is not
made available for such people. There must be the guide who gives the key and also
the necessary assistance.
It is interesting that, when the spiritual master reveals the siddha-deha, it is
not so categorical. Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains this in his other writings. For
instance, if someone wants to give you a suit, first they study you, understand
your basic needs, and then offer you the most appropriate outfit. The suit that the
tailor offers you may not fit your exact dimensions and tastes or it may fit
Similarly, the spiritual master is offering an eternal identity that is also
adjustable according to the basic appetites, desires, and aspirations of the
disciple. Although the suit may fit, the person may still want to make some
adjustments on the pants or the buttons. Sometimes the spiritual master may give
the disciple the perfect suit, but in other cases, the suit may not be eternally
suitable for a specific devotee. In such a case, there is room for discussion and
further arrangements between the guru and the disciple.
Sometimes people might misunderstand this conception by thinking that, when the
guru gives the eternal svarupa to the disciple, he has made the final decision. As
the guru has a vision to see or the adhikari; that is, the ability to give such,
then that is final. This is normally final but not necessarily in every case.
Sometimes the guru gives the suit but there is still bona fide room for suggestions
and amendments according to what the guru has made available for you to honor.
In so many ways, the souls maintain their individuality and their ability to serve
Krishna according to their eternal taste. They still have some ability to change.
In some rare cases, a living entity is given an identity and then for some sweet
reason he is taken out of a particular camp or rasa and brought to another. For
example, if two teams are playing a game of sports, one captain may want to recruit
a member from the other team onto his own team. Sometimes there are certain
adjustments and alterations. Such adjustments can also happen in the spiritual
realm. Although we permanently reclaim our identity, adjustments are certainly
possible. In our line, we have stories that explain this phenomenon.
We do have an eternal identity, name, and service but there may be times when we
join different camps such as Lalitas camp, Vishakas camp, or even Candravalis
camp. There are those who are always for Krishna, those who are sometimes for
Krishna and Radha, and those who are always for Radha. There is such sweetness in
these different groups of sakhis alone. We will also find a similar type of
alignment and rediscovery if we discuss the line of Balarama or the line of
Nityananda, but we are discussing the line in connection with Radharani. As we
focus on the key to the door, we can see that the spiritual sciences are quite
awesome and very wonderful.
The Flames of Rasa Burn
Srila Haridasa discusses the transition from smarana-dasa to apana-dasa.
Externally, the devotee engages himself fully in chanting the holy name and leads
a simple renounced life. Internally, he keeps the splendorous flames of rasa
burning with pure intensity all the time (Harinama Cintamani, 111). The devotee is
still in the body but the flame of rasa is simply growing. This path of worship or
bhajana is the simplest; but if the purity of the bhajana is in any way disfigured
by a tinge of the contaminated desires for recognition, distinction, or reverence,
then the sadhaka is thrown off the path of vrajasadhana, or bhajana in the mood of
Vraja (Harinama Cintamani, 111). The process is simple. We have the key, the map,
and the guidance, but if aparadhas begin to surface along with too much attachment
to distinction or reverence, they will distract us from the goal.
Five Levels of Development in Smarana-dasa
Then he moves to apana-dasa through raganuga-sadhana. There are five levels of
development in smarana-dasa. Initially, his remembrance will not be steady; this
level is called smarana. Sometimes he remembers the sentiments, his position, and
his service, but at other times he forgets. But by steady practice of smarana,
gradually he reaches permanency of remembrance; this state is known as dharana
(Harinama Cintamani, 112-113). In the beginning stages, remembrance may not be
easy, but as the devotee receives help and connects more with the internal
environment, the remembrance becomes a more established reality.
Apana-dasa Stage
In the apana-dasa stage, identification with the psycho-physical body is reduced
to insignificance, and his spiritual identity becomes predominant (Harinama
Cintamani, 113). In the deeper stage, one has two identities but the physical
identity is almost a part of the past. They are now absorbing themselves much more
in their eternal identity in relation to Krishna. At this point, the psycho-
physical activities of the body seem almost machinelikemoving just as a puppet
moves. They no longer identify with the temporary body. Although they take care of
the body out of duty, they have begun to identify more with their internal
meditations. Such meditations then turn into deeper experiences than those
associated with the physical body. They are to continue interacting in their
environment as normal without announcing or sharing so much of their realizations
although they are beginning to experience these wonderful loving associations.
Remain in Close Connection to Your Guide
Prema refuses to enter the heart of one who does not keep the company of pure
devotees. The jivas decision to accept either good or bad association has a
powerful and lasting influence on his destiny (Harinama Cintamani, 114). It is
simple. Once you get the map, if you do not keep following it and stay in tune with
your guide, you can even reach the state of bhava but then become stagnant for
another lifetime. There are three essential traits that must be cultivated to
obtain success in chanting: saintly association, isolation from the disturbances of
mundane life, and determined, confident enthusiasm (Harinama Cintamani, 114).
While a devotee progresses on this path, he or she must act with caution so that
mundane distractions will not overwhelm him or her. Furthermore a devotee must
maintain a close connection with the guide in order to get the mercy and remain
confident with enthusiasm.
The Devotee is Quickly Approaching the Door
Srila Haridasa continued, O Lord, kindly shower upon me Your causeless mercy
(ahaituki-krpa). I pray that You grant me entry into the realm of bhakti-rasa.
Saying this, Srila Haridasa fell unconscious in loving ecstasy, fully self-
surrendered at the Lords lotus feet...By saying this, Srila Haridasa implied that
he was spiritually unaccomplished and therefore had no hope for the kind of mercy
Lord Krishna bestows upon His pure devotees.
Harinama Cintamani, 114
Even though we are hearing these confidential topics, Srila Haridasa is letting us
know that we should feel unqualified but long for such with a great deal of
Hearing this, Lord Caitanya was moved by divine loving emotions. He lifted Srila
Haridasa up and embraced him. The Lord then spoke in confidence to him. O
Haridasa! Listen attentively to what I have to say. The truth about the holy name
will be hidden by mischievous rascals who will create a dark shroud of ignorance
over the entire world. At that time, these excellent and unrivaled instructions of
yours about chanting in the association of saintly persons shall be understood only
by a remaining handful of devotees.
Harinama Cintamani, 115
Lord Caitanya is mainly referring to the counterfeits or the sahajiyas who will
hear parts of this message but are not ready to pay the dues or work on themselves
sufficiently. They want to break into the house without the key, without guidance,
and without an invitation.
The jiva is blessed with pure bhakti only on the strength of his sukrti, or piety
and faith. Not everyone is entitled to have such devotion (Harinama Cintamani,
116). Although everyone has the opportunity to embrace the holy name in this age,
without proper faith and credits one will not receive the key.
In order to intensify their devotion, I have descended and propagated the chanting
of the holy name as the religion for this age. The chanting of the maha-mantra:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama
Rama Hare Hare is factually the jivas inherent and eternal religion...Whoever
tastes it is truly fortunate and is blessed by Krishna. He is a great soul and
always blissfully serves Lord Krishna in spontaneous loving devotion. I am a fallen
soul; I clasp his feet and humbly pray that the remnants of nectar should be
distributed profusely, thus spreading the divine bliss to everyone. Thus ends Sri
Harinama Cintamani.
Harinama Cintamani, 116
Our Ultimate Destination
In this last chapter, Srila Haridasa talks about the ultimate destination that we
can reach through the chanting of the holy name. Actually he ends with the
beginning since the chanting will open up all kind of mysteries and adventures that
the jivas can access after they become free of their insanity. Our real life
actually begins to unfold in our eternal residence with the Divine Couple. All the
loneliness, setbacks, anxieties, challenges, disappointments, and lack of faith
associated with the duality will disappear into the past as one feels increasing
excitement in the association of the spiritual realm. We will then realize that all
of the struggles and difficulties that we encountered on the path to our eternal
residence were fully worth the endeavor.
While we were undergoing the challenges, they often seemed overwhelming, but after
using the key to enter into our eternal residence, we will simply be overwhelmed by
the animated experiences that eternally unfold. This small glimpse should help us
appreciate the potency of the holy name, which is identical to the qualities and
pastimes of the Lord. As we meditate on the name and the Deity form of the Lord, we
should remind ourselves that Krishna has descended in this form to beckon us back
home. It is a reminder to hold on to the key instead of abandoning it, throwing it
out, or minimizing it. We must remember to take the proper guidance and never give
up despite the seemingly overwhelming challenges.
For instance, if you are running a race, the coach may encourage you by letting you
know that you only have a short distance left. His encouragement gives you a second
wind to keep up your pace until you do reach the finish line. Srila Haridasa has
been sent from the spiritual realm and has entered into a low body in order to show
that the holy name will reach out in spite of all the barriers and formalities. It
will reach out to the person who grabs and holds onto it. A person will be brought
back by holding onto this holy name.
Questions & Answers
Question: My question relates to the analogy you gave about the suit or spiritual
form that the guru gives to the disciple. What if the guru advises one way but the
disciple wants it another way? Does this constitute disobedience to the guru?
Answer: First try to understand that when a devotee reaches that level of purity,
there is no false ego or desire to experience the material energy. There are no
aparadhas or anarthas that could cause unhealthy reflections. It is just about
love, pleasure, and association. However, we can see how people can easily make
unhealthy presumptions in this regard. An unqualified spiritual master could say,
You are in the camp of Lalita sakhi and have this particular type of service. Then
one day you decide that you do not want that rasa or you could even genuinely begin
to unfold and realize that this rasa is not your eternal mellow.
For example, in the neophyte stage, someone might relish the activities of the
cowherd boys and really identify with them. However, as they undergo the process of
purification, their sense of identity shifts as they begin to understand their real
identity. Their affinity for the cowherd boys might have resulted from their
identification with their male body and their desire to wrestle with and beat
Krishna. In this case, it all revolves around some type of mundane consciousness,
but through purification these unhealthy conceptions gradually fall to the side
until the devotee may identify more with madhurya-rasa. In the neophyte stage, the
devotee may even have more affection towards vatsalya because they lack full
surrender or saranagati, and vatsalya places the devotee in a position of authority
as a parent. The attraction may result from a tinged consciousness, but as the
devotee begins to really unfold, he or she might begin to feel comfortable in
another mellow such as friendship.
Question: Were you referring to the spiritual master who is in constant meditation
on the Divine Couple?
Answer: If the spiritual master has the adhikara, then it should be the spiritual
master. The way in which a spiritual master helps the disciple is not just a
unilateral affair. The spiritual master is in an alignment with Krishnas family so
it is about community. When we become more serious about our spiritual life, we
also begin to understand the spiritual master in a special way. We will see the
spiritual master as the catalyst or ambassador who helps us make our connection
with so many aspects of the theology and with so many personalities.
In the neophyte stage, we mainly just think of the spiritual master as a father but
we also have uncles, grandfathers, great grandfathers, and so many other
associates. In the early days of the movement, it would disturb Prabhupada to see
the devotees reading books by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Prabhupada
was not disturbed that the devotees wanted to connect with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
but he was disturbed that the devotees were not developing the proper attention to
their immediate instructor. After learning the basics and being chaste and genuine,
the devotee will naturally be ready to appreciate and benefit from all of our
Question: Should we try to see and understand the devotees as our family?
Answer: Yes, but in a much deeper sense. In our current spiritual socialization or
sadhu-sanga, we are learning so much in terms of how to honor sadhu and become
sadhu. We are learning how to serve guru and also Krishna through our daily
activities. During these external engagements, devotees also begin to have rich
internal lives and will receive so much help with this internal development.
How do we have greed for the internal life that is essential, without minimizing
sadhana and the other external practices? It is difficult which is one reason why
Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura did not place so much
emphasis in that area. For this reason, when some people hear such discussions
about our eternal form, they categorize it as sahajiyaism or as improper. However,
it is not improper but it is an integral part of our existence. At the same time,
such discussions are very dangerous because many people who hear this confidential
knowledge will become sahajiyas. We also hope that many will mature because it is
very important to reflect on the final goal or destination; however, it should be
done with great care, caution and fear. Otherwise one will cross over into sacred
territory without the proper mentality.
Question: It seems that I have had so many opportunities to hear throughout the
years such as these instructions on the ten offenses but I just feel covered by a
huge, thick crust of offensive chanting that I do not know how to move beyond? What
do you do when you find yourself in that state?
Answer: That is the beauty. Srila Haridasa is giving such an elaborate explanation
but at the same time he feels unqualified and begs for unconditional mercy and
grace. He is sending out a secret message to us. All of his instructions may seem
overwhelming and beyond our range to understand and experience but he then
indicates how we must constantly beg for Krishnas causeless mercy. In Kali-yuga,
the Lord knows that offenses enter into all of our activities but he also knows the
nature of our environment. For this reason, so many interplanetary beings want to
come to this planet while Lord Caitanyas mercy still exists. They realize that
these goals are so difficult to reach but in Kali-yuga the souls are given special
mercy in spite of our doubts, fears, weaknesses, and limitations.
However, we should not exploit this mercy. We want to be in the right line to
receive the special mercy, krpa-siddha, but we have to stay in the line. If we step
out of line, we will not receive the mercy, but staying in line is also a
tremendous challenge. One significant way to stay in line is to remember the
purpose of waiting and the ultimate goals that we want to attain. Hopefully we will
hear from someone who will help us rush even faster towards the goal.
Question: I know that we can leave our body at any moment but how do we develop the
conviction to be more serious.
Answer: Just pray more to Krishna to force us and push us because we know that our
own intelligence will cause us to procrastinate. We need to pray to Krishna to push
Question: I also have a question in terms of the suit that the spiritual master
provides. Does the spiritual master provide the understanding and tailor the suit
because we have not reached the point of total evolution and he is a step ahead of
Answer: This is at the level of perfection. Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions that it
is not unequivocal or categorical but there is room for adjustments. He describes
this as part of the sweetness of eternality. The jiva has free will and within the
desire to serve with full dedication there can be adjustments to enhance the suit.
Question: I was under the impression that we already have an eternal spiritual body
but it is just a matter of realization. I have never heard that the spiritual
master tailors the suit in this way. Are the two working together and the guru just
prompts us?
Answer: He does not give any further explanation on this point. One could see it as
a prompting, enticement, or teasing. It could be many things. We do not want to get
into mundane speculation but let us perhaps get into philosophical speculation. If
a tailor makes me a suit, although he knows that I like certain buttons, he may not
put them on the suit in order to entice me to request those special buttons. From
another perspective, it may be necessary for particular souls to return to the
spiritual kingdom in this way. In most cases, the soul will accept that particular
suit as it is. From his statements, it is not substandard when the suit requires
some adjustments.
The more we hear from the acaryas and see their wonderful explanations, the more we
will realize that everything is possible in the spiritual world. Love has so many
permutations as it unfolds. You spend years and years struggling and growing in
Krishna consciousness until one day you wake up and realize that you do not know
anything. We may have thought we understood so much but it was just a minute
fraction of what can be understood.
Even Srila Haridasa says that these experiences cannot be fully described but must
be experienced. Ananta Sesa with his numerous heads cannot explain all of Krishnas
wonderful pastimes. In many cases, each devotee will perceive the experience in a
different way, which did occur during the wrestling match. In the spiritual world,
when Krishna performs His pastimes, the different associates receive it in
individual ways even in the same rasa. Peoples perceptions are all different. This
environment has no limitations, rules, or formalities that would interfere with
union, association, love, and appreciation. For this reason, we follow the process
very meticulously, and when we return to our permanent residence, we can put all of
these rules, austerities and vratas behind us.
We initially need the map to bring us home otherwise we will stray from the path
and lose our direction even though we have the key. Although we follow these rules
and regulations, we should never consider that Krishna consciousness is just about
rules. In Krishna consciousness, we want to use the key and the guidance to become
healthy in order to experience our eternality. We should all start to internally
look deeper into a richer culture of bhakti because ultimately everything external
falls apart. If we do not gradually grow internally, we will have an unhealthy
balance at some point. Srila Haridasa Thakura has mercifully given us the key of
cintamani to open the door of Krishna prema. Now it is up to us to safeguard this
key and to use it effectively.